The Man Who Played Ross – Chapter 26

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Insurgencies differ in their use of tactics and methods. In a 2004 article, Robert R. Tomes spoke of four elements that “typically encompass an insurgency”:

1. cell-networks that maintain secrecy

2. terrorism used to foster insecurity among the population and drive them to the insurgents for protection

3. multifaceted attempts to cultivate support in the general population, often by undermining the new regime

4. attacks against the government


Two years later, in the headquarters of the MoD’s Main Building on the Embankment, opposite the London Eye, Wing Commander Ryan O’Byrne contemplated the pile of files on the table in front of him. O’Byrne had just finished his Advanced Command and Staff Course and this was his first tour in what the Civil Serpents described as “Head Office.” He knew he was destined for higher things, he had ticked the right boxes through luck and sheer hard work and the loving support of his wife. Perhaps his own detachment and then his own Station. Maybe a Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff (DACOS) at Air Command, then ACOS Ops, who knows? Never Chief of the Air Staff though, he wasn’t a fast jet pilot.

But O’Byrne missed flying, “sweating the metal” in No 7 Squadron’s CH47 Chinook Helicopters. He missed the easy banter and being an essential component of Britain’s Special Forces community. Here he was, Duty Officer for the week on the 5th Floor, having to complete the weekly nausea of checking the Secret and Top-Secret file enclosures, making sure they were all there and cross-referencing them with the secure documents log. Just to check some numpty hadn’t enclosed them in the wrong file, or worse removed them. It would take the best part of the morning.
He was on a Top-Secret UK Eyes Only file annotated as Op TELIC VI. O’Byrne was interested in this file as he had been on Op TELIC VI in Basra in 2005, so he took the time to read the enclosures, the memories flooding back. It was all there, the SAS undercover team being compromised, the assault on the police station, the shooting down of the Puma, the CSAR to recover the bodies and the rescue of the Loadmaster. O’Byrne had been the co-pilot of the Chinook that had carried the medics and the rescued Loadmaster for the trip to the field hospital. And he remembered the piss-up in the Camel’s Toe bar afterwards and he smiled.

Most of these files should have been marked for disposal years ago, but because of the collective, hysterical paranoia surrounding the Chilcot Enquiry into the Iraq war and collective arse-covering by the Civil Serpents, they remained “on charge.” O’Byrne was tempted to mark them for disposal, but he was only security checking and only the files’ owners or originators could make that decision.

And then he came across some earlier enclosures about an undercover operation at Amarah, involving an SAS sniper team. This section was rather odd, as it didn’t conform to the usual JSP 101 writing protocols and seemed to have been originated by the FCO. Most of the pages were heavily redacted and seemed comprised of printed e-mail traffic between the FCO and the Directorate of Special Forces. Operation HUSSITE was mentioned a number of times, but the enclosure that curdled his guts was dated from 2014 and was a later enclosure to the much earlier Operation HUSSITE enclosure from 2005.


It is deemed the events surrounding the elimination of GADWALL are of such great sensitivity, that their disclosure would compromise national security. Unfortunately, the very existence of HUSSITE team members who were involved with the planning are themselves a dangerous threat should their roles be compromised. However unpalatable this might appear to the SoS, we should regard Staff Sergeant XXXX and Warrant Officer XXXXXXXX as a clear and existing danger to national security that must be contained. They were operating outwith their agreed ROE and the parameters of the mission. XXXXXXXXX will present a COA to the departmental heads on 12 March 2012. Suggest this would involve leaking their names to ongoing war crimes investigations.  This would distance these individuals from XXX



O’Byrne re-read the HUSSITE enclosures several times and noted two e-mail addresses from the enclosures that were on the government system. Later he would go on the global address list and find they were in fact FCO and therefore quite possibly MI6 addresses. One of the incumbents he would manage to trace by creative use of the global address list. He slipped a piece of paper into the classified documents log and made notes about the electronic addresses and partially redacted name in the file. He clearly remembered a well-oiled Staff Sergeant called Edge, showing everybody in the Camel’s Toe a huge, multi-coloured bruise on his chest, where he had been shot on his body armour whilst storming the house. He also remembered an impossibly handsome Warrant Officer called Morrison, schmoozing with a beautiful Pakistani woman, who he thought may have been a “Detette.” He had met with these two again, four maybe five years ago, when they had made him an intriguing offer.

