Ex Special-Forces soldier Jeff Bradley and CIA agent Kennedy Patton must protect Arina as she leads them in search of Saddam's weapons. The trail leads to underground laboratories and a mass grave in the Philippines. Tensions heighten when the US Air craft Carrier Independence II is brought into the conflict.
Then Bradley discovers the deadly truth and the race is on. He and Kennedy Patton must find the terrorists and the ship carrying the lethal cargo. If they fail the cities of Europe will burn and thousands will die.
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The rumble of thunder disturbed the sleep of Arina Marcos.
The eleven-year-old tossed and turned until she woke. Entangled in white cotton sheets she lay on her back, eyelids flickering as they adjusted to the darkness. But now, wide awake and staring at the ceiling, she was confused. The noise of the thunder had not stopped. It had not been a dream.
Weeks earlier, a typhoon had smashed its way across the Philippines and devastated Mindanao Island. The howling winds rattling her house had frightened her. Her chickens blew away while still in their cage. Was this another typhoon? Her fingers fumbled in the dark until she found the photo of her Lord Jesus on the bedside table. She held it to her chest and whispered a small prayer.
Light through the slats of the shutter windows danced across the pearl-gray walls of her bedroom. Arina knew enough to realise that lightning flashes do not dance across walls. Relieved it was not a storm she freed herself from the bedding and sat up. She reached across and shook her sister.
"Leave me alone," Sarah moaned.
Arina crept to the window. She wrapped her fingers around the long dowel strip in the centre of the shuttered window and pulled it down. The shutters widened enough for her to see outside. Her eyes focussed on the scene at the entrance to the camp. She saw the cause of the thunderous sound, the whirling blades of a hovering helicopter. Her bewilderment grew as men in black uniforms emerged from the rain forest encircling the camp. Guards, keys in hand, opened the padlocks and pulled back the gates. Two vehicles, headlights blazing and engines revving, raced into the compound. To Arina, they looked like small tanks but without a big gun. The armed men from the jungle formed a line in front of the armoured vehicles. The guards then re-locked the gates.
Arina's bedroom door opened. Her father stood in the doorway.
"Arina, Sarah. Out of bed."
The urgency in his voice unsettled Arina.
"What is happening Papa?"
"No talking. Quickly. Get dressed."
Arina pulled on her jeans and slipped a T-shirt over her head. She felt around on the floor for her slip-on-shoes.
"Hurry girls, we must leave."
"What is it Papa? Why are there soldiers in the camp?" Arina asked.
"Don't talk. Just hurry. Quickly now."
Sarah wrapped a sarong around herself and tied it in a knot above her breast. She reached for her flip-flop sandals.
"Not sandals, Sarah, wear shoes," her father ordered.
Once they were dressed, he pushed the two girls into the small sitting room of the two-bedroom hut which had been home for the past six months. The light from outside made it possible for Arina to see her mother standing by the front door. The smell of spices from last night's dinner hung in the air. Arina was hungry. She eyed the fridge and made to move toward it.
"Stand by your mother," her father ordered. "Sofia, keep them with you. I need to think."
"Papa, tell us what is happening," Arina pleaded.
Her father turned on her, his face flushed. In recent days, his illness had made him irritable. In Arina's view he was now irritable almost all the time. Her father opened his mouth, to admonish the two girls. But instead, he bent forward, a hand covering his mouth. His free hand was on his knee, and a fit of coughing shook his body. He stayed bent over until the coughing became simply gasping and wheezing. Slowly, he lifted his head.
"Do you see what you have done? This happens when disobedient daughters irritate their father."
His shoulders heaved as he struggled for breath. He coughed into his handkerchief then turned away as he folded the bloodied cloth and pushed it into his pocket. Arina watched the shadow of her father as he stepped to the window. She pulled her hand free from her mother's grip and joined him. She could pick out figures dashing between the dwellings nearer the entrance gates. She could see well enough to identify the runners as her neighbours. Some, caught by the men in black, were gathered into small groups and forced to sit on the ground. Arina strained to listen to a garbled message that was being broadcast over the camp loudspeaker. A sound like cracking whips made it difficult to hear clearly.
Her mother said, "Carlo, the man on the loudspeaker is telling us we need to go outside."
Carlo ignored his wife.
The helicopter continued to hover above the main gate. A searchlight, fixed underneath, swung back and forth.
For an instant it lit up a man dressed in a black uniform. Then Arina saw the cause of the sound of the cracking whips. He lifted a rifle to his shoulder, and the barrel flashed. Her best friend fell to the ground. Arina held a hand to her mouth, her widening eyes staring at the still form. She waited for her friend to rise to her feet.
"Papa! It is Rosa! Something has happened to her."
Her father put his arm gently around her shoulder and guided her back to her sister and mother. "No matter what happens tonight girls, you must do what I tell you." Her father led them to the back door. He pulled it open just wide enough to poke his head through. "To get out of the compound we need to go through the hole in the fence that Sarah uses when she meets Tulus."
