Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 1 March 2013

Parallel Lives chapter 65

Simon had spent thirty minutes flicking through the compilation of so-called intel documents with little enthusiasm. He still couldn't see the benefit of this new format of information and despite his probing after the briefing was still blind to the method of acquiring it.
It read like a poor synopsis of newspaper articles. Sometimes there were bald statements that might pass for a headline from one of the tabloids. Other entries were just plain rambling which took ages to identify the subject area. Eventually Simon gave up on the document, rationalising that he had three juniors ploughing through it already.
He turned back to the problem he had been dealing with for the last few days, shuffling the various intel reports into a new order.
The suicide bomb situation that had shocked the world, threatened to destabilise the already fragile Middle East peace process and had filled headlines in the broadsheets since was more serious than most people realised. The bomber, a one time aide to the Israeli ambassador to, amongst other countries, the United Kingdom was originally a British subject himself. His father had been a reasonably successful local businessman in Pimlico, and he had been a bright student up until his family had left to settle in Israel when he was fifteen.
The move was to enable his father to team up with the boy's uncle where they built a successful construction company in Tel Aviv. The lad settled down well and completed his secondary education under a different educational regime effortlessly, moving on to University, graduating with a distinction in world affairs. He was welcomed into the Israeli Civil Service Diplomatic Corps and was starred to reach Ambassador status within the next few years.
There was no doubt that the bomber was the aide, DNA tests on his remains proved that without doubt. When the Israeli police searched his apartment it was empty of his family save for the dismembered head of his oldest son.
Searches of other locations used by the bomber revealed that his parents’ house and the flat occupied by his uncle, now estranged from his wife and children, were both also empty and clinically clean. No sign could be found of any member of his immediate family in Israel.
Simon looked up from the reports, rubbed his neck and picked up the pint sized mug of tea he had left cooling five minutes earlier. Sipping the sweet liquid Simon mused over the conversation he had had the previous day at lunch with his Eastern European counterpart. Simon had simply mentioned that the explosives used were military grade plastic of unknown origin.
'Your domain, I wonder,' he had questioned while shovelling mashed potato down. His counterpart picked up the loose sheet of paper Simon had dropped onto the canteen Formica topped table. Shaking his head he cleared his throat.
'Unlikely. The material specs indicate a recent manufacture. At present the black market for illegal plastic across the whole Eastern European scene is readily absorbed by the Russian's Chechen friends. Ironic, isn't it? All democratic or aspiring democratic countries seem doomed to end up making the weapons of choice for their own terrorists,' he noted.
'No,' he continued, 'this is more likely to be of Western manufacture, probably home-made by someone with reasonable access to the appropriate chemicals. The process isn't rocket science, although I understand it can be unstable in the wrong hands. Anyone with a good grounding in chemical engineering with access to the internet can achieve this. It's back to obtaining the constituent parts that presents the biggest problem, but hardly insurmountable,' he concluded, washing his own meal down with his coffee before handing the sheet of paper back. 'Sorry not to have been of much help,' he added as he left the table.
Twenty four hours later and the discussion felt as unpalatable as it had then. Truthfully, Simon had been clutching at straws, hoping his colleague would say 'absolutely, Russian military origin, probably cold war vintage left behind in one of the Eastern Bloc states.' But that would have been too easy.
The Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, had requested that discrete enquiries be made in London with the relatives of the dead man. Actually they had been intercepted en route to carry out their own 'enquiries', and there was now a semi-official joint investigation spanning two intelligence agencies and the Special Branch.
The British Secret Service had a vested interest in the subject. The aide to the Ambassador had been a bright young man in his day, but he wasn't the brightest in his family by a long chalk. His younger brother had also transitioned well to the Israeli educational system, but had returned to the UK to take, ultimately, a PhD in chemistry. He had willingly retained his British citizenship and had worked variously at Woolwich Arsenal and Porton Down as a research scientist, specialising in weapon delivery systems.
This was Simon's dilemma. When the intelligence consortium gained covert entry into the scientist's house they found only one human body, that of his headless nephew. It looked as though the scientist had been responsible for the construction of the weapons that had killed his brother and the assembled Arabs striving to resolve the Middle East problem. And that scientist was nowhere to be found. Nor, for that matter, were his family or that of his deceased brother.
The fear amongst the intelligence community was that there would be a follow up attack, but whether it would happen in Israel or the UK was the question. Especially as biological samples had gone astray from Porton Down a day before the suicide bomb attack; the day the scientist drove out of the security entrance an hour early and disappeared from all sight.
Whether the attack in Israel had been a statement against the Arab nations by an offended Jew, as believed by the newspapers or, as now seemed likely, a coerced man trying to save his family members from torture and a painful death at the hands of Al Qaeda was largely irrelevant. What was relevant was that the man had demonstrated a potential family trait to bow to such admittedly enormous pressure. Which, in Simon's opinion, made for a very serious intelligence problem given that the man also seemed to be in possession of enough biological agents to kill the population of any medium sized British city if dispensed correctly into the local water supply.
