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Chapter Three

Don Brawn searched his memory, but the voice – male, but utterly neutral, characterless – did not ring any bells that he could bring to mind.

“I suppose you don’t want to tell me who this is,” he said.

“I think not, Agent Brawn. At least, not yet.” There was a smile on the words.

“I’m not an agent now – as you know, I think.” He heard a sympathetic sigh on the line.

“Yes… that was a great shame. But inevitable, I’m afraid.”

“Inevitable that you frame me? That you destroy my career?”

“Yes. But these are not my goals, merely unfortunate side-effects of something more important than one’s career – even a career as dazzling as yours.” Brawn felt himself seething and forced himself to be calm, to pick up on every detail of the conversation. “There is something larger at stake, Mister Brawn, and we will need those who can face up to what must be done. I have done what needed to be done… to you. Next it will be your turn, if we are not to suffer dire consequences.”

“Who is this we?”

“The world, Mr. Brawn. We are the world.”

“Yeah? Well, what if I decide that what I need to do is take the pictures you sent me to the DPC in Bern, set their dogs on them and track down the cameraman?” Switzerland housed the distributed headquarters of the World Security Agency, a post-partisan international organisation not answerable to the various countries whose best and brightest invariably found their way into the service of the interests of global humanity. The Data Protection Centre boasted technologies, techniques and technicians that any governmental surveillance agency in the world would kill for; and, though fruitlessly, on occasion had.

“That would have interesting consequences. I’m sure you noted the unusual quality of the pictures, assumed their undoubted source. They were just the kind of materials you yourself might have utilised during your former employ. Using your former security clearances. With a little… creative accessing. All of which would look most incriminating right now. If someone were to go looking for it.”

Brawn felt a chill in spite of himself. “No-one can get that information!”

“I can, Mr. Brawn. And the fact that I need still more than that from you should appear significant.”

Brawn waited, but there was no continuation. The line was absolutely silent, not even a hiss, no clue to be snared from the background noise. There was nothing to suggest the speaker was still listening, but somehow Brawn knew he was. Brawn also knew himself, and with that first image of the murdered priest still burning in his mind, he knew he had little options.

“The picture?”

“There is a parcel waiting to be collected, under… a name. Near… a place. I cannot be more specific. The risks are too great that its contents fall into the wrong hands. Are your hands the right ones, Mr. Brawn? Find the parcel and you will go a long way to proving you have the skills we need of you.”

The link disconnected – Brawn stared at the handset in disbelief, listening to the humming tone, then slowly hung up.

As he walked back to the house, his mind in a whirl, he barely acknowledged the breathless greeting of the neighbourhood jogger making his final pass of the block; didn’t register the fact that no murmur of music emanated from the in-earphones linked to an MP4 player tucked in his pocket; in any case, couldn’t have seen that the small bulge in his shorts wasn’t an MP4 player at all.

The jogger was tying his shoelace as Brawn went back inside.


Chapter Two xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Chapter Four

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