The worst thing was not the fear, it was the doubt. Fear can be a useful motivational tool, it gets the adrenaline pumping. Doubt is crippling, the way arthritis cripples an old warrior bringing him to his knees. The doubt that I was having was in my abilities, am I capable of defending my family? Were the years I spent honing my skills as a soldier wasted? My young family is depending on me, now more than at any point in the past, to defend them. I had very little time to get them to safety, I had prepared for this possibility although I had hoped it was a course of action I would never have to take.

During my first years as a soldier so many years ago it was drummed into me and every new recruit, "always have your kit ready, always take it as set in stone that you are going to war. Check everything and test everything!" I had taken this on board and ever since I have everything I need ready to go if the need arises. There is a cupboard under the stairs' were the spiders and the old chess set lives, I had three bags, two for the family and one with my tactical kit, every month I rotate the contents of the bags, for various reasons but mainly to keep everything fresh. In the tactical bag I have various weapons, Patricia knew about the bag but she never asked what was in it. As with the family bag's, I check, unpack and repack the bag, I unload the weapons and dry fire them and reload them to ease the pressure on the magazine springs. The largest number of stoppages on a weapon is down to the rounds not sitting correctly in the magazine and the last thing I want is a 'dead man's click'. Only once had Patricia has seen me checking this bag but she didn't question its contents, she knew that one day the contents of this bag could save her and her Children.

The shooting shook me really badly, for the last ten years I'd been expecting something, but nothing as public as this. I was standing in a queue waiting to exit the train station, as Scotland was playing a match in Glasgow there were ticket inspectors at each exit. The usual bottleneck was at the door because of the ticket inspectors and the barriers forced everyone to bunch together. I was standing behind a group of flag wearing Tartan army foot soldiers who were a little worse for wear, but jovial with it. Habit made me merge with this larger group to blend in although there was no indication that anything was wrong. One of the guys in front of me staggered backwards bumping me to the left knocking me off balance, just as that happened I heard a faint zip and then something warm splashed against the side of my face, the guy that bumped me staggered some more and fell to the ground. Everyone in the vicinity looked round at the guy now stricken on the floor; the crowd moved and I moved with it. Something didn't add up, I stopped and turned. I looked down at the guy on the floor, something didn't look right; I looked up, a young woman was covered in red and screaming her lungs out. Everything seemed to be moving at the pace of a glacier, I stared over at the screaming girl, and tilted my head. Suddenly everything came sharply into focus and I instinctively dropped to my knee and darted to my right, I heard another faint zip and the screaming girl dropped too, it looked like someone had dropped a sack of potatoes. The sound of suppressed gunfire and shattering glass filled the station doorway, everyone dropped to the ground, and I made my way to the cover of a pillar. My mind was screaming 'FUUUCCKK! GET COVER!' to my left was the killing ground with at least seven dead and several others in a bad way and to my right was a plate glass window that came to mid-thigh. On the wall to my half right was the tell-tale red dot of three weapons trained on my only way past. The only option was to get down on my belt and crawl to the corridor and make a run for it. To the left came the cries of the injured, I turned so that that window was now to my left, the open door to my right offered me a view but the angle was all wrong so I couldn't see enough of the outside, I glanced at the wall at the back and saw a single red dot scanning above the area riddled with rounds, four up, I looked to my left, and saw one of the three dots disappear, shit! They have split up and one of the triggers was undoubtedly making his way across to the train station, my time was running out. I dropped on my belt and crawled to my left, the window above me exploded, showering me with the tempered glass. I crawled as fast as I could and made it to the corridor; I was unarmed and unable to fight back against four unseen, unknown assailants my only option was to run and run fast.

"They couldn't have seen me at the window, that had to be a diversion" I thought to myself as I made it to the corridor, I stumbled to my feet and ran. I stumbled again and lost my footing I knew I was going to fall but I was prepared for it, I threw my hands out in front of me and tucked my shoulder in and rolled to counter my fall. This propelled me back to my feet and I was off again, the echoes of my footsteps were joined by the footsteps of one of the gunmen. I was about thirty feet from the bend in the corridor, and while I was sprinting the other guy had a weapon, it would be a short race if the gunman got a round off. I didn't have the luxury of looking over my shoulder to see if anyone one was bringing a weapon to bear on me, so I darted to the right then after a few seconds I darted to the left then back to the right and dived for the bend. I landed face down in the corridor, winding myself in the process all the while my mind racing, I quickly got to my feet and took off at a dead run, getting as much distance between myself and the anonymous gunman. I made my way out of one of the other exits, hoping that whoever had been shooting at me was only covering one exit; it was too late to be concerned. I was fully developed in the doorway but because I was moving fast I had the advantage, from across the town square you can't see the corridor I had run down so there was no way to lead a target. There was no zip of a suppressed round and no splash of red light, I was safe in this direction. I had to get home and taking the car was not an option, if they, whoever they are knew I was coming out if that exit then they knew my car and they probably knew where I live. I had to get home quickly. Twenty minutes later, I approached my house cautiously, it would be pointless doing a walk past at this distance I would be too close and if anyone was specifically looking for me I would be dead before I got within ten feet. I needed to do a recce of the front of the house; it looked like everything was as it was when I left. I had left large tell tales that would easily be identified from this distance, and they were all in place. I stood off for a few moments in the shadows of the house across the road watched. I trusted my instincts and they were telling me nothing was wrong but to be cautious, I peeled away and stayed in the shadows. My new objective was to get to the houses behind mine so I could make an entry, I couldn't call and tell Patricia to get the kids ready I had to assume that my phone lines were not secure. I walked away from my street and tried to keep as casual as possible as though I was out walking the dog, at the end of the street were the headlights of a car heading my way – the fight or flight response was triggered again. There was no way I could see who was driving and it was about 250 meters away so it posed no immediate threat to me. I turned down the street to my left and continued walking as the car drove past the junction behind me; it was a taxi with one up in front.

I reached the end of the block, there were no further dramas, in the distance I heard the sirens of the police and ambulance in attendance at the train station I couldn't dwell on it my priority was to ensure that my family was safe and that meant I had to assume I was compromised. I turned left and walk down the street and crossed the road and walked further down to the house on the corner. Patricia and I are friends with the couple that lived there, Lorrain and Brian, Patricia had persuaded Lorraine to let us hide a spare key in their garden, in truth the key I had hidden was a Browning high power 9mm with two extra 13 round magazines and a suppressor. Now I am armed able to react as the situation dictated. I cocked the weapon, and moved silently across the garden, Lorraine and Brian lived diagonally across from the house and from the bottom of their garden I could check the tell-tales at the rear of the house. Nothing was disturbed but instinct was still urging caution. A fence lies between both gardens, one day while Lorraine and Brian were on holiday I had 'accidently' broken the fence and repaired it, but while repairing I had covertly put a few hinges and hidden lock so no one would know it was now a gate. I checked the chamber of the weapon to ensure that the round was seated correctly it is an old habit but a good one, I reached for the concealed lock and the gate slowly opened. Before me lay my large sparse garden, it was sparse for this reason. To my right of arc was the corner of my house, to my left of arc was the fence that separated my garden from the paved flora-less garden of my neighbour Julie and Paul. He had to clear the garden before getting to the house. I resisted the urge to head for the front door. I moved to my right, my weapon wasn't not fully trained on the shed but I could draw down on any assailants that sprang out from either side if needed. I cleared the shed and applied the dead bolt on the outside of the shed door just in case anyone had hidden inside, I moved off along the line of the fence the left of the building clear that area, it was a laborious task but I had to make sure. The left of the building was clear; I pressed my body against the building and made my way slowly towards the far corner. I stopped and peeked in the kitchen window nothing seemed out of place. I moved as quickly as I could to the far end and stopped when I got to just before the corner; the corner naturally draws fire in a similar way to a doorway, so I took a few steps back and circled round slowly narrowing the angle until I was level with the corner, at all times I kept the weapon in the fire position, finger on the trigger taking up the first pressure. If anyone popped up they would get the good news, the back garden was clear. I could now move into the house and get my family out.

Slowly I followed the path to the door, while constantly eyeing the shadows ready to fire if a target appears. The tricky job I now had was getting the keys out of my pocket while keeping alert, I soon found that there was nothing for it so I took the decision to turn my back to the shadows, get the keys out and open the door. The expected rush didn't happen. Now I had to clear the downstairs before waking the family.

I stepped into the hall and applied the specialist deadlocks I had installed; these locks would defeat everything except C-4. The floor plan was designed specifically for the purpose of clearing the house if there was ever a reason; I had hoped that I would never have to clear my own home. I have always tried to keep my family life and professional life separate entities; unfortunately somewhere along the line I had dropped a bollock. To my left is the kitchen, I walked over to the door and stepped to the right of the door frame, I scanned the left then stepped to the left of the door frame and scanned the right. I crouched and looked at the foot of the doorway. I installed a simple device that if activated would flash a one million candle power spotlight directed at the doorway, which would disorientate any intruder and due to the lack of light in the hallway at night, the pupil of the would be hyper dilated and light that bright would hurt like hell. I kicked off my shoes before entering the kitchen; I didn't want the soles to squeak and would alert anyone to my presence. I step into the kitchen closing the door behind me; I slowly made my way to the dining room and closed the adjoining door. The same procedure that I carried out in the kitchen was followed; I made my way through to the lounge and the study before re-clearing the lounge and closing the door. The lower section of the house was clear, I still had a small toilet and a cupboard to check, which took a few seconds. My next point of call was the stairs; they would also draw fire as a natural target. I stepped onto the second stair and stopped, there was no sounds all the clocks in the house were silent. I stepped off the stair and back to the kitchen to put my shoes on again, I stood up and walked over to the stairs and stepped over the first step again, keeping the weapon trained on the top of the stairs, when I reached midway I could see in the mirror at the top of the stairs the doors were all closed and the loft hatch was secure, but I turned on the stairs and covered the hallway just because I had cleared the lower half of the house didn't mean there wasn't a threat, I walked backwards up the stairs stopping on the second step from the top. On the banister was a covered button which I pressed to turn off the internal alarm triggered by putting weight on the first step. I continued up the stairs and into the master bedroom. I hesitated at first; I needed to check all the tell-tales were still in place but also because of the fear of what I might find behind the door which lead to doubting my ability to secure my family. Fear had driven me to take certain measures to make the house as secure any safe house as I had ever been in, if not safer. Fear is a great motivator if you allow it to drive you, but it can also bring doubt to the table which causes mistakes to be made, like the hesitation I was currently enduring. Countless images flashed through my mind; of things I had seen which no amount of security had prevented. I took a deep breath and forced the images from my thoughts and turned the handle first to the right then to the left. The twist to the right disengaged the deadbolt and the twist to the left opened the door, there was no noise, not the metallic smell of blood and no aroma of defecation. At the point of extreme trauma the human body sometimes loses control of its function and the contents of the bowel and bladder are forced out effectively at the point of death the victim literally shits and pisses themselves. My wife was sleeping peacefully, the moonlight shone through a gap in the curtains and highlighted her forehead, and she looked as beautiful as she did when they first met just over six years ago. I was on a job in Glasgow; tailing an investment banker that was suspected of skimming millions of pounds from several large banks. He had effectively had millions of corporate and private customers' accounts at his disposal. The target would skim a small amount of money from accounts, sums from one penny to a few pounds from the private accounts and larger sums from the corporate accounts he had amassed a sum of several million and was planning to leave the country. No one would have noticed until one young mum on benefits complained that from the time her benefit was paid to her account at the time she went to withdraw the fund to buy food for her daughter someone had taken out three pounds. This had happened every two weeks for the last six payments and she wanted to know why. The bank didn't know and the benefits office couldn't give her any answers so she went to the police. They were reluctant to take it seriously until she went to the media and it was discovered that a huge fraud had taken place. My company was contacted to monitor a list of targets; we were given the details of the prime suspect which turned out to be the wrong person, and a few others. The least likely person was the man I was targeting, a non-descript business man in a dishevelled suit with a few days growth on his face and unkempt hair. When we looked at the intelligence on the people suspected of the fraud something struck me as odd, every one of the suspects were high level investment bankers, all had access to the accounts and all but one had a grievance against the banks. The only one who didn't have any reason to be flagged was the suspect I was tailing, I know that trusting my instinct was perhaps the best tool I had at my disposal so I ran with the idea and ultimately was proved correct. I wouldn't lift the suspect, that's not my job, I would tag him and he would be 'collected' at a more convenient place for the police. As a contract worker I didn't have the authority to arrest anyone, although my security clearance was maintained at a high level because of companies' contracts with the military, I am effectively a civilian. The suspect was tagged; I sat next to him on the train and slipped a small GPS tracker in the suspect's pocket. Then I asked, 'is this the Oban train?' the reply was 'No, you have to go Queen Street for that sorry' I thanked the suspect and left the train. It was simple. It was then I saw her, standing alone looking up at the departure board. Her raven hair was shoulder length, I had never seen anyone so ethereal and spellbinding, the crowds buzzed round about her and she didn't seem to notice the commotion. I stood beside her and looked at the board and asked 'why is it always my train that is delayed?' she looked round at me and smiled 'perhaps someone is trying to tell you you're not meant to get where you're going' 'that's exactly what my friend said to me the last time I stood here'. I retorted and we both smiled 'I'm Gary by the way' I offered her my hand she took it 'Patricia, where you waiting for the Largs train too?' 'yeah, actually I'm going to Arran I just don't like waiting for the Harbour train' she smiled 'I'm going to Arran too, I have never been and I thought that I would make a day of it' I looked up at the departure board and saw the harbour train was half an hour way and the Largs train had changed from delayed to cancel. 'Here's a suggestion for you, we are going to the same place and the train that we will now have to get is half an hour away. I know we have just met and we don't know each other from a hole in the ground but I was wondering if you would like to go over there to that café and have a coffee.' I asked. Patricia smiled again and said 'I would like that' and so the journey began.

