(Editor’s note: Today, The Rap Sheet presents the first installment of a never-before-seen, three-part short story by UK novelist Tom Cain, the creator of shadowy “accident man” Samuel Carver [Assassin]. It comes with the following disclaimer from Cain himself: “The [Samuel] Carver novels may contain elements based on actual events, but the events they depict are pure fiction, as are all the characters in them. Nor do I want anyone to feel that the events described in this story are any kind of incitement to violent action of any kind, against anyone. So “Bloodsport” will play by the same rules as The Accident Man. That book included the fictional killing of an unnamed princess in the Alma Tunnel, Paris. Similarly, [in “Bloodsport”] Carver will be stalking an unnamed, fictional British prime minister. It’s a story, pure and simple. Above all, though, I am in the business of writing thrillers. That means that stories twist and endings are uncertain. People reading this may feel sure they know what is going to happen. When they read the opening lines of the first episode and find themselves sharing the view through Carver’s sniper sight, they may be even more convinced of the likely outcome. But in fiction, as in life, nothing ever works out quite the way one expects ...”)
“Bloodsport” © 2009 Tom Cain
Looking through the sniper sight as the couple left their holiday home and walked down the path between the rhododendrons, down to the gate where a scrum of photographers, reporters, and TV crews were waiting, it was the wife Carver felt sorry for. He had nothing against her. Quite liked her, in fact, as much as you can like anyone you’ve never met or even spoken to. From everything he’d seen, she seemed sensible and down-to-earth. She looked like she was doing her level best to show that there was at least one sane person in the country who still thought her husband was up to the job. Carver thought she was wrong, but he admired her loyalty in trying.
So the fact that this perfectly pleasant woman would soon be wiping blood off her simple, unpretentious summer dress--chosen, he supposed, in the hope of pleasing all the bitchy columnists who’d accuse her of dowdiness if she looked too plain, or vulgarity if she went for anything too expensive in these recessionary times--well, that bothered him.
Not enough to call the whole thing off: but it bothered him nonetheless.
Her husband, though--the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and First Lord of the Treasury--he was a different matter. Carver had a bone to pick with him.
After all the politicians’ lies, the corruption, the greed, the mountainous debts, the obsessive control freakery and the rampant incompetence, it had taken the death of a single soldier in Afghanistan to shift Carver out of the general herd of pissed-off, moaning, but essentially inert citizens, into a group of one: the man who was going to do something about it.
The soldier’s name was Mike Swift. In the newspapers, he’d been described as a major in the Royal Marines. The reports said he’d been attached to the British forces’ headquarters staff in Helmand province. They said he’d died in a helicopter accident.
The newspaper reports were bullshit.
Carver didn’t need anyone to tell him that Swift, though his original commission was indeed in the Marines, had actually served as an officer in the Special Forces. He’d arrived in the SBS as a first lieutenant, newly elevated from one elite force into an even more exclusive group of fighting men during Carver’s last couple of years in uniform. Carver remembered Swift well: tough despite his youth and inexperience, resourceful, respected by his men, and blessed with a thoughtful, reflective side to his nature that always conveyed a sense that he saw the bigger picture. Even as a junior officer, Swift had clearly been destined for bigger things. Now he was lying in a coffin, awaiting his last flight back to RAF Lyneham.
It took a call to another former SBS man, Bobby Faulkner, to tell Carver what had really happened. By “accident” the Ministry of Defence did not mean that a helicopter had crashed. The truth was, it had never turned up at all. When Swift had called in, requesting immediate extraction from a job up-country that had just turned critical, he’d been out of luck. The British Army had been forced to act like a third-rate radio-cab company on a busy Saturday night. There weren’t any aircraft available. They were all busy. Those that weren’t already being used were out of service: “Sorry, sir, have you tried the Americans?”
The Taliban made sure that Swift’s body was found, just as they’d done with his red-coated predecessors, back in 1841. There’s something about a body with the skin flayed off its limbs, the entrails neatly piled upon a slit-open stomach, and a crudely carved, gaping wound where the genitalia should be that sends a powerful message.
The general public had not heard the message. Great trouble had been taken to ensure they never would. But Carver had inside channels unavailable to the average punter. He’d heard the message all right. And the moment he did, he decided to act upon it.
(To be continued)