Sunday 24 – Monday 25 February 2013
The upper management team that Terence Blackwood had sent to clean up the catastrophic event that occurred at Blackwood Research Facility Five had completed the salvage operation, and the information had been compiled and emailed to Blackwood. The only outstanding tasks were to ensure that contingency plan A seven was enforced, and locating and eliminate the leak that the team had recently discovered. Once those two smaller tasks were completed, the upper management team, led by the inimitable Verity Flynn, would be on their way back to head office. Strangely, something just didn’t sit right with Hilary Thoms, niece of Terence Blackwood, although she was at a loss as to say what it was.
She sat in the passenger’s side of the SUV and waited for Gus Portland to join her. They had volunteer to chase down Blackwood employee Dr. Nicholas Kent who had, by all accounts, disappeared from the face of the earth since they had seen him when the upper management team had first arrived at ground zero. Sheri Kent, his wife, had also disappeared. Their house appeared deserted, their cell phones unused, and their bank accounts had been siphoned of all cash. It would take even the best of Blackwood Research and Development’s computer techs days to follow the electronic trail of the Kent’s cash, and that was a luxury that the upper management team did not have.
‘We’ll start at the Kent house . . . again . . . work our way around the town from there,’ said Gus as he dropped himself into the driver’s seat. ‘They have to be here somewhere, and if they’re not, someone must have seen something. I want to get this over and done with as quickly as possible.’
‘Do you think he’s the leak?’ Hilary asked but already believed she knew the answer.
‘Probably. And if he’s got any sense at all, he’ll be miles away from here by now,’ Gus replied hoping that his words reflected the truth.
‘Well then, let’s not sit here wasting time. Hit the gas, Gus.’
He threw Hilary as look that told her to stop being such a smart alec, and she smiled in response.
Verity watched the black SUV drive away from their base of operations. With Gus on the job, Nicholas and Sheri Kent would soon cease to be a problem for Blackwood Research and Development.
‘Get your stuff together,’ she instructed the remaining team members, ‘we’ll be out of here in a few hours.’
The team responded, collecting any equipment that had not yet been packed into the two remaining SUVs.
* * * * *
‘There’s no one here, Gus,’ Hilary stated the obvious for the third time since she and Gus had arrived at the Kent residence.
‘Seriously, if you say that one more time, I’m going to shoot you.’ His patience was wearing thin; he wanted to be at home with his own wife and children, not stuck in the middle of this pokey little town on a scavenger hunt.
‘Sorry,’ she replied.
Gus walked in and out of every room in the house looking for anything that would lead them to the whereabouts of the Kents, and found nothing to suggest where they might had fled to. Hilary sat down in front of the only computer she was able to find in the house. She powered it up and waited for the hard drive to boot up.
‘It’s a long shot,’ she called to Gus, ‘but maybe they left a trail in cyberspace. It can’t hurt to have a poke through their browser history, right?’
‘Nope, can’t hurt. And hey, why don’t you try something completely left of field and Google them? See if they have any assets anywhere else that they might be utilising. A holiday home, a cabin in the woods, a private island in the Caribbean. Find me something, please.’
Hilary tapped away on the computer keyboard stopping occasionally to blow her nose. Gus joined her and focussed on the information that she was pulling up on the screen.
‘There’s nothing of any consequence here, is there?’ he asked.
‘Doesn’t look like it,’ Hilary replied. ‘You know, it’s entirely possible that there’s something on file at head office that might give us a helping hand. Let me just get on to our system and see what I can . . . ’ her voice dropped off abruptly and her eyes never moved from the screen. Gus, on the other hand, looked rapidly between Hilary’s face and the computer screen.
‘What? What is it?’
‘I . . . I . . . my uncle, he’s authorised the final contingency. Hawkwind has been authorised. We’re in the impact zone, Gus. He’s cleaning up all of the loose ends in this scenario, and those loose ends happen to be us.’
Without hesitation, Gus Portland grabbed Hilary by the arm and pulled her away from the Kent’s computer, through the house, and back out to the vehicle.
‘We’re getting out of here now,’ he said and started the ignition.
‘But what about Verity and the others?’ Hilary asked.
‘Screw Verity and the others. I’ve got a wife and kids that I’d like to see again. We’re not waiting around for them.’
‘But, Gus,’ her voice quivered, ‘we can’t not tell them. We have to give them as much of a chance as we have.’
He steered the car wildly around corners and bends, accelerating to speeds that would have him arrested should the police see.
‘If you’re that concerned with Verity and the others, call them now and tell them to get out. No waiting around. If they don’t head out of town now, they’re dead. Tell them that. But Hilary, I am not stopping for anyone or anything so make your peace with that now.’
Her attention firmly focussed on the screen of her cell phone, Hilary did not notice the blood that had begun to run from her nose.
* * * * *
Sheri Kent had made it to the nearest town in record time. Thankfully, she had not encountered any of the local law enforcement or highway patrol officers. She would continue to drive until exhaustion got the better of her, and forced her to find accommodation. Her thoughts, however, lay with her husband who, as far as she was aware, had not commenced his journey. He had promised to contact her as soon as he was on his way, and she had repetitively checked her new cell phone on the off chance that she had not heard his call.
She scratched at the rash that was growing on the back of her left hand. It itched terribly, but there was no time to stop and no time to be a girl about a silly little rash.
‘Still a long way to go so stay frosty,’ she said to herself in order to bolster her self-confidence. ‘Canada’s a long way away.’
. . . To be continued . . .