Read Dirty Deeds Done Cheap Online
Authors: Peter Mercer
To my wonderful wife and co-writer Kim, without whose help and support this book would not have been possible.
To Morgan and Beth for tolerating me.
To my parents, Dave & Eddy and my sister Sarah with thanks for your support.
I love you all.
Last but not least to all my old team – Be Safe!
fter serving eight years in the Royal Marine Commandos, for three of which I was attached to the Special Forces Support Group, Special Boat Service, I was an ideal candidate for work as a private military contractor. After the Marines, I’d been mainly working in the oil industry in Nigeria and Trinidad doing weld inspection jobs, and, to tell you the truth, my life was getting a little dull. The money was great but the job could be mundane at the best of times and utterly miserable at others.
I still undertook the occasional security job and one of those jobs combined both the oil industry and security work. This was out in Nigeria, and I was working on one of their oil rigs. It was a bit of an eye opener.
Nigeria has only recently discovered oil in its coastal waters and has started drilling for it. However, the ordinary Nigerians are extremely poor. Because these people are so poor, they sometimes try to tap into the oil pipelines to get fuel, often with disastrous consequences. They have even used blowtorches to cut open these pipelines and the resulting explosions take out scores of people every time. It seems, however, that these poor souls never learn from their mistakes, since it happens with appalling regularity.
The other main way to make money for the ordinary Nigerian is kidnap for ransom and piracy. When I was working in Nigeria we had an armed escort to take us from the airport to our hotels and from the hotels to the heliport for onward transportation to the rigs. White people are always a target out there and armed gangs have been known to kidnap people travelling around the country. There really is no exploring this country: it just wouldn’t be safe.
In my job in Nigeria I had two main roles. One was to search the arrivers and leavers – the leavers especially because they were a light-fingered bunch who would steal anything they could lay their hands on and then try to smuggle it off the rig. I even caught people trying to nick computers – which aren’t exactly small. Unfortunately, they weren’t blessed with much in the way of brains and getting caught would result in their losing a well-paid job for trying to do something that they didn’t really have a hope in hell of getting away with.
My other role was to repel pirates and kidnappers if they should attempt to board the rigs. To this end I carried a shotgun. The pirates, if they managed to get on board, would not only steal whatever they could but would also kidnap any European workers on the rig – of whom there weren’t that many – and hold them for ransom. They never asked for much in the way of ransom particularly, and the oil companies generally paid up – so it could work out quite profitable for these pirates. It was a very boring job but it paid well and the climate was nice and hot – I love hot places!
Anyway, back to my story. I’d just arrived back from Nigeria in January 2004. My normal routine was to land at the airport, get home, shag the missus and go out and get pissed – though not necessarily in that order.
This particular weekend I’d got home, and, as soon as I entered the room, the missus and I had a massive fight, so I thought, Fuck it – I don’t need this shit! I packed a bag, jumped in the car and drove up to London to see some old squaddie mates, hopefully for a great piss-up. My missus threw a massive wobbler and I knew then it was over, since we were arguing all the time. When you’re working away so much, often all you want to do is get out and have a drink and chill before you get home, but this can certainly cause rifts at home. It certainly did this time, but I was up for ending it anyway. The relationship was going sour and I’d fallen out of love. It had run its course, that was for sure.
I got to London early that Friday night and rang around all the lads. Stevie was the only one out and about, which I was a bit pissed off about, but Stevie was a great laugh and up for anything – a nice nutter if you like. I’d met up once with Stevie in a dwarf whorehouse in Malaysia where you could do dwarf throwing. Basically, in this place a dwarf in a Velcro suit ran up to you and you picked them up and chucked them against a prickly wall. I’d only just walked into the place and bumped into Stevie and, while Stevie was trying to talk to me over a pint, this dwarf kept hounding him, so Stevie turned round and picked him up and lobbed him against the wall. But it was the wrong fucking wall. No Velcro! The dwarf smashed against a painting and then hit the deck with a thud. We had to leave pretty sharpish. It was a pure accident but the proprietor didn’t see it that way. In this place you could even get a dwarf shag if you were that way inclined (and Stevie was!).
