Ghost Estate

Ghost Estate

Status: Finished

Genre: Action and Adventure

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Action and Adventure

Summary

An Irish war veteran returns home from Afghanistan to confront a ghost from his past. What he finds is the biggest battle of his life. The death of his partner Jane, drives Danny Collins to leave Ireland during the so called Celtic Tiger years. He embarks upon not just a career, but a life choice that provides the biggest distraction from grieving he can think of. Danny enlists with the French Foreign Legion and for the next five years he sees action in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning home to lay his nightmares and sadness to rest he finds that more loved ones are in danger. His dad and brother have run foul of a local underworld boss. Separated and scared they are relieved to have Danny home who soon discovers that his days of war are far from over. Paddy, 16, has taken to the hills with information that can hurt the crook who sends his mob out to destroy the family, his dad has barricaded himself inside the family home. This is one battlefield where Danny never expected to rely on his skills and training, it is a new war that will determine the safety of his family and reveal the truth behind Jane's death. Complete at just over 98000 words.

Summary

An Irish war veteran returns home from Afghanistan to confront a ghost from his past. What he finds is the biggest battle of his life.



The death of his partner Jane, drives Danny Collins to leave Ireland during the so called Celtic Tiger years. He embarks upon not just a career, but a life choice that provides the biggest distraction from grieving he can think of. Danny enlists with the French Foreign Legion and for the next five years he sees action in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning home to lay his nightmares and sadness to rest he finds that more loved ones are in danger.

His dad and brother have run foul of a local underworld boss. Separated and scared they are relieved to have Danny home who soon discovers that his days of war are far from over. Paddy, 16, has taken to the hills with information that can hurt the crook who sends his mob out to destroy the family, his dad has barricaded himself inside the family home. This is one battlefield where Danny never expected to rely on his skills and training, it is a new war that will determine the safety of his family and reveal the truth behind Jane's death.

Complete at just over 98000 words.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 24, 2012

Reads: 238

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 24, 2012

A A A

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Ghor Region Afghanistan November 16th 2010

Her screaming was what frightened me the most.  I could hear the fear of someone who knew they might be about to die.  I willed her wrist to slip free.  Sure, she’d fall and get cut up, but she wouldn’t get dragged up the street and die.  The motorbike’s mechanisms seemed to take on a life of their own, extruding out further than normal, twisting and hooking Jane’s handbag strap, intent on keeping her.  The sound of the engine was almost a growl as it roared off, letting me know that no matter how she struggled, I could not have her back.  I sank to my knees but didn’t feel them collide with the ground.  I woke, crying, sweating and shaking.  Time to get on my feet and get my head together, maybe I’d get some food inside me this time.

The canteen was the coolest place on camp.  The massive canvass roof stretching across it not only provided shade but created a nice little channel for any breeze to drift through.  I would sometimes come here when it wasn’t meal time just to escape the stifling daytime heat.  I looked down at the food on my plate and shoved it around a bit more with the fork.  I just couldn’t stir up an appetite, and god knows I’d need something inside me for tonight.  It had become a pattern now.  Toss and turn for hours on end, unable to sleep and when I eventually did drift off the dreams would come.  Those fucking dreams. 

I had no doubt about why they had started, it didn’t take a psychologist to work it out.  Eight weeks to go before I got out, what else was I going to think about but home.  The legion always told us that they were our family and, in many ways throughout my time with them this had proved to be the case.  I thought when I walked through the barrack gates five years ago the legion might help me forget and I had to admit that there were some instances when if my mind wasn’t on the job I wouldn’t be sitting here now. 

Now it was nearly time to return to my actual family, at home in Dublin.  The dreams though were not only invading my night sleep but even the smallest of naps, like the one I had just taken, stupidly before dinner.  Waking up covered in a cold sweat was becoming a concern for the lads bunking with me.  Raf, my mate had shook me awake a couple of times as I screamed and gripped the bedclothes, twisting them around my body, writhing in anguish.  He was the only one I’d ever told why I came here.  He was the only one who would bring me round during the night giving me a break from my mind but the rest of them were starting to give me serious eyeball each morning, especially considering the task that lay ahead of us today.

Perhaps my time with the legion had only served as a plaster over the wound.  Maybe no healing had actually taken place, no softening of the blow.  I honestly thought joining up would have helped, but, given the panic returning home was causing, I think it was just a five year distraction.  I could recall everything, I mean every little thing.  From the two squad car doors slamming closed to the numbers on the male gard’s epaulettes.  The female officer was dressed in plain clothes.  I stood there with the key in the lock and watched as they followed me up the pathway to my front door.  Their faces were grim, they asked if I was Danny Collins, I nodded, already stuck for words.  They asked if they could come inside and when I twisted the key they took their caps off as they crossed the threshold into the hallway.

They told me they thought I should sit down.  My gut churned inside, I knew something had happened to Jane and as they began to explain I’m pretty sure that I bordered on passing out a few times.  No wonder they told me to sit.  It was the female who spoke, perhaps it sounded better, easier maybe?  I wondered how I could even think about such trivial things as she told me they had some bad news. 

