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Guerrillas by Night

What a piece of work is a man!



A thriller

by

Paul Casselle


Companion novella to the ‘Bedfellows’ series




Written & compiled with Scrivener


First published on 28th April 2017

(Version 101 – Digital edition)


ISBN: 9781370202294


The Bit in the Middle Publishing





Disclaimer

This book contains passages of a highly graphic nature and strong language that may offend some readers. All characters and events in this work are fictional. Any resemblance to real people, dead or alive, is coincidental.



Copyright

No part of this book may be reproduced or distributed, via any medium, without the written permission of the author.



paul@paulcasselle.com


© Paul Casselle 2009-2017









Dedication

I thank the universe for my failures that give me motivation, and for my successes that make life worthwhile.

**FREE BOOK**

This is a companion novella to the

Bedfellows thriller series’


VERY IMPORTANT

For the plot in this book to make sense, you MUST read

If The Bed Falls In

BEFORE you read this novella.



Get a FREE copy NOW - Time Limited Offer!

CLICK HERE






“What a piece of work is a man!

How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!

In form and moving how express and admirable!

In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!

The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.

And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Man delights not me…”


Hamlet (William Shakespeare)





Chapter 1


Friday 13th September 2013 - New Mexico, USA


TILDA BROOKER WALKED across the sand-strewn parking lot towards a windowless concrete building. It was only a little past ten in the morning, but the blazing sun, even from its low angle in the sky, stung every exposed part of her body.

She pressed a button situated next to a grey steel door and waited. Tilda removed her sunglasses and caressed her eyes with the finger and thumb of her right hand. She turned her head and looked back at the parking lot from which she had just come; her eyes involuntarily narrowing to tight slits against the blinding New Mexican light. A metallic noise came from behind her. She spun around to face the steel door simultaneously replacing her sunglasses. A soldier peered impassively from the relative darkness inside the building. Tilda felt for the pass that hung from her neck and held it up for inspection without looking at it herself.

“Ma’am,” responded the soldier and stepped to one side.

Tilda was swallowed into the ominous gloom of the concrete structure. The soldier immediately reset the facility’s security by swinging the solid door closed.

She made her way down echoey corridors that reached deep into the secret CIA labyrinth then turned a sharp left and stopped at a door identified simply with a printed card secured to the wall adjacent to the door. The card read;


Project Roaring Lion

Authorised Personnel ONLY


Lifting her security pass on its chain, she swiped it through a card reader mounted on the doorframe. It beeped, and the latch clicked open. Tilda pushed the door with her right hand, and at the same time lifted her left to glance at her watch. ‘Shit!’ she mumbled increasing her pace and heading towards one of the arrays of unmarked doors ahead of her.

She entered the room. A man in his early thirties was seated at a bank of video screens. He was dressed in blue jeans, a T-shirt sporting the slogan, ‘Weed’s the Way’ and a faded, unbuttoned yellow shirt. He looked up.

“So the British contingent finally arrive!”

“Fuck you, Doyle,” Tilda countered. “Is the coffee fresh?”

“It was ten minutes ago, when your shift started.”

Doyle stood up and belched. Tilda poured herself a coffee and spoke without turning.

“Don’t you think this rebel without applause routine is getting a little old?”

“You mean my impish charm?” Doyle replied.

Tilda turned to him and sipped her drink.

“No, I mean that you’re a CIA agent with a serious job on a top secret government project yet you insist on dressing like you’re sixteen and behaving like a mental retard.”

Doyle stared at her and raised an eyebrow.

“I did warn you, Tilda,” he said slowly. “This vow of celibacy would come to no good. You’re just no fun anymore!”

Tilda pushed Doyle out of her way as she moved from the coffee machine to scan the array of screens. She sat down.

“Anyway,” continued Doyle, “in a few weeks time this will all be history for you.”

Tilda absentmindedly placed a hand over her mouth and sighed.

“What’s he up to?” she asked.

“Ten past ten AM,” said Doyle, “coffee and donuts. He’s in Amerikah now. No more beetroot soup for him.”

Tilda studied the older man on the screen. He sat at a desk methodically consuming a Krispy Kreme doughnut and sipping occasionally from a mug decorated with the Stars and Stripes.

“Don’t you have things to do, Doyle?” Tilda said shuffling some papers on the desk under the screens. “Don’t you need to play on your PlayStation or something?” She turned to Doyle. “Isn’t that what teenagers spend their spare time doing?”

“Is that what they call British humour?” said Doyle.

Tilda turned in her seat.

“What do you know about him?” Tilda pointed at the screens behind her. “What do you know about Tzivin?”

“Michail Tzivin. Born nineteen forty-nine. Studied at the Moscow Academy of Physical Sciences. Joined the R & D department of the Russian army in nineteen seventy-two. Defected to the US in August two thousand and thirteen.” Doyle smiled. “Not bad for a teenager, eh?”

“But what’s he working on?” insisted Tilda. She gestured to the facility in which she sat. “What does he have that’s this important?”

