Out of a clear blue sky

What should the head of MI5 do when a former commando who led undercover operations is murdered and both civilian and military police are among the suspects? When John Howard, a Gulf War veteran who spent most of his career leading covert missions, is killed by his own car in a hit-and-run, his former commanders and MI5 fear that their security has been breached.

Using their NATO contacts, they seek out a neutral who could not have been compromised. They identify Sven Ffolkes, a Norwegian police inspector with an acute knowledge of the British way and ask him to run an investigation supported by both civilian and military police.

Ffolkes’ suspects are Digger, Tiger, Broadsword and Bird, members of a mission that Howard led into Iraq; Broadbent, the mission coordinator; Dalglish, Howard’s chauffeur; Shelly Jones, his housekeeper and Annabel his daughter, all of whom attended a reunion that Howard had held the previous evening.

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1 –18th Jan 1992, Northern Iraq

King signalled to his team to stay where they were as he moved forward on his stomach looking for any form of cover. Two wooden buildings were visible, dead ahead, with a clump of trees to the left. He rejected the buildings for fear they could be concealing an Iraqi patrol. He didn’t fancy the trees either, because the team would have to travel two hundred metres across open ground to reach them.

He crawled a further ten metres before deciding to use his field glasses and pray nobody would pick up the glint of the sun from them. As he focussed on one of the buildings he saw a four-wheel-drive truck with a rear-mounted machine gun heading straight towards him, followed closely by a second. Behind him, his team was already on the ground each using the best cover available.

He prayed his luck would hold for a third time. On the two previous occasions when they had been surprised, it was by lone Iraqi scouts. Each had been killed silently before being able to alert his patrol. Could their luck hold this time? The Iraqi patrol kept coming at them.

The first truck exploded before his eyes. He thanked heaven for the accuracy of Tiger’s aim. The second truck swerved to an abrupt halt. Simultaneously six Iraqi soldiers jumped out, fired their weapons and hit the ground. These guys were not conscripts; they knew exactly what they were doing. Even so, his team responded too quickly for them. Their second round of firing was much less intense, but directed solely towards him.

He felt a deep, searing pain in his right thigh. Looking up, he saw Broadsword and Digger running towards the Iraqis, firing in short bursts. He heard two final shots before he passed out.