A Short Story – Agent
Kath relaxed back in the seat, thinking about what she had just done. She had confirmed that Paul Kavanagh was one of the terrorists she was looking for, but what else? She had not achieved revenge, yet. She had done what the police woman inside her would have, but her victim side wanted him to experience what she had. And for this she was not satisfied.
The drive back from Portadown to Belfast did not take long. Gerry O’Loughlin had briefly talked about what would happen and who would do the arresting – MI5, Special Branch, the Anti-Terrorist Squad or the RUC. O’Loughlin left Kath at the Europa Hotel and went on to do some business of his own. Kath went straight to her room, she wanted to contemplate the information she had received.
Kath unlocked the door to her room and opened it. The sight that met her eyes caught her by surprise. The place was in a shambles, everything of hers had been pulled out of the suitcases and drawers. The contents had been dumped on the bed and rummaged through. She stood in the middle of the room and suddenly felt like she was stuck to the floor and could not move. They had done this, they had found out!! Adrenalin rushed through her body and fear started to rise within her. Then she felt something icy cold on her neck, pushing painfully up under her jaw. Her heart was pounding and she froze.
“Don’t move or I’ll blow your brains out.” She knew who it was and she did not move a muscle. He turned Kath around violently to face him and that wolfish smile was on Sean Casey’s lips.
“Well, well, fancy seeing you here.” He said and shoved the Browning nine millimetre’s barrel further and Kath winced in pain.
“What are you?” He asked into her ear.
“I am a reporter.” Kath struggled to say.
“No you bleeding well aren’t. I’m not that stupid.”
Casey made a signal with his free hand and his man, Danny appeared. Fear had now engulfed Kath, her body shaking uncontrollably. Danny yanked her hands behind her back and tied them together with electrical tape. There was no point in struggling, the only outcome would be death, Kath believed.
“If you say a word you’re dead.” Casey growled. Kath knew he meant it.
Casey took hold of Kath’s hands, not moving the gun and led her out of the room, down the corridor and into a service lift. They pasted a cleaner and Danny knocked him down. Kath was shoved into the boot of an old rover when they reached the hotel’s back entrance. Once the boot was closed Kath was alone with the darkness and the horrible feeling of slowly suffocating. The car pulled away and she dreaded to think where she was going.
The destination where Casey, his man and Kath arrived was only a few blocks away from the Europa. It was a decaying warehouse on the edge of the docks. They pulled up outside and Casey pulled Kath out of the boot and took her inside the dimly lit building.
The gun was soon shoved up under her jaw again and Casey pushed her against a wall in small office, the wood stinging her back and hands.
“Tell me who you are working for?” Casey asked, anger in his voice.
“No one other than my newspaper.” Kath replied.
“That’s a bloody lie. Why were you so interested in the bomb at Harrods?”
An uncontrollable rage suddenly filled Kath’s body and in the heat of the moment she couldn’t help but think back to that horrible day less than a year ago, to the event that caused revenge to burn inside her and led her to Northern Ireland.
It was eight days before Christmas, 1983 and Kath, on her day off, took the train from Plymouth up to Victoria Station to spend the day in London, to shop and see the sights. At Victoria Station she caught the tube westbound in the direction of Kensington, beginning her journey on the Victoria Line and continuing on the Piccadilly Line. When the train pulled into the station at Knightsbridge, Kath disembarked. She couldn’t resist the temptation of window shopping in London’s most expensive shopping district.
Kath followed in the direction of the “Way Out” signs, climbing a tall and steep flight of escalators and a number of stairs and at the top was immediately met by the great Victorian façade of Harrods Department Store, Knightsbridge. She stood on the corner of Brompton Road and Hans Crescent for a moment admiring the four Royal Warrants ascending the building and the green awnings with the famous golden handwriting, with simply, “Harrods”. Kath admired it as if she was a tourist seeing it for the first time, when in actual fact she had seen it and been there two times before.
Kath looked both ways then crossed Hans Crescent, a narrow one way street running along the side and back of Harrods. Kath walked down Brompton Road, under the awnings and entered the store through two sets of great glass doors.
Kath had only been inside long enough to smell the sweet perfume and look at a few French designer counters with their extremely expensive cosmetics, when there was an alarm sounded and a call to evacuate the entire six storey building. She wondered what it was for, a fire perhaps? From then on most of it was a blur. Kath could vaguely remember approaching a young uniformed policeman, showing her warrant card of the Devonshire and Cornwall Police, and asking if she could help. She had been ushering worried shoppers outside through a side entrance at the back of the store, when the car bombs exploded.
The sound of the blast was defining and it was enhanced and channelled down the street by the old 5 and 6 storey buildings. It was like a roar, the shockwave that followed. It tore the famous green awnings and blew out all the windows of the store and surrounding buildings sending showers of splintered glass down on the victims. The force of the wave was so strong; it knocked Kath off her feet and slammed her hard against the structure of the building. A fierce fire followed engulfing the cars surrounding the centre of the blast. Once the twisted metal and broken glass had settled a deathly silence descended on the whole scene. A cloud of thick choking smoke rose into the air and filled it.
The icy cold wind that rushed down the devastated street almost blew right through Kath, as the remains of her clothes did nothing to protect her body. She drifted in and out of consciousness and the left side of her body was completely numb. Kath opened her eyes and found herself lying on that side, curled about a door frame. She slowly rolled onto her back and suddenly the excruciating pain overtook her. She did not have the strength to examine what had happened to her. She felt so weak; all her energy had been sapped from her. When she breathed it was as if a knife had been dug into her side. A strange sensation ran along the side of her head and she thought she could feel herself bleeding, which was in fact correct. As Kath lay there, semi-conscious, her blood, her life force oozed onto the rough concrete.
