A fast moving tale with a thrilling climax. The Pessarane Behesht. Sons of Heaven. The inner caucus of the infamous Hezbollah. Their aim: to wreak vengeance on the enemies of Allah. When a freighter carrying a secret consignment of French Arms for the Pessarane Behesht in return for the release of a hostage diplomat disappears in the Gulf, ex-SAS Major Robert D'Arcy, whose security firm was protecting the ship, finds he must act alone to prevent bloodshed when the Iranians resort to kidnap and assassination. Whilst his men comb the inhospitable desert coasts of the Middle East, D'Arcy must negotiate with ruthless terrorists, and with time running out, the lives of an innocent woman and her child are held in precarious balance.
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Terence Strong was brought up in south London. He has worked in advertising, journalism, publishing and military research. His bestselling novels include Whisper Who Dares, the first authentic SAS thriller, The Tick Tock Man, Cold Monday and Wheels of Fire. He now lives in the West Country. Visit www.terencestrong.co.ukExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
There were four of them.
Dark spectres creeping furtively between the cathedral columns of the copse, careful to avoid the dappled pools of silver that penetrated the overhead canopy of leaves from the waning moon.
They were nervous and alert, heads stiffly raised like animals sniffing for the scent of danger carried on the wind.
Through the ghostly green viewer of the nightsight, Captain Robert D'Arcy was able to identify three of them before they reached the perimeter of the stump-scattered clearing.
It wasn't difficult, despite the blackened hands and faces. D'Arcy knew the men well, intimately almost. They made up the local PIRA 'active service unit'. A farmer, a baker and, appropriately enough, a life insurance salesman.
That was O'Neill, their leader, and a particularly unpleasant specimen who had repeatedly evaded conviction. Always insufficient evidence and a cast-iron alibi. He would strut the village streets with the smugness of a cat who knew it still had several of its lives left. Arrogant, proficient, and exceptionally vicious.
Typically, D'Arcy noted, he carried an Armalite AR18. O'Neill favoured the cheap and very nasty 'Widowmaker', and was frequently heard to boast how he had contributed to its chilling reputation.
D'Arcy watched as the man settled down to wait, to be certain. Patient. Always professional. That was how he had survived so long.
The Provo's head turned slightly, scanning the clearing. Then a jerking motion as his eye caught the movement high up on the road embankment. A torn piece of blue plastic from a fertiliser bag flapped irritatingly from the barbed wire fence.
The 'distractor' had been deliberately placed by the Special Air Service team. Its purpose was to lure the eye away from the cunningly concealed observation-post just a few metres away. The position had been dug in the dead of night two weeks earlier, tunnelled into the embankment overlooking the clearing. When completed, the foxhole had been roofed with a roll of chicken wire, over which the turfs had been expertly relaid.
That damp and cramped space was to be home for as long as it took the Provos to revisit their arms cache. For two weeks the four-man Sabre team - Villiers, Rix, and the 'unholy alliance' of Monk and Pope - had endured the monotony of self-heating canned rations and the indignities of defecating and burying the results in the confined space. Although worse to suffer, each man would swear, was the incessant call of a pair of nearby wood pigeons which drove them to the very edge of insanity.
Always two on stag while two slept, their only link with the outside world was via the Clansman radio.
A welcome break to the monotony would be the daily passing of the postman, whistling as he cycled down the lane beyond the barbed wire. And the dairy van that came to collect milk churns from the surrounding farms. All such comings and goings were religiously timed and entered in the log.
Two months earlier, at the Regiment's characterless brickbuilt Stirling Lines barracks outside the county town of Hereford, D'Arcy had been summoned unexpectedly to the office of Major Johnny Fraser. The quietly spoken Scot was commander of the Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Wing of the SAS, which specialised in antiterrorist training techniques.
'Ah, Rob,' Fraser greeted, 'I believe you've met this old friend of ours, Brigadier General Roquelaure. General - Captain Rob D'Arcy, my 2IC...'
D'Arcy's face broke into an impromptu grin as Roquelaure rose to shake hands. The Frenchman was shorter than he remembered. Or else it was an illusion created by the added inches around the waist which filled the immaculate grey silk suit.
'Hello, Pierre, what a lovely surprise! Ça va?' The Frenchman's handshake was as firm and dry as ever, and his pale blue eyes twinkled amid the laughlines in the broad face. But even the ingrained tan, earned during years serving in French colonies around the world, could not disguise a certain gauntness in his features.
'Je suis fatigué, mon ami, très fatigué -- ' Roquelaure turned to Major Fraser. 'Forgive me, Johnny, how rude you must think us both.'
The CRW chief waved the apology aside with a short laugh. 'No problem, Pierre, even I could follow that.'
'You're still with the Ministère de la Défense?' D'Arcy asked.
