Synopsis Following on from book one. Jack follows the escape plan set out by the IRA, as instructed by his handler. He boards a fishing vessel in the small harbour of Annalong and the boat intercepts a container ship that is moving up the Irish Sea towards the North Atlantic. Barry Fagan (one of his IRA associates) is already onboard. The two men have a brief conversation about what went wrong. Barry doesn’t believe Jack and a fight breaks out. Barry produces a gun during the scuffle but Jack manages to wrestle it away from him. Barry tries to rush Jack and Jacks shoots him. Barry falls over the side of the ship into the sea. We move to 1990’s, South Africa. Jack has been placed in a new undercover role as the head of a large engineering firm which is heavily backed by British money. We get some sense of the kind of corruption that is rife in South Africa at that time as Jack meets with various shady individuals from the government, including an army General who used to be an ANC hit man. Jack is told about a delegation of Irish Republicans who are heading to South Africa to learn how to make the transition from terrorists to Statesmen. In the eighties the IRA trained the ANC in terror tactics, and they even participated in operations in the country. It is now time for the favour to be returned, in the form of political science training. Jack is tasked with getting close to this group, not to disrupt their activities, but to protect them from a hard-line element of Republicans who are against the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Jack gets to the heart of the plot but he finds himself in a race against time and credibility, as he tries to convince the leader of the peaceful Republican group (Barry Fagan) that he, his delegation, and the entire Peace Process in Ireland, are in mortal danger. Jack’s cover as the head of a British engineering company, which specialises in building power plants, provides him with a lot of contacts within the new government as all power plant projects involve input from many different government departments. Unfortunately there are many nations jockeying for influence with the new government in South Africa. This puts Jack in great danger. The South African story begins with a meeting between Jack and a contact from the South African government. After the meeting ends there is an explosion in the building. Some of those who were at the meeting are killed. Jack sets out to discover who caused the explosion and why, while at the same time, members of the South African administration want answers from Jack, and they are not worried about the lengths they have to go to to get answers. With enemies closing in on him from all sides, Jack does not know who to trust, or even how he is going to get out of the country alive.
1979, County Down, Northern Ireland
Eighteen dead, at least, and with the sound of bullets still ringing in his ears, Jack Malaney once again found himself with an impossible decision to make. He looked past the MI5 agent at the bullet riddled lorry. The front of the vehicle was smouldering and two army technical officers were approaching it cautiously so that they could examine the unstable device inside the vehicle. Scores of people had been saved that day because of his bravey and intelligence, but with so many dead, Jack found it had to feel that he had achieved something worth celebrating. The question from the MI5 officer was more like an assertion that Jack had failed, rather than a sincere request from one colleague to another. You messed up and we are giving you the opportunity to do better. He had already given all he had to the operation; he wasn’t sure that he had the strength left to give anything more. “We need an answer now, Jack. I know it’s short notice. I know you have been through hell today already, and over the last few years; but you know that we wouldn’t ask this of you if we had any other choice. It’s either you, or no one.” Jack looked the man right in the eye. He cleared his throat. “I...” Jack stumbled. Jack was exhausted, and sore and angry. Whatever choice he made in that moment would be regretted at a latter stage; the only question that he had to ask of himself was which choice would he be able to live with—the answer to that particular question was oddly well balanced.
“Jack,” the man continued, as he placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “If you really don’t think that you can continue with this operation, then we will all understand. Obviously we will be bitterly disappointed, but it is a decision that we will accept with reservation.” Somehow the words rung hollow. They would bring him back to London to a low key hero’s welcome. He might even get to might some important politicians; members of the Royal Family even, but after a short passage of time they would turn their back on him and he would be left to find his own way in the world, and Jack’s new world was one were survival depended on the protection of others. It had been a long time since he was even remotely interested in what the strategists back in London thought about him—this was a decision by Jack Malaney for Jack Malaney. “You can go back to your old life and we can start the process of placing a man in the IRA over again,” said the man. Jack quickly translated what the man was really saying. You will set our fight against the terrorists back by years. You will be responsible for the deaths of many soldiers, policemen and members of the public. Every death at the hands of the terrorists in the next few years will be on your head. The subtext was not as subtle as the MI5 officer had intended, but he definitely wanted Jack to focus on the subtext and Jack did not much care for the clumsy attempt at manipulation. He had played that game with a much more seasoned officer a few years back in London, and he didn’t fall for the bullshit he was being sold then either. He was well aware of how high the stakes were and how dangerous it would be for many people if he walked away now. Yet he also knew that the day would come when he would have to walk away and the same arguments that were being used now to put pressure on him to stay would still be as loud and as strong at that time. He made up 3
his mind, though if he was completely honest with himself he knew from the moment the idea was put to him what he was going to do. Perhaps his spy masters knew what they were doing when they recruited him? Jack was a man who was duty bound by morality and that was a much stronger bond than being duty bound to Queen and Country. The normal spy could use contempt for the political system to walk away when the going got tough, but Jack was different—if it was the right thing to do then that is what he would do. “If I do agree to continue with the operation, exactly how in the hell are you going to explain what has happened here?” Jack asked. “We had planned to draw a line under this operation here today. I sure as hell haven’t been briefed on the possibility of continuing with the op. If I don’t know and you don’t know, then what in the hell do you want me to say to the IRA?” Of all the betrayals and lies that the folks in charge could inflict on a spy, lying about when an op was to end was the worst in Jack’s book. It was like extending the tour of duty for battle weary troops just as they are packing up to head home. It was disgusting. Jack sat up. He was in pain but it wasn’t as bad as he first thought—he bit down hard to hide the pain—he was already formulating a plan in his head and if he followed through with the plan then it would have been a bit hypocritical for him to complain about his pain. He was bleeding and he was badly bruised, but he was not down and out. Before the MI5 officer had time to reply, Jack stood up. The officer moved in to assist him but Jack waved him away with his right hand. The officer moved back slightly and waited patiently, ready to move in at a moment’s notice should Jack show any signs of faltering. Jack steadied himself and he looked the man straight in the eye, waiting for an answer. “Eh... The attack was foiled and you escaped,” the man suggested. 4
Jack shook his head. “You see,” Jack began. “This is the problem that you guys have when it comes to the Irish. This is the problem that you have always had. You underestimate them. You see yourselves as more intelligent and better military strategists. It simply isn’t true. Unless we can come up with a rock solid cover story then you will be sending me to my death. It is as simple as that. And as much as I want to help beat this group I am not prepared to walk willingly to my own death just on the off chance that whoever is waiting for me on that boat will not ask the right questions. Believe me, they will. And a hell of a lot more questions besides, right before they put a bullet in my head and throw my body into the sea. If I am exposed as a spy then there is no way in hell you will ever get another agent in as deep as I was. You know that as well as I do. The door will slam shut. So, do you really want to take that chance?” Jack and the officer began to walk towards the lorry; keeping a safe distance. The officer assumed Jack wanted to check out what was happening in the back of lorry, but the truth was that Jack merely wanted to stretch his legs in an effort to shake off some of the pain that was pulsing through his body—to being with. “So Jack, what do you suggest?” asked the officer. Jack turned to face the man. “Honestly, given what has gone on today, I have no idea what I could say to them that they would believe,” Jack said. “They are driven by actions. The bomb in the South and the bomb at Warrenpoint with be celebrated; those behind the attacks will be hailed as heroes and they will be above all suspicion. The men in charge of the bombs that didn’t
reach their targets will always be viewed with suspicion, no matter how loyal they are to the cause. You only thought that the Russians were paranoid.” They walked past the lorry and Jack stopped for a moment to see how the technical officers were getting on with the bomb. The officers were dressed in heavy bomb resistant, protective gear, and the visors on their helmets meant that Jack could not take a reading from the expressions on their faces as to how their effort were progressing. Given the fact that the men were moving painfully slowly he could only assume that it was not going well. The MI5 officer sensed Jack’s curiosity and so he shouted over to the men. “How is it going?” The technical officer closest to the back entrance of the lorry turned to Jack and the MI5 man and he gave the thumbs down sign. “There’s a surprise,” Jack said, dismissively. “What do you mean?” asked the officer, with a hint of suspicion in his tone. “The man who put that device together is one of the most devious and devoted individuals I have ever encountered, and I know quite a few Celtic fans. If he hasn’t booby trapped the bomb then I will be pleasantly surprised.” The officer smiled. “Jack, those guys are seasoned officers. They have defused every possible device you could think of. Believe me, they will not make any mistakes.” Jack shook his head and he smiled. “Mate, I couldn’t think about one kind of bomb, and how it’s put together. I didn’t build that one, but even if I had, I wouldn’t trust it. But I can tell you this for nothing, that bomb will explode, one way or the other,” Jack said, with absolute certainty. 6
The tone of Jack’s voice told the MI5 officer that he was serious. A look of concern on the man’s face quickly changed to one of panic. He turned to the men in the back of the lorry. “Guys,” he called. “You aren’t going to defuse this one. Stand down. We will carry out a controlled explosion. From a safe distance.” The bomb disposal officers were experts and they were very good at what they did, but they only did what they did because they were ordered to do so, and when they were told to step away from danger, they were not going to stop to ask why. They jumped down from the back of the lorry and then they moved away quickly to safety. Once at a safe distance the men began to remove the protective clothing. “I will organise a controlled detonation,” said the MI5 man. Jack smiled. “I have a better idea,” Jack said. “Give me your gun.” Automatically the man produced his personal protection pistol. He began to hand the gun to Jack, but he stopped short of releasing the weapon. “Do you think this is a good idea Jack? If they find this weapon on you when you are on the boat they will kill you.” “The gun,” Jack said, simply. The man let go of the weapon. “I won’t be taking it with me to the boat,” Jack said. The look on the man’s face changed from confused to terrified in about the same amount of time that it took Jack to flick off the safety, aim the weapon, and start firing. “What the hell are you doing?” yelled the officer. 7
Jack fired a warning shot at the lorry. The soldiers close to the lorry began running in all directions. Jack paused long enough for them to make it to what he estimated was a safe distance and then he began to fire at the bomb once again. “Jack!” screamed the officer. “What the hell are you doing?” Jack stopped firing again. “I am creating a cover story that they might actually believe,” Jack said, in a matter of fact, way. The look of resolve on Jack’s face told the officer that he meant business. The man paused for a brief moment before he ran towards a nearby garden to seek shelter behind a wall. Jack smiled. Typical, Jack thought; more than willing to send others into harm’s way, but at the first sign of any personal danger and he runs like hell. The thought of the MI5 man cowering behind the wall brought a brief smirk to Jack’s lips. Jack took aim at the bomb and he carefully squeezed the trigger. The first shot had been a warning to the soldiers, but now his attitude grew more serious and determined. He squeezed the trigger. Every soldier in the immediate area held their breath. The bullet sank into the device without disturbing it enough to set it off. Another bullet impacted beside the first—and still no explosion. He couldn’t be certain, but a rough count told him that at most he had three bullets left. If one of them didn’t hit the target and detonate the device then he was going to look more than a little silly. There was no chance that anyone would give him another gun to have a second crack at it. He took aim again and he carefully squeezed the trigger. This was to be his first serous marker shot. It didn’t exactly work out that way. The hot air ahead of the blast wave picked Jack up off the ground and it carried him as far as the garden where the MI5 man had taken refuge. Jack hit the ground hard, and rolled 8
several feet before coming to a stop on his back just in time to see the massive fireball streak across the sky, yards from his face. The heat from the fire lasted only a moment, but the smell of burning diesel fuel lingered for a lot longer.
