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HELL'S POSTMAN

Fanatics determined to die for Allah willingly gathered round the charismatic leader, knowing he would grant them their wish.

Following two years in the planning and training, a team of terrorists land in Northern Queensland and open their campaign by bombing two high schools with callous disregard of life. Shocked State and Federal governments stagger into action, hindered by politicking and reluctance to commit sufficient resource. Rivalry between the services charged with hunting down the terrorists and conflict between individuals create problems, or leave holes through which the terrorist manoeuvre as they endeavour to set up for their ultimate terrorist act.

A young melding family, each member already deeply scarred by this conflict, have become sacrificial pawns to both antagonists. Politics and religion have no truth or charity in this war, only expediency. There are no clear winners, only continuing belligerence on changing levels with no end in sight.

In Store Price: $AU34.95 
Online Price:   $AU33.95

ISBN: 978-1-921406-23-2
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 441
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins
Cover picture painted by Ken Scott


 Buy as a pdf  Ebook version - $AUD9.00
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Author: Ken Scott
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English

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About the Author  

Ken Scott arrives in the world during the Second World War in New Zealand when it was a side catch of the Superpower rivalry. Drafted into the army, he stayed clear of the Vietnam debacle and studied art, before taking himself to Europe to continue his passion of portrait painting. Back home in 1970, he set about learning to write while working full time and painting. In 1976 the theatre scenery artist for all the city theatres was added to his workload. 

Seeking wider horizons, Ken moved to Australia in 1982 where he met his wife. Setting up his own business which involved a lot of travel, he spent the hours waiting at the continuous road works along the Pacific Highway, writing his first published novel. 

In the year 2000 he moved to Darwin and now teaches art in the Adult Night School and to disabled people while managing Art Space Gallery. Writing is still part of his artistic expression and is like creating a piece of visual art with the same problems. Only the medium and time to complete vary. 

PROLOGUE  

Load Master Sergeant, Thomas Whatter, and his crew moved quickly around the eight metre long semi-ridged, checking that the seat harnesses of the twelve commandos were secure, though each commando had already checked himself. Next, they checked the alignment of the drogue chutes, reassuring themselves and the watching officers that the two stern release rockets would fire out through the opened rear-loading ramp. They checked that the two bower rockets would pull the bower drogues up and out, once the semi-ridged was clear of the C130 military transport plane.

Thomas Whatter gained the rank of Sergeant and Load Master aboard the Hercules C130 because of his eye for detail and ability to think logically and laterally. Nothing out of place, or incorrectly aligned, escaped his eye. Things that seemed right to another observer, or to engineers who had just rectified a problem, might no longer fit snugly into a sequence of events. Alarm bells would ring in Thomas Whatter’s head. His three crewmen provided the brawn when needed. They were big strong young men, who would obey orders willingly because they admired the quietly spoken Sergeant, but would never replace him as Load Master. That is not to say that they were not bright intelligent men who all had the ability to move upward in the Air force, for the Australian Air Force would not recruit men or women lacking ability and ambition, but they did not have Sergeant Whatter’s unique mind-set.

“Two minutes.” The voice of the plane’s navigator warned through the headsets built into the helmet of each person aboard the Hercules. “Rear door opening.” They were two minutes from the drop zone. The ramp at the back of the plane started its downward path.

The Load Master’s crew cast their eyes about in a final check, looking for things they had missed, then bent and removed the safety locks holding the two point three ton boat, in place on the launch ramp.

“Boat clean and clear to launch.” Thomas Whatter reported into his mike. “Loading crew securing to launch positions.” The team pulled their fold-down canvas seats into position, wriggled into them then snapped the restraining webbing into place. Thomas checked each man of his team. “Loading Crew secured for launch.”