I knew that all the rooms were secure, the visible tell-tales were in place and the deadbolts were on a specific combination and they would not open if you the wrong series of turns were tried, I had designed them all myself. I sat on the bed and gently nudged Patricia 'sweetheart, wake up' she rolled over onto her back and stretched 'hi honey, did you enjoy the game?' Patricia asked sleepily, 'something has happened' I whispered. She sat up, 'what's wrong? Was it one of the kids?' she felt the panic rising, and fought the urge to run with the children. 'The kids are safe and still asleep, but I need to get you and the kids to safety. There was a shooting at the train station, a few people were killed but they were after me. I don't know who they are but I have to assume they know where I live and that means you and the kids are in danger until I can sort this out.' My calmness was reassuring her. 'The packs under the stairs are ready I repacked them only last week, you get yourself together and I'll get James and Abbey up and into their housecoats and slippers. We have to get on the road in the next five minutes.' Patricia knew that I would not take this course of action unless I felt that there was a credible threat to the family, she didn't like it but she accepted it.

She watched as her own personal army went to wake their small children, to get them safe even though she was terrified she knew that she was in the best possible hands.

As we sat drinking coffee we discovered that we both had a passion for Italy and in particular the Umbria region, I had recently bought a villa in Polino. We spoke of family, friends and jobs. Patricia was a buyer for a large beauty supplies company and me, a former soldier who currently works as a freelance security advisor for police and some large multi-nationals. We left the café and headed for the train, we were both engrossed in the conversation, for the entire journey to Ardrossan we talked and hardly noticed the time speeding by. Before we realized where we were, we had to get off the train and make a mad dash to the ferry. Patricia was heading to the ticket office until I said 'come with me, I know the captain and the purser we can get the tickets on board' she stopped in her tracks and looked at him astonished, 'is that possible?' she asked as they headed to the car deck. All the cars and vehicles were on board and they were almost ready to close the car deck when Gary tapped deck officer on the shoulder 'foot passengers are not allowed in the car deck' said the officer before turning round 'Scott, that is no way to talk to family' Scott turned round with a large smile, 'it had to be you!' replied Scott as they embraced. 'Is Craig on the bridge?' I asked 'well he is the captain where else would he be and who is this? She's far too good looking for you, you ugly bastard!' replied Scott as we walked to the lift. 'This is Patricia, and we have just met so watch your language, calamity or I'll tell her about that time when you were twelve!' I smiled 'alright, just to save her the torture of your crap story telling! Pleased to meet you, I'm Scott this one's my uncle and he's very economical with the truth. Look, I've got to go, some of us work to do but if you are staying on the island we could meet up for a beer, both of you that is. Laura would like to see you. You know how to get to the bridge from here don't you? It was lovely to meet you Patricia.' Scott waved goodbye to us as he walked off, 'does he always talk like that?' asked Patricia 'unfortunately he does, I've threatened to buy him a comma and full stop in the past, his wife Laura usually just kisses him to shut him up!' I replied.

I went to James' room first and got his housecoat and slippers before waking him up 'James, hey little man' James was sucking his middle and ring finger on his right hand and pulling his left ear when he slowly opened his little eyes, 'hi buddy, we have to get up now. We're going to go a special trip' James nodded, not fully understanding why he'd been woken up but daddy was talking about special trips and that must be a good thing. 'I'm going to get Abbey up now; can you go do a pee for me?' James nodded his sleepy head as his eyes started to close. I got up and went to Abbey's room, I opened the door and was met with an unusual sight that made me smile, Abbey was lying half on the floor with her legs on the bed, one of her more unusual sleeping positions. I walked over to her and picked her up. 'Hi princess, did you fall out of bed again?' Abbeys drowsy reply 'yeah' I asked 'do you want to go on a special trip with mummy, daddy and James?' Abbey smiled 'and Granny?' I said 'maybe' 'and Auntie Rosie and Beth? I love granny' offered Abbey as I got a huge hug. 'Let's go do a pee then we can get ready to go, ok?' Abbey agreed. Just as Abbey and I left the room I saw James wander out of the toilet into his room, he had put his housecoat on inside out as a sleepy four year old would. I sat Abbey on the toilet and said 'I need you shout on me when you are finished and we'll get you ready ok? I'm going to see if mummy is ready' 'ok daddy' was her reply. I went to the master bedroom and Patricia was getting a jumper out of the drawer when he walked in, 'you can't wear that, I need you to wear something less bulky' I said, Patricia looked at me and said 'It's going to be cold out there, and the car takes forever to heat up. Why do you want me to wear something less bulky?' 'Because I need you to wear the shoulder holster, if I'm driving I need you to fire if we come under attack, look I know how you feel about it but there is no other choice, besides we're taking the Land Rover because it's safer and you don't like driving that.' 'Fine, the turtle neck it is, I'm not happy about this Gary.' 'Daddy I'm s'inished' called Abbey. I went to the toilet got Abbey and put on her slippers and housecoat. James came out of his room carrying Buzz Lightyear and Woody 'I want Jessie!' complained Abbey 'go and get her then' I said and off she toddled. 'I'll get the bags into the car, then I'll come get you ok?' he turned to Patricia and gave her a kiss. 'See you in two minutes' he ran down the stairs.

We got off the lift and made our way to the bridge, Scott had radioed that they were on the way. We stepped in and Craig greeted us, 'give me a minute to get away from the harbour and set sail' he picked up the microphone and gave the announcement to passengers advising that the door to the car deck we secured and that the vessel would be setting sail, and any passenger who has boarded without a valid ticket to make their way to the pursers office. 'Right, what can I do for you, boss?' asked Craig. 'Well we haven't bought tickets yet, so that's our next port of call, but where are you berthing tonight?' 'We are berthing up at Brodick tonight, why?' 'Because...' I hesitated 'I was hoping to borrow your car for the day since you're not using it.' Craig put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his car keys and two visitor passes and said 'refill her this time! Scott told me you were on your way so I got two passes for you; it also gets you a lunch from the restaurant. If you wait fifteen minutes I'll join you and you can introduce this young lady to me' 'alright we'll see you down there'

We left the bridge and sat in the café. As we walked, Patricia said with a touch of humour and reservation 'they both think we are an item' I nodded in agreement 'It's impossible for them to believe that I can just be friends with a woman, specifically an attractive woman like you, without there being something more to it' then I added 'just wait until you meet my sister! She'll have planned the wedding already!' we both started to laugh.

I open the secured door under the stairs, and took out the two family bags and sat them at the side of the front door and positioned the tactical bag at the foot of the stairs; I would collect this after securing the house. I rushed up the stairs, 'right the bags are ready, have you got everything you need? Have the kids got their batman and Fifi bags with their toys in?' yes to both, look Gary is this necessary?' was the reply. I turned on the spot and for the first time doubt entered my thoughts, was I doing the right thing? Could I keep my family safe? Patricia saw the answer on my face and realised that this was not the time to ask questions but to follow my lead. 'Listen just ignore me, I'm pregnant and hormonal and prone to irrational ramblings. Let me go and pee before we head downstairs.' I nodded and went to get the kids, both had fell asleep again James was lying on his bed with one slipper on and sucking his fingers again, Abby was lying on the floor pretending to be a star. She had her housecoat and her Fifi bag on. I knelt down and put James slippers on his feet and gave my little boy a kiss on the cheek. I rested his forehead against James, my voice sounded in his head "I can't keep them safe!" I heard another voice, my old warrant officer, "YOU BETER GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER CRAWFORD! YOU ARE A SOLDIER IN THE QUEENS ARMY AND A DAMN GOOD ONE AT THAT AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS SELF PITTYING BEHAVIOUR. GET ON YOUR FEET SUNSHINE, THAT'S AND ORDER!"

WO1 Graham was a great motivator and a true friend, his passing had been a blessing to some but not to me, we butted heads continuously during my time in green kit but when we got in the mess we were great friends. Mike had spotted the potential in me long before I saw any in myself so he pushed me to excel and in doing so taught me that as a soldier there was none finer. Mike came to the house to visit about two years back, he sat me down in my study 'listen son, I've not got long left. The MO says I should have been dead about 4 years back, but you know me, never one to give in to a challenge!' 'Mike, what are you telling me?' I asked, the shock of Mike's impending departure sinking in. 'What I'm telling you is I want you to take care of my will, there is only Mary and we've no children, as you will see I have left all my cash to her. We spoke about it and that's what she wanted, and you know that she has always treated you and Patricia as family, and what with you two expecting a family she said it's only right that everything goes to you two. I have instructed my lawyer to transfer the company to you so as of 0900hrs this morning you are the boss.' 'Mike, I don't know what to say!' 'Listen son, you don't have to say anything just keep your family safe and treat them well. You know I was friends with Patricia's dad don't you?' I shook my head, 'I didn't know that' mike responded 'we grew up together and signed up at the same time. Tell me what are you going to call the little one when he comes along?' 'Since her dad isn't here we thought it would be fitting to name the baby after him. Why do you ask?' Mike lifted his glass of Arran single malt and took a sip 'my middle name is James, I would be honoured if you would tell him about me and his granddad when he's old enough' a tear was rolling down Mike's cheek, I stood up and embraced my old friend 'Mike, we are naming the baby after both of you, the two men that had such a big influence on our lives.' we both smiled and Mike said 'right, enough of this sloppiness lets get back to the women folk'

'Come on James, wake up' I lifted James off his bed and stood him up, my little boys bleary eyes opened and he moaned. I picked up his housecoat and put it on him, then took the sleepy toddler to the other room to wake up his little sister. The toilet flushed and Patricia came out. I picked up Abbey and Patricia took James by the hand and we walked down the stairs. At the foot of the stars I set Abbey on the bottom stair and said to Patricia 'When I go out of the door lock it, don't open it unless you hear me say the password even then look through the spy hole and if there are is anyone about I'll indicate by moving my eyes to their location.' I whispered the password in her ear and opened the door. I picked up the three bags and stepped outside. Behind me the door closed and the lock clicked into place.