The air around him was
momentarily cleared of all oxygen and Jack struggled to catch his breath. Jack slowly turned to face the MI5 man, half expecting to find a smouldering corpse sitting in the foetal position. The man was cowering behind the wall. Jack got to his feet. Some of the soldiers were running towards the burning wreckage, others were standing their ground, completely stunned by what had just happened. They didn’t know if they should be walking up to Jack to shake his hand, or arresting him before he caused any moiré damage. Jack, still holding on firmly to the gun, got to his feet. He walked across to the MI5 man with confidence. The man looked up at Jack with bewilderment. The man quickly found his confidence and his voice. “What the hell were you thinking!” the man yelled. “You could have bloody well kill us all. Are you mad?!” “I told you. I need a cover story that they might actually believe. The town is surrounded many IRA volunteers watching what is happening, to report back to the leadership. They don’t trust the media. If the bomb doesn’t go off they will make their way into the town to find out why. If it does go off they will scatter into the countryside ahead of the blast front. I need them to scatter. If one of them sees me here with you then I am as good as dead. And I don’t even know who these men are; I just know that is the way the IRA does things. That’s why that bomb had to go off. That’s why I did it,” Jack paused before continuing. “That’s why I shot a soldier and then set off the bomb,” Jack explained.
The man nodded his head in reluctant agreement and then he looked completely confused. “You shot a soldier? When?” Jack grinned slightly. With a swift and graceful motion he pointed the gun at the MI5 man and fired. The man screamed with agony as the hot bullet tore through his thin flesh. The man grabbed his left leg just below the knee and he started rolling around on the ground in agony. “Like you said, we all have to make sacrifices. If a soldier doesn’t turn up in one of the local hospitals with a real wound, they will now about it and I once again will be facing some very tricky questions. For the next couple of days you are going to do a spot of acting. Congratulations, you have just enlisted in the army. We are in this together, right?” Jack asked. The man looked up at Jack with hatred etched across his face. He remained silent. Jack took aim again—a sadistic bluff. The man shielded his face with his hands. Jack lowered the weapon once the man was suitably terrified. “Organise a car for me; we don’t have a lot of time,” Jack demanded. The man looked up at Jack with contempt and hurt, like a scolded child. “For god’s sake, it’s only a flesh wound,” Jack said, dismissively. “If we don’t get this thing moving in the next few minutes then we might as well call it a day. Every minute I stay here and the chances of discovery increase. Not to mention the small matter of there being a boat to catch. The others can’t afford to wait in the middle of the Irish Sea just in case I escaped.”
Jack began to walk away. He stopped for a moment to look down at the man one last time. “We don’t have all day, boss. Things to do, people to meet,” Jack finished, with a barely disguised grin.
The drive through the Northern Irish countryside was uneventful.
The security force
presence on the routes leading into Banbridge was barely noticeable, and for reasons that Jack could not fathom, the few checkpoints that were up and running were only concerned with vehicles heading towards the town. Nothing like closing the door after the horse has bolted, and blew the stable up, Jack thought. A few miles away from the bomb that Jack had just detonated and there wasn’t a policeman or soldier to be seen. It was a glorious day, and completely out of sync with the great pain, suffering and death that had descend across the island. History would remember that day for a very long time, but for Jack, the full force of that scrutiny had not yet begun. How could such a heavenly place fall foul of such self destruction? It was an often asked question, and having spent some years with the most extreme elements of that society Jack knew the answer to the question—because they knew that they were right. The green unmarked Ford in which Jack was a passenger was not the fasted car in the world; it was solid to the point of immobilising rigidity, but apart from a fully armour plated vehicle, it was the only commercial vehicle that offered any kind of protection against a gun attack, or roadside explosion—it was the car of choice for members of the security forces when they were off duty but to the keen eyed terrorist it only served to make the job 11
of selecting targets a lot easier. Jack was not happy with the car chosen to take him to his next stop, but it was the only unmarked car available outside of Belfast—he didn’t have time to wait for a different car to arrive from the capital. The small fishing village of Annalong had not yet received the news that an influential member of the Royal family had been blown to bits on his fishing boat in the Irish Republic, but there was some buzz about a massive explosion further along the coast at Warrenpoint. There was some speculation about fatalities, but no one in the village could have imagined in their worst nightmares that another nineteen people had been killed. As the good people of Annalong went about their daily business with the terrible events coming to them in small drips, they were completely unaware that a man intimately connected to the terrible events of that day had just driven into town. Almost an hour had passed since he blew up the lorry, but Jack was still reeling from the events earlier in the day—he had been shot at and almost blown up and instead of the well earned rest that he needed at the end of the hardest undercover operation of his life, he was being sent out once again into the unknown. With twenty people dead Jack could never view his efforts on that day as entirely successful, but with two massive bombs destined for busy shopping towns intercepted, the people in charge were of a different opinion. The IRA and the British security forces were both in a state of turmoil and the hours and days that were to follow would be the most dangerous in the history of the conflict as both sides rushed to make the next decisive move. The simple truth of the situation was that they had no one else in such a strong position within the IRA as Jack, and as Jack sat in the back of the unmarked police car on the way into Annalong he wondered if that was the plan all along—he also wondered how much help he would receive from MI5 12
after what he had just done to one of their agents. Still, it was worth it, he concluded. His masters back in London were going to get as much use out of him before they set him free as they possibly could, and if that freedom came with his death, so be it. It would do no harm for one of them at least to feel what it was to really suffer. This was not a game to be played out on some antique desk in an office back in London—it was real and dangerous and it hurt like hell. Perhaps the agent would remember that the next time he blithely asked someone like Jack who had sacrificed so much, to sacrifice even more. Jack doubted that lesson would ever be learned. The dark green Ford pulled alongside the heavily fortified wall of the village police station and Jack got out. Very subtle, Jack thought. They couldn’t have been any more obvious unless they had actually driven into the police station itself. Jack walked up the small hill to the top of the Main Street. He closed his eyes and called up the hand drawn map that had been shown to him briefly earlier that day—down Main Street and turn left, Jack recollected. Sure enough, the harbour was found exactly where he had been told. Jack walked down a dozen steep stone steps towards the harbour. Jack’s heart skipped a beat. The harbour was small but very deep—just not deep enough to float a boat whenever the tide was out, and that is exactly what alarmed him. Jack checked his watch. The container ship would be passing in the next half hour and after an hour it would be out of reach. Jack hurried to the other side of the harbour where the entrance was. He looked down at the water in the entrance in an effort to study how it was flowing—if the tide was coming in then he still might have time to make the intercept; if it was still going out then he was screwed. Jack swore under his breath. The water wasn’t moving at all. The tide was on the turn but only just. Jack looked across the harbour at a pub. The pub came within yards 13
of the harbour wall and it would be the perfect place for Jack to wait for the tide without raising too many questions. He resolved not to engage in conversation with any of the locals if that was at all possible—in the cities such as Lisburn, Londonderry and Armagh, territory was clearly demarcated, and he knew exactly what to say in conversation; out in the towns and villages of the countryside the situation was not as clear—which was odd as most of the terrorists from the Republican were from a rural background. The Loyalists mainly recruited in the ghettos of Belfast and the rural Protestant population did not approve of their activities to the same extent. The events of that day would change the minds and hearts of that passive Protestant majority and set into motion a tolerance for violence that would bring the country to the brink of civil war. As he made his way back to the other side of the harbour he noticed another set of stone steps, on the ocean side. Jack cautiously climbed the steps and he came across a short granite pier. At the end of the pier there was a brass warning bell which used to be struck in times of fog before modern electronics took up the slack. The bell swayed gently on the breeze and it sounded almost imperceptibly, as if it were the ghostly sound from a time long since passed. The sound unsettled Jack. Jack walked to the edge of the pier and he looked down. As small boat was bobbing up and down in the water dangerously close to the rocky sides of the pier. There was one man on the boat, and in Jack’s opinion there wasn’t much room for too many more men. The man in the boat looked up at Jack and he grinned widely before speak. “Do you want a lift, boss?” the stranger asked. The man in the boat was either inappropriately friendly towards strangers, or he was the skipper of the craft he was looking for. Jack opted for the latter option and he carefully 14
began to climb down a metal ladder that was attached to the pier. The man steered the boat as close to the wall as he dared which left Jack with a backwards jump off the narrow ladder into a moving boat—he felt certain that it wouldn’t end well. Jack landed heavily in the boat and the friendly expression quickly dropped from the man’s face. “Are you trying to sink her, boss?” the man asked. “Sorry about that, but I didn’t exactly have another choice,” Jack said, firmly. “Never mind boss, you and in and we are still floating. That’s half the battle,” said the man, as the smile returned. The small outboard engine on the back of the boat roared at the top of its voice as the boat turned and they headed out into the open water. Once they were well clear of the harbour Jack turned to the man. “Has anyone else made it?” Jack asked. The man looked uneasy. “Sorry boss, but you are the only one,” said the man. The man looked at his watch. “If they don’t turn up in the next few half hours then they will have literally missed the boat,” he added. Jack nodded his head as he tried his best not to look pleased at the news. He was pleased at the thought that no one else had made it. Then the operation would really be finished. The small craft ploughed into the gentle waves on the open sea at an alarming speed and within minutes Jack was soaked through to the skin. The man noticed Jack’s discomfort.