“Loading Crew secure for launch. All boat systems on line. All systems ready.” The pilot officer, who would remotely guide the boat from its exit through the gaping opening in the back of the C130, down from five thousand feet to a landing in the ocean, de-toggled his mike. Sitting between two assistants at a temporary console in the front of the Hercules’ cargo bay, was Ray Stoome who had joined the Royal Australian Air Force, keyed up to fly the latest jet fighters. Basic flight training proved Ray Stoome to be a good pilot, but whip-thin, with a towering frame of 1.95metres, he was too tall for the compact cockpits of high performance jets and too lanky to stand the G forces of combat manoeuvres. Flying transport planes was not glamorous, but was still flying. Now he had this odd assignment of flying a boat meant for water travel. For all of the last year, he had headed the combined forces evaluation team, though no one as yet had crewed the boat down from 5,000 feet to land on the water. That was the aim of this last full payload, remote control trial.  Briefly, he switched between video feeds from cameras mounted under a Customs surveillance plane on the port side and one mounted on an Orion long-range marine surveillance plane. The Air Force plane was flying formation a kilometre away on his starboard. There were good clear views of the Hercules with the open ramp from both chase planes. The Orion, with its belly full of computers, was the ideal plane to remotely control the boat, but the Hercules, as the dropping platform, might be the only plane in the vicinity of a mission, if the boat pilot was disabled. Stoome switched to upward-looking cameras mounted on two patrol boats belonging to the navy. Everyone had an interest in the success or failure of this last pre-commissioning aerial launch of the new interception boats, even the police in their boat. When in service, a semi-ridged should be able to quickly intercept foreign fishing boats, smugglers, or other undesirables inside Australian waters, once surveillance planes detected them, where regular patrol boats could not react in time.

The designers of the system had chosen the C130 as the carrier and launch platform, because it could carry six boats and launch one every twelve minutes. It could also make a second trip in a different direction with another six boats on the same day, if based in the Top End of Australia. Flying down to five hundred feet, with a turret mounted heavy machine gun and cannon, the big plane was able to provide solid backup for the boats it launched.  

The semi ridged, built for speed, did not have the capacity to tow a heavy boat back to port, but with a crew of twelve, they would be able to board and arrest any intruding boat and crew, then wait for a patrol boat or a tug. Speed of delivery by air and the big diesel-powered water jets, providing a surface speed of 40 knots, should result in fewer boats and ships detected, engaged in illegal activities within national coastal boundaries, escaping back into international waters. Another three knots was obtainable if the aero engine turning the encaged prop over the stern was fired up, though its main purpose was to turn the semi-ridged into a powered glider.

“Target area. Launch when ready.” The big heavy lift cargo plane, with its back ramp down forming a slight downward slope into nothingness, had lowered flaps, turned into the wind and was flying just two knots above stalling speed.

“Ready to launch.” Flying Officer Stoome gave one quick flick through his video links, stood and turned so he could check all personnel were clear of the semi-ridged and in their launch positions. “Launching now.” He lifted the safety key cover and, taking a deep breath, pressed down on the launch button. Four solenoids along both sides of the boat released the final locks, hydraulic oil rushed into a ram beneath the boat, accelerating the load backwards along the rails towards the gaping exit. Two small rockets puffed briefly from the boat’s stern, each dragging a drogue chute out into the plane’s slipstream. Two more drogues leapt out and up from the sides as the boat cleared the ramp, opening well above the turbulence generated by big plane, and it was on its way. Stoome turned back to his console, his real work of deploying the paraglide chute and flying the boat as a powered glider, about to start.      
 

 

CHAPTER ONE

KUALA LUMPUR 

 

Holland Hussein Lee, citizen of Hong Kong, respected and well-known in several countries as a hard-driving, successful banker and businessman, sat quietly in Room 88, a room with a double lucky number. He hoped that the luck of the brass numbers on the outside of the door was true, but told himself he did not believe in luck he had not created with his own hands. His family, though professing to Islam as they had for the last four generations, from a period when an ancestor had confessed to a new unknown God to obtain work as a lowly gardener, also offered tribute to a bevy of other Gods from their ancestral homeland. Lee knew the one faith and despised them for their uncertainty, their one hundred and ten percent, but they were family, so kept his peace. Unlike other the members of his family, Lee did not flout his belief. He did not have to. Certain in his heart of his faith, he had never felt the need to convince others, and hence himself, of the one God. In time, the keeping of his faith hidden within his heart had become an advantage, opening doors into other worlds, with their opportunities.  

