Into the Woods …. (Espionage 9)

20 minutes into the V-Day Attack.

Gabriel Woods stared at the crowd surging and pushing towards him, a primal fear coursing through his system, as the stampede of bodies barrelled down the London street, panicked and terrified.

Having rushed from Ryan “Jacket” Malik’s Croydon safe-house to London in the bomb-maker’s car, in a vain attempt to assist the SAS kill-teams already operating there, Woods was forced to abandon the car on the A23 when he saw the thousands of police checkpoints that blocked entry to London.

Slipping past surreptitiously the checkpoint, as policemen argued sternly with the hundreds of cars that were lining up, Woods made his way through the millions of alleyways that marked London’s cityscape, before finally entering the CBD properly after a long hour walk.

As he made his way through the city, he could hear the screams and echoes of gunfire. With his MP7A1, Glock 19 and warbelt looking decidedly terrifying, Gabriel wasn’t keen for anyone to see him, as he had no friendly identifying features on him.

As he rounded the corner of a street cautiously, it was then he was confronted with a crowd.

Falling back around the corner, Woods ducked into an alcove as the crowd kept running past him. No one saw the quiet assassin watching them, as they ran away in their fear. As he stepped out, one of the stragglers nearly collided into him, a petite woman clutching her arm and looking back in the direction she had came in horror.

She nearly screamed at the sight of Woods, but Woods was quicker, and with a firm but gentle grip, Woods slowly moved her around the corner, sat her down on the floor and said soothingly in a British accent

It’s OK. I’m UK Special Forces. I’m friendly. Here, let me look at that arm.

The petite woman was shaking heavily, the shock of a terrorist attack still apparent in her nervous system. Tears streaked down her cheeks, as she felt some semblance of relief at a soldier tending to her wound.

What’s your name? asked Woods softly, as he opened his first aid kit.

Liz. said the woman shakily. Woods nodded and smiled reassuringly.

Hi Liz. My name is George. I’m a medic with the 2nd Paras. We’ll have you patched up in no time OK? Just try to stay calm with me and not move too much OK? Everything is going to be alright Liz.

As Gabriel inspected the wound, a nasty piece of frag that had embedded itself in Liz’s arm, a tiny part of him marvelled at how quickly he had lied and created a false military persona. George from the 2nd Paras …. that was something he would have to tell Ashford later, so that the illustrious 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, one of Britian’s first airborne troops units, founded in the Second World War, could prepare an appropriate story for the press.

It was a typical SAS ploy, to pass off their deeds to the Regiment where most of the SAS members had come from, and in most cases the Paras were all too happy to take the credit.

Gabriel looked at the piece of metal shrapnel that had lodged itself in this attractive blonde’s arm and winced at the flow of blood that was oozing out. To remove this, was to risk further blood loss, but who knew what sort of shit, bacteria wise, was in that open wound right now.

Taking out some disinfectant, Gabriel maintained gentle eye contact with Liz, as her blue eyes locked onto his green trustingly.

OK Liz, so I can’t remove this piece of metal, because to do so, would mean that you might incur more blood loss. What I am going to do, is disinfect this wound, so it’s going to sting a lot. Then I’m going to bandage you up and get you to a hospital ASAP. Hold onto me Liz, because this is going to hurt OK?

Liz nodded and started to breathe heavily, as she gripped Gabriel’s shoulder with her good hand. Dabbing the disinfectant onto a gauze pad, Gabriel started to clean the wound, ignoring the moans of pain as Liz began to writhe in his grip and tighten the pressure on his shoulder with her fingers.

Come on Liz, nearly there! said Woods encouragingly, as he continued to dab away at the wound and avoided touching the metal.

After what seems like hours, but was in reality minutes, Liz relaxed as Woods finally stopped and took out his bandage roll.

OK, hold still Liz.

She nodded gamely, as Woods began to bandage the wound, allowing the piece of metal to stick out from beyond the protective white tape and she winced in pain as the bandage pricked at the metal shrapnel.

