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Authors: Chris Ryan

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The Increment

BOOK: The Increment
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THE
INCREMENT
Also by Chris Ryan
The One That Got Away
Stand By, Stand By
Zero Option
The Kremlin Device
Tenth Man Down
The Hit List
The Watchman
Land of Fire
Greed
Chris Ryan's SAS Fitness Book
Chris Ryan's Ultimate Survival Guide
In the Alpha Force Series:
Survival
Rat-Catcher
Desert Pursuit
Hostage
Red Centre
THE
INCREMENT
CHRIS RYAN
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
ISBN 9781409035480
Version 1.0
www.randomhouse.co.uk
Published by Arrow Books in 2005
5 7 9 10 8 6
Copyright © Chris Ryan 2004
Chris Ryan has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work
This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental
This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in the United Kingdom in 2004 by Century
The Random House Group Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA
Random House Australia (Pty) Limited
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New South Wales 2061, Australia
Random House New Zealand Limited
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Auckland 10, New Zealand
Random House South Africa (Pty) Limited
Enduhm, 11a Jubilee Road, Parktown 2193, South Africa
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
www.randomhouse.co.uk
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library
ISBN: 9781409035480
Version 1.0
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
To my agent Barbara Levy, editor Mark Booth, Hannah Black, Charlotte Bush and all the rest of the team at Century.
PROLOGUE
Gorazde, Bosnia, 1999.
The image of the bullet flying through the air was still rattling through Matt's mind. Already, he knew it would stick with him, filed away in some dark corner. Along with all the images of all the other men he had killed.
My own personal graveyard.
The basement had been dark and squalid. Water was dripping down from the ceiling, and there was a suffocating, lingering smell of human excrement rising up from the floor. Matt moved down the stairs, cautiously at first, adjusting his eyes to the darkness. A few pale cracks of light were bouncing through the coal-hole that looked up to the surface of the street. But there was not a single window, nor any electric light.
The man was chained to the wall. His eyes were drooping. It looked as if he had been beaten unconscious. His black hair was thick with sweat, and there were scars running down the side of his face. The blood was still fresh on his skin.
Matt levelled the Smith & Wesson Magnum Hunter pistol, held it steady in his right hand, lining it up next to his eye. To his left, he could feel Jack Matram looking down on him, his eyes tracking his every move. He squeezed his finger on the trigger.
Keep the aim, he told himself.
If this bullet doesn't finish him, you'll need to fire another round.
The bullet collided with the centre of the man's forehead. Even at a distance of ten feet, Matt could see the hardened steel skin of the bullet smashing into his skull, breaking through the bone and slicing inside the brain. A trickle of red blood started to seep from the open wound, running down the front of his face. He remained completely silent as his neck gave way, his head falling forwards, and his arms rattling against the chains that still held him to the wall.
'Nice shot,' said Matram softly. 'Now let's get out of here.'
'Who was he?' Matt wondered as they walked swiftly back to the van parked on the street outside. Matram refused to tell him. 'If you want to ask questions, join a bloody philosophy class,' he'd snapped. 'We just pull the triggers.'
'How did I do, then?' asked Matt, as they arrived back at the base. A set of five tents, nestling in the hills just outside the market town of Gorazde, about fifty kilometres south of Sarajevo. The regiment had been stationed there for a month, clearing out some of the bandits and robbers that had been plaguing the United Nations forces for the past year. Their instructions were clear and simple. Find the criminals and eliminate them.
'He was already dead,' said Matram, glancing up at Matt.
'Dead?'
'One of our boys went in this morning to kiss him goodnight. I just took you along to see how you handled yourself in the field. We don't take the interns on proper missions. Too risky.' He looked up at Matt, a sly smile creasing up his lips. 'They might bottle it.'
'I've done ten years in the regiment,' growled Matt.
'And you done about five minutes in the Increment,' answered Matram. 'Nobody here gives a fuck about your record. You prove yourself to us from day one.'
Matt buried his anger, searching deep inside himself to find some space to park his fury. It was a decade now since he had first moved from the regular army to the SAS, and he'd learnt over the years how to deal with the Ruperts. You listened, you obeyed, and sometimes you tactfully suggested there might be some other way they'd like to consider. Still, as the years went by, he was finding it harder and harder to take orders from other men.
