“Ang kamatu-oran makahilway sa imo.”
[The truth will set you free]
- Sensei Maria
Ten years have gone by…
Back in 1998, after Giovanni the local policeman had decided to follow Sensei Maria down the cordoned-off alleyway and then rape her, he lay there for nearly an hour before a trickle of blood reached the far end. A local woman saw it and raised the alarm.
He couldn’t cry out for help as his jaw was badly broken and one of his testicles was in his mouth. He couldn’t spit it out because of his smashed ribs and he couldn’t pull it out because both his arms were badly broken. He was in danger of bleeding to death and he was also lucky not to suffocate or drown in his own blood.
Now he lives in a special home a few miles up the coast. He is missing his right eye and he can only see a little out of the left one. He needs a stick in each hand to walk with and he’ll never have children – they never found his other testicle.
The home is comfortable with lovely gardens and he gets a reasonable pension from years of service with the Police, but he stays indoors and drinks red wine all day and doesn’t speak. He had years of therapy but he still can’t stand crowds or open spaces, and at the rest home the female nurses seem to frighten him a bit. He’s never been able to discuss what happened to him on that day in ’98, to anyone.
Dog’s instructor, Sensei Maria, caught her flight the next morning and finished her seminar tour of Western Europe. She was horrified by Giovanni’s attempted sexual attack but she was relieved that he hadn’t picked on someone who couldn’t defend themselves.
She still lives a simple life in her Hiligaynon village back in the Philippines. She’s got a set of Kali/Silat DVDs out and every couple of years she tours Europe and the US teaching her family system to other martial arts instructors, and occasionally she competes in open-mat Jiu-Jitsu competitions.
Dog now has his own full-time martial arts gym. He doesn’t do any more security work for Kevin although they are still on good terms; they just don’t move in the same circles any more. Dog’s fighters train with him four or five nights a week and he’s got a good side line income running training seminars for doormen. He even teaches kids now, on Saturday mornings.
Some of his students are doing really well fighting in Muay Thai and MMA cage fighting competitions. Dog’s also pressure testing his own arts in some of the full contact, no armour stick fighting gatherings that have started in Europe, inspired by the Dog Brothers in the US: ‘Higher consciousness through harder contact’ is their credo.
He trains five days a week, sometimes twice a day, not counting when he travels to South East Asia. When he’s with Sensei Maria in the Philippines he trains six to eight hours a day, six days a week, sometimes for weeks at a time. Most of this time is spent exploring and practicing her family system, but he also goes to Thailand, just for Muay Thai’s sport aspects to keep his ideas fresh for his fighters back home.
Boots The Chemist’s business dealings are now almost completely legitimate. He made a small fortune growing hallucinogenic mushrooms until they were made illegal in 2005, but now he uses the same equipment to grow shi-take mushrooms for a major supermarket chain. He does very well for himself.
He still smokes weed at weekends occasionally, but he uses a herbal tobacco substitute instead of cigarettes and considers himself free of any addiction. He’s actually a lot more healthy all round: he’s started taking martial arts lessons from Dog. He’ll never be part of Dog’s competitive stable, but he’s surprised himself and loves the training, and Dog takes great care of him. He’s got his green belt in Jeet Kune Do and next year he’s making his first trip with Dog to Sensei Maria’s village. He’s terrified about the prospect, but really excited, too.
He’s less involved with Kevin and the drug scene, but three or four times a year he goes out partying and gets high, and he is still more than open-minded to try new experiences. 2-CI and DOB are his current favourites. He never got hold of the platypus venom he was hoping for but he is still looking out for a source.
He supports the Beckley Foundation which looks for cohesive thinking in relation to human consciousness and drugs policy. He also contributes to Erowid and follows MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) very closely.
He had no clue about what became of the (L,F)-Fentanyl he had created until he was sat watching the news in late October 2002. He never made another batch of Elephant and never will.
