Authors: Jackie Williams
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Military, #Romance, #Thrillers
Front Cover Photography
Copyright © 2014 Jackie Williams
No part of this book or its cover may be used in any form what-so-ever without the written consent of the author.
All names, places and incidents are entirely the imagination of the author. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is completely co-incidental.
This book honours the men and women of the armed services who sacrifice so much to keep us safe.
“What do you think he wan
ts?” James asked David suspiciously as they eyed the teenaged kid standing in the middle of the rock strewn, unmade road.
Dust suddenly swirled up as a stray breeze caught the dirt road.
David narrowed his eyes and picked up his binoculars to get a better view. The kid stood almost a hundred meters away, his robes shaking visibly but David didn’t think the movement had anything to do with the stirring air. He stared right back at David with big, dark lashed eyes.
David lowered the binoculars again.
“God only knows. He looks scared shitless.”
“He clearly caught sight of your ugly mug then, Captain. Your chops are enough to scare the spots off a leopard, let alone some skinny kid. Do you think we should try to speak to him?”
Steve peered between David and James from the rear seat of the armoured car. He shook his head.
“Nah! He’s probably just meant to be collecting water and we surprised him. Just drive slow and get past. This mission has lasted far too long as it is. I’m desperate for a cuppa. My mouth feels like I’ve eaten half this dirt road.”
snorted as he shifted the gears and lowered the handbrake. He held the momentum of the car on the gears, waiting to see if the boy would decide to make any move.
“You and your tea.
Earl Grey or Darjeeling? I can’t wait until the day I can down a really cold beer. Anyone seen that film where they cross a desert for weeks, dying of thirst? They make it of course but then they have a beer in a bar. The cold condense runs down the glass, they lick their lips, they swallow dryly then they pick up the glasses slowly and they drink the beer!” There were general grunts and groans of near desperation from Sean and Pete as he deliberately tortured them with his description of the perfect cold beer but Steve just laughed.
“Thought you would only be drinking champagne form now on. How many millions was it?”
David groaned and rolled his eyes. He heartily wished that he hadn’t told Joe about his great aunt’s legacy. The man clearly couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
. Haven’t had chance to even think about what I’m going to do with it all. We came out here almost immediately. I barely had time to shove it in the bank but I dare say you lot will be sinking a fair few quid of it as soon as we finish here. Pity I can’t hold a party until this tour is over…Ellen’s going to open up some fancy designer fashion boutique with that boyfriend of hers apparently. She wrote and told me a couple of weeks ago.”
“Fashion? Doesn’t sound like Ellen. She’s more of a vintage market type of girl, or she was when I last saw her.”
His insides twisted as he wondered about the real motivation for her opening a high end clothes shop. He didn’t wonder long. He’d guessed almost immediately who was really behind it.
“It’s the idea of that prat she’s going out with
. She bought him some fancy new car too but I bet he doesn’t stop there. He’ll be after something bigger next. You just wait and see. If I was home more, I could maybe figure out how to get her to dump him. Ellen only puts up with him because she’s so flipping lonely. I wish one of you guys had asked her out on your last leave.”
Sean grinned and laughed
as the others threw up their hands in mock horror.
“Yeah! Like we’re going to get involved wi
th your baby sister. Not that she’s not lovely or anything because she is but you would probably cut our balls off if we went anywhere near her!”
David laughed but
“Probably, but you might have made her realize that there are better alternatives to that berk she’s hooked up with. He makes me want to vomit every time I see him.
” He was about to lift his foot from the clutch and take them forwards when a man stepped out from behind a huge boulder at the side of the road and began shouting at the boy. The boy turned and shook his head firmly but the man reached out, spun the kid around and shoved him hard between his shoulder blades.
narrowed his eyes as the boy stumbled further down the road then glanced back over his shoulder. The man shouted again and then walked quickly away. The teenager turned and fixed his gaze on David. He seemed to take in a huge breath then suddenly came running towards them, his robes flapping, his pinched, tear stained face clearly visible.
