Skip to content

Chapter Four

Brawn looked at the pictures still spread covering the kitchen table, turning over the words of the voice in his mind. A package. Under… a name. At… a place. Who, what – how was he going to locate the thing? The only possibility was that he had the information he needed already – but he already knew that there were no messages included in the pictures, scrawled on the back of a photo – didn’t he?

Brawn went over them again, exhausting any possibility of a hidden message. He considered the name of the priest, for about as long as it took to form the thought, then discarded it as too obvious. Anyone already focused on this case – this thing – whatever it was – would see the connection immediately; and the voice had made it quite clear there were persons interested whom it would be best kept from. He shook his head, then cleared his mind of thoughts for a moment and started again from the ground up.

Think logically, he told himself. The Voice, whoever he is, thinks someone bad wants the information in that parcel – at least, given that he got me fired, someone worse than he is. If he thinks these snaps are at all valuable then he took a risk getting these pictures to me, one he couldn’t take with whatever he left out. Brawn’s eyes narrowed.

He wanted me to see them, but what if they were intercepted? Without the missing piece the bigger picture is incomplete; and if they didn’t get to me he’d have been tipped off that They were onto him – he leaves the critical gap, so any interceptor with half a brain would make sure they reached me so I could secure the missing piece for them. Therefore he wouldn’t have included a direct clue with the pictures.

Brawn continued thinking, while his hands automatically began sweeping the pictures together again. He leaves the number so he can contact me direct and give me the clue without sharing. Unless the payphone was tapped. Unlikely. Although, if someone intercepted the photos they could have seen the number too, maybe… Brawn shook his head again – no use getting paranoid. Not yet. His hands had found a resealable freezer bag from a drawer and slotted the pictures in.

He headed into the hallway. A Name. A Place. Not much to go on. He opened a closet door – a few old jackets, a few old shoe boxes, crammed into the gaps around a fat old boiler. When his former colleagues had searched his place during the charming ordeal that was his fall from grace, the boiler was the only thing they’d not torn out in their enthusiasm, probably because it ran so hot it would burn your fingertips. When he wanted it to, that was.

Right now it was cold.

Pinning the bag of photos between his knees, Brawn felt around in the corners of the closet, far from the boiler itself and irregularly placed, until he found the first two clasps and simultaneously triggered them. His fingers found the other two with similar ease, having installed them himself, a process that required him to strip the walls around the closet and completely destroy it, before rebuilding and redecorating around his modifications. Not even the man who designed the building would have known the difference.

With a padded thud the boiler dropped a few centimetres and tipped forward. Brawn caught it and lifted it free, leaning it against the hallway wall. It was a shell, with the filaments harvested from a dozen electric kettles coiled around the inside surface. With a moment’s notice – from any room in his apartment – Brawn could have them glowing red hot and heating the fake boiler to a painful degree.

Behind it on the wall was a safe with two locks – one digital, one tumbler. The man who actually found that safe had better know what order he was doing things in if he ever wanted a look at what was inside. Quickly switching between locks, several times, Brawn had the safe open in around two minutes. The photos went in. Several things came out and vanished about Brawn’s person as quickly as they appeared. Then the safe was closed, the boiler front replaced, the closet door closed.

Brawn was no closer to his answer, but at least he felt more ready to take action. It also felt strange, using these particular tools again. They were a last resort, and as such were also his best and most trusted. Not for emergencies, of course – in Brawn’s experience anything that left you five minutes of free time to prepare was not an emergency at all. All those materials were long gone, found with reasonable speed by use of the same skills he had used to secrete them. The WSA trained its agents as well as any in the world – but then Brawn had designed several of the most effective new protocols himself, and there are always some things that you try out for yourself before you put them in the book.

Brawn went back to the kitchen and saw the half-full glass of orange juice on the work surface. He hadn’t had breakfast and his stomach sounded like an echo, but somehow he didn’t feel like eating. He stared out of the window to where, between two trees, he could just make out the white pyramidal peak of the Washington Monument, like a hard-edged cloud in the distance.

How many places are there in Washington? he wondered – and then, he wondered.


Chapter Three xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Chapter Five

%d bloggers like this: