This is a story about fear, of somebody out of his depth in a world made strange to him by events he could not fully comprehend. It is a novel about Ken Flood, living a mundane, steady life as an academic in Plymouth but is pulled by family loyalty along paths of experience which would be best left unexplored. Along the way there are chance encounters with people who through friendship are willing to help. Though scared to death, Ken somehow finds hidden depths behind his placid exterior and keeps going when to give up would be the easier option. The novel explores the conflicts which arise when an ordinary people is forced to choose between family loyalty and obligation to the wider public. Would you question what is being asked of you by a family member who you had always thought was honest or just help in any way you could? What happens if the activity you are being asked to undertake looks very dodgy, if not criminal? The problem is Ken's brother, who Ken now believes after some time on the run, appears to be on the other side. Are there sides in the game Ken is forced to play? Which side is good and which evil? Who are the buddies in black hats? It is soon obvious to Ken that there are no sides in this game and friend and foe are not easily distinguished. The novel follows Ken's quest to answer these questions to its ultimate conclusion.
Ken Flood lives a quiet life with his wife and two daughters in Plymouth, working as a lecturer in the University. He minds his own business and is relatively happy with life. Until, that is, his brother Norman arrives unexpectedly one day asking for help. Norman puts forward a proposition to Ken but which appears to Ken to verge on an attempt pull him into the murky waters on the edges of crime. Ken has to decide quickly whether to help his brother out of brotherly love or let his brother face his unknown pursuers alone? Reluctantly Ken agrees to help and soon finds himself outside the law, being chased by people he does not know, trying to deliver a mysterious package given to him by his brother to a man he has never met in London.
Ken's decision to help his brother sends Ken into hiding pursued by people he does not know, unable to call anybody a friend, holding onto information his brother told him was important but which Ken had no idea of the contents.
Here are the opening pages of the novel:
" Will James Gordon please report to the Trans Air desk!"
The echoing sound of the loudspeaker cut into the hubbub of noise from the passengers milling around the concrete concourse of the airport. People paused in their hurried passage across the terminal and stood listening to the announcement. Most passengers continued on their way as soon as they were sure that it did not concern them.
" Will James Gordon just arrived on flight TA234 please report to the Trans Air desk! We have a message for him." The voice, although still pleasant, sounded more urgent.
The relatively tall, broad shouldered man emerging from the customs hall as the announcement was made could not be mistaken for anything else but an Englishman. He was wearing a well cut dark suit, very shiny shoes and old fashioned horn rimmed spectacles set squarely on his nose. Looking hard at the floor as though to make sure it was clean, the man placed his travelling bag carefully on the ground at his feet and took off the spectacles, rubbed them vigorously with a large yellow cloth, put them back precisely on the bridge of his nose and peered short sightedly round the passenger hall for the Trans Air desk. Smiling slightly when he had located the source of the announcement, he picked up his bag and walked slowly through the crowds to the desk.
" I'm James Gordon, " he said to the girl behind the desk, his clipped accent and soft spoken words out of place among the loud, brash American voices of the other people near him by the desk seeking information or asking questions. " You had me paged over the public address system."
" Yes Mr. Gordon, we sure did," the girl replied with one of those sunshine smiles that only receptionists in the United States are able to achieve, giving the impression like no other place on earth that service is a pleasure, the customers welfare their only concern." We have a caller waiting for you on the line in booth four, which is over there by the end of the desk. Just go to the booth, pick up the phone and I will connect you. If you have any trouble with the line, you come right back over here and I will try to put you through again."
Gordon smiled at the girl and walked the few yards to the phone booth. Picking up the receiver in booth four, he waved to the girl on the reception desk. There was a click, some static on the line and then the cheery voice of the girl said, " You are through."
" Gordon!" he grunted into the phone, looking over his shoulder at the people passing through the concourse as though to check whether he was being watched. Satisfied that nobody was paying undue attention to him, James Gordon turned his attention to the voice on the other end of the telephone line.
" Good," a voice replied gruffly in his ear. " You have been booked into the Washington Hilton for the night. Go there like any other businessman. There will be a car booked in your name waiting for you in the morning at the hotel; all you have to do is ask at the hotel desk for the key. While in the hotel, you are to give everybody you speak to the impression that you are off to the mid west in the morning to meet some clients. In the morning, you will drive off from the hotel in the direction of Saint Louis. Once you are quite sure you are not being followed, head for New York, leaving the car near the airport in the usual spot. One of our men will pick it up and deliver it to the hire people in St. Louis as though you had driven it there from Washington. Once in the airport, you are to book onto the next available flight to Vienna. Once in Vienna, we will contact you and give you the details of your mission. I need not belabour the point that you must make sure you are not followed or recognised. In this you are on your own." The phone clicked and went dead.
Replacing the receiver, Gordon waved to the girl at the desk and went out of the arrivals hall to get a taxi. He spent the evening in Washington alone, drinking at the hotel bar and telling everybody who would listen that he was off to the mid west, giving the impression that he was a salesman but being deliberately vague about what he was supposed to be selling.
After breakfast, he paid his bill, collected the car keys and found the car that was waiting outside. Driving leisurely west, he stopped several times for coffee until he was satisfied that he had not been followed. Once certain, he headed for New York.
Leaving the car in the designated car park, he went into a bar and emerged a few minutes later dressed in jeans and a duffel coat, minus the horn rimmed glasses, with a soft travelling bag in his hand. He booked onto the next flight to Vienna with spare seats and sat in the departure lounge reading a magazine until the flight was called.
Arriving in Vienna, Gordon collected a parcel that was waiting for him at the flight desk, stowed this away in his bag and took a taxi to a hotel in a rather run down part of the city. The hotel was not the best in town, consisting of draughty corridors and even older furniture but it fitted the image of a thrifty British tourist lacking adequate funds, which Gordon wanted to foster.
Carefully locking the door after a detailed surveillance of the corridor outside, Gordon checked over the room and looked out of the window at the street before he unwrapped the parcel he had collected at the airport. Laying the contents on the bed, he examined the automatic pistol, several clips of ammunition and several sheets of closely typed paper. After reading the notes, he tore them into small pieces and flushed them down the toilet. Fixing the gun onto a clip on his belt, he lay on top of the bed fully clothed and went to sleep.
His alarm wristwatch woke him in the semi darkness of evening and hardly pausing to wake up, he swung his legs off the bed onto the rather threadbare carpet. Stretching the kinks out of his body, he smoothed his hair, brushed down his clothes and, placing his bag on the bed, went out into the night.
Standing in the shadows of a shop doorway opposite the hotel, he carefully surveyed the street before hailing a passing taxi. Once he had given the driver his instructions, Gordon settled back in the seat and watched the night slide by the window. The taxi dropped him in a busy street and he walked at normal walking pace passed the bars and shops, stopping every so often to look into a shop window. Other people strolled passed; taking no notice of another rather shabbily dressed man out for an evening stroll.
Coming to a side street dimly lit by infrequent lights, he paused in doorway to light a cigar and glance up and down the street. Certain that he had not been followed, he walked purposely down the alleyway to a block of flats and into the entrance. Ringing a bell, he waited until a voice came out of the speaker, spoke himself and pushed the door inwards at the sound of a click. He paused briefly inside to let his eyes become accustomed to the light, walked up the stairs and along a passage checking the numbers on the doors as he passed. Finding the right number, he pushed the bell.
" Hello Jenny," he said as the flat door opened, pushing his gun hard into the girls stomach." Don't call out or do anything stupid or I will have to hurt you. You must know I wouldn't hesitate." Jenny backed into the room, her eyes narrow and watchful, her hands in full view of Gordon.
" I'm sorry I had to imitate Jack's voice just now," Gordon continued when they were inside the room," but I had to get in here and see him without putting you on your guard. All you have to do is sit on the settee with me until he gets back."