And Matram looked as if he was going to be the hardest of them all.
'I don't need target practice. I already know how to shoot,' said Matt. He paused. 'Sir.'
Matram stood up. He was a tall man, over six foot three, which gave him a couple of inches over Matt. His hair was sandy, dirty blond, and his jaw was square and clean. His nose was fatter than average, and his skin was pitted and rough. But his eyes were clear and blue, and beamed out of his face like a pair of headlamps. His accent retained traces of a Cornish burr, although it had been rubbed away by years working from the regiment's Herefordshire base. 'We'll meet up with the rest of the unit in fifteen minutes. We've got another fish to catch, and this one's alive.'
Matt nodded and walked back to his tent. Already, it had been a long day. It had started with Matram putting him through a gruelling series of physical exercises. Next, one of the regiment shrinks sat him down and started asking him a lot of idiotic questions about his attitude to authority and death. Matt had seen right through that one. All they wanted to know was whether you'd shoot the people you were meant to shoot without asking a lot of irritating questions about who the victims were, or why you'd been sent to punch out their number. Finally, just before the fake assassination, Matram had put him through a series of practical questions. In what depth of water do you drown a man? On what floor of a building do you have to be to make sure you kill a man by dropping him from a window? What is the best type of rope for strangulation? That kind of thing.
Still, reflected Matt, a posting to the Increment was always going to be tough. Even within the SAS, there was no harder assignment.
He hadn't asked for the test, nobody ever did. The Ruperts had put him up for it and, if he was being honest with himself, Matt was flattered to be asked. The Increment was a tiny unit consisting of just six men and two women, each of whom did a two-year tour of duty. It operated in the murky shadow lands between the regiment, the regular army, the intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6, and the Home and Foreign Offices. There were plenty of people who could call upon it to do their dirty work, but nobody who would acknowledge its existence if a job ever went wrong. Its task was assassinations. If there was someone the British state needed killed, the Increment was the unit that put its finger on the trigger.
It was nasty, hard and messy work, usually undercover, usually off the books, and always without back-up. But it was also the fast track. After doing his two years, an Increment man could ask for just about any posting he wanted. And get it.
'How did it go?' asked Reid.
The stocky Geordie, one of Matt's oldest friends in the regiment, was lying back on his camp bed, trying to write the letter home to his fiancee he'd been composing for the last two days.
'I think it was OK,' said Matt cautiously. 'I think I passed the test.'
'Right,' said Cooksley, the third man in the tent. 'But do you
want
to join? That's the question you need to answer.'
Matt paused, turning the question over in his mind. He'd thought about that in the past two days, ever since he was told about the possibility of the posting. He knew it meant they rated him. His performance in tours of Ulster, the Gulf, Bosnia, and then some dirty work in the Philippines and Indonesia had impressed the Ruperts. They thought he was good, otherwise they wouldn't have recommended him. But assassinations? It was never a fair fight, and the targets were usually civilians. Matt had never felt any remorse about killing another soldier, and didn't mind if the fight was fair or not: the less fair the better, if he was being honest. But civilians? With no weapons? That was something else.
'If they want me, I'll do it,' he said. 'It's two years, that's all.'
'Even if it means working for Matram?' said Cooksley.
'How bad is he?'
'Think Saddam Hussein, without the easygoing charm,' said Reid.
'Think Gerry Adams without the happy-go-lucky humour,' chipped in Cooksley.
Matt laughed. 'No, what's he
really
like?'
Cooksley looked up from the Nintendo GameBoy he'd bought in Hereford the day before. 'I only know what I've heard around the mess, same as you. As you know, Increment men stay away from the rest of us, so it's mostly the same old gossip. Second-hand.'
'But . . .'
'He's a hard bastard, obviously . . .'
'Obviously.'
'But he treats it like his own little kingdom. Nasty, sadistic little kingdom, from what I hear. Enjoys it. The killing, I mean.'
'One story I heard, they did a few practice rounds, just to get people in shape,' said Reid. 'Here in Bosnia. They got some of the names off the UN wanted list, then went around knocking them off. Not because anyone had ordered them to, but because they wanted to try out some new assassination techniques.'
