CELT Free Chapters from the thriller series

"Celt Free Chapters - The journey of Kyle Gibbs by Wayne Marinovich"

 

Chapter 1

 

Carshalton Estate, Surrey, England, UK – 2013

 

Death, sweat and fear drifted on the stale air.

The short, round figure of Lord Francis Butler gagged a second time as he walked down the old sandstone spiral stairs, the stench of it all causing his body to convulse. Dizziness forced him to stop and grab onto the rope balustrade with one hand, the other hand pushing up against the opposite wall. Passing seven locked doors that lined the dimly lit stone corridor that ran below Carshalton House, he stopped at the last room. Shifting his stance slightly, he felt himself getting aroused at the thought of what awaited him. Pulling at his white long shirt sleeves and readjusting his waistcoat, he walked into the open doorway and stood looking at the figure in the centre of the room.

Bound to a small wooden bench and positioned beneath a single hanging light bulb was the naked Monhinder Singh. The Indian billionaire’s cheeks were stained with tears and blood from the swelling around both his eyes. He trembled violently from cold fear and looked up at Lord Butler with begging eyes, mumbling something through the mouth gag.

‘Would you remove his gag, please?’ Lord Butler said to the well-muscled figure of Alex Brun, who stood beside the billionaire. He leant across the trembling man and yanked the dirty rag from his mouth.

Monhinder Singh gasped at the fresh air eagerly before focusing on Lord Butler. ‘What the bloody hell is going on here? What have I done to deserve this barbaric treatment?’

Alex punched the battered man in the face again, sending a spray of blood and sweat across the concrete floor. The captive man groaned and swayed to the side, his long black hair falling across his face.

‘Thank you, Alex, that is enough,’ Lord Butler said, pulling a wooden chair closer. ‘I think it is time that Monhinder and I have a little chat about his current predicament. Get him a blanket, please. He looks decidedly frozen.’

‘Thank you, Francis,’ Monhinder said.

‘You have disappointed me, Monhinder, and so you don’t get to address me by my first name anymore. Is that clear? Friends and those whom I trust may call me Francis, and at the moment, you are neither.’

Monhinder Singh leaned forward against his restraints and simply shook his bowed head. Alex grabbed a handful of long black hair and snapped the man’s head back, causing him to whimper in terror.

‘We have explained the generous offer on the table time and time again, and yet you continue to refuse to cooperate with us. Every single person at the lavish party upstairs has already signed up to be part of this organisation, including myself.’

The man stared at Lord Butler. ‘Why would I join your deluded organisation that is hell-bent on world domination and which mistreats its partners like this? You just proved the point that if I ever disagreed with you in the future, I would simply be tortured again. You are all bloody psychotic.’

‘Monhinder, dear fellow, you need to be more open-minded about this. We are a crucial organisation for the future of the planet and will do a lot of good in the world. We want you to be a part of that too.’

‘Ha! What a load of rubbish,’ Monhinder mumbled, a trickle of blood dripping off his chin.

Lord Butler shifted in his seat. ‘By pooling all of our wealth and assets, we will be able to control and influence government policy around the world, thereby ensuring that no one country ever gains any monopoly over the planet’s dwindling resources.’

‘Oh, that is a load of bullshit,’ Monhinder said. ‘Do you think I am bloody naive? None of you give a shit about the planet or its resources. It’s about you and the rest of the power-mad vultures upstairs wanting to control the world like spoilt little bullies trying to control a playground. I will have no part in it. There is nothing you can say that will change my mind.’

Lord Butler felt the ominous darkness rising within him. The man in front of him dared to question the motives of the Billionaires Club which he started two years before. The same darkness always took charge of his psyche when he retreated from making any tough choices. It was needed again with this problem. The small pine chair creaked as Lord Butler sat back. He ground his teeth in anger then nodded across to Alex, who then laid into the man with a flurry of fists. Loud screams echoed around the cold dark walls of the room. Lord Butler realised that he had an erection.

‘Now, Monhinder, let’s take a look at your dilemma here. Upstairs, there is a group of the world’s wealthiest and most influential men, all of whom witnessed you taking recreational drugs while seated at the dinner table then stagger off with a young prostitute to your room. She will, of course, testify to the fact that you collected her in London and brought her to the party knowing full well that she is below the legal age of consent in the United Kingdom,’ Lord Butler said. ‘This information is being prepared and will first be leaked to every member of your respected family back in India before being sent out to the global press.’

