33 years. Now he prospect of a ‘Yes’ vote in the Scottish Referendum puts the secret at risk. How far might some people go to keep he secret safe….?
YOU CAN FIND EARLIER CHAPTERS OF ‘TOXIC’ IN THE ‘BLOG ARCHIVE’ ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE PAGE. CHAPTER ONE WAS RELEASED IN MAY 2014
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
Boy Masters left the rented cottage a little after eight on a fresh, sunny morning.
rules demanded half an hour of driving random country roads to ensure he wasn’t
under any kind of observation. Counter surveillance was an ingrained habit and
he allowed his mind to wander as his eyes automatically flicked from one rear
view mirror to another. Belfast
He was about to fire the first shots in a war. Up until now everything had been about planning and preparing. In theory he could still call the whole idea off and disappear from the radar. Would Reuben Westlake come looking for him? He very much doubted it. The 2014 version of
he had met in
had cut a haunted figure. He was in every respect yesterday’s man. Yesterday’s
man and yesterday’s news. And before Reuben Westlake had called him up and
offered a final mission, Boy Masters had also been one of the yesterday men.
Cowed and beaten and hunted and broke. London
A poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.
He smiled at the thought. They were all so convinced that he was a busted flush. Had anyone noticed that he had disappeared from their radar? Did anyone know he was now on Belfast Rules? Maybe. But he very much doubted that any of them really cared. Maybe they would mention is name in passing over after-dinner port in their
Heard anything of Boy Masters? Not lately, old chap. Not lately. He’s been and
gone and good bloody riddance if you ask me.
Maybe there were a few who were sighing with relief. Probably. How they would have hated the sight of Boy Masters appearing on the BBC Parliament Channel in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. A living, breathing memory of times everyone was trying as hard as they could to consign to the dustbin of history. It would be so much better for all concerned if he simply vanished into the ether. Into obscurity. Into a permanent fug of cannabis on a distant African shore.
Well sorry chaps, but fuck you. Fuck the lot you.
A hard smile spread across his hard face. Payback time was nigh. Payback for what? He had absolutely no idea and he cared even less. All that mattered was that he was heading back to war. War was all that made any kind of sense. War was the only thing worth living for.
He had always been a keen reader of spy fiction: John Le Carre and Len Deighton and Ian Fleming. Sometimes he had wondered if he had made the wrong life choice in opting for the Coldstream Guards and the Regiment. Maybe he should have chosen the spook option? Would he have been good? Of course he would have been good. He would have been bloody sensational. But they wouldn’t have liked him much. They. The old boys in their favourite tweed jackets with leather patches on the sleeves. A spot of good shooting at the weekends and defending the Realm over roly poly pudding and custard in their clubs.
He had always been fascinated by the whole idea of dead drops. Chalk marks on the wall. Half drawn curtains. A particular coloured beret. An umbrella carried or not carried. A few run of the mill words in the small ads section in a local paper. Signals designed to be forever lost in everyday reality. At times he had indulged in such cloak and dagger ruses whilst undercover in the streets and council estates of the IRA heartlands.
Well that was then. Old methods for old times. The times had indeed a changed. He parked up his car outside a McDonalds on the edge of a sprawling retail park and made his way inside. He ordered a double sausage and egg McMuffin meal with black coffee and took it out to the tables outside. The free WiFi service reached through the walls and into his tablet.
He took a mouthful of coffee and a bite of his hash brown and logged himself on to Twitter.
User name: williamhtyler1959
William H Tyler.
‘Dad, Postie, Seagulls!!!’
Following 257. Followers 126. Tweets 772.
He grinned. 772 tweets. Jesus. What the hell had William H Tyler been telling the world? He flicked down the list. The musings of a man who didn’t exist. A postman from
his mid fifties. An enthusiast. A devotee of Brighton
and Hove Albion Football Club. A family man. Tweets about a near miss for the
Seagulls in their drive for the Championship play offs. Stuff from the World
Cup. Pictures of a couple of invented grandkids.
He clicked his curser into the new tweet box and penned his message.
“Big family BBQ tonight. Please don’t rain!”
Left click ‘Tweet.’
He sat back and smiled. He finished his double sausage and egg McMuffin. He finished his hash brown. He lit up a cigarette and watched the cars parking up outside B&Q.
Nobody paid the slightest attention to the guy with the grey hair outside McDonalds. He was just another guy. He was hidden from their view by his Belfast Rules. But already the tanks were firing up their engines and the scouts were breaching the wire. Already the first sounds of small arms fire could be heard like distant fireworks. Soon the air would be filled with the rage of artillery fire and air strikes and the screams of the dying.
He had fired off the first shots. The die was cast. It was showtime.