"Papa!" Sarah said, mortified he had found her out.
Arina's mouth fell open at learning of her sister's deception. She thought her father should reprimand her sister, but instead he didn't appear the least bit annoyed. It wasn't fair. Yesterday she had been yelled at for not making her bed.
"Sarah, can you find the hole in the dark?"
"But the man on the loudspeaker said we have to go outside," Arina said.
"Hush Arina. You will do as I say. Sarah, take this." He passed her a small box the size of a cigarette packet. "This is your birthday present. I made it for you in the workshop. I am giving it to you now." Sarah stared at the box. "Inside is money. Use it to get to Uncle Felipe."
"Why give it to me now, Papa? Are you and mother not coming?"
"Of course we are. But you have younger legs. You can run faster and we will be slow." He touched her shoulder. "When you get outside the fence you must run as if your life depends on it. And it does. Whatever happens, you are to look after your sister. Your mother and I may need to hide out in the jungle for a few nights. You must not wait for us."
"But ..." Her eyes welled.
Sarah wiped her eyes. "Yes Papa." She put the box into the red leather purse which hung from a strap around her neck.
"We must go," her father said.
He reached out and placed his arm against the door jamb. His head dropped as another fit of coughing spasms began. Arina couldn't remember when he first got sick. But now he was always coughing and usually didn't stop for a long time. When it was her turn to wash their clothes Arina had noticed blood on his handkerchief. She showed her mother, but was told to get on with the washing.
Carlo took deep breaths; steadied himself.
"I'm ready," he gasped.
Sarah pushed the door open.
"We must run to the left of the light," Sarah said. "Do you see the small bush against the fence?"
"I see it."
"It is behind that bush."
"Arina," her father said, "you must do what your sister tells you and be brave."
"Lead the way, Sarah."
Sarah raced across the open space towards the bush. Frightened friends and neighbours ran directionless across their path, pushing each other. Arina risked a glance over her shoulder. The line of soldiers was advancing. Sarah reached the communal clothes line. Sheets and assorted clothing items hung limp in the windless night. They pushed through the washing, which now shielded them from the men with guns. Dust from the downdraft of the helicopter also helped hide their movements. Arina closed her ears to the screams and the gunfire, her eyes fixed on her sister. Sarah reached the bush and fell to her hands and knees. Arina, who was now beside her, helped pull away branches as they searched for the hole.
"I've found it," Sarah cried out.
Arina looked at the black shape of the jungle beyond the fence; a leafy sanctuary offering their only hope of survival.
"Mama and Papa," Sarah called out. "Hurry."
Arina, still on her hands and knees, turned in her parents' direction. To her horror they were still a long way away. Her father was staggering, his arm across their mother's shoulder.
"He is too heavy for Mama," Sarah said. "Arina, as soon as the lights of the helicopter turn away, I am going back to help. You stay here. Crawl under the bush, find the hole and go through it. Then hold it open for us."
"But I should help."
"Arina don't argue," Sarah said. "Please, just do as I ask, just this once." She slipped the strap of her handbag over her head. "Hold this until I get back."
"What if you don't come back?"
"Arina, get through the fence!"
"All right," Arina grumbled, but did not move.
"Now!" Sarah screamed at her, and gave Arina a shove.
"All right, all right." Arina dropped again to her hands and knees and crawled through the hole. Once outside the fence she lifted her head high enough to see over the bush. Sarah had reached her father's side. She swooped under his right arm and helped prop him up.
"Almost there," Arina heard her sister yell.
The helicopter swung its light back towards the trio and lit them up like actors on a theatre stage. A voice yelled for them to stop. Arina's eyes widened as men with rifles ran toward her family.
"Hurry, hurry," she screamed at them.
"Arina, run away. We are right behind you," Sarah called.
Arina stayed where she was. Her hands pushed against the fence, her fingers poking through the wire mesh. "Hurry, hurry!"
Sarah and her mother were struggling with her father. The soldiers were getting closer. To her right Arina saw a military jeep racing along the fence line. Arina screamed a warning, but her voice was lost in the din. A soldier standing in the passenger side swung a swivel gun toward them and fired. Erupting dirt followed the flashes of light. Her Papa held his hands in the air and shouted at the soldiers not to shoot. Her Mama held onto her Papa's arm and Sarah's hand. Soldiers yelled more orders and her mother, father and sister dropped to their knees. The helicopter turned away as the soldiers surrounded them.
Arina's fingers slipped from the wire. She knew what she must do. Find Uncle Felipe. She slung the strap of Sarah's bag around her neck and ran into the jungle. Spikey plant tendrils tugged at her clothes and scratched her arms. She did not slow until the sounds of violence had faded.CHAPTER 2
The Philippines Airlines A320 taxied to the Auckland Airport arrivals terminal. On board the almost full jet were one hundred and twenty Filipino businessmen and women. The chartered flight, organised by the Davao City Chamber of Commerce, had brought the delegation to Auckland to discuss trade opportunities. The chamber CEO had spent a year arranging the trip, organising discussion round tables, visas and accommodation. The response from chamber members had been positive. The addition of latecomers had brought the passenger list to one hundred and twenty, a good-sized tour party. The CEO was more than happy.