Monhinder Singh sat upright, his eyes pinched into a swollen squint. ‘Lord Butler, you cannot blackmail me with that,’ he said after a few seconds. ‘Go ahead and inform my family. They will forgive me my transgressions. My reputation might suffer a bit of a setback, but it will survive. I can tell you that you will not get away with this, of that I am sure.’

Lord Butler felt the last of his patience ebb away and the darkness rush in to consume him. It would only ever be satisfied with the spilling of blood. He leaned forward and sneered. ‘Okay then, Monhinder, have it your way.’

A slight nod to the two heavy-set men standing in the shadows at the back of the room signalled them into action, and they checked the binding that kept Monhinder tied to the bench. One of them suddenly heaved Monhinder forward and with his hands bound behind his back, there was no way to break his fall. A loud crack rung out as his face hit the concrete, and he screamed out in pain, wriggling to turn his face to the side.

The lord of the manor calmly walked over to a small metal side table against the exposed brick wall and ran his hand over the extensive range of Alex’s implements of torture. The cool feel of the metal excited the darkness within him. He lingered over one of them for a brief moment like a child picking his favourite sweet, and then eagerly grabbed it. Happy with his selection, he walked over to Monhinder and squatted next to the man’s head. ‘This could have been such a painless exercise, my friend, but now you must pay for your stubbornness and stupidity.’

He placed the scalpel at the base of the man’s buttocks, which were now comically raised into the air, then swiftly made an inch long incision, drawing a small trickle of blood which followed gravity down the groaning man’s back towards his neck. Lord Butler continued with a second cut, then a third, each getting deeper along the spine. The tortured man’s groans grew louder, and Lord Butler felt the euphoria growing stronger. The darkness sang out with happiness.

Alex walked over and placed his hand over the scalpel in Lord Butler’s hand. ‘Shouldn’t we move on with the next phase of the plan, sir?’

Lord Butler blinked slightly, disorientated with pleasure. He smiled up at his trusty henchman and nodded. ‘Monhinder, now listen to me, you ignorant sack of shit. I am going to give you twenty-four hours to reconsider the offer on the table. I will be upstairs having a wonderful time with our other colleagues if you do have a change of heart. This will be your last chance to reconsider, and if you fail to change your mind, I am going to instruct Alex to go to work on your delicate bits with some of his favourite toys over there. He won’t be as nice as I have been. You see, I have witnessed his work in Equatorial Guinea on many unfortunate prisoners of war, and I can assure you he understands the finer art of inflicting pain and terror.’

Lord Butler nodded to Alex, who opened the heavy wooden door. Two more of Lord Butler’s men dragged a corpse of a naked woman into the room and laid it down on the floor next to the Indian billionaire. Monhinder Singh desperately tried to turn his head away from the lifeless face of the girl, placed only inches away from his. Her dead opaque eyes stared at him coldly, and the smell of death stung his nostrils. He started to sob. ‘Please, Lord Butler, you cannot leave her here. I have never seen her before in my life.’

‘I know you have never seen her before, Monhinder. She is just another young prostitute who caused me some embarrassment yesterday, so I had her killed and placed on ice. Such a pity really, she seemed like such a bright little thing. At least her death won’t be in vain because you see I had such a great idea this morning, I could put her corpse to good use.’

Lord Butler threw the scalpel back onto the table, grabbed an old wooden cricket bat that was leant against the nearby wall, and walked back to the whimpering man.

‘I have always loved the feel of wood, you know, Monhinder. The feel against one’s skin is just so… just so natural,’ he said. Clenching his fists around the wooden handle, he swung the bat over his head and slapped it across the man’s exposed buttocks. He slammed the bat down again and again until the darkness ebbed away, satisfied. Wiping away beads of sweat from his reddening brow with his forearm, he tossed the bat across the floor.

One of his henchmen handed him a small tied-off plastic bag, which he threw onto the ground in front of the crying billionaire’s face. ‘That’s what’s left from her so-called heroin overdose. You have twenty-four hours to make the right decision, Monhinder. Don’t cock it up.’