“Sorry about the rough ride, boos, but if I am to get back to the harbour to pick up any late comers then I have to put the boot down,” he said. “I understand,” Jack said. “There will be a change of clothes for you on the container ship. And anything else that you might need,” said the man. “Twenty year old, Swedish twins?” Jack asked, wryly. The man smiled. “You know what boss, it wouldn’t surprise me one little bit.” Within a few minutes they were pulling up alongside the container ship. The large vessel was still moving, but only just. A rope ladder was dropped over the side of the vessel and the man brought the small boat tight in against the hull of the larger vessel. Jack stood up and he grabbed hold of the ladder. Transferring from the small boat to the ladder was unexpectedly easy. “Good luck boss,” said the man, just before he sped off in the direction of the harbour. The waves breaking against the hull of the container ship nipped at Jack’s heels as he climbed the ladder. Jack didn’t look down. As he got to the top of the ladder two arms and a hat appeared and grabbed him. Jack struggle as he was being pulled onto the ship—his mind was in conflict—run from the grasping hands—but run to where? Jack landed awkwardly on the deck of the container ship. Immediately his nostrils will filled with the overpowering stench from burnt diesel fuel. As he looked down at the rusty deck of the ship Jack was not at all confident that it would ever make it as far as South Africa. Jack raised his head with more than a little trepidation as he looked at the man who had helped 16
him onto the ship for the very first time. The man was everything that Jack had been expecting. He was dirty, badly shaven, with a face that looked as if it had weathered more than its fair share of Atlantic storms. The man was the very embodiment of a salty old sea dog—or a cutthroat mercenary, as the case might be. “Welcome onboard,” said the sailor, in a thick South African accent. “I am glad that you could make it. Your friend is waiting for you down below.” “Friend?” Jack quizzed. “What friend? I was told that no one else had made it this far.” The sailor looked uncomfortable as he answered Jack’s questions. “Eh… I… I am certain that one of your friends is already onboard. Perhaps I am mistaken? You know how it is? With so many people coming on and off the ship it is hard to keep track of them.” Jack smiled, but it was an uneasy smile. It was simply beyond all belief that the ship would have taken on so many passengers out in the middle of the Irish Sea on that day for it to be considered a routine event. One of the IRA men was already on the ship and the man who picked Jack up at Annalong harbour had deliberately mislead him about the small fact that he already taken one of his associates to the container ship. The sailor waited for Jack to ask another question but when that question did not materialise the sailor turned and began to walk away. Jack followed the man. They moved across the large forward deck of the ship until they were standing in front of a metal door several storeys below the bridge. The sailor made a fist and then he banged on the door three times. There was a short pause and then the door swung open. Another sailor was
standing on the other side. The second sailor was even more menacing looking and he glared at Jack with intent. â€œAfter you,â€? said the first sailor, as he gestured with his hand. Jack looked at the men and he quickly resigned himself to the fact that they were completely in control. The spook back in Lisburn urged him to take a gun with him but Jack argued that it would be too dangerous. An important part of the original escape plan had been disposing of their weapons early into the escape. If he was searched and found with a weapon then the suspicion caused would end him. Judging by the look on the faces of his two hosts, his end was not that far off anyway. They descended a narrow stairway down into the bowels of the ship. The further the travelled the louder the sound of the mighty engines which pushed the boat through the water, became. As well as the noise, the petrochemical smell and increasing heat indicated to Jack that they were moving in the direction of the engine room, or one of them, as the ship had a main engine room and a smaller back up engine roomâ€”a ship that size powerless on the high seas would have been extremely vulnerable. The group moved through the corridors in the lower decks in complete silence. As the continued towards their destination the tension and anticipation in the air escalated. They walked past the door to the engine room and they came to a stop outside another door a few yards away. The sailor who helped Jack onto the ship opened the door and then he stood to one side to allow Jack into the room. Jack hesitated for a few moments before giving himself over to the inevitable. He entered the dimly lit room. Jack turned towards his escorts just in time to have the door closed in his face. The sound of metal grinding on metal as the doors locking mechanism was engaged told Jack that for the time being that 18
room was going to be his prison. That fact didn’t stop Jack from trying the handle to the door just to be certain—it would not move. “This won’t take long,” a familiar voice said, from deep within the gloom. The hairs on the back of Jack’s neck stood on end at the sound of the voice. Someone had made it to the ship and of all his former associates the voice belonged to the one man Jack never wanted to see again. As Jack cautiously walked towards the voice the form of Barry Fagan, sitting on a chair, came into view. Jack walked confidently towards Barry as if he was delighted to see him sitting there like a sinister spectre in the semi darkness. His pace slowed considerably when he noticed that Barry was resting a pistol on his left leg. “Expecting trouble?” Jack asked, as he sat down on a chair in front of Barry. “I don’t know Sean, why don’t you tell me,” Barry said. Barry calmly lit a cigarette before offering one to Jack. Jack took a cigarette out of the packet that Barry was extending towards him and then he leaned forwards to catch a light from a match that Barry struck for him. Jack took a long draw on the cigarette. “By now Barry, you probably know as much as I know,” Jack said. “The attack on the soldiers at Warrenpoint went according to plan, as well as the attack on Mountbatten. Lisburn and Banbridge both went south. Cathal was shot dead by an army patrol and I have no idea what happened in Lisburn.” Barry sucked hard on his cigarette. “Aye Sean, it has all turned into one hell of a mess. Many good men are either dead or in the hands of the Brits. After what we did to the Brits today I wouldn’t want to be an IRA volunteer in their custody, would you?” 19
“It wouldn’t be much craic,” Jack said, simply. Barry took another long, deliberate drag on his cigarette before continuing. “The one thing that I can’t understand is how in the midst of all this chaos, you managed to get away. How did you manage to do that, Sean?” “I could ask you the very same thing,” Jack said, definitely. “You could Sean, but the fact of the matter is that I am the one with the gun. Now, I’ll ask you again, how did you manage to escape? This time I am afraid that I am going to have to insist on an answer.” Jack leaned forwards and as he did so Barry took hold of the gun and pointed it at him. “The bullets started to fly and I bailed out of the lorry,” Jack said. “Cathal went on a suicide run. That is something that I didn’t sign up for. The instructions were to come back alive, even if that meant being captured, not to go out in a blaze of glory.” Jack leaned back in his seat and Barry moved the gun back to rest on his leg, but with his hand firmly around the handle of the weapon. “You bailed out of the lorry and the army just let you go?” Barry asked. “Yes Barry, that is about the long and the short of it. We saw the checkpoint and Barry stopped the lorry. Then without a word he began to drive towards it. That’s when I jumped out. I ran into a housing estate and I didn’t stop running until I was in the fields on the outskirts of the town. There were army Landrovers and police cars everywhere. There were even a couple of helicopters at one point, but I managed to get away. The grace of god, or the luck of my Irish ancestry. Call it what you like, that’s how it went down.”