I let my fork drop onto the plate and pushed my chair back from the table.  Giving my face a good rub I leant my head back and caught some of the breeze blowing through.  Being awake was my sanctuary these days, I couldn’t let the images infiltrate that too.  If they did, I was fucked.  The rest of the team were happily mopping up the dregs of their food with big lumps of bread.  I wished I had an empty mind like them.  I heard O’Donnell’s voice before I could see him.  Our unit leader was a fellow Irishman but that won me no favours with him.  He strode over to our table and uttered a solitary word.  “Sortir!”  He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb, ordering us out.  As we shuffled past he spotted my untouched plate of food and glared at me.

We left the cool shadow of the mess area and I couldn’t help but blink as the bright desert sun hit us.  A blanket of heat engulfed us, even the slight breeze was warm and we kicked up a small dust cloud as we moved towards our small group of tents.  I flicked my shades down regardless of the order that our faces must be ’fully visible at all times whilst at base, even if you are a legionnaire!’

There were some rules which I would never understand.  Mostly it was the little instructions I couldn’t get to grips with.  Like this one for example, we couldn’t wear shades whilst moving around the base.  We could though, have them resting on our foreheads, just not over our eyes.  Every uniform, insignia and lanyard must be clearly visible to one and all.  Tee shirts, as we wore, must have our names and numbers clearly readable.  I got it that everyone needed to be identifiable.  We’d had a couple of local Afghani lads access the base under the pretence of bringing a message from a tribal elder but once inside the base they tried relieving their assigned escort of his weapon.  I understood that those in charge of security were nervous and determined not to slip up again.  I even got the no shades over the eyes business, but somebody, somewhere signed off on the executive decision to allow sunglasses to be worn on the forehead and it was these kind of instructions which bamboozled me. 

The lads were content for now though, with bellies full of beef casserole, bowls of coffee and lashings of warm bread.  It never ceased to amaze me how the food, in what was basically a makeshift canteen, was better than the slop dished out to us back at any of our own FFL (French Foreign Legion) barracks.  As we sauntered towards our tents, positioned as close to the mess hall as possible, I looked around at our little unit, I couldn’t see one pair of uncovered eyes.

O’Donnell told us to be packed, loaded and ‘fit to shit’ in five minutes.  We were one step ahead though having got our kit together before lunch and so we took the opportunity to have a sneaky smoke break.  When we heard the order roared out to get our arses on the jeeps we grabbed our kit and headed towards the sand coloured 4x4s.  I welcomed the distraction tonight’s job brought, it was better than being left to my own thoughts.

Half way across the dusty yard we heard a lot of shouting and laughing from within the mess area.  French army regulars were filing in and lining up for their grub.  They liked to have the odd dig at us and thought now was prime time to take the piss as we were heading out on an op and they were sitting down to their food.  The jeering never really bothered us to be honest, we were used to it from that lot, we knew it was jealousy really.  They were just grunts, most of them conscripted and severely pissed off about being here, whilst all the legion lads were volunteers, highly trained and a couple of leagues above the regs.  They despised the fact that we got to eat before them and they couldn’t fathom why we were given certain liberties around the base.  This envy sometimes became too much for them to handle and occasionally it boiled over into the odd brawl. 

They started giving us the finger slicing across the neck sign.  That was a bit much and we stopped in unison.  O’Donnell appeared on cue and ushered us away pointing in the direction our jeeps.  He marched over to the line of young men waiting with their plates and tin mugs in hand.  We carried on to the jeeps and slung our gear into the rear utility spaces before climbing in.  I was just about to plug my earphones in and bang on a bit of music when I heard his booming voice.  He had served twelve years and still had his Dublin accent, it crept into his perfect French. 

He informed the regulars, whom he thought were inferior human beings to legionnaires, not to get too relaxed and that this mission we were on fell under the ‘kill’ category, not reconnaissance.  He told them that if we could get the shot then we were gonna take it and he added a ‘by Jesus’ in English on to the end of it only as a Crumlin man could.  This little market town, he roared at them, was about to be stirred up like a fucking hornets’ nest and it was you boys, he informed the regulars, pointing at them with a huge grin on his face, that were going to have to clean up after us.  Their laughing stopped and to a man they became very quiet.  It seemed to dawn on these young soldiers just what was actually happening.  A six man sniper team of the French Foreign Legion were being let loose on a town no more than fifteen miles away from here. 

They stared at our small unit as we sat aboard the 4x4s.  Each one of us now had earphones in listening to music, we wore our dark sunglasses and reclined on the seats, relaxed, the epitome of confidence.  Then, to the regulars’ collective horror, Raf, my cockney mate sitting beside me, sat up, looked over at them and mimicked pointing a rifle in their direction, his finger clicking an invisible trigger several times.  The look of dismay on some of their faces was comical.  I put my head back and got comfy, it was going to be a long old drive, having to stop every fifty metres or so whilst the lads with the detectors checked for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) for the first couple of miles.  It was always the way when we used common routes, luckily for us we’d be moving off the beaten track and going cross country quite soon.

