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Authors: Tom Bale

Terror's Reach

TERROR’S
REACH
by
TOM
BALE

Terror’s Reach: an exclusive island on the south coast of England, home to rival business tycoons Valentin Nasenko and Robert Felton. On a sweltering weekend
in May, the island is targeted by a team of ruthless killers. Its residents are facing annihilation, and only one man stands a chance of saving them. Four
years ago, after an undercover police operation went disastrously wrong, Joe Clayton lost his career and his family. Forced to adopt a new identity, he
drifted from job to job and ended up on the Reach, working as a bodyguard to Nasenko’s wife, Cassie, and her children. Now he must draw upon all his experience
and reserves of strength to bring them out alive. But the situation is far more complex than anyone realises, and soon Joe is caught up in an explosive
feud between two immensely powerful forces. What gradually becomes clear is that the fortune hidden away on Terror’s Reach is not a prize at all. It’s
a trap. 

Published by Preface Publishing 2010

Copyright Š Tom Bale 2010

Tom Bale has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work under the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or
otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published
and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the
subsequent purchaser

First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Preface Publishing
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A
CIP
catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN
Hardback 978 1 84809 074 3
ISBN
Trade Paperback 978 1 84809 075 0

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For Ann and John Harrison

One

They sent the first man in at midday. His job couldn’t have been more
straightforward. All he had to do was sit on the beach. Watch, listen,
wait, and not be too obvious about it.
The target was Terror’s Reach, a stunning accident of geography
nestled within the dazzling surroundings of Chichester Harbour. One
small island: five homes, nine residents and combined assets that ran
into billions. It was a gold mine, practically begging to be plundered.
But the remote location posed its own challenges. The options
for reconnaissance were limited, long-term surveillance all but
impossible. There was no passing traffic, no way to go unnoticed.
Here amongst the super-rich, anyone seen loitering was liable to
be challenged or reported to the police.
The solution, on the day, involved a gamble, but the good weather
helped to minimise the risk. It was an easy enough gig, and Gough
was pleased to be assigned the role. He could sit on his arse as well
as the next guy.
But it also carried serious responsibility. As first man in, his actions
had a direct bearing on the whole operation. Get it wrong and he was
in big trouble.
He was under no illusions about the kind of people he was working
for. If he screwed up, they would probably kill him. Simple as that.

Two in the afternoon: siesta time. With the temperature pushing ninety
any sensible person would be glad to lie in the shade and have a doze.
But Jaden, at six years old, didn’t see it in those terms. Bursting with
restless energy, he had no intention of taking a nap, and he was making
his feelings known to his mother.
Joe Clayton was aware of the protests coming from the other end
of the garden, but he wasn’t really listening to them. He was sitting
on the broad stone terrace, finishing a lunch of cold meats and salad.
'I want to go to the beach.’

'Not now, Jaden. Sofia has to sleep, and so should you.’
“I’m not tired. Sofia’s a baby. I’m six.’
'Well, go in the pool, then. But only for a few minutes.’
'I don’t want to go in the pool. I want to go to the beach.’
'It’s too hot. And I have to stay here and watch Sofia.’
'I can go on my own.’

'No, Jaden.’

'It’s not fair. You don’t let me do anything.’
There was a thud, followed by a loud crack. Joe looked up and saw
something skidding across the grass. The boy had thrown one of his
cars to the ground. It must have ricocheted, hit another toy and broken.
Jaden glowered at the tiny die-cast models, furious with his mother,
and himself, and the whole world. It was a state Joe keenly remembered: the terrible aching frustration of childhood.
'I hate it here,’ Jaden shouted. 'I wish we still lived with Nanny and
Grandad.’

Joe winced. He had already decided to intervene when a first-floor
window was thrown open and a voice above him roared: 'Cassie! Do
something about that boy!’
The window slammed shut. On the lawn, Jaden scooped up the
broken car and fled to his refuge: a sun-proof beach tent that was
variously a cave, a fire station and an enemy camp. His mother called
him back, but Jaden ignored her.

Maybe it was the heat making everyone so fractious, Joe thought.
Not that Valentin Nasenko ever had much patience with his stepson.
It was little wonder the boy missed life with his grandparents.
Joe drained his glass of water, tipping the remnants of several ice
cubes into his mouth. As he stood up his chair scraped on the stone
and he almost expected another tirade from above. When Valentin
was preoccupied with something, he demanded absolute peace and
quiet. And what Valentin Nasenko wanted . . .

