TICK TOCK (EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Book 1)Jane Harvey-Berrick
Series Titles by Jane Harvey-Berrick
* The EOD Series
Blood, bombs and heartbreak
Tick Tock (EOD series #1)
Bombshell (EOD series #2 – 1st March 2019)
*The Traveling Series
All the fun of the fair … and two worlds collide
The Traveling Man (Traveling series #1)
The Traveling Woman (Traveling series #2)
Roustabout (Traveling series #3)
Carnival (Traveling series #4)
*The Education Series
An epic love story spanning the years, through war zones and more…
The Education of Sebastian (Education series #1)
The Education of Caroline (Education series #2)
The Education of Sebastian & Caroline (combined edition, books 1 & 2)
Semper Fi: The Education of Caroline (Education series #3)
*The Rhythm Series
Blood, sweat, tears and dance
Slave to the Rhythm (Rhythm series #1)
Luka (Rhythm series #2)
The Justin Trainer series – on Radish
Guarding the Billionaire
With Stuart Reardon
*Touch My Soul (novella – December 2018)
Gym Or Chocolate? (coming in 2019)
* These titles are published in languages other than English. Check my website for details.
For standalone titles, click here
Copyright © 2018 Jane Harvey-Berrick
Editing by Kirsten Olsen
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you do, you are STEALING. I support my family through my writing. Pirate copies are illegal, and you’ve really spoiled my day.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Cover design by Sybil Wilson / Pop Kitty Design
Formatted by Cassy Roop / Pink Ink Designs
Photographer: GG Gold / Model: Gergo Jonas
Harvey Berrick Publishing
To the men and women who walk toward danger.
A Note About This Book
This hasn’t been an easy book to write for lots of different reasons—it’s important to me, so getting the research right has been tricky.
But I have close friends from the EOD community, and close friends from the Muslim community, who have helped and guided me through.
They have guided and advised, but ultimately it’s my book, so any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
The aim is to be respectful to both communities, and to tell a story of love and compassion in a very dark place.
There may be ‘triggers’ for some people in the story, so please be advised.
In the end, it’s a love story, not a hate story, and I hope that’s the part that remains with you.
And I really must thank my two Army friends J and J.
But also huge thanks to my lovely team who’ve helped me shape this story: Madeena Mohana Wali, Dzana, Selma and Sejla who advised on Islamic customs.
I should also mention that this book is written in British English and spelling rather than American English, so some of the slang used is mentioned in the Glossary at the back.
Series Titles by Jane Harvey-Berrick
A Note About This Book
More books by JHB
MORE ABOUT JHB
Want a free book?!
This one here <<<br />
Of course you do! My acclaimed novella PLAYING IN THE RAIN was featured in Huffington Post’s list of Top Ugly Cry Reads! Click here to see the whole list.
You’ll receive it for free when you sign up to my newsletter. Easy peasy!
You’ll also get a chance to read ARCs of my new books and other offers exclusive to VIP newsletter readers and completely free.
Sign up here -->http://janeharveyberrick.co.uk/newsletter-signup/
I really hope that you enjoy this story. Reviews are love! Honestly, they are! But it also helps other people to make an informed decision before buying my book.
And this book means a lot to me as I have friends who work in bomb disposal.
So I’d really appreciate if you took a few seconds to do just that. Thank you!
We’re born alone and we die alone.
I’ve never been afraid of dying. It’s living that scares the hell out of me.
But in the bomb suit, I am utterly alone.
There is no today, no yesterday, no tomorrow.
Just here, right now.
There is no God, no Devil, no good, no evil.
Just me. And the sound of my breathing, loud and rhythmic.
Just me. And this bomb.
A bomb is a device that is designed to kill, maim or harass.
I’m not afraid. I don’t have time to be afraid.
The sun burns down, the light is a white haze, sweat runs into my eyes. The longer I’m out here, kneeling in the dust, the more vulnerable the team watching my back.
I can’t be quick. I have to be certain.
Because if I’m wrong, I die.
I am an EOD operator.
I am the Tick Tock man.
I RAISED MY SA80 rifle and aimed at the man’s chest. Got him!
From 20 yards, I couldn’t miss. But then again, neither could he.
