The Will Of The People, p.1Christopher Read
THE WILL OF
BOOK ONE OF THE CONSPIRACY TRILOGY
THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE
Copyright © 2014, 2016 by Christopher Read
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, other entities, places and incidents portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, real-life entities, past or present, or actual incidents, is entirely coincidental.
Prologue – February to May
Chapter 1 – Friday, May 7th
Chapter 2 – Saturday, May 8th
Chapter 3 – Sunday, May 9th
Chapter 4 – Monday, May 10th
Chapter 5 – Tuesday, May 11th
Chapter 6 – Wednesday, May 12th
Chapter 7 – Thursday, May 13th
Chapter 8 – Friday, May 14th
Chapter 9 – Saturday, May 15th
Chapter 10 – Sunday, May 16th
Chapter 11 – Monday, May 17th
Chapter 12 – Tuesday, May 18th
Chapter 13 – Wednesday, May 19th
Chapter 14 – Thursday, May 20th
Chapter 15 – Friday, May 21st
Chapter 16 – Saturday, May 22nd
Chapter 17 – Sunday, May 23rd
Chapter 18 – Monday, May 24th
Chapter 19 – Tuesday to Friday, May 25th to May 28th
Prologue – February to May
With its vaulted ceilings and stained glass, countless mosaics, and bronze statues seemingly at every turn, the underground palace that is the Moscow Metro sucks in almost ten million passengers every day, newcomers invariably marvelling at such extravagance, wide eyes drawn upwards by majestic chandeliers and tall marble pillars. Started in 1931, Stalin had ensured the metro had enjoyed the services of the Soviet Union’s very best architects, and no expense had been spared to create a grandiose and enduring symbol of Soviet supremacy.
Just a short distance from the 25-storey Holiday Inn, even the ticket hall of the Sokolniki station impressed with its arched roof and white marble, while the twin platform proffered a double rank of blue-grey marble pillars, resting on a chequered black and grey granite floor. Yet, as if to counter its outward glory, the Moscow Metro had also become a favoured target for terrorists, the Sokolniki line’s Lubyanka and Park Kultury stations attacked in 2010; a total of forty dead, scores badly injured.
In the decade and more since that devastating attack, the continuing threat from suicide bombings had done little to counter complacency, Moscow’s commuters adopting a pragmatic approach to the obvious dangers, concerned but certainly not cowed. The authorities had embraced a similar philosophy, the Metro gradually returning to a more relaxed regime, with CCTV regularly providing a lone and somewhat dubious form of protection.
The morning rush hour was at its height, the warmth of the station’s interior a welcome deliverance from the bitter cold of a late-February morning. Aldis Eglitis stood stiff-backed on the crowded platform, eyes half-closed, trying to push all negative thoughts from his mind. Every day for over a week now, he had braced himself against the rush-hour crowds, riding the commuter train as it headed south-west towards the city centre. To his fellow passengers, Eglitis was just another anonymous face, the smart suit and silk tie those of an elderly businessman, or perhaps a lawyer, the exclusive gold watch and expensive briefcase indicating – whatever his chosen profession – an envious degree of success.
While some might have attributed Eglitis’ presumed wealth to the advantages offered by a more liberal Russia, he personally had only contempt for everything Russian, and he could never forgive the betrayal of his youth. Communist, Conservative or Democrat – the politicians had merely changed their allegiance, not their souls. The post-Putin Government had promised a better, freer Russia, and a clean break from his dictatorial regime; but the new man in the Kremlin still bullied and blackmailed, Russia’s neighbours always conscious of the hungry bear peering over the fence, worrying as to how best to keep it fed. Some might assume that the crumbs of Crimea and Transnistria had long-since assuaged Russia’s greed, but Eglitis knew it was but a temporary respite, history proving that Poland and the Baltics had every right to be fearful of an expansionist Russia.
Latvian by birth, Eglitis’ early years had been spent at a school especially reserved for children of the communist elite, his father taking full advantage of the benefits bestowed upon a respected Party member. A large home south of Riga, a foreign car, easy access to the gourmet food shops – the family had lived a life of relative luxury, content to sit back and watch as Latvia’s distinctive identity, and even its language, was swamped by an influx of Russian immigrants. They had even managed to emerge untouched from the Khrushchev purge of ‘59 which saw many of Latvia’s communists stripped of their posts, their leader deported to Russia.
At sixteen, a self-righteous Aldis had his sights set on a career in medicine, his fluency in Russian guaranteeing an open route through higher education and beyond; life was easy and predictable, with weekends spent by the beach or canoeing along one of Latvia’s many rivers. Then, in an unguarded moment of stupidity, his father forgot the lessons of the past, using a private meeting with a so-called friend to voice his frustration over the Russification of Latvia. In less than a week Aldis’ life of privilege and opportunity was no more, his father unemployable, the family turned out of their home and into a squalid two-room apartment. Aldis’ education came to an abrupt end and for the first time in his young life he came to know the true meaning of poverty. His father’s mood varied daily from angry to morose, alcohol destroying what little was left of his self-esteem – and his common sense. He began to attend nationalist gatherings, openly speaking out at one meeting to urge civil disobedience. Past influence had long since counted for nothing and the next morning the KGB battered down the apartment door.
Eglitis never saw his father again. Guilt by association – or perhaps birth – was automatically assumed, and at the age of nineteen an innocent Aldis was sentenced to two years in a labour camp.
Even after his release he remained a partial outcast, working from one temporary job to another. The labour shortage of the early ‘80s found him newly-married and working at Riga’s State Electrotechnical Factory making telecommunications equipment for the Soviet military.