Joe had been working for the Nasenkos for just over nine months.
He’d met them the previous September on the Greek island of Naxos.
Having concluded a summer-long stint as a deckhand on a chartered
yacht, he’d picked up some casual bar work in Naxos Town.
Valentin’s principal adviser, Gary McWhirter, had been in the bar
when a fight broke out between rival football fans during a televised
Champions League game. Impressed by Joe’s adroit handling of the
mini-riot that ensued, McWhirter had invited Joe to meet Nasenko.
One of his security team had resigned at short notice, and Valentin
wanted an extra body to watch over his wife and newborn daughter
during a three-week cruise around the Aegean.
At first Joe had been reluctant. The thought of babysitting a young
mother and her child didn’t hold much appeal, but inevitably the
money on offer made the decision for him. One thousand euros a
week, available in cash if he wanted it.
Cassie Nasenko had seemed equally unhappy with the arrangement.
She rarely made eye contact with Joe, and was constantly ill
at ease in his company. The situation didn’t improve when Joe
overheard her singing some cheesy ballad and quipped that, with a
bit more practice, she could make a decent karaoke singer. He later
discovered that at the age of seventeen Cassie had reached the final
stages of a TV talent competition and had gone on to enjoy a brief
career as a pop singer.
It wasn’t until the third week that she grew accustomed to his
presence, and he came to see that what he’d perceived as arrogance
was actually shyness. She was from an ordinary lower-middle-class
background, very similar to his own, and she was still coming to
terms with the idea of having staff at her beck and call.
When the cruise ended it was Cassie, rather than Valentin, who
suggested that Joe should stay on the team. Joe suspected it was largely
because of Jaden, Cassie’s son from a short-lived relationship with an
actor in a TV soap. Jaden was often quiet and withdrawn, but Joe
seemed to have struck up a rapport with him in a way that few others
had.

Returning to the UK posed another dilemma. In many ways he was
in no hurry to go back, and yet he couldn’t deny his fascination with
the idea. It was there constantly in his dreams, when the past could
be effortlessly unrolled and reworked.
Joe had often agonised over the if and how and when of his return,
always careful not to dwell on the resultant question: What then?
The answer, as it turned out, was simple. Just go to work and get
through the day. Go to work and never think about where you might
be instead.

Joe descended the half-dozen steps from the terrace. The middle
section of the garden was effectively a large playpen, a neat square of
lawn fenced off for safety from the swimming pool and the jetty beyond.
It was littered with trikes and footballs, and Jaden’s current favourite
diversion: a giant game of Connect 4 that was taller than he was.
Cassie Nasenko was sitting on a picnic blanket, staring pensively
in the direction of Jaden’s hideaway. Next to her, ten-month-old Sofia
was stripped to her nappy and lay fast asleep beneath a large parasol,
her pudgy white limbs contrasting with her mother’s deep tan.
Cassie was a small, slight woman with an almost boyish figure:
narrow hips, bony shoulders and thin arms. At first glance you could
mistake her for a teenager, rather than a woman of twenty-five, a wife
and mother of two children.

Throughout the present heatwave, unseasonable even for June, she’d
maintained a uniform of flip-flops, denim shorts and cotton shirts,
with a bikini in place of underwear. Her sun-bleached brown hair was
tied up in a ponytail, her green eyes clear and bright against the tan.
A sprinkle of freckles over her nose gave her a pretty, tomboyish look.
At Joe’s approach she put on a brave smile. Close up, he was struck
by the weariness in her face. Sofia was teething at the moment, and
having a bad time of it. Despite the sleepless nights, and contrary to
her husband’s wishes, Cassie remained determined to bring up her
children without the help of a nanny. Joe admired her for that.
He said, “I’ll take him to the beach if you want.’
'We shouldn’t give in to him when he’s had a strop.’
'I know. But for a quiet life.’ Joe nodded towards the house. 'Just
this once.’
'All right. Only for ten minutes or so. Then he really must get out
of the sun.’
'You okay if I have a swim while I’m there?’
'Fine,’ said Cassie. 'But keep an eye on him. He’s being a little
monster at the moment.’
'Jaden’s a good kid at heart. I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said
about living here.’
As soon as the words were out he knew he’d overstepped the mark,
but she just gave him a curious, slightly sad smile.
'Oh, I think he meant every word.’

Two

Terror’s Reach had captivated Joe from the moment he’d first set eyes
on it. He wasn’t familiar with the area, and had imagined Chichester
Harbour to be a man-made construction, with a sea wall and all the
accoutrements of a commercial port: quays and cranes and slipways,
and maybe a yacht marina.
In fact, it was a vast natural harbour, straddling the counties of
Hampshire and West Sussex. Eleven square miles of water in a tidal
basin of mudflats and salt marsh. There were three main channels
and countless other inlets, creeks and waterways around half a dozen
peninsulas of varying size and shape.
The Reach was a small island on the eastern side of the harbour,
once joined to the mainland by a narrow causeway, accessible on foot
at low tide. Its name derived from a Victorian working boat, the Terror, which had sailed around Chichester Harbour, transporting oyster
catches from larger offshore vessels. The Reach marked the furthest
southerly point on its route.
Although uninhabited until the 1890s, the island’s sheltered coves
and woods had been used by smugglers for centuries. When coastal
erosion finally destroyed the causeway in the mid-1950s, a chain ferry
was installed, jointly funded by the residents and by the War Office,
which had acquired two-thirds of the five-hundred-acre island for use
as a training camp.
The ferry was superseded in the 1960s by the construction of a road
bridge, and while the Ministry of Defence still maintained the training
camp, its lack of use in recent years had led to fevered speculation
about its future. In the meantime, the only private dwellings were
spread in a graceful arc on the south-western corner, with views out
to sea and across the bay towards Hayling Island.
Originally there had been eleven relatively modest houses on the
island, but in the past two decades all but one had been demolished
and replaced by much larger, architect-designed mansions.
Now there were just five in total, with an average value of four
million apiece, making property on the Reach almost as expensive
as that in the more famous resort of Sandbanks, about seventy miles
to the west.
Joe had spent every spare moment exploring his new home, and it
had brought him up short when he first caught himself thinking of it
in that way. This felt like home – or at least the nearest thing to a
home that he could hope for.

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