CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE
OFF THE ROPES
I suppose in a way it was our D Day. It certainly wasn't any kind of 1944 affair in terms of months of planning and deploying vast forces of men and ships and planes. Instead, it involved a small team of seriously sleep deprived people and a whole bunch of finger crossing.
It fell on me to set the ball rolling. At three in the afternoon, I gave up trying to get my editor on the phone. I had been calling for days and by now it seemed pretty clear he wasn't about to pick up. Had the English Government put the paper into some kind of lock down? Maybe. Nobody was telling me anything.
I penned a brief letter of resignation, attached it to an e-mail and fired it off. For the best part of twenty hours I had been writing the Holbrooke story and now it was ready to roll.
I waited for three hours to see if I my resignation letter was going to get any kind of response.
Nothing. So be it. Having a job suddenly didn't seem such a big deal anymore.
I already had a blog page all set up and ready for launch. My first post was the Holbrooke story. I drummed my fingers for a few seconds and stared at the 'Publish' button. And then I gave myself a serious dressing down. How pathetic to be worrying about some sort of law suit when Wendel and the others were readying themselves for war.
I hit the button and immediately started a broadcast on my Facebook page.
“This is Samantha Keating, though as of this afternoon I am no longer with the Guardian. I will explain. In the weeks before the invasion, I was part of a team investigating Holbrooke Securities and the role the company played in providing Edward Montford with the death squads who abducted and killed English citizens in Hackney. We were mere days from publishing our explosive story when England invaded Scotland. As far as I am concerned, these events are very much connected. I believe Edward Montford knew we were about to publish and launched his invasion as a desperate last throw of the dice. Can I prove this? No, I can't. Only Edward Montford knows the true answer.
'Over recent days it has become clear to me my paper is not about to publish as planned. Why is this? I have no idea. My editor isn't taking my calls. I can only assume the English Government has found a way to apply a muzzle. They are not in a position to do the same to me. I have therefore written the story in as much detail as I can and posted on a blog page. You can find the address below. In normal times, I would be frightened by the prospect of being taken to court and sued by the might of the English Establishment. But these are hardly normal times. So if you want to take me to court Mr Montford, of course, you are welcome to try. You'll have to get me first and to get me you are going to have to capture Fort George. Something tells me when the bullets start to fly, the prospect of a law suit will be the least of my problems. Well, Mr Montford, I would hate the story to die with me care of an incoming artillery shell. You don't deserve to get away with the crimes you committed in Hackney.
'So that's it. Everyone can finally read all about Holbrooke Securities and what they did. And how much the Prime Minister of England paid them to do it. If there is any justice left in our world, Edward Montford will live out the rest of his days in a prison cell for the crimes he has committed. If the English Army should prevail over the coming weeks, I hope the millions and millions of thoroughly decent people of England will hold this monstrous man to account.”
There must have been an awful lot of frantic speed reading in the newsrooms of the world. By six thirty my Holbrooke Story was dominating the news cycle. By seven, interviews from several African countries were starting to throw some light on the many atrocities Hayden De Koch had been involved in.
The English Government declined to make any kind of comment.
Valerie Latour gave her views to CNN at eight and she made no effort to pull her punches.
“.... of course we cannot yet know if all of these allegations of state sponsored death squads on the streets of London are true, but if they are true, my Government will do all we can to make sure these terrible crimes are dealt with in The Hague...."
Angus Campbell joined the fray at nine o'clock.
“Bloody hell, Edward. Things are getting a bit hairy! Maybe you'll accept a bit of advice. You know, one politician to another. I think you better keep a keen eye on what's happening behind your back. I reckon all those backbenchers will be getting a bit twitchy right now. Whispers in the corridors, Edward. Plots and schemes. Because at the end of the day, who wants to be tied to a criminal with a one way ticket to the International Court of Justice. Tread carefully, Edward. They'll all start walking away. Rats off a sinking ship.....
'You want to know my thoughts about all this Holbrooke Securities stuff? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. I have known Sam Keating since she was eleven years old and I am 100% certain she hasn't made any of this stuff up. If Sam says it's true, then that is more than good enough for me. But I would say that, wouldn't I? It's not like I'm exactly your biggest fan. One thing is for certain, Edward. One way or another, it's all going to come out in the wash whether you manage to defeat us or not. Paying out £450 million of tax payer's money to hire a racist psychopath to kill your own citizens is just too big a secret to keep. You might as well accept it, Edward. Win, lose or draw, you're going to jail.