Walking down the stone-walled corridor to the staircase, Alex turned to his boss. ‘I’ll check on him every hour, sir.’

‘Oh don’t worry about checking that often. Let the bastard stew in his own private hell for a night,’ Lord Butler replied.

‘As you wish, sir.’

‘Thank you for pulling me back from the edge there, Alex,’ Lord Butler said. ‘It has been quite a while since I lost control like that.’

‘I am always here to assist you, sir, although I have never seen you give a man a second chance before. What if he won’t sign?’

Lord Butler stopped at the base of the stone spiral staircase and placed his hand on his long-serving bodyguard’s shoulder. ‘I need him to sign over all his wealth to us. He is one of the only billionaires in India who we deemed as controllable, you know, with all his illegal vices. However, my patience is wearing thin with him so if he doesn’t sign we’ll just get someone else. Then, Alex my friend, I will have no further use for him, and you can have him for as long as he will last.’

 

***

 

Lord Butler and Alex Brun walked through the high-ceilinged reception room at Carshalton House, taking in deep breaths of the fresh, sweet-smelling air that came through the large bay windows on either side of the open front door. Alex whistled across to one of the young waitresses carrying slim flutes of champagne on a silver tray as she headed towards the group of billionaires gathered in the main lounge. She hustled over to give Lord Butler a glass, which he downed in a single gulp.

One of the wealthy guests noticed the approach of Lord Butler and peeled away from his tall brunette escort to intercept him.

‘Alex, would you mind if I have a word with Lord Butler?’ the slim, balding man asked. Alex bowed slightly and took two steps to the side.

‘Hello, Jürgen, I hope you are having fun tonight,’ Lord Butler replied.

‘Has the man signed yet, Francis?’

‘If you don’t mind, Jürgen, I would just love to relax with my friends and colleagues tonight and not bother with Billionaires Club matters.’

The forty-something German billionaire took a sip of champagne. ‘Just answer the question, Francis. Did he sign? We cannot afford to be without a presence in India much longer.’

Lord Butler frowned and clenched his teeth. ‘I said I would make it happen, Jürgen. One way or the other we will get into India, okay?’

‘Why are you taking so long to bring him around? Maybe someone else should try and speak to him. You know…nicely.’

Lord Butler took a step forward and in a hushed tone said, ‘Jürgen, I have warned you before about questioning my wishes.’

‘Or what, Francis, will I end up like your best friend, Michael Mercer? Found rotting at the bottom of a gorge with my car brakes that have accidentally failed? I am not intimidated by you or your methods, Francis,’ Jürgen said, and turned away.

‘Tell me, Jürgen. How is that beautiful wife of yours and what about those two handsome young boys?’ Lord Butler asked. ‘What are they now, fifteen and sixteen?’

The German spun around, his face pale with shock. He walked back towards Lord Butler, his finger pointing. ‘You stay away from my family, you depraved…’

Alex moved in front of Lord Butler and took a step towards the approaching German. ‘I think you should go back to the party, Mr Kohler. You don’t want to make yourself look like a fool by creating a scene, now do you?’

Jürgen Kohler looked past Alex Brun. ‘Francis, your henchman won’t always be around to protect you.’

 

Chapter 2

Naudeh, Afghanistan – 2013

Kyle Gibbs shifted his body position in another futile attempt to get comfortable against the cold rock and stones. He looked down at his cold, chapped hands and gently rubbed them together to get the circulation going again. Gibbs looked across at Killey and Johnson, who also huddled against the natural stone wall of the small ridge which sheltered them from being seen by the enemy. As longer serving SAS soldiers, they seemed more at ease with waiting around than he did.

At three-thirty am the early morning chill started to descend onto the desert, making it uncomfortable for the SAS units who were dotted around the five designated targets. The desert terrain was stark and barren in the bright moonlight, and the clear evening would mean a light frost as the weather forecast had predicted. It would make their troop movement across the open areas towards the targets a little easier underfoot, but would also increase the chance of being spotted.