“Well that’s easy,” said Doyle. Tilda stared at him and narrowed her eyes. “It’s always the same thing. The ability to blow your enemy’s ass to kingdom come.”

“But…” Tilda protested.

She was interrupted by an ear piercing alarm. Doyle reacted immediately by rushing over to the seat next to his British counterpart.

“Where’s the breach?” Doyle demanded, his demeanour now every inch a CIA agent.

Tilda scanned the screens and banks of LED warning lights in front of her.

“Sector sixteen,” she replied.

“Fuck,” exclaimed Doyle, “that’s within the lab’s perimeter.”

“It could be a false alarm,” offered Tilda.

“This is not the time for a stiff upper lip, my girl.” The CIA agent stood up and pulled his Beretta from the holster on his belt. “Showtime sweetheart!”

Tilda glanced at the screens one last time to see Tzivin standing in a panic. His mug had overturned spilling steaming coffee over the papers on his desk. She looked up. Doyle had opened the door which had increased the deafening siren to an unbearable volume.

“Now,” shouted Doyle, “we gotta go now!”

Tilda leapt to her feet pulling her pistol from her waist.





Chapter 2


As Doyle and Tilda reached Sector sixteen, they could see two suited agents ahead of them. Doyle increased his speed and caught up with the other two men as they flung the door to Tzivin’s lab open. The two suits, preceded by their sidearms, broke left and right and combed the room. Doyle made a bee-line for the scientist and man-handled him to the floor. Tzivin fought him off weakly.

Schto tackoya!” the terrified Russian screamed into the agent’s face.

“Was anyone in here?” asked Doyle tensely. “Please Sir, I need to know. Is there anyone else in here?”

Tilda arrived at the doorway holding her gun in front of her in a two handed grip. She moved slowly towards Doyle and Tzivin.

“I eating my donyuts and coffye,” whispered the scientist, “then the loud nyoise came…What is hyappening?”

“Clear!” one of the two suits called out.

The other’s voice came just a split second after his colleague’s.

“Clear!”

“No one was in here,” reported the scientist defensively, “jyust me.”

Doyle looked down at the man and smiled encouragingly.

“You’ve not done anything wrong, Sir.”

“I sorry, if I create any trouble.”

Doyle held his hand out to the Russian. The older man reached out tentatively.

“Really, Mr Tzivin,” insisted Doyle, “it was just the alarm.” He gestured to the speaker on the wall. “You haven’t done anything wrong.”

“False alarm then,” said Tilda lowering and holstering her gun.

Doyle looked at her and pursed his lips.

“There you go again. Jumping to conclusions.”

He unclipped a radio from his belt and lifted it to his mouth.

“Jonny One. Mr T is secure. No sign of foxes.”

“Confirmed false alarm,” said a voice on the radio, “all personnel to stand down.”

Doyle pulled Tzivin to his feet. Tilda put her arm around the Russian and led him away from Doyle. She looked back over her shoulder.

“I’ve got this Doyle. Don’t feel obliged to hang around.”

“I’ve got to de-brief now anyway,” said Doyle, “so what’s the difference if I stay a few moments to see the old fella’s all right.”

“You’re just a big softy, really, aren’t you?” responded Tilda sarcastically.

Doyle stood and looked absently around the room. He nodded to the two suits as they made their way back to the door and disappeared to whatever ready position they had come from. He re-holstered his gun.

“Is he okay?” Doyle inquired.

Tilda sat the old man down.

“Are you okay, Sir?”

“Thank you, da,” said Tzivin. Tilda righted his overturned mug. The scientist reactively threw both hands out towards the coffee spill. “My papers! pizdyetz!”

Tilda immediately started to separate the sodden pages and laid them carefully along the desk.

“They’re fine, Mr Tzivin,” reassure Tilda. She paused and held up the last page. “What are you working on? Looks very interesting.”

Doyle caught her arm and guided her hand and the page back to the desk.

“Are you kidding me, Tilda?”

“What’s the harm in asking?” she said defensively.

“No harm in asking, but a shit-load of trouble if you get an answer.” Doyle turned to Tzivin. “We’ll leave you now, Sir.”

Spaceebah,” responded Tzivin, “you’re both very kind.”

“Just doing our job, Sir,” Doyle said as he guided Tilda out of the laboratory.

The two agents walked down the corridor en route to the briefing room.

“Don’t you ever get curious?” asked Tilda.

“Killed the cat,” said Doyle, “at least that’s what they told me as a kid.”

“You were also told that a fairy comes in the night for your tooth and that there’s a big invisible man in the sky that looks over you. You don’t still believe that, do you? Oh no, hang on, you’re an American, so you probably do still believe in that man in the sky stuff.”

“There’s nothing childish about religion,” countered Doyle.

Tilda stopped and held Doyle’s arm strongly forcing him to stop and face her.

“Seriously, Doyle?” she studied his face. He looked her in the eye. “Really, you’re religious?”

“I’m not a Christian or anything, but I do believe in God.”

