This book directly follows on from my first book Snipers. This time the chapters are split into four sections resembling the four seasons. Starting with Summer this book takes the reader through the various things experienced once a civil war has settled down into a war of attrition. Most of the rebels are fighting for the survival of their cause. This centers on their demands to get fair treatment from an oppressive government. The central government is not prepared to compromise on any of their policies. Their Prime Minister states that they will not negotiate with terrorists. Only the United Nations peace negotiations team members are sounding rational and reasonable in this hot debate. The Chief United Nations negotiator wants peace talks to continue. Meanwhile the United Nations continues to run refugee camps to shelter the most vulnerable people.
Our band of travelers has been reduced by one death. Freya Hill is dead! Her lover Dr. Roman Ruffe is so devastated by her death that he resigns from his lucrative hospital post. Roman moves to a country hospital to get away from the sorrowful city sights that remind him of his dead lover. Unfortunately he picks the wrong country hospital.
As for the Feelgood family, what is left of it, they are also leaving the city. The family is reduced in number by the death of Mrs. Mary Feelgood in a city suburban train bombing and the death of Mrs. Hilda Horan (nee Feelgood) from suicide. The old head of the family, Mr. Abraham Feelgood , is now an invalid. He suffered a stroke after shooting dead his son-in-law Mr. Lucas Horan. Everyone in the family blamed Lucas Horan for the suicide of his wife Hilda. Hilda's father had arranged the marriage and tolerated Lucas's many infidelities. Hilda had been his favorite daughter! Abraham Feelgood could not handle the public shame from Hilda's suicide. Luckily for him, he was a very rich man who had lots of friends in high office. These friends got him off any police investigation. The police were told to treat the shooting of Lucas Horan as a rebel atrocity. As such it came under federal legal jurisdiction. Of course there was no investigation by the spymaster's office, or any other federal agency. Still it was made clear that Mr. Feelgood had used up all his political capital. The Horan family also had political poppets in the federal government. They forced Abraham feelgood to leave the city for good.
Hear Feelgood was now the acting head of the family. She had resigned her post at her hospital. Now she was taking her father and her daughter to the family estate. This involved a road trip of three hundred kilometers. The Feelgood estate was almost directly due west of the city but not in rebel held territory. Hera's sister Hannah was going with them on this family retreat. Hannah had been Freya Hill's best friend and was grieving for Freya. She was still also grieving for her mother and her sister. Hannah had resigned from her city teaching position.
Adam Champion was in big trouble. He was being held in a military prison but could also face a murder charge. Adam was the last person to see the Australian spymaster Yves Machel before his assassination. The army wanted to court martial him but the state government wanted him tried for murder. This was not possible because of a law passed to protect serving military officers from murder charges under the Emergency War Powers Act. Governor-General Dent intervened in this clash of state and federal jurisdictions to suggest a compromise. Under his plan of legal procedure, Captain Adam Champion would first face a court martial . Once he was a citizen again he could then be tried for murder. Things looked pretty bleak for Adam on both counts.
At the United Nations refugee camp, two rebels were showing signs of great leadership. Firstly, the architect of the initial safe transit of rebel women, children and the elderly. He was called Ivan Shakata. As a result of this, Shakata had become the informal leader of these refugees. Owing to the unexpected death of a rebel alliance leader, Alice Shibata, a position on the rebel council was made available to this extraordinary civilian. When Shibata's faction objected, they were allowed to also include a replacement for their death representative. Shane Mullingah, Shibata's former aide, was also added to the rebel alliance leadership council.
Secondly, was an Iranian immigrant called Nahid Ahmeed. Her husband was a well known rebel fighter. But it was Mrs. Ahmeed's work to make things better for the refugee women, and their children, that got her accolades. She set up cooperative help groups, organised to send the children to the local school and set up a women's security force. Struggling mothers were given support with child care and meals. School aged children were given places at the local school, even if this did mean classes in the playground were unavoidable necessities. Women were protected from theft of food, assaults and rape by a strong refugee woman security team carrying very large sticks. When the older males complained about this to Shakata he told them that he fully supported Mrs. Ahmeed's efforts. Further he stated that he would personally punish any man guilty of raping female refugees. Furthermore he stated that anyone stealing from refugee families and assaulting woman or children would be punished under the principles of Sharia law. There were Islamic jurists in the refugee camp. Shakata planned to use them when necessary. Slowly the refuge camp became a secure and safe environment for desperate families whose younger male members were away fighting for the rebels.