Nine o’clock Stirling time was 2pm
time. One of Saj Khan’s bank of
computers made a beeping noise and he filled his screen with the Twitter
account of William H Tyler of Dacca Brighton and
Hove Albion Football Club.
“So it’s bangers on the barby time is it Billy boy? Course it is mate. Oi! Bashir!”
A reply from the next room.
“There’s a barbeque in
tonight. Time to rock n’ roll Bro.”
It was time to switch accounts.
User name : Blackclan2014
Just a purple egg shape for an image. No personal description. Following nobody, followed by nobody. The very barest of bare bones. But that was about to change. Saj took a hard draw on his cigarette and tossed it back into an overflowing ash tray. With dancing fingers he brought the Black Clan 2014 account to life.
First there was a picture to replace the purple egg. Gordy Campbell behind his Saltyre balaclava which had been machine knitted only a few streets away. A man behind a mask. A strap-line of very few words. Four words in fact. ‘Love
Hate Scotland ’. England
And now within a handful of seconds BlackClan2014 had 4123 followers. Some of them were every bit as fictional as William H Tyler of
Brighton. They were people invented and created out of
thin air and given their Frankenstein lives out in the swirling ether. Others
were real people who had ‘Yes’ badges on their home pages. Ordinary people who
had signed on the dotted line to play their part in the campaign. They were
spread far and wide across
posting pictures of meetings and canvassing or links to informative articles.
Saj had sneaked through the back doors of their Twitter houses and inserted
himself into their online lives. They became followers of Black Clan 2014
without knowing it. They became unwitting foot soldiers. And when they helped
to fire the first shots of Boy Master’s war, they didn’t even realise they had
guns in their hands. Scotland
Saj typed in Black Clan 2014’s debut tweet;
‘If you hate they English wankers you should watch this.”
A link to YouTube which guaranteed any back tracker the prospect of insanity as they picked their way through a million dead ends.
“OK. Let’s be straight here. I’ve never done this shite before, so if you’re expecting Robert De Niro you might as well fuck off. We are the Black Clan, right. And this is our first broadcast. So who gives a shite? Nobody gives a shite. Why would they? Aye. Well that’s the now. You’ll all give a shite soon enough. So. Who the fuck are Black Clan? I’ll tell you. We’re pissed off. That’s what we are. We like the idea of an Independent
. Course we do. We’ve had
enough of being shat on by the fucking English. And that’s what they do, right?
They shite on us. And they’ve been shiteing on us for hunners of years. Well
that’s about to stop. On 18 September we’re going to tell they English to fuck off. The problem is that they fuckers running the ‘Yes’
campaign keep telling us that we’ve got to dead nice to the English. Aye right.
And once we kick them oot, we’re all going be the best neighbours in the world.
Aye well. Fuck that. The lads at Black Clan see it different. We don’t buy all
this play nice bollocks. So we’re not going to play nice. No. We’re going to be
a bunch of bastards, so we are. We’re going to give you English twats a taste
of how it will be if there is a ‘No’ vote. And you best believe me, it’s not
going to be nice at all. It’s going to be a fucking nightmare. So watch this space
you smug pricks. Cos the Black Clan will be sending out a few messages. We’re
going to show you how things will be if you dinnae fuck off back over the
border. And by the time we’re finished with you, youse’ll be building Scotland Hadrian’s Wall again. So that’s me done. Like I said.
Watch this space…”
Saj took a moment to watch the video again. He really liked it. He had watched it twenty times and more and had been looking forward to the moment when he would send it out into the world.
“OK world. It’s time for you to discover the boys from the Black Clan.”
During the course of thirty finger-dancing minutes, the Black Clan debut tweet was re-tweeted 742 times. Many of these re-tweets came from Saj’s invented accounts. By now all of these enjoyed hundreds and hundreds of real followers. Saj’s made up ‘Yes’ supporters had chosen thousands of ‘Yes’ accounts to follow and those thousands of ‘Yes’ accounts had followed back out of a sense of good manners and solidarity. Other re-tweets came from hacked accounts.
It didn’t take long for the YouTube counter to start to tick over. By 10am
time, Gordy’s video had been watched 765 times. By 11am the figure was 2075. By
11.45 it was 8973. UK
By noon Twitter was alive with speculation. Does anyone know who Black Clan 2014 are? Has anyone every heard of them before? What is that accent? Where did he get that crazy mask? All the while Saj added followers. By 10am there were 5498. By 11am there were 8973. By noon there were 10789.
And then Saj sat back, knitted his fingers behind his head and enjoyed the show.
By 1pm the video had been watched over 15,000 times.
The spitting bastard child that was called Black Clan 2014 had carved out a niche in the online world.
