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Valentina and Dimitri looked at the boat and weren‟t too pleased. “Do you think it‟s OK?” she asked.
It was a simple speedboat but love had been absent from its life for a long time. Paint was peeling, the
outboard motor seemed to be held on by a thick piece of wire but it was the driver that gave the both the
most pause – he couldn‟t have been more than 12.
After a moment they looked at each other and, with a slight shrug, accepted their fate. The hotel had found
them the boat and the hotel had been nothing but excellent to date. “I guess we‟ll live,” said Dimitri with a
little laugh. “It‟s only a short ride.”
Duc, the boy, looked up at them and wondered about foreigners. They always seemed to stop and look at
his boat with worry, but he knew it well. And by now he knew the foreigners well too.
Fifteen years old, he had been on the sea all his life. His father had allowed him to take the controls of this
little craft when he was less than five and now controlling it, maintaining it, understanding it were all
second nature to him. He knew it was sound, that the motor was secure, but he knew the tourists he ferried
around the islands in Nha Trang bay came from a very different, much softer world. To grow up in
Vietnam was no easy path, but Duc was happy. He knew no other life and he loved his little boat.
“I help you on board,” said Duc with a bright smile. And, with the sea calm and the air hot and still,
Valentina and Dimitri stepped just a little timidly into their boat.
* * *
The ride to Kangaroo Island took just 15 minutes. By the time they were nearing the island Valentina was
in an almost hypnotised state. With nothing to do but enjoy the journey she had quietened after the first few
minutes of chat and the boy and her lover had allowed her to find a moment or two of peace.
As the boat sped across the water, it jumped and bucked a little as it hit small waves but the effect was still
restful. The boy, sensing their unease, took his time and only opened the throttle half way. The sun sparkled
on the water and, apart from a couple of other small speed boats, a decrepit local ferry and a couple of
couple of fishing boats on the horizon, they were alone.
For some reason Valentina found herself thinking about her father, their flight to America when she was
six. It had been a strange and frightening place but she had become happy there, happier perhaps than she
deserved she thought. “Perhaps I am free of it at last,” but as the words formed in her mind she knew it
wasn‟t true. The hell of the last six months was not yet over. “Soon,” she thought, “soon it will be over.” It
was almost a prayer and her prayer was about to be answered.
* * *
Dan and Jochem had been in one of the boats that Valentina had casually noticed. It was as untidy and
unloved as Duc‟s. The only difference, if anyone had looked closely, was that the engine was brand new.
Dan had decided that a new engine was a small extravagance worth splashing out on to ensure the smooth
running of this mission. He had never, ever, commanded such a cheap operation so the $3,000 for the
engine was – pardon the pun – a drop on the ocean.
Mike, their Chicago born Vietnamese operative had called them early that morning saying that Valentina
planned to go to the islands by boat. Chevy, the Argentinian, had befriended the couple and had carefully
planted the idea that the snorkelling was so good it should not be missed. All Dan had to do was wait for
the expedition to take place.
With only two days of Valentina‟s holiday left he was just starting to get nervous and had been outlining
less elegant solutions when the call had come.
Surveillance in Nha Trang was unbelievably simple. Apart from Mike, Dan had two other Vietnamese men
posing as Xe Om or motor cycle taxi riders. There had been little trouble – a small tax had to be paid to
some local gang - but the monthly fee was less than a good cup of coffee would have cost in London or
New York. Yes his finances were doing very nicely thank you!
The two fake Xe Om operators took it in turns to park opposite the Sunrise Beach Resort Hotel. With no
effort at all, they merged invisibly with the real drivers. There were always three or four, waiting for fares,
trying to pimp a local hooker or sell a little hash, but most of the long, hot, languid days the Xe Om drivers
just dozed or chatted and that is Dan‟s drivers did. Except when they dozed they were faking it and when
they chatted they kept a good eye on the front door. Not one guest got into a taxi without Dan‟s operatives
knowing whether or not it was the young couple. Funnily, none of the Xe Om noticed that the two new
arrivals never seemed to get a fare, or at least, if they noticed, they didn‟t care.
The older of the two, a taciturn intellectual thug called Mung from Hanoi, had tailed Valentina and Dimitri
to the harbour and called Dan up with the description of the couple‟s boat and all he had to do was wait
near Kangaroo Island for them to arrive.
“Time to suit up,” he said and Jochem began getting into his wet suit. He looked down at the rather comical
woollen gloves in the bottom of the boat. “A nice touch,” he thought.
* * *
Valentina was ecstatic. Why had she waited so long to come out here, she wondered? Below her two tiny
bright blue fish swam slowly across the face of a massive green coral as a multicoloured parrot fish nibbled
away at the algae and a strange two foot long, one inch wide “thingy” swam past.
Giggling with a childish joy that made her whole body feel awake, she lifted her head clear of the water and
called over to Dimitri who was swimming about 10 yards away. “Have you seen those long thin ones,
they‟re sort of like eels but I don‟t think they are. Whatever they are, they‟re weird, the fish world‟s super
models, very long, thin and elegant.” With that she waggled her head and gave a little pout.
Dimitri laughed, delighted to see her so happy. She had seemed so preoccupied the whole of the holiday
and, unusually he had not been able to find out what was really wrong. “I saw about 10 of them in that little
cove over there.”
“Really,” she said with a laugh and was off. “Don‟t swim too fast you‟ll frighten them,” Dimitri smiled as
she sped away. Yes, it was a good day.
* * *
This was it thought Dan. The two divers had kept a discreet watch on the pair for almost 10 minutes. They
had been in the water when the couple had arrived and had tried to remain invisible. It was not too difficult
they were wearing military camouflage wet suits. They were designed with a collection of mottled dun
coloured blocks that looked like a piece of rather boring coral, or a rock or perhaps an area of exposed
sand. But these were not military issue they had been specially made. They were double thickness with
black on the inside so they could be turned inside out and look like a conventional suit on land,
They had remained submerged, out to sea, away from the coral the snorkellers would be looking at so even
if they were in range they were unlikely to be spotted.
At last the two had separated and were now swimming away from each other. Dan turned to Jochem and
signalled to move in but also to be gentle. With hand signals he went over the three scenarios they had
mapped out. Jochem, ever the professional gave an “OK” after each explanation. Dan knew he knew the
routines backwards but details were important. And the gloves were important.
* * *
Valentina was in heaven. She chuckled so much to herself that she spluttered a little as she breathed in a
little water around her snorkel„s mouthpiece.
On her way into the cove she had seen the long thin “model” fish but she had also seen a school or was it a
pod or group of small squid and they had been nothing short of amazing. She had always thought of squid
as ugly solitary creatures but there had been over 20 possibly over 30 and they had been lined up in
formation. They had stared at her and as she had moved towards them they had moved away. But if she
stayed still they came back towards her, staring at her with huge, intelligent-seeming eyes. And then, all
together, they had changed colour. It was simply too good to be true.
At that very moment she felt the strangest sensation – like she was in a glass of champagne with the
bubbles tingling over her skin – no it wasn‟t champagne, she thought, the bubbles were too harsh. It was
more like a carbonated water. She was in a bottle of Perrier.
Looking down she saw a diver in a very odd wet suit. He turned and looked up at her. “Perv,” she thought
almost wishing to hide herself in her skimpy red bikini. But then he waved and she waved back – a little
human friendship. He motioned her to dive down. Her mood was so buoyant that she thought “Why not”.
Taking a good lungful of air she arced down towards the diver some six feet below.
Almost at once she felt something on the back of her legs it felt like a pair of hands and they moved up her
legs to her bum. “My god, they are perverts,” she thought and anger flowed up in her unbidden.
The first diver now quickly swam up in front of her as she started to turn to the diver behind her. In a quick
movement he put his hands on her shoulders. She tried to push him away but he held at arms length. All she
could do was push one arm away while the other still pushed down on her back. She tried to kick out at the
other unseen assailant but he too held his arms out straight and she could not make contact with him. And
then, a full 15 seconds after the attack had begun, she realised this was not a sexual assault – this was much
worse. They planned to kill her.
* * *
For Dan the attack was going perfectly. The perfect plan was to lure her under water and that had worked.
The back up was to wait until she was upright in the water adjusting her mask or getting her bearings and
then pull her under. This would probably have worked. It was unlikely that the boyfriend would have heard
her even if she had called out but there was a danger of marking her skin in the initial struggle. He had been
told it was imperative to make this look like a natural death. The third solution, the most problematic,
would have been if they could not have got her away from the boyfriend. He had no compunction about
killing the two of them but to make it natural causes the only way would have been to kill the boy as well
and take the boat out and sink it. But the boy and the boat were local and there was a real danger someone
would recognise the boat as they motored it out to its graveyard. But plans B and C were not going to be
needed. A tiny hint of a smile creased the corners of his mouth. Plan A was working very well indeed.
* * *
Valentina was fighting, trying to think of a strategy, any strategy, to get away from her attackers but she
could not get near then. It wasn‟t that she could not break free of them, they didn‟t really have hold of her.
