Sentinel Five - British Spy Fiction
MELBOURNE DOCKS, AUSTRALIA – 18th JUNE 1966
The four ghosts stood, huddled in the darkness of the night, hidden behind the crates, boxes and containers that lined the dockside. Ghosts, while not an accurate description, fitted their profiles perfectly. They were men who knew how to conceal themselves in the night, they wore black Dockers coats and knitted caps, and for the past hour they had managed to successfully stay concealed from the regular workers who moved supplies and cargo onto the numerous container ships. All were armed with razor sharp commando knives and all were ready to use them to lethal effect in order to complete their mission. This job needed to be done quietly, if it was to be a successful extraction.
Their leader stood at the forefront, his team flanking him. Colonel Stephen Masterman, Head of the Redaction Unit for the British Secret Intelligence Service, lifted the binoculars to his eyes and peered at the container ship’s landing ramp as he waited for his agent to appear. The man they were waiting for was a half Portuguese/half Chinese heroin pipeline smuggler by the name of Raymond Yu. Yu was a sub-lieutenant in the almost mythical Karasu-Tengu organisation and had been persuaded to sell out his employer for a one-time payment from the British. SIS wanted the ‘Raven’ – the man himself, the leader – Redacted. The Chief’s orders were clear. “Make him talk, Stephen, use whatever damned method you wish, but get the location of the Raven himself,” the Chief had whispered at their final covert meeting in London.
Masterman had searched and gathered intelligence, and plotted and planned. But so far, his target had been elusive. Yu’s leader had money, intelligence and resources and knew how to stay hidden while still being able to strike out at his enemies and kill them. So far, the Raven had assassinated four of Masterman’s operatives from the Redaction unit.
First, Spence had been slaughtered in Istanbul, then Trench had disappeared off the face of the Earth in Macau, then Marlowe... then Burch. All had been aimed at penetrating and assassinating the head of the organisation, all had been killed. Now Redaction was severely depleted; the remaining two Redactors had been assigned to cover a mission in the Middle East and Masterman had been left with little option but to call in a ‘favour’ from his old wartime Special Forces Regiment. He wasn’t expecting trouble with the extraction, but just as a precaution, he’d felt it was best to have a small number of good men backing him up. Not that they were the men he would have preferred to have by his side, but they were good, nonetheless. His ideal back-up man was no longer a player in the game. He’d removed himself from SIS several years before, when he’d retired himself from fighting the secret war. Masterman had learned the hard way with agents that things could go awry quickly, so he contented himself with the seconded soldiers from the military elite. They stood in silence for several moments more and then, in the distance, he became aware of something new happening – a car, its headlights dimmed, pulled up just short of the gangplank to the nearest container vessel. Three men got out of the maroon Ford Falcon. They were tough-looking Chinese, dressed in sombre black suits. The bodyguards.
Masterman waved an almost casual hand to his men and watched as they moved away, melting into the darkness. He imagined them creeping nearer, getting ready to launch from a concealed position to eliminate their ‘dead-eye’s’, should Yu and his security team decide to cut up rough. Once the Special Forces team were in position, he turned his attention back to the car and saw the man he’d been waiting for exiting the vehicle. He was tall and well composed, and even in this half-light, Masterman could make out the man’s half Asiatic features. Yu and his bodyguard team began to walk towards the agreed rendezvous point, just north of Pier 41. When they were twenty yards away, Masterman stepped out of the darkness and approached them.
“Sentinel?” asked Yu, sounding relieved.
Masterman nodded and held out a hand. “Please, this way, we have a vehicle waiting for you.”
The truck would take them along the harbour to a fast boat and from there, to a safe house down the coast where Yu could be de-briefed about the Raven. After that, he would be returned to his ‘normal’ life without anyone the wiser. He would be back at his office first thing in the morning and one hundred thousand US Dollars richer, thanks to British intelligence.
Yu turned, said something to his security team and began to step towards his new protector when the blast of automatic gunfire took out the two bodyguards to Yu’s right hand side. Bullets pounded into their heads and the two men collapsed like rag-dolls. What followed was a hiatus of terror and confusion. Masterman was aware of his Special Forces team emerging from the shadows at speed, rushing to quickly move him to safety and provide body cover. Two of them died on the spot, before they were able to reach him. The men on the dockside were running and jumping to find any kind of cover, until they were able to ascertain where the sniper was located.
Masterman crouched down behind a crate, but was clearly able to see the scene before him. He heard the chatter of gunfire again and the last of Yu’s bodyguard was taken in the back, sending him sprawling, dead, onto the cobbles. Masterman, ever the soldier, looked up and was able to see the muzzle flash from the sniper’s position. He could just about make out the dark figure perched on top of a block of containers, the M-16 Assault rifle in the killer’s hands was even now searching around for more targets. Masterman had spent enough time under fire in his career to recognise the maelstrom of a massacre and whoever the hidden sniper was, he was good. So far, all his shots had hit their targets with no misses. His priority now was to get his agent, Yu, out of the killing zone and to safety. He caught the eye of the remaining Special Forces soldier who was concealed behind a barricade and gave the hand signal for him to get to Yu and evacuate him. The soldier nodded, took a breath and was up and running. Almost immediately, Masterman was also on his feet and moving. Two targets! No sniper, no matter how good, could take out two targets simultaneously.
Masterman ran, but before he’d taken ten paces he heard the next volley of shots as they whizzed past him and he saw the soldier go down with a shot to the head. Masterman changed direction, frantically seeking cover from the sniper and jumped the last few feet until he was safe behind an abandoned stack of pallets. He searched around for an escape route... nothing... and then he remembered the car that Yu and his bodyguards had arrived in. If he could get Yu to make the mad dash to reach him behind the pallets – a little over twelve feet – then there was a chance that they could make it to the car and escape.
Masterman held out a hand, beckoning towards the man he’d been sent here to extract. “Come on, move, damn it! It’s your only hope!”