Thrilling extract from political satirist William Mills’ new book The Shadow of the Guillotine recounts a tumultuous episode as the Town Hall in Wilmington On Sea is stormed by angry townsfolk and Islamic extremists….
A novel set in the near future, it is a work of imagination and all the characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people is unintentional and coincidental. The full length novel will be published during the summer on Amazon with exclusive serialisation here.
The story follows the activities of Roger, a journalist and political activist who was jailed for non payment of Council Tax two years ago. Escaping with the aid of the Moslem Brotherhood to Syria he returns to England set on reaping bloody havoc on the councillors of an English seaside town only to discover others have got there before him…..
Living In The Shadow of The Guillotine is darkly comic political satire which moves at an exciting pace, and romance keeps rearing its head….
“Just Kill them…Kill them.” Screamed the lanky, forties something man sporting a deep sun tan. His normal easy going and attractive face contorted with rage after years of deprivation at the hands of the Beast. Which was Roger’s term for the system of local government which had drained him of money and so much more to the point of undermining his very love of England.
“Death to the Tyrant!” Screamed sections of the crowd which had built with frightening speed and was turning ugly as the first tear gas canisters were fired.
It had all started so quickly. Yet having said that tensions had been brewing all summer. In the wake of May’s election it had been discovered that as a result of the last chancellor’s financial chicanery the cupboard was well and truly bare. So England’s local councils had been told to fend for themselves.
Used to receiving three quarters of their cash from central government with the remainder coming from locally raised Council Tax, Councils found having their the main source of cash suddenly stopped came as somewhat of a shock.
But rather than try and evenly share out what little was left the Council bosses of Wilmington On Sea had ring fenced their own salaries as sacrosanct resulting in all services for the townsfolk being removed. The good souls had naturally been a bit miffed with this, but when the Council bosses announced the quadrupling of Council Tax in order to pay their annual bonuses they blew their collective top.
Demonstrations followed and a Council tax strike organised by a local online paper raised the temperature still further. People were quickly cottoning on to the fact local government wasn’t really about providing services for the people but rather the people providing for the Civil Service, the true masters of Britain. Matters came to a head when reports of Council Tax debt collectors searching a woman in a Burka had filtered through.
The landscape of Wilmington On Sea pleasantly slopes down from the surrounding hills to the town centre dominated by the grand Town Hall built in Georgian times of white sandstone adorned with colonnaded pillars.The townsfolk had started walking downhill to protest when news of the debt collectors’ outrages had filtered through. The swiftly gathering crowd became a mob and political activists moved in to take advantage.
The sound of the Police helicopter’s rotators beating overhead dominated even the hysterical screaming of a woman set accidentally on fire by a Police baton round.
Roger sprinted around the corner of the block, and along a narrow side road being kept guarded by the Brotherhood’s muscle men. Abdulla was there beside the hearse, which had its back open revealing three coffins stacked inside.
“We have to get that helicopter before we attack!” Panted Roger.
“But it is over 1,000 feet up and I don’t think my RPG has a range that far.” Responded Abdulla whose mature good looks belied the fact he was only in his mid twenties.Slim, with muscles like whip cord and wearing traditional Afghan dress with a clean shaven chin but with dark shaggy sideburns which Fatima adored. She was dressed in a light blue silk full length Burka which was slightly see through when she moved and let the sunlight filter through the thin material.A trained paramedic she was sitting in the cab of the private ambulance as Abdulla had ordered her to keep out of the piercing gaze of the spy in the sky cameras. Roger, Abdulla and Fatima had become firm friends when they had escaped from Castle Prison’s special wing together.
“We will have to use our secret weapon! But it must come down!” Insisted Roger nodding to Abdulla to get on with it.The back of one of the coffins was quickly pulled off. Inside was a sinister looking black gas cylinder. From the next coffin came a series of long rubber body bags which the trio plugged into the airline from the cylinder.