We left the barracks, our vehicles crawling behind the guys with the detectors.  With no air conditioning and lack of breeze due to our slow movement the heat was stifling in the back seat.  I zoned out and concentrated on the music, becoming entranced by Luke Kelly singing about Raglan Road on an autumn day.  It didn’t take too long before our three jeep convoy slowed to a stop.  I whipped out the earphones and stuck my head out of the open window to see Sergeant O’Donnell give the thumbs up to the lads with the metal detectors.  I knew that meant from here on we’d be putting these 4x4s to the test as we left the established track and ventured over harsh scrub land. 

I stuck the earphones back in, slid the volume up a bit on my player and braced my feet against the driver’s seat in front of me.  We headed east towards our target, which was a small market town, and immediately felt the impact as a wheel plunged into a pothole.  I bounced across the seat head-butting Raf’s ribs.  He walloped his head off the window and then punched me in the shoulder for blindsiding him.  I smiled as it reminded me of some of the roads back home in Ireland.  I righted myself and Luke Kelly was now giving it loads about us being a nation once again.

I found myself frequently wondering what it was going to be like when I got home, or, more importantly, what I was going to be like, how I was going to feel.  I hadn’t made any decisions regarding life back in Ireland.  Returning to Civvy Street was, by all accounts, awkward enough but going back to that place, where life had turned so bad for me, I wasn’t even sure if I would stay there.  I just knew I had to go back though, there were a few ghosts I needed to confront.  I had to smile at the irony, I was probably the only Irishman in the world that had left during the boom years and was returning in the middle of a recession.

A blast of grit lashed across my face stirring me from my thoughts.  It was impossible to keep the windows up due to the heat but the sand and dust kicked up from the chunky wheels began flying everywhere.  I hit the button and raised the window until it was about two inches from the top and hunkered down in the seat as much as I could.  I didn’t want sand flying in and getting under my clothes as it would prove to be a nightmare later on.  Despite the rough terrain our drivers made good time and after roughly an hour and a half of bouncing through the scrub land we skidded to a halt.  O’Donnell then jumped from the lead vehicle and barked at us to get out, which meant we were five miles away from the market town. 

The drivers didn’t want to be hanging around here too long.  A group of vehicles on a flat open plain would be spotted from miles away and as they revved their engines their tyres spun rapidly in the sand trying to get some grip as they pushed off.  I quickly turned my back towards them crouching over my kit bag and long rifle holdall to minimise the effects of the sand storm the jeeps left in their wake.  When I turned I noticed O’Donnell glaring at me, shaking his head. 

“I know you’d like to be tucked up at home in Tallaght Collins but it’s only fucking sand,” he said. “Pretend you’re on a beach for fuck sake.”

“It’s not exactly bleedin’ Dollymount though is it,” I yelled above the engine noise and I was sure that when he looked away he was stifling a smile. 

A few months ago I would’ve got a slap round the head for answering him like that.  He must have known those of us with such a short time left didn’t fear the reprimands anymore.

With the transport gone we took stock and the first thing I realised was how much the temperature had dropped in those couple of hours, here in the middle of scrub land it could get cold in the evening.  It was getting dark, we huddled down, and using the GPS utility on our watches we marked our position, this would be our rendezvous location and the boys in the jeeps would come roaring back to this very point in five hours’ time.  We shuffled in closer to receive a brief recap of the plan which was to reach our pre designated positions, set up a hide and observe comms silence until we had the shot.  If one of us had a clear line of sight on the mark (enemy) we would declare it and await a green light from command back at base.  As soon as the mark was taken out we would exfil from our individual locations returning to this rendezvous point. 

We checked our kit and strapped the small comms kit to our heads which would let us listen and talk to control back at base.  O’Donnell ordered us to move out and onto our separate positions.  As I gathered my kit he came over to me and grabbed my arm.

“You’ve got prime position Danny, don’t hesitate.” 

I nodded and with a clap on the back he moved off.  I watched him go for a couple of seconds, he was a narky old bollocks but I’d miss characters like him.

It didn’t take long to cover ground as the adrenalin began to pump in anticipation of the job.  The air chilled even further and I looked up to see a crystal clear sky, it was going to be a cold one tonight.  I quickened my step to a steady half jog checking buttons on my desert cam jacket to make sure they were closed and pulled my lapels up around my neck.  I didn’t want this cold night air to hit the sweat forming on my body as it would freeze the bollocks off me.  The area was deserted, the locals knew better than to be caught out here in the open after dark and shepherds would have gathered their flocks leading them home well before the sun set.  Focusing on covering ground monotony soon hit me and it didn’t take long for Dublin to creep through the back door of my mind, bringing with it some unwelcome images.

 


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