Bartlett walked up the steep footpath to Glastonbury Tor and by the time he reached the top, he was breathing heavily. I’m getting too old for this, he concluded. The sun to the southeast cast a long shadow. There were very few on the hill as it was still too early and St Michael’s tower was deserted. He stopped and scanned the lower ground to the north. Of the man he was supposed to be meeting, there was no sign. And then a voice came from the tower:
“Tell your flunkie to move out of cover to where I can see him and hold the rifle in the air and then put it in its case over his head. Tell him if he moves after that, my man who is less than ten yards from him will slot him. Do it now, Mr Bartlett.
Bartlett spoke into the throat mike. Down on the lane, a man moved from the tree line into the open. He cased the hunting rifle and held it above his head.
“Good, now unplug your earpiece and throat mike and put them down on the ground, near the door to the tower.”
Bartlett complied, “How did you know?”
Because I watched him through binoculars from the top of the tower, get out of his car and go into cover in the hedge. Are you armed?”
“No,” Bartlett said truthfully.
“Well I am. Come into the tower.”
“Do you have a man down there?” Bartlett asked the man with the long hair, wearing a ranchman’s coat.
As his eyes became adjusted to the gloom, Bartlett was looking at a man who had a grim face, “It’s Edge isn’t it? We knew that you didn’t die in the Algarve.”
“I very nearly did. Why did you want to meet me, Bartlett?”
“I… We want the war to stop.”
“We never started it. I take a dim view of being set up by a war crimes tribunal, on trumped up charges, in order for us to be murdered in prison.”
“And we take a dim view of two of our agents being murdered horribly. And we want who did it.”
Edge leaned against the cool stone wall, “You can’t have them. Henry Morrison is dead. He is buried at a Catholic mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The other one is under my protection and he has suffered enough for his country. You’re lucky that I wanted nothing to do with this. I was asked but said no to Morrison.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because killing achieves nothing and it will eventually destroy the assassin who wields the knife.”
“But you did kill Gleam.”
“No, that was Henry. I was in no place to do anything because you destroyed me and took eight years from me.”
“My political masters demand retribution,” Bartlett said coldly.
“Then it will become total war. You have seen what just two can do to your organisation. We will go after your political masters and hunt them down. There will be a bloodbath. We have nothing to lose.”
“And what do you propose that I say to the government?”
“Tell them they’re both dead. The other one killed himself.”
“We know that Guy Jarvis is still alive.”
“And he is staying that way. Otherwise, we will start with the Home Secretary and Justice Minister. Your police are not good enough, like the clown down there with the rifle. And you will never leave this place alive, Mr Bartlett. You said you wanted the war to end, and yet come here and threaten me. The price of peace is one life. We’ve had enough and so have you.”
Bartlett moved towards Edge slowly and held out his hand. They shook hands.
“You promise me this is the end?”
“Mark Edge, this may surprise you, but there is someone that I have become particularly fond of. Her destiny is tied up with your friend, Guy Jarvis.”
“I met her in Libya.”
“No, Edge. You didn’t meet her. You saved her life and those of two of our operatives. You are a thoroughly decent man, no matter what you or others may think of you. I am only sorry that we are on different sides.”
“We aren’t really, you know. Guy has never forgotten her.”
“Unfortunately, Guy Jarvis’ Amour Perdu has become something of a liability. I want them to fortuitously rediscover each other. It would be better for her sanity. And mine.”
Edge smiled grimly, “Another one of this country’s walking wounded Mr Bartlett?”
“Can you arrange for Mr Jarvis to be at this location on the date on this card?”
Edge glanced at the card he had been handed, “Is this a joke?”
“No, it’s for real. Make sure he meets the gentleman in the hotel.”
“And you swear to me that you won’t try to lift him?”
“You have my word, Mr Edge.”
“OK. But you know what will happen if you renege on this. Goodbye Mr Bartlett.”
Bartlett stopped and retrieved his radio equipment.
“You might like to tell the gentleman with the rifle, that it’s a good idea to be in position before the sun rises. He wouldn’t last five minutes against someone who knows what they are doing.”
She watched the taxi firm burning in the night and heard the sirens in the distance. The previous night it had been eight of Bradford’s eleven kebab take-away shops. It was either pigs’ heads or bags of water in the deep fay fryers, which tended to explode like a bomb, showering the takeaway’s occupants with boiling fat. Then buckets full of pigs’ offal were dumped across the counters. The police were busy watching the remaining take-aways, when her Gurkhas had descended on the taxi firms like avenging agents.