Tilda shook her head.

“Even after everything you’ve seen. I mean everything. All the horrible shit we see going down year after year…You still believe in a benevolent god?”

“Yes, Tilda I do…sue me!”

Doyle pulled his arm free and continued walking. Tilda moved off and caught him up.

“I would if I could, but I’m too busy clearing up all the mess created by jihadi terrorists. Hey, don’t they believe in god as well?”

“Don’t be so naïve, Tilda,” countered Doyle. “There are people that believe in absolute good and those that are only interested in being right.”

“And you’re the type that selflessly believes in good, are you?”

“No, I don’t get it right all the time, but yes I do believe in absolute good. It’s just that we humans are frail…easily led into temptation.”

“So…” Tilda began, but Doyle cut her off.

“Tilda, sweetheart, we gotta get to a de-briefing, then I gotta get home and get some shut-eye. I’m really not up to a theological debate right now.”

“No, come on,” insisted Tilda, “don’t bail on me.”

Doyle stopped and turned to her.

“What do I need to tell you for you to stop breaking my balls?”

“If god is all good and we are made in his image, what the hell is tempting us to do wrong?” Tilda said cocking her head to one side churlishly.

“Evil, Tilda. Evil,” Doyle stated simply, then turned and walked the last few steps to the briefing room door.

“No, hang on. If god made everything, then he must also be responsible for evil.”

“Well, you see God did make everything. He made everything including the tools we use to work things out. But sometimes we misuse those tools. And that ain’t the tools fault, is it? Or the fault of the tool-maker. It’s the jerk that’s not using it properly. We need to realise that evil is us getting it wrong; using the perfect divine tools wrong. And you know what a bad workman does, don’t you?”

“Blames his tools?” concluded Tilda. “Very clever.”

Doyle put his hand on the briefing room door handle.

“One last thing,” said Tilda.

Doyle turned and sighed.

“What?”

“Do you know what ‘EMP’ is?”

Doyle shook his head.

“Err, no. What’s ‘EMP’?”

“I don’t know,” said Tilda, “but it was written all over Tzivin’s paperwork.”





Chapter 3


Thurs. 12th Sept. - One day earlier - London, UK


“He’ll see you now,” a suited flunky said solemnly to a pretty young blonde woman.

She got up from a bent-wood chair and headed towards a door that the flunky held open for her. A distinguished man in his early thirties sat at a large expensive desk wearing an equally expensive suit.

“I only have a minute,” said the man, “you’ll need to be brief.”

“I don’t have a lot to report, Sir,” said the woman.

“Anders,” interrupted the man, “please call me Anders. Everyone does.” He smiled. “At least everyone that dare speak to me.” He laughed unapologetically.

“He keeps a personal mobile phone in a locked drawer in his desk,” said the young woman. “I’m sure he uses it to communicate secretly.”

“With the MI6 agent?” interjected Anders.

“Precisely, Sir.”

“…Anders.”

“Sorry, Sir…Anders.”

“And do you think they are working with others?”

“I’m not sure,” she said shaking her head gently. “I want to get my hands on that mobile.”

“And how do you intend to do that, if he keeps it in a locked drawer?”

“Well,” responded the young woman, “I think he’s got a soft spot for me. I’m weighing up whether seduction may be the quickest way to open up both him and the drawer.”

Anders studied the woman in front of him.

“I like you, you know?” he said. “Father was unsure about getting into bed with you,” he smiled, “sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be a pun…but I think…” he trailed off.

“…What, Sir…Anders.”

Anders got up from behind his desk and walked to the window. He turned.

“May I be frank?” he asked.

“Of course…Anders.”

“Well, the thing is…I don’t trust you.”

The woman moved uncomfortably in her chair.

“I don’t know what to say to that.”

Anders returned his eyes to the window and spoke without looking at his guest.

“Give me something that will dispel my…doubt,” said Anders.

“I’ll…I’ll do my best.”

“My father used to say that it’s better to deal with an evil person than a fool. You can understand an evil person’s motives, but a fool…” Anders spun slowly on his feet to face the woman. A graceful turn that was almost a dance move. “Which are you, my dear? Are you evil or a fool?”

“I don’t think I’m either,” she defended confidently. “I’m a pragmatist. I committed many years ago to doing what works rather than feeling the necessity to do what’s right. I have no idea what’s right, so at least I can be efficient.”

“A pragmatist, eh?” echoed Anders. “What about commitment to a cause, an ideal, a philosophy? What do you care about?”

“What do you care about, Sir?”

“Anders,” he corrected. “I care about my family. It’s taken nearly three hundred years to get to the top. I care about staying there.” He moved to bring his face uncomfortably near to the woman’s. “And I will destroy anyone that threatens that. Do you understand me, my dear, anyone.”

“I understand you.”

Anders straightened up.

“Is there anything else?” he asked.

“No,” the woman answered quietly.

Anders pressed a button on his desk, and within a few seconds the door opened. The flunky stood in the doorway.

