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Authors: Dick;Felix Francis Francis

Crossfire

BOOK: Crossfire
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Table of Contents
 
 
BY DICK FRANCIS AND FELIX FRANCIS
Even Money
Silks
Dead Heat
 
 
BY DICK FRANCIS
 
Under Orders
Shattered
Second Wind
Field of Thirteen
10 Lb. Penalty
To the Hilt
Come to Grief
Wild Horses
Decider
Driving Force
Comeback
Longshot
Straight
The Edge
Hot Money
Bolt
A Jockey’s Life
Break In
Proof
The Danger
Banker
Twice Shy
Reflex
Whip Hand
Trial Run
Risk
In the Frame
High Stakes
Knockdown
Slay Ride
Smokescreen
Bonecrack
Rat Race
Enquiry
Forfeit
Blood Sport
Flying Finish
Odds Against
For Kicks
Nerve
Dead Cert
The Sport of Queens
G . P. PUTNAM’S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York
10014, USA • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
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Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
Copyright © 2010 by Dick Francis Corporation
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any
printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy
of copyrighted materials in violation of the authors’ rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Francis, Dick.
Crossfire / Dick Francis and Felix Francis. p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-44244-9
1. Soldiers—Great Britain—Fiction. 2. Amputees—Fiction. 3. Homecoming—Fiction. 4. Race horses—Training—Fiction. 5. Extortion—Fiction. 6. Tax evasion—Fiction.
I. Francis, Felix. II. Title.
PR6056.R27C
823’.914—dc22
 
 
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
 
While the authors have made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

http://us.penguingroup.com

Dedicated to the men and women of the
British forces who have lost
limbs in Afghanistan.
For them the battle is never over.
 
And to the memory of
DICK FRANCIS
The greatest father and friend a man could ever have
With loving thanks to
William Francis,
Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps,
graduated from
the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, August 2009,
seconded to the Grenadier Guards
at Nad-e-Ali, Helmand Province, Afghanistan,
September to December 2009
PROLOGUE
HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
OCTOBER 2009
 
 
 
 
 
M
edic! Medic!”
I could see that my platoon sergeant was shouting, but strangely, the sound of his voice seemed muffled, as if I was in a neighboring room rather than out here in the open.
I was lying on the dusty ground with my back up against a low bank so that I was actually half sitting. Sergeant O’Leary was kneeling beside me on my left.
“Medic!” he shouted again urgently, over his shoulder.
He turned his head and looked me in the eyes.
“Are you all right, sir?” he asked.
“What happened?” I said, my own voice sounding loud in my head.
“A bloody IED,” he said. He turned away, looked behind him, and shouted again. “Where’s that fucking medic?”
An IED. I knew that I should have known what IED meant, but my brain seemed to be working in slow motion. I finally remembered. IED—improvised explosive device—a roadside bomb.
The sergeant was talking loudly into his personal radio.
“Alpha-four,” he said in a rush. “This is Charlie-six-three. IED, IED. One CAT A, several CAT C. Request IRT immediate backup and casevac. Over.”
I couldn’t hear any response, if there was one. I seemed to have lost my radio headset, along with my helmet.
“CAT A,” he’d said. CAT A was armyspeak for a seriously injured soldier requiring immediate medical help to prevent loss of life. CAT Cs were walking wounded.
The sergeant turned back to me.
“You still all right, sir?” he asked, the stress apparent on his face.
“Yes,” I said, but in truth, I didn’t really feel that great. I was cold yet sweaty. “How are the men?” I asked him.
“Don’t worry about the men, sir,” he said. “I’ll look after the men.”
“How many are injured?” I asked.
“A few. Minor, mostly,” he said. “Just some cuts and a touch of deafness from the blast.” I knew what he meant. The sergeant turned away and shouted at the desert-camouflaged figure nearest to him. “Johnson, go and fetch the bloody medic kit from Cummings. Fucking little rat’s too shit-scared to move.”
He turned back to me once more.
“Won’t be long now, sir.”
“You said on the radio there’s a CAT A. Who is it?”
He looked into my face.
“You, sir,” he said.
“Me?”
“The CAT A is you, sir,” he said again. “Your fucking foot’s been blown off.”
1
FOUR MONTHS LATER
I
realized as soon as I walked out of the hospital that I had nowhere to go.
I stood holding my bag at the side of the road, watching a line of passengers board a red London bus.
Should I join them, I wondered. But where were they going? Simply being discharged from National Health Service care had been my overriding aim for weeks, without any thought or reason as to what was to come next. I was like a man released from prison who stands outside the gates gulping down great breaths of fresh, free air without a care for the future. Freedom was what mattered, not the nature of it.
And I had been incarcerated in my own prison, a hospital prison.
I suppose, looking back, I had to admit that it passed quite quickly. But at the time, every hour, even every minute, had dragged interminably. Progress, seen day by day, had been painfully slow, with
painful
being the appropriate word. However, I was now able to walk reasonably well on an artificial foot and, whereas I wouldn’t be playing football again for a while, if ever, I could climb up and down stairs unaided and was mostly self-sufficient. I might even have been able to run a few strides to catch that bus, if only I had wanted to go wherever it was bound.
I looked around me. No one had turned up to collect me, nor had I expected them to. None of my family actually knew I was being discharged on that particular Saturday morning and, quite likely, they would not have turned up even if they had.
I had always preferred to do things for myself, and they knew it.
As far as my family was concerned, I was a loner, and happier for it, perhaps the more so after having to rely for months on others for help with my personal, and private, bodily functions.
I wasn’t sure who had been the more shocked, my mother or me, when a nurse had asked, during one of her rare visits, if she could help me get dressed. My mother had last seen me naked when I was about seven, and she was more than a little flustered at the prospect of doing so again twenty-five years later. She’d suddenly remembered that she was late for an appointment elsewhere, and had rushed away. The memory of her discomfort had kept me smiling for most of the rest of that day, and I hadn’t smiled much recently.
In truth, 25198241 Captain Thomas Vincent Forsyth had not been the most patient of patients.
 
 
T
he army had been my life since the night I had left home after another particularly unpleasant, but not uncommon, argument with my stepfather. I had slept uncomfortably on the steps of the army recruiting office in Oxford and, when the office opened at nine a.m. the following morning, I had walked in and signed on for Queen and Country as a private soldier in the Grenadier Guards.
Guardsman Forsyth had taken to service life like the proverbial duck to water and had risen through the ranks, first to corporal, then to officer cadet, at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, followed by a commission back in my old regiment. The army had been much more to me than just a job. It had been my wife, my friend and my family; it had been all I had known for fifteen years, and I loved it. But now it appeared that my army career might be over, blown apart forever by an Afghan IED.
Consequently, I had not been a happy bunny during the previous four months, and it showed.
In fact, I was an angry young man.
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