None of the properties were attacked randomly. They had been watched and their occupants followed for weeks before the attacks. Dossiers had been prepared and posted to the police that previous day, with copies to the local media. The dossiers contained photographs and recordings of the abuse of underage white girls and the local MP had also been sent records with a personally addressed message: You had better start talking about those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere and need to open your mouth. For the good of diversity.
Mahat the Gurkha chief of staff stood next to her. She could tell he didn’t approve and she couldn’t have cared less.
“Do you have them?”
“They are in the reefer.”
“Drive me to see them please, Mahat.”
It was a short drive to the lorry park and she walked up to where the refrigerated lorry stood in the shadows.
“Inuit Cold Chain Solutions. I like it,” she told him
“Madam Khan, I think we have gone too far tonight”
“This is the beginning. Next week we will move south to Slough.”
She walked to the back of the truck and stepped up onto the tail lift. One of the rear doors was partially open and she went inside, closed the door and turned on the interior lights. Afarin Khan particularly liked the film The Long Good Friday. It was cold and her breath fogged in the air as she surveyed the twenty or so naked men, who were strung upside down like carcasses of meat.
“You know who I am, don’t you? I am the One-armed Whore of Satan. You called me that didn’t you? And now I like it. You were asked to stop. You didn’t. Instead, you moved against my female charity workers. One of them will never walk again, so I pulled them out and put in my men. They hate you and everything you stand for. You were first asked to stop and you didn’t. You doubled down and now you’re here.
”Where are your tame police tonight. The Dhimmi Plod are watching the wrong places. They will not help you. Perhaps we will go after them once we have dealt with your families.”
The nearest trussed man, a local councillor swore at her in Bengali, “You will die for this, you fucking bitch!”
She reached under her Chador and pulled out a rounders bat, “I may only have one arm, but it is strong.”
She proceeded to beat the man with the bat until he was screaming and his blood was dripping on the floor of the lorry. Outside Mahat was joined by the driver and they listened to the screams from inside the vehicle.
“This is madness, Havilda.”
“I’m afraid that our Subedar has taken leave of her senses.”
Inside the lorry she stopped because she was breathless and the red mist had subsided. One of the men started crying and begging for mercy. She walked over to him, swinging the bat.
“Did you show any mercy to the underage white girls you continually raped and filmed as a warning? DID YOU? You will all die in here, tonight. We will come for your first-born sons and daughters, like you came for the English. And then it will be your wives, until your foul presence has been eliminated in this country.”
“Why? You are one of us. You are the same as us. Why do you care for the kuffar?”
“They are children that you corrupt, terrify, beat and murder. This country has been my home, your home, and yet you shit in it and on the working-class British people,” She went to the door of the lorry, “They tell me that freezing to death isn’t too bad. It’s better than ending up as kebab meat on a skewer grill and having your bones ground up to make tiling grout.”
She jumped down, ignoring Mahat’s hand to help her down, “Tell the driver to go over the Pennines to the motorway service station at Blackburn with Darwen on the M65, Junction four. There will be a car waiting for him. He is to phone the police and tell them who is in the back of the lorry once he is clear. Some of them may still be alive.”
“Where are you going, Madame Khan?”
“To my house in Rainford to wait.”
“Please stop this.”
“I can’t. That’s the problem.”
They came for her two nights later, with orders to rape, torture and slowly kill the woman. Their patron wanted the whole thing filmed on their phones. She was older now and her reactions had slowed, but the higher functions of the brain had improved with age and time. She had even dressed for quick movement and close-quarter combat. She didn’t want to use a firearm because of the noise, but her Fairbairn Sykes knife was on the bedside cabinet, unsheathed.
Her eyes opened as she heard the imperceptible squeak of the property’s side gate and sat up, fully awake. She was wearing what she called her bionic arm that gave her around sixty per-cent functionality, but now she was left-handed. Afarin sat up and picked up the knife with her good hand and moved to the landing to listen. She clearly heard the glasscutter cut a circle in the dining room double glazing and the slight pop as the air was expelled from the gap between the two panes. Then there was cutting again as they cut a hole in the inner glass, to reach in and operate the window catch.
Her nerve endings were tingling and every breath flooded her brain with adrenalin and endorphins. She was hyper-aroused as she had been many times in the past. She was staring death in the face and it was facinating, better than the sex she hardly remembered. There was a creak from the sixth stair up. She was crouching behind the solid banister as his head drew level with the top. He was in his twenties, a Pakistani man with a shaped, designer beard. He was carrying a reactivated for .22 ammunition, Bryco pistol. He was on the third stair from the top when she slid the knife into his right ear and thrust the blade into and upwards to destroy his brain stem. He began to twitch and make a horrible, mewling noise and she twisted the knife in order to pull it out, then dragged him onto the landing and out of the way. He continued to writhe, staring at her helplessly with dead eyes and then he was still. She felt the insane rush and unwisely headed down the stairs, avoiding the sixth stair.