“Mr Kendrick Mattherson’s here, Sir,” said the flunky.

Anders nodded.

“See you next week, then,” he said to the woman, tersely.

“Until next week,” the woman said rising and making for the door.

Anders returned to his desk.

“By the way,” he said while studying some papers and not looking up.

The woman stopped on the threshold to the room and turned back to Anders. Her expression was determinedly neutral.

Anders raised his eyes to study her.

“Do you know what EMP is?”

She shook her head slowly and pursed her lips.

“No,” she replied, “should I?”

Anders smiled.

“Next week, then,” he said.





Chapter 4


Fri. 13th Sept. 2013 - New Mexico, USA


Night had fallen suddenly, and Tilda made her way to her car in the dim, cold glare of a single light mounted on the CIA facility. Apart from the excitement of the false alarm nothing much had happened during her watch.

She unlocked and got into her car. A smile twisted her mouth as she realised that for the first time she had gone directly to the left side of the vehicle with no hesitation at all. Her subconscious had finally accepted that regardless of how much judgement it threw at countries with left-hand drive cars, the steering wheel would remain in that ungodly position.

The craziness of driving cars on the right was not the only thing that troubled her about this country, but it was America’s fanatical nationalism that irked her the most. An unwavering belief in ‘My country right or wrong’. Where does the first amendment fit into such intransigence? Tilda had always refused to believe in anything with such unerring passion. In fact, she passionately avoided any resolve that popped into her head which sounded even remotely like a faith-based bias. Facts were the only reliable source on which to base one’s opinions. Tilda was well aware that her affiliation to England was simply the serendipitous fact that she had been born there. The founding fathers of America were well aware that this accident of birthplace in no way secured infallibility, and the second amendment was included to enable the people to stage an armed uprising should the government get too big for their boots and lose sight of righteousness.

Tilda had joined MI6 initially because they had come to her. But she believed they had probably noticed her antics at university; that she was not scared to fight for what she thought was right. However, they may have missed the fact that she would also fight against them if she thought they were in the wrong. Maybe she was being naïve, and they were actually well aware of her potential lack of loyalty. Maybe that’s why she always seemed to get more than her fair share of ‘lesser’ assignments. One thing she had never achieved when she believed something was ‘wrong’ was the simple ability to keep her mouth shut.

For the last thirty minutes, she had been driving towards her favourite bar. The thing she had always liked about postings to the US was after-work fun. If there was something at which the Americans excelled, it was enjoying themselves. Every time she touched down Stateside, she would trail the local bars at her first opportunity until she found one with good beer, a clientele with cojones and a piano, should the urge and alcohol take her.

She parked in the parking lot of Shaw’s bar. Before she left the car, she leant over to the passenger side and locked her pistol in the glove compartment.

Tilda walked towards the entrance that was flanked by two men. They watched her cross the uneven gravel.

“Hey, Tilda!” one of the men called to her. “What’s happenin’,” he said raising his hand into the air to high-five.

Tilda slapped his airborne hand with her own.

“You gonna play tonight?” the man asked.

“You gonna stop hitting on me?” Tilda replied.

The man laughed as Tilda crossed the threshold.

“Hey, Tilda,” the man called after her.

She turned.

“What, Benny?”

“There’s a dude been asking after you.”

“A dude?” questioned Tilda. “What dude?”

“I dunno. Some English guy. He asked if a pretty English girl comes here and plays the joanna.”

“Who is he?”

“I dunno,” said the man flicking the end of his cigarette into the darkness of the parking lot, “I thought you might know him.”

“What, because he’s English? Do you have any idea how big England is? You think it’s a little village and we all know each other?” Tilda joked.

“I dunno,” said the man, then took a swig from a beer bottle.

Some Americans’ lack of comprehension of anything outside of the USA’s borders was astonishing. Therefore, the fact that it has been estimated that more than sixty percent of Americans do not even own a passport was not hard for Tilda to believe.

Tilda entered and walked quickly to the bar.

“Hiya, Jerry,” Tilda said to a man opening a bottle of beer and pouring it into a frosted glass.

“Hey Tilda, your regulars have been asking when you’d get here.”

“Well, here I am,” she said making jazz hands.

“Shall I bring a drink over?”

“Thanks, Jerry,” she said as she turned and fought her way through the crowded room to the piano.

She sat at the upright and lifted the lid covering the keys.

“I always wanted to learn,” said a bearded man leaning against the wall.

Tilda looked up. The man was muscular, tall and striking. His beard was short and well groomed, and his clothes fastidiously casual.

“Why didn’t you?” Tilda asked.

“Things get in the way, don’t they. We all start out with such great plans.”

“We do,” responded Tilda with a smile.

“I think I read somewhere that the process of ageing is slowly discovering what you should have done when you were young,” said the man with a laugh.

“Are you the one that was looking for me?”

“Looking for you?” the man’s voice stammered a little.

“I was told that a fellow Englishman was asking for me.”

“Oh, that, right…yeah.”