David took a deep breath
as he stared at the boy.
Jees! I can’t stand a bully. I wonder what the kid’s done? His father seemed furious.”
Fifty meters from the armoured car the boy began
flapping his arms and screaming. David suddenly frowned, unhappy at the circumstances. He slammed the gears into reverse but waited a few seconds longer, worried that the boy was in real trouble.
James looked at David with concern as the child’s anguished expression became clearer.
“Poor kid. He’s terrified of the old man but I don’t know what he thinks we can do about it. We’ve strict orders not to interfere with civilians unless specifically asked by local government.”
David remained silent as the boy came closer. Twenty meters away and David suddenly rammed his foot on the accelerator.
He spun in his seat and glared out of the rear of the vehicle making sure the way was clear. The gears shrieked in protest and the wheels spun in the gravel, kicking up clouds of dust in the loose dirt. The boy hurtled nearer, legs pounding, arms pumping. Ten meters away and his robes caught in the wind again. This time they lifted higher and James opened his eyes wide in horror as he saw the thick black belt circling the boy’s waist and chest.
“Go! Go! Go!” He bellowed at David but the car hit a pothole and dipped hard
almost bouncing them from their seats.
David smashed the accelerator into the floor but the wheels just spun in the dirt
again. He rammed the gears into first and turned back to face the front. He hit the accelerator again, desperate to shift the vehicle but it was too late. The boy was upon them.
“Aw fuck!” He yelled
just before the teenager vaporised in a blinding flash of white light that blew through the front of the armoured car, lifting it from the ground and throwing it backwards along the dirt road.
landed facing forwards into a narrow ditch at the side of the road, smoke pouring from the engine. Steve groaned as he scrambled out of the smashed rear window. He landed face down in the gritty dirt, spitting it out furiously as he began shouting into his radio. Sean and Pete followed him, limping and wiping blood from their faces as they took up guard positions either side of the wrecked armoured car.
Coughing in the thick smoke, Steve finished relaying their co-ordinates and began tugg
ing at the driver’s door but it was crumpled and wedged firmly shut. He ran to the other side of the vehicle as flames began licking from under the warped bonnet. He braced his foot against the side of the car and pulled the door hard. It creaked open almost a foot. He reached inside using his shoulders to force the door open more and unclipped James’s safety harness. James screamed as Steve hauled him from his seat. Shattered bones protruded from his torn and bloody combat trousers. Steve dragged him further along the ditch, keeping low as bullets suddenly whizzed over-head. He turned back to the car and then began to run forwards as the flames grew higher.
“Dave!” His shout was drowned out by a sudden whump and the bonnet flew up into the air. David writhed in the driver’s seat his mouth wide open issuing a silent scream
as flames leapt up at his face. Ignoring the fire now belching from under the steering wheel Steve reached inside again but David’s legs were trapped in a mass of burning metal. Broken bones poked through torn flesh. Steve grabbed a blanket from the rear seat and smothered the flames that licked at David’s trousers. He shoved his hand under his armoured vest and inside his uniform. He closed his palm around a thick wooden handle and muttered a quick prayer of thanks to the Gods of foresight as David’s body began to shake.
It’s going to blow! Leave me!” David screamed at his friend and his head dropped onto his chest as his face twisted into a mask of agony but Steve suddenly launched himself forwards. He lifted David’s chin in his hand. Their eyes met.
Dave, but you are going to have to forgive me!” Steve yelled and then with every ounce of strength he had left, he punched David squarely on the jaw.
was driving him mad. He lay staring up at the ceiling unable to move. He gritted his teeth as he fumed.
He’d woken to the blasted sound what felt like hours ago
but time was playing tricks on him and he was unsure exactly how long he lay there waiting for someone to come and turn the damned thing off. Now it was grating on his nerves as much as finding himself unable to move.
