Authors: Keith Walker
Tags: #Crime, #Thriller, #Spy, #Politics, #Action, #Adventure, #Suspense, #Mystery, #Murder, #Terrorism
copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Norton looked at his watch. It was just over three hours since the first wisps
of cloud appeared on the horizon, now the sky was a roiling mass of dark clouds
so low they seemed to brush through the treetops. In the middle distance
lightning forked into the earth followed seconds later by a roll of thunder
that hammered across the heavens bringing to an end fourteen days of hot,
downpour began washing away the polluted odour that had been hanging like a
curtain in the stagnant air for over a week. Already, just moments into the
storm he could smell the freshness in the air as the falling rain regenerated
the wilted grass and parched trees. Leaves hanging languidly on the thick
bushes surrounding his position began to look shiny again as the raindrops
caressed them, cleaning away the accumulation of dust and dirt.
had been a hot few weeks. He couldn’t remember the last time there had been
such an extended period of Mediterranean-like weather, even the evenings had
been pleasantly warm. It had been the suicide bombers dream. The pavement cafes
had been crowded as had the shops, parks, pubs and public transport. Thirty
different venues had been targeted in different cities on the same day, at
roughly the same time, to cause maximum casualties. The body count was still
rising as the more seriously hurt succumbed to their injuries. The death toll
so far had risen to just over four hundred.
had tracked two of the bomb makers to a pleasant whitewashed cottage in rural
Lincolnshire. Intelligence from MI5 said this particular pair, a man and woman,
had designed and built the bomb vests used in the attacks. They suspected the
location, that he was now overlooking, was the factory where the bomb vests
were constructed. Norton had been on their trail for eleven days, ever since
his assignment to the case. He’d felt sickened after reading the file relating
to the four London attacks, sixty-four people had died while enjoying a day out
in the sun, and for what? He had thought deeply about that. Failing to fathom
the reasons why religious fanatics would corrupt the words of a peaceful
religion to justify their hatred of all things Western. His task was to find
and eliminate the group who had committed these atrocities. By using the
intelligence networks and informers of the police and security services, solid
information had arisen as to their whereabouts. It was time for them to pay.
dip in the ground, just inside the tree line of a small wood, about four
hundred metres from the cottage, had been his home for the last two days while
he watched and logged the movements around the building. Throughout that time,
only the man and woman he had come for had been in evidence. It was a typical
terrorist cell strategy he’d observed, when entering his final notes onto a
handheld computer. They would never meet or even know the other members of the
group. Contact would only be made by untraceable mobile phones, so should one
cell be captured, the whole group would not be compromised. If they had vacated
this place of their own accord, it wouldn't have been used again, such was the
depth of their security.
had just turned six-thirty and the evening sky, prematurely darkened by the
storm clouds gave Norton all the cover he would need. He moved back from the
edge of the wood before pulling on a black ski mask and a pair of tight black
leather gloves. From a holdall, he took a matt black Heckler & Koch assault
rifle, made a quick external check then worked the action to load the first of
thirty rounds from the magazine into the chamber. There were four extra magazines,
two for the assault rifle and two were reloads for a Sig Sauer 9mm
semi-automatic pistol that nestled comfortably in a soft leather holster
beneath his left arm. After checking the loads in the spare magazines, he put
them in a nylon pouch strapped around his waist.
complete, he once again surveyed the area between his position and the cottage.
The ground was relatively flat with several bushes erupting from the knee-high
grass like silent green explosions. Although flat, the ground ran slightly
downhill, levelling out at a well kept stone wall that encircled the cottage,
some outbuildings and a small orchard. A single track road, hedged on both
sides by hawthorn bushes wound its way from a distant junction, passed close by
the copse and ended at a stone built garage.
ran his eyes over the cottage. The outline of the building and a BMW parked in
front of the garage were indistinct through a dark veil of rain. The four
windows facing the copse still had their curtains closed. Earlier, he was
watching as the woman drew them, and wondered if she realised how good a target
she had made silhouetted in the oblong frame. At one of the windows, the man
had been directly behind her sitting in an armchair reading a newspaper, all
very homely, perfectly normal. Norton’s orders had been to find and eliminate
the team, the temptation was to finish it there and then, but four hundred
yards with the assault rifle was not an easy shot, certainly not guaranteed to
get them both. He had decided to come in closer, decided on something special
for these two, and then corrected it to something special for himself. He
wanted to see their faces when they died.
the hours spent watching, he had made a mental map of the best route to the
cottage. Each fold in the ground and each piece of hard cover, cover that would
stop a bullet, was fresh and clear in the forefront of his mind. Looking up at
the thick cloud cover, he smiled, feeling the familiar tingling sensation in
the small of his back as adrenaline flowed into his system, honing already
razor sharp senses. “Now is a good a time as any.” He whispered as he pushed
the holdall under a bush.
the assault rifle cradled in the crook of his elbows, he slowly crawled the
fifty yards through the grass to a small hole he had made in the bottom of the
hedge the previous night. Halfway through he stopped and lay still, looking
along the road, left and right, senses alert for any sound or movement. All he
heard was the wind sighing through the branches and a short roll of thunder as
the storm continued relentlessly. He pulled himself through and knelt on the
grass verge. The height and thickness of the hedge bordering the road hid the
cottage from view. The fact did not concern him as the reverse applied, he was
hidden from any casual glance from the cottage windows.