That afternoon he interrogated the MoD’s Global email Address List and ran a search on DII, including electronic versions of the documents he had seen in the TELIC VI file. He didn’t want to push too hard to arouse cyber suspicion from the IT administrators, but by the end of the afternoon he had the name of the originator of the 2014 email enclosure, who was a Miranda Hollins, with a current location given as Hanslope Park. O’Byrne had no idea what Hanslope Park was, so naturally he asked Mr Duck Duck Go on his phone.

When O’Byrne got back to his nice flat in the East End, paid for by the taxpayer, he went into a safe in the wardrobe and retrieved a mobile phone. There was only one number in the Contacts list and he rang it and left a message. Then he poured himself a large bourbon with plenty of ice, went onto the balcony and looked out over a third-world city and the minarets of Stratford Mosque. Morrison and Edge had picked their self-preservation society members very astutely. Wing Commander O’Byrne was Inkspot 07 Ops (Air).


On a Friday afternoon, Inkspot 04 (Logs) heard a phone ringing from a jacket pocket in his wardrobe. Because of the amount of red wine and malt whisky he had consumed since 13:00, he barely registered the ringing of a mobile and went into the wardrobe to find it. He had almost forgotten about the Inkspots and found one missed number on this phone. He finally recognised the number and rang back. The conversation was brief.

“I need you to go to Location Mike, Sierra, One, this evening for 20:00. I’ve booked a room in a hotel for you.”
He immediately recognised Henry Morrison’s voice. He hadn’t heard anything from him for seven years. But he knew this was official. He could hear it in Morrison’s voice.

“I can’t make it this evening. I’ll see you early tomorrow morning at 09:00, after it opens.”


“Car problems,” there was nothing wrong with Jarvis’ car, just his ability to drive it.

“Very well then, 09:00 it is.”

Jarvis immediately stopped drinking, cooked a meal and went to bed

The next morning, he headed towards the Midlands and Kenilworth castle. From the car park Jarvis headed through the gatehouse, paying his entry fee. He followed the path for the gardens overlooked by the Great Tower. All of the face-to face rendezvous sites were at British castles, while dead letter drops were at garden centres with plenty of undergrowth to hide packages. Weapons and equipment caches were in more interesting locations. He found a bench and sat down, reading the castle’s brochure and had been fairly sure that as a child, visits to the castle were free.

Someone else had been watching him for around fifteen minutes, ensuring that Jarvis hadn’t been followed, then walked from the shadow of the Great Tower and sat on the far end of the bench. It looked as though he was talking into a mobile phone, not even looking at Jarvis.

“Hello, old friend. It’s been a long time.”

Jarvis leaned forward as though scrutinising the brochure, “Indeed it has, Henry. How have you been keeping since…? Since Angela died?”

“I really don’t want to go there, Guy. It’s still raw for me. At first, I lost all sense of purpose. I started drinking and then I was given some information and I have a reason to keep living… For now. Can you apply for leave for next week?”

“I think so,”

“I’ve booked a room for you in the Holiday Inn at Bedford for an open-ended stay. I’m staying at the Premier Inn, which is about a click west of the Holiday Inn. Meet me there at 1930 and we’ll have some drinks and a meal. I’ll explain to you what this is all about tonight. Bye the way, Wayne is dead.”

Jarvis didn’t look at him but he was deeply shocked, “When and how?”

“Three years ago. Do you remember how his daughter was the bane of his life?”

“I do.”

Well, she became involved with Muslim rape gangs and was abused for months, supposedly while she was in the care of the Council. They were the enablers. She walked in front of a high-speed train to London at Didcot station. Wayne was distraught and went after the filth who did it. I reckon he killed about twenty before Edge and I managed to make him stop. Unfortunately, the grief and anger were too much for Wayne.”

“What happened to him?” Jarvis asked with a suddenly dry mouth.

“He drove to his favourite spot in the Peak District and blew his brains out with a shotgun. I took his ashes and scattered them on the Fan Dance.”

Morrison stood up, “Guy, this is incredibly important both to me and Mark Edge. Please be there.”


After his first drink, Jarvis’ body had begun to thaw, “How did you find out this information, Henry?

“It was in a file in Main Building. A well-placed Inkspot copied the relevant enclosure and passed it to me.