Boy had moved on from McDonalds to a pub with a beer garden near Auchterarder. The sun was well and truly out and he chose a table where freshly cut grass met a small stream. He ate a Ploughman’s lunch and washed it down with a better than average pint of lager.
For years he had never paid much attention to the online world. He had used e mails of course and for a while he had focused on The Pro-Active Solutions website. But things had quickly moved on. The thriving War on Terror market place he had become such a part of did not require a fancy all singing and all dancing website. It was more of a word of mouth world. A nod and a wink world. A world where nothing was ever written down.
Over the course of a sunny Scottish afternoon everything changed. He drained pint after pint as he watched the unfolding evidence of the impact of Saj’s dancing fingers. The young
Brick Lane exile had given Boy a short
crash course on what to watch for once the first shots were fired.
“You need to watch the Followers, right. To start with they will all be bollocks, OK. They will either be completely made up and invented or hacked. But then it will start to change.”
“Do people who follow somebody’s account always like them?”
“No man. Not at all. People follow accounts which they are interested in. They might like the dude, they might hate the dude, makes no odds. They just want to hear what is being said. Got it?”
Boy had shrugged. “I think so.”
“OK. Next. Watch the counter on YouTube. That will show you how many people are watching the video. It will be the same again. To start with all of the watches will be fictional. But then it will change as people get to hear about it and check it out. Just because they watch it doesn’t mean they like it. It just means they have heard about it and they want to check it out for themselves.”
Boy found watching the unfolding process to be surprisingly addictive. He had been intending to return to the cottage for the night, but this was way too much fun. He booked himself a room and ordered crisps to go with the lager. By three, over 30,000 people had become followers of Black Clan and Gordy’s video had been viewed a similar number of times.
By four o’clock he could sense that Saj had pressed a distant button and moved on to stage two.
An invented account holder who went under the name @Billyboy1690 noticed something about the photo on the Black Clan page.
‘Check this out guys.’
BillyBoy1690 had done some investigative work. He had taken the photo of the masked Gordy and blown it up twenty times. The blown up version revealed a key fact, for Gordy hadn’t zipped his tatty old combat jacket all the way to his neck. The magnified view revealed the unmistakable green and white of a Celtic Football Club T shirt hiding underneath.
‘These Black Clan nutters are Fenian bastards!’
A number of fictional hard line Glasgow Rangers-supporting accounts eagerly jumped into the fray and re-tweeted BillyBoy1690’s news.
But the news didn’t remain in the realms of fiction for very long. Within minutes a growing and furious exchange had broken out as the two sides of the sectarian divide piled into each other.
Soon politicians of all colours were using Twitter to express their outrage at the sudden explosion of hate. BlackClan2014 was remorseless in jumping straight back at them. An SNP member from the
Highlands pleaded for the hateful minority voices to be
BlackClan2014 was onto them in a matter of seconds.
“Aye right. Typical English loving bastard.”
Boy chuckled as the outrage mushroomed. By 5 pm he was hopping between Twitter and the online news channels. A variety of experts were wheeled out to express their horror at the sudden explosion of online hate. Representatives of the ‘Yes’ campaign had a haunted look about them as they promised that Black Clan was nothing more than a lone, lunatic howling voice in the wilderness of the internet. But with every passing hour, they found it an ever harder to make their case to make as more and more followers jumped on board.
Representatives from the ‘No’ side of the argument looked like cats who had been presented with a bigger bowl of cream than they had ever dared to dream of. They wore earnest expressions and pointed out that ‘Better Together’ had been warning about the poisonous influence of the CyberNats for many months.
Soon the spotlight moved onto Twitter itself. Surely @BlackClan2014 should be closed down. Voices from the Parliament in
demanded immediate censure. But
voices from the Parliament in Edinburgh
saw things rather differently. Of course what was being said was nasty and
poisonous and hateful. But when all was said and done, it was still free
speech. And Westminster
had a long tradition of defending its treasured free speech. A Tory from the
depths of Britain Dorset was the first to speak the
words that were as inevitable as rain in November.
“I hate everything about what these disgusting people are saying, but I will defend their right to say it with my life.”
Boy almost choked on a mouthful of lager. The idea of this smug faced little man with his cravat and red drinker’s nose defending anything was truly laughable.
Saj had gambled on the fact that Twitter would be extremely reluctant to shut down @BlackClan2014. The raging media storm represented a massive amount of free publicity and when all was said and done, Twitter was a vast global corporation looking to keep its shareholders happy.
By the time Boy staggered upstairs to his room, the Black Clan phenomenon was dominating the news. At 10.30 the BBC News reviewed the next day’s papers which were united in their outrage what was happening. The 'in studio' experts looked over headline after headline which screamed out to the readers.