The civil war was about to get much nastier for both sides. The government could now deploy its full military might to drive rebels out of the cities. Rebel held suburbs were bombed mercilessly. In retaliation, the rebel increased their use of car bombs, road side bombs and suicide bombers.
Arriving at the United Nations refugee camp, the largest one in Australia, Flint went looking for Ivan Shakata. He was about to introduce himself when Shakata beat him to it by exclaiming,
"Why if it isn't the great Cain Flint himself. I thought you were on the run from government trackers."
Flint winced when he recalled the many near misses he had with those self same trackers. But he replied calmly,
"Well trackers need a trail but I covered mine up too well."
Shakata laughed but Flint did not see any laughter in his eyes. Instead he heard Shakata ask,
"What can I do for you Mr. Flint?"
Flint squirmed when he heard the name that he regarded still as representing his father. So he made a request when he said,
"Please call me Cain . That other name makes me look for Dad."
Shakata was seeing a softer side to this famous killer. He was puzzled, so he enquired,
"How are your father and mother? "
Flint went pale as he replied,
"Not too good. They are both dead."
Shakata saw the pain in Flint's eye but needed to know how much steel was in his heart, so he pried deeper,
"Sorry to hear that, my condolences. What did they die of?'
The pain in Flint's eyes turned to red hot anger. His tone lowered the temperature of the air inside Shakata's tent. Flint barked out,
"Both of them died of pneumonia. It was the government's fault! That's five lives to get revenge for that are blood debts. If you add in my childhood mates killed by state police officers, then I still need to kill more government targets. I intend to exact a full revenge on government forces."
Shakata had all he needed now, so he tried to sound wise by saying.
"Revenge is a never ending road. Once you start on that road there is no rest."
Flint looked for a long drawn out moment into Shakata's eyes. He then said,
"That suits me. As long as I get to kill more government targets."
A shiver ran down Shakata's spine. He knew that he was standing in the presence of a cold hearted killer. So he quickly came to the main point.
"You have not answered my earlier question?''
Flint looked puzzled but soon worked out what Shakata was referring to, so he softened his tone as he stated,
" I am looking for a job with your team."
Now it was Shakata's turned to try to stare down Flint. Another mental stalemate had him replying carefully,
"You will need another identity! Luckily for you I can offer both these things. I need a top security officer. Want the job?'
Flint thought about this offer. He asked for some clarification,
"You mean you want a bodyguard?"
But Shakata shook his heard. He replied in a firm voice,
"I have bodyguards. No I need someone to handle all my security needs personally. Interested?'
This offer surprised Flint but he grabbed at it anyway,
"Yes.. sure...I am interested>'
Shakata needed a more definite answer, so he said,
"You don't seem to happy about the job."
Quick to retain this man's goodwill, Flint said,
"Its just that I have never done this work before. I have been a lone wolf most of my working life."
Happy that he had the man he wanted, Shakata was willing to be flexible. So he reassured Flint,
"You will pick it up as you go, its okay. I have never been a community leader before. We can do on-the-job training together."
Flint smiled and extended his hand,
"I'll be in on that, just don't expect too much."
It was whilst they were shaking hands that Flint heard the footsteps. Lots of them. Nervously he turned to face this unexpected danger. Few jobs he had done started off with such immediate action. But Flint was determined to prove himself. The many footsteps got closer as the noise of running got louder.
Doctor Roman Ruffe was also starting a new job. But he had already had an induction period. The doctor he was replacing was so grateful to have been transferred to Ruffe's city position that she had insisted on showing him the country based hospital. roman did not warn her about what she would face in a civil war ravaged city. He did not even tell her about her new posting. The loss of Freya had change Roman from a young softy into a hardened cynic. Rather uncharitably he thought,
"Let her find out for herself that life stinks. I give her two weeks before she realizes that it was better here away from all that shooting."
Roman wore a dark look permanently on his face. The woman doctor who he was replacing was struck with how it wiped away Roman's youth but enhanced his attractiveness. She now wished that her transfer was not taking her hundreds of kilometers away. Still she was going to the big smoke. There would be lots of men there for her to date. So she finished her tour with a polite tone of voice when she asked,
"Are there any final questions doctor?"
Roman stayed silent whilst managing to look even more sad. Misreading this outlook, she softly reassured him.