I drew the browning and stepped to my left towards the front of the house, eyeing the shadows at the end of the garden. I knew that the brambles and spikes in the bush in the shadows were a covert deterrent to anyone hiding there. I reached the corner and stepped to my right away from the building, I covered the front garden from my position and saw it was clear, I stepped back to the building and with my back against the wall stepped to my left and saw that the garage was clear at the rear, I walked to the building, staying in the shadow. The perimeter of the garage was clear; on the side closest to the house was a secure door. I went in and there was the Land Rover, a 5ltr supercharged behemoth, Owned by the Army and leased to the company for use with high profile clients. This thing would stop a direct hit from anything but challenger two tank and keep going, it was amphibious and 100% watertight. The air conditioning was secure for both biological and chemical attack, it was impregnable. The single most secure car in Britain would be the vehicle for my family and only when I got them from the safety of the house to the safety of the car would I finally settle. I had attached quick release clips to the children's car seats and welded the housing sections to the back of the Land Rover. This would give me some time to get them away from the house before I would have to attach the seat belts.

At the rear of the double garage was a secure door that I opened, I went out and grabbed the bags, they went to into the back of the Land Rover, and I fired up the engine and went to the house. I put the browning away so as not to scare the kids. I knocked on the door and opened the letter box and said the password, Patricia opened the door and picked up Abbey I came in and picked up James. 'Stay behind me, if anything happens get the kids and yourself in the Land Rover and go, don't wait just get to Lochranza and I'll meet you there' she gave me a funny look and then realised what I was meaning. We walked out of the house and made our way to the car without any dramas. We got the children into their car seats and she got into the passenger seat. 'Babe, on the dashboard is the central locking button, press it and don't unlock the doors until I knock on the car like I did the front door.' I sped to the house. I opened the kitchen door and reset the trip wire and all the other devices that were in the lower part of the house, I went up the stairs and grabbed my suit carrier, apron and shoes then reset the safety measures in the upper part of the house. I carefully made my way down the stairs and shouldered the tactical bag and set the silent alarm. Closed and locked the door. I got to the car and knocked on the door. Patricia unlocked the door and I put my bags in and closed the boot. I pulled the shutter down, and then got in the land rover. On the dashboard was a control column with various security measures, in fact it looked like it straight out of James Bond. One of the buttons said "de-bug" I pressed it, and an electro-magnetic field passed through the shell of the vehicle to render any tracking device that had been attached to the underside of the car useless. The hardware in the car was next generation, it was fitted with radar; voice control, secure communications, heads up display and just about everything you could possibly want in a hi tech high spec VIP armoured car. Like the Presidential limo that Obama rode in but without the Secret Service. I turned to Patricia and said 'in here nothing can get to you or the kids you will be safe. Nothing can track us or locate us once we stop. This is car was designed with the Queen in mind; it's registered with special branch the police and Interpol. We are immune to everything, all I need to do now is get us off the grid' with that I stalled the engine. Patricia laughed while I shook my head in disbelief 'bastard, right take two' I restarted the engine and this time as I started to move Patricia said 'don't you think it would be a good idea to open the garage door?' sheepishly I opened the driver's door and got out. I have always distrusted the American remote garage door but in this instant I wished that I had one. I stopped at the door; something didn't feel right, my instincts were telling me that there was a world of shit about to hit my fan. I walked back to the Land Rover 'get in the driver's side and close the door. I'm going to rig up a line to the top corners of the door and when I open it floor the pedal and go. Wait for me on Dundonald Road for no longer than 6 minutes, if I'm not with you after 6 minutes you drive and don't stop until you get to where you are going. I'll be delayed. If you don't hear from me in 24 hours and don't look back, ever'

At the top corners and the centre of the door was a holed bracket that looked as though there was once a rod that ran the length of the door, I fed a length of climbing rope through these holes and walked behind the Land Rover. Patricia opened the door, 'Come on Gary just get in the car, you're scaring me now' she pleaded. 'Sweetheart, I need you to go with me on this, please close the door and keep the windows up remember wait for no longer than six minutes. Now close the door' she closed the door and locked them, I looked in at my children sleeping soundly in the back oblivious to what's going on. Patricia looked in the rear mirror and I winked at her then pulled on the rope. The garage door opened and four red dots shone through the windscreen, she put her foot down and the land rover shot forward, the four gunmen opened fire, the rounds bounced off the windscreen and bonnet as the large 4x4 powered across the road and kept going. I was running out behind the land rover the browning was drawn and ready. They had high powered rifles and I had a 9mm hand gun. Not fair odds, but that was how I liked it. The hundreds of hours I'd spent in the killing room at the lines were the perfect training for this kind of scenario. As the Land Rover pulled away from the front garden I side stepped left and double tapped one target, then took aim at the second target on the left and dropped him too. The Land Rover was clearing the junction when the third came into view, I took aim at the centre of mass and the gunman dropped. I wanted answers, when the fourth gunmen came into view I took aim at his knees and fired, the gunman dropped, I took aim at the brachial plexus, a collection of nerves that carry signals from the spinal cords to the arms, and fired. The gunman dropped his rifle; he was now no longer a threat, I walked over to the third gunman and fired aimed shot to his head. I no longer needed the browning so I put it away. The fourth gunman was laying on the road his right arm hanging lifelessly by his side, I stood over him and looked up he saw that the land rover had stopped exactly where I said, I knew Patricia would be watching me. I knelt down next to the gunman 'clearly you know me and you know what I'm capable of so I suggest that you co-operate, do you understand?' the Gunman never spoke I reached down and took off his mask and saw a young man, no older than 20. 'What the hell are you doing son do you want to die for no reason? Tell me why you tried to kill me and my family and I'll let you live. This is a one-time offer' the young man looked up and then over my left shoulder at which point I spun round to assess the situation as I moved the final attacker moved with me, my motion was not expected and it unbalanced him. He fell to my right and kicked out at me in the same instance catching me in the ribs with his foot. This kick knocked the breath from my lungs, I tried to draw the knife from my jacket but as I moved an explosion of pain hit my side. The fifth gunman landed on his mate, he reacted far quicker than me and almost bounced up off the floor. His boot swung at my side but connected with my arm instead, my hand grasped the handle of the knife, I took a deep raspy breath and drew the knife and lunged at the attacker, almost as though he had anticipated my next move he grabbed my wrist and tried to stop me from stabbing him. His attention was fixed on the knife, the moonlight made the blade shine, I stared at him and everything seemed calm just before I brought my forehead down against the nose piece of his mask. This startled him and he let go of my wrist, my hand shot forward and drove the knife in between his ribs. His breath escaped in a gasp, as though he had been punched, I twisted the knife hoping for maximum damage to make sure this guy stayed down. 'Last chance, tell me who you are working for and what you want from me' the young man weighed up his options and said in broken English 'my name is Bolek, I work for Kielbasa, you keeled his cousin, very big man in Poland. Now Kielbasa will hunt you down like a dog. We know all about you, where you go where you eat even how often you use the toilet. We know about Lochranza. You don't reach island alive' I smiled; it did not fill Bolek with any confidence 'well Bolek, I'm sorry to say you have had a wasted journey. No one threatens me or my family and lives to see the next sunrise.' I put the point of the knife to Bolek's throat, his eyes widened with fear 'wait, there is things you don't understand, Kielbasa is now here in Scotland, he bring lot of drugs in. Glasgow will belong to him and there is nothing you can do. You and your family will be dead' I looked deep into the eyes of the stricken man, 'I have killed many men over the years and today you struck it lucky. I'm going to let you live, after a fashion, and you are going to deliver a message for me.'

I thrust the knife into the brachial plexus on the left side, and then cut Bolek's hamstrings. The pain was excruciating and Bolek passed out. I opened the unconscious man's jacket and carved a message into his chest before wiping the blood off my knife and putting it away. I walked to the car and Patricia got out and moved to the passenger side. She asked 'is everything alright babe?' I replied 'just delivering a message darling' I closed the door and pulled away out of Dundonald road onto Glencairn road instead of turning left the way normal traffic would I shot across the central divide and headed for the motorway. In the rear view I saw there was a vehicle heading towards the roundabout and said to Patricia 'you see the two buttons there, the ones that say radar and scanner can you press them and also the heads up display?' this fired up the processor, which was similar to the system in the Apache Longbow Attack helicopter, the Land Rover was worth the £500,000 price tag. The scanner would scan and store every registration number and every occupant of every car they passed, the radar flashed up on the heads up display if an obstacle was in the way. I pulled onto the M8 motorway heading towards Ayrshire and shifted down to third and put the foot down. The land rover accelerated as I moved into fourth then to fifth and finally settle into sixth gear we were doing 150mph, the airport flashed past on my right and a bend was approaching so I slowed to the more sedate speed of 85. 'Babe?' I looked around and saw Patricia had dosed off. On the central panel of the car was a switch the turned on the Active-infrared night vision system, and dampened the engine sound. I turned off the road at Beith; the plan was to get to Lochranza, which was code for an unregistered safe house. There was no record of this property with the land registry or the government. It was in plain sight as the A924 passed by the house. It was a two hour drive from Paisley and I was glad that I was in comfort for the journey. The on board scanner had flagged up two vehicle registrations that were following about a mile behind, but these had only appeared in the last few minutes so were unlikely to cause any threat, but I wasn't for taking risks. I took the next turn off without indicating and sped into the distance; still under ultraviolet light I travelled another mile before putting the headlights on. The scanners were clear and for the next two hours there was nothing.

In the canteen I sat with Patricia waiting for Craig, I asked 'why Arran?' Patricia looked out of the window behind me and said ' I broke up with my ex a few months ago and I have been feeling suffocated with life, Paisley is a lovely town don't get me wrong it's just that its full of arseholes. I just wanted to go somewhere that's quiet and get a fresh look at my life. What about you?' 'I have family on the island and I've not been back for a few years. Sometimes it's good to go back and realise that in the grand scheme of things I'm just a small part of what goes on in the world. Today at the central I was trailing a suspect in a massive fraud case, my job was to tag him and report his location to the police. Now I know that he's heading to Prestwick and he's likely to get lifted within the next few minutes, in fact I should get a message to say as much' he pulled out his phone and sat it on the table. 'I own a security firm, and we specialise in high level security, VIPs some military liaison work and on the odd occasion heads of state. I have a government contract, and they use my company because we are not based in London and don't charge the earth.' Patricia sat looking bewildered 'does this mean that you are trailing me?' she asked defensively. 'No, when I first spoke to you at the train station it was a genuine first time for me, but if you want I will call the office and get the guys to do a check on you if you would like, I'll even put it on speaker so you can listen if you want?' as I said that my phone rang. 'Excuse me, "Hi John, what can I do for you? So he's been lifted then? Good. I want you to do a check for me, hang on I'm putting you on speaker" see you can listen in. "Right John, can you run a search for a "Patricia Barton" have we got anything outstanding or pending for her? "We have nothing coming up for that name at all, Boss." John you are a star, look I'm taking a few days off and as the boss I order you to do the same! Sometimes I wonder if you live in that bloody office! So can you divert all my calls away from my mobile and on to someone else who is not me please? "Alright, see you in a few days boss." John hung up. 'You see, it was a chance meeting and if you are worried about your ex, I doubt he could afford us.' Patricia smiled 'alright you've convinced me. Other than getting guys arrested and protecting royals and heads of state what else do you do?' she asked, I looked at her and was about to answer when Craig appeared at the table 'alright, now that the ship is sailing I think I'll have a lasagne, same for you Gooseman?' I nodded in agreement 'Patricia what would you like?' 'Erm, a baked potato with cheese and some coleslaw on the side please' Craig stepped away from the table stopped and turned 'what do you take in your tea?' 'Just milk please' was her answer. Craig walked to the front of the queue to place his order when a middle aged woman angrily spoke up 'Excuse me! There is a queue you know!' without missing a beat Craig responded 'I know, and since I am the captain I get to go to the front of it because the ship might crash and we could all die. Would you like that? Or should I go to the back of the queue?' the woman was taking umbrage at this and said 'you should go to the back of the queue and wait your turn the same as everyone else. How am I to tell if you are the captain of the vessel? You could be anyone!' Craig turned to the man behind the till, 'have you got the newsletter there Gus?' he nodded and handed it over. Craig turned to the woman and said 'Page six, read it and I'll be placing my order' he turned to Gus ' two lasagne and a cheese baked potato with coleslaw on the side, three teas one with just milk please, over at my usual table' he turned and looked at the woman ' who in turn looked up from the page and her face went slightly red, Craig said 'you weren't to know, Gus please give this lady and her party what every they want FOC. There you go ma'am please enjoy your lunch and your journey.'