“So, what did you want?” Tilda asked.

“Want…no…I just…Look, I’m just new in town, and I heard that an English girl…played piano at this bar every Friday…and I thought…”

“…You’d come and check me out?”

The man laughed nervously.

“So, what do you think?” Tilda continued.

The man looked around the bar, then cleared his throat.

“Well, if you play the piano as good as you look…you should have been a professional musician,” he said.

Tilda momentarily closed her eyes and shook her head.

“Shit,” said the man, “that was really cheesy, wasn’t it?” He laughed. “I really can’t believe I just said that.”

Tilda moved a half pace towards him.

“Do you want to start again?”

“Please,” he said, then offered his hand, “Kendrick…that’s my name…Kendrick Mattherson.





Chapter 5


Fri. 6th Sept. 2013 - 1 week earlier - Langley, Virginia, USA


Sherry Goodman emerged from the office of Ted Castle, the CIA head of operations, with a benign, but stunned look on her face. She took the lift down two floors, then headed over to an outside terrace. She held tightly onto the railings and breathed in deeply and repeatedly.

Sherry reached into her pocket and retrieved her cell phone. She dialled a number, then placed the phone against her ear.

“Hi, Tina? Yep, I’m all done. You got time for a coffee?”

Half an hour later, Sherry walked into a diner a few miles from Langley, found a booth and sat down. Although Tina had suggested meeting at the coffee shop at headquarters, Sherry had gently insisted that they met off campus.

The bell on the door jingled, and Sherry looked up. Tina stood in the doorway scanning the diner. Sherry waved to her.

“Why the cloak and dagger stuff?” asked Tina taking a seat opposite her colleague.

Sherry’s mouth broke into a wry grin.

“You do know that our offices are teeming with spies, don’t you?”

“I do,” Tina said slowly.

A waitress appeared beside their booth.

“What will you have?” she asked pleasantly.

Tina looked up.

“Err…just a coffee for me.”

The waitress turned her attention to Sherry who seemed irritated at the interruption.

“The same,” Sherry said tersely.

“Cream and sugar?” the waitress asked.

“Sure,” responded Tina.

“Black, no sugar,” added Sherry with distinct passive-aggression.

The waitress walked away, and Tina stared at her companion.

“Sweet enough, eh,” she said sarcastically. Sherry looked blankly at her. “So, how the hell are you, babe? You were in Europe, right?”

“Yeah, Berlin…Listen Tina, the fucking British set us up.” Tina’s face tightened. “Their guy set us up.”

“What guy?”

“A son-of-a-bitch called Joseph Miller; MI6 bastard,” said Sherry. “Just as you start to give the fuckers a chance…” Sherry’s anger flowed liberally.

“Sherry?” Tina paused, “were you involved with this guy?”

Involved?” Sherry shook her head. “No, we were on a joint mission together; to retrieve a NATO artefact from the Russians, but Miller must have tipped them off or something. They were waiting for us.”

“Are you sure they were tipped off?”

Sherry’s nostrils flared, and her jaw clenched.

“Coffee,” said the waitress appearing beside the two women, “cream and sugar for you, and black no sugar for you.” There was no response. “Can I get you anything else, ladies?”

Tina shook her head from her temporary trance.

“No, thank you. That’s fine for now.”

“Well, if y’need anything, just holla.”

The waitress meandered away, and Tina turned back to Sherry.

“Are you sure?”

“All my men are dead,” said Sherry, “is that certain enough?”

“Shit!”

“Yeah…shit!” Sherry echoed. “Four good men. I tell you Tina, I’m gonna get that bastard.”

“This guy…Miller?”

Sherry had drifted off into a world of her own.

“Yeah, I’m gonna get him,” Sherry whispered.

“Aren’t there channels that you can go through?” said Tina. “I mean, if the British set you up…What did Castle say?”

“Castle! I don’t trust him. He’s not telling me the whole story. There’s something going on, and I think Miller is behind it.”

“You’ve really got it in for this Miller guy, haven’t you?”

Sherry tapped her left leg.

“I took a bullet.”

“Fuck, babe! Are you okay?” Tina asked.

“Physically, yeah.”

“Sherry?” Tina said leaning across the table and closer to her friend, “Castle’s not the only one not coming clean, is he?”

Sherry smiled and squeezed Tina’s hand.

“If I told you the whole story, I’d have to kill you.”

Tina snorted a half laugh through her nose.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Sherry licked her lips.

“Well honey, I didn’t invite you here for the coffee,” she said.



Sat. 14th Sept. 2013 - New Mexico, USA


Tilda awoke in bed. Before she had opened her eyes, the texture of the sheets, the aromas in the air and the sounds reaching her ears told her that this bed was not her own. She opened one eye and turned her head to her left, then to her right. She was alone. A voice came from the doorway of the bedroom.

“How do you take your tea?”

Kendrick stood in a white towelling dressing gown, smiling.

“The tea here’s not that good,” said Tilda lifting her head to look at him and gauge how bad a decision she had made the night before.