With two brothers, he had attended a school supported by the Sultan of Brunei, whose life’s vocation was to spread the one faith throughout the world. The words of the book, read to the boys and later read back to the teacher, had struck a chord with Holland Hussein Lee, far more so than most of the other boys in his class. Those classes in that hot stuffy room were the start of Lee’s awakening, the start of his reason for living.  Years later, sent to England, to Oxford to study, Lee recognised many other opening doors; behind some, he did not like what he found. The depravity of Western culture, the women out of control, drinking, the revealing way they dressed, chasing men, even the girls from Islamic families, shocked Lee. Women from the better families even attended lectures alongside the men at Oxford, and went out with them on dates without a family chaperone, where in his experience they should be kept safe at home until a suitable husband was located.

The men were little better - no faith in Allah or any other God, or anything else, except money and sexual gratification, weak, no self-discipline - and these were the people who had conquered and colonised half the world, gaining wealth and riches by raping countries. Lee had wanted to pack and return to Hong Kong within his first week, but his father instructed him to close his mind to such distractions and study. It had been difficult, but as Lee made friends and developed contacts among the other students, he was able to move below the skin of first appearances and delve into the many layers of English society. His research though, had not brought changes in his thinking, but rather refined it, and the seed of a way to exploit the lazy, arrogant depravity of the Western culture for his own benefit, germinated within his being during those years. Hence, he was now much wealthier than any of the arrogant Englishmen who had attended Oxford during his reading there.

There was a light tap on the door. Lee pulled himself back to the present, leaving the ghosts of his past undisturbed. He glanced briefly round the small room, noting that the only other cushion, of golden cloth with a sheen symbolizing wealth, was still where it had been placed on the tiled floor against the wall near the plain wooden door. The placement was deliberate. It might give the visitor a backrest, but it also limited his options if he felt the need to move in a hurry. Lee’s cushion was two and half metres from the wall behind him, giving him room to roll to his feet in any direction and counter-attack from a standing position. There were no other items in the windowless room, so nothing that could be used as a weapon, except the cushions each sat on. The choice of room went deeper than that. It had been closely examined and swept for listening devices and, unless there was a dedicated watcher of the room, it was very unlikely that the full list of the people Lee was conferring with could become public knowledge. Like the majority of people attending the conference, Lee was shuffling between large meeting rooms full of other conferees and individual one-on-one meetings in any number of side rooms, all booked at short notice. He was taking all the precautions possible without attracting unwanted attention.

“Come.” Lee mentally checked that he looked relaxed, his hands resting lightly on his knees, his legs crossed, his feet tucked in tightly, his back straight.

The head of Wa, his personal bodyguard of three years, young, enthusiastic and totally loyal a far as Lee could ascertain, appeared round the door. It was held open just wide enough for the man’s head to enter, but not wide enough for other people to see into the room.

“Uncle, Chanwan Jep Tim to see you.”

A slight nod from Lee, the head withdrew and the door opened. Lee closely watched the wide-shouldered man, who was calling himself Chanwan Jep Tim, turn sideways to pass Lee’s guard and enter the room. The name was a mixture from several regions and the man seemed the same - perhaps at least one parent from the far west of China or even further west and south, beyond the borders of China. His eyes were Chin, but his nose was long, pointed and hooked. His cheekbones were high, prominent in his long face and paleness round his mouth and chin of his otherwise sun weathered face, told of a beard recently removed. With a glance at Lee, then a more careful and considered examination of the bare room, Tim stepped across to the vacant cushion, crossed his legs and sat with his back against the wall just inside the door. With a nod of approval, acknowledging the sense of the seating arrangements, where Lee had more room to manoeuvre, he had the door to dive through. It placed an onus of mutual trust over both of them, where neither had obligation to trust the other.