Angry Grant still does a lot of door work to supplement his shrinking income from labouring. Times are hard for the building trade and he is struggles to hold a job down at the best of times. This makes him angry. He’s still alcoholic and still sometimes attacks his girlfriend when he’s drunk. They’ve got six children now.
When he got home from his Marseille mission guarding Boots and his (L,F)-Fentanyl, Kevin paid him a big chunk of cash. He went straight out and bought a Ford Cosworth then crashed it within a week, drunk and uninsured. It was a complete write-off. At the time of writing he’s awaiting a court appearance for his third drink driving offence. This time he was stopped, drunk in charge, while already banned, so he expects to get time for it. This also makes him angry.
Kate’s photo of the snarling England fan with the red jacket turned out really well and that same day in June ’98 she emailed it to her brother from the internet café on Place St George. It showed an English football fan exploding out of a quiet café in the middle of a football riot. Her brother worked for The Sun and he sent it to the news department for a decent cash bonus which he shared with his sister. The photo really did end up on the front page.
With the money she earned from the photo, Kate eventually booked a holiday for her and Jay - who was her boyfriend - and they went on a three-country eco-tour of the Amazon basin. Seven months after they’d met, on a tree canopy walk on a wooden bridge, looking out over miles of Brazilian rain forest he proposed. She said ‘yes’, but they still haven’t tied the knot, although Kate is heavily pregnant and they are closer and more connected than ever.
They both have PhDs now and Kate has just stopped her morphology research to have the baby. Jay works as an environmental consultant, and they’ve got a house in Hove and an apartment in Séte in France. Jay often thinks about his visit from a cactus god and he’s discussed it with Kate a few times, but he has never been visited by Mescalito again.
Billy Harrison’s best mate Pickles still lives in Hoylake and goes to watch Liverpool every home game. He’s fallen out with Big Gary so they don’t go together any more. This causes no end of problems organising and swapping season tickets with other lads, not to mention who gets to see their mum at Christmas and family get-togethers.
He is still very much a ladies’ man, and he’s often out in Liverpool, seducing someone new and bringing them back to his bachelor pad Hoylake.
Big Gary got arrested and deported from France without even seeing the Tunisia game. He ran downhill from Place St George to get involved in the trouble, just as Kate took the photo of the swimmer. Big Gary got to the café just as a CRS officer walked round the corner so Gary got smashed in the side of the face with a baton and hit the floor. He got home the next day with a black eye that he wore like a trophy and now he’s banned from travelling abroad when England are playing. He lives in Moreton and he still sells, and takes, a lot of very poor quality cocaine. He is awaiting trial for being part of a group that attacked a Portsmouth fan before an FA Cup game. The victim turned out to be an off-duty police sergeant.
He is still the coach of the Hoylake and West Kirby Under-12 football squad. They are second in the league, two points behind the leaders, with a game in hand. This is despite having five points deducted earlier in the season when he head butted the referee during a league game. He got off lightly with the points deduction and a three match touchline ban, and the referee decided that she wouldn’t press charges.
When Billy Harrison got to the Tunisia game back June ’98, he and Pickles got directed to their seats and Billy was literally doubling up with excitement. He had a fantastic time, England won 2-0 and now he goes to watch Liverpool occasionally if there’s a season ticket going spare.
Getting arrested almost immediately after he left the terrace of Hotel de la Paix, Big Gary hadn’t even realised that Billy hadn’t followed him into the fray, and chosen peace instead. Gary’s arrest happened while he carried one of Billy’s easily-traceable competition-winning tickets to the match, so Billy’s now banned from entering any competitions with JVC or its affiliated companies.
Big Gary is currently barred from The Lake in Hoylake for spitting at a barmaid who refused to serve him after last orders. Thanks to this, and the bust-up with his step-brother Pickles, Billy doesn’t bump in to him often. When he does, he still doesn’t like him much and he’d never touch his rubbish coke, but he does tolerate him and they have some recurring in-jokes as a result of their Marseille awayday.