They were just pushing her ever so slightly down with gentle, almost tender, hands. “Maybe they are just
playing with me,” she thought – but that seemed too ridiculous.
Valentina fought. She tried desperately to kick for the surface. But she couldn‟t. She made a supreme effort
to swim forward and for a moment she broke free but within a couple of seconds the hands were gently
pushing her down, holding her down, just adding a few pounds to her weight. Only a few pounds but
enough to keep her under. There were no thoughts now. Just blind animal panic. She had tried logic and
logic had failed. Her animal instincts were all that could keep her alive but they were could also be her
When her face had hit the water the mammalian diving reflex had set in. Her heart rate had slowed, the
blood flow to her extremities had reduced and blood had been pulled in to the core of her body – her vital
organs and her brain. This was normal. Every time she had been swimming this automatic reflex had
kicked in. It was triggered by a part of her brain that had hardly changed in a hundred million years. Now
an even older and more dangerous set of automatic reactions were about to hold sway.
Valentina‟s lungs still held plenty of oxygen but the body decides when it needs to breathe based on the
level of carbon dioxide in the lungs, not oxygen. While Valentina‟s willpower had let he hold her breath so
far, her breathing reflex could only be denied for so long. There is something called the breath-hold
breakpoint. It can be held off by conscious will and you can train to hold it of longer but Valentina had had
no need to train. At three minutes and 18 seconds after she had taken her last breath on the surface, she
passed the breakpoint.
Her chest was burning, she could hear her heart beating, she wanted to scream, she was crying inside her
mask but all her will and passion and intelligence and character could do nothing. “I can hold on,” she told
herself as tears dribbled out of her eyes. But she could not. At three minutes and 18 seconds she gasped for
air and took in a lungful of sea water. But it was not the end. As the water rushed into her mouth towards
her lungs, her larynx contracted and nearly all the water she took in, poured into her stomach. She coughed
and spluttered and inhaled again. Again her larynx held closed and more water rushed into her stomach.
She felt a sting in her arm. For some reason the first diver was ahead of her now, looking directly into her
eyes. Through her coughing and spluttering she mouthed the word “Please”. But he just looked at her with,
she thought, sadness in his eyes. Through her terror, she saw he was holding some sort of gun. Even though
her strength was ebbing and every ounce of logic told her she was dying, this new imminent, danger still
got through to her tortured self, that bit of her that was still her. A gun she knew meant instant death.
Maybe this other death could yet be cheated. She lunged forward and knocked the diver‟s mask half off his
face. And then she was done. There was no more. Although there was still air in her lungs, her body
admitted defeat. Her heart stopped. A massive jolt of pain swept through her. But then it was gone.
The effect was subtle, instantaneous and irreversible. As the blood immediately stopped flowing through
the millions of tiny vessels in her brain, no new oxygen arrived, no nutrients or enzymes were delivered
and no waste products were removed. The organ that made her who she was had started grinding to a halt.
Valentina stopped struggling. She could still move her eyes and, with a crystal sharp appreciation she took
in her surroundings. She was not afraid, in fact she was feeling better by the second.
For over a minute she admired her surroundings. The attack had been so gentle that her mask was still in
place. Her coughing had filled one side with water but through the other she could see the fish and the
coral. There was a “model” fish and there was another Dimitri, her Dimitri had been right.
For a moment she wanted to cry. She would never see him again and that thought nearly broke through the
mounting endorphin euphoria but then she thought she would see her father soon.
And then she saw them. From the corner of her eye she saw maybe 30 pairs of unblinking eyes staring
straight at her. The squid changed colour and she knew that they were sad for her. “I love you” she thought
towards them and the squid, all in unison, changed colour one last time.
God, if god there be, was kind to Valentina. Half formed thoughts, images, smells, feelings and words
flowed through her mind as cells died and pathways collapsed. But none held terror for her, none caused
her pain. For some five minutes after her heart stopped beating she was still of this world but, after the first
30 seconds, barely so. At the end there was a glorious white light. And Valentina Boreshkova, aged 27, was
* * *
As the light began to fade from her eyes, Dan gently began easing Valentina towards the rocks. Very
carefully he rubbed the area of her where he had injected against an outcrop. The mix of enzymes and other
chemicals should make a coroner put her death down to a heart attack but it would probably be listed as
cause unknown. But he was confident that foul play would not be suspected.
With a quick moment of panic he remembered that he had dropped the injector. But there it was below him.
“That could have been a problem,” he thought scooping it up. But even if it had lain there – who would
have found it? The gloves had worked perfectly, there was not a mark on her and he was sure no post
mortem bruising would develop. “I don‟t know why you had to die honey but you have to admit that was
pretty painless and your nearest and dearest will just have a little mourn and they‟ll be on their way.” Dan
didn‟t really like killing people, it was just a job and soon, he thought, he would retire. In fact he hated
killing women especially young ones. “Give me a huge strong ox who has raped a 14 year old and I‟m
happy,” he thought. But then he realised that this job would pull in $500,000 and after expenses he should
bank well over $250,000. “Where the hell else am I going to get that sort of money for two weeks work.”
But he knew he‟d had enough. This might not be the last job but it was certainly one of the last.
Dan very gently, almost tenderly bumped Valentina against the rocks a few more times then he and Jochem
pulled her towards their boat on the other side of the island.
The current took her. He watched her for a second or two. Lifeless, but still beautiful, and a huge sadness
filled his soul as they climbed into the boat.
They would stay in Nha Trang for another three days and finish their diving holiday and they would fly
back to the States.
It was a hot beautiful day but Dan could hardly wait for the cool civilised air of Seattle. He could hardly
wait to go home.
“It makes no fucking sense. None at all.” Sir John William Hanham, Commander of the Metropolitan
Police‟s Bomb Squad was having a very bad day. Very bad indeed.
“What‟s the link? What‟s the motive? It can‟t be three differenet groups but why the hell have we got three
explosions with three completely different fucking signatures. Would someone please for the love of all
that is fucking holy tell me for the love of fucking God what the fucking hell is going on?” Yes he was
having a very bad day.
On the other side of the room, Bob Johnson, his loyal number two was smiling, nearly laughing. He adored
his boss. Sir John was a down to earth Dorset man, born on the land, schooled at the best institution but still
a man of great compassion, great humility and a great joy of life which often expressed itself in some very
choice language and sometimes truly appalling jokes and. And with a delightful inevitability as Sir John‟s
mood worsened the jokes arrived.
“And restaurants. Who blows up restaurants? What is it? Free the burned sorghum six, the bread brigade,
the bread army faction, the banana carrot top group, ……”, he had run out of funny ideas. Then he had one
more. “I know it‟s a resurgence of the Indian Restaurant Association.”
On the other side of the room, Bob Johnson, his loyal number two was smiling, nearly laughing. He got
them all, except the Indian Restaurant Association. Then the penny dropped. “Ah the IRA. Very droll
John.” But Sir John‟s mood would not lighten not even at his own jokes. And he loved his own jokes.
Then Bob Johnson, who should have known better said “How about Fatter - get it Fatter you know like
Arafat‟s mob Fattah but getting too fat?” He looked at Sir John for approval but received instead a stony
glare. Sir John liked Bob Johnson, he had a quick mind and he considered him as much a friend as a
colleague or a subordinate. But when he was in a bad mood it was Sir John‟s role to make the jokes and
Bob Johnson‟s to be amused by them. The fact that he had not thought of this obvious witticism irked Sir
“OK my little Bobby Bunny lets take it from the top.” He was trying to cheer himself up but it was not
working. Sir John picked up a marker and moved to the white board. “14th July, 7.45 pm, the Old Watch
Restaurant in Dean Street bomb number one. Six dead, 27 injured, seven seriously. 18th July, 8.15 pm, the
Pork Pie, five dead, twelve injured, nine seriously. 22nd July, 7.30 pm, Jeremy's Garden, seven dead, 14
injured four seriously."
He had drawn neat columns and a measure of calm descended on him as he sought to bring some order to
the chaos of information his head was harbouring.
"OK bomb number one - homemade explosive, nails, simple timer. Bomb number two semtex, ball
bearings, nails, and bolts, an altogether nastier little beast. Cell phone detonation. Bomb number three,
dynamite, who uses dynamite these days, nails and nothing else, simple timer. All three left in briefcases,
all three deadly. No apparent extortion demands, no warning, no claims of responsibility.” He put the
marker down scratched his head and for the umpteenth time said, “Three different signatures, so do we
have three bombers or one miserable tosser trying to be creative and piss about with our plod like brains.
“OK descriptions of the bomber are all vague, all male, all white or possibly continental, or just possibly
light skinned Arab, about the same height, roughly the same age, one blond, two dark hair but that could
just be a wig. One wearing glasses but again that could just be a red herring, bomber number two had a
limp but, need we say it again, that could have been faked. No one saw how they arrived and we lose track
of all three within about 100 yards of them leaving the restaurant.”