Wa watched Tim sit and settle himself, before looking for Lee’s signal to withdraw and close the door. Outside, he stood to one side of the door where he could hear the odd sounds of voices muffled and filtered by the door, but not the words spoken. Tim’s bodyguard stood on the other side of the closed door, both men ready to crash through if their masters called, or they could hear sounds of fighting. It was far from ideal, as they could end up trying to kill each other where they stood while their masters combated inside the room, or just argued in a loud angry voice. Wa did not like it and decided he would try to go to his master’s help if the need arose and ignore his opposite number unless attacked. If the other man did the same and they both acted swiftly, there was no need for anyone to be killed. It was not his own death that concerned Wa, but that he might fail in his duty to protect Master Lee and the gates of paradise might therefore be closed to him.

His job was to discreetly protect his master who liked to keep a low profile. Here, at this conference, the main concern of the Government was of a terrorist attack, but the well-armed Malaysian police were manning barricades and patrolling through the main areas and round the surrounding suburbs. Wa, like the other bodyguards responsible for the welfare of dignitaries attending the conference, had surrendered his side arm and felt satisfied that Lee was safe with everyone disarmed. In general though, Lee preferred to keep his movements secret, as he considered himself a very good candidate for kidnapping and extortion attempts. To the best of Wa’s knowledge, there had never been an attempt to kill or kidnap Lee and with Wa’s help, he took very elaborate precautions to keep it that way.

Although Lee moved around the world, dropping into cities, large and small, on a more or less continuous basis, he seldom met people, client or non-client, face to face. He preferred to have others stand in for him, so few knew what he looked like and several people representing him had been killed, mistaken for Lee. Lee intended things to stay that way. Good training of the right people, a little bit of stick and a generous family support for the families of those killed, ensured a ready supply of candidates prepared to front for him.

Lee’s concentration returned to the man sitting across from him in the small white painted room. He could not afford to let his mind wander when negotiating with the people this man represented. Lee’s enquiries into the origins and connections of the people who had first contacted him, had led nowhere or been blocked; only arousing his suspicions and interest, as he supposed was intended. He had once met this man. The likelihood that the instigators of this meeting knew that fact was something he would ponder at a later date. It may be important in governing his future actions.

“Mr Lee. It is so good of you to see me. I’m Hussein El Hussein.” The man’s voice was deep, just as Lee remembered it.

“Ah, Mr Hussein, have we met before?” Lee watched Hussein’s dark, deep-set eyes, looking for the little evasive glance that would tell him if the man who was also called Tim, was lying.

“No, Mr Lee, I do not think so. I’m sure I would remember if I had met a man of such standing before.”

There it was. The man was good. If Lee had not known what to look for and had not been carefully looking for the right sign, he would have missed it. A man who gave a false name and lied to a person he wanted to trust him, was not a man to trust, but Lee could not just stand and leave, as he would do any other time. Lee did not know the standing of Hussein among the people behind him. He may be one of the leaders and they were not people Lee wished to offend. He had dealt with them in years past and they had made it very clear at the first contact, that refusal to abide by their wishes was not an option. If he had checked their background then, as carefully as he now investigated any new clients, he would not be in this predicament. On the other hand, he might not be as rich, as he had quickly found a way to turn their demands for money into a good profit, but only if their project succeeded. There had been some very big failures where he had lost badly, so it was in his best interest to help them, however hair-brained the project. He hoped they did not realise he used them to increase his wealth and had gone to great lengths to sidetrack any investigations, official or unofficial. They might demand that his monetary profit belonged to them, and he should be content to accept the profit of Allah’s blessing for his help with the cause. They may just cut his throat and that of his family. Their outlook and attitude to life was very narrow, as narrow and restricting as the Christians, at the time of Islam’s cultural and social peak. Everyone was on earth to serve Allah as per the teaching of the Koran, but only as these people interpreted the teachings. People were either believers, or followers who would instantly give their life and that of their families for the greater glory of Allah and reside thereafter in Paradise, or non-believers, infidels whose lives were automatically forfeit and on the way to hell. There was no middle ground. 