A few years after the England - Tunisia game, Billy did actually get a girl into bed thanks to his story about choosing to avoid violence in Marseille, while Stevie Wonder was playing in the background. It was after a Primal Scream gig in London, with a mixed race girl who was half-Tunisian.
Salim is now off the street and has his own place. He often wonders if it was only Evian water in the bottle in that black holdall back in ’98, but it all happened so quickly. Within the blur he has a half-memory that there was some Islamic text tattooed on the massive arm that grabbed him by the neck and threatened to kill him. He’ll never know for sure.
His lucky escape from being shot in the face at point blank range made him start work with Ahmed the Eritrean. He was the Sufi Muslim who ran the local homeless centre. As a Sufi adherent, Salim was expected to serve in the kitchens of the hospice for 1,001 days before being accepted for spiritual instruction. Then he had to spend another 1,001 days in what they call solitary retreat.
It comes from the Arabic for “those who are selected” and Sufism has come to mean those who are finding a way or practice toward inner awakening and enlightenment - they consider truth to be a very personal thing.
Salim’s partner-in-crime David escaped from place St George with the drugs he stole from Billy Harrison. He took some ecstasy and snorted some coke that same afternoon, then swapped some of what he had left for a couple of hits of heroin back at the squat. He developed a taste for it really quickly, then disappeared and Salim didn’t see him for a year or so. He turned up at the hostel in 2000 and spoke to Salim. He was really pale and had lost a lot of weight, but he couldn’t hold down any of the food Salim served him. He just sat and looked at it for an hour, a shadow of his former self.
Not long before Salim left Marseille and his work at the homeless centre for good, he saw David again. He was off the heroin and had put the weight back on, but he needed a crutch to walk with. He’d been looking for fresh injection targets and started using the femoral vein in the thigh. Mainlining into his leg affected his circulation and he got thrombosis and abscesses and now he can’t walk without a crutch.
The Sufi doctrine of “the unity of being,” has taught Salim about what he calls ‘interiority’ and the oneness of humanity. He has come to terms with his suffering and the death of his family back Iraq. He leads a righteous life, with heart, which is what Ahmed always suggested. He’s at peace with himself and his fellow man, and he considers what happened to him on that day in 1998 to be not just a warning, but a great gift.
Riccardo the carabiniere avoided the need to act as Tadeusz’s sniper insurance on Place St George, as all went according to plan at Table 4. He still does similar jobs when he gets the chance, to cover his spiralling gambling debts. The work is really well-paid but it’s slightly counter-productive ’cos when he gets excited in the casino and the adrenalin gets the better of him, he’s got another resource to fall back on. He follows his blood chemistry’s lust for excitement, hoping for the next big win.
In 2003 he was arrested and charged with six counts of police corruption and suspended. He went to court in Rome in 2006 along with eleven others involved with money laundering and extortion. He was found not guilty on all counts and had his job reinstated. He still lives with his wife in Sicily.
Tadeauz’s nephew Pawel is still living in Poland, in Mikoszewo near Gdansk, with his wife Anna, his son Jozef and a young daughter called Marya. He eventually followed Anna’s advice and stopped producing amphetamines for his Uncle Teddy, although he had to train up a replacement before he was allowed to stop.
The family spend a lot of quality time tending to their orchard and they still love the simple life, enjoying the fruits of their labour together. The kids love it, too.
Tadeusz’s minder, Quiet Tony, has stopped taking steroids and still doesn’t talk much.
Tadeusz only spends a few weeks a year in Poland now, he lives mostly in Chelsea and Manhattan. He’s got some legitimate interests doing some consultancy work with the World Bank and the European Parliament but the vast majority of his income is drug-related. His money gets him influential society friends and he follows the Polo circuit and goes to lots of fund raising events for charities in South and Central America and Afghanistan. The people he met led to further introductions and networking opportunities with local entrepreneurs. This meant he found new lines of supply for drugs from those areas.
