Read Everything to Lose Online

Authors: Gordon Bickerstaff

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Medical, #Conspiracies

Everything to Lose (7 page)

BOOK: Everything to Lose
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11

 

Home
Office
,
Whitehall
,
London

 

Zoe Tampin was five eight, slender, athletic-looking, intelligent and ambitious. That much Gavin Shawlens deduced during the briefing. What he didn't know about the forty-three year old was that Zoe was an ex-army captain who had joined the OTC at her University and went on to receive the coveted Sword of Honour at Sandhurst as the best officer cadet.

With
ease she can deadlift eighty kg. Roughly what a soldier might weigh minus kit. Her favourite pastime is a 5K Colour Run where runners wear white at the starting line and coloured powder is thrown at runners as they run past to produced multicoloured finishers.

Captain
Tampin had served with the SAS in Bosnia and more recently on Special Forces operations for MI5 and MI6 at home and abroad. Her CO wrote about her;
Zoe
Tampin
protects
her
troop
like
a
lioness
protecting
her
cubs
;
powerful
,
determined
,
completely
ruthless
.

Zoe
had proved herself in combat and she was accepted as combat hardened. She was powerful in dealing with the stress of imminent danger and her concentration over long periods was second to none. Many times her troop had faced the white of the opposition's eyes and she had led them through hell and back.

More
than two hundred soldiers told their mates that they were alive and in one piece because of Zoe Tampin's leadership under fire. Men and women under her command call her DP which stands for Diana Prince (alias of Wonder Woman).

Zoe
had smashed the hardest glass ceiling and showed the pencil generals the unique skill set that women have to offer in the multi-dimensional fight against 21st century terrorism. She formed and led a special operations unit of women, W Troop. Still a small attachment compared to the number of men in Special Forces, but against a strict background of no drop in standards, her select group of female troopers had proved themselves worthy of the badge.

Zoe
hung back at the end of the briefing to speak privately with Gavin Shawlens.

"Are
you okay? You looked a bit peaky in there."

"I'm
fine just low on glucose."

"So
Dr Shawlens. How did the Lambeth Group get you?"

Gavin
explained that in return for his time and biochemistry expertise the Lambeth Group provide continuous funding for his enzyme technology research group at the University of Kinmalcolm.

He
said that with continuous funding he could avoid the brain-crushing, time-draining need to chase and compete with the herd of top researchers for ever dwindling successions of precious research grant awards. With a half smile he said he rather enjoyed the complete diversion from routine lab work.

In
fact Gavin Shawlens’ recruitment into the Lambeth Group had been well managed once it was discovered that he fitted their basic profile: loner, single, strong research, international expert, single-minded and determined. They tested him with non-controversial analytical work then locked him down with confidentiality agreements and the Official Secrets Act.

"Tell
me about your technician Christine Wilson. What's she like?"

"Will-sen-ing,"
he corrected.

"She's
a good technician and close friend."

"I
meant are you two an item?"

"We
often eat together, we go to …"

"Does
she wear short bikini knickers or big baggy knickers?"

"I
don't know. Why?"

"Just
trying to find out if she tucks you in at night."

"It's
not like that. She has a boyfriend, well she did, until I … erm," he said flustered.

"I'm
not judging, just thinking how best to play the part."

"She's
very good at her job. A key member of my team."

"Just
like you then, except you're on
my
team."

"Do
I call you sir or ma'am or boss?" he asked flippantly.

"Zoe
will do fine."

She
saw a faraway look in his eyes again. She noticed it during the briefing when his attention had wandered and he look spaced out for a few moments. Alan Cairn had briefed her on his recent trauma. She knew she had to tread softly around his feelings.
But
not
too
softly
she thought.

"So
it wouldn't be out of character for you two to share a flat."

"No
we've done that before when I ran a training course at Durham."

"Good
because you're sharing my flat. Do you want the top bunk or the bottom?" She asked playfully.

"What,"
he retorted with a look of shock.

"Only
kidding Shawlens," she reassured and patted his shoulder.

"I
don't like bunk beds."

"Can
you cook?"

"I
don't cook. I do M&S ready-made," he replied.

"I
don't do ready-made. I do QET, quick, easy, tasty."

"If
you say so."

"What
can you do for your domestic share?"

"E
rm ..., I suppose I could try ..."

"Don't
worry Shawlens I'll work something out for you."

She
gave him a big smile. She was warming to him. She was certain he wouldn't cause her any problems.

"Fine,
just tell me what needs to be done."

"You
know Barscadden has fled the country, but we believe the threat level is still high," she said, her voice more serious.

"Yes
Alan Cairn told me I had to be careful in case he sends someone to kill me."

"I'll
make sure no-one tries to kills you. Any time you feel threatened press the alarm icon on your SEM phone. Either I or one of my colleagues will run to your side. Clear?"

"Yes.
I thought you were on board to deal with the backfire."