“I brought my own from England,” said Kendrick. “How does PG Tips grab you?”

“Sounds great.”

“Toast?” Kendrick continued.

“Lovely.”

“There’s a spare dressing gown hanging on the door. I’m just down the corridor in the kitchen.”

Tilda sat up.

“I’ll be right there,” she said automatically tugging the sheets up to her neck.

Kendrick turned to go, then spun around to face Tilda again.

“You having regrets?”

“I’ll tell you after I’ve tasted your PG Tips,” said Tilda.

Kendrick tarried in the doorway as if he were trying to find a witty and nonchalant remark to smooth his exit. But his mouth moved soundlessly. He smiled and gently nodded his head.

“Straight down the hallway,” he said pointing over his shoulder. “You can’t miss it.”

“I’m not sure it’s as big a navigational challenge as you seem to think,” said Tilda.

“No,” he said with a laugh, “probably making more of it than necessary…I’m…I guess…to tell the truth…You see I don’t do this sort of thing all the time, you know?”

“You suggesting I do?” said Tilda.

“No, god no…I didn’t mean that!”

“I’m joking, for god’s sake.”

Kendrick let out a breathy laugh.

“Course you are. Sorry.”

“You’d better get back to the tea,” said Tilda. “If it’s stewed, I’m outta here.”

Kendrick disappeared down the hallway, and Tilda got out of bed and hastily dressed. She stood in the centre of the room expertly scanning the space. Kendrick’s clothes lay neatly arranged on a chair. A memory of last night came back to her. She remembered that in the throws of passion, he had stopped to neatly fold his clothes and place them where they now sat; looking like a display in an upmarket fashion store.

She moved quickly to the chair and went through his pockets. There were some loose dollars in his jeans, but nothing else. Tilda struggled hard to recall what Kendrick had said he did, but her memory of last night was that he had been evasive on the subject. She bent over the chair and placed the clothes carefully so her search would not be detected. As she straightened up, a voice came from close behind her.

“I thought you’d got lost,” said Kendrick. He smiled. “Tea’s getting cold.”

They made their way along the corridor to the kitchen. Tilda noticed how tidy everything was; excessively tidy.

“Jesus,” she said, “It’s like a bloody show-house! You’re not ex-military are you?”

Kendrick stopped buttering toast and stood dead still.

“And what are you, a police detective?”

“No, sorry,” Tilda said quickly, “I was just joking.”

Kendrick placed a plate of toast and a mug of tea on the breakfast bar in front of her.

“So was I,” he said. “Sit, sit, enjoy your PG Tips and give me your verdict.”

A knock came at the front door. Tilda looked at him.

“Expecting someone?”

Kendrick shook his head absently and moved slowly towards the door. She heard it open, then a loud exchange of voices followed by frantic crashing in the hallway. Before she could move from the kitchen, Kendrick appeared at the door accompanied by three large men. Kendrick’s nose was bleeding. Two of the thick-set heavies held Kendrick fast; one on each arm, and the third on seeing Tilda, pointed a large revolver at her.

Instinctively, Tilda reached to her belt for her gun, but it was not there, it was locked in the glove compartment of her car.





Chapter 6


Fri. 6th Sept. 2013 - 1 week earlier - Langley, Virginia, USA


Sherry sipped her coffee and smiled at her colleague.

“So, are you gonna tell me what you want or do I have to guess?” said Tina.

Sherry carefully placed her cup onto the table.

“I need some information,” Sherry responded simply.

“Okay, what sort of information?”

“I need to identify a particular type of person,” explained Sherry.

“I’m not sure I understand,” said Tina shaking her head.

“Just listen Tina, it’s not rocket science!”

“That’s a shame,” said Tina with a smile, “I majored in rocket propulsion at MIT.”

“You have a higher security clearance than me. I need you to access some documents that I can’t get to.”

“Forgive me,” Tina said slowly, “this doesn’t sound kosher.”

“It’s nothing that bad.”

“Then why not apply for clearance yourself?”

“Tina, I’ve done you countless solids in the past. I’m just asking one little favour, for pete’s sake.”

“Listen babe, I want to help you, but you need to give me a little more. I mean…look…we both know you can sometimes sail a bit close to the wind…I mean closer than I feel comfortable with. Well, okay, but if you want me to get involved…I simply need…”

Sherry cut her off.

“Okay, okay. I’m going to England, and I want…”

Tina interrupted her.

“…Why are you going to England? Is this something to do with this…Miller guy?”

“Not really,” Sherry answered shaking her head.

“Come on, Sherry. You’re just back from Europe. You think you’ve been fucked over by some MI6 goon. And now you’re going off to England with a bug up your ass, but the one thing has nothing to do with the other? Really?”

“I’m not going to England to go after Miller,” Sherry said emphatically. “I’m going because I’m being sent.” Tina looked impassively at her friend. “Castle’s sending me. You’re looking at the new head of UK operations.”