Then, just when it seemed his life had finally reached a happier and more stable phase, Eglitis’ young wife was killed in a traffic accident, protecting their baby daughter with her body as a drunk Russian immigrant lost control of his car. It was another year before Eglitis finally accepted his true fate, his self-confidence growing as he split his time between looking after his daughter and helping run guns and explosives to various anti-Soviet groups based in the Baltics and Ukraine.
The adrenalin rush soon became addictive, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eglitis merely transferred his expertise to the nationalist factions in Dagestan and Chechnya, his role slowly changing first to bomb-maker, then field sub-commander. That all ended in 2009, when Russian Special Forces generously left Eglitis with a bullet-sized memento buried deep in his belly. It took three operations and almost eighteen months for the wound to recover fully, and by then Eglitis had settled into the less-stressful role of doting grandfather.
Away to Eglitis’ right the constant low rumble from the tunnel suddenly increased in intensity, and in a blaze of light a train swept out towards him. Eglitis pressed forward, right hand clamped around his briefcase, following the throng of commuters as they surged towards the opening doors. His chosen carriage was already crowded and Eglitis squeezed his way to stand in the aisle, his back resting against a metal partition.
Within seconds the doors hissed shut and the train accelerated away, the rush-hour crush pressing in on Eglitis. He let his gaze wander, settling for a brief moment on two young men away to his left. Outwardly, both of his associates looked calm enough, and if anyone could be said to be the weak link then it was undoubtedly Eglitis himself, the nitro-glycerine spray in his pocket perhaps the only thing between him and disaster.
Was it foolishness or pride that had made him choose to be part of this initial attack? Eglitis’ future role was a key one and he had been forced to overrule the many objections as to his decision, wanting to show – perhaps even to himself – the depth of his commitment to the struggle ahead.
Eglitis’ gaze resumed its random traverse, stopping suddenly as his eyes met those of a young woman standing opposite. Eglitis smiled in response, unsure as to what had attracted her attention, and also annoyed he now had a permanent reminder of the personal loss he was about to inflict. The girl gave a brief smile, then looked away, seemingly unconcerned.
It was just ten minutes to their destination. Others had argued it was too dangerous to target not just the same line, but the same station as in the 2010 attack, but for Eglitis there was more than one message to be sent. Lubyanka was the station opposite to the Lubyanka Building, former home of the KGB and site of the infamous prison. In practice, the Lubyanka name actually encompassed several buildings, the grey façade to the north-east fronting the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s main counter-terrorist agency. The KGB’s successor had shown itself to be different only in name, with the FSB equally determined to stifle dissent and so protect the ruling clique. The Lubyanka was thus the heart of Soviet, now Russian repression, and to many a hated symbol of Moscow’s out-dated dominance.
The excitement of old was making a welcome return, and Eglitis kept his breathing slow and deep, forcing his body to relax as he tried counting down the seconds, while keeping his gaze away from the young woman – instinct told him there was no danger here. His trip to Moscow from London last November had been Eglitis’ first visit to the city in almost a quarter of a century, but to him the people were still the same: sullen, untrustworthy and arrogant, invariably remembering with false pride the brutal regimes of Stalin and Brezhnev.
As the train raced into the glare of Lubyanka station, Eglitis glanced again at his two colleagues: it would be at least another four minutes before the train carrying the fourth bomber arrived at Lubyanka, giving the other three more than enough time to reach their respective exits; their own bombs could then be timed so as to intensify the carnage. Unlike previous stops the carriage disgorged a good third of its passengers, with relatively few waiting to board. Eglitis forced his way through the slower commuters, pressing quickly on towards the Lubyanka Square exit, uncaring as to whether the security cameras picked him out or not.
The crowd thinned once he reached the western vestibule and Eglitis slowed. Phone in hand, he moved to stand beside the north wall, studying the phone display as though reading a text. The train bomber would have the briefest time to escape or seek protection but Eglitis had little doubt she would fulfil her role, patriotic fervour leaving no room for second thoughts.
Some thirty-five metres below Eglitis, a teenage boy stood and watched in surprise as a smartly-dressed woman literally fought her way out of the metro car and onto the platform, her briefcase seemingly forgotten in her haste to get off at the correct stop. To the teenager, there was now the offer of an intriguing prize: even if its contents should prove worthless, the case itself looked expensive, and in Moscow’s markets you could sell just about anything – even people, if the rumours were to be believed. The carriage doors began to close, providing just the distraction the teenager needed.
His hand was still in mid-air when an electronic relay clicked shut, detonating the briefcase’s kilogram of plastic explosive. In an instant the blast swept outwards through the carriage. Flesh and blood offered little more than token resistance, and even metal buckled and split before the onslaught. The metro car leapt into the air, the two adjacent carriages shuddering in sympathy as the explosion ripped through the adjoining doors. Along the platform bodies were carelessly cast aside, a storm of glass and metal sweeping everything from its path.
The floor under Eglitis trembled momentarily before an accelerating roar engulfed him; a brief hesitation then with finger and thumb he rotated the arming mechanism hidden in the briefcase’s handle, sliding the case with his right foot flat against the wall. Thirty seconds and counting...
Around Eglitis there was surge of movement, people shouting, screaming, a few standing transfixed in shock as a rolling cloud of smoke and dust billowed out from the platform below, scores of panic-stricken passengers following in its wake.
Eglitis’ silent countdown had barely reached twenty when his legs ignored the dangerous pounding of his heart, responding instead to his brain’s urgent order to flee. Six steps and in one bound he leapt over the ticket barrier, ageing knees threatening to buckle as he desperately tried to increase the distance between himself and certain death. His countdown was still three shy of zero when an explosion tore through the vestibule, the two massive glass arches that framed the Lubyanka exit disintegrating into a million lethal pieces.
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