In the square outside the Guildhall, the small German Special Forces team including the Viper and Kazim Khan, moved into their pre-arranged positions and lost themselves among the crowd. A loud murmur of excited voices filled the air as people eagerly waited for the heads of state to arrive. Many of those present were full of hope that after years of hardship, their newly elected prime minister would fulfil her election promises and get on with the job of ridding the country of its problems. The recent confirmation of trade agreements by the president of the United States with the UK, which promised economic growth and future prosperity for the country, seemed a good start.
Nearby, the majestic church of St Lawrence Jewry in Gresham Street overlooked the Guildhall. Built in the twelve century and dedicated to Saint Lawrence, the original building had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and Sir Christopher Wren had rebuilt it towards the end of the 17th century. Inside the church’s high belfry a sniper carefully observed the other tall buildings surrounding the Guildhall Square.
In the nave below a large congregation, attending the funeral service of a prominent local dignitary, saw nothing amiss as a priest entered the church. Careful not to disturb the members of the congregation sitting in the pews at the back, he went past them to a small door at the bottom of the tower. Opening the door quietly, he climbed the narrow stone staircase as the choir and congregation gave a loud rendition of the twenty-third psalm. Reaching the top of the stairs, the priest stood to the side of the open door and carefully looked in to the belfry.
A Metropolitan police marksman sat in front of a window inside, continuously scanning the scene in front of him. One of the designated counter-sniper positions of the security ring drawn around the Guildhall Square, the police officer was concentrating on observing the windows and rooftops of the surrounding buildings and below in the square for any signs of disturbances or threats.
Choosing his moment, as the singing below reached a crescendo, the priest moved stealthily towards the officer as he began reversing his scan using his peripheral vision. The threat, coming from behind went, surprised him and he collapsed to the floor with blood spurting from the severed arteries of his throat.
The German looked down at the International 7.62mm sniper rifle that had clattered to the floor. Picking it up, he noted the high-resolution Schmitt & Bender scope and gave a sigh of relief that it was the first choice as a sniper weapon for the Special Forces of most countries. For not only had he secured a prime position to start the attack, he had done so without the added risk of detection by having to bring his own disguised rifle with him. As he rolled the dead body out of the way, tugged the officer’s jacket off to wipe his knife and cover the bloody mess on the floor, he positioned himself at the window to fire the shot that would begin the killing.
Inside 10 Downing Street, the morning’s meeting finished and the two heads of state went outside to give short statements to the assembled media. It was a warm sunny day and with bonhomie in the air, both confirmed the success of their talks. Amid a barrage of questions from reporters and flanked by security agents, aides intent on keeping to the strict timing of the day’s itinerary ushered them into the VIP limo. To the flash of a multitude of cameras, the car drove through the open security gates and joined the police motorcycle riders and security officers in SUV’s waiting outside. With loud cheers from the large crowd drowning out the shouts of a handful of Remainers, the convoy swung out on to the Embankment for the short drive to the Guildhall.
Meanwhile, Charlie was trying to find somewhere to park. He pulled the battered Jag up in a cargo-unloading bay on a back street close to the Guildhall and both brothers leapt out, James turning to help Samantha squeeze out from the back.
‘You can’t park that heap there!’ shouted a policeman running up to them.
‘It’s all right, office.’ said James’s, flashing his MI5 warrant card at him.
‘Bloody Hell!’ exclaimed Charlie, seeing the mass of people ahead, ‘It’s going to be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.’
‘Too right, Charlie. Look, I’ve arranged to meet my boss with some hand-picked officers inside the Guildhall.’ said James, who had been texting while they had driven up to London. ‘You’d best leave it to the experts. Both of you have done a great job finding out about Westcliffe and his cronies, but let us professionals take it from here.’
Charlie was about to reply when he shouted.
‘Hey up, Sam! Over there, doesn’t that look a bit familiar?’
‘It’s the black Audi that collided with us outside the manor house.’ cried Samantha in surprise.
Charlie ran over to the car and kicked the broken indicator light that had caught his attention. It swung back and forwards on its wiring loom as he scanned the immediate area for the likely occupants of the car.
‘C’mon Charlie, we don’t have time to stop.’ shouted James.
As if to emphasis the point, a loud roar went up from the crowd as the motor cavalcade pulled into the square in front of the Guildhall. James left his brother and ran off, quickly becoming swallowed up by the crowd. Suddenly, the crack of a rifle shot rent the air, echoing around the buildings. In the square, Prime Minister Carol Dowding was just getting out of the limo and the impact of the bullet blasted her right back in on to the lap of the horrified US president.
Pandemonium broke out as the large crowd tried to scatter and take cover, an impossible task in the confined space of the square, as the other members of the German Special Forces team sprang into action. The security detail surrounding the limo closed up to protect their charges, the American agents among them dragging the blood spattered president out of the car, determined to get him to safety.
The Viper, instead of rushing towards the president and detonating the explosives strapped to him as planned, ripped off the IED from under his jacket and threw it down on the ground. Kazim Khan, the second suicide bomber did the same as gunshots rang out, fired by the German Special Forces team as they made their way through the cowering crowd towards the targets. As the British and American agents returned fire, one of the German Special Forces team, briefed to keep tabs on the team’s suicide bombers, realised what was happening. Taking aim, he shot Kazim in the head, who fell to the ground dead, but before he could deal with the Viper, he was taken out by a police sniper. The Viper fought his way through the crowd, spurred on by the thought of exacting a far more terrible revenge against the infidels. He remembered how easily he had duped Joachim Wieck, the German BND officer, by convincing him that he and Kazim had wanted to take part in the attack. With Allah’s help and filled with a far greater sense of purpose than the assassination attempt, the Viper was determined to escape and execute his part in the final stage of the ISIS attack.
Charlie, with a protective arm around Samantha, was leading her away from the panic-stricken crowd as the gunfire continued, when they were knocked to the ground by a man charging right into him. Charlie began to stagger back to his feet and glanced at the man that had knocked them over. As the man stared back an image of a dark-skinned face in a photo flashed through Charlie’s mind. The unmistakeable looks, even though he must be some years older, in the photo that James had shown him in the pub in Windsor. The Arab got up and Charlie realised it was the terrorist who had fired the missile that day in Afghanistan. Charlie erupted in fury as the painful memory of the injuries suffered in the crash came flooding back, not least the loss of his eye. The Arab turned on his heels and started running away and Charlie yelled at Samantha.
‘It’s one of them, Sam, and if it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to catch the bastard.’