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Chapter 2 of Island of Bolay - thriller by Patrick Dixon. Published originally by Harper Collins, sold in Airports and bookshops, now available on Kindle Germ warfare agents have fallen into terrorist hands. An air ambulance doctor is soon running for his life, after discovering the deadly truth...

The 10.45        Zakintos, Greece

As John Bradley hung up,  thirty year old Dr David Miller strode into the tiny office of Zakintos Island hospital, slammed the door, stuffed the stethoscope in his pocket, flung his powerful six foot frame in the chair. He threw his broad feet on the walnut desk facing the wall and pulled a cigarette.  He was sweating in the afternoon heat, angry, brown hair all over the place, dark brown-green intensely alert eyes. He tore at collar and tie and pulled out his phone.

Mark Taylor, nineteen years old yesterday, was lying in a room chock full of old men, surrounded by crowds of women in black and numbers of children. Just one nurse for the whole corridor and she spoke no English. Julia Cousins, the flight-nurse, was cleaning Mark up - it was a hellish place to be sick. Families had to do their own nursing, best as they could.

Miller tried to dial Hugh, the pilot of Air Ambulance but the phone was engaged.

The white plaster wall by his right hand showed the red flecks of dead mosquitoes.  A beautifully carved wooden icon of Christ hung from a nail by the shuttered window.  Amanda would have liked it. The room reeked of disinfectant and pipe tobacco.

Miller meddled with the unlit cigarette, broke it twice and threw it in the bin.  He threw the other six away with the empty packet. A baby cried in the corridor.  For the third time that week he vowed he would never have another smoke. He watched as his shoes shed films of dust on newspapers which lay on the desk.  He glanced at the headlines. Troops guarding the Golden Dome of Jerusalem. Ten Muslims dead at the entrance, shot by Israeli soldiers. Yet another flare-up in a bloody month which had seen more deaths in Israel than in the previous five years.  Syria and Iran piling on the pressure again.

This was routine air ambulance. Not so big a challenge after three years as an army medic. Should have been killed outright. The boy had skidded off a scooter on gravel. No helmet. No shoes. Shorts and a shirt. Just like sixteen others in the last four months. Scooters should be banned.

Coming too fast round a hairpin,  he’d swerved against a wall, bounced into the road, slid along his bare side, ended in a ditch. Several broken vertebrae, massive grazes, skin missing down right leg and arm, possible skull fracture, three broken ribs on right chest wall. Lucky to be alive.  It was immoral of these bike companies not to warn people.  They should make them take helmets as condition for insurance if nothing else.

He tried Hugh’s number again with no success.

His mind drifted back to the landing, felt the plane sink again as it banked steeply round the bay, flanked by craggy hills and olive trees, thought about Julia, and then about Amanda in London, heard her warm friendly voice, with a hint of wealth and privilege, saw her infectious smile, wondered what she was doing.

He called again. He was jolted back to the present by a voice on the line and sat bolt upright: “Hugh?” he said tersely. “It’s not good. Multiple injuries with unstable spine fracture and intermittent signs of cord compression. His head is on traction but he's hard to move. One jolt and he'll not walk again. Road's terrible and so is the driver. It’s going to take us a good hour or more to get to you.”

He paused. Hugh began to talk very fast. Miller hit the table with force, dust lifted into the air. The last time he'd done that was after they told him he was being discharged from the army for something he didn't do.

“Sicily?” he shouted. “That’s the last straw.” He stood up. “You must be off your head. Sicily?  Fred Cooper wants to land in Sicily?  On the way back?  What the hell for? This boy is sick.”

Miller picked up the paper. Two of the Jerusalem dead were small children. “Tell him absolute veto.  What's wrong with them in London?”

He hung up, wrenched open the door so it bounced off the wall and marched out down the corridor past noisy family groups cooking evening meals in the hallway.

“We're going,” he announced to Julia as he swept in. Miller was a commanding presence and relatives of other patients shrank back.  Julia was taking her time dressing an extensive leg wound.

