It had been Morrison’s idea to set up the “Inkspots Self-preservation Society” to give it its full title. The name came from an old record they found in the Sergeants’ Mess storeroom and the Hermann Rorschach psychiatric test. Both Morrison and Edge had become politically very astute and they could see the way British society was developing. They knew that any governing elite would consider former employees with their skill sets, a dangerous threat and the “War Crimes” witch-hunts were beginning. MoD Civil Servants had already hitched their stars to the ruling elite’s wagon and uniformed Service personnel were already considered by them to be the enemy.
As it was a mutual society, the Inkspots were hand-picked by Morrison and Edge, each person selected for their basic skills and ability to keep their mouths shut. Each potential member was approached in person and not told of any of the others. Rank and favouritism did not come into it. The Inkspots were set up like terrorist organisations and each one of them would only know of their handler when directly approached. Therefore if compromised they would incriminate as few people in the organisation as possible. Each candidate was given a pay as you go mobile phone and four extra Sim cards. A generic free e-mail account was set up for each member and they were given a map of locations in the country for face-to-face meetings. These had to be memorised and then destroyed.
As Morrison put it: “If the bloody officers can have their Feather Men, then we’re going to have the Inkspots. If anyone comes for us, we’ll unleash hell on them.”
And they did.
Rehabilitation for Jarvis was a long and painful process both physically and mentally. The operations to make his femur viable took a long time, as did the bone grafts and the strengthening with titanium plates. Then it was endless days of physiotherapy, to teach him how to walk properly or at least make an attempt, but he would always have a noticeable limp. The worst thing was the constant pain, which drugs could not ease. There was also the nightmares, Bluma always burned to a crisp but still talking with him, asking if she smelled like burned pork. And there was the little girl and the cat in the cave, sitting up and asking him why he had killed them. He would scream in his nightmare, begging to wake up and then when he did, finding sleep again was impossible.
In desperation to sleep and stop the nightmares, Jarvis would regularly drink a large whisky each night. As the time and pain progressed, so did the amounts of whisky and the time he started to consume them, but he always drank the finest Malt from Speyside and he became something of a connoisseur of good Malt from the Islands to the Highlands. After a while he even began to enjoy the taste. He was no desperate addict who swilled cider out of a paper bag and pissed himself on a park bench. He drank the good stuff, which was much better… Wasn’t it?
It was amazing how much trauma the human body could take, but the mind was much more fragile and difficult to heal. He had gone through his military career with barely a scratch. The closest he had come to death was when the bullet had ricocheted off his helmet, leaving a score and a torn helmet cover. And he had been expecting that. It was the burst of fire from the darkness and the unspeakable agony of the gunshot wounds to his legs that frightened him. He was vulnerable. His mind was a plaything of events he could not control.
He thought of the man who had saved his life. A man he thought hated him and yet when the chips were down, a man that had been prepared to give his own life to save him. And now he was gone and Jarvis hadn’t even had time to thank him and he doubted that he would ever see Edge again.
He had no need to work, but it was vital for him to be normalised and feel a productive part of society. The Regiment where possible, tended to look after former members and during his resettlement and recuperation period, he was offered a job as a civilian armourer. Because of his reputation and undoubted skills even a weakened leg couldn’t affect, Jarvis became a range conducting officer in the Killing House. During this time he put various members of the Regiment through the wringer in the close quarter battles. They had even added a mock-up of a cave complex due to experiences of fighting in the Tora-Bora caves in Afghanistan and these simulated subterranean battles were not for the faint hearted.
Given a new job, Jarvis’ interest in life became less jaded and he managed to if not entirely stop drinking, to curb his intake to more manageable levels. But it was during the evenings and long weekends that he would slip into moroseness and his leg would start aching. Nothing could curb the loneliness and at times, the utter pointlessness of his life.
His mother was in a care home, suffering from dementia, which had rapidly accelerated after his father’s death. He barely saw his brother so there was no family network to give him support. All his comrades had by now left the mob. Henry Morrison was doing security work for an American company. Cooper had been working on the oil rigs off Nigeria, but they had lost touch. He had heard that Edge had died at sea in a boat off Portugal, following a shoot-out with Thames Valley Police. It seemed a fitting end for the bitter and morose Edge and was frankly unsurprising, given the amount of anger and pent-up aggression he had been carrying. There but for the grace of God… Jarvis often thought.
In the January of 2018, Jarvis had been given the task of training a member of the RAF’s Legal Branch in the “full Monty” in the killing house and later out on the ranges, firing from a vehicle, anti-ambush drills, the works. He was both intrigued and a little wary. The Killing House was no place for rank amateurs and wondered why the hell a female Wing Commander lawyer needed such an advanced skill set. He approached his line manager.
“Boss, are you sure this tasking is correct? It’s a full day’s hard-on one-to-one training for a Blade. Let alone some RAF Doris, who’s from the Legal Services. Have Court Martials got a bit rougher since I was in?”