Roquelaure nodded. His role, D'Arcy knew, was that of liaison between the Secret Service - the DGSE - and the Group d'lntervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. It was the French equivalent of the SAS antiterrorist group and both units regularly exchanged ideas as well as training facilities. 'Oui, for my sins and my grey hair, I am with the Ministère still.'
D'Arcy frowned. 'Then I can guess why you're here.'
'The Paris bombings,' Fraser confirmed grimly.
Roquelaure raised his hands in a very Gallic expression of despair. 'I have never known the city in such a state of near panic, mon ami. Such carnage and human misery. Bombs in the Champs Elysées, and the Préfecture of Police near Notre Dame, and the rue de Rennes. No one wants to use the Métro or even our cafés any more. The streets are deserted. There has been nothing like it since the Algerian business. For once our politicians are even agreeing that we need help, and have swallowed their pride.'
D'Arcy smiled tersely. Whilst British and French special forces happily co-operated, politicians on both sides of the Channel perpetuated the history that the countries were each other's oldest enemy. As Roquelaure had once told D'Arcy: 'The trouble is our people are too alike in their approach to nationalism. You British think you are the best, while we French know we are. Mon Dieu!'
'We're exploring areas of co-operation,' Fraser admitted cautiously. 'But I've called you in on a matter of what the general can do for us. Would you like to explain, Pierre?'
The Frenchman nodded, opened a pack of Gitanes and lit one. The pungent, bitter aroma instantly filled the room. 'This campaign in Paris, Rober', we believe it is to gain the release of the Lebanese terrorist Georges Abdallah. He is serving a four-year sentence, and we have just moved him to a new prison to prevent an attempted jailbreak. We believe his brothers may be behind these outrages. But this gang, whoever they are, have powerful help from a Lebanese Shi'ite faction calling itself the Pessarane Behesht.'
D'Arcy shook his head. 'Don't think I know them.'
Roquelaure grimaced. 'Unfortunately, I think you will in time. Translated it means - er, you say - sons or children of paradise. Or heaven, if you prefer. It doesn't translate exactly, but the meaning is clear. They are religious fanatics associated with the Iranian Party of God - or Hezbollah, and run by a leader who calls himself Sabbah.'
'Sabbah,' D'Arcy repeated softly. 'That rings some bells.'
Fraser consulted the computer print-out on his desk. 'The name first began cropping up in the mid-seventies, Rob, in connection with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. It's an adopted cover name, we gather, derived from some eleventh-century assassin in Persia - which gives a clue to the man's background. A Shi'ite Lebanese with Iranian ancestry. But little is known beyond that. Conflicting descriptions and always confused reports as to his whereabouts. Very mysterious, and very professional.'
'He's no longer with the PLO?' D'Arcy asked.
Fraser shook his head. 'In the late seventies Sabbah became disillusioned with Arafat's softly-softly approach and virtually went freelance - like Abu Nidal some years before. He moved with a group of followers to Libya. There he acted on his own and Gadaffi's behalf for several years. Political assassination, bombings in Europe, and two aircraft hijacks.' Fraser looked up from the print-out. 'But it was during the downfall of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution in '79 that he really moved into the big league. I think the general has greater detail on more recent events.'
Roquelaure stubbed out his cigarette. 'Unfortunately, Rober', I do not need to consult notes. The facts are ingrained in my heart. You see Sabbah was involved with training young Iranians for the '79 uprising in camps in Libya, Lebanon and Syria. By the time Khomeini took over, Sabbah had found his - er, roots - I think you say. A cause and a divine mission. He still maintained his links with Libya, but drew closer to Iran. Indeed it was he who brought the alliance between the two countries closer together in their campaigns of state-sponsored terrorism.
'In March '82 there was a meeting in Teheran of Shi'ite revolutionary movements from all over the Arab and Western worlds. A major campaign was established and one hundred million dollars immediately allocated to support worldwide terrorism in the name of Islam. It was organised by the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Department for the Export of Revolution. And one of its chief exponents was...'
D'Arcy saw it coming. 'Sabbah,' he murmured.
A silence fell between the three men; the air in the small room seemed suddenly chill.
'The rest is history,' Roquelaure said wearily, lighting another Gitane. 'Sabbah formed a sort of inner caucus of the Hezbollah, although their actions took place under a confusion of names. Even the PLO use the name of fedayeen after the original Sabbah's "men of sacrifice". Nevertheless, he had been so successful by '84, that he was given permission to expand his Sons of Heaven, creating suicide squads to attack his Arab enemies - and, I regret, France.'
D'Arcy raised an eyebrow. 'Why France in particular? You once played host to Khomeini.'
A wan smile crossed Roquelaure's tired face. 'And since the Islamic Revolution we have given sanctuary to his enemies. And, thanks to Sabbah and his Pessarane Behesht, we have paid the price, believe me. So penetrating his organisation has been one of our prime objectives, as you can imagine...
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Book Description Charnwood Pub, 1991. Book Condition: Good. Largeprint. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP78227244