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Jeffrey Parfitt

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Shadow of Fear
by Jeffrey Parfitt   

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Books by Jeffrey Parfitt
· Inner Evil
· Snowfall
· The Tenth Order
· Sea Of Jackals
                >> View all



Publisher:  amazon, smashwords ISBN-10:  1465748741 Type: 


Copyright:  November 2011 ISBN-13:  9781465748744

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Shadow of Fear

A new LNG super gas tanker en route to Milford Haven... A terrorist cell onboard... A new port not ready to receive the cargo... A dysfunctional environmental pressure group out of control... Only one man truly understands the potential for disaster.

Shadow of Fear is based on the very real threat of the new super gas tankers bringing huge quantities of liquid methane to your country. One of these days... Read the reality.

A new LNG super gas tanker en route to Milford Haven... A terrorist cell onboard... A new port not ready to receive the cargo... A dysfunctional environmental pressure group out of control... Only one man truly understands the potential for disaster.
 Shadow of Fear is based on the very real threat of the new super gas tankers bringing huge quantities of liquid methane to your country. One of these days... Read the reality.



Revised September 2012

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or they are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.


THE SUN EASED THROUGH the thick humid canopy of oppressive grey cloud. A final defiant purging heat soon to be extinguished by the mountain ridge to the west, the sweet smell of equatorial fauna permeating the atmosphere.
Port Blair burrowed inside a narrow inlet on the eastern coast of Great Nicobar Island in the Andaman Sea, sixty miles north of Sumatra in the north east Indian Ocean. The Global Success lay at anchor a short distance from the quayside loaded with Japanese cars from Singapore. It was an ugly small ship made of three thousand tons of Korean steel, nothing more than a floating box, her steel walls rising without finesse.
The Global Success was a good size for the myriad of small Asian ports dotted throughout the region, perfect for navigating the narrow shallow water inlets and tidal estuaries where the bigger ships could not go. Tomorrow she would berth and discharge her cargo but tomorrow could wait, because today was Christmas Day. Today the crew would enjoy an undisturbed Christmas celebration.
Deep within the accommodation, three decks down at the forward end of the ship the festivities were in full flood. The lights from the vessel reflected across the calm waters of the inlet, a rhythmic pulse of base guitar invading the stillness of the sunset violating the theatre of natures’ evening performance.
Since the lavish Christmas dinner the officers and crew had partied, absorbing copious quantities of food and drink, enjoying blasting music and raucous humour as they tried to compensate for the absence of their loved ones. The crew was safe, no work, no interfering office or port officials to interrupt. Isolated at anchor they indulged to excess and they would sleep it off the next day.
The vessel owners, Pan Global Shipping, had awarded their promising young Captain with a lightweight first command to break him in gently before the challenge of their large super tankers.
On the Bridge, the Third Officer kept his lonely vigil, watching the ship swing back and forth across the anchor, listening to the echoes of the music far below, checking the time in anticipation of the mid-night change of watch.
The party swung through to the early hours of the morning, everyone eating and drinking their fill with the Third Officer doing his best to catch the others up. By four there were still a few resilient souls, the rest lying in drunken exhaustion in their cabins, sleeping off hangovers in anticipation of the afternoon berthing and a repeat performance later.
At eight forty-five that morning the young Captain lay in his bunk, snoring heavily from the preceding evening’s over indulgence. On the Bridge, the Third Officer back on duty nursed his headache and checked the ship’s position, ensuring the vessel had not moved during the night.
He peered over the port bridge wing to the ruins on nearby Viper Island and imagined the horror of the infamous penal colony that once existed there. As he stared he noticed a darkening band across the horizon, seemingly undulating. Lifting the binoculars he focused on the ragged dark haze growing larger by the second. It must be a local atmospheric phenomenon, he thought.
Staring again he watched the spreading dark band as it appeared to hit Viper Island, white spray thrown up at its perimeter. His heart beat faster, a wall of water, it’s a wall of water. Moments later he lowered the glasses, the grey band was rapidly approaching growing ever larger before his eyes, fear gripped his soul, there was no longer a need for binoculars.
The ship swung unnaturally quickly as the energy of the advancing wave drew the water beneath the hull toward it swinging the stern rapidly around. He could hear the anchor chain ranging as the shackles banged and the winch brake groaned taking the sudden force of the current as the stern dragged toward the rapidly approaching mass.