Gibbs studied their unit’s intended target, a dilapidated clay brick building, through the night vision scope he had bartered back in the camp in return for a few gentlemen’s magazines. A single guard was on duty, huddled next to a small drumfire under a wood and corrugated iron lean-to that was in front of their target. More sentries had been expected, but all the major personnel movement seemed to be up at the main building to the west of their target.

Gibbs looked towards the main building and counted three old trucks parked outside. With only four guards patrolling around the outskirts at thirty-minute intervals, it meant most were still asleep inside. Further up the gradual slope from the main buildings, nestling in rocky alcoves were the two enemy machine gun positions they had been warned about. These were the target of the snipers.

Blinking his eyes twice, he switched his focus back to the old building and caught sight of the guard stretching and yawning in the golden light of the fire before wrapping himself up in a blanket again. He could just about make out the guard’s M16 leant up against the wall.

At four am, team commander Sergeant ‘Whitey’ Lawson and three other team members, who were laying-up about thirty meters to the west of Gibbs’s position, got up and slowly moved down the gentle stony slope towards the main opium factory building. Gibbs, Killey and Johnson followed seconds later, moving quickly in a low crouch towards their smaller target. By keeping low and with the hillock behind them, they were unlikely to be silhouetted against the moonlit horizon.

The three men spread out and spanned about five meters apart as they trod carefully in a low crouch, trying not to dislodge any loose rocks that would give away their position and draw the guards’ attention. Suddenly a man dressed in army fatigues appeared at the open door in the front of the building and spoke in Arabic to the guard, who threw off his blanket and stood up to stretch. The three SAS soldiers dropped down silently onto one knee, keeping their guns trained on the guards.

The soldier laughed at a joke the other guard made and walked straight towards the waiting SAS men. Gibbs swallowed hard as the man stopped at the small mud wall and squinted, waiting for his eyes to get used to the dark, barren landscape.

Would he spot them?

He stood for a minute looking into the moonlit night then reached down and unzipped his fly.

Gibbs looked across at Killey and signalled that he should take out the tall soldier who was now urinating over the wall. Gibbs, as previously agreed, would neutralise the other guard.

He looked at the guard through his MP5 nightscope and slid his forefinger onto the trigger. The guard had sat down again with his blanket around him and looked like he was going to fall asleep.

The guard stirred briefly when he heard the dull thump of Whitey’s grenade launcher as their leader fired a grenade into the main group of guards to the west of their position. The explosion shattered the quiet desert night. Gibbs squeezed the trigger. The guard sat up in shock then slumped backwards as two bullets exploded into his head, sending a wash of blood-splatter up the wall behind him.

Killey fired twice at the standing soldier, hitting him twice in the chest. He stumbled backwards, golden urine lit by the fire, spraying everywhere. The soldier looked down at the holes in his chest then collapsed as his legs gave way.

The instant the guards went down, Johnson was up on his feet with Killey right on his heels, running hard towards the building. They jumped over the small eroded mud wall in front and ran straight towards the open doorway.

Gibbs covered their approach to the building before running towards the target himself. As he leapt over the small peripheral wall, a bearded man emerged from the doorway, his white thawb flowing as he ran. He shouted something in Arabic and fired his pistol blindly into the night. Gibbs dove face down into the ground and heard the whizzing sound of bullets flying over his head. Killey swung his M16 machine gun at the man’s head and clouted him flush on his jaw, the force smashing him backwards with his flailing gun arm firing into the cloudless sky. In one swift movement, Killey stood on the man’s pistol hand and pulled out his trusty hunting knife then knelt on the flailing man’s chest. In a quick sideways movement, he slit the man’s throat and silenced him. Gibbs pushed up off the floor and ran to the side of the doorway, preparing to enter the building.

Killey sheathed his knife and lifted his M16 just before a volley of gunshots erupted from inside the building. Two bullets hit him in the chest area of his body armour, flinging him backwards onto the ground, gulping for air as the wind was knocked out of him. Mike Johnson’s head snapped back as a bullet ricocheted off his helmet. His knees buckled slightly, sending him staggering backwards before he tripped over the peripheral wall. Gibbs froze for a split second then fired a long covering volley into the room. He heard a male voice cry out in pain, followed by silence.

