Line of Descent chapter 12
Captain Wainright was in charge of the team that had been flown down from Herefordshire that evening to assault the safe house. He was large and angular and looked very capable. Drayton had taken to him straight away. He had a flinty forbidding look that was constantly undermined by the dead pan asides he occasionally made as they discussed the preparations for the coming assault on the safe house. Drayton, who had never worked with any special forces first hand, was impressed by their speed and how exact and detailed their preparations actually were. Wainright had organised a minutely detailed assault of the safe house within six hours of his arrival in London.
It had had a box like extension added to the back a number of years ago and Wainright had told Drayton that a full plan of the house would have been lodged at the local planning office. Drayton had despatched a party to knock them up for the plans. From them a crude cardboard model of the house had been quickly built.
Wainright, working with his team, had developed a plan for the assault using the model and the plans. By the time they had something they were all satisfied with, every man in the team had an exact role to play, knew exactly where he would enter the building, what route he would take once inside and where he would expect to meet other members of the team inside. His sergeant was going through it again with the men while he completed his personal preparations with Drayton.
‘We’d like him alive if possible’ said Drayton watching him strip off before donning the mound of clothing and equipment he would wear for the assault.
‘I can’t promise anything, you know’ he replied. ‘From the sound of him, he’s probably the one most likely to react first. If he comes out fighting, we’ll have to take him out. These things happen quickly. We don’t really have time to pick and choose.’
‘I know. Just do what you can, but above all, don’t let him get away. If you have to kill him, then kill him’ replied Drayton, interested despite himself in the kit Wainright was climbing into.
He was familiar with the IPPS or Integrated Personal Protection System through the spin‑offs developed for concealed diplomatic protection but had never seen the full outfit. The first layer was a flame retardant long john, followed by a one piece carbon fibre assault suit. Over this went the bullet‑proof ceramic composite waistcoat with a built-in trauma liner to absorb any impact shocks.
Finally the equipment harness was buckled on over it all. When he went in, Drayton knew he would be wearing a ballistic helmet and respirator with a built-in communications system. He was beginning to look like an invader from outer space, beetle black, shiny and menacing.
Wainright slung his sub‑machine gun over his shoulder and picked up his helmet and gas mask. He called his team together for a final talk before they got in the van that was to take them to the house. Drayton checked again on the radio with the surveillance team watching the house. It was still quiet. He told them Wainright’s team would be there within twenty minutes.
Drayton rode in the van with Wainright and his team to the house that had been commandeered as a control point for the operation. It was across the street from the safe house. The darkened front room was being used as the command centre for the assault. It was in Hammersmith, a quiet residential area of west London. When they arrived, it was nearly four o’clock in the morning and the watchers reported that there was still no sign of activity from the house. The bugs and parabolic listening devices pointed at it were still only picking up sleeping noises.
Wainright explained to them that they were going to try a two-phase plan. The team would initially be positioned around the house in such a way as to assault it and to cover two men climbing up on top of the box extension. If the men got there undetected, then the assault would kick off with the two men already in position to blast their way in upstairs. If they were detected climbing up, it would begin straight away.
‘An option play, if you will. I hope the yank in there appreciates it’ he finished with a grin.
They went over it yet again before Wainright and his team left to creep to their jump off positions around the house. Drayton put on a tactical communications rig and listened in to the terse reports as they each reached their assigned start positions and reported in to Wainright. Every man on the team wore a similar rig. Before the two assigned to scale the extension made the attempt, the gassing devices were fitted to the letter box and air vents of the house. They contained a special mixture of gas under ultra high pressure. Wainright had explained that the gas was a mixture of several catalysts and variant of CS gas.
‘An oxygen gobbler’ he had explained to Drayton cheerfully. ‘Removes the oxygen from the air so they can’t breathe and then floods it with something else they definitely won’t like breathing at all’.
When the devices were fired, the effect would be to explosively flood the house with a dense cloud of choking gas. He listened in as the men at the back positioned the ladder on the side wall of the extension that did not have a window and climbed up it. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, they reported they were in position and ready.