His heart raced, he gripped the bridge-wing rail unable to move. The towering grey wall made a sound, it hissed and roared. A solid mass of water expanded as the powerful swell shoaled into the harbour rising up as a striking cobra, the top edge of the wave capped with an angry frothing whiteness. Wide eyed, he stared helplessly at the wave, fear holding him in position. He clenched his teeth hard and uttered a stifled cry.
A thirty metre wall of solid grey warm water hit the Global Success moments later, the square stern taking the initial force was thrown violently off to the side. The sheer force of the water ripped its massive steel stern ramp clean off exposing the cavernous car hold.
Thousands of tons of sea water instantly filled the void space, the sudden violent increase in air pressure popped vent covers like giant champagne corks and blew doors open throughout the accommodation.
The vessel submitted without a struggle, swinging without resistance. The ship was virtually underwater, moving broad side under the immutable force of nature.
The giant wave caught her beam on and rolled the ship easily onto its side. The wave carried the ship several hundred metres further into the inlet like a plastic boat in a bath before rolling on past, the anchor still holding, still groaning as the links stretched out.
The tsunami swept into Port Blair rising ever higher as the kinetic energy of the wave pushed for survival in the narrowing inlet. It swept across the inner harbour destroying small boats, lifting coastal ships and casting them onto the quay as if they were mere toys. Millions of tons of water swept metres over the dockside and into the town, cleansing baptising water.
The Global Success rolled over, the young Captain tossed from his bunk, flung across his cabin. Everything that wasn’t tied down became a spinning vortex of debris across the confined space. Cabin doors burst open from air pressure as soft human flesh succumbed to heavy sharp objects. Deep water pressure imploded cabin windows along the port side as the vessel submerged. Huge amounts of sea water pulsed through the accommodation in seconds.
Surviving the initial onslaught, disorientated and hung over, the Captain tried to understand his surroundings. Water instantly filled his cabin, he gasped for breath. Noise filled the air from screaming steel and tortured crew. Just enough light filtered in, the water rapidly rising, a dull glow from the submerged cabin emergency lights, then silence.
The ship was on its port side lying three hundred metres further up the inlet toward the harbour, a sunken wreck. The starboard side lay one metre below the surface clearly visible from the shore.
The air pressure in the cabin squeezed his ear drums until they popped. He floated in the detritus of his dark watery prison clawing his way to the secured wardrobe furniture, he clung on. A large pocket of air trapped between the door and the side cabin bulkhead gave him life, dim light penetrating the gloom.
Occasional sounds echoed through the sunken structure. He listened to the Chief Engineer shouting and struggling in the adjacent cabin, he thought he could hear others. Slowly his thoughts gathered. He was still alive, something had happened, a collision. His ship had been struck and rolled over. Help would be on its way very soon.
Twenty four hours he held on, clutching the wardrobe frame for dear life believing help would come. Nobody came. Cold and hypothermic, terrifying mind games. There were unbearable dark hours, bulkheads creaking, voices screaming. Within an instant he could be consumed by eternal darkness, he struggled to grasp at life’s golden light. Gradually fear gave way to numbness and acceptance of the inevitable.
Dawn on the 27th December he was still alive. Within the accommodation wreckage he listened for sequential banging elsewhere, others were alive. He was sure he could hear the Chief next door. Slowly his room became lighter and once again he made out features through the wreckage strewn water. No hang over now he knew where he was, trapped in a sunken tomb, his life suspended by a gossamer thread of fetid stale air.
Occasionally he involuntary flinched as objects living or dead brushed against him. Mind games of terror.
He was nearly thirty feet from the surface. The forward facing cabin window shattered on roll over. If he could only swim down and through the window, salvation was a mere thirty feet away. But he didn’t know it.
Two more hours of desperation gave him direction. The water level slowly rising, no help was going to come. He had to get out, do or die. Others made sounds within the accommodation muffled by the water, he was certain of it. He thought only of himself.
Peering through the gloom he made the outline of his open cabin doorway. He could swim down through the doorway into the passageway that ran the width of the ship. The passageway would lead him to salvation.
Hyperventilating his lungs he prayed to his God. Please God, help me now. Diving down he reached for the door frame, catching hold with his left hand he pulled himself into the now vertical alleyway. Looking up, air bubbles from his mouth traced a pathway to the dot of light at the end of the shaft. He kicked and clawed his way up. Pushing through semi-submerged chairs, bed sheets and wreckage, he surfaced a few feet short of the water tight door above his head. An air pocket trapped by the secure outer steel door dogged down by six steel hinged pins, a small round thick glass window set within the door allowing light to shine through.