Barry stared at Jack intently as if he was trying to look into his very soul. After what felt like an eternity Barry finally broke the intense look that he was giving Jack. “OK Sean, let’s say you are the luckiest man this side of Dublin and leave it at that,” Barry said, with obvious disbelief in his voice. There was another tense pause. “And what about you Barry? How is it that you are the only member of your team to make it to safety?” Jack asked. “I was scouting the motorway outside Lisburn to make sure the escape route was still clear. That’s when all hell broke loose. Army and cops came at the town from all sides. There was nothing that I could do,” Barry explained, with slight embarrassment and mild anger. “Then it would seem that we have both a lot to be thankful for,” Jack said. “So it would seem,” Barry replied. Barry stood up and walked towards the door. Jack remained seated. When he got to the door Barry turned around to face Jack. Barry banged on the door five times. “If any of the others made it through the security blanket they should be here by now,” Barry said. “Are you coming?” Jack stood up and he walked towards the door, which opened from the outside before he reached it. The sailor who helped Jack onto the container ship was standing guard in the corridor outside the room. The man walked in the opposite direction to Jack and Barry, who made their way back up to the deck of the ship. They walked across the empty main deck towards the side of the ship which was closest to the harbour. There was no sign of the small transport boat. 21
“Maybe they couldn’t make it to the harbour because of the security forces?” Jack said, with optimism. “Maybe Sean. If they are on the run they better be across the border. If the Brits catch up with them in the North today they will be shot on sight. No questions asked.” The two men stood by the side of the deck looking out across the sea but there was nothing to be seen. A pained expression shot across Barry’s face when he realised that the container ship was speeding up and steaming away from the harbour. “Damn it,” Barry snarled. “Another ten minutes wouldn’t kill them.” “And then what Barry?” Jack asked. “Ten more minutes? Ten more after that? If they haven’t made it by now then they aren’t going to escape on this boat.” Barry smirked mockingly at Jack. “What is it mate?” Jack asked. “I think I understand how you managed to escape,” Barry explained. “Coward.” Jack hadn’t noticed the sailor approach them until he was standing beside him. The sailor heard what Barry said to Jack. The sailor grinned, sensing a fist fight was about to break out. It was clear to Jack that Barry was going to be a problem and so he used the opportunity granted to him by the insult to do something about it. Jack rushed Barry and he pushed him to the ground. Within seconds Jack was on top of Barry and planting a few heavy punches to his face. Barry groaned as he struggled against Jack’s weight and ferocious onslaught. Barry managed to strike back with a blow to Jack’s left temple, and it was enough to send Jack spilling backwards onto the deck of the ship. Barry regained his composure and he quickly got to his feet. He pulled out the pistol that he had tucked into the back of his jeans and he walked over to where Jack lay. He 22
pointed the gun at Jack and as he did Jack kicked Barry hard on his left knee. As Barry responded to the kick Jack kicked him again, this time sending the gun spinning across the deck. In a life changing moment both men locked eyes for a brief moment. They knew that whoever made it to that gun first would live and the loser would die. They scrambled to their feet and sprinted for the gun. Jack slide the last few yards ahead of his rival and he scooped up the weapon. Spinning from where he lay on the deck Jack fired the gun twice at Barry, hitting him centre mass. Barry hit the deck hard and he fell silent. Jack turned when a strong hand grabbed at the weapon from behind him. It was the sailor. Jack knew that he couldn’t kill this man as well and so he released the gun. The sailor tucked the gun into the top of his jeans, at the front, for easy access, should Jack change his mind about being cooperative. The sailor then helped Jack to his feet. “Remind me never to call you a coward,” said the sailor. Jack smiled. The two men walked across the deck towards the bridge. Jack assumed that he was going to be brought before the Captain who would decide on his fate. “I told the Captain that you Irish would be trouble,” said the sailor. “I’m a Scot,” said Jack. “And your friend?” “He’s Irish,” Jack said, as he turned towards Barry’s body. Jack and the sailor looked at one another with disbelief. Barry’s body was nowhere to be seen. Jack and the sailor ran across the deck to where they had left Barry. Jack followed a trail of blood to the side of the ship. He looked cross the sea behind the ship. 23
There was nothing to see except for the white froth that was being generated by the shipâ€™s mighty turbines. Barry was gone.
Cape Town, South Africa, 1994
The Conjunction Engineering building was one of the most modern buildings in the entire city. It was built with lightning speed and it was one of hundreds of new headquarters of foreign owned businesses that had set up in the city following the euphoria at the end of the apartheid era. The decades of international disapproval from the rest of the world had amounted to little more than financial finger wagging, but now that foreign powers had allowed South Africa to come back in from the cold and join the right thinking nations of the planet, the floodgates of inward investment had been blasted open. This was not some act of altruism; an approving nod to a new and more enlightened South Africa—it was all about taking a newly opened opportunity by both hands and making loads of easy money. It was a brave new world and for those companies willing to take the risk, it was a world filled with the potential of making a substantial profit, alongside shaping the new political system in the country. South Africa’s own industry had been portrayed to the world as being strong and healthy during apartheid, but in reality it was sick, with many sectors in terminal decline after years of crimpling sanctions. The new political reality was approved of enthusiastically all around the world and governments everywhere were keen to help with investment to show how the new South Africa was a better place to live in than the old South Africa—at least that’s how those governments presented their change in policy towards South Africa to their people. The good intentions of the world’s most powerful nations would underline their long held beliefs that the people of South Africa all had an equal right to choose who leads them, and they all had the right to choose how they as individuals lived their lives. 25
As F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela negotiated and implemented a transfer of politics and power, most of South Africa celebrated. The mass elation willed a better future for everyone and completed missed what was fast shaping up to be the country’s long term destiny—the rich would get richer; the middle class would grow but it would be squeezed till breaking point; and the underclass would be buried even deeper than they had been under white rule as shanty towns expanded and slipped into a state of semi-self determination, with their own laws and system of justice. The faces may have changed but the corruption and exploitation remained firmly in place and there wasn’t a nation in the developed world who didn’t want a piece of that very lucrative pie, for all manner of reasons. For America the ultimate aim was a permanent air base in the country from where they could launch air strikes on various Islamic fundamentalist training camps that had sprung up like a virulent weed all over the continent. For Britain it was all about the money, with just a little of the impetus aimed towards curtailing China’s growing influence in Africa—some African countries had become little more than Chinese colonies—corrupt governments were handsomely rewarded for letting armies of Chinese into their countries to strip them of their natural resources. From the outside, through the media, it looked as if the future looked good for Africa. The continent was in revolution—starting in South Africa and spreading across the entire continent like the warm rays of an early sunrise. Mankind had learned one thing down through history as far as revolutions were concerned—no matter how noble the aspirations of the revolutionaries, the aftermath was never quite as idyllic as anyone had hoped. South Africa would be no different. There were not the mass lynching of whites that some had feared, nor was there land or property grabs by the long oppressed black 26
majority. That didn’t mean that retribution would be completely absent, only that when it came it would be subtle and carefully directed. The world had held its breath and the magnanimity of their new President, and father of the nation, Nelson Mandela, kept a lid on the worst of the hatred—for the most part. The men and women who were now intent on subjugating the people of South Africa were black and white, and every other shade in between, and the vast majority of them were from other countries. They had the money and power to step in and filled the empty gaps left in South Africa’s beleaguered economy, but it would come at a price that would enslave generations of South Africa’s children. Conjunction Engineering was one of those new companies from the outside world, but it was slightly different to most of the others. It was not so much funded and assisted by the British government as it was owned and controlled outright by it. That was never overtly admitted but certainly the Russians, Americans and Chinese were all aware of the truth behind the company, not least because they all had their own versions of Conjunction based in Cape Town. The espionage business had not been so productive since the height of the Cold War and every week more and more new spies arrived in the country from all over the world. South Africa was viewed as the centre of a new Africa and the nation that could control South Africa could also control the rest of the continent. There was a rush by the most powerful nations to exert their influence on the new political elite and Conjunction was Britain’s flagship in her effort to win that race. The man at the helm of Conjunction carried a lot of responsibility on his shoulders— not only did he have to ensure that the company ran smoothly and turned a healthy profit, to avoid any unwelcome suspicion, but he also had to do his bit for Queen and country, 27
regardless of which down road that led him. He could pretend to himself that what was about to happen to the African Continent was every bit as reprehensible as anything that had gone before, and that the British were the best hope for Africa, but he was too clever to believe that. The best that he could ever hope for was to protect the people of South Africa as best he could in the hope that one day someone in the UK would take power who was not afraid to talk openly about what the continent really needed to survive and prosper. Jack sat behind the large, hardwood desk in his office. The view from the twentieth floor was among the best in the entire city, but as he waited in the chair, Jack’s eyes were firmly fixed on the door in front of him, rather than out of the window behind him. Every day he looked out of that window and he marvelled at just how quickly the city was changing. On the one side the new wealth was leading to areas of high-end housing and state-of the-art office buildings, and on the other side there were the sprawling shanty towns. The fastest growing city in the world outside of China and India was also one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Residents played down the background soundtrack of gunfire and sirens, but there were only so many times that someone could dismiss the crack from a weapon discharging as a car backfiring. Jack drummed impatiently on the desk as he waited. The highly polished wood that the desk was made from was the subject of much debate to visitors to Jack’s office. The original shipping order was lost and no one knew exactly who ordered it. It wasn’t oak, or cherry or mahogany, but knowing what it wasn’t only served to deepen the mystery as to what it was made from. The small, brass Made in South Africa plate at the bottom of on of the table’s legs suggested that the wood was some local variety, but the dark stain that had been applied to the surfaces of the table masked the identity of that wood from even the 28
most expert of local woodcrafters. The thought had crossed Jack’s mind at one point that the desk may have been sent to his office by the South African secret service. He had the desk meticulously scanner for listening devices. Nothing was uncovered, but Jack held on to a small doubt in the back of his mind, and he resolved never to discuss anything too sensitive or important in the office. The everyday corruption that was par for the course in business in that part of the world was fine, but anything pointing directly to Britain’s involvement in the company was never talked about within listening distance of the desk. The solid double doors that Jack was starring at from behind his desk were large but plain. The unattractive light grey veneer with two foot long vertical handles was too 80’s for Jack. A traditional pitched pine or solid oak set of doors would have sent out a much more optimistic signal to his visitors, in his opinion—old, solid and reliable, even if the company was built on foundations that were anything but those virtues. The grey doors reminded Jack of terrible recklessness of the 80’s back in London and he did not much care for the link to that greedy time. Jack tilted his head as he sat in the chair and thoughts of taking a screwdriver to the hinges and throwing the doors out of the windows onto the street below provided him with a humorous distraction for a few moments. That joyous moment was shattered when Jack’s PA dramatically opened both doors into the office. She was followed by several men. The small group paced quickly and for a moment it seemed as if they were not going to stop. This was the power walk of the authoritative and Jack found it entirely ridiculous—the more important a person was the faster the seemed to walk, as if they and their time were so important that they didn’t have a moment to waste. Jack’s PA busied herself setting chairs around the desk as Jack got to his feet with a smile and extended his right hand for the man closest to him to shake. Everything about 29
that moment was a pathetic bit of theatre and Jack hated every moment of it. The chairs could have been in place before the men arrived—Jack knew exactly how many people were coming to the meeting, but making a fuss over them made the men feel that little bit more important. It was a kind of deference that went down particularly well within South African business circles—someone showing respect was more likely to be trustworthy—in the UK, someone being too respectful was often viewed with suspicion. “Robert, my old friend, it is so good of you to come,” Jack said, as he shook the man’s hand. “Michael, Christopher, Aaron, Peter,” he continued, as he shook the hands of the others in turn. The men sat down. The man who Jack greeted first, Robert Theiler, sat next to Jack. He acted as the main spokesman for the group and he was definitely under the impression that he was in charge—everyone else, including Jack, knew that nothing could be further from the truth. “You spoke on the phone about a small problem?” Jack quizzed. “Yes,” Robert said, and then he sighed. It was the sigh of the falsely despondent car mechanic preparing to pass on bad, yet highly profitable news to an unsuspecting customer. That summed Theiler up nicely—a bit of a chancer. Robert Theiler was mid-level mover and shaker within the African National Congress (ANC). He never rose beyond mid-level through choice. The men at the top were constantly under the scrutiny of the world’s media, as well as members of the old regime, who still held power and influence, and who were waiting patiently for the glorious day when this ludicrous exercise in democracy collapsed. Theiler knew that real power and influence came in the middle ground as he positioned himself as the go to guy both for the leadership and 30
the ground troops. As Robert brought the messages from the men on the street to the men at the top he would often put his own spin on that message to suit his own business interests. When the leadership needed something done that wasn’t exactly in keeping with the new worldwide image of peacemakers that they had carved out for the organisation, then Robert would act as a buffer of deniability. With the keys to so many dark deeds locked up inside his brain he was one of the most powerful men in the new South Africa, and by extension, he was one of the most powerful men on the entire continent. That was the very reason why Jack had been instructed to forge a relationship with him and it is also why every spy in the city was also trying to get close to him—being close to Robert Theiler meant that Jack was under constant surveillance and at permanent risk from the spooks. The only reason why Jack had not already been killed was that none of the other spies knew exactly what it was that Jack did for Robert and if it was ever discovered that a foreign nation was behind the assassination of someone of value to Robert then that nation would be excluded pretty effectively from further expansion in South Africa. Jack did not much care for Theiler.
