Source: Review Copy
Publication: 31 May 2018 from Red Door Publishing
A FOREIGN CHEMICAL AGENT IS FOUND ON BRITISH SOIL
CAN IT BE STOPPED IN TIME IN A RACE AGAINST BIOTERROR?
When film director Nathalie Thompson is commissioned to make a programme on bioterrorism, a sudden Ebola outbreak takes her on a dangerous detour to Central Africa. Posing as a Western activist and campaigner for the rights of Africans, Nathalie must investigate the involvement of a Zimbabwean terrorist group.
But when a young colleague unearths a suspicious laboratory in eastern Java that may be producing biochemical weapons, Nathalie is immersed in a violent world of corruption and bioterrorism, which is closer to home than she thinks.
I am delighted to share with you an extract from Martin Granger’s new novel, Drugs to Forget. It is scarily relevant and all too plausible….
The explosion could be heard five blocks away. In the cafés of downtown Harare people steadied their spilling coffee. They were not the first to feel the blast. The German Ambassador was given a brief warning by a flash of light, then a muffled sound, and then silence.
A few minutes later he slowly opened his eyes to see a cloud of dust swirling through a large hole in the once tiled roof. He was on his back, legs pinned to the floor by some sort of concrete object with iron bars sticking out of it. A man in a flak jacket wearing a black beret shone a torch into his eyes and mouthed something. It took a while for him to realise the man was shouting, but he couldn’t hear a thing.
The embassy was a small unassuming building with ornamental porticos and art deco styled bay windows. It had a yellow German plaque on the wall bearing the familiar black eagle. That was now all in the past tense.
The plaque had disappeared along with half of the front wall. Special Forces climbed over the rubble to pick through the debris. Three members of the clerical staff, two of them African, were dead, buried under bricks and mortar. Those in the back offices had survived; some just covered in dust, others like the ambassador with broken bones. They carried him out on a stretcher.
Within hours a forensic team were picking over the details. A crude bomb, an effective one but crude nevertheless. Probably did more damage than intended. It had been placed under a structural pillar, one under investigation by the embassy’s surveyor. A crack had been reported several weeks ago. But even if the bombers had not meant to bring down half the building, it was no consolation to the dead.
Lloyd Bamba showed his ID to a uniformed officer. Journalist, Zimbabwe Times. He was waved away with a threatening gesture of an M4 machine gun. After taking some surreptitious pictures with his phone he retreated and went back to his office. The files on bombings in Harare were sketchy. The mid-eighties, a huge explosion blamed on South African covert forces rumoured to be targeting the liberation movement in exile.
The late nineties, a blast in the Sheraton, the venue for a Commonwealth summit. Closer to home, two attacks on his rival newspaper The Daily News in 2000 and 2001. Allegedly instigated by Zimbabwean security forces for its anti-presidential propaganda. Seemingly no connective thread with any of them.
Lloyd turned to his editor.
‘Can’t seem to find a common lead, I’ll have to go back when the dust has settled.’ He suddenly realised the pun. ‘I mean that metaphorically; when those twitchy guys with guns have relaxed a bit. Any ideas?’
The editor turned his screen towards Lloyd. ‘Only this on WikiLeaks; from their Global Intelligence files. Some sort of chatter about that bomb blast in Harare Central Police Station around election time. Police blamed the opposition party, others citing ZANU-PF. One common theme though.’
Lloyd peered at the text on the screen. ‘Which is?’
‘All of the authors, including the US Defence Intelligence Agency, agree that there are no active militant groups in Zimbabwe.’
Lloyd went back to his desk and started downloading the photographs from his phone. One caught his eye. He enlarged it and examined the image on his laptop.
‘By the look of this I think that might have just changed.’
Lloyd waited until dusk to make his way back to the embassy. This time he went via the grounds of the polytechnic. He entered the main building and climbed the staircase to the top floor.