The night seemed to go on forever, now I was out of the towns and cities there was no light pollution and I could see the stars very clearly, looking up at the same sky Bolek was slipping in and out of consciousness; his wounds were not intended to be life threatening but because they had not been treated he was losing a lot of blood. He felt a tickling sensation at his head then heard a snuffling and all of a sudden his head and face were splashed with some liquid. In the distance he heard someone shouting 'Prince! Get away from that bag!' a kindly looking elderly lady walked over and saw that prince was not sniffing around a bag, but a person, in fact there were five people all lying in pools of blood 'oh my!' gasped Emily she ran to the Crawford house but there was no answer so she tried the next house along and the lights came on. The door opened and Mr Reid, the most cantankerous man in the neighbourhood appeared in his dressing gown. 'What is it? It's two in the morning!' Emily was shaking and said 'phone the police there are dead people on the street!' her face was deathly white in the glow of Mr Reid's porch light 'Have you been at the sherry again Emily' asked Reid 'No I have not, you stupid man, will you please just call the police?' Red barged past her and walked out into the street and was about to say something derogatory then he saw the bodies. His jaw dropped and he staggered backwards, he pointed out to the street and looked at Emily 'now can you call the police?' she asked.

Mr Reid stood in shocked silence, his brain refusing to take in any of the information that his eyes were telling him. From down the street came the sound of tyres squealing as a vehicle took a corner at speed and headed up Netherhill Avenue, the sounds of the engines were growing louder , Mr Reid rushed back to his door and stood next to Emily, her dog prince was running about sniffing everywhere looking for squirrels.

A large black van screeched to a halt a few feet from the bodies, the side opened and four large men in black and a doctor got out, the doctor made his way straight to Bolek and shouted back to the vehicle with a heavy eastern European accent 'He's alive, but I need help to get him in the van' the four men had just put the last of the bodies into the van and rushed over to the doctor, he barked some order in polish then smacked one of the men on the back of the head and reprimanded him for doing it wrong. Mr Reid and Emily could see that in the van there was a trolley with a drip next to it which would no doubt be utilised to keep the stricken man alive. They stood in silence as they watched the men carry the barely alive Bolek to the van, they were midway to the door of the van when prince shot across the road towards Emily and knocked into one of the men carrying Bolek, he tripped and fell this caused a chain reaction and they all collapsed like a row of dominoes. The doctor turned and saw what had happened then rushed to the heap of tangled men, barking orders in polish pulling the men to their feet it was at this point the wounds on Bolek's chest were first seen. The doctor spoke in a calmer tone this time and the guys picked Bolek up and carefully took him to the van. They strapped him to the trolley, closed the door and drove off. Emily turned to Mr Reid and said 'I told you there was bodies on the road and you thought I'd been at the sherry, that'll teach you' Mr Reid replied 'I could do with a sherry about now, come on I'll pour' and they walked into the house, Emily shouted 'Prince, where are you ya daft dug'

I had put a lot of miles between us and the incident outside the house, there were only two people I could contact that might be able to help me but I was reluctant to do anything until the family were safe, in an hour they would be at "Lochranza" and then I would feel more relaxed. The house was easily defendable and no one knew about it except the people in the car. It was built to my spec; the company owns a safe house called "Lochranza" on the Isle of Arran which would draw anyone's attention. As the miles rolled by I got my SOPs sorted out in my mind for entry to the house, the underground generator was self-sufficient so it did not need fuel and only a month ago the family were there so I knew that the security measures were all primed. Eventually I turned on to the A924 which meant we were very close to the house, I pulled over and when to the boot, the last thing I wanted was to wake the kids while I was covered in blood, so I got some baby wipes from the kids travel bag and wiped my hands and face. I packed everything away and climbed back into the car, and closed the door and Patricia woke with a start 'Where are we?' she asked in a panic 'It's alright, we are about 10 minutes away I just wanted to take a break before we get there to get my head together' 'what's happening Gary?' Patricia asked with a tear in her eye. She was clearly upset and confused, in her mind almost every measure her husband had taken to ensure their safety had been overcome with great ease. But unknown to her the measures had worked exactly as I had planned, they were safe, the place they called home was safe and secure and within the next 72 hours the threat to them would be over and they could get back to something that resembles normality.

'Let's talk about this when we get to the house, it will be safer there, It's just as safe as our house' I fired up the ignition and pulled out from the side of the road. Still tired, Patricia's eyes began to roll; the kids had slept the entire time and were still out cold. After a few more miles we arrived and stopped about 50 meters short of the house. I took the browning from the door where I left it after getting in the car and checked the chamber, I knew the place was secure and that clearing the perimeter and the rooms would be pointless but old habits die hard. I got out of the car and stepped into the shadow the weapon raised, cocked and ready. I scanned the perimeter of the house, and moved behind the bushes. The way the house was designed there was a ditch and the house was walled behind the debris of the ditch, from the road the house was invisible, and the bushes were dense and extremely prickly, no one would be able to hide amongst them. I swept the outside, then entered the property and swept the rooms closing all the doors behind me. The house was secure. I cleared the garage and left the door open then ran to the Land Rover and drove the car in. From the garage I secured the house and perimeter, if something moved within 100 meters round this house, I'd know.

I woke Patricia her bleary eyes peered at me; she was still not sure where they were, she saw the gun in my hand and it all came flooding back to her. 'Are we safe?' her voice sounded small and vulnerable in the concrete garage, I nodded 'Can you please put that gun away before we get the kids? You'll only scare them needlessly' asked Patricia 'Oh, yeah sorry I forgot I was holding it. Let's get the bags into the hall then we can get the kids into their beds' with that we both took the bags away but left the tactical bag in the garage just by the door. Patricia went to the kitchen to make tea for both of them while I took the kids to their beds, I carried James first, got to the room and took off his housecoat, and still sleeping James complained about this although not too vigorously, Abbey on the other hand didn't make a sound. I came down the stairs and got the teas, I called to Patricia 'I'll take the tea up to the room, come up when you're finished in there' I heard a muffled 'alright' through the toilet door. In the bedroom I opened a panel on the bedroom wall and engaged the dead bolts for all the external doors and windows, there was a failsafe that if a door or window was opened, it would close then engage. I turned on the perimeter sensors, when the house was built I spent two weeks placing the sensors and wiring them up to the alarm system for the house only to find I had wired them wrongly. So it had to be done all over again. Patricia came up to the room, she looked exhausted. I said to her 'Babe, before you get into bed I have to tell you what's happening' she sighed but didn't complain 'why are people trying to kill us Gary? Has the company pissed someone off?' I held his head in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair, 'what happened when we left was due to a polish drug dealer. We worked with mi5 and mi6 about two years ago and provided some information to bring a high level polish mafia family to its knees; the head guys were here in the UK and were trying to flood the country with all sorts of shit. We tailed him and we passed the Intel to mi5. Now they want revenge, and this is the only safe place I can keep you and the kids until I get this sorted. I'm leaving you the Land Rover, I will leave a few weapons in the usual places made ready and with the safety on, don't worry they will he well above the reach of the kids. I will leave you a secure mobile, it's untraceable and even if anyone was to listen in to our calls all they would hear is static. No one knows of this place, not even anyone at the office, I'll take the bike in the garage. You know the security codes and all the rest, baby don't worry everything will be fine.' With that I stood up and walked over to her and kissed her and held her for what seemed like an eternity but even that was not long enough. 'You get some sleep and I'll call you in a few hours' I kissed her again and left the room, just as I was about to go down the stairs I heard her say 'I love you' 'what was that babe?' she said 'I love you' toying with her now I said you'll have to speak up I can't hear you she said 'I love you, you deaf old fucker' smiling she threw a pillow at me. I caught it and feigned outrage 'if that's how you show you love me I'm glad you don't hate me!' she smiled and caught the pillow as I threw it back. 'Hurry up and go before it gets too late and you fall asleep, old man.' I smiled and replied 'alright, I'm going. I'll be back up in a moment with the phone and to tuck you in before I open a can of whoop ass on these bastards' there was anger in my voice, but restrained anger. I walked down the stairs as Patricia climbed into bed; I got my tactical bag from the garage and headed towards the dining room. I sat down and opened the Bergen and withdrew from the top four sig P228 and eight spare magazines holding thirteen 9x19mm round each including the magazines in the weapons that was 208 rounds, if this was not enough ammo to defend Patricia and the Kids then I was not as good a teacher as I thought I was.

I took out the secure phones and took the master, the master phone would take and receive any call but the slave would only be able to make and receive calls to and from the master phone. There were enough bits of kit scattered around the house that she could use if need be. I pulled out two vests; these were designed by me and patented by the company. The vests were a non-Newtonian substance sandwiched, between two layers of Kevlar. Basically a substance that is effectively custard, the discovery came about purely by accident; I was making a dessert and used too much custard powder and not enough milk. It dawned on me, as I battered the stuff inside the pot and saw that each time the wooden spoon hit the substance it hardened, then went running again when the pressure was taken off, that it might be useful; the next day at the research department I brought a 10kg bag of corn flour and a few large bottles of water. A couple of the tech guys were having a giggle at my expense, 'Are you planning on making a cake boss?' sniggered Spencer. I looked at him and said 'aye very funny, oh actually smart arse you can help me'. Spencer had only been with the company about six months and had only spoken with me a few times; cautiously I approached him and asked 'what do you know about Newton's third law?' Spencer was taken a bit by surprised by this question. The agents were smart but the research guys always thought of them as a bit thick 'well, Newton's third law Spencer, you know every action, equal and opposite reaction? How well do you know this law?' Spencer was again in awe, the though the boss knows my name! 'Erm, yeah I know it well at least I should do I read physics at university.' I considered this, 'great you're the man I need. I was making custard last night for the kids and dropped in too much custard and not enough milk, and the resulting mess gave me an idea.' Spencer chipped in 'what you did was make a non-Newtonian fluid, basically what happens is when you apply shear force to the fluid it acts like a solid, is that what we are doing here?' I replied, 'yeah basically. I want to know if it has any practical applications that we could utilise. My first thought was as a casing to put over land mines then I thought what about as armour, instead of or even with Kevlar' Spencer's eyes widened 'that could work, I mean really work. We'd need to test various mixtures and materials to house it then there would be ballistic testing we would need to do because stopping a 9mm wouldn't mean it could stop a 5.56mm or a 7.62mm.' I was surprised by Spencer's enthusiasm 'Spencer, find two or three people that you trust and would be happy to work with on this. We have a big enough department that you will have your own lab to work out of and I'll give you a budget of £250,000 and six weeks, I want you and your team to have a testable prototype read for final testing before it gets put into production. If this works every agent will have one so that's going to be sixty lives in your hands. Can you handle this Spencer?' I subtly laid the challenge at Spencer's feet, almost daring him to walk away, without a second thought Spencer accepted this challenge, 'I have the very people in mind and trust me when I say this, you will be pleased with our results' I smiled, 'that's why I picked you Spencer, I knew you would pull it out of the bag for me. I won't be checking in with you every five minutes just email me a report once a week and keep it brief; I don't want all the science' the two men shook hands and it was done, six weeks later they tested the vest in an "as live" scenario it worked flawlessly the very next day every field employee was issued with one.

