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"We'll keep this between us. If you've killed the bomb, that's it.

There's no point telling my bosses. They'd only go mad and stir everything up again on the international front. By the way can I have some more of that?"

She pointed at the bottle. I started and apologised, filling her glass again.

"Besides," she said, 'it's not as if our own consciences are all that clear."

I stared at her.

"What the hell do you mean by that?"

"Compact nuclear devices," she said teasingly.

"CNDs. They are not the exclusive property of the West."

"You mean .. . you don't mean you've done this to us already?"

"That's rather a crude way of putting it."

"Are you saying there are CNDs buried under London?"

"Not necessarily buried."

"How many, for God's sake?"

"I'll have to check, but I think the last count was five. I acted as liaison officer on an operation in 1993, when two went in."

Suddenly I felt punch-drunk not intoxicated, but rather as though I'd taken too much punishment.

"I don't know what to say," I began feebly.

"Don't say anything. That's enough talk for tonight."

Chris Ryan was born in 1961 in a village near Newcastle. At the age of sixteen he attached himself unofficially to "C' Squadron of 23rd Special Air Service, the territorial regiment based at Prudhoe, in Northumberland.

Over the next seven years he covered hundreds of miles of moor and mountain on training exercises.

In 1984 he joined 22nd SAS, the regular Regiment, and completed three tours which took him to many parts of the world on operations and exercises. He also worked extensively in the counterterrorist field, serving as an assaulter, sniper, and finally Sniper Team Commander on the SP or Special Projects team.

For his escape from Iraq in January 1991 he was awarded the Military Medal. He left the SAS in 1994, and now lives and works in America.

He is the author of three bestsellers, The One That Got Away (1995), Stand By, Stand By (1996), and Zero Option (1997).

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