His heart pounded as he cried out in frustration clutching at the steel dogs on the door to support his weight. He was desperate to cry, so close Jesus I’m so close. Recognizing the corpse of the Chief Officer floating next to him, he tried to push him away in the tiny confined space but he kept coming back, wanting him to stay and keep him company. He trod water treading on debris, the effort destroying his remaining energy, the sounds of others crying and tapping somewhere below. He had to get out.
Finding purchase with his feet he pushed his heavy body out of the water toward the light in the port of the steel door, salvation so close. Catching hold of one securing pin, it opened easily. He worked his way around the door releasing all six.
He tried to push the door open but it wouldn’t budge. He was a metre under water, a ton of salt water thrusting the door firmly shut. His arms aching, he hung onto the door handle for an hour. Wanting to cry, he didn't know how much longer he could hold on.
A short red painted metal pipe hung from the door, a spanner for tightening the steel pins. Water squeezed between the door and the frame, he could see he was still underwater inches from the surface as he listened to the cries below. He tried to shout but couldn’t. The natural instinct to survive, he knew what he had to do.
Hammering on the toughened glass window with the pipe, it shattered without warning. A ten inch tube of water jetted into the void space. Panicking he dropped the pipe and tried to quickly ventilate his lungs, now or never, there was no going back.
Seconds later the water pushed past his face, the pressure equalising inside and out. He pushed upward and the door gave immediately, his lungs already bursting from the effort.
But the door would not open cleanly, the gap was too small and he was too eager to escape. The bloated corpse of the Chief Officer now pushed into him, trying to drag him back into the ship. Where are you going? You belong here with me… with us. The ship not wanting to release him.
He forced his body through the partial opening and the corpse moved with him. Swimming upwards the door closed on his legs. His hand broke the surface as his legs pinned him down.
He could feel his hands moving freely in air but there was nothing to grab on to, to haul himself clear. He was going to drown inches from the surface. He was entangled with the body and pinned by the door. Frantically reaching out he grabbed at floating wreckage and his hand caught something soft fibrous and buoyant. He pulled downwards his body twisting his legs through the heavy doorway, scraping skin and flesh from his legs leaving the corpse behind.
As he surfaced he gasped for life giving air clutching at his liferaft, his lungs sucking in deeply. He was alive, he had survived. Feeling his feet touch the side of his ship he stood up waist high in water standing in the middle of the harbour inlet.
He looked down at his liferaft, a bloated corpse, black and brown disfigured by the tropical heat and submersion in sea water, nature mocking life in death. Looking around he saw hundreds of floating black bags. Bodies black, blue, brown bloated bodies drifting around the wreck and on toward the shore line. He tried to scream.



‘ALLAH... ALLAH… ALLAH…,’ the call to prayer could be heard on the bridge as Captain Sherif Mohamed Nabil stared down from his vantage point high above the main deck of the leviathan LNG tanker Gas Champion. His eyes traced the outline of the five huge spherical gas tanks laid out before him contained within the newly built hull. He glanced at the young Third Officer kneeling on a prayer mat on the starboard bridge wing, his forehead pressed firmly to the rug.
Filled with a sense of pride and personal achievement, he took a sip of Turkish coffee from a small porcelain cup.
‘Captain… I have the cargo figures here sir,’ a moments distraction,
‘What… Oh, any problems Hesham?’ Captain Nabil did not like his Chief Officer and the feeling was mutual.
‘As I said before sir, we’re having problems stabilizing the cargo temperatures,’ the Captain feigned disinterest,
‘We will be in Milford Haven in a few days, it will keep until then,’ and moved a few metres across the front of the Bridge obliging Hesham to follow,
‘It gives me concern sir…,’
‘I don’t care what it gives you Hesham… Just deal with it,’ dismissing the Chief Officer in a moment.
Placing the cup down for the steward to collect he dabbed his lips with a paper napkin. Picking up the binoculars from the bridge console he scanned the main deck, watching as Bosun Khaled Mohamed moved forward along the flying bridge cat walk across the top of the tanks, aware that Hesham was standing beside him.
‘The ship is looking good Hesham,’ a rare compliment to his Chief Officer. ‘We will make a fine appearance when we arrive at Milford Haven,’ his voice remaining calm and distant. Hesham Hussein nodded in agreement,
‘Yes she will Captain…,' pausing, he turned to stare directly into his eyes with no tell-tale expression. 'We will certainly make an entrance.’ Captain Nabil stared straight back, a direct challenge to his authority,
‘And what do you mean by that,’ maintaining his psychological control. ‘Is there something you’re trying tell me? Anything I should know…?’