He paused, chewed his lower lip and looked out of the window. It was about seven in the evening and a
beautiful early August day was just turning to dusk. Two weeks he had been fighting a losing battle with
the information that presented itself. Normal police enquires had drawn a complete blank. No one had
spotted the bombers. No one had come forward to say they had sold the bags or the nails (no surprise
there). No hotelier had reported a desperate looking soul building bombs in their bedroom.
The restaurants had similarly yielded nothing. There seemed to be no connection between them except that
they were popular West End eateries but there was nothing to link them. One was a very high end Indian
establishment where Sir John had eaten several times himself. One was a run of the mill “English”
restaurant with very little to recommend it and the third was a rather well regarded vegetarian
The theory going the rounds at New Scotland Yard was that someone had it in for London restaurants and
either they just hated the capital‟s restaurateurs or they planned a campaign of extortion and this was just
the first course, the appetiser. Any day now major West End restaurants would get demands for protection
money. If they didn‟t pay they would be next.
Already booking were massively down in restaurants all over the country so Sir John was not only catching
flak from the Commander, the PM and a whole slew of politicians, he was catching it from restaurant
owners association and just about every newspaper‟s food critic had written a piece saying that the Met had
to protect this vital part of the British economy and why wasn‟t he (Sir John had been named in several
articles), why wasn‟t he doing more. To be criticised in print by food writers how low could his career
But he didn‟t think this was a simple case of foodie rage. The three differing signatures was, to say the
“Ok Bobby boy what do you think. One bomber or three and what the fuck is going on?”
Bob Johnson closed his eyes, leant back in his chair and then opened his eyes to stare at the ceiling. He
didn‟t like what he saw when he opened his eyes. This was a hideous office but that thought could wait.
“OK well I don‟t buy that we have one bomb maker. It is too much trouble to go to. I could be wrong we
could have some demented bomb making genius that wants to show off his versatility but my enormous gut
tells me that we have three builders. Whether we have three different guys planting the bombs is an
altogether different question. Could be one could be three, impossible to say but I bet we have three
builders.” He paused and screwed his eyes shut again.
“But why? If it is three makers that means we are dealing with something a hell of a lot bigger than a
simple anti restaurant group. The people or person behind this has to be able to find three good makers who
are not listed in the Yellow Pages, contact them and control them. And the targets - what or who are the
targets? We haven‟t had a bomb for two weeks and my guess is this is over so one of the restaurants was
the real target and the other two were camouflage or one of the people killed was the target and all the other
collateral damage, all 17xxx extra dead are just dead so we don‟t know who was really supposed to end up
in the morgue. If that is the case we are dealing with one sick powerful bastard „cause he could just as
easily have arranged a hit and run to get rid of Mr or Ms X instead of blowing a good part of Soho to
He looked at Sir John who now sat opposite him staring at the floor. When he lifted his head Bob Johnson
thought he had never seen his boss look so tired and, this surprised him, so sad. “Well my big bad blobby
Bobby I concur.” After a long pause he got rapidly from his chair. “But what the fuck are we going to do?”
Bob Johnson didn‟t say a word he knew that the boss had already decided even though his boss did not
know it himself.
“We have nothing, absolutely nothing to go on but the physical evidence and you me and the good boys
and girls have worked that as hard as we can and it has got us virtually nowhere. We have looked at the
victims and the restaurants and nothing has come to the surface.” Sir John stood up and looked out of the
window. “Desperate times, desperate measures old chum. We are going to get hold of every single living
person who has ever looked at a bomb and one of them, if there is a God, will recognise something, or spot
something we have missed. Then we will find the bomb maker, then we will torture his miserable hide and
find out who paid him and then we will find that little shit, shoot him in the head and all go home and sleep
the sleep of the just.”
And Bob Johnson knew that if his boss had the opportunity that is just what he would love to do. But he
knew you couldn‟t do things like that in the Met but he also knew on thing for sure - Sir John hated
bombers with a passion.
Three days after Sir John Hanham had called for desperate measures an odd assortment of eleven
gentlemen and one lady assembled in a large basement room at New Scotland Yard.
On three trestle tables evidence bags were laid out. Each table was labelled with details of one of the three
bombs. A large pile of forensic reports and other information teetered on each table. Other tables were
placed around the room to allow the assembled brainpower to ponder and probe as they wished. And it was
an impressive collection of brainpower and courage in this room. Some were academic explosive experts
but quite a few had spent time in the field. Several had had near calls and all knew colleagues who could
not be in the room because they had drawn the short straw and now lay beneath the ground or had been too
seriously injured to travel.
There was video equipment so two colleagues in Paris and Berlin, who could not be present, could join in
the proceedings. There were experts from four countries who had made it. There was a collection of
magnifying glasses, two microscopes, ultraviolet lights, filters and enough other technology and toys to
make any bomb investigator happy. In the corner was another vital ingredient - two coffee makers and an
ample supply of pastries. This could be a long session.
Sir John opened proceedings at precisely 11 am London time and the breakthrough came at precisely 11.19.
If Sir John had not talked for 14 minutes it would have come a little earlier.
* * *
Malcolm Freeland had been a tall, raffish good looking Army Captain of 36 when his black moment had
arrived. Defusing a small bomb in Belfast in 19xx he had made a mistake. It still rankled. The bomb maker,
one Patrick Michael O‟Neil, had fooled him.
The bomb was not large and it wasn‟t even very clever. If he had not had a fight with his wife the night
before he would have probably allowed it to be detonated in place but it was close to the xxxxxx monument
that had stood in Belfast for xxxx years and he didn‟t want it damaged. He knew the statue probably
wouldn‟t have been damaged anyway but he wanted to prove to himself he was up to the job.
In reality he was bored. These days the job too often consisted of getting little robots to shoot packages and
make them safe by “disrupting” their delicate innards and then, after the robot had trained its camera on the
remnants, Malcolm would move in and check everything was in order and the bomb could be fully made
safe and then the explosives dealt with. There was no finesse, no challenge. He wanted to be a big man and
do a big man‟s job. True this particular bomb was awkwardly placed so the robot could not get near it, but
he knew he needn‟t have gone “hands on” when he did.
By that stage of “the troubles”, as the sectarian warfare in Northern Ireland was euphemistically known, the
battle between the bombers and the bomb disposal boys was a game of cat and mouse. The main bomb
makers on both the republican and loyalist sides had got the art of making bombs down to a tee. They, too,
were frankly bored. So with a little time on their hands they would add a little bit of anti handling nous to
their bombs just on the off chance that some silly bugger actually got to play with their handiwork before it
went off. They would use mercury switches as tilt sensors (they had been around for well over 50 years),
they invented all sorts of little clever bits and bobs but Malcolm was to foul of a very simple and very
The bomb he was tackling that day had no real anti handling device but it did have an anti disarming
strategy. As soon as he had a good look at it Malcolm could see additional circuits that would detonate the
bomb if he tried to defuse it. Coming from the battery were two extra wires. They went to a circuit that
physically prevented the detonators (there were two independently wired detonators) from being removed
from the two sticks of dynamite.
Malcolm calmly checked the circuits. It was a neatly made bomb, tidy even. He quickly analysed the
circuits and saw that all he had to do was disable the secondary, protection circuit and he would easily be
able to tackle the main circuit and make the bomb safe. Simple physics told him all he had to do was cut the
green wire and the bomb would be rendered safe and it could be defused like the dozens he had defused
But the bomb maker, the youthful, smart but, for Malcolm, tragically bored, Patrick Michael O‟Neil, had a
simple trick up his sleeve. Behind the explosives, hidden from anyone who might try to defuse his very tidy
little bomb, he had connected a green wire to the red and a red to the green.
When Malcolm, with a small smile of satisfaction, cut the green wire he said out loud, “got you”. But he
hadn‟t and in that instant his life changed.
Malcolm was wearing a bulky anti blast suit but he had taken off his blast protecting gloves for the delicate
work of cutting the wires. As he flew through the air he was very, very annoyed.
When he awoke in hospital almost two days later he discovered he had lost both his hands. He blamed no
one but himself. He didn‟t blame O‟Neil at all. It had been a fair fight and he had lost.
* * *
“Got you,” said Malcolm Freeland at 11.19 some 20 years later. And this time he had.
When Malcolm Freeland had had hands he had smoked. The mere removal of his hands had, of course, not
freed him from the evil weed but it had changed one little thing.
Before he had lost his bomb defusing competition with Patrick O‟Neil he had had an ingrained little ritual.
When he opened a new packet of cigarettes first he would locate the clear plastic tape that ran under the
cellophane cover. Then, in one fluid move, he would twist the pack around so he ended up holding the
piece of tape - around six inches long and an eight of an eighth of an inch wide. He would then remove the
top part of the cellophane covering and take out the bit of silver foil inside the box that covered the tops of
the cigarettes. Then, for absolutely no good reason whatsoever, he would straighten the silver paper,
carefully fold it in half lengthwise and then fold it in half again. Then he would take the cellophane he had
removed and tie it around the silver paper with the plastic tape.