From here he had a view across Prince Edward Street and towards the roof of the damaged embassy. The area had been cordoned off and an armoured car sat at the entrance.
He could see that if he approached the site from the girl’s high school there was a small gap in the perimeter where he might gain access. He descended the stairs, strode across the street and through the high school as if he belonged.
To a passer-by he would be taken as a teacher. Parts of the embassy were draped in orange striped tape, a few disinterested soldiers hovered around. Lloyd crossed one of the lawns confidently as if taking a short-cut home. No one seemed to notice. As he had anticipated the vigilance level had dropped and it was getting dark so he cast few shadows. He took out his phone, studied the picture and made his way to the spot. There it was. Under a piece of rubble a charred piece of paper. He was bending down to pick it up when he was startled by a shout.
‘Halt, don’t move. Put your hands on your head.’
Lloyd was wondering how he was going to put his hands on his head without moving when a steel barrel was thrust into his back.
‘On your head, I said,’ snapped the voice.
Lloyd slowly crumpled the paper into a ball and put his hands into the air.
‘Turnaround!’ The order was shouted.
Without lowering his arms Lloyd gradually rotated his body to face an intimidating soldier who was aiming his gun at him.
‘Oh it’s you,’ barked the soldier. ‘The journalist. I thought I told you to disappear.’
‘Only doing my job,’ said Lloyd quietly.
‘And my job is to shoot intruders,’ retorted the soldier.
‘I’m sorry, I thought that …’
‘I’m not interested in what you think. Get out, and if I see you here again I’ll shoot first and ask questions afterwards.’
Lloyd deliberately lowered his arms, keeping his fist tightly closed. ‘I’ll go, but if there’s anyone that can give me an interview.’
‘You’re pushing it son. Get out of my sight or the only interview you’ll get is in a prison cell.’ The soldier gestured to the exit with his weapon. ‘Now!’
Lloyd picked his way across the masonry, the concrete and dust crunching underneath his feet. He didn’t look back. He had what he had come for in his right hand. A leaflet left by the bombers. One of probably many that they had placed to promote their cause.
The only problem for them was that the explosion had been so immense that the pamphlets had been scattered to the winds. A bombsite wasn’t the place to read it so Lloyd made his way to the Book Café on the corner of Sixth Street. The café was a place for actors, musicians and writers. A space where artists liked to exchange ideas. It had been shut down for a while but now had relocated to a building near the Holiday Inn. It was the one place where Lloyd felt comfortable.
There was a show on that night and people had started to gather in the bar. He ordered a beer and sat at a small table in the corner. The ball of paper in his hand was badly damaged. He slowly unwrapped it and smoothed it out on the table top. It was charred and torn but he could still make out the cheap printing.
The grammar was poor but the message was clear. The West should stop exploiting African resources or they would get more of this. Lloyd assumed ‘this’ referred to the destruction by the bomb. The top portion of the pamphlet was missing but he could just about make out a logo. A capital E was followed by a large X, the strokes of which extended above the letters either side of it.
Lloyd put two and two together and guessed at the acronym. WEXA; the Western Exploitation of Africa. The name was not unfamiliar to him. Despite the claims of WikiLeaks’ Global Intelligence files Lloyd had heard rumours about this group in this very café.
The gossip was that this was neither a pro or anti-government lobby, but an extremist group with a grudge against Western involvement in African affairs. No clear-cut agenda apparently, just a small group of very angry young men. They were thought to be harmless malcontents. Well they weren’t harmless now. Lloyd folded up the paper and made his way back to the office to write up his piece.
About Martin Granger
Martin has been making documentary films for thirty years. In that time he has won more than 100 international film awards. His work has ranged from directing BBC’s Horizon to producing a BAFTA nominated science series for Channel 4. His novels, although fiction, are based upon his experience in the film industry. He lives in Wimbledon with his wife Jacqueline.
Follow Martin on Twitter: @mgrangerbooks
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