His boss shrugged, “I thought it was a bit strange myself, but it’s come from PJHQ. There must be a pretty good reason why she needs to be a hired killer and I was told to wind my neck in when I questioned it.”
So for the rest of that afternoon, Jarvis put together a number of scenarios, both in the killing house and from vehicles out on the ranges. He put in a requisition for a Vauxhall Astra saloon, up-engined, five hundred rounds of .38 ammunition and two packed meals for lunch. She would be bringing her own Sig Sauer, which in itself was quite puzzling. Why the Sig and not a Glock? The Sig was small enough to fit under clothing. It was a covert weapon. Why the hell would a lawyer need to hide a weapon?
The next morning a bunch of assorted police and Intelligence Service operatives, waiting by the gate into the compound. They would be put through their paces with other range officers. Jarvis had the RAF officer to himself and expected a cross between Mrs Trunchbull and Rosa Klebb. He looked through the security camera outside the killing house, waiting for her to arrive. But this couldn’t be her. Surely not?
A young woman approached the gate and stood waiting, distancing herself from the waiting Spooks and Plod. He zoomed in with the camera.
Wing Commander. What was that? A Lieutenant-Colonel equivalent. Bloody hell! She looked like she was still in her twenties.
She was wearing sports clothing as per the joining instructions and she was fit. In more ways than one. But could she shoot straight? He waited until the other range officers had collected their candidates and then went down to open the gate for her.
“Good morning, Wing Commander Hammond. Can I see your green card please?”
He inspected it and gave it back to her, “That’s pretty up to date, your qualifying yesterday. Hopefully there will be no problems but here’s the golden rule. You will be firing a couple of hundred rounds with that weapon today. We’ll start nice and easily, but then the conditions will gradually become more exacting, until you are operating and discharging the weapon in a stressful environment, lots of noise, thunder flashes going off and the targets will be firing back at you. Don’t worry, it will be lasers not live rounds. You’ll be wearing a sensor suit, so we’ll be able to see how good you are at not getting shot.
“This afternoon you’ll be learning how to exit a car and return fire on the training area. You will be firing live ammunition from the vehicle, which will include through the windscreen, so I hope you brought your ballistic safety glasses with you. If at any time I shout STOP, you are to apply the safety lock and await further instructions. The golden rule? Under no circumstances are you to shoot me. Any questions.”
“Yes, Staff. My name is Cécile. How will I address you?”
He grinned, “Cécile, what a nice name. You may address me as Jarvis for two reasons. One, I like it and two, it’s my name. Now, if you would like to follow me inside yonder building, we can let the fun and games commence…”
Jarvis put on full body armour with neck, shoulder and groin protection. He positioned himself behind her in the indoor range, “We’ll start off nice and easy, two magazines, one at each figure eleven target, that’s the standing man charging, He handed her six magazines and a respirator haversack
“Fill them all up. It saves having to keep reloading when things get busy. I’ll show you a little trick so you can have eight rounds in the weapon for the first mag. It could be useful if you think you’ll be in a sticky situation.” He handed her a set of yellow, foam ear defenders, “Later on, I’m going to be lobbing around a few thunder flashes to disorientate you.”
She loaded the magazines and went onto the firing point.
“You can fire in any position you find comfortable,” Jarvis said not expecting too much, “Magazine of seven rounds, load!”
“Watch and shoot, watch and shoot, watch and shoot!”
To his surprise she crouched down on one knee, her left forearm resting on her left knee. She emptied the first magazine quickly at the left-hand target, changing magazine and putting the empty first mag in the haversack, then pivoting on her right foot, fired seven rounds at the right-hand target. The seconds ticked away once she had finished, “Down!”
He couldn’t fault her weapon handling skills, “Let’s go and have a look.”
The two targets had tight groups, none more than three inches in diameter, “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”
“Once or twice,” she admitted.
“Let’s move next door into the Kasbah “
The next range was a mock-up of a fairly typical Middle-Eastern market, complete with cut-out figures of traders and women. Jarvis showed her a harness with sensors on it and an attached helmet, which he told her to put on.
“This time the targets will be firing back at you, not with rounds, but with lasers. If they hit you, a buzzer will go off in the operating booth, showing me where you’ve been hit. There will be a lot of noise and the onus will be on you to fire from cover and then move to another position. It will be up to you to change magazines. If I shout STOP, immediately take the weapon out of the aim and await further instructions. I noticed that you put the empty magazine in the respirator haversack. You won’t have time to do that in a real situation, so just let them drop on the ground. The bad guys will suddenly appear, so you have to react to the situation and try not to slot too many of the locals. Any questions?”
“No, Mr Jarvis.”
“Good, now fill the last two magazines and go onto the start position. Your goal is to cross the far line without getting hit. No threats will appear from behind, so your arc of fire is forty-five degrees left and right of the centre line.”
