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Chapter 3 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...


Julia Cousins had spent the last fifteen minutes fixing up a drip and preparing to transfer Mark onto a stretcher, the most hazardous manoeuvre of the whole journey.

She put her hand on his curly hair: “Mark, we're just going to slip this special frame under you, half from each side, and bolt it together above your head and your feet, to scoop you up from the bed.”

She looked at him and turned to Miller. “How much pethidine did you give him?  He's very sleepy.”

“Almost unconscious. Let's get going.” They slid each half of the high-tech scoop into place underneath Mark from both sides of the bed and bolted it together. Folded red blankets over him. Fastened the straps.

“Here, take his bags” Miller said to a middle-aged overweight nursing assistant. She was watching, but without interest.

“We'll lift him down. Take our medical cases too, get someone to help...... and keep that bottle high.” The last remark was directed at the driver with wrinkled face, chatting to the man in the other bed.

Slowly they manoeuvred the stretcher along the crowded white-washed corridor and down three flights of stairs, followed closely by the others. They progressed slowly down the corridor  on the ground floor followed by a small group of little boys and youths.

There was another fifty metre walk past the pharmacy and x-ray department  to the main doors.

Miller began again: “I've stuck it out nearly six months. Don't know how you put up with it.  Six years working for Fred Cooper.”

“You know why.  I enjoy it. The pay's good and I get to travel.” She glanced at him as a dark-haired Greek nurse opened the big swing doors for them. “Yes it's odd but there's only been one extra stop in the last eight weeks.  No more.  And that was on the way out, not the way back.  It delayed a non-urgent arrival by two hours.  Big deal.”

“Perfect cover.”

“For what?”

“The moment we land, an ambulance with flashing blue lights roars down the tarmac, scoops us up and roars through the airport gates.”

“ Keeps the adrenaline going.”

“No customs. No immigration. No checks. The sicker they are, the faster it happens.”

“Look out - you almost bumped into that old woman.” The long corridor echoed with sounds from the children's ward opposite.

“Drugs, cash – you could hide anything in the tyres of  stretcher or wheelchair, or inside our equipment.”

They waited until the two helpers were alongside to steady the stretcher. Outside the dusty glare and sticky heat hit them; the roar of cicadas in the trees and the rustling of a gentle breeze.

They negotiated five stone steps as the clapped-out ambulance reversed slowly across the  pebbled courtyard.  The driver killed the engine, jumped down with a toothy smile and went to open the rear doors.

The ambulance started again with a rattle and a roar filling the air with pumping smoky exhaust as they slid the stretcher in the back. Julia loaded up the four medical cases and luggage, while Miller said a brief farewell to the bearded medical superintendent.

“What's Greek for slow?” he yelled, climbing in the back, securing the double doors. He sat down on the wooden bench next to Julia, leaning close with both hands firmly on the stretcher. The ambulance lurched forward down the broken track towards the main road.

The driver leaned round and broke into a broad grin:

“I understand very good. Best driver. Everyone get help very fast.”

The road curved and twisted round steep valleys of olive groves and streams, as they cushioned the stretcher and each other against the swaying, jolts and bumps in the road. They were halted by several donkeys carrying vegetables,a goat and various barefoot children trying to force them into order along the narrow road. No one seemed in a hurry. Miller checked the time again.  Ten minutes loading.  Twenty minutes already on the road and barely half way to the plane.  Four and a half hours to get to a UK specialist unit.

Pulse and blood pressure were stable. Pupils and reflexes unchanged but Mark could barely be roused.

Julia seemed far away even though she was crammed against him, helping fix the stretcher with the weight of her body against the life-threatening holes in the road.

“What are you thinking?” Miller asked.

“You need to watch out.”

“Is that why no doctor lasts more than a year?”

The ambulance clashed into gear again.

Just good friends.  There had been enough opportunities for more, both of them stranded here and there with a day and night to kill in some foreign hotel waiting for patients or planes. He thought of Amanda.  They’d often talked of marriage, been through hard times. Amanda wanted him to get a proper job - without travelling.  But Amanda had been strangely aching. Despite all his probing he had come up against a solid brick wall.  He began to wonder if she had been having second thoughts herself.   Perhaps there was someone else.  Sometimes it felt like there always had been.