Despite the growing evidence that prohibition does not work, Teddy campaigns very aggressively to continue worldwide drug criminalisation, and makes use of his media contacts at The Daily Mail and Express. His smuggling livelihood is fuelled by ignorance and fear so he insists that more money needs to be spent in the War On Drugs. His lobbying has made him enough friends in high places to influence policing and even some local government decisions in Afghanistan and Central America. This means he can remove some of his organisation’s competitors, either by getting them killed or put in prison.
The only thing he lobbies for without any clear financial gain to himself, is to campaign against what he thinks is continuing Russian imperialism. He still hates all things Russian and considers any political pressure on neighbouring states to be imposing the iron will of the hammer and sickle on ethnically different people. Takeovers of mini-states like Georgia and Chechnya, just because they were formally parts of the Russian Empire, is what he hates the most.
‘And what about Boots the Chemist’s new drug?’ you might be wondering. ’What about L,F-Fentanyl? What about Elephant?’ Ironically, Tadeusz’s drug-peddling turned out to be quite significant for the Russian imperialism he despises so much….
A few weeks after the meeting in Place St George, Boots’s product had been analysed and reproduced by Pawel back in Poland. Then Tadeusz sold some to an old contact of his called Paulo, a Venezuelan dealer in specialist security devices and non-lethal weapons. Paulo offered it to the Russian military and got an enormous fee for it…
I PROMISE YOU THAT TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, THE REST OF THIS STORY IS ENTIRELY TRUE.
On 23 October 2002 at the Dubrovka Theatre in Moscow, there was a thousand people watching Nord Ost, a musical set in World War II. The performance was interrupted when a shot was fired just after the interval. Fifty masked and heavily armed people ran into the theatre. They had two large bombs with them, and some of the women had other explosives strapped to their bodies. They took control of the whole place and then sat in seats near the hostages in the auditorium. They were from Chechnya and they wanted independence from Russia.
Chechnya demanded separatism right after the Soviet Union dissolved and a war broke out in 1994 ending up in an invasion by the Russian Army. War broke out again in 1999 and by 2000 most of the republic was controled of the Russian federal army.
The war for independence was really brutal with terrible losses on both sides so the Chechens decided to take the fight to Moscow. As they were arming the bombs, Movsar Barayev, their leader, made an announcement to the outside world that if Russia didn’t start a total and immediate withdrawal of all its troops in Chechnya they’d start killing hostages.
The Chechens let pregnant women, foreigners and some sick people out early on, but the theatre got surrounded by the Russian army pretty much straight away. At about half past three in the morning a woman sneaked past the police cordon, got inside and started shouting at the hostage-takers. I’m guessing she was a relative of a hostage but the rebels thought she was a government agent and they killed her. Everyone knew they meant business after that.
Over the next few days media from all over the world focused on the theatre siege, but the rebels and the army couldn’t come to an agreement – Russia said they couldn’t get all the troops out of Chechnya that quickly and there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing but no deal.
There was a thousand hostages and their families waited outside, hoping that everything would turn out OK.
The Russians had to find a way to save the hostages without setting the bombs off and causing hundreds of casualties. The soldiers would need to fight along corridors that were all guarded by heavily-armed guerrillas, so they could get into the central hall where the biggest bomb was. It was surrounded by the cast and audience so if it went off they’d all die and the building would come down.
The rebels let the Red Cross bring some food and clothes for the hostages and everyone tried to negotiate an end to the siege, even ex-president Gorbachev tried talking to them. The government repeated that the withdrawal of all troops from Chechnya would take time, but Movsar Barayev sent a message saying: “We have come to die. Our motto is freedom and paradise. We already have freedom as we’ve come to Moscow. Now we want to be in paradise.” He said they hadn’t come to Moscow to kill the hostages, they just wanted to end the war in their country.
