The September 11 attack in America was followed by other terrorist incidents around the world. In The Mission, set in London, someone close to Jenny is killed, and her sudden, severe loss threatens to overwhelm her. While she is lost in the trauma of grief, intervention by a surprising ally occurs. At the same time, incidents of petty vandalism against her escalate into malicious stalking and more, undermining her progress to recovery. Her relationship with Sergeant Casey undergoes a dramatic change, but he may be unable to protect her life.
The Gold Commander at New Scotland Yard could not believe what he saw. His twenty-seven years of experience with London’s Metropolitan Police had taught him to maintain outward calm regardless of inner turmoil, but this afternoon he was finding it difficult. His attention had been directed away from the bank of screens he was monitoring in MetOps, covering the policing of the Arms Fair at the London Docklands. On the lower left, screens showed an aeroplane exploding as it flew into a towering skyscraper in New York City. Was the crash intentional? Had someone found a novel way to kill himself? Certainly no capable pilot could miss the World Trade Center! He watched the replay. No, the skies were perfectly clear, and the plane looked too large to be a private craft. Dear God, what was happening in America? Mass murder? He forced himself to concentrate. Then a second plane hit the second tower, and all hell broke loose.
There wasn’t an officer in the room who didn’t have the same emotional discipline as he, but none of them had dealt with an act of terrorism on this scale. Voices were raised in shock and disbelief. Terse phrases were spit out as individuals attempted to communicate what they were seeing. Frustration erupted as they realised they were powerless to assist their neighbours across the pond in any way. Their brief was to make London safer for its citizens, but loss of innocent life anywhere in the world hit them hard. Britain had been the target of IRA attacks for years, but the landscape of American law enforcement — and her security forces — was now irrevocably altered. Indeed, the entire world had changed in the space of a few minutes, because, for the first time, suicide bombers had operated outside the Middle East, setting a dangerous precedent. More attacks would come, perhaps even in his own country. What could be done to prevent them? What would the likely targets be? Senior officials in the building would be discussing those questions in the very near future, he knew, but each officer needed to be ready to do his part.
The Commissioner of Police was in the air over the mid-Atlantic, on his way to confer with senior NYPD officials. Gold rang the Commissioner’s office and was told by his personal assistant that he had been informed of the crisis. Because American air space was now closed, his plane had been forced to turn about and would be returning home.
“The Pentagon, sir,” an associate behind him mumbled thickly. “An aeroplane has hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.”
“That makes three,” he responded. “How many more? When will this slaughter in the skies end?” He thought of his wife and children and felt a desperate need to ring them and assure himself of their safety. As quickly as the thought arose, however, he quelled it: Individual needs must be set aside. Seeing to the security of the many must take priority over personal concerns. He had not become a policeman to protect one life at a time; he had always hoped he would prove worthy of a rank high enough to affect the safety and well-being of many more.
By now the visual images would have seared into the minds of all who had seen them. Because of the United Kingdom’s close alliance with the United States, London could be the next target. People were spontaneously evacuating high-rise buildings and crowding the streets. To prevent panic, he must supply mental pictures that would reassure them. Uniformed police were a symbol of stability in a country ruled by law. The public looked to the police for protection. They must be seen to be on the Job. He ordered all leaves cancelled and made arrangements for every available officer to report for high visibility duties. He summoned his deputy, whose stricken face had aged him. “Contact our counterparts in Kent and the other neighbouring counties. We’ll need manpower from them to assist us.”
The news must have got round the demonstrators at the Docklands. The screens showed the mass of people splintering into groups which huddled together briefly before dispersing. Excellent. He could reduce the quantity of officers assigned there and increase the number on London streets. He rang the Silver Commander.
There may have been British citizens on the hijacked planes, but regardless of nationality, every seat had held a human being. When had the passengers known their fate? How had parents controlled their own fears and comforted their children? He was put in mind of his early days on the Job. In his two probationary years he had seen more human tragedy than most experienced in a lifetime. Road accidents, train wrecks, bodies battered beyond recognition. In some cases he’d had to notify the next of kin and watched their desperate disbelief replaced by despair as facts crowded out the last slivers of hope. Some screamed; some went silent. Eventually, determination to carry on, to honour the dead, to see justice done, prevailed.
MetOps was now crowded with officers straining to see the drama being played out on the screens. Gasps and exclamations from them joined his own. One of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed, the ash mixing with dark billowing smoke. Without a doubt British citizens had worked in the World Trade Centers. Many would have been killed along with their American colleagues. The lucky ones had died instantly. Others would carry their fears and scars to the gates of heaven. Still others could be missing under the thousands of tonnes of rubble still being shown. And the loved ones they left behind would be devastated with grief.
He looked about. Not unlike many offices in the World Trade Centers, MetOps was an interior room, artificially lit, located in one of New Scotland Yard’s two-tower buildings. Occupants would have no warning of an approaching threat. Mercifully, however, MetOps was on Victoria Block’s second floor, an unlikely target for an insidious attack of this sort. Fortunately smoking was not allowed. He could not have tolerated the sight of even a wisp of smoke.
He returned to the screens. “Four,” he whispered, his concentration so complete that he was unaware he had spoken aloud. In Pennsylvania a fourth plane had crashed. Still the nightmare continued: A second tower fell, then parts of the Pentagon. He felt again the shock, then the grip of despair, and resolved that he would not give in to either. Determination was the order of the day. His mission: take steps to do everything within his considerable power to deliver the best security to Londoners that his force could provide. He knew he’d be on watch indefinitely. He reached for his phone.