From across the road, Drayton watched Wainright crouched down behind the small front wall of the house with four of his men. He was scheduled to go in the front door, following two of his men. The other two were going in through the two front windows. They each carried sub‑machine guns except Wainright, who carried an automatic because of the ballistic shield he carried in his left hand. The pistol had some type of adapted magazine which protruded, twice the ordinary length, from the grip of the gun. He was to be the third man through the door and needed the extra protection of the Kevlar shield. Bitter experience had shown that the man in that order through a doorway was the one most likely to get shot.
Wainright counted it down from ten. At two the cylinders were fired, injecting the house instantly with the gas. It could have been his imagination, but Drayton thought he saw the house actually expand as if being blown up like a balloon.
Before Wainright got to zero, the two men in front of him were already charging at the front door with the mini battering ram. It went down instantly, the charges previously placed on the hinges and lock fired by remote just before they got there. The two men on either side of them went in through the two front downstairs windows, preceded by stun grenades. A man in the garden in front of Drayton stood up and fired a stun grenade through the front upstairs window. There was a deafening explosion and a flood of light which dazzled even Drayton across the street from it. From the back of the house, he heard the crash of glass followed by the explosions of more grenades as the men in the garden and on top of the extension went in to action.
The effect was to put an armed man in every room of the house a fraction of a second after Wainright’s count reached zero. Every room that is, except for the front upstairs bedroom. Wainright followed the battering ram crew through the flattened front door, jumping it and the discarded ram. Gas billowed out into the street. While one of them took station in the hall, the other one thundered up the stairs with Wainright following close on his heels.
Wainright and his men were wearing gas masks and infrared imaging goggles which enabled them to see through the dense cloud of gas in the house. His objective was to reach the front bedroom from which the bug had picked up the American’s voice. By the time he reached the top of the stairs, he could see the men who had gone in through the top of the extension had already reached their targets and had dragged them out into the upstairs hallway. They were lying on the ground vomiting and coughing hoarsely with tears streaming from eyes already swollen shut.
The man in front of Wainright hit the front bedroom door at the run, his padded shoulder smashing it completely off the door jamb. As he skidded to a stop, sprawled on top of the door with his gun pointed into the room, Wainright hurdled over him, landing and rolling to the right. Through the gas he could make out a solitary figure lying spread-eagled on the bed. The rest of the room was bare and empty. He rolled to his feet, gun held in front of him, and quickly advanced at a crouch to the bed. The man lying there was gagged and tied to the bed. Through red swollen eyes he looked up at Wainright in shock. It was Krupmeyer.
Drayton heard Wainright give the all secure signal on the radio. He watched from across the street as four men were dragged unceremoniously out of the house and thrown on the ground in the street. While they were being searched a man went from one to the other of them, with what looked like an oxygen bottle, giving them a whiff of it. Clouds of gas still billowed out of the house through the smashed windows. Drayton caught a whiff of it and gagged. It was evil stuff.
It was nearly nine o’clock in the morning. Drayton looked out through the reinforced plate-glass at the Thames. A rusty barge chugged its way upriver with another in tow. It was an ugly-looking craft. His patience was running thin. He turned around and scowled at the large man sitting at the table, still dabbing his eyes with a gauze pad soaked in medicine. This could go on for hours and he was not sure they had the time.
‘Listen’ he said, advancing to the desk ‘if you think we’re going to swallow some bloody story about an innocent abroad being kidnapped by the IRA for some unknown reason, you’re seriously mistaken. You’re staying here until we get the truth’ he said hitting the desk and thrusting his face to within an inch of Krupmeyer’s.
He was rewarded with a wide goofy smile which slowly changed to a kiss. There was a childish impudence about it designed to irritate the already impatient Drayton further. It succeeded.
Drayton backed off and took a deep breath. It was no good. They had tried several approaches in the last three hours and Krupmeyer had stuck to his story. They had got enough of his background from him to realise an ex‑policeman was not going to be the most susceptible subject for an interrogation. The other three had followed the usual terrorist procedure and not uttered a single word since their arrest. A gun had been found in the house and that was good enough to hold them indefinitely. Krupmeyer was another matter. Being a victim of a kidnap was not yet a crime, he reflected without humour. Beyond a certain point, he would have to be let go. He could just sit there and ignore them until that point was reached, and he knew it.
Drayton was certain he knew more than he was admitting. A second American turning up in this mess was just stretching things too far. There was a connection all right. He turned back to Krupmeyer.
‘Right, play it that way. You’re here until you tell the truth. Get used to the idea.’ He stood glaring down at him.
