Captain Sharpe’s Trial
‘Fight, For I Shall Give You Strength’
(Psalm 23) “…The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me by still waters…yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”
Looking in the mirror I almost didn’t recognise myself, my long blonde hair which I was growing out for John had been cut and dyed black and my eyes were now brown due to the contact lenses I was wearing. This change of appearance though, was essential for the operation I was about to command as SDF Intelligence had received a communication from a contact in the Dead Zone claiming to be my former captor’s Second in Command. ‘Bull’ as he was known, was hoping to put forward an unknown proposal to the SDF with conditions; that the meeting would take place in the Dead Zone, that no one would know of our meet and, that he’d only talk to Captain Kerry Sharpe. When Jim came to the house to ask me I was ‘spitting nails’ angry that they would ask this of me considering they had my covert status on hold, but Jim and I both knew I’d say yes, so I got myself sorted for the meet. As usual, I told Liam and Dianna that I was going away for a couple of days and they knew not to ask any questions. Normally they’d be supportive, but Dianna in particular protested. I told her my usual line of ‘This is for the Defence of Scotland’ but part of me felt like I’d lied to my daughter, I wanted to go, I needed to go. I hoped that this operation would indeed secure my covert status, but only time would tell, so in the meantime, I began planning the mission. I’d said yes to Jim pretty quick and I was confident; I’d carried out and even ran operations like this countless times but I had conditions of my own. I was to be in full command, I’d choose my own team and that I’d have Armour Infantry Corps on standby if things went wrong, Jim had no choice.
For this op’ I’d chosen four men from various branches of the Special Forces to go covert and I needed the best as this was a dangerous one. They all came from the Special Services but one, in particular, was a close friend called Major Paul McLaughlin or ‘Pastor Paul’ as he was known. Paul not only commanded his own AIC Special Air Service Troop but was also the AIC Senior Pastor as most of the lads in the AIC were now Christians. He was an individual I could trust implicitly and I felt better with him being there. He knew I was nervous, but I knew he’d support me and more importantly, watch my back. I needed this level of backup as the village that this guy had chosen for the meet was about five miles south of the Hadrian Line and he also wanted to meet in a dank, drinking house in the middle of town. Although I’d done these kinds of meets before, it was a high-risk operation so we had to move to our forward position in a Safe House on the edge of the village and plan the op’ together. From there the plan was that two lads would pose as Dead Zone bandits and enter the pub first to cover me, Paul would then cover me in the backroom for the meet itself and another lad would remain outside to cover me leaving. Meanwhile, I’d be posing as a Dead Zone ‘Easy Girl,’ and the plan, which Bull knew to expect, was that I’d make myself known in the pub and catch his attention by seducing him to the room. This was a common situation for these bandits, especially the high-rankers so the hope was that he’d take me alone to the back room, so we could talk in private.
As I stood looking at myself in the mirror, I had to admit that I thought I looked good for a woman in her forties, after all, everything was still in the right places for the moment. However, I needed to look like a Dead Zone easy girl so I couldn’t overdo it. The Dead Zone girls didn’t exactly have access to great clothing, although they could buy some tacky dresses from the black market, so my look had to be just right. I didn’t want to stand out too much and look out of place but at the same time, I needed to look better than the girls there to make the plan work. So, I pulled on a short blue dress with a low cut top and adorned myself with some high heels and with a bit of lipstick, my ‘look’ was ready to go. I had to look at myself and think I looked the part on the outside, but inside, my nerves were beginning to jangle and before I knew it, I had a tear running down my face as I thought of John. I couldn’t believe it at the time, but I actually heard that sentence again, ‘Fight, For I Shall Give You Strength’ so as Pastor Paul walked through the door of my dank Safe House bathroom I cracked a smile. “Hey there Kerry…you look beautiful love” “You think so? It’s not too over the top is it?” “No love just right, you look great and you’ll be great” “Mmm…I hope so…I was actually surprised you guys agreed to work with me you know, because it’s me.” Paul’s face turned serious and he came across to behind my back, put his hands on my shoulders and looked at me with a stare in the mirror. “Kerry you are the only reason we agreed…we trust you so I don’t want to hear that rubbish again, do copy that?” “Yes sir” “Kerry you are the best covert operative any of us have worked with so you just get your head on girl okay?” “Yes sir…thanks Paul, Arabella’s a lucky girl to have you” “Okay…right the lads are ready.”