OK, all done Liz. Attagirl. Now we got to get you to a hospital. Can you stand?

I … I think so.

It’s only a short hop, and skip away. Let’s go.

Gabriel gently looped Liz’s good arm around his neck and together they began to walk to the nearest hospital, which was the St. Thomas’ Hospital.

As Woods half carried and half supported Liz, he made idle conversation to take her mind off the pain and the sight of white bandages slowly becoming more infused with red.

Tell me more about yourself Liz. What do you normally do for a living?

I’m a bartender. I was serving drinks at the Beaufort, near the Savoy when out of nowhere I heard all this gunfire. At first I thought it was some type of sick joke, but when our bar’s windows got shot through and I saw people falling over …

Liz’s voice trailed off, as she relived the moment.

It’s OK Liz. You don’t have to continue. said Woods softly.

No, I’m OK. But yeah, when I saw what was really going on … I ducked behind the bar, but that was when the terrorists shot at the glasses above me and people starting running out. One of the bullets must have shattered something, because the railing that held up the drinks just fucking broke apart and I got that in my arm as I was hiding.

Liz took a shaky breath, as they continued their slow journey to the hospital.

You know George, I was there in 2017, when the Bridge attacks happened. I thought I was going to die when the van came near me. But this shit is way worse. I can’t believe it happened to me again. I only just got over that damn bridge attack and now .. I’m fucking shot. When is this going to be over?

Gabriel looked sympathetically at the waiter. She was tough and unlucky. To have 2 terrorists attack occur within the span of 5 years, with Liz at the centre, was sheer galactic unluckiness. He didn’t know what to say.

Take it easy Liz, Woods heard himself say We’re nearly there.

God … I’m going to have to spend a ton more on therapy again said Liz half jokingly and half seriously.

Woods smiled. A sense of humour meant that her spirit wasn’t truly broken yet. As they rounded the corner, Woods was relieved to see that the hospitals had not quite gotten full yet. Walking through the emergency doors, Woods looked at a nurse and a security guard who was rushing forwards.

UK Special Forces. I’m here to drop off a casualty. Frag wound to the arm. I’ll leave her in your care. Give me a quick trauma kit, I got to get back out there.

The nurse nodded and yelled at the security guard who immediately ran off to get a fresh trauma kit whilst she looked at Liz.

Liz smiled at Woods gratefully as the nurse fussed over her.

I don’t know how to thank you George.

Just doing my duty ma’am. said Woods charmingly.

Thank you. Oh and one more thing, as I was running out of the Beaufort, I thought I saw something strange.

Woods knelt in front of Liz and looked at her seriously.

What was it? he asked intensely.

Maybe it was nothing, but just before the attack happened, I was serving this couple. They were this good-looking Middle Eastern couple. The girl looked really nervous, and she also looked pregnant but the guy seemed chilled about everything. I only remembered them, because they never ordered any proper drinks, just mocktails and finger food. But they kept looking at their watches and I noticed at around 10 to 7, they left.

As they left, I saw the guy nod to someone who was also eating there.

This guy was the one who later shot up my bar.

Woods looked at Liz, scrutinising her. Are you sure?

Yes.

Which way were they going?

I’m not sure, but it was towards the Charing Cross.

Woods smiled gratefully. Thank you Liz. he said, holding her non-injured hand gently and squeezing it warmly. Now heal up. I’ll be back to visit you sometime.

As Woods ran off, he knew that he would never keep that promise. Such was the nature of this business. She would live her life, none the wiser about the identity of the Prince that had saved her arm from amputation with his quick first aid. To her, he was just another 2nd Parachute Regiment trooper named George.

~

To cross the River Thames, Woods was going to run directly across the famous Westminster Bridge where Big Ben watched over it, ever vigilant. To the North of these iconic institutions, stood equally famous landmarks, like 10 Downing Street, Whitehall and the National Gallery.

To the North-east of Big Ben, sat the Savoy and the Beaufort Bar, where Gabriel and Liz had walked from, as well as Charing Cross Station.