“And this woman is a Spook? Do you know her?”

Henry smiled grimly, “I know her well, although not intimately… Yet. I met her on a dating site for professionals and I had to copy a real NHS manager’s persona in case she ran a background check. She did.”

“That explains the beard. I think it suits you.”

“It’s going after tomorrow night, once I’ve finished with her and she’s told me everything she knows about our job in Amara in Iraq. The one that Edge I were set up for war crimes. When I know who else was involved, I’m going to kill them all, or rather we are.”

“Henry, this is not what the Inkspots were set up to do. We were supposed to be a mutual preservation society, not go to war with the intelligence community.”

“Edge was driven out of his mind by these bastards. He’s had to fake his own suicide and I’m living another man’s life because of this bitch setting us up to kill an MI6 operative, a double agent. You swore a blood oath and you’re not wheedling your way out of this!”

Jarvis was shocked, “Henry, I never said I wanted out. I just think we should pick our enemies wisely.”

“You were part of the operation to kill that Iraqi bomb maker. How long do you think it will be before they come for you?”

“What do you intend to do to this woman?”

“I’m going to ask her some questions and if she refuses to answer them, I’m going to hurt her a great deal before she tells me and then I will kill her.”

Jarvis stared at Morrison. He had become a man that he no longer recognised nor understood. It was as though the death of his wife had caused him to become deranged and he was suddenly frightened of his old friend and comrade,

“Jesus Christ, Henry!”

“Let’s get a meal and then we’ll talk some more. For this phase of the operation, I just want you to drive and help me sanitise her house once I’ve finished. You might also have to “borrow” a hackney cab. I’m meeting her again next Friday night and that’s when we do it. Are you in with me, Guy?”

“I did swear an oath, but I’m not happy, Henry.”

“I don’t need your happiness, just your help. She’ll be gagging for me by next week.”


Miranda Hollins was too cautious to hope too much. Since her disastrous marriage previously, she had been in and out of unsatisfying relationships and had to admit, on occasions she had made a fool of herself. But that inextinguishable spark of hope told her that probably, no possibly (don’t build your hopes too much), he was the right person for her. The online dating agency was for professional people, like her and after so many disappointments he seemed to have come from nowhere. She worked in MI6’s Archive and Records Section at Hanslope Park, a far cry from when she had been a Field Officer, first in Afghanistan and then later in Iraq. Her current work lacked the supposed appeal of field work, what every officer aspired to, but at her age, they were welcome to it. Besides, it was convenient for her house in Kempston on the outskirts of Bedford. Thank goodness she only had to commute to London once a week. The allure of the capital had long gone.

She risked a sideways glance at her companion, Paul in the back of the taxi and felt a thrill. It was their second date, really a date at her age? Should she invite him in? The cautious part of her said no, one more time just to be sure. But God he was handsome. An NHS manager and he did know a great deal about hospital administration, because she had checked. He was kind, considerate and very courteous, helping her on with her coat when the taxi pulled up outside her nice, 1930s house. Which made it all the more shocking when he tazered her on the neck.

“Help me get her inside,” he said to the driver, “And disappear ‘till I phone you. I don’t know how long this will take and it could take a very long time. I hope not for her sake.”

They quickly carried the unconscious woman up the path, her companion had the keys ready and inside he turned off the alarm.

“Upstairs, spare bedroom. Then bring the holdall and go.”

When she regained consciousness, she was cable tied to the bed. He was looking down at her and he was wearing police SOCO clothes and a surgical mask.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” he asked, “Three hours in an intimate little restaurant, less than three feet away from me and you can’t remember.”

She started to struggle.

“Miranda, let me help you. Basra 2005. Do you recall the debrief in the SF compound? Admittedly I was younger, much smellier and dirtier then and you probably didn’t want to get too close to the people who do your dirty jobs for you.”

“Fuck you!” she hissed and opened her mouth to scream. He rammed a towel in her mouth.

“I’m really not pissing around.”

He put a wet cloth over her face and poured water from a jug onto it. The water had been heavily laced with tabasco sauce and was slightly orange in colour. Predictably she squirmed, gasped, choked and coughed. He left it for thirty seconds, removed the cloth and the towel and held her head to one side while she vomited. While she gasped for breath with burning mucus membranes and eyes, he produced a Dictaphone, an extension cable and a heavy-duty electric soldering iron from the holdall.