‘No… no Sir,’ Hesham retreating immediately. ‘Just that this is a very big ship.’ Nabil satisfied with his minor victory glanced away,
‘Yes… it will be the first gas ship to arrive at the new terminal,’
‘I know sir. We will be special. People will never forget us.’
Captain Nabil did not like Hesham Hussein and he didn’t try to hide it. He didn’t trust him, he didn’t like the way he spoke with his heavy upper Egypt accent typical of the Saidii from Assuit. He didn’t like the way he fraternized with the Bosun or his jovial manner with the crew, too familiar. He didn’t like him at all.
‘Just make sure everything is in order Hesham,’ a barely perceptible sneer from his lips as Nabil spoke at him, not engaging eye contact. ‘This cargo is too important… and too dangerous to make mistakes,’
‘Of course Captain. I have checked and double checked…,’
‘Well triple check… No mistakes… I’ll be watching you always,’ turning away from him.
Hesham’s feelings for Captain Nabil were mutual and known to a few on board. Nabil was a tall man, nearly six four and had an over bearing gait developed from a lifetime of social superiority and privilege. Hesham Hussein had reluctantly joined the Gas Champion with this Captain knowing of his arrogant, narcissistic reputation.
‘Yes, the Gas Champion is a very big ship sir, the biggest I’ve ever sailed on,’ projecting his voice as Nabil ignored him.
Captain Nabil staring forward noticed the Bosun reach the foc’sle head and watched him disappear to the space below.
‘She’s the biggest and the newest we have,’ a meaningless response, Hesham remained silent, he knew the statistics, over 300,000 m³ of liquid methane gas. ‘Look at the size of her. We are like a King of the ocean, a Pharaoh of the seas… What speed are we making?’ To no one in particular.
‘Eighteen knots sir,’ from the young Third Officer somewhere behind him carefully folding his prayer mat.
‘Are we using any gas for fuel?’
‘Yes sir, the boil off is being fed directly to the turbines,’
‘Good, good. That should reduce the fuel consumption considerably. The company will be watching us closely Hesham. This is the first all Egyptian crew in the company. If we can prove we are efficient as any of the other ships with the foreigners, we will have more work for our Egyptians… Do you understand?’
Hesham nodded without speaking, desperately wanting to leave the Bridge,
‘So you need to control them. Make sure there are no arguments or trouble… no complaints. Command respect. Put them down.’
Hesham knew he lived in a culture of lick up, kick down but he couldn’t do it. He despised his culture, always sucking up to the Americans. A weak willed government lining their own pockets at the expense of the people and a Captain who enforced it for his own benefit. This was not how to live as a good Muslim.
‘Do you anticipate security problems in England sir?’
‘We have security problems everywhere we go these days. Everywhere we go we are regarded as terrorists.’
At least I agree with him on that point, Hesham thought.
‘It’s becoming difficult to even step ashore,’ Captain Nabil nodded in agreement. ‘Sometimes I think I would be better off in jail, at least I see my family every week.’ Captain Nabil didn’t reply, he didn’t like whining sailors,
‘You will be back in Damietta within three weeks. You can leave then if you want,’ but Hesham Hussein had other ideas and he wasn’t about to share them with his Captain.
‘I will go forward and meet with the Bosun. I need to speak with him regarding arrival.’
The Chief Officer left the Bridge, the Captain not even acknowledging his departure. A few minutes later Hesham was onto the catwalk flying bridge that led forward to the bow.
Nabil watched the Chief Officer make his way forward wondering what the two of them would say about him and why he wasn’t able to get on with the man. At thirty six Hesham Hussein was in the prime of his life, fit and agile, with his whole life before him. Nabil compared his own appearance, over ten years older, middle age well and truly setting in.
As Hesham made his way forward he could feel the eyes of Captain Nabil burning into his back. He hated what he stood for, his appearance, his arrogance, his privilege, he hated him. He felt more comfortable as he climbed into the foc’sle head out of sight of prying eyes. There was the Bosun Khaled Mohamed preparing the mooring ropes for arrival.
‘Khaled…,’ he turned and smiled placing his hand to his heart,
‘Salaam Ali…,’
‘Ali com al salaama,’ Hesham replied as they kissed each other’s cheek. Hesham sat on a large coiled white nylon mooring rope as Khaled took a similar position,
‘How is he?’