Nine times out of ten he would end with a flourish and finish off with a symmetrical little bow. He had no
idea why he did this. It was a physical ritual. It was part of him and most of the time he did not realise that
he did it. Were he a spy or a criminal, people could have tracked him using his discarded cigarette
wrappers. But he was not. And now, with one prosthetic hand and a hook, his days of this tidy little ritual
were over even if his smoking was not.
Patrick O‟Neil had a ritual too. His was much more practical and it was now going to get him into trouble.
Patrick was a perfectionist. Many a bomb had failed over the years because the connection between wires
had not been made properly. That was never going to happen to Patrick. Patrick would strip about two
inches of insulation from the wires that needed connecting. He would wind them around each other like
two snakes making love making sure that the wires were twisted together all the way to the end. Then he
would fold the twisted pair back on itself, form a loop and pass then end through and tie it into a knot. He
would crimp the knot with a pair of pliers and trim the end. He would then take approximately four inches
of insulation tape and wind it around his neat little connection. It was tidy, it was effective and sadly for
Patrick it was a unique signature.
Before and after his career as a bomb maker Patrick had repaired electrical equipment. After many years of
working on electrical circuits be they in bombs or televisions he could no more change the way he
connected wires than Malcolm Freeland could have stopped his silly cigarette ritual.
Patrick had not made a bomb for almost 20xx years. He never would have believed he was leaving such a
* * *
When Sir John Hanham had stopped speaking at 11.14 am the assembled experts had quickly scattered
around the room. Two police constables acted as hands and ears for the colleagues in Berlin and Paris.
With headset consisting of video camera, earpiece and microphone they could show any piece of evidence
to the distant experts and could ask questions of the assembled company.
None of the experts knew exactly what they were looking for but each had dealt with dozens of bombers
and many bombers had strange little quirks that would expose them. Then there were technological
questions to be puzzled over. The assembled company had probably studied the remains of over 200
bombs. Sir John was sure this gathering, this desperate measure would produce something.
Some of the assembled group were methodical and would have spent hours on one table before moving
onto the next. Some wanted to take in a general overview. Others wanted to drill down on a specific piece
of evidence. They would pick up a tagged evidence bag and take it to one of the examination table leaving
a note of the piece of evidence they were temporarily removing. Occasionally the PCs with headsets would
do the same. For five minutes things moved in a gentle hubbub of hard cerebral work.
Malcolm wanted to get a quick overview. At the first table he saw the remnants of a shattered clock which
had been the timer, myriad nails, bits of wire, a small piece of red plastic which no one was 100 per cent
sure came from the bomb and a thousand other little bits and bobs. Behind the table on the wall was a
schematic of what was understood of the construction of the bomb to date.
There was also a diagram of the restaurant showing where the bomb was placed and where all the dead and
injured had been seated or standing, each neatly labelled. There were brief details of the dead and also any
of the seriously injured who, it seemed, might have been intended targets along with their pictures, pictures
that showed them in the prime of life. There were other photographs on the wall. Close ups showing the
damage in forensic detail and evidence in place. Finally there were two blurry photographs, taken by a
security camera at the restaurant and, by chance, one from the clothes store next door. They showed a man
of indeterminate features in what looked like a business suit. This was the assumed bomber.
* * *
Malcolm spent a couple of minutes at table one looking at the artefacts, the photos and the diagrams and, at
11.18 moved on to table two.
Here the scene was the same. Photos and diagrams on the wall and supposed remnants of the bomb on the
table. Again there were blurry photographs of the assassin, or assumed assassin though this time there were
three photographs. Nothing stirred in his memory.
Looking around the shoulder of the bulky figure of Antonio Montefiore, an Italian bomb expert who had
flown in that morning, he began to scan the detritus on the table.
He first saw part of the cell phone and wondered if that had produced any leads. With luck the techs had
managed to find phone‟s number and had checked calls but in this age of cheap disposable phones he
doubted that would lead anywhere. Then there were bits of the bag, some of the shrapnel and then he saw
Patrick Michael O‟Neil as surely as if there had been a 10 by 8 photograph of the man sitting on the table.
Malcolm was suddenly angry. O‟Neil might have got his hands fair and square but now it angered him. He
had had 20xx years having to make do but more than this O‟Neil was no longer an easily led kid. He was a
grown man and should know better. He was supposed to have been retired for nearly 20xx years. But now
people had died because of his handiwork. Malcolm was angry but he was delighted to have found a vital
“Fuck a duck,” he said quietly but with such feeling that Montefiore rotated his impressive bulk to look at
him. There on the table were two wires twisted neatly and efficiently together. The ends of the two wires
had been ripped apart, the heat of the explosion had burnt the insulation from them. But the knot had held.
And there was no question about that neat, efficient little knot.
Turning around Malcolm looked across the room. “Johnny,” he said, his voice calm, authoritative and
tinged with a little of that pride that comes from knowing something that others do not know. “This one
was built by the shitty little mick who got my hands. 100% it was a certain Patrick Michael O‟Neil.” All
eyes in the room turned to him. Sir John William Hanham looked him straight in the eye and very slowly
his face lit up with a huge grin.
It was, thought Bob Johnson, his loyal number two, the first genuine smile he had seen on his bosses face
for at least two weeks.
In Seattle things were almost as bad.
Crispin Meade was a very charming man. Tall, slim, athletic with beautiful black hair and a classically
handsome face he was a successful 37 year old banker – or so everyone thought.
Crispin had a confidence and intelligence that enabled him to do almost anything he turned his mind to.
Importantly he was not over confident, he knew just how far he could push things and make them happen.
He knew how to flatter, he also knew, when the need arose, how to bully and to bluster but mostly it was
his confidence that won the day. People deferred. If Crispin was that sure, surely they were wrong.
He would think problems through thoroughly and fully and when a solution presented itself, along with a
strategy to achieve that solution, a small self-satisfied smile would tug at the corners of his mouth. He knew
what had to be done and with his charm, intelligence, confidence and occasional bluster he could make it
happen. This made him very successful.
He had one other weapon in is armoury – he was different. He had never found a suitable definition. He
wasn‟t a psychopath or a sociopath (the terms had now become interchangeable). He didn‟t suffer from the
classic versions of antisocial personality disorder. For a start he did not confirm to the Macdonald Triangle
– as a child he had not been a bed wetter, had not been cruel to animals and, while he had enjoyed setting
fire to bonfires and lighting fires, he was no way a card carrying pyromaniac.
But he knew something was different about him. His total lack of empathy marked him out as having some
sort of antisocial or dissocial personality disorder but nowhere in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders could he find a checklist that fitted him. One fact he knew proved he was different.
Killing six people and not feeling the least bit concern was unusual.
But he did not suffer for impulsivity or a failure to plan; he did not suffer from irritability and
aggressiveness and get into frequent physical fights. He didn‟t have a “reckless disregard for safety of self
or others” – well not normally. So he had long ago stopped worrying about what to call his difference (he
did not call it a problem as he felt he was blessed to be different) but the rational and inquiring part of him
would have liked to know. He didn‟t fit narcissistic personality disorder, or the more exciting sounding
malignant narcissism, he certainly hit most of the buttons of the schizoid personality disorder but missed a
couple and anyhow vanilla SPD types did not murder without remorse. Ah well maybe one day he would
find a label to stick on himself and he would feel a little more complete.
He had had a perfectly normal middle class upbringing by parents who had loved him. Gone to a normal
school the only thing that was different was he never had friend sand did not feel the need for them. He was
happy to read, to go for walks in the country to watch movies and television. He would happily talk to
adults about any topic and they would be impressed in his knowledge and assurance. His parents, initially
worried about his lack of friends eventually came to believe that his maturity meant he could not find
friends his own age and that as he got older he would find some friends and all would be well.
With the coming of his sexuality things began to change. He had never had a need for anyone but by his
early teens he had a burning interest in sex. His charm, confidence and good looks had, until then, got him
extra sweets, what he wanted from teachers and more gifts than he might otherwise have expected. Now it
helped him with sexual conquests. He did not want relationships, whatever they were, he liked the chase
and the victory. After the initial acquiescence, and a few more acts of submission from his partner he would
move on to new territories only revisiting past conquests if new opportunities could not be found or if new
targets had not been groomed sufficiently for them to start satisfying him. It goes without saying he cared
not at all how his “lovers” felt, they were just an extension of his needs.
His sexual life started one day during the summer holidays when he was 11. He had been surreptitiously
scanning three or four girlie magazines not really understanding his feeling when a man had come up to
him and said: “Makes you want to have a play with yourself doesn‟t it. Do you know where we could go
and do it together?”
Crispin looked at the man and saw his sad desperation. He saw no confidence, no courage, no real passion
just a look of hunted desperation and a large dose of general fear. Crispin wanted to share nothing with this
person. Without a word he stared coldly into the man‟s eyes for a long, long moment and then he turned
and walked briskly out of the shop. He did not look back but he knew for certain that the man would not
follow him. Even at 11 he had begun to have control over people.