First day at Cambridge, not more than ten minutes inside his room, up three flights of narrow stone stairs across the quad. Twelve feet square, simple and needs paint. Metal-frame leaded windows look down onto a narrow alley, Queen's College kitchens beyond, with the smell of cooking from a roof-top extractor fan which rattles.

Being here is everything he dreamed.

The door is open and he hears a female voice two floors down.  Clear and strong.  Coming closer.

“Up another flight. Oh my!”  Closer still.  Her voice is warm, with a slightly clipped accent. Curiosity rules and he gets up off his knees, puts the books down and hovers in the doorway.

And there she is, five foot ten of her.  A flash of sweeping fair hair and a sassy excited nineteen year-old smile,  body-hugging cream cashmere top, mega-breasts and tight faded blue genes, bulging leather bags in each hand and rolls of posters under each arm.  She's the most bewitchingly attractive girl David has ever set eyes on.  Her deep blue radiant eyes lock onto his with an open vulnerability - first seconds, first minute, first hour, first day, first friend. Love at first sight.

“Hi there!” she exclaims. “Looking for room 9.”

“You've come to the right place.”, David replies more confidently than he feels.”It's right here,”he added in a rush.”The two rooms share the same outer door - I think it used to be a double for one of the College Fellows.  There are another two rooms on the other side of the landing. I'm the first to arrive. Kitchen straight ahead - if you can call it that. I'm David.”

“I'm Amanda. Amanda Bocelli.” She put down her load. Again the same eyes are resting on him.  Taking him in. What does she think? What does she feel about living so close to him? In a flash he sees a whole year of shared day to day student life. She's far too attractive to be interested in him.

“Great.  I'm David.  Just arrived too. Doing medicine. Great.  I'll give you a hand.”  His heart is beating fast.  His knees are jelly. He feels ten years old.

“I'm supposed to be doing history. Must be mad.” Again a slightly sophisticated, offbeat, sexy smile. “And this,” she adds as a male figure struggles to the top of the stairs with two more boxes, “this is my boyfriend Simon.  He's second year at Clare.”

The ambulance swerved again to avoid another hole. Julia began where she'd left off. “Don’t throw this job away, David... Discharged from the Army, couldn't get an NHS job. You sound like you’re about to choose the dole again.”

She paused, pressing against him as they lurched around another pot-hole.


Sir John Bradley and Dr Stafford stood in a white, plastic lined corridor halfway down E block.  Every five metres on either side were identical polished steel doors with reinforced glass portholes set at eye level.  Each door was electronic card controlled.

“Tell me more about Agent 175,”asked Bradley. “You say one flask was smashed but you think several others are missing, possibly removed from Porton Down before all this happened.”

“It’s the most virulent weaponised virus we have ever studied. Originally smuggled out of Iraq. Someone working for us on the inside from 1997 to 2005. In its current form it has no military value, too dangerous, but Iraqi scientists were trying to modify it and so are we.”

“What does it do?”

“Causes eye infections, then attacks bone marrow, liver, kidneys, brain. Made originally by adding genes from animal viruses to one causing common colds. Iraqis tried it on three Kurdish prisoners. Our informant was a prison guard and saw them every day. He was arrested, tortured and shot  the day after dropping a report to a dead letter box.”

“Incubation period?”

“We think around two to three days but people are probably infectious within twenty four hours and remain so... until they die, as happens in most cases.”

“Does this virus stay active in the air or in the dust?”

“It varies on the exact conditions.  In some circumstances viable virus can be detected after a couple of weeks.  Maybe indefinitely if frozen.”

“Antidote or vaccine?”


“Let me talk to them.”

Stafford escorted Bradley down the corridor.  He waved two armed guards and an observer with clipboard aside and went to the round porthole set in the door.  He paused for a moment and withdrew.

“Let me see.”