‘The Old Man…? Same as usual. There is no hope for him.’
Khaled agreeing,
‘Our time will come soon brother,’
‘It will… inshallah,’
‘You are a good friend Hesham,’
‘We do God’s will… together,’ Khaled paused,
‘The pain never dies, it doesn’t even fade. Every day the pain for my son lives with me. It is almost too much to bear.’
Hesham reached out, placing a comforting hand on Khaled’s shoulder,
‘Not long now Khaled, not long and you will be free.’
Hesham Hussein was well liked by the crew and he was close to the Bosun. This was not unusual on a well run ship as the Chief Officer relied on the Bosun to maintain discipline and competency within crew ranks. But this Chief Officer and this Bosun were closer than usual, they were intimate. They shared secrets only for the chosen few.
Khaled Mohamed knew that Hesham’s past was not as it seemed, he knew that Hesham was not just a merchant seaman, a poor boy made good. Hesham was from Assuit in middle Egypt, half way between Cairo and Luxor, a Saiidi hotbed of political and religious unrest. It was an area where western tourists were advised not to dwell too long, perhaps take the train direct to Luxor or the non-stop Nile cruise. This was where Egypt’s most radical Islamist fundamentalists were born and bred.
Hesham and Khaled spoke quietly, mid-day prayers had just begun and this was an ideal opportunity for them to talk without interruptions.
‘So how is your son Khaled?’
‘He is not well,’ staring down at the deck with arms folded. ‘This time I have signed on for a nine month tour… It is the only way I can afford his medical treatment,’
‘There’s nothing else you can do my friend…,’ he nodded slowly, his lips pressed firmly together, his arms folded tightly across his chest, holding in the anguish,
‘He was only nineteen… Those hypocrites who preach democracy and freedom, making movies on American righteousness… Those people denied my son basic human rights… No lawyer. No court of law, no justice, no honesty. You know my son was arrested and tortured because he was an Arab and a Muslim. He just happened to be in New York, wrong place, wrong time.’
Hesham was aware of the details. He had heard the story several times before. He knew if he pushed the right buttons he would get the right response. No harm in keeping Khaled motivated.
‘He was beaten, stripped naked and sexually humiliated by those uncivilised arrogant godless men… only nineteen,’ almost pleading, his eyes filling with tears. ‘Now I have to stay for months at sea… It is the only way we can afford the medical help… the Doctors’,’
‘I know Khaled,’ again placing a comforting hand upon him.
‘They destroyed your son before he had even begun to live. But one day, one day inshallah your chance will come. Our chance will come. Then these pro-zionists will know God’s wrath and 9/11 will be but a minor side show. We will punish them in a way the world will never forget.’ Khaled nodded, his body tense from frustration and pain for his son.
Khaled Mohamed was not alone, many of the crew harboured similar feelings and they would often sit together of an evening after the prayers at sunset and discuss the injustice to their culture.
‘I sometimes believe we are fighting a crusade,’ continued Hesham watching Khaled carefully. ‘A twenty-first century crusade defending Islam against the West. We are Salahdin,’ his voice accentuating, motivating driving,
‘Yes. The recent attacks in Europe were very successful. We shocked the English didn’t we…,’ almost laughing. ‘We did shock them,’ his fists squeezing into tight balls, the knuckles stretched taut and white.
‘We did my friend. We did and we will do so again,’ they both smirked finding the anecdotes amusing.
‘Now they will know what it is like. Now they will experience death and horror in their homes that our own Arab brothers suffer on a daily basis at the hands of the Jews in Palestine and Lebanon,’
‘Israel, eternal enemy of Islam… Financed by the West,’ finished Hesham philosophically.
‘Our own government are nothing but puppets to the Americans,’ muttered Khaled.
‘You remember eighty seven? We nearly won,’Hesham becoming passionate. ‘We nearly won Khaled. My own brother was killed. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Mahmoud. I miss him so much. Now he is in paradise and he has shown me the way,’
‘That was a big victory Hesham but we paid a heavy price. We cannot move anymore, we cannot travel across our own lands. There are police and soldiers everywhere protecting all the foreigners.’ Hesham nodded,
‘We killed a lot of Germans in Luxor that day… Ha. I wish I could have been there. We hurt the government for years then and we will do so again. We will show our people the light to follow.’
Forty four German tourists were murdered at the temple in Luxor by Egyptian Islamist extremists, the Islamic Brotherhood. Using semi-automatic pistol guns, the terrorists gunned down anyone who moved. The western world was outraged, Egypt was outraged and their tourist industry decimated overnight.
