“He is here. I will dispatch him.” The computerised voice said over the secure phone line. “I have also taken steps to end the police investigation.” The line went dead as Lanker’s contact hung up. Lanker rubbed his eyes, took note of the time (3.30am), and decided to try and get a little more sleep.
Bevin opened the door for Harris, who held a glass of water and a small plastic packet. He still looked disgruntled, and now bruising was showing up around his nose. Despite himself, Eric was quite pleased – he’d rattled the younger man thoroughly, and could work with that.
“Now then Mr Cooper…” Bevin began as Harris sat back down and placed the water in front of Eric. “I would rather not force you to take the drugs. However, it is crucial that we learn the truth. I therefore ask that you cooperate.”
For a moment Eric sat in silence, then took the packet and scooped out a small white pill, that could have easily passed for an aspirin. He clasped the glass in his free hand, and Harris tensed. Eric almost laughed.
“Don’t worry son, I’ll spare you another beating.” He couldn’t resist a bit of mockery. Harris went red, cheeks flushing with anger, as Eric popped the pill into his mouth and swallowed it with a big gulp.
“It’ll take a few minutes to start working.” Remarked Bevin. “Perhaps then, we can finally get to the bottom of all this.”
“You know what you can do to get to the bottom of this?” Eric sat back and crossed his arms. “You can investigate One Touch Security, thoroughly.”
“I can assure you, they were vetted in every conceivable way.” Replied Bevin with a wry smile.
Without warning, the sensation of swimming through treacle nearly knocked Eric sideways. His eyes went wide, then he felt the world bottom out from under him. As Bevin, Harris and the meagre contents of the room began to blur together, Eric slipped off the chair, coughing, suddenly feeling a sharp pain in his chest. As Bevin raced around the desk, Eric shuddered, starting at him accusingly. As his world faded to black, his last thoughts were for Mary. She would never know…
“He’s having a heart attack! Harris, get the defib kit, now!” Bevin knelt by Eric, clutching him by the shoulder and rolling him onto his back. Eric was unconscious, barely gasping for breath, as Harris charged out of the room, going for one of the emergency medical kits stationed around the building. Bevin somehow knew it wouldn’t be enough. Already Eric was going still, but as the old man lay dying, the conversation was as clear as day in his mind. He can’t be right, he just can’t…
Harris rushed back in, holding the portable defibrillator. The two wide pads were attached by wires to a box roughly half the size of a microwave oven – Bevin ripped open Eric’s shirt and Harris slapped two green plastic stickers to the man’s chest. “Clear.” He said, then he pressed a button on the machine and pressed the pads to the stickers. Electricity punched its way through Eric’s chest, and his body arched, but fell flat again moments later. Harris upped the charge, delivered another one, but again Eric fell limp. A third, final charge surged into Eric’s body, and then Bevin shook his head. The man was dead.
“Shit, shit shit shit!” Harris was pacing. The younger man was flustered, hands going to his head. “Fuck!”
“Calm down! First things first, we need to notify any next of kin, we follow procedure, as always.”
“He’s dead, that USB is still out there, and our only lead is dead!”
“I said calm down!” Bevin stood, raising his voice then immediately regretting it. Telling someone to calm down by shouting was counterproductive at the best of times. “Now, deep breath, did you get the right pill?”
“Yes, I got the right fucking pill.” Harris spat.
“Okay, then we know it was natural causes. An autopsy will find out the reason. Don’t panic.” But what if…
Bevin wasn’t going to give voice to his thoughts, not in front of Harris and not with microphones listening in. Paranoia was a good quality for a spy, but it was also paralysing.
“Go and get some rest. I’ll call you once I know more.” Bevin herded Harris out of the room, looked at the camera, and pursed his lips thoughtfully.
The little Honda Civic had avoided any of Peter or Rob’s usual haunts. Paranoia was a quality not only found in spies, and the former SAS operatives had found themselves driving around at random. Exhaustion had kicked in – in a few hours it would be sun-up, and they couldn’t trundle down London’s streets forever. Coming up with a plan, a way forward, was proving challenging.
“So, we can’t go to the police, the Army, MI5, MI6, any government office – where do we go then?” Rob was doing a good job of narrowing their options.
“I need some time to figure out how to get into this data without being tracked. My bet is the USB has a tracking device – it powers up whenever the stick is plugged in, very clever. We can’t use it without giving up where we are.”
“So how do we get into it?”
“I’m gonna crack it open and find the transmitter.” Peter rounded a corner and parked up. “Then we can look at it to our hearts’ content. We need to expose what this does, and then go to the right people.”
“Who are the right people?” Asked Rob.
“Fucked if I know.” Peter turned the small white stick around in his hands, looking to see if he could prise it apart. A small seam, where the silver rectangle met the casing, was a vulnerable point. Using his thumb nail, Peter began to gently ease the casing apart. There was an audible crack as the plastic came apart, and another crack as a fracture appeared down the line of the case. Peter winced, but then let out an ‘aha’ as the casing fell away, revealing a small green board with gold lines, and a criss-cross gold structure on one side, with a small, red bulb on the other.
“Is that the transmitter?” Asked Rob curiously.
“Dunno. The light comes on when the USB is plugged in and getting power. I’ll have to have a proper look at this, but we’ll do it in the morning. We need a place to stay. You got any cash?”
Rob groaned. “Why?”
“I’m not slumming it in a car until this blows over. We’ll book into a hotel.”
“I don’t have unlimited funds you know.”
Peter shot Rob a dirty look. “I’ll get some cash too, we only need a few days, we’ll be alright.”
Rob sighed. “Ok, so, assuming you can figure out exactly what this code is, how it works and who’s behind it, who do we actually trust to help us?”
“Like I said, fucked if I know. First things first, we get into a hotel as soon as we can, and get some kip.”
To Chapter 13
Back to Techno Fail
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