Another thought flashed across Lee’s mind. Did this man now calling himself Hussein, know Lee knew he was lying? Unable to answer, he was left in a very dangerous position. Lee waited a few more seconds for the man to explain, but Hussein also remained silent, waiting for Lee.

“You requested this meeting at this time, at this conference?” Again Lee watched the man closely.

“Correct.” Hussein, or Abdul, as Lee remembered he had previously called himself, replied in English. His overlaid accent spoke to Lee of English public school or one of the better universities, indicating family wealth, though not necessarily great intellect. He might be a clever man or have bought his way through Cambridge or Oxford. To ask might not be wise, but the right questions would tell Lee a lot about the man sitting against the wall.

“You wish to do business with me … open an account perhaps?” Lee knew that was not the man’s intention. He would not want to leave any trace of his dealings with Lee. Not that he would be worried about Lee, but a trail can be followed in both directions.

“No account. No record.”

“Ah! You want me to lend you money and keep no record, so in time I will not remember if you have repaid me in full and I will not be able to find you. This does not make good business sense in these days of numerous transactions coming and going.” It often surprised Lee how much additional unintended information clients let slip as they tried to make a point clear, when he played dumb.

“Allah does not borrow money.”

“That Allah needs money seems an odd concept.”

“We need the money to push forward the Holy War against the infidel.”

“Do we include Allah?”

“Allah commands that we take the war up to the infidel. Do you not read, not study words of the Holy Book?”

“It seems that you have been studying the meaning behind the words harder than I.” Lee had to be careful he did not offend or push this man too hard.

“The Westerners with their greedy capitalism and so-called democratic freedoms are again invading and colonising the world of Islam, enslaving our people so they can continue raping and plundering Islamic wealth. They are trying to crush us, befoul us, and force us to eat pig, corrupt us with alcohol and naked women, rip us from the true faith and make us into Christians. We cannot let this happen. We will fight them, divide them, splinter them, a piece at a time, and crush the splinters under our feet. They have the wealth, which they have stolen from us, and weapons, but they do not have the faith. It might take a hundred years, but we will convert all the world to the one true faith.”

“That is a noble cause.” Lee did not intend to live in any county with a Fundamental Islamic government. He had visited many, had met the rulers of most. It was plain to him that such governments ended up in the hands of one family who claimed hereditary right to rule in the name of Allah. The countries, in fact, were little more than family businesses, enriching the ruling families at the expense of people on the bottom of the heap, who dropped further and further towards abject poverty. Clever public relations within kept informing the people how well off they were and how well the royal family looked after them. A strict hierarchy of ladder-climbers, which usually became heretical within a few wealthy families, offered a much sought after path to the god-like ruler’s ear. The ladder dangled just beyond the reach of the masses, invited them to obtain great wealth and prestige by climbing towards the ear of God’s representative. It was an invitation to a life of ruthless power, and wealth obtained through bribery and corruption. The families running such countries set a notoriously outstanding example. Countries taken over and run by religious orders or sects quickly moved the same way because there was no accountability, except to the next level on the rung and the ruling figureheads who were both too busy increasing their quota of power and filling their pockets to look down. Why should they look down to find fault, when they had sponsored the person below them into that position, so any mistake would reflect on them also? Why ask questions when they received a percentage of the money their sponsored person could extract from the system, just as they presented their sponsor with a percentage? Sponsorships could be or were purchased, just as the required university degree could be, and often was. Lee did not want to live under such ruthless institutionalised corruption, but he could not let show any hint of his feelings towards the aims of the man sitting in front of him. Yes, certainly all forms of government were open to corruption and therefore were corrupted, but in many there were checks that slowed the insidiously creeping corruption, spacing and attenuating the inevitable corrections. The deeper and more widespread the corruption, the more extreme and violent the revolt and counter-action. Thousands could be killed, ruling cliques replaced, but unless the thinking changed with the change of power, nothing changed, except the position of the faces.

“It is the will of Allah.”

“Perhaps there are other books to study, that might add insight.”