The second man was another Pakistani, overweight and slow, holding back to make sure she didn’t get out of the window. He may have heard her on the stairs and an arm holding a Walther P99, nicely blinged up with a chrome finish, appeared from the kitchen and dining room area. She stabbed upwards and the blade went through his wrist between the extensor and tensor tendons. He dropped the gun and screamed, using his weight and momentum to slam her against the wall. Despite his blubber and slowness, he was stronger than she was. Afarin chopped his throat with her left hand, crushing his larynx. He went on his knees, coughing saliva and blood and she administered the coup de grace through his eye socket.
There was a tool bag under the window and she looked inside it. It contained duct tape, cable ties, battery acid, a blowtorch, bolt cutters and assorted pliers and clamps. She doubted they were going to do some DIY in the house.
“That’s not playing nice,” Afarin said to the dead man on the floor.
She picked up the Walther, stepped into a pair of Japanese Tatami slippers from the downstairs hallway and slipped out into the night to find their car and the driver. It was about one hundred metres away, the driver not concentrating, listening to the radio, which was very loud and the darkness of the morning. She smashed the driver’s side window with a large stone, showering him with toughened glass.
“Wakey-wakey,” she said.
The driver was staring into the muzzle of the Walther.
“Turn off the radio. You’ll disturb the neighbours.”
He complied with shaking hands.
“Now put your hands on the steering wheel, where I can see them. Nice car by the way. Your two friends are dead. I’ve just killed them. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Please, it wasn’t my idea.”
“You astonish me. I want you to go back to whoever paid you and tell him what has happened here. Tell him that I will find him and slaughter his entire, extended family in front of him, before feeding him to the pigs. If he’s lucky, he might be dead. I want you to write his details on this piece of paper…”
“I can’t. He’ll kill me!”
“If you don’t, I’ll kill you.”
With trembling hands the man wrote a name and address.
“This had better be right, otherwise… I want him and his family to return to the Shitstan and I advise his associates to follow suit. Do you understand me?”
He nodded frantically.
Good. Tell him in person, so I’ll be wanting your mobile phone. Hand it over.”
He hesitated, so she pressed the gun against his head.
“You really don’t want to piss me off.”
He handed it over and she stepped back from the car.
“Now you go otherwise… Well you get the drill.”
She watched the car disappear and rang a number, using the “misappropriated” mobile phone.
“Mahat, come to my place. I’ve just had a visit. They’re still here but are not going anywhere. Bring one of the vans, two lengths of carpet and about eight breeze blocks. Oh, and some rope as well.”While she waited for him, she went over the bodies and found the dead man downstairs had not sanitised himself and there was a wallet and credit cards in his trouser pocket. In the wallet was a telephone number and Afarin betted the last four numbers were the pin number of the credit card. She also had their two mobile phones with the call logs and data. She went on her laptop and using a VPN, found out the deepest lake in England which was Wast Water. Then she tried boat hiring companies but there were none on Wast Water. Ullswater was more promising and with a deepest depth of 250 feet, it would be sufficient.
It was nearly 03:00 by the time Mahat arrived and all he said was, “I knew that this would happen.”
They wrapped the bodies in the carpet and tied breeze blocks to each bundle, then dragged them out to the van. There was very little blood in the house which was sponged off the hall landing and the tiled kitchen floor. Afarin explained her plan and they headed off to pick up the M6 north. They stopped to refuel at Tebay Services and used the dead man’s credit card. The last four numbers of the telephone number were indeed the card’s pin number. It was after nine by the time they were in the Lakes and she rang three boat hire numbers before she found one that had boats available for a weekly hire.
At the marina they looked superficially just like any other Asian couple, except he was obviously Nepalese and she was Persian. But the men at the boat hire were so terrified of offending racial sensibilities that they accepted the credit card for the hire and insurance without a quibble. If they chose to wear surgical gloves in this post-virus era, who were they to argue. They were shown how to operate the boat and then they chugged off in the direction of Glenridding. Afarin and Mahet waited until the early hours then motored to where he had parked the van earlier. They struggled to get the bodies on board, then set out to an area of the lake just north of Norfolk Island. There was no muslim prayer for the dead and the bodies in the carpets were heaved over the side. They motored back to the closed marina and dropped off the boat. They would lose the deposit, but she doubted that the man at the bottom of the lake would care much.