In a small African country, events moved slowly forward. They moved slowly, but with great import. We
shall not name this country not for because shame but because enough unfairly damning reportage has been
poured over this benighted country already. Suffice it to say that a thousand years ago a several kingdoms
of some xx million souls had held sway over its territory and adjacent lands. But colonists had arrived to
“civilise” this part of the world they understood so little.
Blacks were nigger slaves to be used and dispose of as desifred. The very ground was to be raped and
ruined and the plentiful fauna was to be decimated and more, destroyed in the name of soport, of profit and
simple bloody minded lust of death.
In fact in all things death loomed large. Death was nn unwritten terror of the new arrivals. They had always
feared it at home and now here, where they dropped like flies, the terror reached deep into their very souls
and made them brutal – cold, vicious and brutal.
The mearest infraction could lead to death – not because the fault was great but to teach understanding to
the savages – savages who had managed their affairs for thousands of years every bit as well and badly as
the Europeans had managed their own. But the new arrivals, who came first frfom one European country
then another as distant wars raged, if they could have looked into their murky and now damaged souls
would have sen that they had become killers to assuage their very fear of death. Quiet little civilized men,
who in London, Paris or Berlin might have been bookkeepers or habidashers, thought nothing of shooting a
nigger in the head if he did not show enough reverence or was not quick enough to follow an order.
(((( xxxx REWRITE this is the two days after Malcolm identifies O‟Neil)))) The sun rose that morning
over a tranquil rural idyll. The crows were crawing in the trees, the cows were waking and beginning their
long daily task of chewing the grass and, with the mist starting to clear as the first rays of the sun warmed
the air, two snipers of the Ulster Police Tactical unit focussed their scopes on the premises of Patrick
Micheal O‟Neil in the small town of XXXXX in the valley below.
It would not remain tranquil for long.
In his shop O‟Neil was unaware of the watchers in the trees but he would not have been surprised to know
they were there. He was a careful and methodical man and he knew there was a possibility that his
handiwork would come back to haunt him.
Pat, as he liked to be called, considered himself a good man and, apart from the bombmaking and the death
that his work produced, he was a good man. He worked hard, charged his customers a fair price, helped out
those less fortunate than himself and went to church every Sunday.
He took no joy in his bomb making now and even looked back on his years of active service with
misgivings. He had never been an indiscriminate bomber, he had refused to bomb any target that he felt
inappropriate and had got into trouble for that on many occasions. He had specialised in killing his enemies
and in stunt bombs - bombs designed to make life difficult for the occupiers and make a protest.
His 23 “professional” bombs had only killed 11 people. Ten of them he had meant to kill. They were all
members of paramilitary groups who were trying to kill him and his friends so he had no heavy weight of
guilt pressing down on him. One of his kills, however, had been a young mother of three who had been
walking past a shop he blew up. It was a structural operation. His job was to blow up a bakery that was
being used as a front for money laundering and whose premises were also being used for operational
The blast at 4 am was intended to send a message and the powers that be had decided that a bloodless
message was appropriate in a time of relative peace. Gillian McCree was 29 and on her way to catch a bus
to take her to work as a xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
At 4.03 when the bomb exploded Gillian McCree was on the opposite side of the road and, in one of those
freaks of physics, she was very much in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bakery was virtually
destroyed but, with careful planning Patrick had set up the bomb so it would take out the middle of the
building and leave the outside virtually intact. That way the adjacent, blameless properties and anyone
walking past the shop would be safe. And at 4 am, surely no one would be walking past the shop.
When the bomb (there were in fact four separate charges) went off, a granite work top where bread rolls
had been hand kneaded for over 50 years shattered. A piece of work top, which had been bought by the
former owner of the shop and was in fact over 100 years old, went flying off at approximately 180xx miles
The coroner‟s report said it weighed less than a chicken egg. By some malign miracle it missed the
remaining parts of the front of the shop, the street lamp outside the shop and with perfect accuracy struck
Gillian McCree in the left eye. She had heard the bomb, turned to look in the direction of the sound and
was still turning her head as the accidental projectile killed her. Had she taken her intended step instead of
turning towards the noise she would now be proud that Eileen, her eldest daughter had just got her law
degree from Oxford.
That piece of rock which , until it was fashioned into a work surface just three generations ago, had laid
undisturbed in the ground since well before the time of the dinosaurs. Now, still travelling at some 150
miles an hour, it smashed through Gilliam McCree‟s sphenoid bone as if was not there. It created a huge
shockwave in her brain and exited through a massive wound at the back of her head. The coroner said over
80 per cent of her brain matter had left her skull. It was the most humane of deaths, if somewhat
As O‟Neil made coffee that morning in the flat above his shop he was thinking about Gillian McCree. He
often did. Her death had shocked him and still a great sadness came over him when he thought of her. If she
had just been one step further down the road, if the alarm clock had not gone off or, perhaps more honestly,
if the bomb he had made had been slightly different so that bit of granite had not flown out …. If only, if
only. But when he was honest with himself, he new the biggest link in the chain of coincidences that caused
Gillian McCree‟s death was himself. If only he had not made the damn bomb, had not been a bomb maker
at all. Oh for a different life.
But now his mind turned to an even greater sadness. He had killed xx people in a restaurant in London. He
knew who the target was but had no idea why he had to die and he was almost 100 per cent certain that the
other xxx people were innocent bystanders.
They had come to him four months ago.
“Mr O‟Neil my name in Crispin Meade and I have some work for you.”
O‟Neil in London planting bomb.
STW Man comes in man and gets blown up.
CHAPTER XX +7
Scene to write (STW) Sniper POV - short as they go into shop
It was just after 9 in the morning. Pat O‟Neil was nursing a hang over, sitting on his stool in the shop
nursing a cup of coffee between his two hands. Nursing was what he needed.
Normally he did not drink but these were not normal days and he found himself drinking more and more.
Work was light and since the London bombing his mood was bleak. Mead had been true to his word he had
paid him the £100,000 with a £50,000 bonus. ((((VERSION 2?? NO bonus but fee and a short note that
said “Mr O‟Neil you failed in your assignment. But it appears your efforts were sincere. So no bonus but
also no penalty. Talk to anyone and the penalty will be activated. Burn this note.”))))) The fee had been
delivered in a bundle of cash sent recorded delivery through the ordinary post. The money sat upstairs
under a lose floorboard. He had no idea what to do with it and he had no idea what to do in general. He had
never felt so low. He fantasised about sending the money to Eileen McCree and other daughter Sally but
thought that easing his guilt with such ghastly blood money would do him no good. Maybe Oxfam or MSF
could do some good. They dealt with the world‟s evils and the evil had been done perhaps he could
somehow square the circle.
He was halfway through his coffee, still nursing it with both hands, when the door opened and two fit
young men entered. He recognised neither of them. “Good morning,” said the taller of the two. “Morning,”
he replied but what he thought was “This is it”.
Ever since the bombing he was sure one of two things would happen, either Meade would have him
removed or the authorities, probably in the guise of the Special Branch, would pay him a most unwelcome
visit. He thought these two were Special Branch goons but he could not be 100% sure. He found himself
feeling a little relived which surprised him. In a few moments either he would be dead or the scene would
play itself out through legal channels. In either case he would no longer be alone with his guilt. And that
made him feel better.
The shorter one, who was still a good six feet tall, moved to the left of the counter and picked up a cheap
radio. “How much?” he asked. At the same time his colleague moved to the right of the counter. O‟Neil
almost laughed it was all so obvious. “Well normally they are £12 but I have a funny feeling a closing
down sale is in order so why don‟t we just say £6 and a free pass out the back door?”
The tall one looked shocked and O‟Neil wondered where on earth they were training them these days. He
was 90% certain now that these were police of some flavour. Killers would have been more direct, more
Tall one looked at short one and gave the slightest of nods. As one they drew pistols, tall one aimed straight
and O‟Neil‟s heart and short one aimed squarely, very squarely O‟Neil thought, right between his eyes.
“Do not move a fucking muscle,” shouted the tall one. And after this neither said a word and this bizarre
tableau held still for a good 20 seconds.
The door opened and the annoying chimes that O‟Neil had meant to change for over 10 years, broke the
silence. The bright “ding, dong” seemed to him massively incongruous at this juncture but he decided that
now was not the time to fix this problem. But he did think, “If I make it back from this that damned chime
is going to go.” From the position he was frozen he could see the door. The bulky frame in the door was
back lit and he couldn‟t make out who it was but something about the figure was familiar.
Then as the left hand came into view O‟Neil thought he was going to faint. There was no hand just a hook.
“Hello Mick, long time no see,” said Malcolm Freeland.
CHAPTER XX + 9
“I thought we all agreed back in 1998 that you would stop making your little toys. But it seems you have
started having fun again,” said Malcolm Freeland as he walked into O‟Neil‟s shop.
