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Authors: Miranda Darling

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The Siren's Sting

BOOK: The Siren's Sting
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THE
SIREN'S
STING

Miranda Darling began her career as a fashion model in Paris and London, then went on to read English and Modern Languages at Oxford University. She travelled widely to countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Namibia and Indonesia before returning to Australia to complete a Masters in Strategic Studies and Defence. She analysed new security threats for a think tank, where she published widely in newspapers and journals. She retains an interest in international intrigue and now writes full time.

THE
SIREN'S
STING

MIRANDA
DARLING

First published in 2011

Copyright © Miranda Darling 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, London

83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Australia

Phone:
(61 2) 8425 0100
Fax:
(61 2) 9906 2218
Email:
[email protected]
Web:
www.allenandunwin.com

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia
www.trove.nla.gov.au

ISBN 978 1 74175 920 4

Internal design by gogoGinko
Set in 11/16.5 pt Berkeley by Post Pre-press Group, Australia
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

In loving memory of my grandmother, Margaret

No one among us can complain about his death, for whoever joined our
ranks put on the shirt of Nessus. A man's moral worth is established
only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defence of his
convictions.

—Major-General Henning von Tresckow, condemned to
death as one of the main conspirators in the 20 July plot to
assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944

Some things are necessary evils, some things are more evil than necessary.

—John le Carré

Contents

Prologue

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

Acknowledgements

PROLOGUE

A lithe woman with a
gait like a panther kissed the Greek on the mouth and leapt into the waiting Riva speedboat.

She turned and looked back up to the dock. ‘I'll see you in Monaco, darling.'

Her lover lifted a hand. ‘You won't forget your promise, will you—between here and the yacht club?'

The woman laughed, revealing slightly pointed teeth. ‘It's for life, darling. Even I could hardly forget a thing like that.' She covered her extraordinary kaleidoscope eyes with dark glasses and tied a Pucci scarf patterned in turquoise and coral around her hair. Then she gunned the engine and the beautiful wooden boat purred to life. ‘Are you sure you won't come with me now?' she called back over her shoulder.

Passers-by stared at the couple: the handsome older woman in her silk scarf, the younger lover with his jet hair, his black glasses and tanned, rugged profile.

The young man smiled, tilted his head. ‘I'll bring the yacht around this evening,
kukla
. There's no rush. We have the rest of our lives to be together.' He knelt and cast off the mooring ropes. The woman edged the Riva carefully between the other boats. Her skill at handling the boat was obvious, even in such a simple manoeuvre. She motored slowly into the Bay of St Tropez, then, raising her slender hand in a final, elegant salute to the man watching on the pier, she opened up the throttle.

The explosion shattered the calm of the bay as the Riva was engulfed in a fireball. Somewhere on the dock a woman screamed, then there was only silence as a plume of black smoke shot into the sky, and the smell of petrol and ash filled the air. The wreckage of the boat, still aflame, began to sink slowly into the shining water, and the young lover on the pier, to his knees. He rested his forehead on the jetty and closed his eyes, shutting out the horror on the water.

Over the last of the flames, mystically undamaged, floated the Pucci scarf. It danced in the currents of hot air, hanging over the carnage like a silken eulogy to the smashed body below. It twirled and writhed there a moment, drawing the attention of the watchers on the dock, before it too succumbed to the violence of gravity and sank gently into the sea.

1

In the Crisis Response room
at Hazard HQ, London, every soul was shattered with adrenaline and exhaustion. All eyes were on a large radar screen. The green blips indicated ships currently transiting the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, a stretch of water more commonly known as Pirate Alley. Updates from the International Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur flashed across another, smaller screen:

0539 UTC: Posn: 13:51.7N–051:05.1E: Gulf of Aden.
Pirates armed with RPG and automatic guns chased and opened
fire on a chemical tanker underway. The master sent a distress
message requesting help. Skiffs came very close to the tanker and
pirates placed a ladder on the vessel's side to board. Due to evasive
manoeuvres pirates failed to board the vessel. A military aircraft
arrived at location and circled the tanker.