I headed through and before I could open my mouth, Paul took us all into a circle to pray beforehand, which I’d normally have felt uncomfortable with, but that night, I really needed it. “Lord Jesus, we look to you as we carry out this operation to watch over each one us. Lord, give us sharp minds and quick thoughts, especially Kerry as she walks into this situation. Lord, give her a confidence in her heart about who she is and that me and the rest of the lads here trust her implicitly with our lives Lord. Give us all we need to pull this one off and bring us all home safe to the border, in Jesus Name. Amen…Captain Sharpe…I now hand command over to you.” “Thanks Paul, thank you guys. I know this is an unusual situation because I’ve been out of the loop for weeks, but I just want to say thanks for trusting me on this one. This guy is a slippery character to say the least and I know him very well through the intelligence community, but you know we have no idea what he’s called this meet for so, let’s get this job done and go home eh?” “Rodger that ma’am…a walk in the park…by the way ma’am, are you doing anything later this evening? Wondering if you’d like some dinner…” “Ha-ha-ha, yeh looks like I’ll be pretty busy.” The lad’s joke, due to the way I looked, was a respectful one and having a laugh really broke the tension and settled me down. I’d done these op’s many times and I didn’t mind showing my true feelings to the lads, but out there I’d need to be confident, pushy and seductive so I just hoped I’d get my head together. I knew the lads had me covered, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t outrun a bullet so we ran the plan over once more and with that, we set off.
Two lads left the Safe House first to get themselves into the bar posing as Dead Zone bandits and half an hour later, I’d make my way with another lad covering me on the street. Meanwhile, Pastor Paul would make his way to the rear of the building where I’d open the door to the backroom and let him in. I needed him there for two reasons; one was for my own protection, Paul might have been a Christian, but he wouldn’t have hesitated to drop a target if I was in harm’s way and number two, I had a little surprise for Bull if he didn’t want to cooperate. So with that, I headed off out onto the village streets. This village was fairly close to the Hadrian Line and many were actually friendly, especially to missionaries and aid workers, but at night time, like anywhere else in the world, it had its dangers. The last thing any of us wanted was to get ourselves into a situation with some random drunk or mugger so I needed to get to the bar quick and get this job done. As I walked down the street I slowly began to feel that confidence rise up and I needed it, I couldn’t walk down the street all submissive and gentle. I had to be brash and confident to blend into the Dead Zone crowd and keep up the act. Rounding the last corner, I could see the bar at the end of the street and I gave my last verbal communication to the lads, it was now time to get the act on. “Okay lads this is Cougar One going silent.” The drinking house itself was just a smelly old pub and the place looked like it was full to capacity, but I wanted to get as close to Bull as I possibly could so I tried to make my way through the crowd. Halfway through I passed one of the undercover soldiers in our team acting drunk and leaning against the bar and then further up the line, the other was sitting with one of the Dead Zone easy girls. The lads looked the part, they had fuzzy beards, long hair and wore the usual bandit clothing, so they didn’t draw any attention to themselves, which was more than could be said for me.
I needed to get Bull’s attention and quick before I picked myself up any unwanted guests, but as I got closer I could see him give me a gentle nod. I knew this guy pretty well, I’d gathered a lot of intel’ on him in the past and, he was present at one of my interrogations during my captivity. I headed to the bar as to not arouse any suspicion and ordered a drink, next I faced the back of the bar and struck a pose to make myself known and within a minute, I saw two arms appear at either side of me, it was showtime. I could see the tattoos on the hands of Bull’s bodyguards as he rested them on the bar and then I felt his breath on my neck. “Hey…Bull wants you to come over and sit with him” “Mmm…and what does Bull want?” As I spoke I had a fleeting thought that maybe this guy had seen me before from my captivity. I had to be careful so I was going to make sure and not face him and head straight over to Bull so that as few people saw my face as possible.
“What Bull wants…he takes” “You’d better back-off then big boy.” I gently but forcefully barged his arm out of the way to which he just laughed and then I walked straight over to Bull. He was sitting at a table with some girls around him; I was concerned about too many people seeing my face so I moved the table aside and sat on his knee facing directly at him. I got close to his face and put on a confident look, but said nothing to the laughs of the men around and the scorn of the girls at the table. I’d been amongst bandits for a long time and I knew these guys and girls respected a bit of strength so I put on as big a show as possible without turning my face. But very soon, I’d annoyed his girl. “Hey! Skank! You’d better be moving from my man!” This was a bit of improvisation in the plan so I could take Bull to the back room alone, I wanted him out as quickly as I could so I matched the girl’s stare. “I tell you what little girl…you’d better step back up out of my face before I push yours in!” I moved in a little further towards her and she backed off so I grabbed Bull’s collar, stood up and led him through toward the back of the bar keeping my face turned away from everyone to some cheers and whistles. As I led him through the last of the crowd, I could feel the men touching me as I passed them. These guys shared the girls so for me, this was all part of the job.
