July 31, 23:50
Homemade bombs are easy to make.
All it takes is some ammonium nitrate and hydrogen peroxide. Both can be found in household items such as haircare products and fertiliser. Mix the ingredients together below ten degrees to form crystals, then combine with water, flour, and an initiator, and you’ve got yourself a device capable of killing dozens and injuring countless more. On the face of it, it’s simple. But both substances are incredibly volatile and must be handled with extreme care. It had taken Moshat and his brother months to learn the basics, but, for Moshat, homemade bombs wouldn’t do. Killing dozens wasn’t enough. For their operation, they would need professional, large-scale stuff. And they had the training to acquire it.
Moshat stood beside the desk and leafed through the files in the ring binder, counting off the seconds until it was time to begin, when his colleague entered the room. ‘Come on, mate. Shift’s over. You coming?’ Adam said.
Moshat hesitated. ‘I’m just finishing up a few more things.’ The light above him flickered, making the shadow he cast over the documents he held in his hands more ominous. It was important to make it look like he was busy. ‘You go. I’ll catch you up or see you tomorrow. I don’t know how long I'll be.’
Moshat nodded, keeping his gaze fixed on the papers in front of him. ‘It’s fine. Just go home, your missus will be getting worried. She might think you’re cheating on her.’
Adam chuckled, his oversized belly and sagging jowls wobbling with each laugh. ‘Chance would be a fine thing.’ He turned to leave the room. ‘See you tomorrow, then. Have a good one.’
Moshat grunted as a way of response. Finally. He let a deep sigh of exultation. Fucking finally.
Now he could begin.
As soon as he heard the factory shutter door close, way off in the distance, he placed his pen on the table. It was exactly parallel to the three other pens, two pencils, a small rubber and a shatterproof ruler. After a quick readjustment of the ruler, he was ready to go. Everything needed to be perfectly aligned, perfectly in order, and perfectly well-hidden.
Moshat glanced over at the red clock hanging on the wall and then at the digital clock on his desk. 23:50. Ten minutes to go. He breathed out and relaxed, allowing the tension in his back and shoulders to ease. As he arched closer to the wall, the knots in his muscles loosened. That idiot Gardner, he thought, shaking his head. It had been a close call; he didn’t think he would shake Adam away in time, like a piece of discarded chewing gum on his shoe. It was imperative that there were no delays. Delays were costly and could lead to further mistakes — or worse, they could lead to nothing happening at all. And so far, Adam Gardner had posed the biggest threat to the operation.
Moshat sat down on his chair. The wave of pain deep in his back returned with a vengeance. The injury hadn't been kind to him. It had changed the course of his career, meant his dream was ruined, and nearly left him paralysed and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The discomfort and hurt was a constant reminder of those responsible and how they now lifted trophies in the youth team for West Ham with promising careers ahead of them. Tomorrow he would ignore the pain, give in to it, sacrifice himself so he could see the operation through to the end and have enough painkillers in his system to knock out a horse. He would not let any signs of weakness ruin the worst terror attack London had ever seen, the attack which he had worked so hard to prepare for.
Moshat found himself transfixed by the second hand on the clock making its long and arduous journey around the face. He let out a sigh. It was no use. He needed to focus on something else.
He jumped to his feet, wincing as a bolt of pain pierced through his entire body, and shuffled over to the office window with his hand pressed against his lower back. Moshat rested his elbows on the ledge and rested his forehead against the glass. It was cold to the touch. Dim lights illuminated the factory floor below. Stretching into the distance as far as he could make out in the gloom, were train carriages — like giant slugs all lined up in a row. Each one looked powerful, yet tranquil, and most importantly, uninhabited. To many, the stillness of the factory at this time of night would have been enough to make their hair stand on end. Not him, though; in the two years he had been working in the factory, he had grown accustomed to the eerie silence during the nights often spent on his own there, and he had begun to appreciate what magnificent feats of engineering the trains were.
Moshat marvelled in their magnificence. They had the ability to transport thousands of passengers every day. They had the power to travel at vast speeds while keeping everyone aboard cocooned in a bubble of relative calm. They even had the ability to come to an immediate halt or derail at any moment and invoke the primal fear of survival in their passengers.
As he gazed at the trains below, an odd emotion welled up in him. Like an alligator’s eyes breaking the still surface of the water, it had risen from the depths of his soul and then dipped back down. Was it doubt? He didn’t know. Was he nervous? Was he afraid? Was he regretting the path he was about to take? Either way, it didn’t matter; he couldn’t let it matter. He and his brother had invested too much of their time and life, injected copious amounts of hatred and animosity into what was going to happen in the next twelve hours. It was too late to get cold feet and back out now.