He hated l
ying about doing nothing and was desperate to get out of what appeared to be a very narrow bed. The constant regular beep came from somewhere above his head but something held him trapped and stopped him moving to see how to turn the dratted thing off.
He lay there
seething, something numbing rational thought even as he tried to figure out where he was. Nothing looked familiar. Nothing looked remotely normal. Nothing sounded normal either. It was way too quiet. None of the normal lurid banter, no sounds of engines being run, no Commander Richards yelling his head off. If it hadn’t been for the constant beeping and some odd purring sound the place would have been like a morgue.
David took a deep breath and counted to a hundred. He found that if he concentrated hard he could tap his finger in time with his counting. Good, something was returning to near normal. He began to think of songs, tried humming one. He moved his foot in rhythm with the beat but it felt uncomfortable.
Pins and needles prickled the soles of his feet. He twisted them this way and that, trying to get some circulation back into them but the sensation just wouldn’t go, in fact it was getting worse, rising up his calves and into his knees. He needed to move, to get out of the damned bed. He couldn’t lie there a moment longer. He willed himself to sit up but tubes appeared to drag him back into the bed. He fought them for a few seconds and then gave up. There were too many and they appeared to be stuck firmly all over his body.
God damn it! This was intolerable!
purring sound caught his attention again. It stopped for a second and then restarted. It was oddly familiar and he wondered for a moment if there was a cat in the room with him. He opened his mouth and stretched his jaw but winced as his dry lips immediately cracked. He ran a sandpaper tongue over the split and tasted blood. He swallowed a few times to get some saliva going. His whole mouth felt like a doormat.
Had he been drinking?
Had they finished the tour and been out celebrating?
He couldn’t remember it if he had.
He pulled in another frustrated breath and found that he could now turn his head slightly. He searched the room for the feline sound.
Masses of dark hair tumbled
over slumped, slender shoulders. He could see a tiny glimmer of sparkle in the shiny mass of hair. Ellen’s favourite jewel; a hairclip he had given her many years ago. Her shoulders shuddered gently and he smiled as he recognized his sister’s familiar snore. She’d breathed heavily during her sleep even when she was tiny. Now she sounded like a contented cat. He pitied her boyfriend Justin for a moment and wondered how the guy ever slept with that racket going on, before he almost choked at the uncomfortable thought. Ellen was quite grown up enough to sleep with whomever she liked but that didn’t mean that David had to be happy about it and he certainly wasn’t happy about her going to bed with Justin. The guy was a complete creep, a money grabbing arsehole and David was going to get up and tell Ellen so right now.
He let out a strangled grunt as the tubes restricted his movements yet again.
“For God’s sake let me out of this bloody bed!” He yelled in frustration at anyone who might hear his plea.
Ellen’s head jolted up and she stared
, pale faced and wide eyed at her brother.
Shh. Relax until I can call someone to help you.” She stood up stiffly and ran her fingers through her tangled hair, tugging at the clip as she walked to the door. A woman in uniform stood just outside and she came forwards quickly as Ellen beckoned her.
David glared at the woman
as she rushed forwards and pressed a firm hand to his straining chest.
“Jesus woman, let me out of this bloody bed. My feet are k
illing me with pins and needles. I need to get up and walk about.”
The nurse ignored his words and pressed her lips together as she checked a bag hanging at his side. She turned a small red switch as she checked the tube that led into David’s arm.
“Now Captain Phillips, I don’t want you straining yourself. You are going to need a lot of rest before we can even think about you getting out of this bed so you may as well start now. Lay back down immediately.”
as the woman checked some charts. He wasn’t going to lie there and be told what to do by some unknown woman.
“I just want to get my circulation going. I’m in agony
with pins and needles.”
The nurse flicked the red switch.
“Okay, I’ve given you another half dose for the pain, but you really should try to go back to sleep. We can’t fit you with legs until you’re healed and the only way you’re going to do that is if you rest, so the sooner you do that the sooner we can get you out of bed.” She pulled the sheet up over his now exposed chest.