I kept the seductive smile on as he opened the door and led me into his back office, but as soon as he warned the lads not to disturb us, I got my business head on. This guy was going to be trouble, but I needed to be professional, confident and make sure I didn’t put him in the position of doing me favours. I had to control the situation, making sure that I had the upper hand at all times, this meant my facial expressions and my body language had to be right, but this guy knew a little about me but, I knew a lot about him. “Cougar Two, this is Cougar One, I’m with the target” “Rodger that Kerry, ten seconds.” I headed over to the back door to allow Pastor Paul to enter the room as my bodyguard and as I saw his face, I instantly relaxed. I’d met with contacts in the Dead Zone before and my back-up was always hiding out close by but this time, I needed someone with me and I knew that Paul could handle anything. “So Kerry, take a seat” “No thanks Bull I’ll stand” Even from the outset Bull was trying to control the situation, I couldn’t follow his commands and give him the upper-hand so I’d wait a while and then sit in my own time. “Well, I have to say Kerry you like a damn sight finer than the last time I saw you eh?” “Yeh…three grown men beating up a woman…it was another proud moment for you eh?” “Hmm, funny that…I never hit you Kerry…I helped you up remember?” “Hmm, funny that Bull…you don’t seem so tough now…not with a ‘six-foot four’ Royal Marine’s Commando standing behind you?” He smiled and lit a cigarette with a quick turn to Paul but Paul kept his steely look. “So Bull…why me?” “I trust you…you seem like a person who wouldn’t break their word. You held up for quite some time in your interrogations…before the Armour Infantry Corps arrived.”
I sat down and smiled, I needed to be cool, professional and above all, keep an upper-hand as he obviously had a serious offer to make after going to all this trouble. It was clear he wanted us jumping through hoops for him, it wasn’t going to happen so I just sat there waiting for him to speak. “So you’ve obviously gone to a lot effort Kerry…let me guess, SAS all round covering you?” “Hmm, yes but you’re special Bull, so the Armour Infantry Corps are on standby…just in case you know?” It didn’t matter who you were or what weapons you had, Bull knew that if things went wrong, that the AIC would have been there in no time and I could see his expression visibly change. As he sat forward I could see him thinking so again, I waited, I was going to be in control. “Put simply Kerry…I want out…I want a way out of this life. Things in the Dead Zone are fun and all that, but em…looking at my home, England, the nightclubs, fine restaurants…I need out and I know you can make that happen.” “Hmm…yes, Bull, I could authorise that right now with the English Defence Force but em…it would have to be something good, real good so come on…what you thinking?” “Before I leave I’ll give you all of the information you need, enemy movements, hits that are in the pipeline, supplies…anything you need to know” “In exchange for what, a safe haven, amnesty from past crimes?” “All of the above Kerry…all of the above” “So why would I authorise a…let’s face it…a dream deal to a guy who is quite willing to leave his physically disabled sister behind in the Dead Zone?”
His face changed and knew I’d hit a nerve, there was no way we would have ever used her as a bargaining chip, but I needed him on his back-foot, he wasn’t happy. “Well Kerry, if you’d let me finish, the deal would be for us both.” “I’ll tell you what Bull…why don’t you wipe that look off of your face? Don’t you dare even think for a moment, that I’d use an innocent girl as leverage, I’m an SDF Officer not a Dead Zone bandit! She’d get a pass for free, but…Bull you’re offering me things we already know…we know enemy movements, hits, supplies…if this is all you’ve got then we’ve gone to a lot of trouble for nothing son.” This was the part where we were coming close to a deal but I couldn’t put myself in the position of giving him the upper-hand so I’d need more to consider his offer. “Kerry…you know I could give you a lot of inside information that you don’t know….information on hits, high ranking bandits even rival groups.” “Rival groups…like the Kelman’s from down south?” “Yeh…just about anything you need…I give you all of the information, you take me and my sister away from this life, that’s the deal.” This information would have been good but I’d need something far more and a great deal of leverage to get it so it was time for my little surprise. “Major, the laptop if you please” Paul stepped forward and opened up our mini-laptop to the frown of Bull and as my pre-recorded tape of his voice began to play, I could see the colour drain from his face. I’d recorded him months before when he was speaking to one of his buddies about how he’d killed Kelman’s younger brother without them knowing. Bull and the Kelman’s were rivals in the Dead Zone, but there was a respect and as I looked at his face, he knew I had the upper hand. He knew if I passed this tape to them, that his life wouldn’t be worth living.