Here was the dark side of ‘Yes’ that so many newspapers had been warning everyone about for months and months. These were the kind of dangerous and ugly forces which the campaign had released. It was time for the people of
to send out a clear message and vote ‘No’ in resounding numbers. Scotland
“Oh you silly bastards. You reckon these are dangerous and ugly forces? Dream on.”
In Cambridge Kathy and Nigel had spent their day in much the same way as Boy Masters, though they had chosen pots of tea for sustenance instead of lager. Kathy had called round to bring her mentor up to speed with her investigations, but they had soon become distracted as the Black Clan story had exploded across the online world.
“Is the reaction real or is invented do you think?” asked Sir Nigel, who was on a crash course. He had heard of Twitter, but never paid it any attention. Now it was catch up time. Kathy set up an account for him and he became one of the thousands of followers of @BlackClan2014.
Kathy was suspicious. “Some of it may be real. My guess is not much. It is very easy to invent fictional Twitter accounts. I think most of these people don’t exist. They are inventions. Someone has put a lot of time in here. They have prepared the ground carefully.”
They watched the video five times and agreed that it was almost certain that Gordon Campbell was the man behind the bizarre mask. Were Boy, Richard and Gordon doing all of this themselves? Kathy doubted it. Her investigations hadn’t showed any of them having the kind of technical expertise needed for this kind of operation.
“So what do you think?” Nigel was a long way from any kind of familiar ground.
“I think they have hired in experts. I very much doubt they will be in the
They will probably be in UK Asia somewhere.
Companies use these people all the time. That is why a toilet roll manufacturer
can have tens of thousands of friends on Facebook. These are not real people.
They are invented for the sole purpose of giving the company some sort of
perceived credibility. There will be a room full of computers out there
somewhere with a team of smart young people working for a couple of dollars a
“Rather like a digital sweatshop?”
“What will happen next? In your view?”
Kathy shrugged. “I think we are already seeing it. Look at the faces from the ‘No’ campaign. They are in clover. This is exactly what they have been waiting for: the chance to paint the ‘Yes’ campaign as dangerous extremists.”
“Yes. How very right you are. And do you think this will be the extent of it?”
“Oh no. These are merely the opening shots. Reuben Westlake wouldn’t have hired a man like Boy Masters if all he had in mind was an online smear campaign.”
Nigel shook his head. “No. Of course he wouldn’t. You never told me about what you have discovered my dear. Not with all of this…”
So Kathy brought him up to speed with the story of how the terror of Shaitan had spread through Al Anbar Province.
“It rang a bell with me. The girlfriend from
Goa. Remember? The girl he beat up?”
“I went back to interview her. Hang on. Let me get it. OK. Here. Listen to this.
‘Boy was smoking weed from dawn till dusk. Him and Leroy. I hated Leroy. He frightened me. But Boy? Boy was fascinated by him. He thought he was like some kind of bloody God. They would sit there for hour after hour getting stoned out of their heads and watching ‘Apocalypse Now’. Over and over and over. And you should have seen them. You should have seen their eyes. And that mad old bastard Leroy would go on about all the stuff they had done in
and Boy hung on every word….’ Vietnam
Kathy hit some keys on her laptop. “I have had a look at the film and I think Boy Masters used it as a blueprint. You’ve seen it?”
Nigel nodded. “Yes. Indeed I have. But it was many years ago.”
“OK. Watch this. This is the part when Willard finally finds his way to Kurtz. This is where Kurtz explains the method in his apparent madness.”
She swung the screen of her laptop round so that they could both watch. And there was the shadowy face of Brando’s Kurtz.
"I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that. These were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."
Sir Nigel ran a bony hand through his thin white hair. “So you think this was the template Boy Masters adopted when he went to
“Yes I do. Over the recent years scientists have learned a great deal about the long term effects of strong cannabis. According to the girlfriend from
Leroy and Boy were smoking Kerala grass. I have researched it. The consensus
seems to be that it is one of the world’s strongest varieties of cannabis. I
think that before he arrived in Goa, Boy
Masters was a very spoilt and very capable young man with a nasty streak. The
heavy cannabis use must have made Leroy seem like an impossibly compelling
figure. My guess is that Boy had already watched Apocalypse Now several times
before travelling to Goa. Leroy must have
seemed like a real life Kurtz. I think that Boy must have had some kind of
cannabis induced psychotic attack without anyone noticing.”
“You mean that he wanted to become Kurtz?”
“I think so, yes. You know that the story behind Apocalypse Now was Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’?”
“Yes. Yes I do. And you think that is why Boy was drawn to
Africa once he left
the SAS? Of course you do. So, we must look at what he did in Africa
in a rather different light. ‘Horror and moral terror are your friends.’ Oh how
very clever you have been my dear. How very clever. It means that some very bad
things are about to happen.”