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«Without warning», John Birmingham

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Governor Linda Lingle: Republican senator, Governor of Hawaii

 

Lieutenant General Stephen Francis Murphy: Commander, US Army, 25th Infantry

Division

CENTCOM,DOHA

General Tommy Franks: Commander of the United States Central Command

BRUSSELS

General JL Jones: Commander of the United States European Command

SOUTHCOM, COMAYAGUA, HONDURAS

Lieutenant Colonel Susan Pileggi: Acting Commander, SOUTHCOM

FORT LEWIS, WASHINGTON

General Jackson Blackstone: US Army, Commander, Fort Lewis

 

Major Ty McCutcheon: US Air Force, aide to General Blackstone

 

 

ONE DAY

14 MARCH, 2003

1

HOSPITAL, PARIS

 

The killer awoke, surrounded by strangers. An IV line dripped clear fluid through a long, thick needle punched into the back of her right hand. Surgical tape held the silver spike in place and tugged at the fine blonde hairs growing there. The strangers – all women, she thought dully – leaned in, their faces knotted with anxiety, apparently for her. But she stared instead at her hands as they lay in her lap on a thin brown blanket. They looked strong, even masculine. She turned them over, examining them. The nails were cut short. Calluses disfigured her knuckles, the heels of both palms, and the sides of her hands, from the base of both little fingers down to her wrists. The more she stared, the more unsettled she became. Like the women gathered around her bed, those hands were completely alien to her. She had no idea who she was.

 

‘Cathy? Are you all right?’

 

‘Nurse!’ somebody called out.

 

The strangers, three of them, seemed to launch themselves at her bed. She felt herself tense up, but they simply wanted to comfort her.

 

‘Docteur! Elle s’est rйveillйe…’

 

She felt soft hands patting her down, stroking her like one might comfort a child who’s suffered a bad fright. Cathy – that wasn’t her name, was it? – Cathy tried not to panic or to show how much she didn’t want any of these women touching her. They looked weird, not the sort of people she’d want as friends. And then, she remembered. They weren’t her friends. They were her mission. And her name wasn’t Cathy. It was Caitlin.

 

The women were dressed in cheap clothing, layered for warmth. Falling back into the pillows, recovering from an uncontrolled moment of vertigo into which she had fallen, Caitlin Monroe composed herself. She was in a hospital bed, in a private room, and in spite of the apparent poverty of her ‘friends’, the room was expensively fitted out. The youngest of the women wore a brown suede jacket, frayed at the cuffs and elbows and festooned with colourful protest buttons. A stylised white bird. A rainbow. A collection of slogans: Halliburton Watch, Who would Jesus bomb? and Resistance is fertile.

 

Caitlin took a sip of water from a squeeze bottle by the bed.

 

‘I’m sorry,’ she croaked. ‘What happened to me?’

 

She received a pat on the leg from an older, red-haired woman wearing a white tee-shirt over some sort of lumpy handmade jumper. Celia. ‘Aunty’ Celia, although she wasn’t related to anyone in the room. Aunty Celia had very obviously chosen this strange ensemble to show off the writing on her shirt, which read: If you are not outraged you are not paying attention.

 

‘Doctor!’ cried the woman in the doorway.

 

Maggie. An American, like Caitlin. And there the similarity ended. Maggie the American was short and barrel-chested and pushing fifty, where Caitlin was tall, athletic and young.

 

She felt around under her blanket and came up with a plastic control stick for the bed. Try this,’ she offered, passing the control to the young girl she knew as Monique. A pretty, raven-haired Frenchwoman. ‘See, the red call button. That’ll bring ‘em.’ Then, gently touching the bandages that swaddled her head, she asked, ‘Where am I?’

 

‘You’re in a private room, at the Pitiй-Salpкtriиre Hospital in Paris,’ explained Monique. ‘Paris, France,’ she added self-consciously.

 

Caitlin smiled weakly. ‘S’okay. I remember Paris is in France.’ She paused. ‘And now I am too, I guess. How did I get here? I don’t remember much after coming out of the Chunnel on the bus.’

 

The large American woman standing over by the door to her room (Maggie - try to remember her fucking name!) turned away from her post. ‘Fascist asswipes, that’s how. Attacked us outside of Calais.’

 

‘Skinheads,’ explained Monique. ‘And you were magnifique!’

 

‘I was?’

 

‘Oh yes,’ the French girl enthused, as the others chorused their agreement. Monique looked no more than seventeen years old, but Caitlin knew her to be twenty-two. She knew a lot about Monique Duroc. ‘These National Front fascists, Le Pen’s bully boys, they stopped the bus and began pulling us out, hitting and kicking us. You stood up to them, Cathy. You fought with them. Slowed them down long enough for the union men to reach us and drive them away.’


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