'One more thing, and to be honest this seems a little odd to me. But I'm not a medical man when all is said and done. A couple of doctors came to see me this afternoon. They sat me down and showed me a few videos of you, Edward. It was a kind of Edward Montford down the years sort of thing. They kept hitting the pause button and zooming in on your eyes. And something seems to have changed over the last couple of years. It seems your eyes are suddenly 'pinned' all the time. I asked what would cause such a thing and they said it was usually a sign of somebody using opiates. It's all quite worrying. Are you ill, Edward? Riddled with cancer and only able to keep going care of super strength pain killers? Let's face it, you've not been looking so good recently. Or maybe this is more of a recreational thing? A nice bit of smack to keep a lid on all that pressure. Maybe it even helps keep a lid on all that guilt? Maybe? Who knows? I guess it is another item for all of those plotting backbenchers of your to add to their list.
'Well, I guess that is all I have to say for now. Have yourself a really super evening, Edward. Remember to always use a clean needle...."
I had to smile at the image of the utter mayhem in the world's news rooms. What to run on? English PM the war criminal or English PM the addict?
They had more red meat than they knew what to do with, especially now more and more pictures from the A1 were pouring in.
Hundreds of members of the public had their phones out from Catterick to Newcastle Upon Tyne. Long lines of trucks and tanks and armoured cars. The English Army driving to war.
In some ways, it was quite an impressive sight. Certainly, the crowds of EFP supporters who poured out onto to the streets were pretty taken with the pictures of their army heading north to war. They swigged beer and waved the flag of St George and chanted with raised fists.
Things were starting to get uncomfortably real. Every time I tuned out from the rolling news for a minute, my mind was filled with images of Wendel. Out there in the night. Out there somewhere, leading his rag tag army of eight. Out there somewhere waiting for an advancing army of over ten thousand.
Out there somewhere.
In the night.
Suleiman had established his own personal war room in his Gleneagles suite. Once the English Army started the journey north to Fort George, he would have plenty of time to relocate. His rooms were in a wing of the great hotel which had become a small enclave of Qatar. The Sheik and his family took up all of the other rooms. Suleiman's old school friend was sitting in the chair next to his. The attention of both men was firmly fixed on the screens of three laptop computers. On one screen, a CNN panel of experts discussed the new accusations made against the English Prime Minister. The other screens showed lines and lines of numbers.
One set of numbers represented the gently shifting ebbs and flows of the global currency markets. Another set of numbers was all about stocks and shares. These numbers were never still. Not for a second. They were watched and analysed and traded every second of every minute of every hour or every day. Only the main locations changed according to the clock. The focus rolled across the globe along a well-worn track. First London and Paris and Frankfurt. New York next. And then over the endless waters of the Pacific to Hong Kong and Singapore and Shanghai. A constant loop where billions of dollars bought and sold stuff. Positions opened and positions closed. Numbers were pushed up or down by the news cycle. A civil war here. A drought there.
The eyes of Suleiman and his Sheik were locked onto a single set of numbers.
The English pound.
Suleiman had taken his idea to his boss two days earlier. Did the Sheik agree Qatar should play a part in defending its closest ally? Why yes, of course, we should. But how? We have no army here.
Suleiman explained how and he soon won the approval of the Sheik. The two men agreed Qatar's greatest potential weapon was money. And of course, money was something they had a great deal of. The hurried bond sale meant they had hundreds of millions of dollars parked up in the digital vaults of Credit Agricole in Paris.
Suleiman showed how cash could be used to inflict as much damage as any tank or fighter jet. It took the Sheik a while to get his head around what was being suggested. When he finally got the gist of it, he didn't hesitate.
“My friend, we must do this. And we must not be half hearted. We must play our part. You have my blessing. Use $750 billion.”
It was more than Suleiman had expected. Much more. He conveyed his respect with a bow of his head. He felt much the same as Ernst Rommel would have felt had his Fuhrer given him a force of a thousand new tanks.