He was driving an old Jeep, so battered that it looked as though string and chewing gum held it together. He revved the engine threateningly and I d
ucked behind a lamppost so he wouldn’t be able to run me over. I couldn’t see the driver’s hands. What was he doing with his hands? He could be reaching for a weapon, or he could be arming a device that would blow a hole through the world.
Shit just got serious.
I gestured with the rifle, my voice harsh and gritty—a command.
“Raise your hands and place them on the steering wheel.”
He didn’t move, he just stared at me, his eyes narrowed with hatred.
“Raise your hands now!”
The soldier next to me started to twitch.
“Staff! He’s not doing anything! Does he even speak fucking English?”
He’d got a strong Geordie accent, so it sounded like, Stav! Ees not dooin’ ennyfink! Doos ee even spook fookin Eenglish?
“I don’t know. Do you?”
He gave me a quick, nervous grin. But my joke had helped him to relax. Or maybe he’d just stepped back from the edge of a big mistake.
I took a pace forward, pointing my SA80 at the insurgent.
“Hands where I can see them!”
Even if he didn’t speak English, my meaning was clear.
But I was distracted by the soldier next to me who was jigging from foot to foot like he wanted to piss his pants.
I glanced toward him.
“Calm down, it’s alright…”
Suddenly, there was a loud bang, a flash of light from the Jeep, and a cloud of dust and blue smoke flared upward.
I lowered my rifle and swore.
“Staff Sergeant Spears!” bellowed Captain Elderman, shaking his head. “If that had been a real device, you and your men would be very fucking dead right now. You should have made sure his hands were in sight. It’s a good thing this is a training exercise in Wiltshire and not a real life situation in Ifuckingdontcareistan. I expected better of you, Spears. See me in my office later.”
Then he strode away.
The Jeep driver grinned, tossed a V-sign with his fingers, racing off in a cloud of dust, the exhaust rattling asthmatically.
“Sorry, Staff,” said my Lance Corporal, his expression crestfallen. “I fooked it oop.”
“You, me, both,” I sighed.
We joined the rest of the Troop and trudged back to the bus that would take us from the training ground to the barracks.
The pack on my back weighed 110 pounds: 50lb of basic Army shit; 60lb of EOD kit. It was 31oC and I was sweating my ‘nads off. English summers weren’t supposed to be this hot.
It was sheer relief to climb onto the bus and crawl to a seat at the back where I could dump my pack and drink some tepid water from my flask.
I looked around at my team that I’d been attached to, all from REME—the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. They were good lads, but young and inexperienced. At 29, I was the oldest. Next stop thirty. When did I get so old?
I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes, letting the weariness take me. Within minutes, I was falling asleep. That was something you learned in this job: catch some ZZZs while you can. Hours in your sleeping bag can be few and far between on a deployment in a hostile environment. Over the years, I’d trained myself to sleep anywhere: in a hammock, up a tree, in a tank, or lying on a slab of concrete. Time and opportunity was all I needed.
Although a nice soft bed with a nice soft woman in it would be even better, but I took what I could get.
When the bus arrived back at base, I was jolted awake.
Military bases are all essentially the same: red brick housing for families, low concrete barracks for unmarried personnel, ugly buildings, boring offices, hangars for planes or transport, tarmac parade grounds—grey, functional, depressing.
The Ministry Of Defence kept promising to tart up the living quarters, but I hadn’t seen any signs of it lately. At least we all had single rooms now, except for recruits who hadn’t passed basic.
Back at the Armoury, we returned our weapons, and the ammunition was carefully counted. No one wanted ammo to find its way into the wrong hands.
“Well done, lads,” I said, grinning despite my tiredness and our joint failure. “Not a bad op today—we were tight … right up until we had a weapons-grade fuck up. Think about how it could have been improved so next time we’ll be on it.”
“Yes, Staff,” came the muttered replies.
The smile slid from my face as I turned and headed toward the building housing the REME officers.
Not all officers are wankers. By the law of averages you occasionally come across one that you don’t want to shoot. Elderman was alright, not that I knew him well. I’d only been attached here for three weeks—barely enough time to find my way around base.
If I’d been overseas on ops, I’d have used the time to unofficially requisition some better kit for my men. There was always something they needed that the bastard of a Quartermaster wanted to keep tidied away in his nice, neat stores. Raiding his supplies could be a useful training exercise for my team. Unofficially, of course. But on a home base, it would be viewed as highly unprofessional and probably career ending—amassing spares on ops was viewed differently.
