It was foreign muck, naturally. A renegade colonel code-named Sergei (which isn’t very coded if you ask me) had got his hands the nerve-agent with the impossible name, left over from Soviet days. Sergei wasn’t prominent, you understand, and had no political views, being a stocky paunchy little fellow with big sad anonymous eyes but no neck or waist, so his stubble merged into his chest-hair and his fat chest merged into fat thighs. He just happened to be commandant of some unused arms-dump, in the woody mountains above Wischnitza. One dreary midwinter noon (this is how I imagine it), crapulous from his usual vodka binge, his men still asleep, he went crackling across the ice to force the rusted lock of a forgotten warehouse, and found the cache: corroded metal drum upon corroded metal drum, each with faded painted star (for Communism), and death’s head and crossed tibias (for poison). Drum after drum, all stolidly waiting for him in the iron-cold air, stretching up toward the cobwebby gloom of the roof if cobwebs survive the frosts when spiders are hibernating which I don’t know. The cheap cigarette fell from Sergei’s lips. He was made, a rich man.
It took him a month or two, that is until the middle of March, to find buyers. Then it took The Worldsouls another month to save up the necessary millions and buy themselves this Ukrainian renegade. (Or unnecessary. It was surely more money than a crude fellow like Sergei could get through in a lifetime. Less would have done perfectly well.)
Finally it took micro-seconds to stow this ridiculous amount in his bitcoin accounts.
By now it was April. The spiders were back in the emptied warehouse. All was in readiness. Sergei’s laptop and ’phone and papers were burned, pulverised and dumped in a pond deep within the beechwoods. His mistress, Natasha, awaited him in North Cyprus with a clutch of forged passports. The Worldsouls had recorded and edited an artful podcast of justification to be released once the dying began; the soundtrack was an indie-heavy metal cover of What a wonderful world, which I thought in the worst imaginable taste. The moon might have been an awkwardness: there was a big fat yellowish Paschal moon, for this was (and is) Holy Week. But our English weather is a match for anything in the heavens. On Monday, that is to say two evenings back, under cover of reliably overcast skies, Sergei, in mufti, with crew of two Transnistrian desperadoes, was due to run a pseudo-fishing-smack into a Norfolk creek. Aboard would be this vast supply of annihilation, each drum repainted a jolly pink, and labelled CARAMEL SYRUP FOR USE IN SUNDAE MACHINES – another tasteless touch. One simply can’t make fun of nerve-gas.