He enjoyed working with her. White uniform showed off her rounded figure, light tan, shoulder length mousy hair, tied up at the back.  She was a first class nurse with stacks of common sense, and more flying hours than many pilots.  Cool-headed but caring, sensitive yet detached enough to cope with death at close quarters. Air ambulance work was never for the faint-hearted.  Amanda was always telling him that.

Amanda had also confessed last night that at times she was tempted to feel jealous of Julia and felt guilty about that. The hours together when she, Amanda, was on full stretch in the city

But he also sensed that Julia was jealous of Amanda.  Ten days ago Julia and he had been snatching a hurried lunch together in a Madrid cafe, waiting for the doctor in the hospital next door to release their patient. She had unexpectedly blurted out that she found him very attractive. Her stammering voice, her blush and downward glance betrayed more.  He laughed it off  at the time but what has been said can never been unsaid, and from that moment there had been tension between them.

Miller pulled himself together. “They wanted us to make an unscheduled stop. What the hell do they think they're doing? Stop here, stop there! Package here, delivery there! You’d think we were an air freight company.”

“Hey,” warned Julia glancing at their patient.

“Is there a problem?” Mark asked.

“No, just straightening out the itinerary to the UK to get you safely to the best hospital in the country as fast as we possibly can.” He checked the time again. “How are you feeling now?”

Julia was taking his blood pressure, the cuff round his good arm.

“Not too bad when I'm lying still,” Mark replied trying to smile. “I can't believe you've come all the way from London in a private jet. I feel a real idiot. Is it going to cost?”

“All under travel insurance. It's what we're here for. The pethidine will start to work soon.”

Julia stood up: “I fixed a corset round him to stabilise his back, but I'm not too sure about his blood pressure,” she said. “It's fallen a fraction while we've been here.”

“He's just relieved to see us. This place is enough to raise anyone's blood pressure - that right Mark?”

“You bet.”

“Your mum's gone to the hotel to pack. Their flight leaves in a couple of hours.”

“The injection's starting to work,” Mark said. “I’m feeling sleepy. Still got a headache.”

“Headache? You didn't have that before did you?” Miller frowned.

“Getting worse since you arrived.”

Miller leaned over Mark and slipped a small torch out of a jacket pocket. “Just checking your pupils again,” he explained. As he thought, the left pupil was now slightly dilated. “Mind if I examine your reflexes again?” He quickly pulled up the sheet to test for knee reflexes with a small rubber hammer. He used the end of the handle to stoke the soles of the boy's feet from heel to toe. Nothing abnormal, but the left pupil scared him.  Something had changed in Mark’s head - probably due to a slow leak from a small blood vessel,  sheared as his brain twisted inside his head at the moment of impact.  The signs were usually gradual - and then it was often too late with eighty to ninety per cent mortality. Miller checked the time again and realised his wrist was trembling. The journey from here to a British hospital would take at least five hours.  About 4pm British time. The last time he'd done a job like this, the woman had died just twenty minutes after take-off.

“Okay Mark, that's fine for now. Let's go.”

Miller could smell the warmth of Julia's perfume as she drew close and leaned forward.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Possible subdural haematoma.”

“I'm worried about his blood pressure.”

“Put up a drip just in case.”


Three hour’s flying time from Zakhintos, John Bradley jumped from the Lynx helicopter, ran low under the whirling blades towards the reception party at Porton Down.  He was followed by two senior officials with identical black leather brief cases. The place crawled with Military Police and army Landrovers.

Bradley wore a precision-fitted grey suit. His strength of personality diminished the rest of the party who were all wrapped in overcoats apart from Dr Henry Stafford, head of Porton Down in an immaculate starched white coat.

“Field Marshall,” said Stafford with a nervous twitch. He was forty three years old, intensely shy and private, a rising star in military research, with a first class mind but no real military experience.