"We're
not expecting any tough stuff on this backfire. But if Buzzwall does kick off he'll get more than he bargained for believe me. I'm here primarily to cover your backside."

"Thanks.
I already feel safe in your company," he said appreciatively.

"When
you've digested the CASTER report; I would appreciate your view on what went wrong. Quick and dirty version please."

"Of
course."

"Good
lad. I think you and I will get on just fine."

As
they walked along the corridor she concluded that his personnel profile was spot on. She knew what to expect from him, how much she could rely on him, how to manage him and how far she could trust him. She had weak troopers under her wing before, some burdened with very heavy baggage and she got the best out of them when it was needed.

She
saw no reason why Shawlens would be any different. The weak ones always get into trouble they can't handle. At least the flat sharing would keep Shawlens close to her. Give her a chance to intercept Barscadden's men before they hit Shawlens. With luck catch a live one and maybe a lead to Barscadden's new location.

"Oh by the way," she said.

"What?"

"The beard makes you look ridiculous. It'll have to go."

 

*
* *

The
entire briefing was watched on a monitor in a separate ante room by two Special Forces troopers, Sergeant Antonia (Toni) Bornadetti and trooper Scott E Bradwood. They had served with Zoe Tampin before and were well aware of her expectations. The briefing enabled them to get good eyeball and voice-check on the other team members without giving up their identity.

Toni
was an attractive and rugged thirty-six year-old woman and still as fit as she had been when she was eighteen. She looked like the twin sister of Michelle Rodriguez who plays Letty in the 'Fast and Furious' films. Some of her SAS mates call her Trudy after Trudy Chacón the combat pilot from the James Cameron film 'Avatar'.

Her
black shiny hair was shoulder length when it was not tied in a knot at the back of her head. Her Mediterranean skin was lightly tanned and blemish-free. She was five foot seven and her weight at 65 kg hadn't changed since the day she joined the Army. She was lean, muscular and very capable of looking after herself. Many times she had been asked why she was in the army when she should have been in the movies.

During
the hill phase of training at Sennybridge on the Brecon Beacons they nicknamed her the Duracell Bunny because of her power to keep going no matter what. She did her four mile run in thirty minutes and her two mile swim in ninety minutes. After each one she stood up straight and fresh as a daisy. Her mates said she had a pocket nuclear reactor in her pants. She was a true adrenaline junkie.

Scott
was six years younger, two inches shorter and heavier than Toni. His six-pack was morphing into a two pack and his movement was sluggish because he spent much less time keeping fit and toned. Scott was very good on the tech side of operations and that involved a lot of time sitting down with computer equipment and monitors.

He
struggled with his weight and went through cycles of painful exercise sessions to shed the pounds. Someone should have told him that the human body has very little space to store carbs. The stores fill quickly and when full, the energy from further intake of carbohydrate isn't wasted. It's converted to and stored as fat and the body has huge capacity to store fat.

When
the Lambeth Group briefing finished they waited in the ante room for Zoe Tampin to join them and complete their briefing.

"So
did you ask her out?" Toni asked.

"Who?"
Scott replied.

"You
know who. The Colonel's daughter Moira."

"Yes."

"Don't be frightened of her old man."

"I'm
not."

"I'll
expect a full and detailed report," Toni said.

"In
your dreams mate."

"Come
onnn Scott. I introduced you to Moira, you owe me."

"No
chance."

"She'll
sink her nails right into these love handles," she said nodding at his waistline.

"Leave
it out."

"Where
are you taking her?"

"Come
on Sarge let's talk about something else."

"If
I had a date I'd tell you all about it in glorious 3-D."

"I'm
not talking about her."

"Why
not?"

"It's
private, alright."

Scott
fired a menacing look at Toni to say he'd had enough badgering about his date with Moira. When Scott looked back at the monitor screen, Toni smiled at him.

"Which
one of the academics will get into trouble first?" Toni asked.

"Morgan."

"I think it'll be Shawlens. Want to bet?"

"What
do I get if I win?"

"I'll
buy two tickets for the next Man United European game. If you lose you tell me all about your date."

"Boss,"
Scott said as he stood to attention.

Zoe
Tampin marched into the room. She sat down with the two SAS soldiers seconded to MI5 and went over communications, logistics and other resources that would be required. They talked about the few Lambeth Group backfires they had worked on in the past.

None
of them knew Shawlens or Morgan. She reminded them that Shawlens was a target and their primary task was to protect him. If possible take one of Barscadden's men alive for interrogation.

"I
hate this babysitting crap, it's a waste …," Scott started.

"Shut
it," Toni snapped before Zoe could react.

Zoe
gave Scott a sideways look and he felt it like a death ray piercing his brain.

"I
think you'll find that babysitting in Hampshire is better than sitting in an Afghan hospital bed with a massive hole in your belly," she forced the words through her teeth.

BOOK: Everything to Lose
7.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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