He was full of his own importance and
completely convinced that he was an intellectual. As far as Robert was concerned, drinking imported Champagne and smoking a fine cigar was all that was needed to project intellect. He was a child of the slums who made a name for himself in the organisation through violence. He was directly responsible for over a dozen deaths as well as acts of torture against those who he labelled collaborators which verged on the sadistic. He also viewed himself as a real ladies man; the horrific truth was that the woman never said no to him as no was not an option open to them. Robert barely took his eyes off Jack’s PA the entire time that he had been in the office, and that in itself was enough to make Jack simmer with 31
anger. The man was loathsome and if the opportunity to end his reign of terror ever presented itself, Jack would take it without hesitation, no matter how upsetting that was to the folks back in London. Robert presented himself as a seasoned powerbroker. His mastery of the language of business was textbook, and every movement that he made was designed to nail down the deal. At times though, when the negotiations were not quite going his way, the thug from the slums would make a reappearance—the tone of his voice would change ever so slightly and the phraseologies that he used would be derived from the part of town that was not quite so civilised—never forget who it is that you are dealing with. “So Robert, what is this little problem?” Jack asked. There was another dramatic pause. “The bid that your company put in to build and run the two new power stations...” Robert began. Jack cut across him as he sensed some backtracking was about to occur. “Yes Robert. The bids that you assured me had been accepted,” Jack said, firmly. “Yes Jack, that I assured you had been accepted in principle. I said at the time that it needed the final approval of the government and Eskom,” Robert continued, sheepishly. “Again Robert, you had assured me that approval was in the bag. You said that it was only a formality,” Jack continued, with mild anger in his voice. It was an act, but it was expected of him. “This company has raised billions to finance these projects and that capital has been secured on the guarantees that you gave to me six months ago.” Robert shuffled uncomfortably in his chair.
“Yes, well, those were only verbal agreements Jack, and the legal reality of the situation is that for you to have a case you would need to produce something in writing,” said Robert. “I cannot believe what I am hearing Robert,” Jack said. “I have been working closely with you for years. My god, I consider you to be one of my best friends. This little problem did not just spring up overnight. Why didn’t you tell me something was wrong at an earlier stage?” A look of genuine shame spread across Robert’s face. “You can believe me or not,” Robert continued. “But I am only just hearing about the other bids myself. Apparently the Chinese have made the government an offer that they could not ignore. I am sorry, but their bid is now on the table.” Jack shook his head in disbelief. “And what in the hell is this magical, eleventh hour offer? Two golden egg laying geese and a handful of magic beans?” “Two state-of-the-art nuclear power stations and a contract to operate and maintain them for the next twenty years,” Robert added. “They will cost us twenty five percent less than what you have quoted, and they will accept minerals and coal in part payment.” Jack started to grin. This annoyed Robert. “You find this funny Jack?” Robert snarled. “Maybe I should walk away now and tell my government that we will accept the offer from Beijing?” “They want coal?” Jack asked. “Why do they want coal?” “Eh... I would assume that it will be used to fuel their power stations,” Robert replied. 33
They want your coal to burn in their power stations,” Jack
explained. “It doesn’t make any sense. If they need energy why don’t they build and run the two nuclear power stations in China? Why would they bring coal all the way from South Africa. Think it through Robert, for god’s sake.” Robert looked even more agitated and he leaned forwards in his chair towards Jack. The thug from the slums took control of him for a moment as he hissed at Jack in a low voice. “Why don’t you explain it to me, Jack.” “It’s simple. Like everything else made in China their nuclear power stations are cheap rip-offs of better quality Western technology. This isn’t some cheap radio made in China that you can simply chuck in the bin once it stops working. When these plants start to break down large parts of this country will start glowing in the dark.” “You would say that. Jack,” Robert chided. “I would say that because it happens to be the truth.” “I have never heard of here ever being an accident at a Chinese nuclear power plant,” Robert protested. “For goodness sake Robert, you know that they would never own up to anything like that. I have some friends in government back home who keep me informed about all of our competitors. According to them, there have been at least fifteen major incidents at nuclear installations in the past ten years. It is only a matter of time before an accident so large takes place that it is impossible for them to hide it from the world. Some of the most recent reports suggest that the entire nuclear power project in China has been put into permanent maintenance mode until a complete overhaul has been carried out. The are offering you 34
such good terms because it is good for them. They will get the coal that they so badly need, and they will also get the chance to iron out the kinks in their flawed power plant designs at a safe distance from Chinese cities.” “A nice fiction, Jack, but the numbers that they are quoting make it very hard for my government to turn them down. It is not only business, it is securing the energy needs of this country for a generation.” Jack sat back in his chair and he sighed. The conversation was going exactly how he had been expecting. None of the information that Robert was telling him was new. All information in South Africa was for sale, and at very reasonable prices.
less,” Jack said, eventually. “Assuming the board agrees with me and doesn’t throw me out of that window.” Robert looked at the other men in the group. One by one they all nodded with approval. Robert grinned widely. “It would appear that we have an agreement,” Robert said. “I do believe that I have heard that somewhere before, Robert,” Jack sad, with a hint of resentment. Robert got to his feet. “Come now Jack, even the very best of friends do not always see eye to eye at all times. It is how we deal with those little bumps in the road that truly mark the real friendships.” “That and a signed contract,” Jack said.
“As usual, Jack it has been a pleasure doing business with you. We have to go. I have a little bit of bad news to pass on to a group of China men. Let us hope they don’t crack.” Robert grinned widely, as did the sycophants around him. Jack smiled politely at the terrible joke. They exchanged handshakes once again and with the same haste that the group had entered his office, they left. Jack’s PA returned the furniture to the side of the room, and then she closed the double doors as she left his office. Jack sat down on his high back, leather chair and he grinned. It was almost too easy. He swung the chair around and he looked out across the city. The sun had set on the old British Empire decades ago and Britain as a world leader was a distant memory. What the rest of the world had yet to realise was that Britain was once again building an empire. The army may have been replaced by financiers and spies but they were every bit as effective, perhaps more so. The deal that Jack had just secured meant that Britain now had control over a large part of South Africa’s future energy needs, and in turn, she had a large hold over South Africa. This benign form of empire building suited Jack just fine. He had been all over the world and he had encountered many different forms of government. As flawed as the British system was, it was immeasurably better than many of those other forms of government. It had been a good meeting, and the scary stories that he had told them about the Chinese nuclear power industry contained more truth than fiction. Once China had her claws into South African resources she would want more and more. China was an insatiable monster and Africa was but a meal waiting to be swallowed whole. Jack closed his eyes and he leaned back in the seat. He was content. As he drifted towards a state of semi consciousness he was violently pulled back into the real world. It 36
couldn’t be sure which came first, the low growl from the explosion, or the sudden, yet short lived shaking of the building which accompanied it. Jack jumped out of his chair and he ran over to the window. He had been close to a few explosions in his time and that blast felt as if it was very close indeed. The people down on the street below were running away from his building. The was a dust cloud lazily making its way down the street and it too looked as if it was coming from his building—from the basement level car park, to be precise. The doors to his office opened and Jack turned to face his PA in state of shock. “What the hell happened?” Jack asked, as he moved across the room to meet her. He took her by the shoulders and repeated the question. “What is going on?” “There... There was an explosion in the car park..There are many people dead. They think that it might have been caused by a bomb.”