O‟Neil was in shock. He had met Malcolm at a reconciliation conference in 2006 and despite an initial
frostiness the two had got on well. O‟Neil had apologised for blowing up Malcolm, Malcolm had said it
was “nothing personal” and the two had got down to war stories. O‟Neil had been amazed at how little
anger Malcolm harboured towards him. Malcolm had been amazed at how little anger he had felt and was
more than a little amazed at how well they got on. The two hour encounter had been, well, amazing. They
had had no contact since.
O‟Neil stared mesmerised at Malcolm and could not help let his eyes drift towards his hands. The
prosthetic hand looked almost real when it was not being used to grasp something but the hook always told
its brutal story.
“I… I…,” was all O‟Neil could stammer. Half a dozen men, all in plain clothes streamed into the shop
behind Malcolm and someone cuffed O‟Neil and sat him on the stool.
“I‟m sorry,” O‟Neil finally managed to say. His mind was full of Meade and the sense of evil, powerful
evil that emanated from him. “I‟m sorry,” O‟Neil said a second time his voice almost inaudible. And all at
once tears formed in his eyes and started to flow down his cheeks.
“Cut the water works,” Malcolm snapped. “You killed xx people in that restaurant, so don‟t start pretending
you have a conscience you bastard. You killed them in cold blood. No warning, nothing. Why?”
O‟Neil was silent staring at the floor. Malcolm could feel a terrible rage rising in him. He had no problems
with bombs, in fact he loved explosions of all sorts, they were great fun. But to use explosives to kill people
- that was altogether a different kettle of fish.
But as fast as the rage had risen it now began to subside and just then: “You complete little arse faced
tossing cunt,” Sir John William Hanham, third Earl of Prothorn, Marquis of Enderham arrived. “Fuck me
around and I‟ll stick a fucking detonator up your arse and set it off. Not a stick of anything just a detonator
and don‟t think I won‟t. I won‟t kill you just leave you wrecked you fucking sorry little tosser.” And Sir
John, a man of great breeding and great kindness, just kept marching forward across the little shop. Without
a pause kicked O‟Neil in the chest and sent him sprawling his head colliding with the wall. “Piss with me
and you will wish you were dead. Understand?” By now he was screaming. “Understand?”
O‟Neil just lay on the floor. Blood began to flow form a cut on his head. But he said nothing. Malcolm felt
he knew the man a little and he began to wonder. As the search teams went to work he looked around the
shop. Everything was so ordinary - just a little shop in a little town. They had checked with all the
intelligence agencies they could think of and no one had come up with anything new on O‟Neil. He had
been imprisoned in 1996 and released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. His file said
he had stopped being active after a bomb of his had killed a passer-by a couple of years before he was
arrested for an older bombing. That was it and then the London bombing. Why would he come out of
retirement and decide to blow up a restaurant. Malcolm was fairly confident that O‟Neil had not made the
other two bombs so what was going on?
“John don‟t take it out on him. It‟s not his fault.” Malcolm was playing a hunch. Sir John looked at him in
shock. “What do you mean it‟s not his fault? The little twat built it and the little twat planted it.” Sir John
was not 100% certain but analysis of the blurry video certainly showed that the bomnber could be O‟Neil.
“Pat we know you built it, we know you planted it. You must have planted it for a reason, so why not tell
us about it you shitty little weasel?”
Malcolm looked at the Deputy Commissioner who was leaning menacingly over O‟Neil and they both
knew that they had fallen into the good old familiar bad cop/good cop role. And to complete the theatrics
the erudite Sir John kicked the stricken O‟Neil in the stomach. The blow knocked the wind out of the bomb
maker but he didn‟t make a sound.
“Hold on John lets try and talk to him before you put him in hospital,” said Malcolm half hoping that Sir
John would just carry on. “Come on Pat, I know you and this isn‟t your scene why did you do it.” And at
that very moment Sergeant Paul Johnson, 16 years on the force walked in with a pile of cash. “Well this
might be why he did it - £150,000 or thereabouts hidden under the floorboards. Either our boy here‟s been
fixing an awful lot of broken TV‟s or he‟s been up to no good.” Sir John lashed out another kick and
followed the sergeant upstairs.
Malcolm though about following him but something about O‟Neil‟s complete lack of fight, verbal or
physical said something important was waiting to be found here, in this room and there were enough eyes
upstairs he could do his own search later. He was originally brought along as a courtesy for identifying the
bomb maker but his fleeting relationship with O‟Neil had convinced Sir John that his presence could be
useful. Now he thought that it might just turn out to be very useful.
“So what is it Pat, a little contract work for your retirement plan. You know as well as I do that you are on
your way back to prison for the rest of your life unless you have something big to offer,” he paused and
looked down at the man. O‟Neil just lay in a ball on the floor. “You‟ll have to talk soon. You know you
A tiny voice came from the mouth of the broken man on the floor, a voice like a small child talking to its
mother. The voice was full of fear, full of a feeling that nothing can save the child and an appeal for help all
at once. “I can‟t say anything, I can‟t it‟s too dangerous.”
“Why is it dangerous to talk Pat, what‟s going on. Who are you working for?”
“I can‟t tell you, he‟ll kill them. He won‟t hesitate.”
“Who‟s going to kill them and who is he going to kill them. We can protect them. You‟ve got to start
talking Pat - you‟ve got to.”
O‟Neil just pulled himself into a tighter ball and started a low keening moan. The moan became a very
quiet wailing, animal and unselfconscious. Malcolm looked at him and saw that tears covered his cheeks
and more were joining them every second. “What the hell is going on here,” he wondered. Within an hour
he would have O‟Neil‟s story but he would still be wondering what the hell was going on!
CHAPTER AA or 888
What had done this to O‟Neil was Crispin Meade.
When Meade had said he had some work for him O‟Neil had put down the screw driver he was using on
the television he was repairing and had finally really studied the man who had come into his small shop.
Meade was a tall, with a self possessed air and good looking. He was around 40, perhaps a bit younger. He
looked like a very successful banker. “Too smart for this shop,” thought O‟Neil. His suit looked expensive
and O‟Neil noticed his immaculate shoes - not something usually found in this predominantly rural area.
And another odd note - he was wearing expensive looking gloves. Standing just behind Mead was a
beautiful young girl who seemed to dote on the man who was maybe twenty years her senior.
“I see,” said O‟Neil. “Do you need something fixing or is it something else?” Nearly all of O‟Neil‟s work
had been repairing things but occasionally he had special projects. He had recently completed the
installation of a fancy home cinema set up for a banker from Belfast. Repairs were his bread and butter but
he dreamed of more of the lucrative bespoke work. And from the look of him Meade was unlikely to need
an old TV set repaired so he hoped for something more exciting and more lucrative.
Meade gave a small laugh. “Oh it is definitely something else. I want you to blow up a restaurant for me. ”
He looked directly into O‟Neil‟s eyes and as he spoke, O‟Neil saw no doubt, no compassion and no
wavering of intent.
“I want to get you working on this straight away so just so you know I really am in earnest I have bought
you a calling card,” with that he turned to the girl who handed him a paper bag which he passed to O‟Neil.
Inside the bag O‟Neil found a credit card in the name of Sally Wander which seemed to have something
that looked like dried blood on it. Next to it something wrapped in a small piece of cloth. O‟Neil put the
bag down and unwrapped the cloth which was the source of the blood on the card. As he opened it he went
into shock and his hands threw the cloth away from him without his brain having even to think about it.
Inside was top two joints of what looked like a woman‟s middle finger.
“About an hour ago a poor woman walking alone about one mile outside Bollewell was sadly killed by a hit
and run driver. You should be able to read about it in the paper tomorrow. She died because of you. She
died because I had to be sure that I got your attention. I hope I have it now.”
O‟Neil looked at the man and could only nod.
“You have to understand I do not have a problem with killing, in fact I quiet enjoy it but I cannot have too
much fun or the authorities might take too much of an interest in me. So I want you to do a little job for me.
As I said I want you to blow up a restaurant, rather I want you to blow up a man in a restaurant. It is very
important that it takes place in a restaurant. I will pay you £100,000 on completion of the work with a
bonus if you succeed in killing your target. The bonus will be £50,000 but the real bonus is you will not be
killed. Mention my name or my description, betray me in any way and you will be killed, your daughter
will be killed and in case that isn‟t enough to concentrate your mind, Eileen, Gillian McCree‟s daughter
will be added to the list - and I know that would upset you. Should something untoward happen and the
target survives I may forgive you but if you do not try, if I sense any lack of application on your part and
your daughter, Eileen and you will all be killed. Do I make myself clear.”
O‟Neil‟s mouth was slightly opened, his mind blank.
The other man‟s words terrified him. It was the certainty and the nonchalance with which he delivered his
ultimatum. The eyes held no fear, no doubt, no hesitation, certainly no mercy.
For many seconds O‟Neil starred at him paralysed and wondered if this was a nightmare. He hadn‟t made a
bomb for almost 15 years. His bowels tightened, his pulse raced and he began to sweat. Though his mouth
felt dry, a small drop of spittle leaked from the left corner of his mouth. Feeling faint he grasped the corner
of the counter and dropped his gaze.