“Shit! Really?” Tina exclaimed. Sherry nodded her head. “Well, that’s wonderful news. You’ve been complaining for years that Castle is holding you back.”

“I know…”

“So now you get to be the big boss. Now you can do the fucking rather than being fucked.” Sherry remained silent. “What, Sherry? What is it?”

“It’s all a bit…sudden,” said Sherry. “I don’t trust Castle. I never have, and I don’t now. He’s up to something.” Sherry looked Tina hard in the eye. “Are you going to help me find out what he’s up to?”

“Hold on,” Tina said thoughtfully, “if you’ve just been promoted, you’ll have the clearance you need…surely?”

“Not yet,” said Sherry, “there’s some fucking bureaucratic procedure. I don’t get top clearance for a… ‘transitional’…period.”

Tina sighed.

“This is urgent, Tina. Are you gonna help me or not?”

“Of course I’ll help you, if I can.”

“You just need to access a database for me, and do a simple search,” said Sherry.

“What am I searching for?”

Sherry leant in to her friend and spoke quietly.

“People that fit the criteria; young, female, single, troubled and are British Intelligence agents.”



Sat. 14th Sept. 2013 - New Mexico, USA


Tilda and Kendrick had been moved under gunpoint to the living room. They sat on the sofa, each with their hands tied together in front of them. Two of the heavies stood either side of the one with the gun. He sat on an armchair facing the sofa.

“So Mattherson, are you going to introduce us to your friend?”

Kendrick wiped the blood from his nose with the back of his hand, then studied the red stain. He looked at Tilda.

“I met her last night. She has nothing to do with this.”

“Nothing to do with what?” asked Tilda.

The gunman turned to her.

“So, who are you?”

“What has Kendrick supposed to have done?” Tilda continued.

“I asked you a simple question,” said the gunman.

“So did I, and we both seem to be having difficulty giving simple answers,” Tilda responded.

“A comedienne,” said the gunman. “Well, let’s test your sense of humour.”

He nodded to one of the heavies who moved over to Kendrick and raised his fist. He struck Kendrick hard in the face. Kendrick made no noise as his head spun to the side with the sickening force. He slowly brought his head back to face the gunman. Blood marked his beard around his lips. He spat red saliva onto the floor.

“Jesus Christ!” said Tilda. “For fuck’s sake will someone tell me what’s going on.”

The gunman looked at Kendrick, then at Tilda.

“I’ll ask you one more time,” he said. “Who are you?”

Tilda stared at the gunman.

“I…I…”

The gunman signalled the heavy again. He raised his fist above Kendrick’s head.

“Wait!” Tilda shouted. “I’m a piano player. I’m just a fucking piano player. I was doing a gig last night at Shaw’s Bar. That’s where I met Kendrick.” She looked hard at the gunman. “Okay?”

The gunman leant forwards.

“So, you’re no one, right?”

Tilda simply shook her head. The gunman signalled the heavy again, but instead of punching Kendrick he withdrew a pistol from inside his jacket. He moved over to Tilda, cocked the weapon and pointed it at her head.

“Whoa,” Kendrick shouted, “she’s got nothing to do with this.”

“Then it will make no difference if Terrance here offs her, will it?”

The gunman turned to Terrance to give him the final order, but found that Tilda had a broad smile on her face.

“What the fuck you smiling about?” he yelled.

Tilda licked her lips.

“You really have absolutely no idea who I am, do you?”

“You’re…you’re some pathetic Limey piano player that Kendrick fucked last night. And you’re in my way.” He looked at Terrance. “Shoot the bitch.”

Tilda slowly shook her head.

“Who the fuck is she?” wailed Terrance.

“I don’t fucking know,” said the gunman, his voice wavering a little.

“Then…” said Terrance, “you shoot the bitch.”

Terrance put his gun away.

“A very wise move, Terrance,” said Tilda calmly.

“So, who the fuck are you?” asked the gunman beginning to breathe erratically.

“Suffice it to say that you don’t want to fuck with me,” Tilda said sitting back and relaxing.

The gunman studied her face carefully.

“Nah, you’re dicking with us,” he said rising from his chair and pointing his gun at Tilda’s head.

He cocked his revolver. Kendrick quietly sucked on his teeth. The gunman turned to him.

“You got something to say, Mattherson?”

“Only that you’re about to make the biggest mistake of your life.”

“What? Who the fuck is she?” demanded the gunman.

“You want to know who I am, dipshit?” said Tilda.

“Yeah, I do.”

“Well, pull that trigger, and I guarantee you’ll find out, big time, within the hour,” said Tilda. The gunman moved his gaze from one captive to the other repeatedly. “What are you waiting for, big shot? Come on, you pussy, pull the fucking trigger! If you’re so sure I’m dicking you around.” Moments passed. “I haven’t got all day. Pull the fucking trigger,” Tilda shouted loudly.

The gunman looked at the two heavies, then waved his gun towards the door.

“We’ll be back, Mattherson. This ain’t over. You owe, and we’re gonna collect.”

The three men backed out of the room, and a few seconds later the front door slammed.