‘Not one of ours,' said Messinger abruptly, and turned his eyes back to the radar screen. The room's focus was on one large dot in particular; it was being shadowed by three much smaller dots moving at high speed.

‘I don't like the look of those skiffs,' muttered Betterman. ‘The
Atalanta
is going at fourteen knots—should be fast enough . . .'

‘It could be fishermen chasing tuna,' suggested young Boyd.

David Rice, head of Hazard, massaged a grizzled temple. He was a bear of a man, ex-SAS, handsome with his iron-grey hair, unflappable. But the strain was showing, even on him. He knew only too well that it was not fishermen chasing tuna. The radio crackled to life. It was tuned to Channel 16, the international distress channel.

‘This is Captain Mukkhanda of the
Atalanta
. We have three speedboats alongside. They have sent a message to stop.' The captain's voice was hesitant; everyone in the room could sense his fear.

The distress call was picked up by a nearby British naval frigate, the HMS
Stormont
, doing manoeuvres in the Gulf.

‘Can you keep the craft astern?' came the response.

In the Crisis Response room, the Hazard crew could see the small dots gaining ground.

‘They are still approaching at high speed. We can try. There is a possible mother ship. Port side.'

Everyone watched as the three blips formed a line and kept gaining.

There was a moment of silence, then the frigate: ‘
Alalanta
, this is Foxtrot 19. Increase speed to your maximum and start manoeuvring heavily to port and starboard. Immediately.'

Suddenly, over the radio, there was the tearing sound of an explosion, then another, accompanied by the
ack-ack
of automatic gunfire.

‘This is
Atalanta
. The bridge is hit. The skiffs are alongside now, repeating their request to stop.'

Another explosion tore through the transmitter, then radio silence . . . The voice of the frigate asking the captain to respond. Nothing. The
Atalanta
had stopped broadcasting.

On the screen, the ship slowed visibly then suddenly veered left, heading for the coast of Somalia and the pirate town of Ely.

‘That's not a good sign,' whispered Boyd.

Eyes fell away from the screen and a pall descended on the room. The incident report flashed up on the smaller screen, just in case anyone in the room had any doubts about what had just happened.

1223 UTC: Posn: 04:59S–043:52E: 415NM south of Mogadishu,
Somalia.
Pirates armed with machine guns and RPG attacked and fired
upon a general cargo ship underway. The vessel enforced all
effective counter-piracy measures but was unable to prevent hostile
boarding. Pirates successfully hijacked the vessel with her 25
crew members and are sailing the vessel towards Somalia. Further
information awaited.

All thoughts turned to the twenty-five crew of the carrier, now prisoners. The chances were they would be held for months— even, god forbid, years—by the pirates. It was a nightmare. Eyes were lowered; and from a windowless room in the heart of London, what could anyone do?

The team was used to kidnappings: it was their job to get the victims back safely, to negotiate ransoms, organise handovers. A large whiteboard on the wall had a list of names running down the left-hand side. These were the unlucky ones currently being held by criminals, terrorists, guerrillas and the like. Other columns charted the location, time and date of the kidnappings, suspected perpetrators and so on. Large maps stuck with pins covered the other walls. Between them, they covered the globe, red and yellow pins clustered in Chechnya, Colombia, Russia, Iraq, Mexico, the Philippines . . . Now a cluster of white pins was growing rapidly off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. The speed and concentration of the attacks was something else entirely: not a battle but a war.

‘Can we get details of any injuries aboard
Atalanta
?' growled Rice. ‘Call our negotiators, call the shipping line, call everyone and tell them to stand by for contact from the pirates.' His mouth was tight with tension, his fists clenching and unclenching, and he rocked onto the balls of his feet, a boxer ready for a bout.

Boyd was busy collating satellite pictures of the area, navy reports, reports from other vessels in the area. He sent the information to the captain at the Piracy Reporting Centre and in a moment the update flashed across the screen for all to see:

All ships transiting waters around Somalia and Gulf of Aden
Possible pirate mother ship activity noted:

1228Z in position 08:58S–044:02E, approximately 310NM
south-east of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania;

BOOK: The Siren's Sting
11.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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