“Now then,” snapped Bradley. “The explosion was at 09.13, correct?”  He scanned the whole site.  It seemed as if half a British battalion was arriving: ten jeeps, two lorries, four armoured personnel carriers.  Thirty soldiers beganassembling in full battle dress, with 5.56mm colt commando rapid fire rifles at the ready.

Dr Stafford followed Bradley's glance. Others were pulling on white biotech suits. “The explosion was recorded on security equipment at 09.13.”


“We are unsure.”

Low rise buildings arranged in five sections, tall chimney, separate residential block, parking area, tarmac, helicopter landing site, neatly mown grass running three quarters of a mile to high fence, barbed wire, cameras, woods and a hidden road.

And everywhere the flashing of biotech hazard warning signs.

Bradley loathed the place. “To think such weapons should ever play a part in winning a war,” he murmured, staring at the chimney, and all those troops.  He doubted the wisdom of bringing human beings so close to a heavily contaminated site.

Stafford fingered the buttons of his coat. “A small explosion in the main part of E block shattered a glass storage vessel.”


“Human virus warfare agent 175.”

Bradley glared accusingly. “You didn't mention that in the report.”

“We are still analysing the data.  WA 175 has never been tried on humans in this country.  It's a genetically engineered virulent strain of virus from macaque monkeys, with receptors for human cells lining the nose and lung.  The original sample came in from Iraq over a decade ago.”

“Extent of contamination?”

“Five workers.”

“Five?  Report said three.”

“I was misinformed.  Flying glass shredded their protective outer suits. One was killed outright.”  Stafford shrank visibly inside his coat.

“That the missing one?”

“No.  Dr Fisher has simply vanished.  He drove out through the gatehouse in the early hours of the morning.  We found his Mercedes abandoned just over an hour ago, two miles from here.”

“Explosion 9.13.  First notification you give me is an hour later. Sixty long shattering minutes and then the report was wrong. Let me see the extent of the damage.”

“ I.. I don't recommend it.”

“You're telling me the place is unsafe.  So I suspected, there has been release.”

“Limited internal release and now contained and isolated.”

“Then take me inside. I insist.”

“Inside?  Inside E Wing?”

“Dr Stafford, you say there was no release.  Then take me inside.  I have to tell the Minister I have been in there myself and that I am completely satisfied that the risk has been contained.  The alternative is a full scale emergency with total evacuation within a ten mile radius, starting immediately.”

“I need to warn you that it is not going to be easy for you to see what we have seen...”

“The wounded, where are they now?”

Dr Stafford hesitated. “They are inside a sealed area, twenty metres by ten metres.  No one can go in and they can’t come out.”


“In the laboratory where the accident happened.”

“You mean they have been locked inside?”

“The alarms went at 9.13. I was in my office and ran straight there.”

“Five poor sods with not a cat's chance in hell.”

“There were six or seven of us outside the lab door within thirty seconds but the automatic locks activated at once, sealing them inside.  All computer driven and can't be overridden. They are trapped, heavily contaminated withagent 175. They can't get out and we can't go in.”

Both looked away in silence.  Sir John turned back as if to say something and stopped.

Dr Henry Stafford, Head of Porton Down Research Centre, was silently but unmistakably crying.  Tears were running over his cheeks, and into the corner of his mouth. He stood stiffly, as if to attention, holding his breath but his chest was heaving.

Dr Stafford began: “These people are my friends.  We are a close community here.”

“How certain there’s no leakage?”

“All working areas are designed with negative air pressure. Any air flow is always from corridors into the labs, under the doors for example.  In any case doors are self-sealing when closed.  Extractor fans take air from each laboratory through ten feet of activated charcoal and then a bubble chamber of formalin before blowing off into a furnace at two thousand degrees centigrade, then up a hundred foot chimney into the atmosphere.”

“Well then. Take me inside.”

Chapter 2 of Island of Bolay - thriller by Patrick Dixon. Published originally by Harper Collins, sold in Airports and bookshops, now available on Kindle Germ warfare agents have fallen into terrorist hands. An air ambulance doctor is soon running for his life, after discovering the deadly truth...

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