Andy McNab


We didn't know which of the three was going to detonate the bomb. All Simmonds had been able to tell us was that it was a big one, and that it would be initiated remotely.

For now, though, there was nothing to do but wait. The security service had triggers out on the checkpoints with mainland Spain. Until the players were sighted, Pat, Kev, and I were to stay exactly where we were: sitting outside a cafe just off Main Street, drinking coffee, looking and listening.

The spring air was crisp and clear under a blindingly blue Mediterranean sky, the morning sun just starting to make it comfortable enough for shirtsleeves. The trees that lined the square were packed with birds so small I couldn't see them among the foliage, but they made enough noise to drown out the sound of traffic going up and down the main drag, just out of sight. It was strange to think that this small outpost, on the tip of southern Spain, was still under British jurisdiction, a last bastion of Empire.

Through my earpiece I heard Euan make a radio check to the operations room. Everything he said on the net was very precise, very clear, very calm. Euan was the tidiest man in the world. If you sat on a cushion he would puff it up again the moment you stood up. Dedication was his middle name.

I heard a loud hiss of air brakes and looked up. A tour bus had turned into the square and was parking about twenty yards away. The sign in the windshield said young at heart.

I didn't pay much attention. I was bored, looking for things to do. The laces on one of my running shoes had come undone.

I bent down to do them up and got a jab in the ribs from the hammer of the 9mm Browning. The holster was covert, inside my jeans; that way, only the pistol grip would be in view if I pulled open my black nylon bomber jacket. I preferred to have my pistol at the front. A lot of the guys wore theirs on the side, but I could never get used to it. Once you find a position you like, you don't change; you might be in deep shit one day, go to draw your weapon and it isn't there it's several more inches to the right and you're dead.

I had an extended twenty-round magazine protruding from the pistol grip. I also had three standard thirteen- round mags on my belt if fifty-nine rounds weren't enough, I shouldn't be doing this for a living.

The senior citizens began getting off the bus. They were typical Brits abroad, the men dressed almost identically:

beige flannels, sensible shoes, and a V-neck sweater over a shirt and tie. Most of the women were in polyester slacks with elastic waistbands and a sewn-in crease down the front. They all had flawless, blow-dried, jet black, white, or blue-rinsed hair. They spotted the cafe and started to move as a herd toward us.

Pat muttered, 'Fuck me, the enemy must be getting desperate They've sent the Barry Manilow fan club. Friends of yours, grand ad He grinned at Kev, who offered him a finger to swivel on. Whether you like it or not, you have to quit the SAS the Special Air Service at the age of forty, and Kev had just a year or two of his contract with the Regiment left.

The young at heart settled down at nearby tables and picked up the menus. It was now decision time for them whether to have dessert or go for a sandwich, because it was halfway between coffee break and lunchtime and they didn't know which way to jump.

The waiter came out, and they started talking to him one syllable at a time. He looked at them as if they were crazy.

On the net I heard, 'Hello, all call signs, this is Alpha. Radio check, over.' Alpha, who was located in the ops room, was our controller. When we'd flown in sixty hours ago, our team of eight SAS soldiers and support staff had requisitioned rooms in the accommodation block at HMS Rooke, the British naval base in the docks, and turned them into living space.

Kev responded quietly into his concealed microphone:


Pat: 'Oscar.'

I heard Euan: 'November.'

My turn came: 'Delta.'

The elderly Brits started taking pictures of themselves.

Then they were swapping cameras so they could appear in their own photographs.

Slack Pat got up and said to one of them, 'Here yare, love, want me to take one of all of you?'

'Ooh, you're from England, are you? Isn't it nice and warm now?'

Slack was in his early thirties, blond-haired, blue-eyed, good-looking, clever, articulate, funny; he was everything I hated. He was also six feet two, and one of those people who naturally shit muscle. Even his hair was well toned; I'd seen him climb into his sleeping bag with his hair looking groomed and perfect and wake up with it in the same condition. Pat's only saving grace, as far as I was concerned, was that when he stood up, there was nothing where his ass should have been. We used to call him Slack because he had lots of it.

He had just started doing a Richard Avedon when we got:

'Stand by, stand by!' on the net from one of the female triggers.

'That's a possible, a possible--Bravo One toward the town square.'

Alpha came back, 'Roger that. Delta, acknowledge.'

I got to my feet, gave two clicks on the radio transmitter that was wired into my jacket pocket, and started walking. It was pointless all three of us moving at this stage.

Families on their Sunday paseo strolled across from my left. Tourists were taking pictures of buildings, looking at maps, and scratching their heads; locals were sitting down, enjoying the weather, walking their dogs, playing with their grandchildren. There were two men with comfortable-looking beer bellies, old and not giving a fuck, smoking themselves to death. Pants with big suspenders, shirt and undershirt, soaking up the March sun.

I wondered how many of them would survive if the bomb went off just here.

I was just starting to get in my stride when a very fired up male trigger shouted: 'Stand by, stand by! That's also a possible Bravo Two and Echo One at the top end of Main Street.'

This got me quite excited.

I listened for Euan. His task in this operation was the same as mine: to confirm the 'possibles' with a positive ID. I imagined him sauntering along the sidewalk like me. He was short, with an acne-scarred face and the world's biggest motorcycle, which he could just about keep upright because his toes only brushed the ground. I liked to take the piss out of him about it as often as I could. I knew the guy like a brother--in fact, probably better; I hadn't seen any of my family for more than ten years. Euan and I had been young soldiers together; we'd passed Selection at the same time, and we'd been working together ever since. The fucker was so unflappable I always thought his heart must have been only barely beating. I'd been with him in Hereford when the police arrived to tell him that his sister had been murdered. He just said, 'I think I'd better go to London then and sort things out.' It wasn't that he didn't care; he just didn't get excited about anything. That sort of calm is contagious. It always made me feel secure to have guys like him around me.

I hit Main Street and spotted Bravo One right away.

I got on the net: 'Alpha, this is Delta. That's confirmed-Bravo One, brown pinstripe on faded blue.'

He always wore that brown pinstriped suit jacket; he'd had it for so long that it sagged in the pockets, and there were constant creases in the back from wearing it in a car. And the same old faded and threadbare jeans, the crotch halfway down between his balls and his knees. He was walking away from me, stocky, slight stoop, short hair, long sideburns , but I recognized the gait. I knew it was Sean Savage.

Bomb maker number one for the Provisional Irish Republican Army--PIRA.

I followed him to a small square at the bottom end of Main Street, near the governor's residence, where the band of the resident British infantry battalion would fall out after the changing of the guard. It was where Simmonds suspected the PIRA team might plant their bomb.

Alpha, the base station controlling the operation for now, repeated the message so that everyone knew

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