Ray Sullivan publishes science based fiction adventures on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, WH Smith and other good eBook retailers as e-books. Additionally all of his books are available in paperback on Amazon. He also muses on technology, posts comedic books in serial format and discusses the world of self publishing.
Books written by Ray Sullivan
Friday, 8 March 2013
Parallel Lives chapter 68
Martin and Sam sat outside the home of Jack and Karen
Howells, noting the dark rooms through the open curtains. It was now early
evening, rapidly changing from half light to darkness.
'You might find this difficult,' Martin said, 'I'll wait
until it is fully dark to give us some cover when we enter. Basically,' he
continued, reaching over to the back seat and lifting a clip-board he had
extricated from his briefcase earlier, 'we'll try to look like door-to-door
canvassers. It’s best not to try and avoid being seen completely; it’s rarely
possible and tends to raise suspicion.
'I can probably pick that lock within twenty seconds,
unless they have one of the newer high security locks. In which case I may need
thirty seconds, thirty five tops. Its unlikely though, those locks are
expensive and have to be fitted by professionals.
'You ready?' he asked.
'Sure,' replied Sam, feeling the sweat form on his face as
his heart started to pound.
'As soon as I open the door we slip in, no messing, and I
want you to stand just clear of the door. Give me enough room to close it
smartly without it catching on you, but don't start wandering off. Don't touch
anything unless it's for a purpose, those surgical gloves tear real easy so
don't waste them on non essential items. I want us out in under ten minutes and
that includes the time it takes me to close the curtains. No main lights, use
the pocket torch I gave you sparingly, and only when the curtains in that room
are drawn.' Sam looked at his new mentor.
It's a fucking pain in the arse for you, taking me in,
isn't it?' he asked. Martin nodded, but allowed a rare smile.
'I'm not used to working with anyone on this kind of
mission, its not how we operate,' he explained, 'but as long as we keep to the
ten minute schedule we should be okay. Generally that's the quickest the police
will respond to a phone call from the public, and usually much slower.' Sam
pulled a face.
'Unless they're on the way to a different call,' he said,
remembering the events of a couple of hours earlier. Martin shook his head.
'World of difference, armed robbery and domestic burglary,
police put them in completely different boxes. We'll be alright,' he said,
opening his door, clutching the clipboard. As they reached the Howells' front
gate he passed the clipboard across to Sam while looking around the street,
noting the shadow in the bay opposite.
'The ten minutes,' he said quietly, 'begins now.'
The two men strode confidently up to the front door, Sam
flashing the clipboard purposefully in front of him while Martin slipped the
skeleton key so that the smooth handle nested into the cusp of his palm,
running his gloved index finger carefully along the serrated edge, confirming
it was facing uppermost. As they reached the door Sam leaned across Martin,
pushing the door bell and shielding Martin's activity, while Martin slipped the
skeleton into the front door lock.
'Thirteen seconds,' he thought as he probed the first few
millimetres, waiting for the first obstacle. Sam was impressing him, doing
exactly as requested, standing just a fraction behind and to the side. Anything
closer and he would have hampered the lock picking, further back would have
sent alarm bells to any passer by. The skeleton stopped, Martin twisted right a
fraction, shifting his weight to just above, forcing it down while maintaining
a parallel attitude to the lock.
'Nineteen seconds, maybe twenty,' he thought as the
skeleton slid in further. Reversing direction it slid even more. 'Nearly
there,' flashed through his mind as he felt the lock yield. Then it stopped,
solid. 'Twenty-two seconds,' rang in his ears, silently.
'On my mark, knock, not too loud,' he whispered. Pulling
hard on the door handle with his left hand, he pushed in, twisting the skeleton
with his right while pushing firmly with his right foot on the base of the
door, flexing it against the rigid frame. 'Now,' he said, making the final
effort as Sam knocked.
'Twenty five,' he said, almost silently as the door slipped
open. Both men entered, with Sam standing aside to allow Martin to close the
door behind them.
They stood silently, listening while holding their breath,
confirming the absence of a pet or the Howells themselves. 'Not beyond the
realms,' as Sam had suggested earlier. The possibility that they had doubled
back to the house and were now lying low upstairs had occurred to Martin, and
despite the fact he desperately wanted to locate them, this was not the venue
to do it.
'Thirty eight,' he calculated, refusing to cross check with
his watch until the first sixty seconds had passed. Sam stood rock solid while
Martin moved swiftly towards the door leading to the front room, dropping
rapidly and moving smoothly in an incongruous manner for a man wearing a
business-style suit. Crabbing across to the window, using the small amount of
light being shed by the street light twenty feet away, Martin reached the
curtains. Pulling them carefully, feeling them drag as he pulled, he closed
Standing up and cupping his right hand over the end of his
flashlight with the torch tail protruding under his right wrist, he switched it
on. Shining onto his left hand Martin read the time off his watch.