In the months following the riots of 2029, the English Pound had been battered within an inch of its life. Before the riots, a pound Sterling was enough to buy $1.15 and just over one Euro. The effect of the riots destroyed almost 20% of its value. And things had slipped even further as the word had spread about the inability of the Westminster Government to attract any buyers for its bonds. At 5 pm when the London markets closed, the pound was trading at $0.810.
Sam's Holbrooke exposures made the numbers inch down a fraction. Sixty minutes after her blog hit the ether saw the pound at $0.803.
Suleiman made calls to his chief New York broker who had already signed off on a $250 billion credit line which was fully guaranteed by Credit Agricole.
“$100 billion, please.”
The New York broker shouted the news to his trading floor and within five minutes a ready primed network of New York currency traders started to short sell the English Pound.
Within an hour the English Pound had slipped to $0.752
At eight o'clock Valerie Latour made her statement and it fell to $0.731.
At eight thirty the French Government started to off load its stocks of English Sterling.
“Another $100 billion please.”
By the time Angus Campbell dropped his grenade, the number was down to $0.713.
New York closed and the Asian markets opened.
Now Suleiman called his brokers in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai and instructed them to throw another $200 billion at the already reeling Bank of England.
A little after midnight Suleiman looked to the Sheik.
More calls to the Far East and the final onslaught. $350 billion was thrown into short selling shares in English Banks.
Stock prices went into freefall and the pound followed in their wake.
For a few hours, the Bank of England tried to hold back the tide in true King Canute fashion. They raised interest rates all the way to 21%. By 3.00 am they had given up. Rates were taken all the way back to 8%.
They threw in the towel.
It was enough. Suleiman closed off all his positions and banked the profit. Nine hours had seen $750 billion become $1.27 trillion. Broker commissions ran into hundreds of millions.
And the country of England was to all intents and purposes bankrupt.
Edward Montford watched it in the company of his Chancellor. They said little. What was there to say? Both men had cut their teeth in the City of London. They understood money markets. They had read the history of 1992 when George Soros had taken on the Pound and won with a mere £1.5 billion. The Bank of England had been unable to do anything to stop it. Now whoever was attacking them was obviously throwing hundreds of billions into the mix. Not even the US Federal Reserve could withstand such an attack.
Montford knew well enough what it would all mean. But he asked anyway. The Chancellor shrugged.
“It's uncharted territory. Your guess is as good as mine. Massive inflation on food and power. Probably about 30%. Businesses reliant on imports will fail. The shelves in the shops will start to empty out. The stock market will completely tank. We're fucked, Edward. Completely fucked.”
Montford grimaced. “You know the funny thing? I turned all the family assets into US dollars a few weeks ago. I've made a fucking fortune tonight. Not that it will do me any good. Unless we turn this thing around, there's not a chance I'm going to spend a penny of it. I guess this is what rock bottom looks like.”
But it wasn't. Not even close.
As the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer watched England sliding into bankruptcy, the third convoy of their advancing army had crossed the border and was now twenty miles into Scotland. Over a hundred vehicles inched north at a steady 25 miles per hour.
At 3.13 the lead truck entered an area of woodland on the outskirts of the small village of Ayton.
Over course of the last two nights, the wood had become familiar to Wendel and his makeshift team. In hours of daylight, they had camped out in a long disused barn. For hours on end, the old magic found its way back into Omar's fingers as he wired and packed and soldered. It was very different to his time in mountains of Afghanistan. He was now working with the very finest of materials. Pristine blocks of plastic explosives and the best electronics money could buy. But the difference was greater than the quality of materials. When he had fought with Akram Kebir, his heart had never been in the fight. He had no great love for the NATO soldiers who had invaded his country. But he had no hatred for them either. He saw them for what they were, young men who wanted nothing more than a steady job. His friend Davie had told him all about why young men in Britain and America and Canada and France signed up to become soldiers. They were young men from poor little towns who saw the army as their only viable escape from poverty and unemployment.
He felt very differently about the Taliban. He hated the Taliban. The Taliban had ordered his mother's brutal death. The Taliban had been responsible for the suicide bomber who had inadvertently murdered his father. He hated everything about them. He fought because he had no other choice. It was fight or be killed.
Now everything was different. Scotland was his country. Scotland had given him a home and a life and a family. A life and a home and a family for Omar and Faisal and Tariq and Moses and Nazir. The lost boys of the Calais jungle. Child soldiers on the run. Boys who had been forced to the depths of depravity at the point of a gun. What would their lives have been if Scotland hadn't given them a future?
