Natasha Avram, former Russian government assassin. Wears a lot of leather. Driven by money. Possible sociopath.
Sten Brodrington, ace driver who is a bit vague about which specific branch of British intelligence he worked for. He's looking for direction and purpose in life, or at least that's what he says.
Max Fischer, German investigator with a mysterious past. A little twitchy. He's hoping for some sort of redemption.
Carmel Shaked, Israeli break-and-enter specialist with a bit of a nationalistic streak. Carmel has had enough of secrets and lies.
Last time, the Red Line
Favours are called in, bribes are paid, passports are faked, and after a few days the team finds itself in Surrey, overlooking the Ring. At the centre of an overgrown and ragged estate sits a modest country house, not quite a mansion, but large enough to hold all sorts of secrets; Carmel notes an advanced communications array on the roof of the house, and knows that this is not a normal National Trust property.
Armed guards patrol the grounds, some with dogs, and the team also spots a hawk's mews, suggesting that EDOM makes use of trained attack birds. The grounds also contain an apiary but no one deems it likely that they will need to face combat-trained bees.
After a couple of days of observation the team has a rough idea of the number of personnel at the site but too many questions remain and an infiltration seems inevitable. A number of plans are mooted, including posing as firefighters, posing as inspectors, or Sten crashing a light aircraft into the building; this latter plan is not greeted with enthusiasm by the Englishman, not least because no one can explain what is supposed to happen after he's crashed.
In the end it's decided to keep things simple and sneak in during the night. A river has been split and redirected to flow around the estate, hence the name, and so the team decides to approach by boat; the idea is that it will make pursuit more difficult should things go wrong, as no watercraft are evident at the site. A quiet Zodiac boat is rented and Max is picked to stay with it, as he has a tendency towards clumsiness, not the best trait for a stealth mission.
How ironic it is then that the other three stumble into a series of leghold traps as they make their way to the house, although they avoid any serious injury.
This is the worst luck they face as they infiltrate the grounds and, through a combination of stealth and the liberal application of tranquiliser rounds and gas grenades, subdue the opposition. Somehow the team manages to explore most of the house without raising any sort of alarm and not only discovers what looks to be EDOM's operations centre -- complete with hard drives packed full of juicy data -- but also an underground medical facility and a vault stuffed with cash of various denominations, faked travel documents, and a mysterious leather -- or is it? -- bound book. The
The team also capture two men who -- unlike the rest of the personnel present -- seem to be identified only by code names; the team's researches have uncovered references to so-called "Dukes" of EDOM, some sort of higher echelon within the organisation, and there is a brief discussion about whether it's worth taking the pair away, but it is decided that the hard drives are a more efficient -- not to mention safer -- source of data.
Natasha is intrigued by an entire wing of the house that is closed off; a brief look turns up rooms full of dust sheets and broken furniture, but the Russian is unconvinced that all is as it seems and wants to explore further. Max has joined the rest of the team by this time and he and Carmel urge Natasha to abandon the search; they have gained plenty already and every further minute spent in the house is a further chance that something will go wrong. A reluctant Natasha agrees and the team flees the house.
They cannot quite believe their luck. The team has infiltrated EDOM's base and gathered all sorts of useful data and resources, and seems to have done it without being discovered. It is decided that the best thing to do is lie low for a while and go through the loot, so Natasha calls her "Uncle Ivan" and soon the team is heading for a quiet dacha just outside Saint Petersburg.
Next: research, Russia, and a road trip!