If Woods was any predictor of the Sphinx’s target, it would be any of those key icons or Big Ben itself. However, suicide bombing was not in his nature.

This was the task of his underlings. Soldiers who would die for the cause.

Men who had already set London on fire, as Woods ran across Westminster Bridge, seeing flames and smoke rising from the numerous shops that had been fired upon.

What struck Woods though, was the constant cacophony of noise. Screams of the wounded blended into the whoop, whoop, whoop of emergency sirens. The occasional pop of gunfire echoed through the skyward corridors of London, the sound reverberating harshly as it bounced everywhere.

There were people were running everywhere, as their panicked eyes sought solace anywhere. Woods could see bloodied clothes, torn dresses and abandoned heels. A man walked past him, his eyes dazed by the horror of what he had just witnessed, a zombie in a neat tuxedo. Nothing was registering on his face, just an empty blankness.

Others were crouched and lying on the floor, as they hyperventilated through the shock and fear, struggling to breathe properly, their friends sobbing into their shoulder.

A woman and her child were hugging each other tightly, and as Woods ran past them, the mother screamed in horror at the sight of his guns and buried her face into her son’s head.

No! No! NO! Don’t take him please!

Woods ignored her and kept running, his green eyes scanning everywhere for Malik and Sofia. If they weren’t going to attack Big Ben, then it had to be something else. Sooner or later, he would come across them.

More people ran past him. Shops burned. Woods kept desperately searching for the two lovers.

But he only saw chaos everywhere.

A teen in a hoodie was rummaging through a smashed in store. Woods walked up to him and raised his MP7A1, nudging him in the shoulder.

The teen jumped backwards in fright, and promptly tripped over the broken glass that littered the floor. Falling over, he instantly banged his hooded head against the floor, knocking him out cold. Woods flipped him over, and with a spare cable-tie, cuffed the teen to a floor-mounted table and sent an anonymous tip to the police with his phone.

Pushing on, Woods kept moving through the city that had been touched too many times by fundamentalism. To his great relief, Woods had yet to see any bomb damage, which meant that his intelligence and the SAS kill-teams had saved the city from further destruction.

Whilst it would have been more ideal if all elements of the attack had been stopped, there was only so much that could be done. After all, the Sphinx had planned for all eventualities. Casualties in every single one of his attacks were to be expected. This was his biggest one, and to assume that they could properly prevent an attack, planned by one of their own, was arrogant and short-sighted.

Woods recalled the conversation he had with Ashford, in the hours before this attack.

~

You know that we can’t stop this attack cleanly right?

I know, Gabriel. There are still too many variables in this scenario. The SAS teams are all prepped and ready to go. They’ll be inserting in ASAP. But …

Ashford’s voice trailed off into silence as he tried to contemplate all of the Sphinx’s moves.

We still know too little.

Yes. said Ashford defeated. The lads at Hereford are the best, but even they are no guarantee.

Woods looked on quietly, as one of the most powerful and intelligent men in the world, buried his head in his hands. Every death that was going to occur in the attack, was going to haunt him for the rest of his career. Not even his American counterpart, Richard Washington had been able to provide much assistance.

The Sphinx was going to strike, regardless of their actions from now till the Valentine Day Attack.

What the hell am I going to do Gabriel?

Woods looked at Ashford and coldly said one word

Retribution.

Ashford looked up sharply at his best asset.

You know sir, it’s time you put me to good use. The Americans never quite understood how to use me to the best of my ability. I gathered intelligence for them, hid amongst the locals and spied on village leaders and warlords.

I didn’t become the Prince to spy on people. I definitely did not expect months of service to the Americans either.

You found me for a reason. I’m not in the business of preventing attacks.

I’m in the business of hunting

The information I gather is to kill a target, not to be used for any other type of reconnaissance.

Don’t make the same mistake as the Americans. You’re better than that. You have under your command, someone who stalks and kill their prey before they can commit some heinous crime.

I don’t exist anywhere. No-one knows who I really am, or who I work for.

It’s too late to prevent this attack, but you can stop the next one.