The aircraft would return to the Philippines via Sydney, Australia. It would fly passengers on behalf of Air New Zealand to Sydney and passengers from Sydney to the Philippines as a normal scheduled route. In seven days it would return to New Zealand for the Chamber of Commerce travellers.
As passengers and crew cleared customs, the Sky Chefs' catering truck manoeuvred into position under the aircraft's loading doors. The Asian driver climbed out of the vehicle, secured the wheels, and then entered its box van body through a side door. The van body with a platform protruding out over the cab, lifted until it was level with the aircraft door. The driver, wearing an iridescent yellow jacket, stepped out onto the platform and made his way across the walkway and into the plane. For the next ten minutes he off-loaded empty food trolleys and replaced them with new.
The fifth empty trolley that was wheeled onto the van had a strip of red tape along the top edge. The driver pushed it into a space near the side door. Once he had completed the trolley swap over, the aircraft door was shut. The driver pulled a lever and the hoist and the box van lowered onto the truck frame. Next, the driver dropped two black sports bags beside the trolley with the red markings. He opened the trolley door and emptied out Kalashnikovs, pistols and grenades. Into the second bag he loaded extra rounds, full ammo clips and two American-made grenade launchers. He zipped the two bags shut and dragged them across to the open side door.
An airport employee driving a forklift stopped within arms-reach and waited. The bags were hidden amongst other unloaded commercial freight already on the pallet. The catering driver waited until the forklift disappeared from sight then slammed the door shut.
His job was done.CHAPTER 3
Jeff Bradley strode up the wheelchair ramp and entered the Auckland Central Police Station. The cop manning reception was focussed on whatever subject matter filled his computer screen, and ignored Jeff's presence. It was probably the end of a long day. With his shift almost over he didn't need a civilian messing up his going-home time.
Jeff rubbed the top of his thigh. Earlier, he had run five kilometres followed by a strenuous workout at his gym. Manny, his fitness trainer, had coached him through a new exercise regimen, had him pound a punch bag and then finish off the session with a few rounds of sparring. He ached and was stiff. The discomfort made him irritable. He was in no mood to be ignored. Jeff slapped his hand on the counter. It worked. The cop looked up and fixed his eyes on Jeff. Thin lips curled into a practised smile, polite but lacking sincerity.
"Yes sir, how can I help?" The cop remained seated, one eye cocked on Jeff, the other on the screen.
"I have a meeting with Sergeant Te Kanawa."
The cop picked up the phone.
Jeff moved away from the counter and studied the posters on the noticeboard. Senior Sergeant Moana Te Kanawa had been cagey when she made contact with him. The last time Jeff had seen her, Moana was beating up a terrorist who had resisted arrest. She was trained in martial arts, and had fought in UFC bouts. The terrorist had chosen the wrong woman. Even then, at age forty, Moana had been too tough an adversary.
Jeff tried to recall any activity over the last few weeks that might have led to Moana's request for him to come to the station. Nothing obvious came to mind and he hadn't broken any laws that he was aware of.
A side door opened and the cop manning reception appeared.
"Come with me."
It surprised him when he was shown through to the staff cafeteria and not her office or an interview room. Moana was waiting in the doorway, and greeted him with a genuine beaming smile. They embraced as old friends.
"Where would you like to sit?" she asked.
The cafeteria was empty. Jeff opted for a table by the window.
"Can I get you a coffee, bottle of water, tea?"
Jeff shook his head. "I'm okay."
The policewoman clasped her hands together and leaned forward, elbows on the table. Her mannerism reminded Jeff of a time when his mother scolded him for shooting his cousin's doll to bits with an air rifle.
"Two weeks ago we raided a sauna parlour, The Playhouse on Customs St. Do you know it?"
"Yes, I know it. And no, I haven't been there."
Her question puzzled Jeff, for no other reason than the sex industry was legal in New Zealand. They even paid taxes. Even if he had used The Playhouse's services, and he hadn't, what did it matter?
"Why a raid?" he asked.
"It was a routine check on the Asian girls. We carry one out every few months. Some of the girls are in New Zealand illegally, others overstay their visas. Sex slavery has not been much of a problem, but now and then it pops up. Girls brought in on a promise of work. Their fares and accommodation are paid for, and then they are forced to work off the debt as prostitutes. You know how it works........"
Jeff indicated with a motion of his head that he did. He wriggled in his chair, feeling uncomfortable. His eyes narrowed. "You're not accusing me of human trafficking?"
Moana laughed. "If I thought that, we'd be in an interview room and not the cafeteria. Relax."
Jeff scratched the back of his head.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Bomb Maker's Daughter"
Copyright © 2018 Thomas Ryan.
Excerpted by permission of Far and Wide Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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