The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 71

Charlie followed the same route to Warsash that James and Samantha had taken earlier in the day. Mixed feelings raced through his mind as he sped down the motorway as fast as he could. The image of James leaving the pub, when he had turned to Charlie to say goodbye the night before, was still vivid in his mind. Tears blurred his eyes as he recalled them growing up together, their strong bond made greater by the loss of their parents at an early age. He pounded the steering wheel with his fist in despair as he went over the words again that Samantha had uttered over the phone. Between deep sobs, she had told him that James was dead, blown to pieces when his yacht had exploded. He checked the GPS display on his phone as he pulled off the M3 and saw he had about fifteen minutes to go before arriving at the sailing club.

In the club, Samantha was being comforted by friendly yachties and staff. An intensive search for James was being made in Southampton Water by the inshore lifeboat, police launches and many other small boats. Blown apart in the explosion, the only traces of The Wandering Star were a scorched life ring and pieces of wood floated by the tide out into the Solent and recovered by the rescue boats. Police divers were down searching the site of the explosion but any hope of finding James alive had already faded into acceptance of his death.

With screeching tyres, Charlie pulled the old Jag into the sailing club’s car park among the emergency response vehicles parked with their blue lights flashing.

‘Oy! You can’t park that heap there.’ a police officer shouted at him.

‘I bloody well can.’ shouted back Charlie brusquely pushing past him and running towards the marina, shoving and elbowing his way through the crowd of rubberneckers. He found Samantha in a state of shock, sitting on a bench by the harbour wall where she had been standing when the boat blew up, with a small group of people comforting her. Charlie rushed up and embraced her, the tears rolling down both their faces.

‘Is there any news?’ he asked.

‘No.’ she sobbed and went limp in his arms.

‘Let’s get her inside.’ Charlie said to one of the club’s officials who led them to a private office within the club.

‘Who’s in charge?’ he asked.

‘The rescue operation is being run from the marina’s control room. Go back outside and it’s on the left.’ replied the official.

‘Make sure you look after her. I’ll be back soon.’

Charlie, fighting to control his emotions, went outside and into the control room and introduced himself to the police commander in charge.

‘Any news yet?’ he enquired of the elderly, ruddy faced officer in front of him.

‘And who are you, sir?’

‘His brother.’

‘No, and I’m sorry, we don’t hold out a lot of hope. It was probably a gas or petrol explosion.’

Charlie thought it appropriate to tell the officer that James worked for MI5.

‘Did he, by Jove. Well, that might throw a terrorist connection into the pot. We’ll get in contact with MI5 straight away.’

‘James told me only last night that he thought he was being followed by someone.’ stated Charlie.

’All right sir, leave it to me, but if you want my considered opinion, the odds are in favour that it was an accident. We get about a dozen incidents of this type every year along the south coast.

Charlie found it hard to agree with the officer, as he knew how meticulous James was in restoring and working on his boats, and that he had always kept safety in mind.

The police officer interrupted his thoughts.

’We assure you we are doing all we can to find your brother. Give your contact details to my sergeant and as soon as we have any news we’ll let you know straight away.

‘Thanks, I’ll book us both into a local hotel for the night so we can be nearby.’

Charlie shook the officer’s hand, turned and walked away, the grief now giving way to anger over the death of his brother, for he felt sure it was no accident. With no news over the rest of the weekend, Charlie and Samantha left Warsash on the Sunday evening and drove back to Dover, where he dropped her off at her flat and went home.

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