She had sustained terrible injuries, absolutely horrible; the result of something everyday people shouldn’t have to experience. A gash stretched down the left side of her head, from the top of her scalp, behind her ear to the base of her skull where metal had fractured it. The massive force of the shockwave and the impact of her body with the building’s structure, had ruptured her spleen and broken eight ribs, consequently puncturing her left lung. Her chest was rapidly filling with blood and she was bleeding to death. Shrapnel had entered her lower back, left of her spine, but she was not paralysed. Her left kidney was fragmented along with her small and large intestine, uterus and ovary. Her abdomen was a mass of torn flesh, twisted metal fragments and blood. Small wounds caused by splinters of falling glass covered her body.
Kath strained to look up and she saw the green, torn and tattered awning flying in the breeze. She could see the steel skeleton of the awning’s frame hanging above her and through the spaces, where the awning had been attached, and the pale, pale winter’s sky. The eerie sirens of emergency vehicles screamed out through the cool air and these merged with the cries of the injured and those searching for their loved ones. A strange tinkling sound echoed down the street, and then crunching. It was the sound of people walking on glass, shards and fragments of what once, a few minutes before, had been store windows. It covered the road’s surface and in some places was ankle deep. It was a haunting sound and it invaded Kath’s ears.
The cool air was strangely scented with the overpowering sweetness of perfume and something more sickly. The smell of burnt oil, burnt rubber, the smell of explosives and the stench of burnt flesh, surrounded Kath, engulfed her and filled her body. Voices extremely loud, rang in her ears and she could vaguely feel the touch of someone, but she felt herself going, to sleep or death she did not know. The blackness descended like a storm cloud over her battered and bloodied body. She didn’t see her life flash before her eyes , instead two thoughts entered her head. One was of her husband, Mike, a handsome Royal Marine major currently on duty in Northern Ireland. He was 12 years Kath’s senior and he had pale blue eyes, brown hair and a soldier’s muscular physique. She loved him dearly. And secondly, of the country of her birth- Australia. She wished she was back there, nothing like this could happen there. And that was it, the rest was black, it was all she could remember until she had awoken two weeks later in intensive care, racked with pain, her mind and body broken.
It took Kath months to recover; her body and her life would never be the same again. Her spleen was removed and her left kidney and sections of her intestines. For some time after her vision and other senses were distorted. She spent months in physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Kath had to come to terms with what she had suffered, why and how to overcome her loses. But she had not let the IRA win by simply surviving. Her other injuries were able to repair, but Kath’s ability to have children was severely thwarted.
It was this that made Kath very angry and want revenge. Although she had never really desired to have children, the fact that the IRA had affected her in such a private way, made Kath burn with a notion of revenge. Kath, through her training and position as a police woman, became an agent for MI5, the British Secret Service, and she could exact a kind of revenge on the terrorists while the other victims could not.
The agony of the muzzle digging into her throat muscles suddenly brought Kath back to the warehouse in Northern Ireland. Sean Casey stared at her, his eyes icy.
“Why?” He asked forcefully. He forced the muzzle up deeper under her jaw and swallowing became painful.
“Because of…,” she struggled to breathe and say her words at the same time, “What the IRA did to me.” She could barely control the anger and fear rising within her. Her knuckles turned white as she clenched her tied hands.
“What did we do?” Casey demanded.
“At Harrods…I almost died. Ruptured spleen and kidney punctured lung, fractured skull, thoracic and abdominal haemorrhaging….. and my ability to have children.” Kath struggled to hold back the emotions engulfing her.
Suddenly Casey pushed her harder against the wall, squashing her hands, and then with his free hand ripped her shirt open. Kath struggled, but the cold object under her jaw reminded her that it was pointless. What Casey saw surprised him. A long, pink puckered scar ran down the left side of her body, from beneath her bra to where it disappeared under the waist band of her jeans. As he placed his cold finger tips onto the scar, Kath’s whole body flinched and goose bumps covered her skin. He ran his hand down the pink flesh. Kath stared right at Casey. Suddenly he pushed her to the floor. Kath struggled to get up, her face and arms stinging.
“Get on your knees.” He growled.
Kath knelt on the wooden floor and she found the gun pointing between her eyes. She stared at the cold black metal and she wished she could defend herself against a gun. Her heart was pounding and she thought of Mike and realised she would never see him again. Had the whole operation been worth it? In her final moments she believed, to an extent it had. She had found out the name of one of the bombers that caused her so much pain, she had hard evidence and she had passed it on, but now she was going to pay for it with her life.
Kath stared at the gun, gleaming in the pale light. What happened next occurred in a split second. A man clad in black trousers, shirt and Balaklava carrying a Sterling submachine gun, appeared in the door way and fired. The bullets entered Casey’s skull, literally shattered it and he fell to the ground, very dead indeed. In the process his gun had gone off.
Kath felt the bullet hit her shoulder and shatter her collar bone. The force of the bullet pushed her backwards and she fell onto the floor. Her shoulder felt numb as her blood spurted from the wound and her face was splattered with blood and brains. She was dazed and she felt helpless, unable to get up. Kath could see the man walking toward her and she looked up at him. He removed the Balaklava that covered his face. Her heart was pounding. She recognised him!
“Mike…” She managed to say in a whisper. He bent down towards Kath.
“Shh, don’t say anything, you’ll be alright.” He tried to comfort her.
Suddenly excruciating pain, a delayed reaction of her body to the bullet, rushed through Kath. The room seemed to spin and Mike with it. She felt her self fainting, the blackness descended, the sickly sweet smell of blood filled her nostrils and the name of the terrorist filled her mind.
This short story was written in the late 1990’s.
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