“With a magazine of seven rounds, LOAD. You are to make ready when the first threat appears, and you may move forward. Don’t rush it. Watch and shoot, watch and shoot.”
Jarvis retired into the bullet proof booth and watched her scamper for cover, firing and moving, changing magazines with a deftness he found surprising. By the time she crossed the far line she had been hit twice according to his readout, once on the side of the head and once in the groin.
“Not too bad,” he told her once she had unloaded, “Two hits. You were winged on the side of the head and once in the groin. Survivable but not too good if you ever want kids. Let’s see how the bad guys faired.”
She had managed to hit every target with at least two rounds.
“Good shooting, but you’re firing before taking cover. Cover first then return the fire. We’ll go through it again and then things can get really noisy,”
They ran through the practices three times more then had a break for lunch, “I’m afraid that you won’t have time to go back to the mess, but I’ve got a packed lunch. The toilets are in that block.”
He watched her walk off to relieve herself and sat deep in thought. She was undoubtedly very clever and very pleasant both to talk to and to look at. She had an air of vulnerability, but she hid it well under a veneer of tough competence. He couldn’t help but conclude that she was going to be put in harm’s way and he wanted to give her a good fighting chance, When she came back, she smiled at him and sat down, leaning against the range’s wall. She was quite intrigued with Jarvis as well.
“Wing Commander, Cécile, Please don’t think that I’m being impertinent. But you look awfully young to be a Wing Commander. You must be pretty good at what you do, whatever that is.”
She laughed, “The odd court martial, but I specialise in the Law of Armed Conflict. And I have been given acting rank, two up, so I’m just a good old fashioned Flight Lieutenant, masquerading as a grown up.”
“And I suppose you have no idea where you’re going?”
“Not a clue, Mr Jarvis,” She regarded him as though noticing him closely for the first time. He was probably in his forties, quite good looking for an older man. He had an easy attitude with females, as though he didn’t have to try too hard, but she had noticed his limp and decided to be Impertinent as well, “I can’t help noticing that you’ve got quite a pronounced limp. You haven’t always been a range officer, have you?”
“No. Nearly twenty two years in the mob, this lot as well.”
“Where were you wounded?”
“In the legs,” he said with a smile. She thought there was some sadness there.
“You can tell me to get stuffed, but I mean where were you when you were injured?”
“Somewhere we shouldn’t have been?”
“Was it Libya?”
He stared at her, ”And just how the hell did you know that?”
“I worked in the Air Component Command at Gioia de Colle during Op Ellemy. Contrary to what you believe, I didn’t just spend my time lounging round a hotel swimming pool, I helped in the Ops room. I remember your name from the Aeromed Signal two. Helicopter from HMS Ocean to Gioia for onward strategic aeromed to Birmingham. Heavily sedated with GSW to both legs. Warrant Officer Two Jarvis, AKA Trooper Brown for the civvies in the hospital.”
“It’s a very small world, Wing Commander Cécile Hammond.”
“I hope you’re not cross with me, Mr Jarvis.”
“No, otherwise you might shoot me.”
After lunch they drove out of Stirling Lines, heading north to the training area and ranges at near Morton under Lugg. There she was put through her paces, exiting a car quickly and returning fire, then finally firing through the windscreen at targets to her front. Jarvis was utterly impressed at how much effort she put into the training scenarios and by 17:30, Cécile was lathered with sweat and her wrists ached from the constant loading and firing of the Sig. The weapon had behaved beautifully with not a single stoppage or partial ejection. He had given to her and helped her to adjust two more holsters, one that was worn in the small of the back, another on her inner thigh. She was cleaning the weapon for the final time and it was second nature, as Jarvis had made her go through the stripping and re-assembling of the pistol in total darkness. She was sitting cross-legged on the ground, the pieces laid out on her waterproof jacket. Jarvis was sitting opposite her, watching.
“I have to say, Wing Commander Cécile, you are a bloody useful markswoman. Your uncle you said taught you how to shoot must be quite a lad. I bet he doesn’t have much trouble from the Kaffirs.”
“Not at the moment, but I fear that they’ll come for him one night.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Yes. What do you do about the windscreens?”
“We have a contract with Autoglass to replace them. No questions asked,” He stood up and stretched, “I would have a rest until tomorrow. The armoury is open 24 hours. Where are you going next?”
“SERE Course. Starts on Monday. Enhanced”
“They will concentrate on your gender and they will try to sexually humiliate you during the interrogation phase. Don’t get angry because they’ll pick up on it. It will be pretty bad, but I reckon you’ll cope with it. Just remember, they’re not allowed to get you pregnant anymore. Goodbye, Cécile. It was a pleasure to have met you,” He warmly shook her hand and smiled at her.
“Goodbye, Mr Jarvis. And likewise.”
As he locked up the range, Jarvis couldn’t help but think of another young woman who had been put in harm’s way many times. He concluded that these women really were the bravest of the brave.
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