Stevie was an ex-SAS guy that I’d met while doing a survival course with the SAS back in 1993. He was a Scot, slight of build but a tough little cookie, who reminded me of a terrier. He was a good friend of mine and a great guy. Anyway, I got to his house and we reminisced about work over a beer or two for a while, and then decided to hit the town. This was always going to be eventful, my main mission for the evening being to keep Stevie fully clothed. He had an embarrassing habit of getting naked at every opportunity when drunk – a typical ex-bootneck (or Royal Marine Commando – see Glossary for this and other terminology).
We hit all the pubs and clubs we were allowed into and this is pretty much the last thing I remember. It was a hectic boozy night and Stevie nearly got us nicked when he decided to piss behind a lamppost on the way home, but the coppers who turned up were surprisingly OK. He got a bollocking and was let off. We staggered off back to Stevie’s place, stopping by a kebab house on the way home. Why is it that when you get drunk kebabs taste like heaven?
We woke up at Stevie’s the next morning with stinking hangovers and had a beer and a bacon butty for breakfast, after I’d had a shower and wiped all the previous night’s kebab off my face. The postman called and Stevie opened his mail. I was intrigued when he jumped into the air and gave it a ‘
’ He explained that he’d applied for a job working as a bodyguard in Baghdad for £750 per day and he’d got the job. He was off in one week. This totally got my brain ticking over and I thought, What the hell! I wouldn’t mind a bit of that myself. So I got details of all the companies that Stevie had applied to (mainly based in London, the USA and South Africa) and secured some interviews.
The next Wednesday I turned up at one of the offices of a major security company in London. I was interviewed by a former high-ranking soldier who was working as the recruitment and selection guy for this particular company. His job was to vet the potential private soldiers to assess our suitability for whatever jobs the company had. He told me that they employed around three thousand guys working all over the world, but that work in Iraq was paying the best rates at this time, so that’s what I went for.
After some pretty serious questioning and a series of security checks and references, I was told I could be off to Baghdad on that Friday! I was slightly in shock, to say the least, but I was certainly up for it. I’d never earned this sort of money (£500 a day) in my life and probably was unlikely ever to again – if I lived to spend it!
I jumped in the motor and hammered it home to the West Country to give the good news to my now becalmed girlfriend, Victoria. She wasn’t calm for long when I told her my news. She went fucking mental and called me all the names she could think of and some I’d never heard of before (though I think she probably made them up). This took quite a long time and I interrupted her only when she started to repeat herself.
She was in shock and asked me how long I’d be away for and if I really thought I’d get back in one piece. Typically, being a bloke, I just grumbled ‘Don’t know’ to pretty much every question she asked. In fact she must have asked about a hundred questions but I hadn’t been told much myself and just gave the same two-word answer over and over again, which really pissed her off.
All I knew was that I would be based at Baghdad Airport and I would be responsible for escorting clients from the airport to the Green Zone (the supposedly secure area) in Baghdad. Also, there was going to be the job of securing the perimeter. This was going to be done by working alongside three hundred ex-Gurkha soldiers who would be mounted in machine-gun posts every few hundred metres. That was all I knew at this particular moment. But what the hell! I had to look on the bright side: at least it was going to be nice and warm – and I might even get a suntan!
Back home, I did the usual on the Thursday evening and went out for a few pints with some mates and got a bit wasted – but not
Friday morning I woke up with a banging hangover and could barely lift my head off the pillow, but reality gave me a rude awakening. I was off to Iraq very shortly.
There were plenty of tears from Victoria as I packed my stuff, but I still managed to sweet-talk her into driving me to London – I think she secretly wanted to take me, anyway. After sitting in the car with her for over two hours packed with horrible silences broken only by bitchy comments from her and pronouncements of impending doom and disaster that she said I’d definitely encounter, I finally wished I’d caught the train.
We arrived at the head office in London and there were more tears from Victoria. I gave her a hug and a small peck on the cheek then waved goodbye. I watched her drive away and wondered if I’d done the right thing, taking on this mental job. Oh well, I was here now so I’d best get on with it.