Bradley advanced cautiously, aware that all eyes were watching.  He peered in through the thick glass, taking in the layout of the laboratory, designed for ten or more to work with ease. Stainless steel work-benches, fume cupboards, sinks, fridges, centrifuges, large cylinders with pressure gauges and fluid levels, polythene bottles of reagents in neat rows on shelves along the walls. There was less damage than he had expected. Just one broken flask by the sink on the left under the window.  A minute explosive charge was all that had been needed. Just enough to crack the flask open.

He peered down. “Did you know there's a man lying up against this door? He's not moving. Where are the others?”

“In there, somewhere.  Professor Hunstan was hit in the chest. Must have been no more than ten feet away when it blew up.  We thought he was going to die just before you arrived.”

“Water, food?”

“Plenty of water but no food.”

They both saw a leg stir behind one of the work benches in the middle of the room.  Dr Stafford tapped loudly on the glass and waited.

“NBC suits?”  Bradley asked. “This place must be full of them?  Nuclear, biological, chemical suits.  That's what they're there for.  Why haven't you gone in?”

“Protocol is that all incidents with category A agents require the area to be sealed immediately, together with all occupants, and to remain sealed until the agent is deactivated. However deactivation with formalin gas would kill all those inside in less than fifteen minutes. Professor Hunstan forbade us to go in. So did Professor Balting. Anyway, the computer shut itself down and cannot be overridden except by  Whitehall. We can’t open the doors at the moment even if we wanted to.”

Bradley craned round to see more of the room. It appalled him to be so close to certain death. A man in bloodstained overalls with bright red eyes came into view from the extreme right, stumbling painfully along the wall, silhouetted in the light. His gaunt figure drew closer step by step until he stood with his nose almost touching the glass. The expression was glazed.

Bradley stepped back alarmed. The sick man pressed nearer still, flattening his nose until forehead and cheek bones were also in contact. The eyes were horrible. The centre of each was a crater, leaking pale jelly-like fluid, the white of the eye was networked with bulging red veins. He blinked twice, pushing thick tears onto lower eyelids.  His face moved and smeared the glass.

“Professor Hunston?” called Dr Stafford.

The frail living corpse jerked backwards several inches and turned, feeling with hands along the benches. They watched as he reached one of the sinks, pulling the cold tap on full until the water pelted up in rough spray. He put his hands under the water and slowly reached to his eyes.

Then it started.

A thin wail echoed around the lab and through the door. It grew to a screech of rage, anguish, anger, terror and despair. A terrible, piercing cry of death.

The man fumbled for a large piece of equipment, hugged it to his body with both hands. Threw it across the bench, smashing three other flasks. Liquid poured along the bench, dripped onto his shoes.

Now he slid his bleeding hands into the glass and liquid, cupped them and raised them to his mouth, mixing deadly brew with his own blood.

“Get me out of here,” cried Bradley, stepping back so fast he hit the opposite wall, colliding with one of the guards. He ran down the corridor, with Stafford in pursuit.

Chapter 3 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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Thanks for promoting with Facebook LIKE or Tweet. Really interested to read your views. Post below.

November 24, 2015 - 13:18

How would you classify a very silpme change in a society's way of doing things--such as an effort to get villagers to adopt a certain method of adding salt to food to ensure proper nutrition? Everett Rodgers talks about a "boiling water" campaign in an LDC in his book Diffusion of Innovations...is that a technology, or social knowledge? What would hinge on the distinction?What do you think is a good example of lawmakers failing to anticipate technological change, or (worse) being willfully blind to it? I think the copyright situation in the US before the Act of 1909 was interesting on this score....legislators had to be prodded to make rules by a rather bizarre decision in the Apollo case...but in the 1990's they tried to get ahead of the technological change, and on some levels badly misjudged things.

June 12, 2012 - 21:08

Well a short video clip has to compress comeplx thoughts into a sound-bite. I agree that speed of getting product will not be enough to save traditional retailing. Expect a significant shake-out. Experience for customers will be important as part of a leisure activity. Patrick Dixon

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