Unleash me, sir.

Ashford nodded and realised that he had foolishly categorised this man as another intelligence asset.

What Gabriel Woods should really be designated as, is England’s only assassin.

James Ashford, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, looked at Woods with a cold fury behind his eyes.

You have execute authority. I want Malik’s head. Bring it to me. Don’t make tomorrow’s chaos be in vain.

Woods looked back at his boss and nodded.

With pleasure, sir.

~

As Woods rushed from Westminster Bridge to 10 Downing Street, following nothing but his instincts, the Sphinx was gripping the hands of Sofia Sumarwata, whose serene beauty was now flushed with excitement.

They looked like any Valentine’s Day couple, well dressed and romantic in their attractiveness. Malik was dressed in a casual suit, with a black collared shirt, matching his black pants and sports jacket. His hair was slicked back, and his clean shaven face showcased his strong jaw and straight nose. The only thing that betrayed his romantic sheen, was the intense focus behind his brown eyes, that scanned the environment intently and showed a strange excitement.

Sofia’s outfit was startlingly bold. Her red dress plunged daringly at the front and perfectly set off her olive skin. Her dark hair was tossed and tousled just so, giving it volume and bounce, as she ran next to her lover. Sofia’s long legs were brilliantly displayed in a pair of red Louboutin heels, and there was a strange air of carelessness to her that was completely at odds with the chaos surrounding the couple.

They were racing down the Parliament Street, as people screamed and scattered around them. The entire city was gripped in a panic and it was imperative that they use this opportunity to strike.

The Sphinx was armed to the teeth, a collapsible AKS-74U with modern Zenitco rails and a compact Aimpoint T-2 affixed towards the front of the gun. In addition, a DBAL-I2 laser designator was affixed to the right side of the gun, and in a holster on his belt was a large Beretta M9A3 with a suppressor.

It was this large pistol that was gripped in the Sphinx’s hands, as he held it low and behind his leg, the AKS-74U hidden just underneath his stylish black blazer.

Sofia was unarmed, but there was something strange about the way how she moved, how she clutched at her belly that betrayed her intention.

At 100 metres away from the checkpoint at Downing Street, the pair of them slowed down, holding each other’s hands tightly, Sofia savouring the moment with Malik.

Then it came into proper view, the simple black gates that protected one of the most iconic residences in the world. Understated and manned by 5 police officers, wielding G36 assault rifles, the gates looked strangely unimposing for so important a residence.

All the officers were at the front of the gate, anxiously looking out at the chaos that was happening all around them, their assault rifles held nervously in their hands.

The Sphinx counted them and rehearsed a move in his head

One of the officers saw the Sphinx and Sofia walking towards them and motioned to them to stop.

Halt!

Sofia stopped and put her hands up, reassuring the officers somewhat. She smiled reassuringly and for a split second they relaxed.

It was then, the Sphinx made his move. Swiftly and violently.

The Beretta whipped up from behind his leg and shooting between the gate’s frame, the pistol spat 5 rounds in a matter of 2 seconds.

The officers didn’t even get a single shot off. They all crumpled to the floor, like marionettes that had their strings cut, blood seeping out of the holes in their heads. The Sphinx walked over to the gate and peered in, before nodding to himself.

Reaching into his pocket, the Sphinx took out a wad of C2 explosive, a less powerful version of C4, traditionally used for breaching. Lining the strip along the seam of the gate, he stepped back and set it off with a detonator, watching as the gates swung inward viciously.

Smiling victoriously, Hassan Malik, the Sphinx stepped onto the hallowed grounds of the British Parliament.

~

As the two lovers crossed the gate to Downing Street, Woods spotted them, further down the road, on the opposite end of Parliament. He saw the flash of Sofia’s dark hair and her red dress as she disappeared from sight a second later, past the police checkpoint’s gates

Fuck! swore Woods as he switched from a jog to a full blown sprint.