As I approached the impressively huge building that was their headquarters, I was reminded of one of the opening scenes from the film
The Wild Geese
. I pressed the buzzer to gain entrance. It was 10 a.m. and I was soon in the office signing my life away: contracts, life insurance, next of kin and a will (I left everything to my dad).
By twelve o’clock I was off to London Heathrow to catch my flight out. It was only when I was on the train that my mind started turning over. I’d never been to Baghdad before. I’d been serving with the Royal Marine Commandos during the First Gulf War but we were based in northern Iraq, clearing positions of the Republican Guard, and we hadn’t come anywhere near the capital. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, just intrigued.
I hadn’t had time to do my homework on Baghdad much, but I’d called some mates who had worked out there and a couple who actually were working out there and encountered mixed feelings from those I managed to speak to. Apparently, some of the companies that guys I knew worked for really looked after you, supplying you with good weapons, good healthcare, good insurance and so forth. However, some of the companies gave little backup and, if you got in the shit, you were
in the shit!
After all the paperwork was taken care of I had a coffee and just sat around and talked to one of the girls in the office. This company must have had a policy of just hiring lovely women because the office was full of them. A short while later I was out of the building and on my way.
Once at the terminal at Heathrow I looked on the display screen for my flight to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, as this was to be my first stop. I then grabbed a newspaper and went to the bar and ordered myself a cup of coffee.
Around that time (January 2004) there was still a hell of a lot of stuff in the papers about Iraq and especially Baghdad. I read it all with immense interest.
The time in the airport flew by and I was soon on the first leg of what would be a trip that would change my life in so many ways.
After arriving in Schiphol I quickly located the flight display screen and looked for the next leg of my journey; I discovered I had four hours to wait. This was going to be no problem, as I find Schiphol fascinating. It’s huge and very cosmopolitan and you can buy anything there. The shopping is great and, of course, it’s tax-free.
Before long my flight to Kuwait was announced and I proceeded to Departures. I got on the flight and by now I was feeling some trepidation. However, old habits die hard and I had been a Royal Marine Commando for nearly nine years and had learned to grab some sleep whenever I could – before long I was in the land of Nod.
I was awoken by the stewardess asking me to fasten my seatbelt as we were coming in to land. I’d slept for hours and was a little bit disoriented at first, but I soon came round. As we flew over Kuwait I could see the lights of all the high-rise buildings that towered above the rest of the city. As I left the aircraft I had to take off my jacket because of the stifling heat, which hit you like a brick wall as soon as you left the comfort of the air conditioning. This place was hot!
After clearing customs I casually looked around for my contact, who was to meet me and take me to the company’s headquarters in Kuwait City. I had no idea what he looked like, so this was a bit futile. I was standing around like a lemon outside the terminal and feeling a bit edgy when this big six-foot guy with a moustache and definite military bearing approached me. I knew straightaway that this must be my contact.
‘Hi, Pete,’ he said. He had a picture of me from a scan of my passport sent ahead from London, so he knew what I looked like. He guided me out of the airport to a waiting car. It was nice to get into the air-con. We drove to the hotel where the company had an office and we talked all the way. His name was Tom, but he couldn’t enlighten me as to exactly what I would be doing because he wasn’t privy to that sort of information. He explained that his only job was to take care of the admin, get us in and out of Iraq and to repatriate the bodies of the guys who were killed, which was, worryingly, quite a few.
The office was a large, converted, five-star hotel apartment on the coast of Kuwait. It was full of computers, printers and fax machines. I could see only two young females of European origin, who seemed to be the only members of staff present. There were piles of body armour and helmets in the corner of the office. I assumed this was to be used for getting in and out of Iraq.
Although by this time it was quite late, the place was still buzzing. I could see they had a great view from the patio doors, which looked out over a beautiful man-made bay. It was floodlit outside and I could see that it was still really busy, with lots of people out for an evening stroll. The beach looked fantastic and I wondered if I’d get a chance to have a closer look.