'One-O-thirteen,' he mumbled, 'I was slower than I
reckoned. Must be losing my touch.' He swung the beam swiftly around the room,
looking for anything that might indicate where the Howells had taken Staples
to; a map, notepaper on a coffee table, anything.
'Nothing obvious here,' said Sam, following the beam as
best as he could.
'Check out the bookcase, look for address books, note pads,
check the phone book inside page for details on anyone who may be trusted,'
Martin said, repeating the instructions he had supplied earlier, 'I'll check
through here.' Martin moved towards the kitchen door as Sam started to rummage
through the top shelf on the bookcase.
'Two-O-fifteen,' he guessed to himself as he eased the
kitchen door open, taking in the general lay of the room. The window was
dressed with vertical blinds waving slowly left and right as a result of the
opening door, shedding bright moonlight over the sink unit and onto the kitchen
table. Keeping below the sink unit height, looking behind to make sure that Sam
wasn't likely to be in view through the now wide open door, Martin slipped
across. Popping his head up swiftly he gauged the location of the adjusting
rod, located away to his right. Dropping down he slid sidewards and reached up,
twisting his shoulder to minimise the amount of his body protruding above the
worktop, turning the rigid pole, closing the blinds.
With the front and back windows covered, Martin felt
easier. Checking his watch he realised he was almost up to two minutes and so
far he hadn't started his search. Nothing on the table, the worktops clear save
for a kettle, a teapot and a suite of matching caddies; no loose items lying
around. A light flashing behind the door jam caught his eye. Easing the door
partly closed revealed the wall mounted telephone.
Searching for and extracting a digital recorder from his
jacket pocket, Martin held it up next to the speaker on the phone. Starting
recording he pushed the answerphone play button.
'Jack,' said the hesitant female voice, 'you know I hate
these machines.' The woman paused for what sounded an eternity, prompting Jack
to look at his watch. Two-forty-four.
'A man came to see me today, he said you are going to visit
him. I thought he was genuine at the time but now I don't know. I guess if you
aren't on your way it doesn't matter, but I don't think you will be allowed to
visit me now if you do.' Martin was aware that Sam had entered the room, drawn
by the echoing sound of the answering machine. The voice continued.
'He said his name was Michael. Michael something or other,
I don't remember the rest of his name. He wrote down his number, he said to
call it when you got to Bristol,' she continued.
Martin looked triumphant as Jack's mother repeated the
motel phone number and the room number to ask for. Sam waited for the message
to finish, punctuated by two rapid beeps. 'It looks like Michael was more
involved with these people than we realised,' he said. Martin, forgetting the
time slipping away in his reverie, considered Sam's words.
'You could be right, it all went too smoothly for my liking
for an opportunistic alliance. But then again, if you'd asked me yesterday...'
Martin tailed off, aware that he was starting to talk to Sam like they were
friends, a situation he was unused to. He was also talking too freely, full
stop. Sam picked up the trailing words.
'You'd have put money on it being me,' he said, waving
Martin's embarrassed look away, 'don't knock yourself about, I'd have agreed
with you if I'd been in your shoes. I've acted like an arse since this all
started up, I'm surprised you let me back in,' he continued. Martin nodded.
'Needs must, I guess. I've been working under very limited
resources up to now, and are we paying the price today?' Martin suddenly
realised that time had been slipping away. Five-fifty-six he thought, then
corrected himself, six-fifty-six.
'We need to be moving, we're running out of time.' Sam held
up his trophy, not prepared to leave letting Martin believe he had all the
'I think they have known more than even I suspected, and
have probably known for some time,' he said pushing the wad of photocopied
pages he found slipped amongst engineering textbooks on the lowest shelf.
Martin looked at the pages, recognising the hand-written notes.
'We knew they had seen the notes, but I never thought they
would have put any relevance to it. If they are in league with Michael, as now
sounds likely, then the whole charade may have been a plot to extricate Staples
to move him to one of our competitors; the Americans or the Russians. Whoever
is paying the most.' Sam weighed this up quickly.
'You could be right, and if so we need to get them
intercepted before they rejoin Michael, otherwise it could be nigh on
impossible to track them with the resources they would have on tap,' he
suggested. 'We might have lost them,' he added, feeling a pragmatic urge to
rationalise. Martin shook his head as he cupped his hand around Sam's elbow,
steering him towards the front door.
'From what my people say, that can't be an option. This is
more than national pride at stake, this is life and death for up to two million
civilians,' he replied, seeing the blood run out of Sam's face in the dim,
restricted light of the kitchen as the potential disaster looming sunk in, with
Sam realising that Martin was relaying information he truly believed in. Martin
looked around the door edge. 'Nine-ten, time we were out of here.'