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CHAPTER ONE


28 November 2000, Friday mid-morning


It happens so suddenly.

The explosion rips through the office behind me, lifting me off my feet and into the meeting room I was walking towards. The abrupt feeling of helplessness is as crushing as the shockwave of air that blasts into my back. I feel small and insignificant as I fly through the air in terror.

I land in a sprawling heap. Pieces of debris shower over and around me. Shredded paper mingled with shattered glass, ash and fabric fills the air. As I try to reconcile my position, I find myself staring at a large black leather shoe. The world around me has become strangely silent and I lie unmoving, watching as fragments settle on the carpet nearby. With my heart hammering in my chest I try to rise, but can’t. My entire body just trembles.

I don’t understand what has just happened.

Only moments before I’d been wading through seemingly endless paperwork at my desk – and now I’m face down on the carpet, deafened, and I think I’m bleeding.

Without warning, the shoe before me moves abruptly and slams into my face. I cringe with the pain. With blurry vision I shift away instinctively, and something sharp pokes into my upper arm. Then a hand settles on my shoulder, roughly shaking me, rolling me over. I suddenly realise I can hear something, but it’s only a loud rushing sound, a sort of a high-pitched hum.

The hand rolls me carefully onto my back and a face eventually comes into focus above. Steve Cassidy. His lips are moving. He’s speaking but I can’t make out the words. He coughs and I notice he’s bleeding. A steady stream of blood runs down his face from a cut just below his eye. It reaches his mouth and I watch as he silently tastes it, then wipes at his face with his sleeve. He frowns in annoyance and coughs again.

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