Totally against regulations. But that was the thing about the men who were in my trade: ATs, Ammunition Technicians—bomb disposal officers—we made lousy soldiers, but we made great ATs.
Our minds worked differently from most soldiers—we were trained specifically for that reason. We had to see three steps beyond everyone else. We were taught to analyze, taught to think. And that made us independent—which most officers hated.
We were the opposite of fighter pilots: they tell everyone who will listen that they’re a pilot and that speed is life. I didn’t tell anyone what I did, and speed is death.
Captain Elderman accepted my salute briskly and waved me into a chair.
“Fuck up today, Staff. Not your finest hour.”
He’d seen what happened, I didn’t need to apologise for it.
The Captain leaned back in his chair, tapping a cheap plastic biro against the scarred desk.
“I’ve had an unusual request come across my desk and someone at Division HQ thinks that you’re the man for the job.”
I stared at him warily. In my experience, a volunteer was someone who hadn’t understood the question.
“It seems our friends across the pond need some help—someone with your skill-set, as it turns out. Working with their own EOD teams—some sort of training exercise. You need to report to RAF Croughton tomorrow. Apparently the Yanks are so keen to have you, they’re sending transport to pick you up. Be packed and ready by 0700.”
I wasn’t expecting that—a training exercise with American military?
Could be interesting: Americans trained hard. Fifteen years ago, they said they wanted to be world leaders in EOD within ten years, and maybe in terms of equipment, support, numbers and capability they had it all going for them. In the British Army, we’d been trained for decades by learning how to neutralize everything the IRA could throw at us. There was a different background of knowledge to draw on, which was just as well, because we definitely weren’t funded to the same level.
“Yes, sir. How long am I going for?”
He frowned and looked at the paperwork.
“Doesn’t say. Best expect to be away for a few weeks.”
I took the orders that he handed to me and flicked through them as I headed back to my room, growing more and more confused.
The orders simply said when and where I’d be picked up: nothing about the training exercise, how long I’d be away, what I’d be doing, which regiment I’d be working with, or who’d requested me. Weirdly, the only contact was an email address that went to an office I’d never heard of at the MOD HQ in London.
It didn’t seem as though Elderman had been told anything more than was in my orders.
It wasn’t completely unusual to do training exercises with
our opposite number in the U.S. Army; I’d even trained with Navy SEALs, and EOD teams in the U.S. Marine Corps—but this was definitely different.
For one thing, it looked as though I’d be travelling by myself rather than with the Unit I was attached to; and for another thing, there was nothing to say where I was heading. Besides, the logistics of these sorts of joint exercises always took months to plan. I should have heard something about it before now.
I pulled out my phone and Googled RAF Croughton:
“Royal Air Force Croughton houses the 422nd Air Base Group whose function is to provide installation support, services, force protection, and worldwide communications across the entire spectrum of operations. The group is located in the UK and supports NATO, U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Department of State operations and Ministry of Defence operations. The group sustains more than 450 C2 circuits and supports 25% of all European Theater to continental United States (CONUS) communications.”
In other words, spook work.
There was a story behind this deployment, I just didn’t know what it was. Because it sounded like the sort of thing that would usually be undertaken by the Special Forces ATOs. But since I’d been dumped in a dead end unit after the incident in Afghanistan, it gave me a chance to escape to something more exciting—and possibly save my career.
So there was nothing for me to do but pack my bags. Since I’d only been in Wiltshire for three weeks, I hadn’t exactly made myself at home and I’d travelled light in the first place. Packing wasn’t an issue: where to store my Ducati Sport 1000 was. I didn’t trust those clumsy bastards in transport, the Royal Logistics Corps, not to damage it.
But as I was leaving in 12 hours, I didn’t have a lot of choice either.
I decided to shoot a text to my mate Noddy, reminding him that he owed me, and asking him to look after my wheels until I got back.
He agreed, but also wound me up by threatening to ride it while I was away. Noddy had been in my platoon but left the Army five years ago, and now he weighed 300 pounds and had as much balance as a lame hippo: if he tried to ride my bike, they’d be taking him to A&E and my bike to the knackers’ yard.