“You‟re not serious… you don‟t really …. ,” O‟Neil‟s voice trailed away to nothing as he looked at the
finger. He tried again. “You can‟t….” but again he could find no words. His mind simply had nowhere to
find a solution. He could not appeal to a sense of mercy, he could sense that Meade had no understanding
of compassion, logic was a non starter with a madman, threats were a joke, he knew that Meade would not
be frightened of him the only hope in this area was his erstwhile paramilitary contacts but he had almost no
dealings with old colleagues. He was out of options.
He looked up and saw the girl looking at him. There was no pity in her eyes, no condemnation of the deaths
he had caused in the past, just a hint of arousal xxx REWRITE xxx zxzxz and excitement and, as she
looked to Meade, the excitement and arousal blossomed into a full, but consciously suppressed, erotic
passion. She took half a step towards him and, taking his hand, she cradled his arm in the valley of her
cleavage. This was a woman who would do anything for her man and judging him did not even come into
the equation, O‟Neil thought. If he had not been there she would have thrown herself on Meade now. In
fact, O‟Neil was sure that if Meade told the girl to make love with him then and there she would. O‟Neil
was invisible to her. Only the madman mattered.
O‟Neil noticed this in a moment and looked again at the man. Meade had shattered his quite little world. It
was now spinning out of control. Meade‟s words were nothing but looking at the man he knew, he just
knew, that if push came to shove, or even just a little push, Crispin Mead would do exactly what he said he
would. “I won‟t do it, I won‟t,” O‟Neil said mustering as much bravado as his battered psyche could offer
Meade just looked at him and a quiet hint of a smile played around the corners of his mouth. “Oh I think
Meade had come to the shop to fulfil a specific task. It was not something he had given that much thought
to. But he found himself happily surprised at the amount of satisfaction this little interaction was giving
him. He found he was actually enjoying himself. “Now that‟s a bonus,” he thought to himself. He tried to
analyse his feelings and soon discovered where his little bit of joy was coming from - he had O‟Neil
trapped in a corner, powerless and Meade loved to be totally in control.
“You won‟t do it? Oh I think you will,” he repeated. He really was enjoying himself and, as with most
human beings, even for twisted sick deranged Meade, happiness happened all too rarely. His small smile
became a joy-filled grin. And then he laughed.
On the floor of his little repair shop O‟Neil cried. It had been many, many years since he had cried. Her
didn‟t care that Malcolm could see and he hear him. He didn‟t feel unmanned he felt horribly, horribly lost.
There was absolutely nothing he could do. He felt sure that if he said anything Meade, that insane, inhuman
asshole, would go through with his threats. He wouldn‟t do it to stop O‟Neil talking but because in his
demented psychopathic version of the world it was the honourable thing to do.
His thinking cleared. Better to spend his life in prison than to kill the others - because that is what he would
be doing. As sure as houses if he talked the others would die. O‟Neil by now had completely forgotten
about his own death sentence - it simply did not figure in his thinking. He felt he was already dead. In fact
if his thoughts had been organised he would have prayed for a heart attack there and then. That would get
him off the hook and save the others.
But O‟Neil‟s brain was in no state to think clearly. He did not think - he only felt. He felt lost as he had
never felt before and so he cried and cried and cried. The only vaguely coherent thought that came to him
was “I wish Soibahn was here to hold me, to encircle me, to protect me, to comfort me”. But Soibahn, his
wife of 15xxx years, had died eight years before. She had died in a hit and run car crash and O‟Neil had
wondered long into the night, on many sleepless nights, if Meade‟s murder of xxx by the side of the road
outside xxx was another psychological twist. He doubted it. If Meade had known of how his wife had died,
O‟Neil was sure he would have tormented him with it. Meade, he could sense, liked to twist the knife. Yes,
had he known, O‟Neil was sure, almost 100% sure, that Meade would have rubbed his face in it.
Into O‟Neil‟s pain-filled world movement intruded. He felt himself being pulled up by hands on both arms.
He was only half aware of those around him. He felt almost drugged. The hands dragged his feet across the
floor and put him in a chair. If he had been capable of thought he might have been surprised how gentle the
hands were. ((((((He was limp now but in about 30 seconds he was going to come explosively to life.)))))
The hands had belonged to two local police constables who were rather enjoying their exciting day out with
the Special Branch/Bomb Squad task force. Of course they thought that the Londoners were rather lording
it over them but this gig with snipers, bomb disposal, helicopters and the rest broke up the monotony of
petty crime that was their usual lot. They had put O‟Neil in the chair because they were told to. They would
have done it roughly as they had been told he had blown up a restaurant in London and that he was a
former IRA bomber, but his Lord High and Mighty Sir Bloomin John Bloody William Fucking Hanham
KMC etc had told them to be gentle.
Sir John did not care about the two constables. They were appliances to be used. His whole focus was on
O‟Neil. The only other person on his radar was Malcolm. But he had instructions and he motioned them to
him. ((((xxxx REWRITE one should be a sergeant or something)))
“Don‟t hit him, don‟t threaten him, don‟t do anything to upset him. Every so often talk to him gently and
try and get him to have a sweet cup of tea or something like that. Don‟t overdo it. Let him take his time.
He‟s in shock. If he doesn‟t come out of it in 10 minutes get one of the paramedics to have a look at him.
There is also a local doctor on the way. Find me when he gets here. OK?”
“Yes sir,” the constables replied in unison.
“We‟re going to be on the phones in the kitchen. If he says anything intelligible, anything at all, come and
tell me. If he mutters one word, come and tell me. Whatever that word is, come and tell me. Even if it
makes no sense, come and tell me. If he says biscuits, come and tell me. Any single word, one of you come
and tell me. But do not, for all that if fucking holy, upset him. If I need to upset him, I surely will. Don‟t
pump him, don‟t interrogate him, mother him. That‟s what I need. What I need from you two now is a
calming, motherly act to try and get his feet back on the ground so we can work out what the flying fuck is
going on because, at the moment, I have a whole stack of bodies and so far, all today‟s little jaunt has done,
is add about another hundred questions to our staggeringly big list of things we know absol-fucking-lutely
This time the PC‟s looked at each other a little uncertainly and said, a little uncertainly, “Yes sir.” This was,
they thought, a rather odd little speech.
“Off you go then boys and don‟t forget: one word, just one word and one of you come and finds me. Do
that and I‟ll pin a gold fucking star on your chest. But don‟t question him. OK.”
“Yes sir,” the constables replied in unison although they both still felt a little uncertain.
Malcolm and Sir John moved into the kitchen. XxxRW description of kitchen and business?? Xxx
“You are not going to believe what we have just found in the ice box of this refrigerator,” Sir John said to
Malcolm as soon had closed the door. “You are not going to fucking believe it.”
The previous day over 20 detectives had worked long into the night to check out O‟Neil. What they had
found did not please Sir John.
As far as anyone could tell O‟Neil had been completely clean since he had left xxx prison. No surveillance
of active paramilitaries had ever spotted him, his bank accounts mirrored his supposed life as a corner shop
owner, his travel plans showed nothing out of the ordinary and worst of all he seemed to have a rock solid
alibi for the first bombing and what looked like a good alibi for the second.
When the xxx bomb had gone off, O‟Neil had been in hospital after having his appendix removed. They
had faxed his picture to the hospital to make sure that the man having the operation really was O‟Neil and
two nurses and a doctor had been 100% certain it was him. The second alibi was not yet as solid, he had
been on holiday in Greece, but Sir John was pretty sure that would pan out - detectives had sent a request
via Interpol to check out the story and make sure he could not have ducked back to London. They would
get the staff at the hotel to check his movements and a picture had been sent out.
As Sir John lowered himself onto a kitchen chair by the sturdy rustic table, Malcolm looked out of the
window. It was a beautiful day and Malcolm wondered when his life would let him again enjoy the quiet
moments of a normal existence. The trees, the birds, the cows in the field, they all called to him. He had
grown up in rural West Dorset and, after only 48 hours of hectic activity, he longed to go home. But there
was still work to be done.
“OK, everything points to O‟Neil having nothing to do with bombs number one and three but number two
was all his,” said Sir John wearily. “We‟ve just found Semtex, tools, wiring, ball bearings the lot in his
garage. He seems to have made no effort to cover his tracks which is weird to say the least but at least I am
now 100% sure you were right in fingering him.” Sir John paused and looked down at where Malcolm‟s
hands should have been. “Sorry.”
Malcolm laughed. “No problem, if I had a pound for every time I had said „You see what I mean‟ to a blind
person ….,” his voice trailed off as he smiled at Sir John.
“Anyway fingered is kind of appropriate, about five minutes ago we found a human finger and a credit card
belonging to a certain xxx xxx in O‟Neil‟s freezer. The locals have a done a quick check and she was killed
in a hit and run accident xxx weeks ago.”