Only it wasn’t air but helium which massively expanded upon its release nearly lifting Fatima off her feet. As she grimly hung on the boys tied it to the hearse’s door handle before moving on to the next. Soon a line of six large black air bags were straining to be off upward tied together some metres apart. Abdulla attached another thin black thread that lead up the building they were beside to a couple of turbaned faces which appeared over the edge.
“Start up!” Shouted Abdulla.
The guys on the roof nodded and shortly afterwards came the sound of a model plane’s glo-plug engine starting. It’s whine quickly picked up and the plane shot out pulling the trailing thread tight.
“Let go!” He screamed at Roger and Fatima.
The pair scrambled to let the balloons go. Roger loved the sensation of Fatima pressed up against him and wondered what she had on under her thin exterior material. Roger had learnt in his Muslim classes in Syria that it was acceptable for men to have more than one wife, but now he wondered if a Muslim woman could have more than one man and if husband swapping was allowed alongside the wife variety.As he wrapped his arm around her shoulders she snuggled up against him before they jumped together in ecstasy watching their secret invention wing its way into the sky.
“Our drone will bring victory!” Shouted a gleeful Abdulla. “The model plane will be controlled by the brothers on the roof who will direct it to tow the helium bags out in a line to ascend directly under the helicopter.”
Roger turned towards Fatima hugging her towards him. She came willingly into his arms. “Stay safe.” He murmured.
With that he ran back to the crowd now surging back and forwards in front of the Town Hall.Inside the Town Hall Chief Inspector Grenville Cocking, or G.C. for short was a worried man. Police headquarters had told him a second crowd was massing outside them so no reinforcements would be forth coming.’You have an armed unit with you. So use it if necessary.’ HQ’s message had sombrely ended.
Yet things weren’t as straight forward as they seemed. G.C. was having a confab with his command team which consisted of the inspector of the armed response unit and his sergeant on the Town Hall’s entrance steps.
“Prepare your men to shoot into the crowd, Inspector.” Said G.C. “Nothing else with hold them back if those barricades go and if those savages get in here there will be carnage.”
“You can’t call them that!” Snapped his sergeant sucking in her breath indignantly which brought her chest up straining the buttons of her white blouse in a formidable yet somewhat erotic way.“It’s views like that which are the cause of all this.” She continued.
“Shut up!” Snapped G.C. “These aren’t protesters. These are fully blown terrorists. Taliban. ISIS and commie traitors. Shoot the bastards! That’s an order, Inspector.”
“But we don’t know how to.” Stammered the Inspector in charge of the firearms unit.
“What do you mean you don’t know how to?” Screamed G.C. “You are the most highly trained firearms unit in the world.”
“That’s right Sir. But all we do is train. We haven’t actually shot anyone.” The Inspector replied.
“But what about the suicide bomber gunned down last week before she had a chance to flick the switch? Countered G.C.
“The shot was taken by our new colleague who was shipped in after the Super realised that none of us had actually shot anyone, ever. So an ex SAS British Army guy was recruited as a special constable.But he said he was a bit rusty as the last patrol he’d done was in Belfast during the Troubles. And that’s why when he saw the Burka lady he started shouting; ‘Charlie Bravo Two! Yobbo contact! No challenge!’ Next thing we knew he had put one in her chest and another in her throat. He is now suspended.
“Last time we shot someone before that was the drug dealer, and that was ten years ago. And again it was an ex squaddie special. He too was suspended. For over a year it was, and he used the time to get a habit of his own. After the whitewash inquest they had to let him go. We nicked him sleeping in a doorway not so long ago.” The inspector concluded.
“What happened to him?” G.C, asked in a sombre tone thinking about his own liking for the bottled stuff.