Their lives would change forever. And everything needed to be perfect for it.
The phone in Moshat’s pocket vibrated. He dragged it out, unlocked it, opened his messages, and read the most recent one.
‘Adil,’ he whispered to himself after reading the text, as if to not disturb the trains while they rested. He checked the time. 23:55.
He pocketed the phone, made his way down the stairs and headed towards the factory’s exit. He approached the shutters and pressed a large green button on the control panel next to them. With a loud groan, the cogs and gears in the mechanism above him engaged, lifting the door and letting a torrent of cold air flood in over his feet.
Before him, silhouetted against the backdrop of the artificial light in the car park beyond, stood Moshat’s brother, his features barely discernible except for the wide smile he wore on his face. Adil stepped forward into the factory. He wore a woollen hooded jumper with a leather satchel that hung off one shoulder and stretched across his body. His eyes and forehead were concealed by the low hanging hood. There was a commanding presence about Adil. Moshat’s brother wasn’t the biggest man, nor the most intimidating. Instead, there was something else about him: he had the aura of someone with the brains and skills that had the power to bring a country to its knees.
‘You read your text messages, then?’ Adil asked, pulling the hood from his face. His large, black, deep-set eyes seemed to absorb the light of the factory.
Moshat glared at him. ‘You’re early. Why are you early? You’re not supposed to be early. You know I don’t like when you’re early. We have set times for a reason.’
‘The sooner we begin, the sooner we can finish,’ Adil said.
‘What if Gardner or someone else was still here? What if you were seen? We cannot afford mistakes. Not this late in the stage. We have less than twelve hours until our operation begins. Can you imagine what would have happened if you were caught?’ Moshat said.
‘Relax, Moshat. Don’t you trust me? I made sure you were all alone before I made myself visible.’ Adil smiled and slapped Moshat on the shoulder. ‘Now, stop complaining and let’s get to work.’
The two of them moved over to a small workbench next to the stairs. It was littered with the day’s rubbish of wrenches, dozens of screws and a hammer. Adil removed his bag and slammed it down amongst the carnage.
‘What are you doing?’ Moshat asked, rushing over. ‘Do not make more of a mess than there already is, please. They'll know if it's been tampered with. I don’t want your fingerprints over everything.’
Adil continued, heedless of Moshat’s protestations, and picked up the wrench. He bounced it in his hands, gauging the density and weight of the tool, and said, ‘What are we waiting for?’
Moshat nodded and started towards the office. In the middle of the room was Moshat’s desk, neatly laden with stationary and paperwork. Moshat sat in his chair, and Adil grabbed one from the neighbouring desk and sat opposite him, placing his bag on the wooden surface.
Adil appeared to observe the room, casting his gaze around and taking in its neatness and ordinariness before he opened his bag and removed a wad of paperwork. Post-Its and scribbles decorated the pages. ‘I have brought all of the plans and documents with me.’
‘We won’t need them. I have them all committed to memory,’ Moshat said.
‘Did you learn nothing in your training? Prepare, prepare, prepare.’
Yes, Moshat thought. That old credo. The one I heard a thousand times while I sat in the mud, aiming down the sites of a sniper, rain lashing at my face. Moshat dipped his head. The two brothers laid the documents along the table in a row and reviewed them yet again for the next five minutes. They made sure there were no mistakes, no stones left unturned, no possibility that anything could go wrong. Once they had finished, Moshat suggested they go downstairs to the car and remove the contents from the boot.
They both started out of the office and left the factory through a side door to avoid patrolling security. The air outside was warm. When they reached the car, Adil opened the boot. Inside were three black duffel bags with the zipper only three-quarters of the way done. The outline of the bags was jagged, as if they were packed full of bricks.
‘I will take two,’ Moshat said stoically. The pain in his back had disappeared, and he would not let his brother know he was in any discomfort.
‘Be careful,’ Adil said. ‘We don’t want anything to explode now, do we?’
As Moshat hoisted the bags onto his back, he winced. Ignoring the hurt, Moshat carried the bags to the factory, maintaining a steady but brisk pace. If one bag were to fall from his shoulder and crash to the ground, he, his brother, and everything else within the factory, would be obliterated. Moshat entered the building, beads of sweat dribbling down his forehead and into his eyes in the summer heat. With a wipe to his eyes of the back of his sleeve, he strolled through a myriad of corridors, and placed the bags on the concrete ground.
As Adil joined Moshat by his side, he turned to his brother and said, ‘You ready?’