First Response by Stephen Leather

First Response - book cover

Concerted attack by Suicide bombers.
London is under siege
First response...Second response...right up to Ninth response.

Read a Short Extract


LONDON is under siege

A priest in a church, a shop assistant in a shopping mall, an MP in his surgery, a man in a coffee shop, a children’s nursery worker, a woman in a bus, a woman at the Post Office, a waiter in a restaurant, a bartender in a pub – nothing to link them except the handcuffs, chains and suicide vests of their captors.

Each location different. Each bomber with a different background. Each hostage a different character. Each time the same message ‘Release our six ISIS brothers.’ Always the same message.

“A chillingly plausible and pulse-pounding depiction of how London might be held to ransom in a concerted terrorist attack: this is thriller writing at its very best.”


The Lambeth Central Communications Command Centre was at 109 Lambeth Road, and the three numbers were posted in huge white letters to the left of the four-storey building, a stone’s throw from the south bank of the River Thames. Kamran had to show his warrant card to get in, even though he was expected. He took the stairs down to the special operations room, which occupied the entire basement of the building. Sergeant Joe Lumley was waiting for him at the door, holding a mug of coffee. Kamran grinned as he took it. ‘You read my mind,’ he said. ‘And keep them coming.’
    Kamran hadn’t specifically asked for Lumley so was pleasantly surprised to see that the sergeant had been assigned. He was a twenty-year veteran of the Met, a former Special Patrol Group officer, who was totally calm under pressure, the perfect number two on a day when the shit seemed to have well and truly hit the fan. ‘There’s an inspector manning the fort but I thought I should give you a heads-up before you go in,’ said Lumley.
    ‘Good idea,’ said Kamran. ‘They’re saying Operation Plato, is that right?’
    ‘Three hostage situations in play and an AVR had sight of a suicide vest. They’re releasing their demands through social media at the moment but we haven’t made contact with any of the terrorists yet.’
    ‘What time did this kick off?’
    ‘There were tweets and Facebook postings about the first incident from five past ten onwards,’ said Lumley. ‘The second incident was at Wandsworth and social media there kicked off at ten twenty-five. Now we have another in Fulham. I’ve put myself next to you in the Gold Command suite, and because of the nature of the threat I’ve put the MI5 rep there too.’
    ‘Five are here already?’
    Lumley nodded. ‘Yes, she’s in your suite until you decide where to put her. And there’s an SAS captain just arrived. He doesn’t seem to require a workstation so at the moment he’s just floating around.’
    ‘Fire Brigade, Ambulance?’
    ‘Already here.’
    ‘And who’s the TFC?’ The tactical forearms commander was an inspector who was responsible for the sixteen armed-response vehicles stationed around the capital.
    ‘Marty Windle.’
    Kamran nodded his approval. Inspector Windle was a safe pair of hands. ‘Okay, into the lion’s den,’ he said.
    Lumley pulled open the door and Kamran stepped into the special operations room. It was half the size of a football field with no windows, just banks of fluorescent lights overhead. It was filled with dozens of pod-like workstations, several of which were already occupied by shirt-sleeved police officers, their triple screens filled with data and CCTV feeds. To his left were two suites, one for himself as Gold Commander and next to it the Silver Command suite where the various commanding officers could hold their own briefings.
    At the far end of the room there were four pods, each made up of three desks in a triangle, all with the same high-backed ergonomic chairs. To the left was the Diplomatic Protection Group pod and next to it the pod used by SCO 19, the armed police. The DPG were armed and SCO 19 could draw on their resources as needed. Marty Wilde was at one of the desks and waved an acknowledgement to Kamran.


    Talpur turned away and looked down the bus. The passengers reflected the multi-ethnicity of London. Twelve men and women. Half were Asian, four were black, one was Middle Eastern and one was white. The nearest was the Asian woman in a black headscarf holding two carrier bags of groceries. He was supposed to choose the passenger closest to the driver but he knew she was going to panic and probably scream blue murder. The passenger next to her, closest to the window, was a young black man with headphones, eyes closed, head bobbing back and forth in time to a tune that only he could hear. Talpur would have preferred to use the man but his instructions were clear and he had been told not to deviate from them.
    ‘Oy, are you going to tap your card or not?’ said the driver, impatiently.
    Talpur grabbed the woman’s right hand and handcuffed himself to her. For a few seconds she sat stunned, then screamed at him in Urdu. She let go of her bags and her groceries spilled onto the floor. Apples, oranges, naan bread, a box of eggs. Talpur stepped back and pulled the chain tight. The woman continued to scream at him, peppering his face with spittle. He slapped her, hard, and she immediately went quiet. With his right hand he undid his coat and opened it so that everyone could see the suicide vest. ‘Allahu Akbar!’ he shouted. ‘You must all do as I say or we will all die here!’ He reached into his pocket and pulled out the trigger, slipping the Velcro strap over his palm.
    He turned to the driver, who was staring at him open-mouthed. ‘Close the door, now!’ Talpur shouted. The man did as he was told. Talpur stared at him through the protective glass. ‘If you make any attempt to leave the cab, you will be responsible for the death of every single person on this bus. Just stay where you are.’
    The driver nodded, wide-eyed.
    The woman was sobbing quietly now, her hands covering her face. ‘You all need to listen to me!’ shouted Talpur.
    The man sitting by the window noticed what was happening and took off his headphones. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ he asked.
    There were footsteps on the stairs and a middle-aged black man peered from the stairwell.
    ‘You have to do exactly as you are told or everybody dies. You are all prisoners of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. We are demanding the release of six prisoners who are being held in Belmarsh Prison. Anyone who has a phone must start tweeting now. If you can’t tweet, send text messages to your friends. Tell everyone that ISIS demands the release of its six brothers in Belmarsh. Do it now. Use hashtag ISIS6.’
    No one moved. The only sound was the sobbing of the woman next to him.
    Talpur raised his right hand so that they could all see the trigger. ‘Start sending the messages now. The ISIS Six must be released by six tonight or everyone dies!’ he shouted.
    One by one the passengers took out their phones and started tapping away, except the sobbing woman he was handcuffed to. She continued to bury her face in her hands and cry.

Copyright © Stephen Leather 2016