“Inpatient therapy.” Replied the Inspector who continued; “Most of the tossers we deal with, actually all of them to be frank, only have held up a Post Office with an imitation pop gun. So we rush up like, and fire a couple of blank shots shouting ‘Armed Police!’ and the tosser puts his gun down and says ‘Fair Cop’ and asks if we can pretend his gun was real so he will look good in court.No-one gets shot and we get a commendation certificate which looks nice on the mantelpiece alongside all the others.So we aren’t going to fire into the crowd and spend a year suspended getting a drink problem. How are we to shoot straight if we get the shakes?”
“So what are you going to do to help the situation?” Demanded G.C.
“Why, barricade ourselves in and wait for reinforcements, sir.” Came the infinitely sensible reply.
At that moment a shout came from the crowd. Not from any one particular place but more of a rippling effect running through them rather like at a fireworks party.The cause was a grotesque sight. Behind the main body of protesters a pole was being held aloft and upon the top as if to crown it was a black lump with a red treacle dripping down.
“Nooo!!!” Screamed one of the civil servants trapped inside the Town Hall. “It’s the Chief.”
Indeed Wilmington On Sea’s council’s chief executive had been trying to make his way to the beleaguered Town Hall when he had been spotted. Justice, or rather death had been swift.The crowd suddenly stunned was wavering unsure what to do. A protest was one thing, but this was either cold blooded murder, or revolution. Where they prepared to take the risk? The irrevocable step like Julius Caesar’s crossing of the River Rubicon.
The decision was about to be taken for them with a fantastic aerial display.The Police helicopter pilot couldn’t believe what was coming up towards him as he peered out of his window. One of the black air balloons had ripped open releasing dozens of brightly coloured smaller ones.
“They are helium!” He screamed throwing his machine into a tight turn. Too late! A sharp bang announced his rotor tip had hit one. The immediate afterwards rattle against the canopy of broken bits hitting confirmed they were in serious trouble. A second, then third explosion rocked the helicopter still further. “We are going down! Mayday! Mayday!” Alas, were his last words.
The crowd below staring up at the bright coloured balloons popping away far up in the sky looked on in disbelief as the helicopter started to spiral around out of control. Flames were now clearly visible from its fuselage. Faster and faster it descended. Now like a smoking meteorite until the window breaking crash the other side of the building into the beach. As the patter of the falling pebbles subsided the crowd knew there was no turning back now. This was revolution.
“Kill them. Just kill them!” Screamed Roger throwing himself into the scrum. A hail of flaming petrol bombs arched through the sky. The Police were retreating inside the Town Hall. Roger grabbed a handle of the battering ram and energetically joined the others slamming it into the boarded up ground floor windows.The crowd seemed joyful as it went about its desperate task. For so long their politicians had remained aloof, treating them as feudal serfs to be ordered around just for the sake of their masters’ sense of self importance. Now was pay back time.
The protestors fought their way in gaining control of the entrance hall and parts of the ground floor.
“Now are you going to shoot?” Screamed G.C. at the hapless Inspector , who taking this as a cue for action lunged forward at a passing protester with his gun.
“Hands up!” He said assuming a warlike stance he’s seen in a yoga catalogue.
“Oh piss off!” Said the protester pushing past.
“Give it to me!” Snarled G.C. grabbing the gun out of the Inspector’s hands.Wrapping its carry strap around his arm he flicked the fire selector to fully automatic. He pushed the safety catch forward with his thumb looking grimly as the crowd surging past. He then opened fire in a wide murderous arch across the room. By God, it felt good!
“Die you commie bastards! Die! Die!” He screamed. His chattering sub machine gun stopped as quickly as it had started. Smoke poured from the simmering barrel. A group of people surrounding him were just starring. But he had just gunned them all down! Were they ghosts already?Then reality hit him. The bloody gun was loaded with blanks! He turned to his Inspector who as if to confirm his thoughts just nodded;
“In case we hurt anyone.” He explained.
G.C. let out a howl of agony as he threw the useless gun down in disgust. He made a dash for the staircase leading down to the basement although for him it could lead straight to hell. The mob raced after him their whoops sounding like the baying of hunting dogs close to their kill.
