Richard Clarke's 'The Scorpion's Gate'

"She would be locked tight, of course," said Alec as he motioned Brian to stand back. Pulling his Browning Hi-Power .40-caliber gun out of the holster beneath his left arm, Alec blasted three shots at the doorknob and lock. The roar of the shooting in the concrete stairwell brought the throbbing in Brian's head to a peak of pain. Kicking the door open, Alec smiled as he turned back to Brian. "Don't worry," he said as he reholstered the pistol, "there are nine more in that clip."

Brian followed Alec through a long service tunnel. At its end, he saw two other station men, standing by a door to the alley behind the hotel. "The station has had this route on the list for four years, since that foreign ministers' conference here," he heard Alec say through the ringing. The two big men by the door, folding Belgian machine guns slung under their windbreakers, rushed Brian to an unmarked white Bedford van blocking the alley. In seconds, the van was moving quickly down the streets of Manama, away from the burning tower of devastation that had been the Diplomat Hotel, from the fires, from the dead, and from those who wished through their pain that they were dead.

The van barreled past the Hilton and Sheraton hotels, where police officers and security guards scurried about the entrances erecting barricades in case they were the next to be hit. The van sped past Number 21 Government Avenue, site of the Kutty, the British diplomatic compound in Bahrain since 1902.

Alec and Brian nodded with appreciation as they saw the Gurkha guards, with their foot-long kukri knives and the Belgian folding automatic weapons, ready for action, lining the street in front of the embassy. They were members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, headquartered in Brunei. These short soldiers were some of the few Nepalese left who still served as part of the British army, a tradition that dated back almost two centuries. Alec had helped train the 2nd Battalion when Whitehall had decided the Gurkhas would protect British embassies in the Gulf. "Silent, ruthless, dangerous little men," said Alec as the van continued down Government Avenue past the embassy. "They'd give their lives if they had to, to protect the Kutty."

As soon as they heard the bomb blast, the Station began implementing the response plan for a terrorist action, bypassing the British Embassy, a possible target for a follow-on attack, and moving senior station staff to a clandestine facility off-site.

The Bedford slowed as it turned left onto Isa al Kabeer Avenue, just past the embassy, and headed to a compound two blocks down on the right. As it made the turn, Brian looked out the slit in the backdoor window and saw three Bahraini army Warrior armored vehicles lumbering, black smoke snorting up from their exhaust pipes. The Warriors moved to the front of the Foreign Ministry building across Government Avenue. At the precise second that the Bedford reached the gray metal gate of the Al Mudynah Machine Works compound, the covert home of the backup station, a 15-foot-high gate moved aside. The van dashed forward into the courtyard and then braked hard. Armed men rushed around the vehicle. Seconds behind them, a British army medic in civilian clothes slid open the side door of the van and scrambled inside. He tended to Brian Douglas' head wound before the station chief got out.

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