In the dining room I yawned and rubbed my eyes, glanced at the clock and sagged in the chair, it was so late that it was almost early and I was knackered, I had been running on adrenaline for the best part of four hours and was now starting to flag, I got up and went to the kitchen and made a brew. A really strong cup of coffee and an apple would be enough to get me going again. After a few minutes waiting for the kettle and finishing the apple I sat back down at the dining room table, the two vests were designed to look like a small jacket for the children and deeper in the bag was a vest that Patricia could wear, it was not something that she would take to kindly too but she would go along with it. 'I am not wearing that, I don't care if Armani designed it and Jesus stitched it I will not wear the damn thing' those were the exact words that Patricia said when she first saw the vest for her, I stood there with all four in my hands, as usual the kids were asleep and had been for a while. I walked over to the couch where she was sitting and sat down 'I want you and the kids to be protected at all times, I'm not saying that you have to wear it every hour of everyday but just to be aware that it's there and when I need you to wear it please put it on' I asked her, it had been a long day and I didn't want to fight with her over it. 'If something was to happen and I couldn't protect you then this would be your defence' this approach would win her round. 'You taught me to shoot you taught me defensive driving and all the other tricks that you learned from your time in the regiment and I didn't complain but this, this makes it real and I'm not sure I want it to be real.' Replied Patricia and it sounded almost like an ultimatum. 'What exactly are you saying sweetheart?' I asked hoping that the obvious was just my mind working overtime 'I'm saying I trust you and your ability to keep us safe if, IF there was ever a need too. Why? Did you think I was going to ask for a divorce?' She laughed at my foolishness and saw I was blushing, a thing she had never seen from me before. 'Come here you silly sod' she reached out and embraced me and whispered in my ear.

The sound of the Bergen falling from the chair startled me, I nodded off for all of about twenty minutes and that annoyed me. 'I really need to get this shit sorted' I said to the empty room. I gathered up all the kits and sorted it out and after a few minutes I was finished. I picked up my apple and took a bite; my eyes kept being drawn to the secure phone. The clock on the wall read 0425hrs, I looked at the phone again then said 'fuck it, I'll call him' I went and picked up the phone and walked to the kitchen and put the kettle back on for another brew. I searched the menu for the number and pressed dial.

Henties Bay, Namibia 0525hrs Alex McGowan was woken up by a sound he hoped that he would never have to hear. The phone was ringing; he knew that it was me because I was the only one that would call at this hour and the only one that would ring on THAT phone. He picked up the handset that was always left in view but never used and stared at it; he sat there for a few minutes because that was the agreement. Michelle sat bolt upright in bed 'is that...?' her words trailed off and when she realised that the protocol that these two old friends had set up was being observed. Finally he accepted the call and heard 'Alpha Mike confirm secure line' Alex turned to his wife and said 'I have to take this babe' she knew that this was important and she got up and left him to it. 'This is Golf Charlie we have a secure line over' both of us pressed a button on the side of the handset which converted to a secure link between the phones and we spoke in plain speech 'I was hoping I would never have to use this but the shit has hit the fan and since I'm the fan I'm not too fucking happy about it mate' I offered 'I saw the news, I knew that you would be in touch soon enough, what's going on over there?' Alex asked. 'You remember Kielbasa? Well the company handed over a file of information over to MI6 and his cousin got killed and now he's on the war path with me. Not only that, he's poised to flood Scotland and most of Western Europe with his poison' 'ok so what do you need? You know you just have to ask' there was silence for a moment 'I've relocated to Lochranza as there is now a price on my families head, I'm going to get these bastards and realistically I need your help. You know I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important.' 'alright but you owe me a porterhouse!' we both laughed and caught up for a while.

My first day on the job as the boss was worse than my first day as a new recruit, the amount of paperwork needed to be filled in just to assume full ownership was ridiculous. All of the security vetting had been carried out weeks ago; it was the other stuff with the insurances and all the other admin that goes with a large company. After a few hours of signing this and that I gave up and went to the range, one of the most relaxing places I knew, 250 rounds later I was feeling better. Alex walked into the range just as I was finishing up; we both favoured a Browning Hi power 9mm, the same weapon that we used during our time in the Special Forces. 'How you doing mate?' asked Alex, 'if I see another insurance form I will kill people!' I replied with a smile. 'I need to bring in another agent, you got any ideas?' I Asked, 'give me an hour or two and I'll have a couple of names for you' Alex replied. Although we grew up together our careers in the military took different routes, I joined the army and Alex joined the Navy. He qualified as an engineer and got bored very quickly so transfer to the Marines and then to the SBS, his reason 'it was something to do' sometimes he was so laid back he was horizontal. I on the other had worked my bollocks off to get into the regiment; I failed my first selection (as most applicants do) and passed on the second attempt after just making the cut. Once we passed selection for our respective units we excelled in CRW (counter revolutionary warfare) and sneaky beaky stuff. Two hours after Alex walked into the range I was in the boardroom looking bored and feeling more so. Alex walked up to the glass wall and pressed his nose up against the glass and pulled a face, followed by a gentle rapping on the glass, the boredom didn't let me look up. Ales walked in and handed me a folder, in it was six biographies 'all six are available and happy to come in for a meeting' 'Cheers mate, you got any preferences?' 'The bottom two are the best, Stone would be my choice. He's had a shitty time of it in the last few years, the firm fucked him over a few times and that wanker George didn't do much better by fucking him over and ruining the setup he had with that woman Carrie. He's been floating about since Kelly got topped' I knew that Alex was spot on, as usual, 'I'll have a think, Stone would be the first name on a very short list, but he's got a lot of baggage but I'll make the call'

Alex sat and listened to the call, Stone was a no go. 'What did he say?' was the question, 'He said thanks for the offer but no, he said that he's got a good stable gig doing BG work for a reporter and a cameraman in Afghanistan' 'that's too bad, he would have been a great addition to the team' with that Alex got up and walked to the door, 'fancy a beer, boss?' both men looked at each other I said 'that sounds odd coming from you, don't do it again' Alex said 'it fucking tasted odd, you're buying for that!'

Patricia walked into the room and shook me awake, 'babe, it's half six' I woke with a start not recognising the room I was in at first, 'shit, I didn't mean to drop off like that I've got to get going' 'do you have to go just now? The kids have barely seen you since yesterday and you're exhausted. Everything has happened so fast and I'm worried about you.' Patricia said with tears welling in her eyes. I got up from the couch and went to her, my arms wrapping round her. 'I have to protect my family, this is the only way I know how' she sobbed against my chest, she pulled away from me and looked up with anger burning in her eyes 'then you make these bastards suffer, you don't stop till they are gone I want you back here and I want this over with, I want them all fucking dead. Can you do that? Can you promise me that we'll still have you when it's over?' We held each other's gaze for a moment, 'I will come back to you when this is all over, and you have my word' with that Patricia dried her eyes and wiped her nose then walked into the kitchen. I stood alone in the living room, the weight of the world resting on his shoulders and doubt returning to his thoughts, there was only one of me and the poles had at least the equivalent of three platoons against me. A single tear rolled down my cheek as I stood with my fists balled and my head held low. Then came the fear, that old familiar feeling that sharpened my mind and steeled my resolve, fear of losing my family; of losing my friend and ultimately of losing. I liked fear; I took a deep breath and exhaled very slowly then picked up the Bergen and walked to the kitchen. Patricia was standing at the sink looking out of the window, a rabbit was in the garden and she watched as it hopped across the lawn. Although she didn't turn round she knew I was standing there 'you keep your word' she demanded and then turned and looked at me, she had a look in her eye that the queen of ancient Sparta would have worn as she watched Leonidas march his 300 men to war. With a slight nod of his head, I left the kitchen picked up the keys for the bike and left the house.

My first port of call was the office, a two hour drive to the city centre; I had to check out a few things about the Kielbasa case, arrange for enhanced security clearance for Alex and arrange a Forward Operating Base with all the kit we would need, weapons, communications kit, trauma kits and MOE Kits. I wouldn't sit idly by and let them bring the fight to me, I would bring war against my enemies and wouldn't stop till my family were safe and every last one of my enemies were dead. The journey was clear, I didn't expect there to be anyone following me but I put in countermeasures to ensure that I wasn't followed, finally after the long ride I arrived at the office and unsurprisingly the police were everywhere. 'Mrs Barnes, I'm not sure that you are fully aware of the severity of the situation, several members of the public have been killed and even more seriously injured when three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons at the entrance to Paisley Gilmour Street train station seemingly at random. Then seemingly at random four men are found dead outside the home of your boss, who just happens to have disappeared like a fart in the fog, now Mrs Barnes I will only ask you one more time, where is Mr Crawford?'. DCI Chattel bellowed, the veins in his neck bulging Mrs Barnes tried to stop herself from laughing unsuccessfully, behind DCI Chattel I stood mimicking the enraged officer to the amusement of everyone else in the room. This infuriated Chattel to the point of eruption 'EXACTLY WHAT IS SO FUNNY MRS BARNES!' this time his face grew crimson and his blood pressure reached critical then it dawned on him and very calmly he asked 'he's standing behind me isn't he?' Lindsey put a hand to her mouth to stop a laugh escaping and simply nodded 'You really need to calm down, Norrie!' sounded the voice from behind. He turned round and shook his head, I said, 'I need you to come into my office, Lindsey can you deal with my calls and cancel any appointments I have for today' Mrs Barnes nodded and sat back at her desk. We walked into the office and closed the door. Norrie asked 'what's going on Gary? The train station gets hit; there are bodies outside your house. No one could find you and special branch are panicking. I need answers' I took a moment to sit down and take stock. 'The hit at the station was meant for me, I was lucky there mate, the bodies outside the house was an attempt to lift Patricia and the kids' Norrie looked shocked 'Are they alright? Where are they?' I held up my hand 'hang on a minute Norman, this is need to know right now there is only one person I trust enough to tell and that's me' basically the company did a job for mi5 and mi6 two years back and it's come back to bite us, or that should be me on the arse'

Norrie stared at me 'right so what are we dealing with? Are there going to be bodies turning up all over the place?' I said 'basically it's the polish mafia and they want to flood the west coast, possibly all of Scotland with low grade smack. Somehow they think I'm the reason one of their big players got dropped and now they want to give me the good news' I sighed and hand my fingers through my hair, 'look Norrie I can't get you involved in this, not until I know what's going on. It's just me and that's how I need it to stay' Norrie didn't like that 'For fuck sake Gary, this is not the time to play the big hero, let me help I'll squeeze my sources for some info and we'll nails these bastards' I shook my head, 'no mate, I need to be in control for the time being but as soon as I get something concrete I'll give you a shout. It's the best I can do right now' I got up from my desk and walked over to the coffee machine. 'You still take milk?' Norrie nodded 'I could, in theory, have you arrested under the prevention of terrorism act' I smiled as I poured the coffee into the cups and added milk to the cups as slowly as I could to piss him off. 'Fuck sake Norrie you really are clutching at straws now mate, you know fine well old Betty is backing me up on this. Look thanks for the offer but let me do this my way, if I need something you'll be my first call' I handed Norrie his cup 'fine, I'll stand down for now. But as soon as it goes noisy I want to know about it. How are the kids and Patricia?' he asked 'the kids are fine, they were asleep before I came here, after the station got hit I bundled the three of them in the car and done one, drove most of the night making sure I wasn't being tailed before stopping at the safe house. I'm due to call Patricia in an hour just to check in with her' the phone on my desk rang 'give me a second would you?' I picked up the handset 'yes Lindsey?' 'There are three polish gentleman to see you sir', 'ok, did the scanners pick up anything?', 'That's correct sir', 'side arms?', 'yes sir', 'stand too any agents that are in the building and please show them in via the safe door in a few minutes' I hung up the phone and went to my desk, I pulled out my browning checked the chamber and set it on the desk. Norrie sat alert like a rabbit on the lookout for some nameless killer from the sky.