Chapter One—The Dust Settles
Jack looked at his PA for answers. She had none. The woman, who was in her mid-twenties, and employed by Jack not entirely for her intellectual acumen, looked as if she might burst into tears at any moment; or scream the place down. Jack quickly moved to distract her— he had no time to deal with a hysterical woman, no matter how pretty she was. It was a bomb. Jack’s mind quickly slipped into full professional mode as he asked himself who, and why. The who and why were important in those moments as the answer to those questions would map out what was going to happen next—a lone assassination and they were safe—a terrorist group meant that the bomb may only be the first of many. Top of that list of suspects were the Islamic militants. There were more than a dozen such groups operating in Africa and any one of them would have been willing to blow a company such as his back to the West. South Africa may not have been a typical stronghold for such groups with their extreme ideologies, by as the gateway to the continent, and a hub for Western military and business interests in the region, it wasn’t hard to take that leap. Then there were the Chinese. It wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that they had been listening in to the conversation that had just taken place in the office, and they didn’t like how it had turned out. If Robert and the others were dead then the deal that the Chinese had with the government would still be in place. Robert held all of the cards and there would not be a back up in—no one would simply step into his shoes as most of the deals he carried out were done inside his head until it was time to commit them to a final contract, and he never shared that information (or at least all of it) with anyone. If it was the Chinese then Jack’s life was now in grave danger—they would never take the risk that the 38
deal would simply die with Robert. If it was a militant Islamic group then everyone’s life was now in danger—they rarely settled for one bomb. Their normal MO was to set off one bomb then wait ten or fifteen minutes and set off another one in the same area, just as people were massing to help the injured from the first explosion. Jack grabbed his PA firmly by the arm and he led her out of the office towards the lifts. If she held any notions of Jack comforting her in her time of emotional need, his firm actions as he dragged her towards the lifts put an end to them. The door to one of the lifts was already open and Jack stepped inside, pulling the reluctant woman with him. The buttons on the console inside the lift were all flashing and a very low pitched warning alarm was beeping lethargically. .
Damn it, Jack thought.
In an emergency the lifts were
automatically sent to the nearest safe stop and then disabled. As they stepped out of the lift the fire alarm began to sound. It had been several minutes since the bomb went off and it took them that long to start an evacuation of the building—the very thought of such ineptitude sent a shudder racing down Jack’s spine—a second bomb would surely cause carnage, he though. Jack hated the high pitched wail from the alarm—it was unnecessarily loud and served only to distract and disorientate people in a real emergency. As his frustration mounted he dragged the woman, a little more forcefully, towards the stairwell. The stairwell at the side of the building was encased in glass and this gave them a perfect view of the street below. Even though they were looking out on the side of the building, away from where Jack assumed the bomb had gone off, they could still people running in all directions as they left the building. Police, fire crews and paramedics were streaming towards the building from all directions. The glass in the building was toughened and could easily withstand an explosion, but every so often, as they descended the staircase they 39
came across glass from a window that had been blasted out—each floor had at least two windows made from normal glass which could be broken in an emergency. Before that day Jack never knew exactly where those escape routes were—now they were clearly marked as the shards of broken glass gleamed and sparkled in the strong sunlight which was baking the stairwell. Looking down from the top of the stairs it was very hard to tell that anything significant had just happened at the bottom of the building, apart from the odd pane of broken glass here and there, but as they descended the staircase the very distinct smell of burnt fuel and dust thickened the air. Jack’s PA choked on the thick atmosphere—on another occasion he may had stopped to comfort and reassure her, but as things stood he still didn’t know just how danger they were in at that moment. They ran into one of the security guards in the foyer. The man was sweating profusely as he directed the steady stream of bewildered workers out of the building. Jack gave his PA a gentle shove in the direction of the main entrance before walking up to the security guard to find out what had happened. When his PA got to the main entrance she looked back at her boss. They exchanged looks and Jack gave her a reassuring smile which was enough to send her on her way out of the building into the perceived safety of the street. Jack turned to the security guard. Jack didn’t have to ask the man if the explosion had been caused by a bomb—the smell of burnt oil in the air was a clear indication that the explosion was no accident. Jack also thought that he could detect the faint trace of burning sulphur, which if correct, would point towards a non-commercial explosive being used to detonate the main device. Such a device would also point in the direction of an Islamic group. This thought made his heart pound faster as he braced himself for a second 40
explosion. Logic and reason took hold again as he probed another explanation for the smell of burning sulphur. If the bomb set fire to vehicles then the sulphur used to vulcanise the rubber in the tyres could account for what he smelt. It was a stretch but it was enough to convince the logical side of his brain to let the rest of his body investigate further. “How bad is it?” Jack asked. The man wiped the sweat away from his brow. The involuntary action smeared dirt across his forehead giving the slightly chubby guard the appearance of a rather lazy tribal warrior. “We can’t tell yet, but it looks like a few people have been killed. The building itself appears structurally sound but we won’t know for sure until it has been properly assessed,” explained the man. Jack nodded to the man and then he walked towards a side door which led to the underground car park, where he assumed the bomb had detonated. The security guard paused for moment as if to protest before remembering his place as he returned to what he had been doing. The lights in the underground car park had been knocked off in the blast and the only light permeating the darkness was coming from the street entrance at the front of the building—the escape route that had been used by those fleeing from that part of the building. Half a dozen emergency workers were already in the car park tending to the injured and Jack quickly sought them out as he tried to work out who had been killed in the attack. In the very heart of the car park the twisted wrecks of several vehicles were marking the focal point of their efforts.
As he approached the rescue workers Jack mentally adjusted his perception in an effort to avoid dealing with the worst of the carnage. There were many suspicious lumps of a substance that looked a lot like burnt meat, lying around the floor—until this was over they would remain nothing more than lumps of burnt meat in Jack’s mind. Jack’s spirit’s lifted a little as he recognized the man lying on the ground as the paramedics worked on him—it was Robert. Jack moved as close to him as he could before walking into an angry glance from one of the emergency workers which told him in no uncertain terms to keep the hell back. “What happened?” Jack asked, as he looked down at Robert. The same paramedic flashed Jack another angry look. It was not the time or the place for an inquisition and every stupid question that was asked would only delay help to other injured people. “I was talking to one of my cousins who I met down here in the car park. The others from your office were waiting in the cars. Without warning the car that I was to travel in exploded. I was knocked off my feet. I got back up again and I ran over to the burning cars to see if there was anything that I could do for them. That’s when the petrol tank of a nearby car exploded. That blast caught me worse than the big explosion,” Robert’s voice grew weaker. “I caught some shrapnel.” Robert looked down at his torso. Blood was seeping out of a fist sized wound in his side. Jack was no medical expert but he had dealt with enough wounds in his time to know that Robert’s injury was not life threatening, as long as he got the proper medical attention. “A flesh wound, old friend,” Jack said. Jack smiled. 42
“I had a feeling that you were going to say something like that, Jack.” “Do you have any idea who might have done this?” asked Jack. Robert shook his head. “If you had asked me earlier who I thought might do something like this, I would have said you. But even you Jack wouldn’t be crazy enough to try to blow up a building that you were still inside,” Robert added. “It’s nice to know that you have such a high opinion of me,” Jack said, with a smile. The paramedics had almost completed their emergency treatment and they got ready to move Robert to the back of a waiting ambulance which had only just come to a stop at the main street entrance. “Do you want me to go with you to the hospital?” Jack asked. Jack wasn’t overly concerned if Robert lived or died but he wanted to find out who tried to blow him to bits. Regardless of what Robert had to say, it was quite clear to Jack that Robert was hiding something from him. “No Jack, I would prefer if you would stay here and find out as much as you can and then come to see me later,” Robert said. Jack smiled warmly at Robert to give the impression that he was being fooled by the diversionary request. Robert had some other reason why he didn’t want Jack to go with him to the hospital and Jack had the strong suspicion that reason had a lot to do with the bomb. If Robert did suspect someone of planting the bomb then he, or they, were no longer safe. If they were still in the country then they would soon disappear, permanently, and if they had already slipped through South Africa’s notoriously porous borders then Robert would be sure to hunt them down no matter how far they travelled. The settling of such scores in 43
other countries was never a straightforward pursuit, but even the UK government would understand the need for such a reckoning, given the circumstances. Jack stood to one side as the paramedics stretchered Robert out of the car park into the street. For a brief moment Jack found himself completely alone in the car park. The dust thrown up by the blast still hung heavily in the air and the smell of fuel remained potent. He carefully made his was through the maze of wreckage in the hope that he might come across another injured person—perhaps knocked unconscious by the blast—who more about what was going on than Robert pretended not to know. There were no further signs of life. That Robert was treated last meant that his condition was not as serious as the others who were carried to safety before him—or it could have meant that his condition was so bad that they didn’t believe that he could be saved—ethics mean that every injured person had the right to be treated but pragmatism in incidents such as that mean that the main aim was to save as many people as possible—wasting time on someone who was quite clearly beyond help at the expense of two other people who might be saved if their injuries are treated in time simply made sense—except to the seriously injured person and their loved ones. Jack spotted what looked like a metal tube—it was badly scorched which made proper identification from a distance a little difficult. The object was suspiciously like something that the Islamic fundamentalists had used in the past as detonators when carrying out those kinds of attacks. Sometimes the tubes were spent artillery shells, and sometimes they were custom made for a particular attack. Jack took a pen from his jacket pocket and he knelt bent down to take a closer look at the object. He carefully probed the
metal object with his pen, but after a careful examination he concluded that it could have been anything. Jack stood up just as someone entered through the entrance at the front of the car park. At first the person didn’t see Jack standing at the side of the car park where he found the metal cylinder. Jack was just about to call over to the stranger to get him to have a look at the metal object, but before he had a chance to call out, the man looked over at Jack, paused for a moment, and then he broke into a sudden sprint as he fled out into the street from were he came. Jack gave chase quickly but by the time he got out onto the street. By the time made it to the street the man had gone. Several paramedics were milling around at the front of the building and Jack hurried over to a paramedic who was closest to the entrance when the man ran off. “Did you see a man leave the car park?” Jack asked. The paramedic paused and then said, excitedly, “Yeah, he almost knocked me down on the way out. He ran off down the street. I lost sight of him in the crowd. Why? Do you think that he has something to do with the bomb,” the man asked, hopefully. “Possibly,” Jack replied. “It is certainly a bit odd that he took off like that.” The paramedic grinned. “My friend, this entire country is packed with men and woman who are running away from something. There is every possibility that guy had simply gone inside to see what he could see and when he saw you he thought that you might be police, or something. I really wouldn’t read too much into it.” Jack touched the man on the shoulder as he started to walk away.