~

Hassan Malik looked at one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and pressed her lips to his. Sofia looked deep into his eyes, tears and love mingling together in a coalescence of heavy emotion. They savoured each other for a second, before she began to walk towards the iconic black door of 10 Downing Street.

~

For all it’s importance, as the residence of the United Kingdom’s Prime Minster, Number 10’s black door was classically British in its simplicity, elegance and refinement. There was nothing particularly flashy about it, nor ornate. It was perfect in its unobtrusiveness.

But within the doors, housed many different rooms steeped in history. 300 years old, with 100 rooms for dignitaries, world leaders and influential folk of all sorts, the house had long been the home to Britain’s most iconic leaders, Thatcher, Churchill, Pitt the Younger …

Cabinet and War Rooms could be found within its halls and in 1991, the place was bombed by the IRA, during a particularly vicious era of British history, leading to the installation of the police checkpoints that the Sphinx had so comprehensively attacked.

In the words of Margaret Thatcher, Number 10 had become “one of the most precious jewels in the national heritage.”

A jewel that would very soon be besmirched by the latest brand of terrorism.

~

Sofia Sumarwata walked slowly towards the centre of 10 Downing Street. The image of such a beautiful woman standing in the centre of the home for the British Parliament was burned into the minds of all who saw it.

The security officers watching from cameras, their faces aghast at what was to come.

The 5 other officers who had turned around too late to see what was going on on the other side Downing Street and were now charging forwards to tackle Sofia, unaware of the danger.

The Prime Minister and his cabinet diving for the floor as their security guards threw themselves on top of their charges.

The Sphinx taking cover nearby, a sad and proud smile on his face as he beheld his lover take her final steps into oblivion.

And finally the Prince himself as he dashed around the gate, his weapon up, his eyes affixed through the gun sight.

Sofia knocked on the door of Number 10 Downing Street politely, once.

The sight of such an attractive woman in red, knocking in a picturesque British setting would have beautiful, if not for the intent.

No! Sofia, don’t! yelled Woods as he desperately tried to reach her in time. The image of her standing there, with a sad but content expression was enough for Woods to curl his finger around the trigger. But there was no time left.

She was gone.

~

The explosion that ripped from her stomach was huge. She had worn a modified vest that resembled a pregnant belly. It was directed outwards and immediately blew her apart in two. Nothing remained of her body, one second she was there, the next she was gone.

Only her actions remained, to be remembered forever in history.

The black door at Number 10 was eviscerated. Vapourised along with anything within 10 metres of the initial blast. Glass melted before the intense heat, bricks shattered and burned along with the carpet that lined the interior of the house. Priceless art dropped from their hooks and blew apart, as did tasteful furniture that was reduced to ash instantly.

The buildings around the explosion buckled heavily, as windows shattered and showered the immediate area with shards of glass and wood splinters, causing the Sphinx to roll from behind a car he was hiding behind to avoid the shower.

The Prime Minister yelled as the roar of the blast could even be felt in his War Room, the reinforced bunker holding up easily to the blast.

The officers who had come running from the other side of Downing Street were flung aside, their bodies rag-dolling against cars, walls and for one poor officer, a hard red London post box that cracked his head open. They all laid still, their heroics unrewarded with unceremonious unconsciousness.

Woods was also flung backwards by the concussive force, the shaped charge saving his life in a strange way, as most of the explosive force was directed towards the residence, and the fact that he was further away.

He crashed heavily against the black fence of the gate, the force of the impact stunning him viciously. Groaning, Woods looked up from his prone position to see the sharply dressed Sphinx get up from his position, whip his AKS-74U up and charge headlong into the breach that his lover sacrificed herself for.

What the hell is he doing? thought Woods. He knows he can’t get to the Prime Minister once he is in the War Room. What is he searching for?

Moments later, the gunfire from the building screamed at Woods to get up.

Gritting his teeth and despite the intense ringing that was shooting through his head and ears, Woods jumped up and ran into the breach after the Sphinx.

Author’s Note

I’ll keep it brief …

I’ve already started on the next and final installment of this series.

Till then!

~ Damocles.

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