Matt took a deep breath. 'But the Increment guys do OK?'
'They go up the ladder, that's for sure,' said Reid. 'You want to be a Rupert, that's your way in. A couple of years pointlessly wasting lives, while fucking everything up, and generally acting like an arrogant tosser? Just the kind of training to turn you into a grade-A Rupert.'
Matt laughed. They could rib him but if he was going to stay in the regiment, he'd need to start taking life seriously. He was past thirty now, and he had to move on. Or find something better to do with his life.
Get promoted or get out. These are my choices.
He was still mulling those options as he walked back towards Matram's tent. It was a miserable, rain-sodden spring day. The clouds were lying thick and low over the landscape, and a harsh wind was lashing in from the east. Matt could feel it chilling his bones, and dampening his spirits as he climbed into the jeep that Matram had prepared.
They drove for an hour, mostly in silence. There were three men in the back: Abram and Unsworth in the second of their two years in the unit Harton in his first. They sat still during the journey, cleaning and checking their weapons, making sure they were working perfectly.
'The target is down there,' said Matram, climbing out of the jeep and motioning the others to join them on the tarmac.
Matt stood in the blustery wind, pulling the collar of his leather jacket up around his neck. Even out here in Bosnia, the Increment operated in civilian clothes: its jobs were all too sensitive for the regular army. His Smith & Wesson was tucked into his pocket, and a hunting knife was slipped down his trousers. In case anything went wrong, five C-5 rifles were stored in the back of the jeep.
He looked down into the valley. The landscape was waterlogged and sodden, the fields ragged and uncared for. Up in the distance, he could see a small herd of goats, next to them a few chickens clustering around a shack of a farmhouse. But most of the fields had started to go back to the wild: the farmers had all gone away to fight, and many of them hadn't come back.
'War criminal,' said Matram. 'His name is Elvedin Jamakovic. Nasty piece of work. Supposed to be a soldier, but he's mainly interested in the cigarettes and heroin smuggled across the Albanian border. He can be prosecuted, but he won't be convicted because all the locals are too scared to testify. A trial is more trouble than it's worth.' He paused, his eyes resting on Matt. 'So it's going to be a fight-back.'
A fight-back.
Matt was familiar with the term from his time in Ulster. The technique was simple. You went in to capture the suspect, then you made sure he resisted. As you attempted to take him, he got shot. End of story. No trial. No lengthy jail term. And no embarrassing questions.
Abram, Unsworth and Harton all looked back at Matram and nodded. 'Who goes in first?' said Harton.
'You and Unsworth can make the initial entry,' said Matram. 'Shoot down the door, and go straight in.' He held up a picture of a man in his early thirties, with dark brown eyes and curly black hair. 'This is Jamakovic. As soon as you see him, tap him a couple of times. Make sure it's nothing too neat or clean. A couple to the leg, then one or two bullets to the chest, but avoid the heart. Let him bleed to death, so that if anyone does an autopsy later it looks as if he got killed in a struggle.' Matram laughed. 'We don't want anyone thinking we killed him on purpose.'
They nodded, their expressions sullen, and as grey as the clouds sweeping down from the hills. For the Increment, Matt realised, this was just another job.
The village was dirt poor. A single street, with three mud tracks running down from it, the water collecting in big, thick, muddy puddles. In total, there were about twenty houses, three of them still half built, and another two bomb-damaged. A group of small boys were playing football at the end of the street, two old car seats propped up to make the goal posts. One of them looked up at the men tramping down the street, but showed no interest. One of his mates shouted at him to get back in goal.
The kids around here are used to seeing men with guns. It's just like growing up in south London.
Jamakovic's house was at the end of the mud track. Maybe ten years old, it was built in the worker's paradise style of the old Yugoslav regime: a flat two-storey box, made from cheap concrete breeze blocks that had badly stained in the harsh weather. There was a big Toyota SUV on the drive, and a ten-metre satellite dish in the garden.
'Ready?' whispered Matram a step away from the entrance.
Harton and Unsworth both nodded.
'Then go.'
BOOK: The Increment
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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