"Look its not too bad here. The teachers at the local school are "blow ins" like us."
Seeing Roman's quizzical look, she explained,
"Sorry that's bush speak for people who are sent here and only stay a short while. Which in this town means less than twenty years."
Laughing at her own joke, she shook Roman's hand then left the room.
Roman looked around his new office. He had a sickening flashback. In the solitude of that room he groaned out aloud,
"Freya! Freya! I will be with you soon my love. Wait for me."
The Feelgoods were arriving at the family estate. Hera, Hannah, Mossy and Abraham were welcomed like long lost neighbors. The estate manager, Mr. Frank Simmons, had the whole estate staff turn up to welcome this much loved family. Seeing his discomfort when he noticed the physical deterioration of Mr. Feelgood. Hera took charge by saying firmly,
"Mr. Simmons my father has a bad case of the flu. He wishes me to thank you and the staff for such a warm welcome. If you give us a few days we will meet with you all for a personal welcome."
Frank Simmons had not been deceived because he had got really close to the man who had hired him decades ago, but he still played along. He remembered Hera as a child. Even then it did not pay to question her motives. So he cheerily said,
"We were all looking forward to your arrival so very much. The Feelgood family is cherished in these parts. But let me also say that we were all so sad to hear about Mrs. Feelgood and Miss Hilda. And, of course, her husband. Those rebels have a lot to answer for in my book."
Seeing her father suddenly getting angry at the mention of his son-in-law, Hera quickly concluded with,
"Sorry everyone the long trip had taken its toll. Please excuse us. We will see you all tomorrow."
Taking their cue from a signal sent by Frank Simmons, most of the staff made a quick exit. But one elderly woman was not to be put off, she walked right up to Hera and Hannah. Then she said,
"What no welcome for your old nanny?"
Both girls squealed with delight and hugged this portly woman. They exclaimed,
"Nanny? We thought you had retired to your coastal cottage."
Their nanny, baptized Felicia Anne Upright but known locally as "Nanny" for obvious reasons, pretended to scold her former charges,
"Hera have you being using your inhaler like I taught you?" "Hannah what have you done to your hair? Let me comb it for you tonight>'
Both adult woman even sounded like little girls when they replied politely.
"Yes nanny dearest."
Then all three women were lost in hugs and kisses.
Suddenly a small face appeared from behind Hera. Nanny Upright suddenly went white. She exclaimed,
"Oh you gave me such a fright. You must be Mosser. Hello dear."
Hera spoke softly to this much loved woman,
"We all call her Mossy."
Nanny Upright showed genuine censure in her look. She exclaimed,
"I never approved of your father's nicknames. You know he called me "banana"? I told him off I can tell you. No this sweet little thing is too beautiful to be called after an insect. We will have to think of a better nickname won't we?"
Again the Feelgood women heard themselves chorus,
"Yes Nanny dearest."
Nanny Upright took Mossy's little hands and kissed both palms. She spoke in her ultra soft voice, looking right into the girls's eyes when she whispered,
"That's my special gift that I give all my special girls."
Mossy gave her a smile that instantly won her heart. But as Hannah took Mossy to show her the "gee gees" as Mossy called them, Nanny Upright sadly said to Hera,
"I knew your mother as a young girl. We were playmates. Its was like I was six again when I looked into your child's eyes. As for that smile, I remember it from my youth. She is your mother reborn."
Hera felt her heart swell as she said,
"I know I see it every day. It has helped me cope this last month. Nanny I miss Mummy so much."
Comforting a crying Hera came natural to this woman, so she said exactly the right thing ,
"I know. I miss her too Hera. She was my best friend. Until today I thought that there would never be another Mary Feelgood. Now I know how merciful God really is to us all. He sent us an angel in the form of a child, just like he did all those years ago when your mother was born."
Hera had to admit something to this loved woman,
"Nanny I don't believe in God anymore. Sorry but he can't exist as far as I can see."
Nanny Upright was not going to let this go, so she replied in kind,
"Luckily he believes in you. Listen to me Hera Ermentine Feelgood he exists in every good thing in your life. That child of yours is proof of that. Don't think I missed the signs of your old weakness in her breathing. She is asthmatic just like you were at her age. When your sainted mother had to go on those horrid overseas trips with your father, I sat at your bedside every night and prayed for your life. Here you are healthy and cured. You must sit watching your daughter struggle for breath. Well I thought of you as my second daughter. Every time you stopped breathing at night, I stopped breathing."