‘Oh Yes,’ said Hesham. ‘Let them be afraid my friend, very afraid,’ he leaned back and placed his hands on his knees, relaxing,
‘It is difficult to talk like this Hesham… If someone suspects what we are up to, even if they overhear us talking, you know the consequences.’
‘I do… I have many brothers in prison… and I have lost many friends also,’
‘If we are discovered we will face the rest of our years in prison… without trial. You know that Hesham?’
‘Of course. It is the price I… we are prepared to pay. You must be prepared to martyr yourself for the will of God Khaled. There is only one God, only one way,’
‘But they will torture us Hesham. There will be no trial and our family will always suffer. It is the Egyptian way.’
‘Then it is our destiny... inshallah’ (God willing). I have many relatives already imprisoned and I do not know where. My uncle, his son,’
‘So much security, it is difficult to do anything,’
‘The security is ashore Khaled... not on here. Here we are free of the government, of police and secret security. Here we only have Captain Nabil to watch us. Ha, Captain Nabil,’ they both laughed again.
‘Yes… Nabil… I was in trouble last time home. I was stopped and the police searched my car, my documents, soldiers on every street corner... Life is harder.’ There was a silent pause before Khaled continued in a more serious tone,
‘I know about you Hesham,’ quieter now. ‘I know what you have done.’ Hesham looked straight into his eyes, his face hardening.
‘No Khaled. You only think you know what I have done. You have no idea,’
‘I have heard the rumours, the stories about you... I know you were brave, brave to leave Egypt and fight with our fellow brothers in Afghanistan,’ Khaled enjoyed Hesham’s stories of daring-do fighting the Americans. He didn’t even know if they were true but it didn’t matter.
‘It’s not bravery Khaled. I believe... It’s easy when you believe. God’s hand is guiding me... I met the Great Man once you know...,’ pausing for effect. Khaled looked confused, ‘Osama... Bin Laden... I met him,’
‘The man who stopped the world,’ Hesham nodded. Khaled didn’t know if he was lying or not, it didn’t matter.
‘And I heard you killed Americans? You actually killed them?’
Khaled thought he knew the answer. He also enjoyed pushing the buttons on Hesham as they wound themselves in self-justification.
‘You only heard Khaled... Yes. I killed Americans... They were glorious days you know, before Iraq. We were brothers from all over fighting together... even England... ha, ha,’ Khaled smiled back, a pause,
‘There is one I will never forget... an American soldier...,’ serious again, focused.
‘An unbeliever...,’ Hesham nodded in agreement.
‘Yes... an unbeliever. He was a big strong man,’ turning to look at Khaled who was listening intently. ‘He was wounded when we caught him... he couldn’t run. We took him to our mountain hideaway. He was exhausted from the journey, he was struggling... One of the others wanted to shoot him there and then but I thought that was too easy. I wanted him alive... I was in charge... We let him live a few days. Ha... even saying we would release him... Then we would threaten to execute him.’
Hesham’s mouth twisted at one side as he sniggered at the mental torture he had administered.
‘But I tell you this Khaled, he was a brave man, a true soldier and for that I respect him,’
‘What happened to him... Did you let him go?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. We were at war. After a few days we grew tired looking after him and he wouldn’t speak anyway. The others wanted to return to the fighting, it was more exciting... We believed we were really part of something special,’ emphasizing the last.
‘So what did you do, a bullet, a knife, what?’
‘No... The others... They bound his hands and feet,’ looking straight into Khaled’s eyes now. ‘You know how it is. He cried out... He was in pain with his arms bent right back... He knew he was about to die... His eyes rolled white and his trousers,’ pointing toward his crotch. ‘Sticks out when you are terrified..., he was wet.’
Khaled knew he was listening to a story no one else had heard. This was the real Hesham, the soldier of Islam talking. Hesham was staring intensely at him, his nostrils flaring as his breathing became more urgent,
‘So they put him face down, his neck was over a piece of wood...,’ indicating the front of his throat. Hesham continued, his voice becoming quieter as he told his story, his eyes staring down at the steel deck, his hand playing with a short piece of rope.
‘I forced a steel bit between his teeth... We use it for the goats. I felt them crack and snap as I pulled it backwards, forcing his mouth open,’ Khaled had grown quiet, afraid to interrupt, afraid almost to breathe,
‘Then... then I cut his throat,’ demonstrating now, looking straight at him. ‘He was snorting and gurgling a bit,’ he paused for effect. ‘The blood poured from his mouth... He died quickly,’ Khaled Mohamed remained quiet as Hesham looked down at the rope.