Tilda looked hard at Kendrick.

“You got something you want to tell me?” she asked.

Kendrick exhaled a couple of times, then swallowed hard.

“Hang on a minute,” he said. He rocked on the sofa, finally producing enough momentum to propel himself to a standing position. “Wait there.”

He disappeared out of the room for a few moments, then returned with his hands freed and carrying a large kitchen knife. For seconds he just stood looking at Tilda. Then he approached her, reached down and cut the plastic band securing her hands. She rubbed her wrists.

“How did you know to back me up?” she asked.

“The ‘Doubting Thomas Defence’? Sow doubt into the aggressor’s mind, then goad them to enhance it? Military self-defence 101.”

“So, you are ex-military?”

Kendrick didn’t answer.

“What’s more to the point, how do you know the DT defence?” asked Kendrick.

Tilda simply cocked her head.

“It would appear that we’re both dark horses. What were they after?”

“A gambling debt,” said Kendrick.

“That must be some debt.”

Kendrick nodded noncommittally.

“Who are you?” Kendrick asked. “Fuck! Did you pick me up? Who are you working for?”

“What?” Tilda stood up. “You came looking for me.”

“Yeah,” said Kendrick, “that’s true.” An awkward smile twisted his bloodied mouth. “Sorry.”

“Certainly a date to forget,” said Tilda.

She moved determinedly towards the door.

“Wait a minute,” Kendrick called out.

“What?” said Tilda stopping at the room’s threshold.

“I don’t suppose…I could…see you again?”

Tilda slowly shook her head.

“You have gotta be kidding!”


As soon as Tilda got into her car, she retrieved her pistol from the glove compartment. She ejected the clip, checked the ammunition, then snapped the unit back into the gun. She attached the holstered gun to her belt, then turned the ignition key to unlock the steering wheel. She stooped to look out of the car’s window, and took a last glance at Kendrick’s apartment. Tilda started the engine and drove away as quickly as she could.

Back at her own apartment, she made herself a cup of tea and sat at the kitchen table sipping the comforting brew. Had this simply been a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ or was there something more sinister to it than that? She was an MI6 agent working with the CIA to protect a Russian defector who was developing…What was Tzivin developing? Something of obvious importance. Was Kendrick a Russian agent? Had she been set up?

She rose quickly and went to the window. She kept herself to the shadows and stealthily peered into the street below. It was early on a Saturday morning, so the street would be empty. It should be easy to spot a ‘tail’ should there be one. Tilda looked in every direction that she could, but nothing moved four floors below.

She shut her eyes and attempted to control her breathing, which had become erratic. After a minute or two, she opened her eyes and rubbed her temples with her fingers. Tilda stared vacantly at the MacBook Air that rested on the table in front of her. She glanced through the window again and checked the street, then sat down to finish her tea.

Tilda reached across the table and pulled her laptop towards herself, opened the lid, and typed the letters ‘E’ ‘M’ ‘P’. The top result was Wikipedia - Electromagnetic Pulse. She clicked the link.


An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a short burst of electromagnetic energy. Such a pulse's origination may be a natural occurrence or man-made.


EMP interference is generally disruptive or damaging to electronic equipment, and at higher energy levels a powerful EMP event such as a lightning strike can damage physical objects such as buildings and aircraft structures.


Weapons have been developed to create the damaging effects of high-energy EMP. These are typically divided into nuclear and non-nuclear devices. Such weapons, both real and fictional, have become known to the public by means of popular culture.





Chapter 7


Fri. 6th Sept. 2013 - 1 week earlier - London, UK


Joseph Miller arrived at MI6 HQ, and went straight up to the ninth floor. Simmons’ PA looked up from his desk.

“Is he in?” asked Miller.

“Yes, but…”

Miller glided past him and into his mentor’s office. Simmons was standing in the middle of the room, looking towards the door as if he knew Miller would be coming through it at that precise moment. Behind Miller bobbed the disgruntled head of the PA.

“I’m sorry, Sir, he just barged past me.”

“That’s okay,” said Simmons, and waved him away. “Good trip?”

Miller stared at him.

“What the hell’s going on?” asked Miller.

“You were in danger. I wanted to get you back here.”

“I’m a field agent,” said Miller. “That’s going to be somewhat dangerous from time to time.”

“Look, Joseph, you are not aware of everything that goes on. You must trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

“So this was purely your decision, was it?” Miller asked.

Simmons’ face darkened.

“Yes,” he replied tersely.

“No, it wasn’t. You don’t behave like that. This was a snap decision, and that’s not you. You don’t make snap decisions.”

“Okay, you’re right. It wasn’t totally my call.”

“All right, so…?”

“As I say, Joseph, you’ll have to trust me.”

“I do trust you,” said Miller, “but you’re saying someone else was involved. I feel a little uneasy about that.”

“The Prime Minister wanted me to recall you.”

“The Prime Minister?! Why would he care about me?”

“He decided that we shouldn’t be seen to be involved.”


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