Now Hera was sobbing but still clutched this woman's hand in a cherished grip. Finally she said,
"I loved you as a second mother, Nanny. You could always calm my fears."
Nanny Upright was also crying when she said,
"I will always be there for you my little volcano."
Both woman now sat still next to each other as memories flooded their minds.
Adam Champion was in deep trouble. His court martial was not going well, with his army appointed lawyer warning him of certain defeat.
Then a surprise witness asked the court for permission to give evidence. The prosecuting major saw that it was the spymaster's former pet killer. A commando trained sniper known as Lieutenant Otrera Doras, this sniper had been seconded to the personal service of Australia's spymaster. So the army prosecutor raised no objections to her giving evidence. He was to regret this mistake.
In the witness box Lieutenant Doras said,
"I was there on duty when the spymaster was assassinated! I saw who shot the fatal bullet."
Forgetting his legal professor's warning about evidence given that has not been first checked, the cocky army prosecutor said,
"Good. Please tell the court who that killer was Lieutenant."
Lieutenant looked right at Champion as she exclaimed,
"It was Cain Flint!"
As the sounds of running feet were swamped by the noises of children's laughter, Shakata finally got control of his shaking body. He took pity on Flint by explaining,
"Sorry Flint but your facial expression was priceless."
Just then a large bunk of shouting children came racing around the corner of Shakata's tent. It was clear that they were in a race to be the first to touch Shakat's main tent pole. One young female got that honour. Shakata did not look surprised when he saw this girl be first to his tent. He exclaimed sternly, in a mock tone,
"Zaheer you are the oldest, you must give the younger ones a head start."
The young girl was not to be deprived of her victory, so she grumpily replied,
"I did give them a head start. They are just too slow in running."
Another girl who looked a lot like Zaheer scoffed at this, she interjected,
"Hah! You gave us only ten seconds start, I hear you jump from nine to twenty!"
Zaheer gave her sister a scolding look and retorted,
But her sister felt safe in public, so she shot back,
"Did to you big cheater."
The looks on the facers of these two sisters warned of imminent warfare, so Shakata intervened,
"Now you two, what did I say about family fights at school times?'
Both girls were slightly quelled, enough to chorus.
"No family fights at school if you want to look cool."
Shakata smiled at these hot tempered girls, he could see they were not yet ready to shake hands so he distracted them both by announcing,
Children, today we are lucky to have a visit from one of the rebel army's greatest warriors. I can't tell you his name because its a big secret. You must all promise never to tell anyone, except your Moms, that you have seen him. Never ever. Do you hear me?'
All the children adopted that solemn attitude that kids have when given the trust of a big secret. They all yelled out,
"Yes Mister Shakata."
Laughing and smiling to show them how proud he weas of everone of them, Shakata now introduce Flint.
"This is Mister Fitzgerald! He has been on the frontline in the city. But he will now spend sometime with us. You will see him around my tent a lot. He is not to be considered a stranger but a freedom fighter."
When Flint bowed theatretically to the children they applauded and laughed.
One little boy called out,
"Is he shocking shelled like my Dad?'
Shakata did not need to cdheck to see who spoke, he recognised the voice. This boys father had been caught in the middle of a government bombing raid back in the city. All his father's mates had been killed. His father had survived but was mentally disturbed by all the death he had witnessed. One of the many sick rebel fighters being sheltered by families secretly in the refugee camp, this father did not even regognise his own six year old son. The boy was hurt by his father's refusal to hug him, as he used to do before the war.
Shakata quickly answered this little voice,
"No Simon. Mister Fitzgerald is not shell shocked. He is just resting here with us for a short break."
Seeing the confusion on Flint's face, Shakata explain once he had settled the children down outsidse his tent. He had them all sit down on the grass and get out their tablet computers. These were given to them by UNICEF, a United Nations agency that helped children in refugee camps. Then he got the girl Zaheer to lead the children in their Mathematics drills. This was the prize for coming first in the daily race. Zaheer had not lost a single race that month. It was now getting hot, so all the children wore shorts and sports T-Shirts. The race was long but Zaheer showed no signs of fatigue and/or heat stress.
Shakata drew Flint to a nearby tree, he covered his mouth with an open hand and spoke very softly.