The council staff had congregated on the upper floors in the mistaken belief that height equalled safety. A number peered anxiously over the bannisters.
“Do you think if they see us hard at work they will go away?” Said one.
“We could send each other a memo.” Said a second.
“We could ask them to fill out a form.” Hoped a third.
“A survey!” The three cried in unison.
“Take them all into the council chamber. At the end of the corridor. They can be tried there.” Roger ordered the protesters with him to do.
“What are the charges?” Demanded one of the council staff.
“Enemy of the people. Feeding yourself while the poor starved. Greed. Self importance. Plotting against God. We are going to block the drains with your blood.” Roger replied. Then raising his voice so everyone could hear, he screamed;
“Take them to the guillotine.”
“A trial first.” One pleaded.
“Try them in batches of fifty.” Roger ordered.
Abdulla came running up. “The whole building is ours except for one room which the Police have barricaded themselves into. There is a drain hole outside. We can behead them into that.” He said.
“Well, wait a minute. We only want to kill one as an example and let the rest go.” Roger argued.
“All infidels must die!” Abdulla’s eyes were burning. “We set up provisional government and announce Islamic state and sharia law. All homosexuals to be brought here for roof throwing off. All prostitutes for whipping. All women not wearing head scarfs 20 lashes…..”
“Er, well..” Said Roger. “I don’t think the English will quite go along with all of this. To them it was really a Council Tax protest and a demonstration against excessive government and the greed of civil servants and their hated debt collectors.”
“But the forces of Satan have been defeated. We are victorious. All across England the forces of Islam are attacking evil. The old regime and their servants are now the terrorists, not us. We must kill all non believers before paradise on earth can be established. Then we have the true workers’ paradise our friends in the Socialist Workers’ Party want.” Dreamed Abdulla out loud.
‘Wow.’ Thought Roger. Although he had been friends with these guys for a couple of years and had heard all this before he hadn’t realised they actually meant it. Rather like a Christian child promising to be good for ever and ever is more of an ideal than an actual practicality.
“Look, the forces of law and order and going to be here in strength anytime soon.” Reasoned Roger. “We three need to be long gone by then. Maybe take one in three of the first ten as an example but the rest have loved ones anxious at home so let them go.”
“Never!” Shrieked Abdulla. “The Ayatollah has commanded. We cannot fail. Kill! Kill! Kill!”
Roger was just about to argue further when one of his chums came up pushing a man in front of him with an ugly gash to his head and blood stains all down the front of his shirt.
“A Council Tax bailiff ! We have caught ourselves.” Was the triumphant introduction Roger most wanted to hear. His pleasing demeanour underwent immediate change.
“Three of you scum went to a house in Mortimer Way two days ago. The 27 year old woman you found there said she had no more money so could not pay you further. So you said you would take payment in kind. You forced her to strip. She said she was crying but you didn’t stop. Instead two held her down while the third took his turn…” Roger snarled at the man.
“Well, we have always taken goods in lieu for payment.” Stammered the bailiff. “What’s wrong with that? It said on the form her occupation was ‘stripper’…”
“No!” Roger butted in. “It said ‘dancer’.”
“What the difference? A hooker is a hooker..”
Roger punched him in the face knocking him to the floor. “She is my friend! That’s what she is. She is a human being. That’s what she is. Take him to the roof. Tie his hands.”He shouted and as soon as this was done the man up was dragged up the next set of stairs.
“And the girl in the Burka…” Shouted Abdulla after them.
At the top a small doorway lead outside to the iron railings at the edge. The crowd gathered below looked small as they peered up wondering what was to come next.
“Fellow citizens! “ Cried Roger thrusting his arm up as he addressed the crowd below.“This criminal has betrayed the people. He is one of the tax collector rapists! Is it thumbs up or down for him?” Roger first pointing his thumb up and then ominously down.
“Down! Down! Came the cry. A thousand thumbs pointed down.The Council Tax bailiff struggled with his guards.