“You are probably right, but I think that I will let the police know what happened, just to be safe,” Jack added. Jack had no intentions of calling in with the police to tell them about the man. The less the police knew about the man, the better. Jack walked to the other side of the street. His training back in Scotland in the 1970’s kicked in—he was told all those years ago to step back and look at a scene from a distance. He was told not to focus on the main hub of activity as that was often little more than a distraction. It made sense—if a bomb went off you were unlikely to find the bomber standing yards from the explosion admiring his handiwork. What was more likely was to find the bomber a short distance away so that they could admire what they had done, yet at the same time stay far enough away to avoid being caught. On the other side of the street Jack began to take in the scene. People had initially run away from the building, like a wave heading out to sea, but as the dust settled, and against the demands of the police, the people were now rushing back towards the building to have a look at what was going on. There were shootings everyday in the city, and even the odd, small, yet deadly car bomb, but a blast on this scale was something that didn’t come along everyday and the people wanted to be part of the story. There was an almost morbid inevitability about what was about to happened next but Jack feared that he could nothing about. If the crowd was not prepared to listen to the instructions issued to them by the police then there was little point of Jack stepping up and making fool of himself. As the crowd began to surge forwards a second explosion ripped through the underground. The blast hit Jack but he was able to keep his feet, which was more than the majority of the encroaching crowd could manage. Those at the front of the 46
crowd bore the brunt of the explosion as bits of masonry tore through them. The rows behind were slightly shielded by the sacrifice made by the leading edge of people, but the power of the blast at such a close distance meant that the experience was far from pleasant. The wave of humanity was on the move once again as people clambered to their feet and they began to rush away from the building. Jack instinctively looked up—the first blast was the more powerful of the two and it had really rattled the entire building, but the second blast did not have to be very powerful to bring the building down. Jack looked for any signs of movement on the upper floors of the tower. There were none. Jack’s attention returned to the scene of terror and confusion. People were pushing each other out of the way as they tried to make their escape. Some of the policemen and paramedics were also trying to clear out of the area, while those a little more dedicated, or foolhardy, cautiously made their way back towards the smouldering building. Jack scanned the area. If this was the work of one of the Islamist groups then there was no guarantee that more devices would not explode; or perhaps they would follow the explosions up with a gun attack—another favourite tactic that they often used. Jack’s knowledge of those groups indicated that he should be looking for motorcycles, especially those carrying passengers. There were none, which was unusual in that part of the city—the young rich of the city were often to be seen nipping around on bikes so powerful that they would have been better suited to a racetrack. Everything about what Jack was looking at made perfect sense. There was nothing out of place. The emergency workers were doing what they were supposed to be doing, at least the ones who were hanging around were doing what they were supposed to be doing, and the frightened crowd was doing what it was supposed to be doing. Everything was as it 47
should be, given the extreme circumstances. Jack’s eyes moved up and down the street, and up and down, and up and down again. Nothing. He was about to cross back to the building when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. At first it barely registered. It was almost imperceptible, but his eye caught it and his mind gave it a context just in time. As a large crowd of people ran towards one of the side streets about fifty yards from where Jack was standing. A slow moving bottleneck had developed, but it was moving. That’s when Jack spotted him. The man was dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. His choice of wardrobe was odd enough given the stifling temperature that were oppressing the city, but the fact that he was not moving was the more interesting thing about the man. Jack observed the man for a few moments just to be certain that he wasn’t waiting for a friend or colleague. The man didn’t move—he remained fixated by what was going on in the car park. He was either an extreme rubbernecker or he had something to do with the blast. Jack stepped out onto the street. The calm expression that had been on his face was replaced by a deliberate look of concern as he joined the tail end of people as they rushed away from the scene of the explosions. Jack avoided looking at the man as much as possible—it Jack could spot him then there was every possibility that the man could also spot Jack. The distance between them closed rapidly—twenty yards; fifteen yards; ten yards. Jack looked the man right in the face when there was only a couple of yards separating them. Jack’s brain locked in on the man’s features. He was familiar to Jack, but he couldn’t instantly place him. Just as Jack was about to confront the man a policeman stepped in between them. The policeman confronted Jack. “You are going to have to keep moving sir. It is not safe here,” said the policeman.
Jack smiled briefly at the policeman and he nodded his head to indicate that he understood. Jack walked around the policeman to where the man had been standing; the man was gone. Jack quickly pushed his way through the crowd as it snaked its way down the side street. So caught up was he with recognising the man’s face, he had not paid any attention to the colour of his hair; something that would have been very handy at that moment as all he could see, for the most part, was the back of people’s heads. The leather jacket was all that Jack had to work with. He frantically looked for that leather jacket amongst the crowd but there wasn’t a single man, woman or child with such a jacket to be seen. After a few minutes of frantic searching Jack gave up—in front on him, neatly folder and placed with care on top a bin, was the jacket. He could have followed the crowd but something told him that the man would not be found. Jack cursed himself for not acting more quickly as he made his way back towards the office. He cursed himself again as he couldn’t place the man’s face. He was so familiar; but from where. Initially Jack thought that he had seen the man with Robert at one of the previous business meetings—perhaps a minder of some kind? That wasn’t it. The context was all wrong. The man and South Africa was all wrong. He knew the man and from the look on the stranger’s face when their eyes locked out on the street, it seemed clear to Jack that the man knew him too. When he got back to the office building the police had done a much more rigorous job of securing the scene. Jack explained who he was but that cut no ice with the two officers who were standing guard at the main entrance. As Jack argued his case another officer approached them.
“Sir, I have been given instructions to take you in to provide a statement. I believe you knew some of the victims?” said the policeman. “They were business associates,” Jack replied. “Very good sir. If you would like to come with me. It shouldn’t take too long.” Jack followed the policeman to a waiting Landrover.
Chapter Two—Warrior’s Way
Jack never got involved with South African politics beyond the terms of his mission. He had his own views on the inequalities of the society, but those thoughts remained firmly locked up inside his head. He had been to many countries in a professional capacity over many years, and some if the regimes he had duelled with were much more ruthless than that of South Africa—though a greater number were a lot fairer than the system that was supposed to have come to an end in South Africa.
A strong opinion one way or the other was sure
to alienate someone, and he had carefully nurtured the image of an apolitical everyman, ever to put that cover in danger. His apparent disinterest gave him great access and it also helped him to fly under the radar of the authorities. However, even in the new South Africa there was a latent prejudice that touched everyone, including Jack, and it was that prejudice that allowed him to climb into the back of the Police Land Rover without asking any questions—the policeman escorting Jack was white, but had the officer been black, Jack may have been a little more cautious. The former ruling minority still had a loud voice in the new state and they did everything in their power to discredit any black South African who was in a position of authority. That character assassination usually took the form of allegation of corruption. There were many stories of black police officers abusing their power. One of those stories told of how some of the corrupt officers would kidnap foreign nationals and threaten them with violence, or death, if a “security fee” was not forthcoming. Jack suspected that such stories were more fiction than fact, but they were always there in the back of his mind, no matter how unrealistic he believed them to be.