'Gary, what is happening?' I punched a few keys on my keyboard to enable the surveillance system in the boardroom. 'I'm not sure mate, but I want you to come in with me. Follow my lead and say nothing unless I direct it. Are you up for that?' Norrie nodded in agreement. 'Nice one, follow me.' We left my office, and walked down the hall to the boardroom, the three men were standing talking to each other; no doubt they were discussing the carbon emissions of their 4x4's and the tax benefits they receive. I walked in with Norrie bringing up the rear, 'What can I do for you gentlemen?' I walked over to the coffee machine and deliberately kept my back turned, I had played my hand and hoped that they would be stupid enough fall into my trap. When I heard their weapons being cocked I was not disappointed. I took my coffee and walked to my chair at the head of the table, sat down and put my feet on the table 'not the smartest thing you could have done. Now what do you want?' They looked at each other; clearly they were more used to people cowering in abject fear, the concept of someone calmly sitting drinking coffee whilst being threatened didn't sit too well with them. 'We have come with message' I took a long drink from the warm coffee 'indeed, so what kind of message comes via a 9mm side arm?' I pressed a button on the boardroom table that opens the blinds, 'oh and just so you know there are twenty agents itching to give you the good news if you blink aggressively, so your message...' I took another drink from my cup. Dusty, Lucky and Ned nervously eyed the guys standing out in the hall, then exchanged a few words in polish 'Kielbasa, he is going to kill you and feed you to his dogs then put your family in a bath of acid, this is his town now and nothing you do will stop him' Lucky laughed and his enormous gut bobbed up and down. I put down my cup and pulled out the browning and double tapped Ned, he dropped like a sack of shit, I put a round in the knee of Laughing Lucky and as he screamed on the floor I stood up and took up the weaver stance aiming at Dusty. 'You have a logistical problem, one dead and one injured so my question is how are you going to get these two out of here and deliver my message?' 'What is your message?' He asked, with the suggestion that his trousers had just become very heavy and soiled. Dusty looked at his two cohorts, suddenly the pension plan of a polish henchman didn't look as inviting as he first thought. 'My message is simple, your boss can threaten me all he likes, it's the nature of the job I do, he threatens my family and all the demons in hell will not be enough protection to save him from me, tell him to enjoy his last few days in Scotland' I walked out of the room and Norrie followed. I walked into my office and closed the door 'Jesus Christ Gary! I'm going to have to take you in now. You just killed someone in cold blood' Norrie was flapping big time. 'Sit down and shut up will you, you can't arrest me without implicating yourself and your forgetting that I and my company have special privileges that exceed crown immunity' I sat down and stared at the photo on my desk, James was smiling and Patricia was holding Abbey, the kids were only very little when the photo was taken. 'You want to keep the body count down? Any polish mafia you know of or your informants tell you about, get them off the street for their own good' Norrie sat there all colour drained from his face. 'The next 72 hours are going to be a mess' Norrie stood up and said, 'I'll do what I can but this is bigger than you and me from what went down in there. Its half ten now, I'll give you till to midnight then I'll have to bring in the drug squad.' I get up and walk towards him holding out my hand, 'I can't ask for more than that, I'm sorry that you got involved mate' we shook 'midnight remember, look I need to go so I'll call you later, keep me in the loop'

As Norrie walked out of the office, my phone rang, there were only two people that had this number and I wasn't expecting to hear from either of them for a few hours. I answered the call and heard 'is this line secure?' I pressed the button on the side of the handset 'Rodger that, to what do I owe the pleasure I'm not meant to hear from you for a while yet' I asked 'there has been a problem getting a flight to Manchester, in that I can't. I've booked a flight but I'm not telling you where to yet, op sec and all that.' 'Mate that's fine I wouldn't expect anything else, so what's your ETA roughly?' 'I'm not sure but I'll let you know nearer to the time. Can I send encrypted information over this handset? I want to send a list of kit that I need' 'yeah, mate just make the list and call me, once the line is secure you can send it now unless there are any strange bits of kit our stores are well packed, I know how you like your shiny things!' Alex laughed. 'I'll call you later mate' then hung up. I sat down and looked at the photo on my desk, the three most important people in my life and they are relying on me to keep them safe. I suddenly felt overwhelmed and began to panic I couldn't catch my breath, my hands shook uncontrollably, I struggled from my desk and stumbled towards the door, collapsing at the couch with tears streaming down my face and my breathing shallow and fast. Mrs Barnes walked into the office and saw me on the floor she gave a high pitched yelp and rushed over to me 'Gary! Are you alright?' she knelt on the floor next to me and put her arms round me I was hyperventilating, I took a few deep breaths to try and calm down, 'I don't know how to keep Patricia and the kids safe, these bastards won't stop' Mrs Barnes said ' you have twenty agents out there that you handpicked, you don't have to do this alone, I can go to Patricia for you, she will be safe' regaining my composure, I wiped my face and sighed, 'sorry Lindsey, I panicked and everything hit me at once'. She smiled at me and stood up, 'now Mr Crawford, there are some things you need to attend too, firstly we need the industrial cleaner in for the mess you made in the boardroom and secondly the weekly board meeting is due for tomorrow, shall I cancel it?' I got off the floor and sat on the couch that Norrie vacated not a few minutes ago, I pondered the two point Lindsey raised and was distracted by my phone going. 'Use the usual cleaning service and yes cancel the meeting, if they ask or kick off tell them it's a family thing that cannot be avoided, oh I need to draw some weapons and some other kit from stores, can you get me the forms please?' she smiled again and nodded before walking off. I get up and walk over to the window, the south side of the river was the view before me, for some reason I never really looked at Glasgow as a city that needed to be protected, a cruller mistress there has yet to be found; when she loves you she brings to you a joy rarely rivalled, when she hates you she chews you up and spits you out a broken man. She has survived many things through the years from the religious divide to the Luftwaffe and came out fighting, this time however the threat was darker and more poisonous. Somehow the burden came to rest at my door, but my prime concern wasn't for the second city of the empire but for my family; if I save my family I'll save the city, I save the city I could lose my family. Lindsey came back in with the forms 'the cleaner will be here in about half an hour, is there anything else that I can get for you?' I shook my head 'no, I'm fine. I'll be leaving in about an hour can I leave everything in your hands?' 'Of course you can.' She walked out of the office. I looked at my watch it was getting close to the time to check in with Patricia; heavily pregnant and alone with two kids with god knows who many people scouring the country looking for them get at me. She is a formidable woman that would easily stare down the sun. I picked up the phone and dialled the secure phone, it rang three times and then I heard her voice, 'hello?' 'Hi honey, how are you and the kids?' I ask her hoping that the answer will be what I expect to hear, 'not too good, James wants to watch Aladdin and Abbey wants to watch Tangled, and neither of them wants to watch it in their room' a wry smile crosses my lips, 'just another day in the in the Crawford household then, what about you, how you feeling?' 'I'm alright, when will you be back? The kids miss you' 'I'll be back the day after next; this whole mess will be finished tomorrow. Alex is flying back from Namibia and with him on side it'll take less time' 'why are you getting him involved, can't you use the other guys? You know that he's out of the business' there was a marked tone of restrained disapproval in her voice, 'darling, the guys here are fantastic, I bloody careful, and I want you back here as soon as possible.' Her voice started to break a little, 'I'm all hormonal and irrational, I'm just worried I'll never see you again and I know that's stupid but I can't help it' 'I made you a promise this morning and I am going to keep that promise, look I'm going to go, kiss the kids for me and I'll call you in a couple of hours' we said our goodbyes and hung up. I knew that she was hurting and missing me but had little choice but to put all of that to one side and get back into soldier mode. I set about reading the list of kit that Alex needed, the firm had most of the kit; MOE kit, Comms kit, browning High Power, MP5k and sniper rifle, he had picked a weapon that was devastatingly accurate at extreme distance, a CheyTac Intervention M-200 rifle with .408CheyTac rounds. The only item on his list we didn't have, but we would find one somewhere. I checked everything on the list twice then filled in the forms. I walked out of the office and Lindsey was on the phone with a member of the board 'I understand that this is such short notice sir, but Mr Crawford has only just told me.' The look suggested that I owed her big time! 'That is correct Mr Simons, however I feel I have to remind you that Mr Crawford is the owner of the company and as such he can call and cancel meetings when he chooses, on this occasion he has an urgent family matter that needs his attendance. The rest of the members of the board are sympathetic to his situation Mr Simons, you are the only one that has complained. When Mr Crawford is able to call the meeting he will be in touch' I stand and listen, it offers a touch of levity to my day. 'Yes, good day to you too sir' she put the phone down. 'Gary, that guy is an arse!' I smirked at her. 'I don't know, I thought you two were getting on smashingly, anyway here is the list of kit I need to draw' I had the list and head towards the lift, fully expecting her to say something to me about the kit, about the whole damn situation, about how the guys are here to help me. The doors open and I step across the threshold knowing that from this point onwards no one can be trusted, no action could be beyond suspicion. The lift doors begin to close as Lindsey looks up to say something but I don't hear her, my mind and attention were focused on other things.

The lift descended, floor after floor to the basement, my mind was racing. I knew my objectives, the odds were wildly stacked against me but knowing that I had my mate on board gave at least a glimmer of hope. The lift stopped and the doors opened, I stood on the thresh hold of the lift, somehow the simple act of taking a step forward was almost too much for me. It would be a step from the comfortable world I know, where my family are safe and everything is rosy, into a world of uncertainty, fear with the icy breath of death on my neck. I caught my breath then stepped forward. The world didn't end; there was no apocalyptic shift in the alignment of the planets, nor did the lord almighty rain bolts of lightening up on me. At the end of the hall was the range and stores, Lindsey would have emailed the kit list and the quartermaster would be expecting me. 'Mr Crawford, I'm just working on your list, I might be about another ten minutes, if you don't mind waiting' Old Jock always would call everyone by a nickname or by their first name except me, it was always Mr Crawford. 'Don't you worry Jock, I'll grab a brew you take your time' his gray handlebar moustache hung either side of his smile, Jock had a face that was well worn, his years of service were etched on his face 'this is some list of kit you've got here Mr Crawford, must be one hell of a job. I wish I was going with you' I liked Old Jock, straight to the point and no messing about. 'Maybe some other time mate, I need someone here to make sure these crap hats don't empty the stores! You know fine well they would' Jock had a hearty laugh that reminded me of Mike. I grabbed a brew and picked up a copy of Soldier magazine, it was full of the usual crap that they try to sell to new recruits like cheap car insurance and kit insurance. A couple of minutes later Jock called me over 'Mr Crawford, that's your kit ready' I put the magazine down and went over to the desk, the two browning high powers and the mp5ks and all the rounds were waiting for me. 'I've thrown in a special bit of kit that you didn't ask for sir, but I think you'll like it' said Jock. I thanked him and loaded the kit into the case he provided and left the store. I walked past the bike I rode in on and took the keys of a duty land rover. I needed to get a FOB sorted and get the kit arranged; I still have to find a CheyTac M-200 from somewhere. I got in and sat for a moment, I needed to focus my mind into the job at hand, somehow I had to block out what would happen if I failed. The immediate consequence would be tonnes of drugs hitting the streets; the long term consequence would be my children growing up without a father in a drug fuelled country and my wife giving birth without me there to support her.