She handed the piece of paper to the Gurkha, “This is the man who ordered my torture and murder. My final request to you is to make sure he never does it again.”
It was obvious that despite his politeness, Mahet was angry with her. He stopped outside her rented house and dropped her off. Afarin smiled sadly at him.
“I‘m sorry that it ended like this, Mahet, but that’s what mission creep does.” She gave a sad, little sob and embraced this tough, little Gurkha soldier, “I don’t think we shall ever meet again, but thank all of those fine, brave boys for me. The work will continue with somebody else in charge. Ayo Gorkhali!”
“May you find a peace and happiness in your soul, Miss Afarin. I pray you do before your anger consumes you. As-salamu alaykum”
She packed a bag with essentials and decided to stay in a hotel for a few days as a security precaution. Two days later she took a phone call.
“Meet me in your place near the Ridgeway at 10:00 tomorrow. I will be there and so will you!”
No ifs, buts, pleases or thank-you. Just harsh, barely contained fury. Afarin lay back on the bed and said “Fuck!”
She got home around eight that morning and opened the windows of her house. She hadn’t stayed there for five months and the place smelled stale and slightly musty. She put on coffee and heated bread rolls she had brought from a bakery in the village. He came at 09:55 and she opened the door with a grin.
“Hello, Alan. It’s been a long…”
“Be quiet and shut the door,” He strode into the sitting room and turned on her with fury, “What the hell are you playing at! You’ve turned a northern town into Stalingrad. There is a trail of injured men across Bradford and there were two dead in that refrigerated lorry. Dead! And you killed them, didn’t you!”
“They went after the women workers and the girls who provided us with the information we needed. One of my women was thrown off a multi-story car park. She is a fucking paraplegic now Alan. I told you and you said to me: You sort it. Well that’s what I fucking did, Alan. I sorted it. They went to war with us and they reaped the fucking whirlwind. And I don’t care if you don’t like me swearing, because frankly, Alan, you can fuck right off!”
He sat down heavily and stared at her, “You’ve no idea what you’ve done, have you? You even threatened the local MP.”
“The South Yorkshire police have asked for reinforcements from the Met. They are even talking about deploying the Army. The Home Secretary is furious and wants those responsible to go on trial.”
“It’s a pity the useless fuckers weren’t so bothered about underage white girls.”
Bartlett sighed. “Afarin, you have overstepped the mark. I am no longer able to protect you. This has to stop or you will surely disappear.”
“Are you threatening me, Mr Bartlett?”
“No. I am frightened for you and what you have unleashed. You have to step down before it’s too late. We need to publicise the good work you did before…”
“Before they attacked my workers. Where was the fucking useless Home Secretary then?”
“Come and sit next to me Afarin. I don’t want you to be consumed by your hatred. I don’t understand why you hate your own people so much.”
“They are not my people. My people were rough men who did the Governments dirty work for little thanks. And I lost them and that life. And I think my mind as well.”
“You are destroying yourself, Afarin. I notice that on that wall over there you have framed a copy of the Serenity Prayer. Where did you get it from?”
“It was given to me by a nurse in the Nairobi hospital.”
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference,” Bartlett quoted.
“Your courage is an inspiration, but the problem is that for an incredibly intelligent woman, you lack the serenity to accept the things you can’t change, because you don’t have the wisdom to differentiate. And that is precisely why you are so self-destructive. You are a little, lost soul, railing against the perceived injustices of life. I don’t want to lose you, Afarin, but you are slipping through my fingers.
“So far you have managed to distance the charity and its workers from your murderous fury, but that is changing and they will close in on you. I think you have made the fundamental mistake of forgetting who you were supposed to be helping. This is the end for you. You must step down and allow another managing director to run the charity.”
“Then I have nothing.”
“That’s not strictly true,” Bartlett told her, “This TV Production Company wants to make a documentary about various agencies that are helping these girls. Yours will only be a brief slot in the programme, but it will bring the charity’s work into public awareness. And then we will have a shortlist of prospective people who have the experience and track record of this kind of work. You will interview them and appoint a successor. Then you will step down.”
“And do what?”
“Gain the wisdom to know what you can change and the humility to accept those you can’t.”
“I don’t have a choice, do I?”
“No, you don’t. Contact this head of production on the card and arrange a time to see her. A slot has already been booked for you and the phone call will finalise it.”
“Alan, I don’t know what to say.”
“You could start by saying thank you. You’re beginning a new journey in your life.”
Now available on Amazon: War Crimes for the Political Elite
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© Blown Periphery 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file