“All knowledge is found in the Koran. It is the only book students need read. How can you suggest otherwise?”

“Hussein, that may be true, but you have come to me seeking money that I have been able to acquire through the study of books other than the Koran. You wish to use this money to ensure people read only the Koran. Such money acquired this way is used to provide you with fast transport, improved food and medical services. Is this not a contradiction?”

“None of that will be necessary when the world fully and faithfully worships the one true God.”

Lee felt that statement from Hussein summed up the man’s narrow mindset and wondered how he managed to survive in the modern world. Perhaps Hussein did not realise that he did not, and could no longer live in the sixteenth century. The world had changed, continued to change, and each day the change was quicker. It was like a child’s top in reverse - the slower the top spun, the faster it slowed; yet remaining upright, it was hard to see the change until it wobbled on the point of falling, the stability a beguiling fallacy. Restart the top’s spin and it would spin in a different time and place. There was no going back, for the past no longer existed.       

“You want me to finance some of the work of Allah?”

“That is correct.” Hussein seemed to relax now that they were back on the subject at the heart of their meeting.

“How much is this work to cost?”

“$15,000,000 American.”

Just like that. $15,000,000 was a lot of money by any standards. Every time they came to him to extort more money, for that is how Lee viewed the process, the price went up. Were they trying to milk him dry? Would they cut his throat when he could no longer meet their increasing demands? Lee had little doubt, so a little insurance would not go astray.

“That is a lot of money. Just what are you planning to do with it?”

“The work of Allah, as I have told you.”

“Ah! The work of Allah! No doubt you will be a leader for some of this work?”

“That is not your concern, but yes I am a leader in this enterprise.”

“And you will have many people helping you?”

“There will be people helping, yes. You wish to become one of them, to join us?”

“How would you know if I was suitable, not going to fail at a critical time?”

“We have investigated you very carefully and know you are more use to us where you are. We need expendable soldiers with just the right field training, young men willing to die for Allah. You are too fond of your life; you only play at Islam, so the answer is no, you are of no use in the field.”

“So you investigate your recruits?” Lee conceded to himself that they must be watching him all the time. Not a good feeling and a very dangerous situation. “My point being, that you come to me, tell me we have never met, are complete strangers and ask me to give you fifteen million American dollars, you say, for the work of Allah. That is a great deal of money. There is to be no contract and no record of any kind. Is this the truth, or are you what the West calls a con-man, a thief?”

Hussein bristled and started to rise from his sitting position on the cushion beside the door, then changed his mind and sat again. A momentary smile flashed into his eyes, slid across his mouth and disappeared.

“You are right. You want to be sure that you will get value for your fifteen million dollars?”

Lee knew he would finance whatever was proposed. He had little option, knowing with whom he was dealing, but could he provide them with less money and thereby increase his return and how could he get a return on his investment, if he did not know some details? Whatever these people thought, he was still a banker and financier.

“So, what do I get for my money?”

“It is Allah’s money.”

Lee chose not to answer the pointless semantics and waited for Hussein to continue.    

After a long pause while Hussein appeared to be thinking, he replied, “We are going to take the fight right into the face of the Australians.”

“So why do you need fifteen million American dollars just to blow up a building with a few Australians in it, or shoot a few from a motorcycle? You can do that for much less than one million dollars. One million will buy you enough explosives and people to destroy many buildings in this city!”

Hussein leant forward as if by coming closer, he could make Lee understand what he was about to say. “What does it cost to have someone killed?”

“That would depend on who they are and how well they are protected and who the killer is. Two hundred, one hundred, even less, up to about ten thousand dollars.”

Hussein nodded. “And if the killing is in Australia?”

“More. I see. Even if you kill one hundred people within Australia, that is fifteen thousand each, a premium price paid for top people. Even in Australia, that is too much.”

“I will kill them for fifteen dollars each.” That simple statement came out as if Hussein was talking about tacks to knock into his floor.

“If you can kill one or two hundred people in Australia for fifteen dollars each, which is a total of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, or three hundred thousand, why do you need fifteen million dollars?”