‘Then one of the others sliced his head off with a sabre... He held it high for the others to see.’ Khaled still silent, he knew Hesham was telling the truth this time, he noticed his hands were trembling.
‘Strange thing is Khaled,’ quietly now. ‘When I looked at his body, it didn’t look human. A headless body with a fan of bright red blood staining the sand,’ Hesham had gone quiet, reflecting on his experience.
Hesham Hussein had executed the American soldier in the way meat is slaughtered according to the Islamic code.
Khaled couldn’t speak for being stunned at the gravity of his words. He was impressed, inspired and afraid of Hesham all at the same time. What a story, thought Khaled, a hero, a strike for Islamic justice, a pay back in kind for my son.
‘But you cannot talk of these stories Khaled, no one must know. It is our secret.’


THE SIKORSKY S92 Search and Rescue helicopter, resplendent in its yellow livery swung low and banked sharply left over St. Anne’s Head as it made a rapid life-saving dash to the blue and orange rescue lifeboat Frances Walker.
The wire man already deployed and travelling down on the winch wire to just above sea level. His feet planed across the surface of the calm waters of the western channel to the Milford Haven approaches. His eyes fixed on the rapidly approaching lifeboat as he adjusted his body in an effort to stop himself rotating. Poor judgement with this manoeuvre and he could break his legs against the stern rails.
The Frances Walker ploughed onwards keeping her course and speed as directed by the SAR helicopter Rescue One. A blisteringly hot day, a light westerly breeze causing ripples on the otherwise still Haven. Wet with sweat from exertion and concentration the wire man hooked his legs neatly over the stern to land squarely on the aft deck of the lifeboat.
The crew were there to meet him as the helicopter took up a close station position twenty metres overhead. No sudden movements with the boat or the wire man would be pulled over the side in a moment.
Billy the 2nd Cox’n warmly shook him by the hand and smiled broadly, this was the third exercise that morning as both crews came to grips with their new machines.
A shake of hands, a pat on the back and the wire man was whisked off the deck. Twenty seconds later with their man safely on board, Rescue One headed back to its base at RAF Chivenor in Devon on the south west English coast.
The Frances Walker continued on passage as it proceeded at high speed making over 20kts through the western channel of the Haven, her shiny new blue hull reflecting the white foam of the bow wave thrown up by the sheer force of her twin Caterpillar engines bludgeoning her way across the sound.
Rounding the north end of the Middle Channel Rocks, Cox’n Tom Hunter pulled the engines back to half speed. Way ahead he could see the pontoon berth at Neyland Marina inside the Haven.
This new Tamar class of all-weather lifeboat was the latest development in search and rescue technology and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, one of the oldest publicly funded charities in the world were out in the Haven to show off their latest acquisition.
Frances Walker heeled over turning onto her final approach, her wake a temporary violent gash in the near millpond that was the Haven today.
It was almost mid-day and the crew of six had been working the boat since seven that morning.
‘Well that’s that,’ Tom Hunter skipper of the boat. ‘I thought it was never going to end... I think it went alright though,’
‘Aye Tom. I didn’t see too many problems, she performed like a dream. Let’s be honest, if you don't have a perfect summer's day at mid-summer you can wipe down the rest of the season.’
At least that was Tasker's opinion. Tasker Morgan, Chief Mechanic of the boat, bristling with pride at this latest acquisition.
‘I think the last two weeks of training has paid off. The boys have worked hard, all we need now is a decent appraisal from HQ.’
Observers from the Coastguard, RAF and RNLI were watching and monitoring all their conversations and actions from their position in the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre located on the hillside overlooking the Haven approaches.
‘Aye lad, we’ll see what the RAF have to say. They can be a bit prickly...,’ Tasker’s west Wales accent adding poetry to their conversation.
So far it had been a hot start to the summer and the Met Office long range forecast had predicted a heat wave for June, July and August. The British public had heard that forecast a few times before, although this year had seen a blistering start to June, with temperatures regularly over eighty celsius causing drought in the south of England and forest fires in parts of Wales.
Today there wasn’t a cloud to be seen in the panoramic light blue sky and the crew were baking hot in their new protection and survival suits. It was an important moment for them and as a team they had to perform, they were under the micro-scope and their image and reputation amongst other lifeboat crews was at stake.
Whilst the RNLI was a voluntary organization, it was run on a quasi-military like basis, training and professionalism being key elements to their success and the volunteer crews took great pride in their boats and their own status.