Krupmeyer regarded him through bloodshot eyes that still smarted painfully. His hastily cleaned shirt reeked of vomit.
‘Aint it about time for Mr. Nice Guy to make his entrance?’ he asked in a bored voice, taking out his handkerchief to dab ineffectually at the front of his shirt. Drayton did not reply.
‘It’d be a great opening if he offered to get me a clean shirt’ Krupmeyer continued, fussily flicking a particle of food off it onto the floor and looking down at it with exaggerated curiosity.
He did it well. Drayton smiled despite himself. Mr. Nice Guy, as he had put it, was indeed scheduled to make his entrance shortly. And he was going to be about as successful as the Mr. Not‑so‑nice Guy that Drayton had been playing for the last two hours. To hell with it, thought Drayton.
He walked back to the desk and sat slumped in the chair opposite Krupmeyer, collecting his thoughts. Time for a change of direction, he thought.
‘OK, Cards on the table. You think that eventually you’re going to walk out of here and get back to whatever you were up to before those goons picked you up. You’re right. That’s exactly what’s going to happen.’ He paused.
Krupmeyer said nothing, just looked across the table at him without expression.
‘However’ said Drayton, holding a finger up to Krupmeyer ‘I can guarantee that from the moment you leave this building to the moment your backside lands on the seat of the plane taking you back home, there won’t be a single moment when you’re not surrounded by my people. Wherever you go, whatever you do, we’ll be there, watching. Take a bloody leak, and I’ll not only know about it but have a lab analysis on my desk within the hour.’
Krupmeyer thought about it. Drayton had him. He could not go near Canfield without shaking the surveillance and he knew that was not going to be easy, especially as they were not going to be handicapped by having to be discrete. They would be walking on his heels and in the meantime they might catch up with Canfield. He let Drayton talk on, looking for an opening, a deal. That was what this was all leading up to, he knew.
They sat sizing each other up silently. Drayton kicked the ball into play first.
‘You’re over here for another purpose. I can stop you dead. I can just stand on your oxygen line and stay on it until you give up and go home. Talk to me. Maybe we can meet in the middle somewhere’ he said reasonably.
Krupmeyer got up and walked over to the window. He leaned on the window sill, watching the tug disappear out of sight.
‘That’s the Thames out there, isn’t it?’ he asked turning back to look at Drayton. ‘I’ve always wanted to see it up close. Fancy a walk along the banks of the jolly old Thames?’ he asked, mimicking a British accent badly.
‘Far from the madding crowd and any listening microphones? OK, lets go’ said Drayton rising and taking his jacket off the back of his chair. He slung it over his shoulder and they left the building to walk along the embankment in the sunshine. Behind them, a couple of Drayton’s men followed at a discreet distance, just in case.
‘You mistook me, didn’t you?’ began Krupmeyer. ‘I was the wrong American, right?’ he asked, grinning at his own joke.
‘Yes, what I’d most like from you is the right American’ replied Drayton, continuing the feeble joke.
‘OK, but you’ve got to give me something in return.’
‘Depends. If it’s in my power ‑ OK.’ Drayton wondered what he could want.
‘I know the who, the why and most especially the where’ said Krupmeyer, stopping to turn and look Drayton full in the face.
‘The who?’ said Drayton striking a puzzled pose.
‘The who who’s just knocked off Vinton’ said Krupmeyer. ‘Cards on the table time. Remember?’ he reminded Drayton sardonically.
‘OK. In return for what?’
‘I want first crack at him. I want to see him alone. Give me that and I’ll give you him. That’s the deal.’
Drayton thought it over. ‘How do you know we’ll keep our word?’ he enquired.
‘You’d be silly not to. You don’t know this guy. He won’t be coming as quietly as those goons last night, you can bet your ass on it. Whichever way you cut it, people are going to get hurt. If I can see him, I can talk him out’ he finished. Drayton stood with his hands in his trouser pockets. He jingled some change as he considered the offer.
‘What about you? There’s no guarantee he’ll want to come out. Where’s that leave you?’
‘I’ll take my chances. You want a release or something, I’ll sign anything you want. But that’s the deal. Take it or leave it’ he finished staring belligerently at Drayton.
‘You’re on’ said Drayton briskly and turned around to walk back to the office. Krupmeyer ambled on behind him.