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August 14 2012 18:20:31.
Today Saturday 25 May 2013 08:33:43
"You already know them."
She looked puzzled.
"Colin, Finbar, Simon and me."
She was now totally confused.
"Think about it. Who has been fighting a terrorist war for years? We
showed the Afghans what PIRA use, we showed them how to make the timer
units. PIRA's stuff is easy to make, reliable and it works. It's the best
improvized kit in the world. We even use it ourselves, so why not show our
new best mates? That's our job, right: to help fuck up the bad boys."
The next evening in Pakistan was spent constructing a sit rep that took
the piss out of the int collator who'd thought up this little PIRA gem, and
she found it as funny as I did, which was all rather nice, because I was
finding that I liked the way her nose twitched when something amused her and
her face creased into a big, radiant smile.
It was strange that we got on so well, because in many ways we were
chalk and cheese. I had joined the Army because I was too thick to do
anything else. I'd seen the adverts that said I could be a helicopter pilot
serving Queen and country, and an uncle of mine, who was an ex serviceman
told me that girls loved a uniform. As far as I was concerned, all you had
to do to get permanently tanned and laid was saunter down to the recruiting
office. To a sixteen-year-old kid who thought that the world beyond my south
London housing estate was just hearsay, it was no wonder the posters sucked
me in. I couldn't wait to go to Cyprus wherever that was and fly my
helicopter over beaches packed with girls who were just gagging for me to
land and let them play with my joystick.
Strangely, however, that wasn't quite the way things turned out. I took
the entry tests, but the Army seemed to take the view that somebody who
could only just about do up his own boot laces without getting confused was
not about to take sole charge of a multimillion-pound Chinook. So, the
infantry it was, then.
Sarah, on the other hand, was smart. Private Benjamin she wasn't. Not
that I knew much about her; ironically, she was just as good as I was at not
giving anything away. No, I realized later, she was better. And to be honest
that pissed me off. I wanted to know all about her strengths and weaknesses,
her hopes and fears, her likes and dislikes, because armed with that
information I could properly plan and carry out an attack on her expensive
designer underwear. Since part of our cover while in Pakistan was that we
were a couple and had to share the same hotel room much to Colin's fury I
thought I might be in with a chance. At least, that was at the back of my
mind at the start. I soon surprised myself by finding that, more than to get
into her pants, I wanted to get inside her head. I realized I actually liked
her. I liked her a lot, and I'd never felt that way about anyone before.
As time went by, however, I was making no progress. I could never get
any sort of handle on who this woman really was. It was like playing a
computer game and never getting past level one. It wasn't that she was
aloof; she was a great mixer. She'd go out with the team, and even accepted
dinner with me a couple of times. She had a way of making me feel like a
puppy jumping around at her feet waiting for a doggie treat. I knew, though,
that I had the dreamer's disease, and that nothing would happen between us.
What the fuck would she want from someone like me, apart from my ability to
rip people apart for her if they got too scary?
On that point I'd obviously acquitted myself all right, because Sarah
was the one who suggested that I apply for a job with the service once I
lefr the Regiment. Even now, after five years, I still didn't know if I
should kiss her for that, or give her the good news with a two-pound ball
I drank more beer and tried to watch the TV screen in front of me, but
really I couldn't be assed. I thought back again to the Afghanistan job. The
United States and its allies gave tens of thousands of assault rifles and
rocket-propelled grenades, millions of rounds of ammunition and hundreds of
Stinger missiles to the mujahedin. By the time the war ended in 1989 the
muj's stock of Stingers was far from exhausted, and the CIA soon had a
multimillion-dollar reward operation going, in an attempt to get them back
before they were sold to any terrorist group who fancied a couple to play
with. As far as I knew, the offer still stood.
I turned onto my side, trying to get comfortable, and thought that
maybe I should be going back to try and get some of that reward for myself.
It was about time I made some money.