LONDON ALERT by Christopher Bartlett Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: LONDON ALERT by Christopher Bartlett Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Bartlett
their shoes checked. After the plot to make bombs by mixing seemingly innocuous
liquids actually on the aircraft, everyone had their toothpaste confiscated if
it was more than 100 cc. All this, the expert said, was ridiculous, as
terrorists would always think of something else. Anyway, replicating 9/11 should
be impossible now passengers know they risk becoming flying bombs and would not
comply with terrorists’ instructions, so why waste so much time on scenarios
like that, he had said?’
    Sir Charles paused and
looked at Holt intently, before continuing: ‘This special unit, Giraffe, was
set up by me as a wild card operation to think outside the box. Of course, the
departments I have just mentioned are all working on the problem and coming up
with suggestions. However, they all have vested interests – by that I mean that
their routine work and formal links tend to make them fixate on certain types
of scenario. On the other hand, we who are in a way halfway between Five and
Six – and that hopefully includes you – are free from those hang-ups.’
    Was Sir Charles taking
him for granted, or was it a well-honed technique to make him feel committed by
letting him participate in the discussion as if he might already be one of them?
    ‘We think you are a
rare bird and want you to put yourself in the terrorists’ shoes, thinking up
outlandish scenarios they might use. You would be operating independently, with
support from us, and reporting directly to me, though you would have a nominal
boss with whom you would deal on a daily basis.
    ‘We have special
authority allowing us to seek the necessary cooperation from the other security
departments. Even so, we must maintain Chinese walls. You could be a great
    ‘Possibly,’ replied
Holt, glad that he was not expected to do anything particularly dangerous.
    ‘How do you feel about
    ‘That type of work,’
replied Holt, ‘requires freedom coupled with the stimulus from others. One
might be looking for merely a couple of great ideas. Thousands of people must
already be doing likewise. How would I be any different?’
    ‘You, Holt, would be
different because of who you are, the great degree of independence you will be afforded,
the resources at your disposal, and, not least, the conducive environment we
will provide. Think of yourself as being part of an elite team and yet working
as an individual, at times independently.’
    ‘What would it mean in
     ‘Here in London, you
would be working out of Giraffe’s Farringdon bureau, though of course you would
spend much of your time on your own outside, sometimes just wandering the
streets and visiting notable places. Admittedly, it would be difficult to better
– to use an unfortunate word – 9/11. The Twin Towers were the perfect target,
and there are not so many like that.’
    Not knowing why he
chose that moment, Holt asked a question that had been nagging him right from
the outset.
    ‘Giraffe is an odd
name. Why…?’
    ‘I ostensibly chose the
name Giraffe to convey the idea that we could see over the walls that bounded
the more formal departments and agencies. In reality, it was to make them
subconsciously feel inferior by virtue of having to look up to us and, incidentally,
make our people feel superior by virtue of looking down on them. Don’t quote me
on that. If you do, your life won’t be worth living.’
    Here, for the first
time in his life, was someone for whom Holt felt he could happily work. Sir
Charles had sensed this, for he continued without using the conditional, as if
Holt’s commitment to Giraffe were a done deal, which in turn meant Holt began
falling under his spell; as a father figure, he outclassed his late father, who
was no slouch.
    Sir Charles quickly
brought him back to reality.
    ‘Some basic training is
required to ensure you are physically fit and able to cope with difficult
situations – not that we expect you to encounter any in your back-office

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