The police officer opened a door to the back of the vehicle and he smiled warmly at Jack as he waited for him to climb inside. In the context of the bomb in his building, it wasn’t so farfetched to believe that the police would want to speak to him at some point, and so he climbed into the vehicle without pause for thought. The door closed firmly and as it did Jack noticed that there were no handles on the doors in the back of the Land Rover. A thick iron mesh separated Jack from the officer sitting behind the wheel in the front, completing the appearance of the Land Rover being nothing more than a small prison on wheels. As uneasy feeling came over Jack for a moment but it quickly dissipated once her reassured himself that such a set up was not uncommon for a police vehicle. A little warning from the officer about what to expect once he was inside the Land Rover would have been nice, but given the circumstances, it was understandable that the oversight was made. Besides, the police in any country were trained to make the experience of tangling with the law, in any capacity, an uncomfortable one. The more a suspect or potential witness could be knocked off guard, the better was the chance for the truth to be revealed during the interview stage. They drove away from the crime scene at a sober pace, passing more emergency vehicles which were heading in the opposite direction, as they continued towards the police station, as well as an increasingly swelling crowd of onlookers who were once again calling up enough bravery to move in towards the source of the explosions for a better look. There was nothing about the policeman’s actions that gave Jack any reason to doubt his sincerity—the cop was the very epitome of calm and collected. Jack liked crowds, for the most part, as they provided him with anonymity and cover, but this crowd was a little differ—a number of them were looking right at him as he sat in 52
the back of the Land Rover, and in his line of business it was never a good idea to draw too much attention to one’s self. A man in suit in the back of a cop car warranted some scrutiny, in the estimation of most people. No doubt some of those faces in the crowd had already decided that Jack had something to do with the explosion, even though they knew nothing about him or the circumstances and progress of the investigation. Jack moved his head this way and that in as natural fashion as he could muster; he didn’t want the people looking in at him to think that he was being in some way evasive as that would only serve to heighten their curiosity even further, yet at the same time he did need to do all that he could to keep a low profile. The policeman watched Jack in the rearview mirror as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The officer smiled. “Don’t worry, boss, we will soon be clear of the crowds,” said the officer, in a thick Africana accent. “This is a violent city at the best of times, but something like this is a bit special. You can’t blame them for having a look, eh?” Jack nodded his head at the officer’s words and he returned with a smile of his own—easy for you to say, mate, Jack thought, coldly. He was not the one who was being stared at. Once they were clear of the main hub of activity the officer responded to Jack’s unspoken concerns by accelerating. There were many parts of the city that Jack avoided; most because they were deemed unsafe by the South African authorities, and some because they were too close to the kind of people who might just notice that there was something not quite right with Jack and his entire company set-up. The intense briefing that he received back in London before he set off on the mission, was not very helpful. Over the years Jack had learned that when his handlers used the term, intense briefing, what they really meant was short briefing. 53
Whoever was providing him with the information normally spoke at great speed as if to give the impression that what he was being told was only the abridged version of detailed files that they had access tooâ€”that was invariably bullshitâ€”what he was being told was all the information that they had on a particular mission. It was all a part of the great game that they played but with time he longed for a handler who told him the truth from the start. That was never going to happen, and if the day came when he was pulled out of the field and sat behind a desk, he would probably use the same tricks on the agents that he briefed. The bitter experiences he had as poacher would be quickly forgotten when he turned gamekeeper. The South African government knew there was something not quite right with Jack and his company set-up, and they approved of him and what he did, for the most part, because what he, and others like him did helped to put many of the men and women in power into their gated communities with their luxury villas and chauffer driven cars. Those people were happy to accommodate Jack and his kind as long as they didnâ€™t bring any mess to their back yards. Once that happened he would be cut loose into the care of the legal system, and that was a world were few unconnected foreigners seldom returned form. It was the less informed people in the lower levels of the power ladder who Jack feared most. People such as the police. They were trained to spot when someone was trying to cover something up and if the police ever looked into Jack and his company they would encounter many anomalies, and even in a police force as corrupt as that found in South Africa there was always the danger that he might run into that one cop who was beyond corruption. Those in power had a lot of control but with the modern media always on the lookout for some big player in the political arena to bring down, a good cop could 54
always find protection in the arms of a media spotlight—such cops could not simply disappear; at least not without many awkward questions being asked. For that reason Jack always went out of his way to avoid the police, and the press. He had a run-in with one young reporter who wanted to run a piece on new investment in South Africa but Jack refused to give an interview. The young man was very persistent. Eventually turned to his friends in the government for help. It turned out that the reporter was really an undercover agent working for the Revenue Department. Soon after reaching out to his contacts, the young agent ended his investigation. Jack often wonder what was meant by the simple phone message that had been left for him at his office—the process has been terminated. Was the agent told to back off or was there a more sinister meaning behind those words. He never did find out. There was a small part of him that worried that one day a vengeful agent, now older and in a more senior position, would one day come knocking on Jack’s door. That’s what he would have done, had the situation been reversed. In the summer of the previous year Jack found himself in the police station a few miles from the office building trying to sort out a little bit of trouble for one of his employees. Richard Thompson was the twenty year old son of Michael Thompson, a legitimate British investor in Jack’s fictitious company. Thompson, along with ten other major investors from the city of London had no idea that the company didn’t really exist; all they knew was that their investment was guaranteed by the British government and that each year they were paid a very healthy dividend. In return the government got to cover the firm in a veil of authenticity and allow Jack to do what was asked of him without interference.
Thompson sent his son to South Africa to gain some real life business experience. The boy had played the role of spoilt rich brat once too often back in the UK and his father had enough of his antics. In South Africa he would learn what it was like to cope in the real world without his fatherâ€™s money and influence waiting to bail him out when he slipped up. That was never truly going to be the case for young Mr Thompson as his father made certain there were enough people looking out for his only heir just in case he did revert back to his old ways. Jack was one such guardian; the ultimate guardian as it happened, and the man who Thompson senior would have access to should it all go terribly wrong for his son. Terribly wrong arrived three months after the boy landed in the country. On a night out with some friends Richard met a sixteen year old black girl. One thing led to another and before he could say, call my solicitor, Richard was in a cell charged with aggravated rape. Had the girl been a child of one of the lost masses from one of the townships, Richard would have been sent on his way with a stern rebuke, if that, but that particular sixteen year old just happened to be the granddaughter of General Utta Embeke, the second in command in the South African army, and a former ANC hit man. The General wanted blood and it took the full force of the South African government just to stop him from entering the police station where Thompson was being held, and throttling him with his bare hands. Even with all of his contacts Jack was unable to get the boy freed and in the end a Special Forces rescue mission was sanctioned. The boy was intercepted on his way to federal prison; two guards were killed in the rescue mission. He quietly turned up in London a few weeks later but the South African government did not ask any questions. The General was not quite so understanding. Jack was called into to meet with investigating officers six times and although they could not find any link between Jack and the rescue mission, there 56
was always a suspicion. One detective in particular kept turning up at the office to ask more questions. Those meetings were acts of intimidation rather than a genuine attempt at finding out something new, and in the end Jack was forced to call on some of his government contacts once to get the detective to back off. His contact with the Police may have been minimal but they were significant enough for Jack to know where his nearest two police stations were in relation to his office, and as they continued to drive at relatively high speed through the city, Jack know that both of those stations had now been passed, and by a long way. Before he started to kick on the windows in the back of Land Rover in an effort to escape, Jack tried to come up with a logical explanation as to why the police officer had not taken him to one of the closest stations. Perhaps this case was so serious that the policeman had been ordered to take Jack to police headquarters? Perhaps the specialist detectives who would be working on the case were stationed somewhere else? There were many good reasons why they had driven past the local stations; what was more difficult to reason away was why the officer had driven so far that they were leaving the city completely. Jack rarely ventured into the townships on the edge of the city, and as they drove past one of those huge centres of human misery he wondered which one of the innocuously named conurbations it was—that would at least give him some idea which direction they were travelling in. Jack struggled to remain calm as they silently headed off into the surrounding countryside. After half an hour Jack’s composure began to disintegrate as his eyes danced wildly in search of an escape. The driver noticed Jack’s discomfort and he relished in it. A dirty smirk spread across the policeman’s face. “Relax man,” said the Policeman. “We are almost there.” 57
Jack paused as he tried to give the impression that he wasn’t in the least bit concerned by what was going on. “The boss would like a quick chat with you. I will have you back in the city in no time at al,” added the cop. Jack looked at the man through the rear view mirror and he nodded his head yes to indicate that he was happy with the situation; nothing could be further from the truth. A short time later they pulled off the main highway and they drove down a dusty concrete, side road. Up ahead lay the shell of an abandoned indusial complex. Jack could put a name to the place but he was absolutely certain that he recognised the place—though in truth, one old industrial complex looked pretty much like another. “What is this place?” Jack asked, with genuine interest in the tone of his voice. There was a brief moment of hesitation from the cop; almost as if he was deciding if he should tell his backseat passenger anything at all. “It’s the old SACHEM fertiliser plant,” explained the cop. “They have moved to a smaller, more modern unit twenty miles south of the cape. This place has been earmarked for redevelopment. It is going to be a power plant. It is supposed to provide power to the townships, but they will be doing well to keep the lights on in the real houses of the city.” Jack suddenly recognised where they were. It was one of the proposed sites for the power plants that the company was going to build. He didn’t react to the new insight that he had, nor did he react to the undertone in what the cop had just said about the real homes in the city. By real homes the man clearly meant the houses that belonged to the white families and those which belonged to Blacks of high standing. This was just more way the old regime was trying to keep some control over the country that they very much still 58
considered their own. Keep the new ruling Black elite in comfort and they would be easy to manipulate—the people living in the slums would be left to rot in the filth and disease that they had become accustomed to. It would be some years before they realised that a change of colour of skin in their political masters meant no change for them; even longer before they got organised enough to rise up and do something about it. Until that day arrived the country would amble on in much the same way that it had done for generations. As the Land Rover came to a stop Jack noticed the headlights from the vehicle move across the leading wall of the administration block of the building. It was only at that point when Jack realised just how dark it had become. Dusk had well and truly settled in and night time in that part of the world followed dusk at a very high speed. The policeman turned and faced Jack once he had turned off the engine. “This is how it is going to be,” explained the cop. “We are going to get out and then we are going to walk inside. Nice and calm. If you decide to run you will be shot. If you decide to fight with me you will be shot. And for the record; I do not carry a weapon. You will still be shot. Do you understand?” “I think I have a reasonable grasp on my circumstances. Shall we?” Jack said, with his voice resonating contempt for the cop’s threats. The cop got out of the vehicle and he went around to the side and opened the door for Jack. As Jack climbed out he looked down at the policeman’s belt. There was no gun. Jack scanned the derelict buildings quickly, but with care as they walked towards them. Jack’s heart began to race. This was bad.