SILHOUETTES - Twenty-fourth instalment - Chapter forty-one, forty-two, and forty-three (a). For more information on this novel, click Here.
At nine o'clock, bored, Ben decided to go for a walk around the building. He was now in the uniform provided and felt a real authoritarian wearing it. He almost wished he had someone to boss about. The building was eleven floors of open plan office space, he got the elevator to the top floor, had a look around, nothing of interest really, mostly empty space, but here and there a layout of groups of desks and chairs with head height dividers separating most. All the computers had been ripped out by the last occupant, but there was an occasional base unit or monitor left in place, he tried powering up one, but nothing, seems they had taken all but the junk.
The corridor ran from the staircase and elevator to the fire escape stairwell at the back of the building. Along the door jamb he noticed the magnetic strip and he ran the gizmo he had pulled from the charger on his desk till it gave out a bleep. He worked his way down floor by floor, using the stairs till he got to the fifth floor, where he sat on the window sill for a bit, gazing out at the street below. He had already decided this job was a bad move. The shutter was up on the pub across the road and it was taking a delivery from the brewers. Nicking out for a quick hair of the dog was beginning to sound quite appealing.
When he got back to the ground floor he had another rake about in the office. He was overjoyed when he discovered a portable TV hidden at the back of a cupboard adjacent to it. He pulled it into the office and switched it on, despite having a ring of wire plugged in the back for an aerial, the reception was fine. Too early for a film or some decent broadcasts, he turned it to the news channel.
No need to panic, the alien was there. Simon Parker stood in from the street at an alley that ran to the back of the retail premises on Grimeforth Street. Cap on and hood up, he kept as far back from the main drag as possible without blocking his view to the offices across the road. In the backpack strapped to his back was now all his worldly possessions. He would have to start over again with a new Suzi, and it was all because of him, the alien, Dave Stuart.
He popped another pill, his fifth today already, but he felt he needed them. Took a drink from the bottle of water he had, and continued to watch the offices across the road. He was unsettled though, he had no direct communication with his employer now, and the fact that he had a five page report he had taken the time to write before setting the fire, and no where to send it, was a conundrum. Tennyson was right about the fire though, but shouldn't he have waited until after the postman delivery today before setting it? Then again, it wasn't everyday that he received a reply paid envelope to send back his reports, usually only two or three times a week. How would his employer contact him now?
He hated these periods of ignorance, of indecision, but he knew that he did have to make the occasional choice by his own utilisation of free will, and due to the police car and the note, he was in danger and could not afford to either find himself in custody, or attract undue attention to his employer, after all secrecy was what it was all about. If the general public knew about the threat civilisation was under and the mere fact that aliens were not only in existence, but had actually begun to infiltrate humankind, then wholesale panic would ensue. So, he had ended the trail back to him at the house. It had meant the death of Suzi, but Suzi was already dead, it only halted her rebirth. Suzi Two would come along soon, though. He could already feel her in his bones.
If only he was certain what he should do. He had the alien once again under surveillance, but he could not remain wandering about in the open like this, it would only be a matter of time before someone spotted him and he was arrested and taken away. This was his uncle's fault, or no, perhaps it was the fault of the old man with the dog. Everything had been going swimmingly up till then. But his employer would not see it that way. He had taken his eye off the ball, lost contact with his charge, his main assignment, and got himself distracted with creating a new life, creating a partner for himself. It was selfishness that had brought him to this point, but he must not panic, no need for that, all could be recovered, the situation rectified, he could redeem himself. He noticed he was flicking the lid of the Zippo open and shut in the palm of his hand. He put the lighter in his pocket. Fire was not the way this time. The answer would come to him. His employer would find him and pass on instructions. He just had to be patient.
On a bus heading towards Cincinnati on the morning of the third day of the exercise was a joy. Relaxed, feet up on the seat, coffee in hand, he watched the view outside as the bus sped along. He planned on hitting Ridge Street around noon, and he was sure he would get a night out in the city before transport was arranged back to base.
Once he had left the site of the burning van the previous evening, he had trekked along the woodland track until the sun came up and he could actually see where he was going. Eventually the track widened into a road and cabins began to appear at intervals. He had covered 12 miles he estimated. If he heard the approach of a vehicle though, or spotted a pedestrian, he scuttled into the cover of the brush at the side of the road. He could not risk being seen at this time and in this location, it was still too dangerous, who knew what murderous bastards were out there hunting him down?
Finally he came to a small town filling station, a couple of cars with sale signs on the windscreen were parked at the side of the pay kiosk, and after watching for a while, he deduced it was a one man operation, local mechanic, salesman, and filling station attendant. The older of the two vehicles for sale was a dingy looking 92 Chevrolet Silverado truck, and he reached into the sack of money and pulled out a roll of cash, he counted out the correct amount for the sale and added another two-hundred. Buying the car legit would give him a break to get some distance, without being worried about highway patrols, as well as putting more space between him and the drug dealers he had stolen from. He backtracked half a mile, went deeper into the woods and hid the money again. He strapped on his hold-all though and began the walk back to the filling station, sure he would be mistaken for a hitch-hiker that had got fed up with walking, or waiting for lifts.
The negotiation for the car took all of a minute once he had declared cash was the method of payment. He had no doubt the IRS would never hear about this transaction, and the garage owner was happy to allow him to deal with any paperwork involved in the sale, being so snowed under with work he sometimes forgot.
He quickly retrieved his loot and found the Interstate, but instead of heading north to Cincinnati, he drove due west to Nashville, he had an idea that it may not be only drug dealers that were on the look out for him, the Agency probably had him in its sights also, so if could evade it as well, it may earn extra points for him on completion of the exercise. Besides, he now had a good reason for avoiding the eyes of the Agency watching over him at this moment. On a side track he had driven up for the purpose, he had eaten some junk food he had bought at a passing road stop, and he then reclined the seat and closed his eyes for an hour. He woke up four hours later, still hungry, but decided to count the money in the bag now he had a bit of time and was well out of sight. It came to a total of $192,800, far more, he smiled, than the $10,000 that was required to complete the exercise.
A quick stop in Nashville, he found a bank, hired a safe deposit box, and placed in $180,000. If the Agency said nothing, then neither would he, and he would retrieve it in time.
Deciding the car was safe enough for the moment, he risked driving it north on the 65 to Louisville. Once there he found a low end back street dealer and did a trade for something just driveable, worth a lot less, but easily exchanged as the dealer thought he was a moron. His new method of transport spluttered out of the lot, but luckily, quietened down a bit when the engine heated up. He got as far north along Interstate 71 to Cincinnati as Pendleton before the vehicle gave up the ghost. He limped it off the highway, the transmission clanking perilously, belching black smoke and the smell of burnt oil rampant, and parked it, and locked it, at the first place he could legally do so. At the first store he got directions to the bus stop and decided to get the Greyhound into Cincinnati.
Finally the bus turned in at the station on Gilbert Avenue. He planned on going for a beer and a walk around the town before grabbing a taxi to Ridge Street and ending the exercise. He was dismayed though when he spied Jon Evans, his Agency Controller, and another suit he didn't recognize waiting by a vending machine alongside the bus berth. How the fuck did they know?
He walked towards Evans, who waved a hand in the air, and a black panel van with heavily tinted windows appeared and stopped alongside him. Evans, himself, and the stranger, got in the back and the van drove off.
Next instalment coming soon...
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