Wednesday 19 – Friday 21 December 2018
A cursory examination of the property revealed to Catherine and Hugh that they need not slink about. Warner Ford was waiting for them, primed and ready, sitting on the sofa in the living room. He wasn’t entirely surrounded by weapons but he was set up for a fire fight.
‘By the looks of it, he’s intending that no one gets out of this alive,’ Hugh whispered.
‘At least, not us,’ replied Catherine. She heaved the duffle bag she was carrying from her right arm to the left. She glanced down at it for a few seconds then back at Hugh’s face. ‘Let’s go,’ she said and walked away from her husband.
They stood either side of the front door. When the bag went through, Warner was sure to fire in their direction. He’d probably be expecting them to stealthily ingress from an obscure point. He wouldn’t be expecting them to come straight in through the front door.
‘You sure this is going to work?’ Hugh whispered to Catherine.
‘Not entirely. But hey, we’ll never know if we don’t give it a go.’
She gently placed the duffle bag at her feet and as quietly as possible, Catherine opened the front door. The bottom hinge creaked and she shot Hugh a look.
‘Sorry,’ he apologised, ‘never got around to oiling the hinges.’
Catherine was primed, listening for footsteps that would indicate Warner had heard the hinge too. He was either incredibly stealthy or had no idea the front door had opened. There were no footsteps. She waited a few seconds longer before throwing the duffle bag as hard and fast as she could. It slid along the parquetry floor and thudded to a stop against a wall.
‘Ford?’ she called out to him. ‘Ford? There’s a present for you in the front hallway. You, ah, you might want to take a look.’ She nodded to Hugh, his signal to move away from the front door and around to the side of the house. She quickly followed him. They’d be safer away from the door, especially after Warner took a look in the bag. She imagined that even if you despised someone, their head in a duffle bag would be cause for an emotional reaction.
Warner’s aggrieved scream told Catherine that she was right to move to a safer location.
‘CAAAATHERINE! YOU’RE DEAD. DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU ARE DEAD.’
The threat meant nothing to her. Warner had already told Catherine that he was coming after her and Hugh. He was spruiking old news.
Hugh had made his way into the garage and locked the internal door that opened out into the kitchen. Catherine kept watch by the external garage door. It was one of the vulnerabilities they had in their plan. The external door opened straight out into the backyard and there were too many places for Warner to seek cover out there.
‘We’re clear, Hugh. Get to the armoury.’
‘Keep watch. I’ll be as quick as I can.’
Hidden away under the cars was the entrance to the armoury. Hugh slid under his SUV, pressed his hand to the biometric scanner and waited impatiently for the cover to open and reveal a small cache of weapons.
‘Still clear,’ Catherine whispered while Hugh was emptying the armoury.
‘Are you prepared to lose the house?’ he asked.
* * * * *
The stench of burning human flesh filled his nostrils. It was only one body and Barnaby’s head but it was enough to produce the distinct aroma of chargrilling human. He was halfway down the driveway when the house went up in flames. He’d not intended for it to happen but it did and there was little anyone could do about it now. By the time the fire fighters would arrive, the intensity of the fire would wipe out the majority of the house.
‘I really loved that floor,’ he called out. Catherine turned around to look at him sauntering down the driveway.
‘Me too,’ she called back.
‘Do you think that’s the end of it?’
‘I hope so.’ Catherine gingerly lowered herself to the ground. The grass was damp and provided cool relief to the injuries Warner had managed to inflict upon her. Hugh dropped down beside her, clutched his ribs and winced at the pain that shot through his body.
‘We need a cover story for this mess.’
‘We’ll tell them that we got home from a short break, some guy was in our house, and he had fashioned some kind of incendiary device, and blew everything to bits.’
‘Bomb,’ Hugh muttered.
‘Bomb. Don’t say incendiary device. Makes it seem like we know too much. Just say bomb. Or say the place exploded, don’t even mention a bomb.’
‘Good point. Innocent victims, that’s what we are,’ she replied.
‘Yeah, innocent victims,’ Hugh repeated.
Sirens wailed in the distance. It wouldn’t be long before the property was inundated with fire fighters and emergency service vehicles and then the fun of explaining what happened would begin.
‘You think the fire will take care of enough of Warner before they get here to put it out?’
‘I don’t know, Hugh. I’m not an arson expert.’
‘Huh,’ he muttered, ‘you might need to get on that. Just in case we ever have the need to set another of our houses on fire.’
The seriousness of the situation and his flippancy made her smile.
‘Game face on now, sweetie, I can see the fire trucks.’
* * * * *
There was a slight echo in Troy Gelman’s sparsely furnished office. Hugh wondered if Gelman was moving in or moving out. He was glad he’d agreed to let Catherine do the talking. She was more articulate than he’d ever been. Given his way, Hugh would have waltzed into Gelman’s office, pulled out a gun and shot him in the head. Problem sorted. Catherine, though, was intent on securing their resignations and safe future. His idea was their last resort.
‘Do we have an agreement?’ Catherine had laid her terms out plain and simple. Gelman looked at her, then at Hugh, and back at Catherine. The conditions weren’t ideal but he didn’t know what he could bargain from the position he was in.
‘The company will lose two of its finest operatives in one hit. I’m not okay with this, Catherine.’
‘You better become okay with it quickly because if I get up and walk out of this office, you’ll be dealing with Hugh, not me. And trust me when I say that’s not where you want to end up.’
Gelman looked at Hugh again.
‘Fine. We have an agreement. Your terms.’
Catherine smiled at Hugh, squeezed his knee and gave him the tiniest nod. Out of Gelman’s line of sight, Hugh’s hands went to work fixing the silencer to the muzzle of the handgun he’d pulled from his jacket and placed in his lap.
‘Excellent,’ Catherine said to Gelman. ‘Our terms. Judges’ decisions are final.’
Gelman screwed up his face in confusion. ‘Sorry, what?’
‘Your turn, Hugh.’ Catherine rose from her seat and walked out of Gelman’s office.
A single shot echoed through the office and seconds later Hugh walked out and stood by Catherine’s side.
‘Time for a new life again,’ he said.
. . . The end . . .