I turned the ignition and looked up to my office window; this was the point of no return.

I drove out of the parking area and was focused on my mission ahead; I carried out my surveillance drills to make sure that I wasn't being followed but the polish or worse by Norrie. I put in angles and distance away from the office, every few minutes I checked my mirrors counting the cars behind me to see if anything was odd. I pulled up to a junction at the end of a one way street and indicated to go right and waited. Behind me three of the four cars were going right one was going left, the junction was clear so I shot out and went left and sped along the road to the next left hand turn and quickly turned in without indicating and pulled over two cars in from the junction. I waited and saw what I was looking for, four cars behind me was a silver Nissan, with two up front and a third in the back. Normally that would not be so odd but these guys were all stocky eastern European with crew cuts and dark glasses on. I had to assume I had more than one tail and would have to be more cautious.

The secure phone rang, this was Alex. 'Mate I'm in Manchester how's the kit looking?' I smiled 'got everything but your tutu and pink tights!' I replied. 'Ha-ha nice one mate, I should be with you in about 3 hours where is the RV?' 'You know the saint Enoch centre food court, meet me there go to Sandwich Delights and order something, I don't care what and I'll meet you there. Usual drills mate sorry' he was silent for a second to process the details and replied 'look mate don't apologise, these drills have saved our arses plenty of times, like that time in France when the intel was shite and we ended up RVing in the shop we were supposed to be watching. I could have sworn that a round grazed my arse as we legged it down that alley!' 'Yeah mate I remember. Look I'm having a wee bit of hassle getting you the CheyTac M-200; it's not that common a weapon in Glasgow yet. I'll have one before the close of play tonight. Text me when you are in Glasgow and 90 minutes after then we'll meet, if I don't turn up come back every three hours till the centre closes, the ERV will be the clock at the central, if I don't show after three hours abort and get out of town. Agreed?' I knew that he would even if he wasn't happy about it 'yeah mate got that. I'll see you soon' and we rang off. He was three hours away which was a comfort knowing that the Calvary was on the way. I had to now get to the safe house and get everything ready plus make a call about getting the CheyTac, I had a guy in mind but he has inconstant. I picked up the phone and called Shaun. 'Hey man, what's happening?' I asked hoping that Shaun would be sober. 'Gooseman, Long time, no see! Have I got a sweet piece of kit for you?" Shaun always though that what he had was far better than what I was looking for. Usually he was full of shite. 'Shaun I need you sober, is that going to be a problem?' 'Hell no mate! I'm as sober as a judge!' I have a bit of kit from the liberation of Iraq, a MOAB' I looked at Shaun 'what the fuck am I going to do with that? Are you fucking mental?' listen Shaun I need a CheyTac M-200, for yesterday, Can you get your hands on one for me?' Shaun was never the most reliable of people but the odd time he pulls it out of the bag for me. 'A Chey? Fuck man who pissed you off?' I smiled at him and the colour drained from his face. 'Don't worry mate, it's not you this time. A client wants one tomorrow, can you help me? I'll pay 10% over the asking price for you' Shaun was silent for a few minutes. 'Mate, are you still there?' I asked. 'Oh yeah, I'm still here. I have to make a call but I think I can help you out, please tell me that you won't be using it on someone I know?' 'Is someone you know gunning for my family?' For a few seconds all I heard was silence. 'Look I need that weapon; can you get one for me before 1100hrs tomorrow? There was silence on the line for a few second, 'look, give me a bell in the morning and I'll tell you where you can pick it up. This is heavier than I usually deal with. I can't be tied to it mate' the panic in Shaun's voice was palpable. His trousers were turning brown. I replied with 'just text me when you have it and I'll come round with the payment, and If you come through in good order, you will get a good bonus. There was no answer for a few seconds. 'I'll call you in three hours' Shaun hung up. In three hours Alex would be setting up the RV and I would be collecting his weapon. Could this day get any fucking worse? For the next few hours I wanted to forget about the coming storm. I went to the safe house called Patricia and got my head down for an hour or so. Shaun called to let me know that the Chey was ready to collect. I told him that the payment would be as usual with a bit extra. My next RV would be with Alex, he was going to Sandwich Delights, but I was there an hour beforehand, watching Sandwich Delights. After about 45 minutes I saw Alex, he knew that I was watching him; he followed procedure as would be expected. Since I was sponsoring the RV I walked up to him and made contact. 'Alex? Is that you? Fuck sake man when did you get back from Africa?' I asked loudly. 'A few days ago, mate' was the answer. He went through the motions of sitting down, knowing what comes next. 'Follow me mate.' I walked off, along past two of the shops and into the model shop. We walked straight through the back into the loading area and out to the where I had parked the car. We didn't speak; we were both doing our drills to make sure that we were not being tailed. I started the engine and drove away; I didn't even look at him until I got on to the Broomielaw. Alex asked, 'what's the plan of attack?'
I sat silently, waiting for the thoughts in my head to shuffle into the right order, 'A Polish mafia boss called Kielbasa is planning to flood Glasgow and the surrounding area with low grade contaminated drugs, but that's only part of his plan. His main objective is to wipe out me and my family, we were tasked by the government to collect info on his cousin and pass the details over. It was a simple intel gathering job, we passed the details and that was it. His cousin got the good news and he blames me. Three of his oafs came into the office earlier, only one left unwounded'. Alex sat for a while thinking about his course of action, he knew that the kit he needed was in place and that event the smallest detail would be checked by me 'I need to zero the rifle tomorrow, where is a good place that I can do that?'

I turned across the squinty bridge and said 'the Braes are the best place I can think of. There won't be many people about.' After a few minutes I pulled in to the secured car park at the safe house. We walked to the door, both of us covering our arcs and primed for action if the need arose. In the house I felt the phone ringing 'mate its Patricia I need to take this' 'hi baby, what's up?' I heard the kids in the background causing merry hell 'nothing, I've just not spoken to you in a while and I wanted to make sure that you were ok' 'I'm fine honey, I picked up Alex about an hour ago and we are getting thing together, what exciting activities have you got planned?' 'James, will you stop putting you cup on your plate! The plate is for food! Honestly I think he does that just to wind me up. Look I just wanted to check in with you because, well because I'm scared that this is too big for just you two.' Her voice, usually clear and calm, began to falter and that made me stop in my tracks. 'Babe, I made you a promise and I will keep that promise. These bastards will know that they are beaten' The phone rang, it was Shaun telling me where and when I could collect the rifle, I knew that he would come through; of course I would have to make sure that it could never be tied to him. 'Mate, the rifle is ready. Bring your kit and we'll go zero it for you'. I secured the house, leaving tell-tale signs that would be easy to identify if someone had tried to get in. From the door to the drop off my eyes were darting to the rear mirror almost every other second. I had the feeling that the guy I didn't shoot my boardroom would have delivered his message and was probably taking a bath in the Clyde. The die had been cast now all that I had to do was wait for enter bad guy's name here to play his hand.

We have been in this game a long time, we have been mates for a lot longer and we both knew what the other was thinking. There was no real need for us to talk about the road ahead of us, we knew our jobs and that was that. 'Why did you choose Namibia, mate?' I asked 'it seemed like a good idea at the time; I was getting a bit jaded and needed a change. Simon has a fishing company out there so I help him out from time to time. It's just a world away from all this sneaky beaky stuff' 'fair one mate, I suppose after all this is done me and Patricia should take the kids and fuck off somewhere. You got any ideas?' Alex stayed silently for a second and replied, 'There is always Nam with me and Michelle, or Canada I remember you thinking about that a few years ago.' 'I'll have a chat with Patricia later about it, then when I buy you that porterhouse, we can discuss it' I looked up at the mirror for the thousandth time and something caught my eye. 'I think we've got a tail. I'm going to try something' with that I shot to the left down a side street and slowed down and watched the rear mirror as I pulled up to the junction, I signalled left then turned right, watching behind me the whole time. Just as I turned I saw a car speeding round the corner behind me, a black BMW 6 series with at least 2 up. I knew that the house was secure and off the grid, the only way I would have been seen was when I drove past the office. Instinct told me to put my foot down but I had to somehow work this so I was tailing them and they would lead me to the top of the tree. 'Mate, we've caught a fish' Alex turned in his seat to see. 'Right, there is an alley down there pull in there and I'll get the rifle, I'll be your secret weapon. I'll call you in an hour, make sure that you find out what you need and then we can plan properly' I slowed the car down and he jumped out and hid behind the large commercial bins so that he couldn't be seen. As I reached the end of the alley I checked the mirror again and saw that the BMW had turned into the alley. I could see also Alex behind the bin, I started to panic 'they'll see him, and he'll be in the shit' I almost slammed on the brakes and threw the car into reverse. I looked again and watched him move round behind the bin as the passed him. I turned left out of the alley and carried on trying to lose them bastards so I could get behind them.

I drove for about 15 minutes; sometimes I allowed them to get quite close other times keeping them seven or eight cars behind me. I decided to play a wee game with them and drove in to a McDonald's drive thru, knowing that they would follow me regardless of where I went. I pulled into the car park, and hid behind a large van and waited, a minute or so later they pulled in the car park and saw a similar coloured car get served in the drive through and stupidly they pulled in to the queue to order food; I had a little chuckle to my self. These guys seemed to be too stupid for this kind of work. I refused to allow myself to get complacent, my family was on the line and I wouldn't let appearances deceive me. From where I was parked it appeared that they didn't order but waited patiently to get through the queue, hoping that the car that they saw was mine. I watched them intently as they pulled out of the queue and pulling up next to the car that looked like mine. A woman was driving the car and when the passenger of the BMW looked across and saw that I was no driving, panic set in. Where I was parked I could see them in heated debate, both blaming the other of the stupidity of what they had done. The driver got on the phone, although I couldn't hear what was being said I had a good idea that it was a short story of how their happy ever after might be coming sooner than expected, and there wouldn't be to much happy about it.

