One of Andy Bowson’s team spotted movement through the settling dust high up in Broadcasting House and called out; Andy trained his carbine’s telescopic sight on it to see four half naked women lined up on the edge of two blown out windows.
“Dear God,” he heard himself mutter “Please Lord, not today.”
He got on his radio to report, wasn’t the first though. Someone else was behind the four, hard to see, suddenly the first woman was pushed out, still living, he didn’t track her though his scope, didn’t want to remember that for the rest of his life, kept looking at the others, they were shaking, looked like pleading, crying, that bastard must be just behind them, sheltering from our snipers. He got on the radio again, reporting the horror of it, was told there was nothing they could do, the assault teams were too deep in now, to suspend would be to fail. Get ready to go any minute. Can’t you shoot that bastard? Not without hitting the women.
The next one tumbled out. He was in hell now, wickedness he saw in his job frequently, evil too, but less commonly. Usually there was some psychological explanation or rationalisation that made it seem in part at least comprehensible, so that you could try deal with it objectively, go home at night sane even if angry or shocked. Today his modern, secular world view was being upended, its relativism shattered, confronted by primal, diabolical evil in the heart of his home ground. It was one of the things he and Sally had fallen out about, the existence of a personal force of evil; well today he could see it up there, in person, strutting about behind the two remaining women, forcing them into a place of utter horror, glorying in it, taunting them. God, if there’s no Heaven, at least let there be a Hell for the likes of him
He felt eyes on him, they were George’s.
“You alright Andy?”
He nodded in answer.
“You know, whoever they are, the ones behind Birmingham, the rest, they’re right. I don’t care if you report me for saying it.”
“I see it, George. Let’s hope they try to break out this way, I want to send them straight to Hell.” George wasn’t the only one who heard him, the rest were nodding too.
Al-Benazzi had just stepped behind the third woman when somewhere down the corridor behind him came two, no three, explosions, they must be coming through on to this floor now, more explosions, smaller, gunfire again. He pulled the two remaining women back, might need them to cover his retreat, he looked to his right down the corridor, smoke, dust everywhere, a fire fight was being played out that way, the odd round ricocheting past down the corridor. He forced the two women out at gunpoint, one was completely distraught, fell to the ground unable to function; he shot her.
Holding the other one in front of him, he retreated down the passage way, took a left into another, then another left towards their redoubt. Thirty-three hostages remained now, seven of his men here, a couple having made it up from the fourth floor, reporting troops everywhere, taking no prisoners, blowing every barricade and door with shoulder launched rockets and explosives, anyone close to the windows was liable to be cannoned down by armed helicopters hovering nearby or shot by snipers perched in other buildings. He looked at his watch, almost three hours now. Is that all? It seems much longer?
He reorganised their defences, blew two corridors in to reduce the avenues of attack, put the hostages in one large meeting room with himself and one other armed man, split the others into three pairs to defend the routes to this part of the building, each fronted by four kneeling hostages across their corridors.
The firing down the passageway ceased, the Moroccans must have been overwhelmed. What had happened? Had they blown their way down through the ceilings again, ignoring or not knowing about his human shields? He tried the others who must still be fighting in different parts of the building, more distant explosions still shook it from time to time, gunshots, muted by their travel through walls and floors, more intermittent now, but smoke was becoming a greater problem. He could only contact two groups, four or five in total, one on the first floor, trapped, another on the third, trying to make their way up to his group.
They reckoned, oh, how many? Three hundred and eighty casualties at least, maybe four hundred; add the hostages still alive, pushing four fifty including security personnel. More importantly, much of the top management was gone, many of the news staff too, reporters, presenters, parts of the organisation would be crippled for months, years even, given what was also happening in Manchester. But here, he had wanted so much more, longer, dragged out for days, losing those two martyrs outside had been a shock when he had learnt of it, likewise the bombing of the van, the roof borne assault not following expectation. Perhaps they could delay the end for hours still.
Gunfire from the two open passageways to the right and left, the central one still quiet, several exchanges, both pairs there reporting signs of people gathering on the edge of sight, then two explosions, must be rockets, they’re using rockets indoors again. Screaming, someone had survived badly injured, he looked out, partitions, ceilings down, passageways partly blocked.
The pair down the central corridor were firing at someone there, no return fire, he waved them back, they could be isolated, surrounded; they shot the hostages shielding them as they did so, plenty more to use still. They were near the north-western corner offices now, just back from the vulnerable windows. All bar four remaining hostages ringing their positions, the four youngest and prettiest being reserved for the last extremis. They were stripped, humiliated, placed in front of the windows. Hopefully television cameras were monitoring, broadcasting live from this side of the building. How long to wait? They weren’t patient today, trying to sustain momentum even if it meant disregarding hostages, not their usual practice even if militarily prudent. No, they were now, had paused. He tried to contact the other brothers elsewhere in the building, no success; that must be it. No, there was still a little staccato gunfire a long way away, possibly near the street outside.
© 1642again 2018