“It was you who placed a figure of one, or two hundred killed. I will kill one million people for your fifteen million dollars.”

At first startled, then sceptical, Lee tried to let neither show in his face as he studied the other man for the truth or convictions of his statement. Hussein, Lee noted, was watching him with steady unblinking eyes, as if his utterance was about an everyday occurrence. Lee could not imagine how Hussein proposed to kill one million people, even with the help of a manageable team. That was enough people to fill a small city. Fifteen million dollars would not buy a nuclear explosive device of sufficient power and it would be far too big to transport by air or sea freight into any country undetected. He might have access to an old Russian bomb or one of the old Russian rocket warheads, and think he would be able to drop it over a city, but it would have to be a southern Australian city to kill one million, and that was a long flight across controlled air space. There would be no certainty of killing a million people using a dirty bomb, and it would have to be massive. An easier and safer alternative might be chemical or biological. That was probably the plan, but they also had their drawbacks. Chemicals were quite fast, but how to get a million people in one place? It would have to be an enclosed area to kill everyone, and Lee could think of no place that big. The underground rail network maybe. Sydney might have a million people on trains for a short time each day, but that would take an army of people willing to die to cover all trains at once. Poison in the water supply would be reported very soon after the first people started dying and be shut down within an hour.

A slower-acting, highly contagious bacterium or virus would provide the time to dissipate it through the wider community before being detected when it was already too late. That must be the plan, but it was very dangerous. It could come back to fatally bite the planners, if the resultant disease became a world-wide pandemic. Like the local community where the pathogen was released, they would not know until it was too late. Even if it did not kill them, they would be heavily criticised and ostracised by the rest of the world. Still, even if that was their plan and their attempt failed, it was so audacious, it might still severely shake the world markets and Lee could make a lot of money, if he stared putting things into place now. Even a good earthquake on the Australian market would recoup his outlay, if he were ready for it.

“Even with good planning,” Lee said, “there will be a lot of uncertainties, with no guarantee of success, so I can contribute five million dollars towards your project.”

“We need fifteen million. That is what we agreed.”

“I do not have fifteen million sitting in a drawer. All money, except small change, is tied up in other projects.” Lee could imagine what Hussein’s reply was going to be, and he was right.

“Well, close some of them down and draw the money out. We need the money to carry forward Allah’s battle against the infidel.”

That was not quite the wording Lee had expected, but the message was the same.

“Most of the projects involved are in support of Allah’s people, employing the people of Allah, placing coin in their pockets to feed their families, so their families will grow strong in the one true faith.”

“Everyone has to make sacrifices.”

“True, true, but I think you should be the one to tell the community that has saved for nearly two hundred years, slowly accumulating coins for their mosque; tell them you want them to sell their whole project, for whatever someone will give in a hurry for the unused building materials, for the greater glory of Allah. That is what it is worth at this stage. You might also tell them that you are going use the money to buy guns and explosives for a jihad in a country they have no interest in.”

Hussein started to stand, anger flushing his face, but Lee did not move, though he watched Hussein with care, easing back onto the cushion, the residue of his anger still apparent in his hooded eyes.

“Take care with your insults or I will slit your throat.”

“I am merely pointing out that money does not sit unused in any project, but is spent purchasing the building materials or other goods, which have little value till they are an integral part of the project and have even less value if removed. The people who own these projects might have no interest in your jihad, or disagree totally with your way of thinking. They will probably balance what they are trying to achieve against what you want to do and judge the scales to have favoured their project.”

“You will supply me with fifteen million American dollars and bring an end to this procrastinating.”

Thirty-five minutes later, Hussein had accepted with bad grace that ten dollars American for each person he proposed to kill as part of his proposed operation in Australia was a reasonable price. Lee had accepted that none of the money would be returned even if Hussein failed. Lee had known that would be the case and was quite happy to let it be. Only someone with a death wish would try to recover money from these people and he now had a fair idea of when, where and how, so could start to make his own financial arrangements well in advance of any physical action on the part of Hussein.

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