They pulled out of the parking bay and drove to the exit, I waited a few seconds and pulled in behind them making sure that at least one car was between us. I needed to know where the head guy was and how I could get hold of him. We drove about Glasgow for about half an hour, I kept as close to them as I could without drawing attention to myself. When we came to the traffic lights at the squinty bridge the passenger opened his door to get out, just as the driver took a call. I was one car behind them, I hared the passenger shout out 'Pieprzyc to gowno!' I assumed that this was not a good thing. His door slammed shut, they took a left over the bridge and headed towards the Ibrox area. I followed them at a distance, hoping that they wouldn't see me, and with a rough idea where they might be headed. They cam to a small roundabout and took a left and headed towards Brand street. I followed them and watched closely, they eventually pulled up out side a tenement block on Elizabeth Street. I waited at the corner, about 100 meters away; they got out of the car and stood in front of a well dressed guy who looked about mid 40's, at each side of him where two large guys both in long leather coats. The two that got out of the car were standing heads bowed. This wee guy was talking; his hands waving about, animatedly, this guy was seriously pissed. He put his hand into his jacket and the two men dropped to their knees begging. The guy in the suit pulled out a very fat brown envelope and said something to his two leather clad behemoths that dragged the guys from the car inside. I saw a familiar face in the background, but couldn't bee sure it was him, until he stepped forward and shook the suited mans hand before taking the package 'that dirty wee bastard' I said. DCI Chattelle in bed with the enemy, I could feel the anger rising, and I fought the urge to get out the car and blow the sneaky wee fucker away. I picked up the phone and called him 'DCI Chattelle speaking' he answered 'hey mate, thought I would check in with you. I've not found anything out yet, which means that this guy is well hidden and keeping his secrets close to his chest, you heard anything?' I tried to sound as normal as I could, all the while I was hoping he would spontaneously combust. 'I have done a bit of digging my self and I have an address for you, I'm not sure how good this information is but, it's all I have.' I watched him intently, wondering how much information he had been passing. 'That's fantastic mate, let me get a pen and I'll make a note of it' I tried to sound busy 'right got one, fire away'. 'You need to go to 15 Pinkston Drive. The info is this polish guy is in there with at least 3 guys. That's all I have, look Gary, I need to step back from this. If I get implicated in a gang war then its my job on the line.' He pleaded over the phone, this time with genuine concern. I almost felt sorry for him, 'Don't worry mate I'll keep your name out of the papers. Look I better go and check out this address I'll give you a call later' we both hung up. I got out the camera and took some photos as evidence. I reversed back round the and drove away from Elizabeth street putting in plenty of angles and distance between us, I kept checking that I was not being followed. I dialed Alex 'mate, where are you?' I asked, 'I have the kit, that Shaun is a bit of a knob, he was trying to sell me a MOAB, I really wanted to deck him. Right now I'm at the top of Hyde park street at the bike showroom' he sounded as calm as ever. 'I'll be there in a few minutes' I hung up. I collected him and we went to the safe house, I briefed him on the events of the day so far and left the best till last. 'Chattelle is on their side, I saw him taking a bulging envelope from the guy with the suit, I called him and he gave me a bogus address in Sighthill while he was standing right next to the target. I really wanted to drop the cunt right there.' Alex was as unemotional as always, 'you should have, he's a nosy prick'. We set about planning the assault, and then I had an idea 'I'm going to set the bastard up, I took some stills of him taking that wad of cash, his boss is in my lodge and has been gunning for him since he tried to shag his wife at their last office party. A little bit of retribution should do the trick' I went on line and got copies of the plans for the building, the job was going to be hard enough without going in totally blind. When they were built, the tenements were all built to the same spec, now each floor of each building could be totally different, we needed to be certain. We discussed the options and adjusted our plans to suit. We decided against taking the Chey this time, and settled on the Browning's and the MP5K's, Alex pulled something out of the kitbag 'what's this?' 'Eh? Oh that, that's a shiny thing.' I replied 'old jock been giving you gifts again?' he opened it and there was pair of night scopes, secure two way comms and two UV beacons about the size of a bottle top. 'This is some good kit, how the hell did that fucker get his hands on these?' Alex asked. 'I've always found it best not to ask too many questions where Jock is concerned, besides these should come in very handy' I looked at the clock and said 'time to put Norrie to the sword' I picked up the phone and called the chief inspector 'Macfarlane!' came the answer 'John, mate I've got something for you, you interested?' he instantly recognised my voice 'Crawford, been a while! What have you got and who is it about?' he asked 'not so fast mate, you have to do something for me first' 'sure anything' he replied 'get Chattelle off the street asap.' He pondered this 'alright, done, what you got for me?' 'Chattelle taking cash from a known polish mobster, One who is not only trying to flood Glasgow with cheap drugs but he's also gunning for me and my family. I need him off the streets' the silence was deafening 'you really don't know how happy you've made me, consider it done. Can you email me the photos?' 'They should be in your inbox just now, the usual protocols' 'great, he'll be off the streets and in a cell in half an hour! See you later' we hung up.

'That's one thing sorted' Alex muttered, we set about getting our kit together and testing the secure comms that Jock had provided. We got down to looking over the plans again, we wanted to be sure that we knew every window, every door and where they might lead to. This was going to be a covert entry, but if it turned noisy then we needed to know that the door we were running through wasn't going to be a cupboard. We decided that entry would be after midnight; this would give us enough cover to move in without being seen.

It was 1700hrs and entry would be 9 hours away, we decided to get our heads down for a few hours. Some of the best advice I got as a soldier was get your head down and get some scoff down you whenever you can, it could be a while before you get the opportunity again, I have always tried to follow this. I woke with a start at 2200hrs, Alex was already up and about.

'The kit is ready but I know that you'll want to check your own kit, there is a brew on and some scoff in the kitchen' Alex picked up a paper and said 'I'm away for a dump'. He had laid out my kit on the kitchen table, every operative knows that they have to check their own kit, leaving things up to chance in this line of work was not an option. I began methodically working through the kit, checking the springs in the mags oiling them if needed, charging the mags and making sure all the rounds were seated correctly. Dry firing the MP5K and Browning, the last thing I checked was the MOE kit. Every MOE package is different, depending on the requirements of each job, as this was a covert job and in a residential area we didn't want to go blowing things up in the middle of the night. I made sure the lock picking kit was complete and on me at all times, lose this and we don't get in.

By 2330hrs I had checked everything twice and we had got the scoff and the brew down our necks, this was now the quiet time, when we ran through everything in our heads, running through every conceivable situation so we could react accordingly. We had been in this game for a long time so we knew what could potentially go wrong; we sat in silence and stared at the plans. The toughest thing would be to get up the stairs, in these old tenements there were four landings with two flats on each, and we had no idea which flat we were heading for so we would have to clear each flat as we went. We got ready and headed to the car, Alex had the Chey stowed in the boot, broken down and secured in a lockable case. The MP5ks were stowed under our seats; the handguns were in our holsters. Each of us carried a knife, in case any wet work was needed. We got in the car and headed towards the target, we didn't speak as we were running through our drills in our head, although these skills were second nature, they only stayed second nature because we ran through them all the time. we drove a longer route, this was for two reasons, one so we could shake off an tails that we might have picked up and secondly we had an exit route planned and recce'd and we didn't want that to be compromised because we weren't following the plan. Eventually after a long drive we got to Elizabeth Street, it was dark and foreboding, the local Asian gangs liked it that way, they could deal and do all sorts without anyone getting eyes on. We had opted to go for the full assault kit with S10's and nomex gloves, we were going in covert but if it had to go noisy we had the gas and the flash bangs to aid us.

We got out of the car in the shadows and we checked each other's kit to ensure that nothing had dislodged or come loose during the drive over. We waited in the shadows, to make sure that the street was clear. We walked and listened, we came to the junction of Elizabeth and Ibrox, Alex got on the ground and eased himself closer the edge of the building, the road was clear. We ran across the road heading for the door way I saw earlier, there was no one there. We stopped at the door, and took up our positions; I was using the lock picking kit while Alex covered me, and once the lock was defeated he would enter and I would cover him. I worked quickly and deliberately to defeat the lock, we were fortunate that this close had not been fitted with the security door yet so there was not electro magnet barring access. I had finished with the lock and put the kit away, I tapped him on the leg to signal him to get ready to enter. We changed places and entered, the hallway was dark, the only sounds we could hear was our own breath inside the S10, the first flat we needed to clear was to our right, so I got out the MOE kit and we made entry. We methodically cleared each room in the flat, as we had guessed this was an empty flat, no furniture or sign of life, we moved across the landing to the second flat, this was the same as the first. We took our time and moved up the stairs, at either side of the landing was a door, if the original blue prints where to be believed then the layout of the flats was the same all the way up. We covered the first and second floors quickly; the top floor was where we expected there to be some action. We could hear movement coming from one of the flats at the top, but had no indicator of which flat. We headed up the stairs to the first flat and made entry, securing the door behind us. We cleared the flat, closing each door as we went, finding nothing of any note. We crossed the landing and made entry again. This time there was a full cannabis farm in one room and a lab for cutting other harder drugs. 'Mate, we have to do something about this shit. I've got some det cord that would work a treat' Alex whispered. I shook my head 'not an option mate, but as soon as we are done I'll get on the net to Macfarlane and his boys can come and clear it down. We have a bit of a quid pro quo arrangement, he's got Chattelle off the street for me and I give him the credit for this lab' I replied. Alex nodded in acknowledgment, as we got ready to leave this flat we heard a loud thump of a door being slammed. I moved to the front door of the flat and looked through the spy hole to see three men coming down the stairs, each of them carrying hand gun tucked into the waistband of their trousers. The second guy was in the photos of Norrie taking the wad of cash, the other two were new to me, they carried on down the stairs and after a few moments there was another loud thud and the main door to the building. I turned to Alex and said 'ok mate, we have to step this up. Three x-rays have left the area all of them were armed. We have no idea how long they will be gone for or how many remain.' He nodded. We exited the flat and went up the stairs to the second last location. I entered and secured the door behind me, we moved quickly and silently through the rooms, clearing them as we went. in the last bed room there was three people sleeping we left them alone, as there was no need to complicate matters for ourselves. We got back to the door and waited, we needed to come up with a plan of entry that didn't compromise us. 'we need to get in there right now, and if it goes noisy then we're prepared for it' said Alex, I thought about this approach and wasn't sure it was the best course of action. 'ok here's what we'll do, I'll go out and throw the power switch to the flat and when someone comes out we rush them and clear the flat the same way we would in hostage recovery.' Even though he was wearing an S10 I could tell that he was smiling. I opened the door of the flat, covering my arks I made my way to the centre of the landing when I heard the door to the target flat being unlocked and voices in the stairwell. I moved back to Alex's position and listened to one side of a phone call 'the police we pay today, he's been picked up by other police….we will, fix no problem' I could faintly hear someone being very angry on the other side of the phone but I couldn't make out the words, 'Kielbasa, I try to get product out faster but the quality will be poor, word will spread and we no make money, two days and I will have shipment ready' there was more barking from the other end of the phone and then silence. I turned to Alex 'Chattelle is off the street, so that solves one issue no we need to get into that flat and get as much intel as we can as quickly and quietly as possible' he nodded in agreement. The stairwell had gone silent, I looked through the peep hole and saw two large men standing either side of the open door opposite. I was getting a good view of the hallway and could see that the floorplan was the same as the one directly below it. This was good news, the bad news was the large black dog standing in the hallway. 'mate, there is a huge bastard dog in that flat' his face remained unchanged to this information as he replied 'fuck! That's all we need' I smiled and nodded.

We knew what action we had to take, where the other would go once we entered the flat and ultimately what our exit strategy would be. I looked through the peephole again and saw that the landing was clear. I turned to Alex and said '5 minute warning, mate" he nodded.

We took this time to sort out whatever kit we were going to be needing for the entry and to make sure that everything else was secured. We could not leave any ground sign that could be traced back to us or the office. MacFarlane was an a great asset to have onside but there was only so much that he could do and having a pile of bodies all pointing back to a private security firm with government contracts would cause some unwanted questions.

'ok mate let's move' I said as I stood up, I checked the chamber on my weapon again before opening the door. I made my way towards the door and this time I didn't attempt to try the door, I was blowing this one of its hinges. We set up the det charges on the door and a small charge on the electricity box, this was going to blow first and cause everything in the flat to go dark then the sound of the door coming in and the flashbangs would cause enough confusion to hit them hard and fast. We steadied ourselves and counted down 3…2…1 fizz! The electric box shorted the 2…1 WHOOM! The door flew off its hinges and splintered apart we each threw in a flashbang and waited a second for them to go off before entering to flat. I went forward into the hall while he went left and cleared that room. As he came out I went right and he went forward and I cleared this room. We moved forward and closed the kitchenette door and went to the living room. The 3 guys was I saw were lying on the floor curled in a ball all of them had shat themselves from the noise of the door and the flashbangs. We rounded on them and secured them as quickly as we could, did a quick search of their pockets for any ID, mobile phone or keys. These guys seemed to be switched on enough to have left their IDs somewhere so that they were clean, the guy that was talking on the phone had a set of keys on him. In the corner of the room there was a door that had a padlock, the layout suggested hat this was a small box room. I tossed the keys to Ale and he went to clear that room. I got on the phone to MacFarlane 'John, mate we should be clear of Elizabeth street in about 10. We have secured 3 x-rays and located a small box room with a padlock on the door.' John replied 'some result there mate, get out of there as soon as you can and we'll clear it away.' Alex shouted 'you'd better come and see this' I went over to the room' John, there is some serious stuff in this room. You want to get your tech guy here asap. We'll lock it up and leave the key in the padlock for you. He replied 'good work mate see you soon'

We rang off.