"Look Flint you are the most wanted man in this country. The government has you as number one on their black ops hit list. No surprise there really, you have been there since the sports stadium shooting. The shopping mall bombing has also been blamed on you as weel. But lately they became convinced that you killed Machel."
Flint copied Shakata in covering his mouth with an open hand. He was always soft spoken but his voice was very deep. So he deliberately kept if to a littlre bit above a mumble,
"I wish I had killed Machel. That basta... (remembering the children he cut himself short).....I mean he was a traitor. Machel was doing everything in his power to torpedo the peace talks. He was in on the train bombing, the conference bombing, he organised that stadium shooting not me and he organised the hospital attack. I know all of that for a fact!'
Shakata looked impressed. He nooded as if it made perfect sense to his way of thinking. Then he whispered,
"I guessed someone was behind all those events. The timing was just to neat to be a list of random acts of terrorism. But even if you show the rebel alliance security people this evidence it won't save you. They now know that Cain Flint killed Shabata. You are a dead man either way. So lets kill off Cain Flint and replace that identity with Thomas Fitzgerald. You are ex Sinn Fein now, thats prounced Shin-FAYN. Its celtic for "Ourselves" some interpret it wrongly as "WE Ourselves". Your family comes from the Republic of Ireland. You were born in a little hamlet jus outside Shannon airport in souther Ireland. Joing Sinn Fein when you were sixteen, you were sent to Belfast during the troubles. When Sinn Fein decomissioned all its soliders you could not return to a civilian life. You were told to leave Ireland. So you came to Australia. Here you got a refugee entry into university. When the war broke out you signed up for the rebel rifle corps. But you took a bullet in your left hand. Unavle to hold a rifle for long periods, you now are seeking work as a security officer."
Flint stared at Shakata astounded at this wealth of detail. No cover identity he had ever got from Bill Han came with such provence.
"How in the heel did you get all that so fast?'
Shakat once more smiled into Flint's face. He said wirly,
"Impressed the great Cain Flint have I. Well ther's one for me."
Flint tried to win back the initiative by sternly saying,
"Don't get cocky. Answer the question."
Shakata now seemed to get maudlin when he replied,
"The real Thomas Fitzgerald was my best friend at university. We were mature aged freshers together. He showed me things about heavy drinking that I could never have imagined possible. Every Friday night he would drink beer heavily for four hours. When the university pub shut, we drove to the bottle shop where he got two dozen bottles of beer. At the time we were sharing a flat. By the next morning he had finished off every bottle. I would have to put up with his wild Irish music, played loud, all night. If the neighbors ever complained, they only did it once. Tom was a angry and violent man. But he was the best friend I ever had and I loved him."
Picking up on the past tense of that last sentence, Flint inquired,
"How did he die?"
Now Shakata seemed to relive a moment of horror.
"You remember where we first saw each other?....Well that is also were i last saw my friend alive. He was blown up by a government bomb. It should have been me. The stupid fool pushed me down and lay on top of me. I felt his body go rigid and then limp."
Flint heard the pain in Shakata's voice he volunteered this offer,
"look if you prefer that I use another identity I will understand."
But Shakata started shaking his head before Flint even finished speaking. He said firmly,
"what better way to honour the life of my best friend than to let you use his identity. Besides they will check you out throughly. Your new identity must be fool proof."
Flint had one last quibble,
"But won't they talk to people who knew the real Fitzgerald?"
"Aapart from his family in Ireland and his old Sinn Fein cronies, almost all of those who knew him here did in that bombing raid near our student flat."
Flint could not help falling for Shakata's verbal ambush by asking,
"You said 'almost all' didn't you?'
"Yes only one person from our group survived, But he won't rat you out, as they say in the movies."
Not being Shakata's intellectual equal, Flint fell into the snare when he said'
"Why wouldn't he? I don't know him do I?'
Shakata sprang the trap shut by replying,
"Well lets just say that you only meet properly toady but he has a great first impression of you."
Slow but not dumb, realization now dawned on Flint's face. So he said,
"Then the name is Tom Fitzgerald but most people call me Firey Fitz."
Laughing (more for the sake of the watching children than at Flint's poor attempt at humor) Shakata replied in a loud voice,
"Welcome to our refugee camp Mister Fitzgerald. The children will now show you how good they bare at Mathematics.
Zaheer lead the children in their twelve times tables. Only the little ones can consult their tablet screens."