‘Well this is a definite improvement over the Jay Ray, she was well past it,’
‘The Josephine Ray was a fine vessel Tom and served us well.’
Tom smiled at the correction. He knew Tasker didn’t like his irreverent referral to the recently paid off old lifeboat.
Tasker had invested years of voluntary service into the old boat and had personally nursed it through many a near miss. He loved his boat and the boat loved him, at least that's what Tasker’s daughter Rhiannon always told him. Tom was very fond of Tasker, there was a lot of respect, a surrogate father.
Tasker had been a deep sea man, as the saying goes. He had spent most of his professional sea-going career in the British Merchant Navy from boy to man, serving with one of the big shipping companies, Pan Global Shipping. Thirty-five years on all types of oil and gas tankers sailing all around the globe. A professional Chief Engineer, highly qualified and very experienced, he was both a motor and a steam engineer, double barrelled. Not a tall man at five nine with a thin greying beard, his fifty eight years disguising a powerfully built if now slightly corpulent physique.
The Frances Walker throttled back and the sound of the twin Caterpillar C82 diesels dying away echoed around the marina entrance, at the same time the port exhaust flue gave a short blast of sooty smoke and glowing cinders. Tasker made a mental note to look at the fuel injectors as the engines were still under manufacturers’ warranty and now was the time to put the minor faults right.
Stepping out onto the stern to observe the smoke, Tasker unwrapped a King Edward cigar. It was a filthy habit he knew, but he couldn’t help it. One of the few vices he had brought with him from deep sea. He knew he smoked the damned things too much, the cigars left a nicotine stain around his greying moustache, but the cigar and a single malt were one of his few real indulgences in life and sod it, you’re a long time dead.
So he lit up and sucked in deeply, exhaling the pleasant aroma that drifted over the stern. Giving a mighty cough at his first breath, he heard the others laugh at his expense inside the wheelhouse. It didn’t bother him.
Tom Hunter was the skipper or Cox'n of the boat. He laughed with the others when he heard Tasker cough. At thirty two, he had his Master’s ticket and had already held command of a deep sea ship. Originally from Cornwall, he was a touch under six feet tall, athletically built with dark brown hair that was really too long and a dark almost swarthy complexion.
As with many a Cornishman, family tradition saw him leave his home and follow his father and grandfather to sea when he was just sixteen. Quite simply it was now his turn, his duty. So Tom embarked upon his sea-going career as an officer cadet with Pan Global Shipping, his father's company and where he was eventually to meet Tasker Morgan.
Tom followed the usual route without too much incident and qualified as a Master Mariner twelve years later at the age of twenty eight, by which time he had moved into the specialist world of LNG tankers.
The remainder of the lifeboat crew were made up of local men, several fishermen who were the mainstay of many a lifeboat, Billy a tug skipper in the Haven from Liverpool and oddly enough the local bank manager Mike Aldred who used his yachting experience and local knowledge to excellent effect. Tom liked his crew and they liked him.
The Frances Walker effortlessly cruised to her berth and seemed to almost drift alongside as it gently kissed the marina pontoon. The crew had the fenders ready so as not to scratch the gel coat of their new pride and joy and even the ropes were fresh and clean looking. Awaiting the lifeboat was the shore support team of only one.
Within minutes the boat was expertly tied up and the crew standing down, looking for the first pint at the yacht club. The lads knew Tom would get the first round of drinks, he couldn't help it and they thought it was funny. It was a Captain thing and he believed in team building by leading from the front.
The crew laughed and joked, jostling one another as they walked off the marina pontoon, their jackets stripped off and tied around their waist, carrying their lifesaver vests as they headed up the slipway toward the RNLI boat house. Later they would make their way to the yacht club to de-brief as they liked to call it and discuss the virtues of their new boat.
Tom was smiling broadly as he talked with Tasker. From the car park next to the marina Rhiannon watched her father and partner walk toward the yacht club, she felt comfortable, content and she smiled to herself. Tom had this way of accentuating his speech with exaggerated hand gestures especially when he was happy and Rhiannon found it endearing. The lifeboat was an escape from his self-imposed mental prison where he became withdrawn and laconic.
Tom was a good catch and Rhiannon believed he would one day come to terms with his mental dilemma, his internal torment. In the meantime, she would keep her eye on Megan, the barmaid at the yacht club. Even though Tom used to laugh it off, Megan regularly flirted with him and Rhiannon thought Megan would not miss an opportunity.

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