“Here! You can’t do that. We can do what we like but you can’t. You’re not council.” Reasoned the condemned.He struggled wildly letting out a long scream as he was bundled over the edge, and then the pause before the dull thump of impact.
“Death to the Tyrant! Death to the Tyrant!” The crowd went wild with joy dancing around as they sung in happiness at their relief from the bondage that this evil tax had brought.However their joy was to be short lived. Roger’s indulgent smile changed to a look of concern as he heard the growl of a certain type of heavy diesel engine whose identity was confirmed by a jet of dirty brown smoke shooting skyward which was clearly visible in the distance.
“My God! They have sent tanks against us already.” Snapped Roger pushing his way back past the thong of well wishers who had followed him onto the roof.
“I must find Fatima.” He panted in anxiety as he rushed down to the main first floor reception room where Abdulla was standing in front of a video crew from Revolution TV.
“Today ISIS has captured their first town in mainland Britain.” Said Abdulla proudly. We have contacted our brothers and sisters across the country to inform them of our historic event. They have all set messages of congratulations and support. The new caliphate of Wilmington On Sea has begun…. Please don’t interrupt Roger, I know you are my friend but I have an important announcement to make to the people of Britain…please, stop dragging my arm…you can have a go with the press in a minute. Now is my turn…”
“Where’s Fatima?” Roger screamed tugging Abdulla’s arm even harder. “We have to go!”
“She is over there. In answer to one question and, ‘no not yet,’ is answer to the other…”
At that moment there was a deafening roar of rotor blades and everyone in the room stopped and looked memorised as an Apache Mk1 attack helicopter suddenly appeared outside the window. Roger could clearly see the helmets of the pilots who were about to bring death. At each side of the British Army’s Air Corps most effective weapon were two gleaming pods each housing a 20mm Gatling cannon capable of firing over 5,000 rounds a minute.Their noise was not unlike a sewing machine except incredibly louder.
Roger threw them to the ground a split second before it started. Chucks of plasters and masonry exploded across the room as the titanium tipped depleted uranium rounds tore through the walls and as the helicopter rotated from side to side channels were literally shot into the walls followed by the ceiling crashing down. Still the flames stabbed cruelly from the muzzles’ pouring more and more hell forth.It was probably no more than 20 seconds or so but it had virtually cut the building in two.
Roger heard a wail. It was Fatima. She was lying at the top of the grand staircase, but a gap had opened between it and the landing Roger was on.
“Help me.” She screamed reaching out towards Roger. He swiftly wriggled forwards grabbing for her hand but as he did so another cracking noise filled their ears. The staircase and Fatima lurched away as the building collapsed further.
Roger reached over the edge..Fatima looked up into his eyes, he could see real fear in them, and something else…a look of longing… her hand reached for his ….but the gap was too wide..
Will Fatima plunge to her death? Or will Roger save her?
Living In The Shadow Of The Guillotine will be out soon.. keep an eye out for it here and on Amazon.
Editor’s note about beheadings.
We have all had a fear and fascination throughout the centuries over the different forms of execution used and indeed the arguments for and against still rage in the United States today.
Beheading were the norm of posh people’s executions for years. Hanging being used for the rest of us. The last beheading in Britain was in 1747 after the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland.[ I wonder if SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has taken note?]
However the last beheadings by British authorities were much more recent. The German Nazi government used the guillotine to execute prisoners up to the end of WWII. The British Army of Occupation 1945-48 finding a working model decided to use it on several captured Nazis. So these last beheadings were within the life span of our older generations.
Also the aerial torpedo is not so far fetched. I read volume two (I think from memory) of Sir Winston Churchill’s WWII memoirs written in 1948. He explains that at the time of the Blitz in 1940 anti aircraft artillery was in its infancy and too inaccurate to hit anything. So Churchill was open to suggestions and considered many weird and wonderful schemes including the one mentioned here.