Three days into the siege, just before dawn on a really foggy morning the search lights aimed at the theatre went out. A mystery drug was pumped in through the air conditioning vents, and the Alpha Group and Vympel units of the Spetsnaz Special Forces attacked. They ran into the auditorium with gas masks and shot the Chechen women point blank to stop them detonating the bombs. It turned out later that many of the bombs were either fake or didn’t have detonators.
Most of the people in the building just fell unconscious where they were, but there were deaths on both sides. Some of the Chechens had gas masks and there was gunfire for over an hour before the place was completely locked down. Every single Russian soldier survived, and no hostages were caught in crossfire, so it looked like a success, to begin with.
Hundreds of limp bodies were dragged out and laid on the ground but the medical team was overstretched and they couldn’t all be revived. Treating them was complicated because the Russian government refused to tell the doctors what type of gas had been used. There was a lot of confusion and I’ve been told by a Russian friend that some corpses were even driven away propped upright, so it looked like they were still alive. There was an investigation but the official records say an ‘unidentified chemical substance’ was used. The Russian authorities claimed the operation was a great success but the relatives wanted to know how their loved ones had died, and so did the media. Some people said they might have even used nerve gas, which is against international law. Russia held a national day of mourning.
For years, international hostage rescue teams have been looking for a pharmaceutical holy grail: a drug that can knock people out really quickly without killing them at higher doses. Distance and bodyweight are really big factors and inside the theatre there were Chechen women with explosives strapped to them sat right next to some of the air the vents but they didn’t overdose. Every single known drug would either kill anyone near a vent straight away, or not work quickly enough on the Chechens near the middle of the theatre. If they only got a small dose they could raise the alarm for others to detonate the bombs and kill the hostages before they fell asleep. A larger dose of any known substance would just kill everyone near the vents.
Over a hundred people died, but it’s claimed that most of them just fell unconscious and landed awkwardly with obstructed wind pipes, which can easily be fatal. This is quite likely for hostages sat down in the auditorium – they just choke because the weight of their head crushes their windpipe when they pass out.
The international community decided it was some sort of surgical anesthetic used as a chemical weapon. Fentanyl was an early contender and supplies of naloxone, which is the antidote, were seen in containers outside the theatre. It’s been calculated that Fentanyl would be far too weak to knock everyone out, but it has stronger derivatives. Carfentanyl is the most powerful opiate known, and is ten thousand times stronger than morphine. It looked like the Russians had used a drug even stronger than Carfentanyl, but far, far safer in high doses. Over the next couple of days the Western media had articles about chemicals like Diazepam, BZ, Etorphine and Halothane. Foreign embassies in Moscow put in official requests for more information on the mystery gas to help treat survivors, but the Russian government refused to name the gas or its source.
A few days later the Russians informed the U.S. Embassy of some of the gas’s effects and the doctors, who had examined the victims, decided the gas was some kind of Morphine or Fentanyl derivative.
In January 2004, there was a BBC Horizon Special on the TV, hoping to solve the mystery of what substance was used in the siege. An aerosol dose of standard Fentanyl that was strong enough to drop somebody where they stood, would probably stop their breathing for good, and anyway, hostage urine samples tested negative for every chemical agent they tried.
Professor Thomas Zilker said that “it seemed to be different from Fentanyl, Carfentanyl and Sufentanyl but it had to have the potency of Carfentanyl at least, because otherwise it wouldn’t work in these circumstances.” He concluded the Russians had created a new, weaponised Fentanyl derivative that was stronger than any other but undetectable in the West.
Dr. Mark Wheelis of the University of California said “the fact that the Russians did it and got away with a lethality of less than twenty percent, suggests to me that very likely there may have been a novel agent with a higher safety margin that normal Fentanyl… but it is highly likely that the exact truth will never be known for certain.”
“Your truth is not my truth,
my truth is not your truth.”
- Bruce Lee
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