his hands over his ears. The flash-bang was deafening even with his ears covered and he staggered back.

The door to the sitting room was kicked open and a black figure burst into the room, cradling an MP5. The gun kicked twice and Abu al Khayr slumped back with two holes in his chest pumping blood.

Two more soldiers moved into the room and fanned left and right, bent low as their guns swept the room.

Khalid’s ears were still ringing from the explosion but he raised his hands high. ‘I am a British citizen!’ he shouted. ‘I demand to see a lawyer!’

‘That’s not going to happen,’ said the soldier.

‘I have my rights!’ shouted Khalid. ‘I am a citizen and I am unarmed. I do not have a weapon.’

The soldier used his left hand to pull out a Zastava M88 pistol from the holster on his hip. He tossed it at Khalid and it bounced off the man’s chest and clattered to the floor. Khalid stared at it in horror.

‘You do now,’ said the soldier. He brought his left hand up to support the MP5 and pulled the trigger twice. The first shot hit Khalid in the chest, just above the heart, and the blood hadn’t even begun to flow from the wound before the second shot hit him in the face. Khalid fell backwards and hit the coffee table hard before rolling off it and ending up on the carpet. Mobile phones were scattered around his body.

Major Allan Gannon pulled down the mask that had been covering his face and he clicked on his radio. ‘Tell her ladyship that we have neutralised the situation, Terry,’ he said into his radio mic. ‘No survivors.’ He clicked off the mic. ‘What the lady wants, the lady gets,’ muttered the Major. He stepped over Khalid’s body, picked up the M88 in his gloved hand and pressed it into Khalid’s lifeless palm.

The doctor finished examining Malik’s mangled foot and replaced the dressing.

‘Will I be able to play the piano again, Doc?’ asked Malik. The doctor smiled but didn’t reply.

‘Well, it’s good to see that you haven’t lost your sense of humour,’ said Button.

The doctor took a final look at Malik’s chart and then left. They were in a private room in Cromwell Hospital in South Kensington. Malik had been booked in under an assumed name.

‘What happens now?’ asked Malik.

‘You stay here until you’re well enough to leave,’ said Button. ‘Then it’s up to you.’

‘I suppose it could have been a lot worse,’ said Malik. He nodded at Shepherd. ‘If John hadn’t turned up.’ He shuddered at the thought of what would have happened if the torturing had continued.

‘Yeah, well, maybe next time you’ll be more careful,’ said Chaudhry. ‘I mean, the fact that a pretty girl seemed interested in you really should have tipped you off that you were being set up.’

‘Yeah, well, twenty-twenty hindsight is a wonderful thing. Who was she anyway?’ Malik asked Button. ‘She isn’t a student, right?’

‘Her name is Alena Kraishan. She was born in Palestine but has spent time in Iraq and the Gulf states under other names.’

‘Is she in al-Qaeda?’

‘She works for pretty much any Islamic terrorist group that pays her,’ said Button.

‘How old is she?’ asked Malik.

‘Thirty-one,’ said Button.

‘She looked good for thirty-one,’ said Malik. He shook his head. ‘Bloody typical. First time a really fit bird fancies me and it turns out she just wants to kill me.’

‘Harvey, focus, will you?’ said Chaudhry. He looked at Button. ‘She knew that we’d betrayed Bin Laden,’ he said. ‘We’re screwed.’

‘Not necessarily,’ said Button. ‘The fact that she was interrogating Harvey suggests that she wasn’t sure. If she knew for a fact that you were working for us she would have killed him there and then.’

‘It sounded like she knew everything,’ said Malik.

‘That’s what a good interrogator does,’ said Button.

‘She was going to kill me,’ said Malik.

‘But she didn’t. And now we have her in custody.’

‘But as soon as she gets to a phone she’ll tell them what happened,’ said Chaudhry.

Button shook her head emphatically. ‘That’s not going to happen. She’s being held in Belmarsh Prison. In isolation. No phone. No lawyer. No nothing.’

‘Can you do that?’ asked Chaudhry.

‘We’re MI5,’ said Button. ‘We can pretty much do anything we want. She’s being held under the name she used to enter the country. But the Americans have her under two other names, one of which was involved in a plot to blow up the American Embassy in Islamabad. They’re asking for extradition and they’re going to get it. D Notices have already been issued so there won’t be a word in the press. She’ll be gone within a week and the Americans won’t be letting her near a phone.’

‘Guantanamo Bay?’ asked Malik. ‘Do you think they’ll send her there?’

‘I don’t know for sure what they have planned,’ said Button. ‘But a little bird did tell me that the Americans are keen to rebuild bridges with the Pakistan government and one way of doing that might be to give her to them. The Pakistanis would love to question her about terrorist groups active in Pakistan and when they’ve finished interrogating her they’ll throw away the key. She’s never going to be a threat to you again.’ She looked over at Chaudhry. ‘To either of you.’

‘And the two men with her?’ asked Malik.

‘It’s going to be a package deal,’ said Button. ‘And we’ll be keeping a close eye on you both for the foreseeable future.’ She nodded at Shepherd. ‘John here will be available whenever you need him. And you can have as much security as you need.’

Chaudhry smiled at Shepherd. ‘What do you think, John?’ he asked.

‘I think you’re both in the clear, but you might think about a change of identity. And relocation.’

‘Do you think that’s necessary?’

‘For your peace of mind, maybe. But no, I don’t think they’ll send anyone else. And if they do, you know what to look for.’

Chaudhry grinned. ‘Yeah, pretty girls who want their laptops repaired.’

‘Hey, she was very convincing,’ said Malik.

‘I’m not sure that you’re going to have to do anything drastic,’ said Button. ‘We’ve already started a disinformation campaign to muddy the waters.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Malik.

‘We’ve got the Pakistanis saying that one of Bin Laden’s wives betrayed him. She’s in custody and they’re putting it about that she was getting jealous of one of the other wives.’

‘A woman scorned?’ said Chaudhry.

‘It’s perfectly possible,’ said Button. ‘She was in the compound when the Seals went in. Plus, the Americans are now suggesting that they were helped by the courier that died in the attack. It’s all grist to the mill.’

‘So you think it’s over?’ asked Chaudhry.

‘You’ll still have as much protection as you need, but yes, I don’t think either of you needs to worry overmuch. But if you want a change of identity we can absolutely do that for you. Also, I’ve spoken to my bosses and there’s quite a bit of money coming your way. By way of compensation for what you went through and as thanks for everything you did.’

‘What about the reward for Bin Laden?’ asked Chaudhry.

‘We’re talking to the Americans,’ said Button. ‘I’m quietly confident that at least some of that money will be coming your way.’

‘Too bloody right,’ said Chaudhry. ‘It’s the least they can do. If it wasn’t for us they’d never have known where Bin Laden was.’

‘So when do we get the money?’ asked Malik.

Chaudhry laughed. ‘Bloody hell, Harvey. At least wait until you’re out of bed.’

‘I’m just asking. I want to get started on my restaurant.’

‘I think you’ll find you’ve got more than enough money to do that,’ said Button.

Malik grinned and flashed a thumbs-up at Chaudhry.

‘What about Khalid?’ Chaudhry asked Button.

‘He died resisting arrest,’ she said.

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