Simon leant back in his chair, raising the front legs clear of the ground, placing his hands behind his head. They had searched his home for clues, turned his office upside down, visited places he was known, tried to find his children, questioned his children's friends and had found zip. And all of this had been done with the utmost discretion; nobody wanted to alert the public that terrorists may possibly be about to wipe out a large section of the country, not without some idea of when and where they may strike.
As he mused these thoughts he was approached by one of his juniors, Pete, eating a sandwich and clutching a bulky buff envelope. Pete was always eating, and despite being a department dedicated to finding answers nobody had yet worked out where all the food went.
'You expecting something from,' he looked at the front of the envelope, turning it slightly to get a better look at the sender's address, 'Llani-somethin-or-other?' Simon reached behind him, half turning.
'Llanishen, it's in South Wales. It's the MoD repository of official publications,' he said, tearing the envelope seal open and withdrawing the spiral bound document, scanning the 'with compliments' slip that fell out with it briefly. Pete leaned over his bosses shoulder to read the title.
'"Civil Defence Officer Directions,"' he quoted, 'you looking at a career change?' Simon felt a mild irritation that his staff automatically nosed into anything he received, asked the bluntest of questions. Ironically it was probably these same traits that had attracted Simon to his people, had been driving criteria when he recruited them.
'Watch and learn, young man,' he said, opening the book at random pages, scanning the spot colour illustrations, 'if these bastards successfully poison one of our cities' water supply we can expect the authorities to start cracking their copies of this book out, putting its directions into practice. That's going to make our job very difficult, the rules are going to change and the people we will need to work with will be feeling their way as they go. I want to know what they will be planning on doing before they do, be able to anticipate the problem areas that these rules will create. Preparation, that's the key to this game when you're blind to good intel, waiting for something to happen,' he said, flicking the book pages over until he reached a page demonstrating an official looking document, complete with the Ministry of Defence logo. Pete leaned forward, squinting at the page. Suddenly he blurted out, spreading part masticated sandwich over Simon.
'What's that,' he asked, pointing vaguely at the top of the page. Simon squinted at the general area, pulling the page closer to him as he did.
'It's the operation title, they've blurred the name to prevent the readers thinking the name used here is the one always used. You know, the names we use, along with the police and the military. ''Operation Scant Chance'', that sort of thing.' Simon held the book up to his junior. Pete was shaking his head.
'No, the heading above that, next to the security grading,' he asked, trying to see the word written in bold alongside the 'Top Secret' statement. Simon looked again.
'Spartan,' he said, flicking to the index, 'here we go, its got its own entry, page 5.' More page turning and Simon found the brief entry, which he proceeded to read aloud.
'All official communications are to be security graded as appropriate, accompanied with the relevant operation title and, in addition, all National Emergency Operations must be labelled "Spartan". This will ensure that the National Emergency operational correspondence will be immediately identifiable from all the other operational correspondence that will undoubtedly be proliferating blah, blah, blah,’ Simon tailed off, becoming bored with the subject and only mildly surprised that Pete had shown such specific interest. Wiping his mouth, Pete took up the conversation.
'I just wondered because "Spartan" appeared in the last lot of that stuff you asked us to read through,' he said. Simon looked up.
'Really? I didn't read that, but then again I didn't read it all,' he said. Pete leaned on Simon's desk.
'You wouldn't have seen it anyway. Apparently the dip-shit that's been supplying this drivel has just filed another couple of pages in the last hour. I ended up with it. To tell the truth it reads like a man rambling; odd words, some sentences and much in-fill where the guy has readily admitted he's putting his best-guess words in where he couldn't work out what was said or meant.' Pete stood up, clearly finished with the conversation and ready to continue his sifting. Simon felt duty bound to follow up the coincidence, for completeness.
'Have you a copy of this late submission,' he asked. Pete nodded, walked out, returning less than thirty seconds later. He placed the thin document in front of Simon, circling the word "Spartan" with a biro. Simon picked up the loose sheaf, looked at the date and time information briefly, then read the entry alongside the blue circled word.
'Christ,' he exclaimed, 'wait there.' Picking up the report, Simon stormed down the corridor and barged into the Head of Regional Intelligence's office, catching his boss on the way out, his briefcase stood on his desk, open.
'I want to know how and where this information was gained,' Simon demanded. The Head nodded, placed his briefcase on the ground and sat down.
'Sure,' the Head said, 'I take it you've found something.' Simon didn't need to speak, his demeanour was sufficient. 'In that case we may be on a win-win here, because I've just been informed of a development that I would like you to help me with.' Simon sat down and told the Head what he had just read in the report.


Copyright Ray Sullivan 2011

The characters, places and events described in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, places or events, past or present, is coincidence.  All rights reserved

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