Scotland had earned their loyalty. Scotland was worth fighting for. And sure, the young soldiers who were invading his new homeland were the same as the ones who had years ago invaded his old homeland. They came from the same blighted towns and they were trying to escape the same bleak future.
This was a thing he could do nothing about. He scrubbed his brain of them. They were the enemy. The same Crusaders despoiling a different land. He closed his heart to them.
They all did. He could see it in their eyes. The way they carried themselves. They were no strangers to the reality of war. Not one of them was deluded by any false visions of glory. They had tasted the reality at first hand.
What was coming would be nothing less than utter horror. Men would die very badly. Men would be horribly wounded. Men would scream for their mothers. And many of the survivors would have to live out the rest of their lives with broken minds.
So as he had wired and assembled and packed and soldered, Omar had closed his mind to the hell he was about to bring to earth.
He hated war to the very soul of his being. But he knew how to do it. In that respect, he was very much the nephew of the great Akram Kebir.
And this time his heart was in it.
They had taken up their positions two hours after dusk had fallen. Four teams of two. Wendel and Omar were on the east of the road at the northern end of the wood. Opposite them were Moses and Nazir. Davie, Alf, Faisal, and Tariq were similarly placed at the southern end of the wood.
They were clad in black from head to toe and their faces were smeared with camouflage cream. They had created hides out of branches and remained entirely invisible as the first two English convoys had rolled by.
A pause as the sound of the rumbling trucks drained away into the night. A hoot from a resident owl blissfully unaware of what was about to happen. A few hundred yards behind them, the sky was stained a vague orange by the street lights of Ayton.
The waiting moments. The stomach dropping feeling familiar to soldiers of all ages. Roman Legionaries behind their shield wall. Vikings ready to leap from their long boats. Archers at Agincourt. Dragoons at Waterloo. Massed ranks of infantrymen in their jump off trenches on the Somme. Paratroopers floating down to the fields outside Arnhem. Men of the 82nd Airborne eyeing the jungle slopes of Hamburger Hill.
Highlanders facing the English lines at Culloden Moor.
The last moments before the arrival of hell on the face of the earth.
And now there was a shaking of the warm air. The growing sound of over a hundred powerful engines.
“Comms check Team one.”
“Sitrep please Team 3”
“Tango lead 500 yards. ETA our location 45 seconds.”
“Roger that. On our lead”
The first vehicle rolled by teams one and two. It took a minute to reach the northern end of the wood.
Wendel waited until it was 100 years from their hide.
Omar hit the send button on his phone and in less than a second forty IED's exploded in unison down both sides of the road. From the northern end of the wood to the southern end of the wood. From the vehicle at the front of the convoy to the vehicle at the back of the convoy. The charges were primed to explode towards the road and to meet each other in the middle.
The impact was catastrophic. Tyres were shredded and a fireball ate the oxygen out of the air. Every windscreen was shattered and the canvas sides of the trucks burst into flame. Within seconds, vast secondary explosions fed the inferno as ammunition trucks exploded.
The eight men stood and emptied thousands of rounds of automatic ammunition into the flames.
“All teams move.”
They were ghosts flitting away from the havoc they had wreaked. Across dark fields at a controlled jog. 100 yards. 200 yards. 400 yards.
Their vehicles were waiting, already pointing west. Wendel drove one, Alf the other, both using night vision glasses in order to keep their headlights switched off.
Fifteen minutes after Omar's bombs had lit up the night, the two vehicles were already eight miles from the scene.
After an hour they switched on the lights. They reached Davie Fisher's house in Glasgow a little after six.
Nobody said much. They knew what they had just done. They had killed in cold blood. They had delivered the worst kind of death. There was no celebration. They drained tumblers of fresh orange juice and drank coffee and barely talked.
And then they slept.
At 3.25 the news of the attack slammed into Edward Montford like a piece of white hot shrapnel from one of Omar's bombs.
It took hours for the fog of war to clear. 432 dead. 793 injured.
Forty three battle tanks completely destroyed. 17 repairable.
By noon, a pound's worth of English Sterling was no longer capable of purchasing fifty American cents.
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