Malcolm stared at him rather blankly. “What?”
“Yeah I said you weren‟t going to fucking believe it. The credit card is hers and they are checking the
autopsy report to see if she was missing a finger and I would bet serious mony that she was buried minus
what looks like her left index finger. Now a question. Do you think O‟Neil would run a woman down, cut
off her finger, take her credit card and then keep it all in his freezer as some sort of trophy. You don‟t know
him well but what do you think.”
Malcolm didn‟t need long to think. “Shit what do I know.”
“Well have a guess.”
“OK well he was sort of a „caring‟ bomber, tried not to blow up anyone he didn‟t feel he should do. Unless
this woman turns out to have done something really horrible to him or someone he loved I find it pretty
difficult to believe he has suddenly become some sort of serial killer, axe murder or whatever. He was a
bomber, and he got into that when his brother was shot in that SAS ambush. So I can see him going after
British soldiers and those on the other side of the conflict but hacking up a civilian, now, after all these
years doesn‟t scan - unless, as I said, she isn‟t an accidental victim but someone with a connection to him.”
Sir John rocked back on his chair and wished he could have a cigarette. “My thoughts exactly but I wanted
to hear it from someone else just to make sure I am not missing something. So what the flying fuck is going
on. What…” His phone rang and Sir John answered.
Malcolm listened to one half of a short conversation that made little sense. He thought back to meeting with
O‟Neil in xxx. He had seemed a pretty normal guy who had been living a pretty normal life until his
brother had been killed. But his career as a bomber and his stay in jail seemed to have satisfied his grief
and Malcolm had been pretty sure he would return to the normal world and be a normal citizen. How
unnormal O‟Neil‟s now seemed!
“Oh this just keeps getting better,” said Sir John with a sour look on his face that signalled he was being
“OK now I’m not believing this. Not only is Mrs xxx missing the finger we found, she is missing three
others and the traffic cops say that the tyre tracks are pretty damning. The car that hit her drove straight at
her, with no effort to miss her, and she wasn‟t on the road but on a footpath. The car only started to break
after it hit her. They are pretty convinced it was a deliberate murder and no accident.” Sir John rubbed his
hands over his face he was so tired and nothing was making any sense.
((((REWRITE))))“Unless we find another three fingers here I have no idea what is going on. But O‟Neil‟s
made no effort to hide the bomb making stuff, he keeps the finger and credit card
I think he made that bomb under duress. I think he was forced to do it.”
To the untrained eye there was nothing to see. But George Clooney‟s eyes were very well trained. The man
he was following had had a newspaper with him when he sat down for his breakfast and now he didn‟t.
Nothing too interesting there to the casual observer but the man had not read it over breakfast, it had been
tightly folded and most importantly the paper was not on the table it had been left discreetely on the seat.
George was pissed. Normally he operated in a team with up to a dozen in the team doing a box
sureveilance, changining point people so the subject would not know he was being tailed with a backup
ready to take over at a moments notice. But this operation was a favour to the Brits and, with the Vice
President due in town the next day, the local FBI field office was overstretched and it had been left ot him
to keep an eye on this guy Meade.
He had sat in a booth perpendicular to Meade, that meant he could observe his subject without the subject
being able to see him unless he turned around. An old trick to keep the upper hand.
The Brits had said they were not sure if he was a player and just wanted a quick look at what he was up to
in San Diego and so he had been given the assignment on his own. With 20 years on the job the boss had
felt that George on his own would do. After all the Brits were not sure if this guy was up to anything. Now
George was almost sure. But he was now royally pissed. He could either follow Meade or sit still and wait
and see if someone picked up the paper. “Shit,” he said quietly under his breath. If the pickup was coming
it would have to happen almost immediately or someone else would take the paper or one of the
overworked waitresses would clear the paper away. His orders were to follow Meade but knew it was more
important to put Meade in context. He wanted to call for backup but that could well spook the contact. So
Meade had just made it to the door when a man at the counter nonchalantly picked up his coffee and sat
down at the vacated table. “I‟ll take it over here honey,” he said to the girl behind the counter with a smile.
“Fine, hun,” the girl cooed back to him. She was under 20 and, judging by his clothes and his hair, he was
at least 35 but she obviously saw something in him.
The man moving to the table was over six foot, powerfully built with his blond hair cut short. George saw
the bulge under his left arm as he moved and as he turned to sit down. As the man turned to sit George saw
his face for the first time. “Holeee fuck,” George said agin under his breath and told himself to shut up.
George stared at the face shocked. From his booth he had surveyed all the customers in the diner he could
see but this guy had had his back to him. “Just as well thought,” George. Because if he had seen him Secret
Servive agent Clive Morgan would have blown his cover.
After about a minute of pretending to eat his food, George slipped out of the both and headed for the men‟s
room as unobtrusively as he could. He prayed that Morgan would not spot him. He did not dare look in the
agent‟s direction his movement could alert Morgan but with his face turned slightly away he was pretty
sure he would not be “made”. With the Service in town for the President an agent meeting with a potential
bad guy could be all sorts of things. But something was definitely going on. What was going on, he had no
He dailed xxxx his boss and Annie, xxx‟s secretary, came on the line. “Annie it‟s George Clooney I need to
speak to xxx urgently.”
“Hey beautiful, how‟s it going and when are you going to buy me lunch.” Annie was 60 if she was a day
but she always flirted with George and George always reciprocated.
“I‟m not sure about lunch how about dinner my place tonight around 10.30?”
“Sure I‟ll come round in my jammies and we can go straight to ….”
George cut her off. “Sorry Annie I have to speak to xxx urgently. Sorry to cut you off but I am on
someone‟s tail and I don‟t want to lose them.” He checked through the door and counted himself lucky.
From the door to the rest rooms he was diagonally behind Morgan. This was more luck than good planning
but it meant he could easily keep an eye on Morgan who would have to turn around to see him. He would
know when the man was leaving.
“Sorry lover but xxx is in a finance meeting and cannot be disturbed.”
“And I am sorry too sweet pea, your going to have to yank him out. This is a 100% urgent emergency.
“OK I‟ll get him on the phone but you owe me.”
George kept a watch on Morgan and counted the seconds. He did not want to stay too long in the backm
and arouse suspicion but he also didn‟t want to use his phone in the restaurant. Even a small sound, a small
discrepancy could attract a well trained agent‟s attention and the Secret Service were nothing if not well
After about 20 seconds xxx came on the line.
“Yep,” he said tersely.
“You know that English guy I‟m following.”
“Well he just did a cut out drop in a diner on West 34th Street.”
“Really, who picked up - I‟m guessing you stayed with package.”
“That‟s why this call is urgent and not just interesting - you‟re not going to believe this. His paper was
picked up by a Secret Service guy I know called Clive Morgan. I‟ve lost Meade for now but would love to
know what is going on. I can‟t tail Morgan on my own. A one on one tail with someone that experienced
and I‟d be bound to be made. As he lknows me I doubt I‟d make half a block following him.
“Don‟t suppose you‟ve got a few rookies in the area. He knows most of the faces at the office but he might
not spot the new one‟s well just have to hopen that their street craft is good enough.”
“Shit,” said xxx with feeling. “Give me 10 seconds.
Xxx came back on the line in about 20 seconds.
“I can get you two guys in about five minutes and another three in about 15. I can let you have two cars and
that‟s your lot.”
“OK. I‟m commed up so get them to call me on the radio not this phone. It looks like we have a few
minutes at least. He seems to be really eating a breakfast here, which is pretty sloppy, so I‟ll sit tight. Tell
then to form up out of sight across the street and just ping me when they‟re in position I won‟t respond or
I‟m pretty sure he will make me. I‟ll give them the heads up as soon as he is out of the door. He‟s about 6‟
1” short blond hair, wearing a brown leather jacket and khaki slacks with black lace up shoes.”
“Got all that. Hold on. Annie did you get all that can you forward it to the two kids that despatch picked
George hadn‟t realised Annie was on a listen-only circuit but it made sense and he was grateful now. He
could hear Annie in the distance saying OK and then his boss was back on the line.
“xxx can you make discrete enquireies at the Service and see what is going.”
“Ahead of you kid. And I‟ll be discrete. I am going to talk to Mike Jackson who head‟s up the local office
they could be running an operation, they might think Meade is a good guy, which given how little the Brits
seem to know he might actually be, or, if he really is trouble then I suppose we have to think he might be
dirty but we are a long way from that. I‟ll get Jackson to be discrete but any enquiries we make might
spook him but there‟s nothing else we can do. The tail probably won‟t give us anything but I don‟t like the
timing. With the President here tomorrow the last thin g I want is a Secret Service guy hooked up in secret
hand off‟s with an international low life.”
“If you get anything let me know straigtht away - by radio if possible. I better shoot. If he noticed when I
left he witll think this is the longest dump in the history of the world.”
O‟Neil resists. Eventulally tells truth or puts off for another scene
O‟Neil contacts paramilitary buddies and goes after Mead