They sat on the settee, Jenny glowering at him, Gordon relaxed and silent as the time slowly passed, their ears straining to hear the sound of the buzzer which would signify the return of Jack. The silence hung in the air and after a time it seemed that they had been sitting together forever but when the buzzer sounded, Jenny jumped with fright. Gordon was the first to the button to activate the front door motioning Jenny to remain seated. Putting the lights on low, he walked over to the door and put the lock on the catch.
" Any sound out of you when Jack comes through the door and I will be forced to shoot," he said quietly to Jenny as he waited, tense and ready, behind and to the side of Jenny so that he could cover her and the door.
The door swung slowly open to reveal two men, one large and heavy, the other smaller and more athletic. The smaller of the two reacted instantly on seeing Gordon, his hand diving under his coat as he moved to the side but there was a plop and he slumped back against the wall, a red stain seeping through the cloth of his sleeve.
" Don't move!" Gordon growled to the other man, who obeyed by freezing into stillness, his hand only part way to his shoulder." Take the gun out slowly and throw it into the corner." The gun thudded onto the carpet to the right of Gordon but he did not take his eyes off the man in the doorway." Good boy. Now pull your friend inside and shut the door so that anybody passing cannot see into the room. We don't want innocent bystanders interfering do we?"
When he had propped his companion against the wall just inside the door, Jack looked at Gordon with naked hatred in his eyes." What shall I do with Joe?" he asked, looking down at the blood soaking the sleeve of his friend's suit.
" Christ Jack get a cloth and try to stem the blood before he bleeds to death!" Jenny cried, jumping up from the settee but sinking back when Gordon moved the gun in her direction with a glare that would have shrivelled a normal man.
" Jenny you are going to tie Jack up," Gordon ordered in a quiet tone, ignoring her look." Jack you sit on the floor near Joe and make her task easier."
Once Jack was securely bound to his satisfaction, Gordon produced two pairs of handcuffs from his coat pocket, placed one of these round an ankle and the other a wrist of Jenny and then secured her to the leg of a table. In this position, Jenny could just about reach Joe but when she tried, Gordon kicked her hand away.
Pulling up a chair, Gordon sat close to Joe and smiled crookedly at the three on the floor." Right!" Gordon said briskly." We will sit here and watch Joe bleed until you tell me where the package I came to collect is hidden." Gordon let his voice trail into silence, a silence punctuated by Joe's gasps and whimpers of pain." Well'?'
" You bastard!" Jack shouted but sank back as Gordon fired into the wall at his elbow.
" After Joe lapses into unconsciousness, I will have to start on Jenny," Gordon remarked, his voice calm and certain. He did not smile now but sat in the chair moving Joe's injured arm with his foot, causing Joe to cry out at the pain.
" It's taped behind the drawer of the desk in the corner over there," Jenny gasped pointing to a piece of furniture which had seen better days while her eyes pleaded for Jack to forgive her. Jack glared back at her but did not say anything.
Gordon pulled the drawer right out of the desk, scattering the contents across the floor as he turned it upside down. The package was taped to the rear just as Jenny had indicated. Smiling to himself, Gordon pulled the package from the back of the drawer, ripped off the tape which had been holding it in place and opened the top, spreading the items it contained onto the surface of the desk before examining closely each item in turn. Accepting Jenny's strangled affirmative when he asked if this was all there was, he replaced the items in the package, put it into his pocket and went to the door.
Turning to face them with his hand on the door handle, he smiled faintly and said in a quiet voice. " If I were you Jack, I would phone your boss rather than the local police because you may have difficulty explaining what you were doing in their country armed and undercover with a bleeding man on the floor of your flat."
Shutting the door quietly behind him, Gordon went out into the street, walking slowly back the way he had come as though he was an English tourist out for a stroll.
Brotherly Love available as a paperback from Amazon and www.createspace.com. For downloading as an ebook from kindle, amazon and www.smashwords.com
Brotherly Love available as a paperback from Amazon and www.createspace.com. For downloading as an ebook from kindle, amazon and www.smashwords.com