“So Bull, I’ll tell you what I want…I want twelve full months from you in this Dead Zone as my Informant…I want enemy movements, information on meetings, changes in command and just about anything else I can think of…I’ll issue you with a covert earpiece so when we call, you jump and I don’t care if you’re lying in the bath or with a woman. After that…I’ll see what I can do and then maybe, maybe this tape will disappear.” As I looked at him I could see he was lost for words and no real cards to play, reading his face, it was a mixture of knowing he was in a corner and anger but he knew he had no choice. ”Right, em…Kerry…my sister gets out now, she gets taken straight to England.” I paused and took a quick sip, I was in control and I needed him flapping, but I knew I could authorise his sister leaving so this wasn’t an issue. “I can do that…so do we agree Bull?” “Yes, but em…she gets handed over my way…to the English SAS and taken to a safe haven in England” “I can arrange that.” There wasn’t much else to say but we’d only been in the backroom for about ten minutes. I didn’t want his lads getting suspicious, so as much as it pained me, we all remained in the room for a little longer. As we sat waiting, I could tell he was angry and he didn’t like the fact that I’d had the upper-hand so I was waiting for some comments to push my buttons.
“So Kerry, em…heard about a soldier being shot on the Line a few weeks back…Sharpe was it? No relation was he?” He sat smug and despite my best attempts, my calm face broke and he knew he’d hit a nerve. I could tell he was going to use it to good effect, but before I could open my mouth, I could see Pastor Paul moving forward. Paul remained so calm and looked steely, he drew up his sidearm slowly, pressed it against Bull’s forehead and stared at him. I’d been scared on this mission, but the expression on Paul’s face sent a chill down my spine as he stared at Bull. I could see Bull begin to physically shake as Paul continued to stand saying nothing. “Say what you said about my brother Marine again.” Another chill went down my back, I wasn’t actually sure if this was a show or if Paul was genuinely going to pull the trigger but you could have cut the tension with a knife. “Who ordered the hit on the Line?” Paul remained in a calm but intimidating pose and I could see that Bull was flapping but all of a sudden it hit me, this guy knew who ordered the hit that killed my husband. “Bull…Kerry might be under orders to bargain with you son, but I’m not…who ordered the hit?” “It em…it wasn’t me, I swear” “The shot was taken from your side of the fence and you don’t know? Bull…who ordered the hit?” Paul pressed the pistol a little harder on his forehead and Bull began to really shake, I just sat there on the edge of my seat. “The Kelman’s asked me to make sure the shooter got away from the scene…but the AIC turned up before we could get him…I had nothing to do with it otherwise, it was the Kelman’s…I swear.”
Paul continued to stand and for a moment, I’d wished he’d pull the trigger, but he was doing his job and got the intel’. “Your first communication to our Intelligence Branch will be the name and the location of who ordered the hit, now Bull…listen to me very carefully…the Intelligence Branch operates under strict orders, the Armour Infantry Corps doesn’t. If we receive the wrong information or none at all…I’ll be coming for you and Bull…never mention my brother’s name again…are we clear on that?” Paul stepped back slowly and took up his original pose, I wasn’t sure how to feel but I knew it was time to go so without saying anything, Paul and I headed out the back door. As we got out Paul threw a jacket over me and pulled me close like I was his girlfriend and we headed away from the bar. “All call-signs this is Cougar One, we are moving to the RV, six minutes, six minutes.” I received back the three clicks from the lads and we made our way toward our meeting point. There we’d jump in the car, I’d change back into some warm clothes and from there, we’d rendezvous with an AIC Convoy patrolling in the Exclusion Zone. But we had about four miles to travel before we’d hit the finishing line. As we all met in the alley, I got dressed, we tooled up with assault rifles and then jumped in our car to head out of the village. The plan was to kill the lights on the car and allow Paul to drive us across country with his night-vision goggles and as the heaters in the car warmed up, I felt great. About halfway across though, we could see a bandit patrol vehicle coming in our direction with no way for us to avoid, it was time for another act.
“Okay Kerry, what’s the plan?” “Stop the car up here…you lads take off into the trees, I’ll pop the bonnet and make on as though the car has broken down…time to get my legs out again I suppose.” “Ha-ha, yes ma’am and em…what are you doing later again?” We all had a little chuckle but this could have been a serious one. I’d either be able to pass myself off as a confident female or, they’d attack me so it was time to get my act on again. The lads fanned out, but only so far, I then pulled off my trousers, but this time, I was keeping a firearm under my arm so I flicked on the car lights low, popped the bonnet and struck my pose. As the car rounded the corner, I could tell that they were pulling over so I turned and smiled confidently in their direction. I just hoped I could talk myself out of this one. Two guys got out and began walking toward me but before I knew it, they tried to rush me. Within seconds Paul was up out of the bushes and had grabbed one of them in a neck-lock and as the second guy came to me, I blocked and spun him around to do the same. This was a Special Forces choke-hold designed to either make an opponent pass out from lack of air or kill him, but as the SDF, we carried out no unnecessary killing so we’d just put these guys down. After a few seconds though, I knew I hadn’t got a good hold and the guy managed to spin me round so without thinking, I pulled my sidearm and double-tapped him with two bullets to the head. It was over in seconds and as he hit the floor I panicked and looked across at Paul as he laid the other bandit on the ground. “Kerry, let’s move, come on move!”