“I’m going to ask you the following questions and I expect you to be honest and give me non-evasive answers. There is no twenty-four-hour rule here for you to hold out for. It’s Friday and we’ve got all weekend and probably until Tuesday before someone misses you and I don’t give a shit what state you’re in by the time I’m finished.

“What was the remit of Operation Hussite? Who sanctioned it, both within MI6 and at Governmental level? Was the DSF aware of the true nature of Op Hussite? Who was Gadwall? Why was he killed? Whose idea was it to throw Edge and Morrison to the wolves? Who is the person whose name has been redacted on the files and who was present at the meeting on 12th March 2012? Right, let’s start with the first question: What was the remit of Operation Hussite?”

“You bastard!”

The towel was in her mouth and the muffled screams started.


By 04:45 he had all the information he needed and the room stank of burned flesh. The woman was in a semi-conscious state, babbling incoherently. Morrison didn’t care, his soul was a cold rock.

He slapped her face to get her attention and leaned in close to her, “I want you to know that your organisation’s day has come. You and your political masters have pillaged this country and its people for too long. You have covered up the sexual deviancy of the ruling class and allowed degenerates to govern this once, fine people. You and your ilk have used this country and people as your own personal cash cow. We are fighting back and I’m afraid that you are just collateral damage on the long hard road to freedom. But for me, this is entirely personal. You made us murder a brave and probably honourable man at the whim of a hostile, foreign government, for a dirty, little trade deal. You drove Mark Edge to the brink of suicide. You destroyed his life and his family, because you thought us to be inconvenient, a clear and existing danger to national security. You’re an evil bitch and you backed the wrong side. Sorry.”

He tazered her, cut the cable ties, put her in the holdall, zipped it up and carried it through to the bathroom, before heaving it into the bath. He put in the plug and ran the cold water and while he waited for it to fill, he sanitised the spare bedroom and the stairs. Back in the bathroom he turned off the tap and waited for the bubbles to stop. He gave it ten minutes, pulled out the plug and made a phone call. While he waited in the darkened downstairs hall, somebody’s words came back to haunt him.

Is this what we do, Henry? Is this what we’ve come to? We’re part of this. Aren’t we just fucking great? And I thought we were supposed to be the good guys…


Jarvis walked up the path and as soon as the door was opened, he smelled it. He doubled up retching and thought of Bluma. He was shaking as well as not trying not to puke up.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Get a grip!”

“What in God’s name have you done to that woman?”

“You don’t want to know. Take the holdall out to the cab.”

“Where is she?”

“She had an unfortunate accident in the bath.”

Jarvis stared at him, “You psychopathic bastard!”

“Get in the cab while I finish sanitising this place, then we’ll drive and have a little chat.”

Jarvis joined him and they drove to the railway station. Dawn had gone and the sky was grey and cold in the early morning light. Jarvis parked up the cab, which he had already sanitised and he was wearing gloves.

“Her name was Miranda Hollins and she was the spook who briefed and debriefed Edge and I in Basra. The man we killed was Muhammad Al Jazari codenamed Gadwall and he was an Iranian double agent working for us Brits. The Iranians found out what he was up to and insisted that the British terminate the relationship in return for allowing Al Jazari’s family safe passage out of Iran. Of course, they reneged on the deal and the man’s family disappeared, permanently. Therefore we killed a good and brave man at the bequest of MI6 and a few years down the line, they reasoned that Edge and I knew too much. We were going to prison where we would both conveniently die.

“The whole plan was concocted by a more senior SIS Officer called Timothy Peterhead, with the knowledge of the British Government. We’ve already sent them one message tonight. Jarvis, you’re going to kill this bastard Peterhead with a bomb under his car, so that they know we’re on to them. We now know where he lives and you are to kill him in the next two days, before they find her body.”

“For God’s sake, Henry! I can’t kill someone in cold blood.”

Morrison grabbed his sleeve angrily, “Yes you fucking well can and you fucking well will. You swore an oath on blood to the organisation and now it’s time to deliver.”

“Why me?”

“Because you’re the best bomb maker we have and I want the establishment to know their foot soldiers were killed by professionals. There are no ifs or buts and this is your sworn obligation.”

“I will do as you want under sufferance, but I will not murder this man in front of his family. Those are my conditions.”

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