David tore the sheet off again.
He wasn’t going to be ordered about by a woman he’d never met before.
“Stop being so bloody patronising. There’
s nothing wrong with me. I just need to move. Tell her Ellen.” He frowned angrily at his silent sister but pain suddenly lanced through his face. He lifted his now fully functioning hand and touched his cheek. It was covered in what felt like a thick bandage and he suddenly noticed that he could only see out of one eye. “What the fuck is going on?” He pressed his fingertips to his face. The layers of gauze wound around his head, covering one eye and most of his hair. He gasped as heated razors flayed his skin. He breathed out slowly as he dropped his hand to his side.
Ellen came forwards. Her normally beautiful face was etched with lines of worry and pain. There were dark circles under her unusually red rimmed eyes that contrasted with her almost white complexion.
“David please. Lie back and I’ll explain.” There was a tremor in her tone and David felt panic begin to rise. Something was seriously wrong. Ellen’s whole face was puffy. It looked as though she’d been crying for hours. His mind immediately leapt to Justin.
“Ellen, what’s wrong?
You’ve been crying,” he accused. “Has that prat gone and done something to you? I’ll kill him if he’s hurt you.” He launched himself forwards and then stopped as something felt horribly wrong. His balance was off and he scrabbled at the sheets. He pressed his hands to the bed and tried to swivel but he couldn’t gain any purchase. He floundered around as he felt himself toppling to one side. “What the fuck!” He yelled as the sheet slipped further down his stomach. The nurse grabbed his shoulders and steadied him. Ellen dragged the sheet back over him but it was too late. His mouth fell open as he stared at where his legs should be. The sheet was flat across the bed. His chin came up and he glared at Ellen. “Is this a dream? Am I drugged up so much I can’t see my legs? What kind of fucking joke is this?”
Ellen shook her head as
a trail of salty tears dripped down her already red raw cheeks. She gulped audibly before she spoke in a voice wracked with sorrow.
“No David. It’s
no joke. It’s not funny at all. I never felt less like laughing in my entire life,” she said seriously as she took his hand and lifted it to her face. She tilted her head and pressed her lips to his palm before she turned his hand over and looked at his strong fingers as they clasped tightly around hers. She took a deep breath and raised her eyes to his. “Your team were blown up. Some warlord forced a teenager to commit suicide. They wired him into a belt loaded with explosives. Your vehicle caught fire and Steve had to pull you out of the burning wreckage. You were trapped David. There wasn’t time to do anything else.” She paused and swallowed hard. “He had to cut off your legs before you burned to death.” She closed her eyes and stood there silently as the tears dripped from her chin.
He could feel his heartbeat
quickening in his chest. He swallowed and shook his head, determinedly ignoring the searing pain that ran up his face again as he tried to hold back hollow laugh.
Don’t be so daft, I can feel them. My feet have pins and needles. You’re telling me a load of crap. This is a dream and I am going to wake up right now!” He closed his eyes for a few seconds but he could suddenly smell diesel fumes and burning flesh. In a flash of flaming agony he remembered being trapped in his vehicle, Steve shouting at him and apologising before raising his clenched fist…He gulped and then opened his eyes again. His gaze wandered around the room. Nothing had changed.
Ellen, nurse, tubes,
machines, drips, bags of fluid, beeping, breathing, heartbeat banging hard in his own chest.
For a moment he could almost hear his own blood as it raced through his veins when
Ellen didn’t smile. She stared into his one eye before her gaze flicked lower over the sheet.
He dared to look down past
his waist. Nothing past mid-thigh raised the sheet. A vast sea of white sheet covered bed lay flatly before him. He had to be hallucinating. He looked back up at Ellen as fear gripped his heart and squeezed hard. She shook her head back at him as more tears chased down her cheeks. He took one more look at the bed before reality struck him.
“Aw, fuck!” He said sadly and passed out.