Richard Clarke's 'The Scorpion's Gate'

Brian's number two, Nancy Weldon-Jones, was standing next to the van as he emerged. She flinched as she saw the bandage on his head. "No need to worry, Nance. I'm going to live." He paused and looked at the asphalt. "Unfortunately, Ian isn't." Then he looked up again. "Now, then, what's the report?"

"I got on to Admiral Adams over at the Navy base," Nancy said. "There's dead Brits and Americans, maybe a dozen each. Three times that many in local staff and guest workers. We think it was a truck bomb, probably an RDX mix over ammonium perchlorate." She offered her arm to Douglas, but he shook his head and stepped forward. She continued her report: "A drive-by shooting followed, just as the rescue workers showed up. Word is that the drive-by shooter was in a Red Crescent wagon. An American Under Secretary for something-or-other was on an upper floor. Of course, the lucky bastard was unharmed. He wasn't in the lobby café because he had them open up the al Fanar Club on the roof for a private little breakfast with somebody."

With Alec urging them forward, gun in hand, the station chief and his deputy crossed the yard and went inside the white concrete block building. "Okay, Nance, but we know first reports are usually wrong. Any claims of responsibility?"

"Not yet. No need, really. There's no question it's Bahraini Hezbollah, otherwise known as your friendly Iranian Rev Guards and their lovely Qods Force boys." Qods Force, or Jerusalem Force, was the covert action arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. "Is London up on secure vid yet?" Douglas asked as he forced himself slowly up the stairs to the station's backup communications center.

"Up and waiting. You should have the Big Four: the director, her deputy, chief of staff, and ..." She smiled. "The ME division chief." "Ah, good, what could we do without the ME division chief ?" Douglas asked sarcastically. Roddy Touraine, nominally his immediate supervisor, seemed to delight in making Brian's professional life miserable.

Brian and Nancy made their way through two vault doors to a room within a room, its walls, floor, and ceiling made of heavy see-through plastic. Exhaust fans buzzed loudly in the walls. The "boy in a bubble" room was just large enough for the plastic conference table that filled it. Attached to the far wall was a 42-inch flat screen showing the crisp image of a far more elegant conference room, complete with wood paneling and a china tea service. Just sitting down in her pale blue chair at the head of that table in Vauxhall Cross was Barbara Currier, director of the British Secret Intelligence Service.

As soon as she sat down, the director began the meeting. "Douglas, you look an awful mess. My deepest sympathies about Ian Martin. I will ring up his wife as soon as we are done here. We will, of course, take care of her." Currier took a cup of tea being offered to her by ME Division Chief Touraine. "Do we understand, Brian, that this is the beginning of an overt destabilization effort directed against Bahrain by the new rulers in Riyadh?"

"I agree it's unlikely a one-off, Director," the station chief said as he looked into the camera above the monitor, "unless they had it out for someone specific, perhaps that visiting American dig. No, I would advise Whitehall that this is the start of something, but not in our view inspired by Riyadh. More likely Iranian-inspired and intended to get the little king here to kick out the Americans from their Navy base."

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