kneeling, he listened again for any man made noises. Nothing, only the wind
kept him company. He stood and walked slowly along the road, the butt of the
rifle pulled tightly into his shoulder, right hand on the pistol grip, left
hand holding the stock for extra support, ready to fire instantly should a
threat emerge. Twenty yards from the cottage he stopped. On either side of the
road, a cats-eye had been set into a ball of white paint. Somebody has rigged a
stop line, he thought, only one reason for that.
sound carried on the wind interrupted his thoughts, an engine, faint, but
drawing closer. Across the top of the hedges, a bright halo of light gradually
increased as the vehicle approached, beams of light occasionally shooting
skyward as the light fired off puddles at the side of the road. “Two days and
nothing,” Norton cursed, “and they pick now to pay a bloody visit.”
lay down on the grass verge and worked his way beneath the branches into the
welcoming darkness at the bottom of the hedge. Settled, he
the sound of the engine now very close. Light washed over the hedge, brakes
squealed as though a stone had lodged between the disc and the pad as the
vehicle came to a halt. The driver sounded the horn before turning the
headlights off. Norton looked up and swore, “Shit!”
was an old Ford Escort van, dirty white with dark rust patches splashed along
the sill and the wheel arches like old blood stains. It had stopped level with
the two mounds of paint holding the cats-eyes, engine still running, wipers
juddering up and down the windscreen. Sitting in the passenger seat, and for
the time being facing forward, was a rather large German shepherd dog. “I hope
you did as your dad taught you,” Norton said to himself as he eyed the dog,
“and went for a piss before you came out.”
side door of the cottage squeaked open and the man stepped out onto the area in
front of the garage. As he walked around the BMW, the wind immediately caught
the hem of the light coloured raincoat he was wearing, flapping it wildly
around his knees. The driver got out of the van, which seemed to be the signal
for the dog to go berserk, jumping up and down in its seat, barking and
it’s me, Kevin, I’ve brought some stuff for you.”
should have phoned,” the man said, his voice
against the wind and punctuated by the barking dog, “you know I like to know
when I’m having visitors.”
not had time,” the driver called back, “I’ve bin’ on the road all day and my
phone battery’s flat."
driver walked to the back of the van and opened the doors, only his feet and
ankles visible from where Norton lay. Faisal walked toward the van but stopped
ten feet in front of it. There was a scrape as something was dragged from the
van, then the click of claws as the dog jumped onto the road.
Norton eased off the safety catch.
dog made a beeline for the hedge, sniffing along the grass verge making steady
progress to where he lay. For some reason Norton became aware of the raindrops
falling through the leaves, thudding onto his waxed jacket and trousers. It
seemed exceptionally loud and expected the dog to hear it and come to
investigate. The dog was still concentrating on the verge, getting closer as
its nose zigzagged through the grass where he had walked only minutes earlier.
Norton tensed, as soon as the dog barked and drew attention to him, he would
bring the rifle to bear and take Faisal then Kevin. Alerted by the shots, out
of sight and definitely armed the woman would then become a very real danger.
Not the exact scenario of events he had had in mind.
let the dog run about,” Faisal shouted, “I’ve got the trip out. It’s a nuisance
having to keep resetting it.”
dog paid no attention to the raised voice. It moved closer, head level with
Norton’s chest. A low growl rumbled from its throat as it started to nose into
the undergrowth. The heavy rain would have weakened any trace of Norton on the
grass, but the dog’s senses had caught something and it was coming to
placed the pad of his forefinger on the trigger. Seconds left before the dog
would see him let alone catch his scent. He looked towards the cottage, Faisal
was in full view,
hands thrust into his coat
pockets holding it down against the wind.
Norton thought, “he’ll need at least two or three seconds to react.”
dog would have to die first. He took the first pressure on the trigger.
Kevin shouted, “Get in.”
dog barked twice, so close Norton could smell the fetid odour of its breath. It
backed out of the hedge and ran along the verge, turned quickly and jumped into
the back of the van. A few moments later it reappeared in the passenger seat,
its panting breath clouding the side window as it looked out.
exhaled a sigh of relief and released the pressure on the trigger, watching the
driver’s feet as he walked back along the far side of the van. When he came
into view, he was carrying a box. He stopped two feet in front of Faisal and
bent forward to hand it over.
all I’ve got left. Contact me again when you need some more.”
gently parted the lower branches with the muzzle of the rifle and looked at the
area separating the two men. A tripwire ran across the width of the road, just
below knee height, invisible to the naked eye but for the occasional glint as
the wind moved it in the glow from the van’s sidelights. During his
observations, he had seen Faisal leave the cottage just as dusk fell and busy
himself on the road near the wall. Because of the thickness of the hedge, he'd
been unable to see what was happening. Now he knew. It also explained the
cats-eyes. Any regular visitor would know of the tripwire and stop; uninvited
visitors would drive or walk into it with as yet, unknown consequences.
forget to phone me next time.” Faisal shouted, as he turned away and began
walking back to the cottage. Over his shoulder he added, “It makes life a
little less exciting.”
driver walked back to the van, his feet disappeared and moments later, the van
door slammed shut. The gears crashed and the van began a three-point turn.
Norton could see what was going to happen and quickly rolled onto his side
pressing his back against the thick stems of the bushes. The van, on the second
leg of its turn reversed into the hedge to get plenty of room to swing round.
The bumper pushed the branches in, the black painted rusting metal getting
closer to his body, the tight weave of the branches restricting further
movement. He held his breath, the exhaust pipe inches away from his face, the
bumper almost touching his body. Brake lights flared illuminating the hedge
bottom in a red ethereal glow. Gears crashed again, the wheels spun on wet
grass, fighting for a grip. A jet of exhaust formed a noxious cloud around his
head before the van pulled slowly forward and set off along the road.