Gibbs wondered how many more guards were inside and was loudly answered when he heard the machine gunfire from inside as chips of mud and plaster from the door frame radiated outwards. They could hit Killey at any second.

Gibbs hit the dust floor again and reached across, dragging Killey out of the path of the doorway by his chest webbing.

Gibbs’s world seemed to slow down as he plucked two flash grenades from Killey’s webbing and tossed them through the doorway. A few seconds later, the deafening explosion and blinding flash went off, disorienting everyone inside. He flipped the night vision goggles down and crouched as he walked in.

The acrid smoke still burnt his nose and lungs despite their numerous training exercises. Gibbs stood with his back against the nearest wall to see if anything moved. Through the green hue of the goggles he saw two men staggering about near the opposite wall, their machine guns hanging downwards as they tried to reach four old filing cabinets. With quick bursts from his MP5, he dropped both men and continued to move through the adjacent rooms, checking for any other enemy soldiers.

Loud explosions and more stuttering machine gunfire drifted on the wind from other parts of the complex. Would the other teams need their help? He walked back to secure the main room and grabbed a pile of burning documents out of a coal burning stove, stamping on them to preserve any possible intelligence. Looking down at the dull stare of one of the bodies, he shook his head. The body was that of a teenage boy, an AK47 still in his grasp.

Gibbs moved back to the doorway. ‘Killey, I’m coming out,’ he called, waiting a moment and then walking out weapon first, first scanning the desert in front of their target then up in the direction of the main building. All seemed clear. Occasional sporadic gunfire could still be heard throughout the complex with the odd muzzle flash the only indication that the battle was still underway. He moved past his friend and looked over the wall to where Johnson had fallen. The man was lying down on his back, looking at the dent in his helmet, still in shock.

Gibbs turned to see his friend kneeling and gulping a large lungful of air, so he helped him up and slowly led him to a bench up against the building. There were no traces of blood, and it seemed that the body armour had done its job. ‘Killey, you okay, mate?’

Killey nodded. ‘A bit embarrassed, mind you. I should have just shot the fucker instead of trying to silence him with a knife. The bastards were clearly sleeping near the doorway. Are they all dead?’

‘Yes, there weren’t that many of them. It’s all clear inside now. I caught a few of them trying to destroy documents, so the operation might have been worth it after all.’

‘Thanks, mate, I owe you,’ Killey said. ‘That was bloody stupid of me.’

‘Aye, you do. I’ll take payment in cases of beer when we get back home. And don’t worry about it, mate. This will stay between us,’ Gibbs said.

The night sky to the east was changing to an orange glow in the cloudless morning, and the barrenness of their surroundings became more apparent. Gibbs stood and faced the main buildings that had fallen into silence. Looking down at his hands, he clenched his fists to stop them from shaking.

‘You still see your old man’s face every time you kill?’ Killey asked, walking up behind him.

‘Yeah, it’s as if those memories send me to a bloody dark place,’ Gibbs said.

‘It will get easier, mate.’

He turned to see his friend holding out an open pack of cigarettes. He took one and looked down at it, rolling it between his thumb and forefinger.

‘Jesus, Killey, are you smoking plain cigarettes now?’

‘All I could get my hands on before we left camp,’ he replied, lighting both their cigarettes with a single match.

‘After surviving my old man’s drunken beatings for all those years, it would be a shame to die because of these bloody cancer sticks,’ Gibbs chuckled, taking a long draw and instantly feeling himself relax.

‘You only live once, kid, so get about living, will you?’ Killey smiled, grabbing Gibbs’s shoulder again.

***

 

After thirty minutes of waiting and keeping a very groggy Mike Johnson company, Gibbs could make out the figures of Whitey Lawson and a radio man making their way towards him. He signalled to let them know that all was secure within their building.

‘Any major problems here?’ Whitey Lawson asked, glancing at the bodies of the men lying outside of the building.

‘Nothing we couldn’t handle, sir,’ Gibbs said. ‘There are a load of documents lying around inside and a few old filing cabinets in the main room. They might be of interest to the intelligence boys.’

‘Good job, Gibbs,’ Whitey Lawson said, slapping him on the back. ‘We will all be relieved at ten hundred hours, so wait for the intelligence boys to get here, then get back to the vehicles.’

 

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