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Scorpion's Reach Part 3 'Report in'
From the Author
In the last episode Joey and Sandy were on an enforced 'holiday' with Sandy's sister in New Zealand when a 'freak accident' happened. A car ploughed into the four of them, killing one and injuring the others, one of them seriously, then they got a call, one they couldn't ignore.
Lets get back to the story
From the previous
“Thank you” Sandy was grateful. She didn’t really want to be separate from her sister right at this moment, but there was no way they’d all fit into the machine, and Helen really needed the urgent attention. “There’s no need though, just point us to where we can hire a car for a little while”
It was just then that Sandy’s phone buzzed, they’d forgotten that when she called the Ambulance someone else had listened in to the call, it was them texting now, the message was simple and said “Report in ASAP!”
The Boss' office
Continuing, 'Rude awakening'
"What the?" Sir Michael was wrenched into waking. He propped himself up and looked at his clock, it said 3.45am, but it wasn't the clock alarm, he reached for his phone and looked at the number. He recognized it straight away, GCHQ Cheltenham. The top secret branch of the government responsible for eavesdropping on whomever they need to.
Reaching for the phone he hit the 'answer' icon and without identifying himself simply said, "at 3.45am! This better be important"
"Sorry for waking you Sir Michael" the male voice on the end of the line didn't sound sorry at all, he sounded businesslike and got straight to the point. "You requested we monitor a number of mobile phones, one of them just placed a call you might be"
"Good God man, can't this wait?" He hadn't meant every damn call for heaven's sake! 'are these people thick?' was his thought.
"It was to the emergency services sir" the operator continued, "reporting a car accident, with multiple fatalities sir!"
That got his attention. He sat bolt upright "When?"
"Call just came through the satellite link sir" the operator replied, "we're listening to the Police and Ambulance system now, its agent Little calling for the emergency services.
By now he was out of bed and already heading for the door to his private study, he’d need coffee to help him think this through. Was this an attempt on them or was it just a ‘fluke?’ He was spy and didn’t accept the idea of just dumb luck! You always treated everything as ‘suspicious’ until you’d nailed every reason as to why it wasn’t, it was that simple.
“As far as we can tell” the operator came back on the line, “Both our operatives are still alive, though one of them may be injured, the Fire brigade are already ‘on scene’ and they’re reporting that the deceased are two in the car and one cyclist, but not our operatives” he emphasised the last part.
“Send everything you have to my personal file” he reached out to turn his desktop on, it took a couple of seconds for the system to ‘boot up’ then went to the GCHQ website, entering his own personal password he accessed the system and began searching for the files he needed, they’d just ‘arrived’ and he began to listen to the recordings.
Now available on Kindle (and in paperback)
Checking the facts
The system was simple; it was also slow, inefficient (so other senior department heads told him) and belonged in the dark ages. Sir Michael's reply was "yes" to all of them, but it was secure and because of that it's damn well staying!
The computers gave you a letter, and number. Follow them until they intersect and that gives you the password. Every time you go to it the computer asks for a different one, simple, easy and unbreakable code. Every week the card was changed and the old ones burned. They're known as 'one time ciphers ' and spies love them because they're unbreakable.
Accessing the system from within Vauxhall house was easy, and seamless. With no 'hoops' to jump through, everything was there, behind all the firewalls and protected. It was coming in from the outside like he was doing now that was the issue. Yes the computers recognized his machine and even the ISP address but they never knew if, or what malware might be trying to get through, especially since the issue with Oxford university and their servers that were hacked by the Chinese came to light!
All he was after this time was phone logs, he knew who knew about Joey and Sandy's travel plans. Each team member's travel plan had been 'compartmentalized', and only he knew all the details of everyone, so tracking the mole was simply a case of waiting to see if anything happened, and depending on who it happened to would tell them whom it was. However, first he needed to make sure it was the 'mole' and not a fluke.
Spies don't believe in 'flukes' or 'luck' but they do believe in checking the facts, and that's what he needed to do. It was the only place to start, but first he needed to find out what was going on in New Zealand and what kind of shape Sandy and Joey were in. The first point of call on the computer was the network where he accessed their phone number and fired off a very simple message, “Report in ASAP”
Breaking bad news
As soon as he was treated, Joey got out of the hospital and went looking for a rental car. Just over an hour later he was back at the hospital, ready to pick Sandy up in a late model Toyota station wagon. It had plenty of room for anything they might need, it was also the first car that he’d been able to find and he really didn’t give a damn, all he cared about was that his girlfriend’s sister was in surgery after a serious accident, his girlfriend was worried and they needed to get there.
It turned out that Sandy’s injury wasn’t that serious, just a bad bruise that the nurses dealt with by strapping her up. The bandages felt a bit tight, but she’d get used to it.
They Toyota had a GPS unit, he was going to programme it, but Sandy stopped him.
“No need” She said as she got into the car, “I’ve already got ‘Uncle Google telling me which way to go, and how long it’s going to take to get there!”
Sandy mounted her phone into the holder the car had, and connected the charging unit through the USB port they all seem to have nowadays. Now they’d be able to use the phone as much as they needed to and not have to worry about flattening the battery.
The programmed the destination was ‘Waikato Hospital’ in and he was pleasantly surprised when it came up with a reading in Kilometres and an ETA (estimated time of arrival). There was a Bluetooth facility in the car so he programmed the phone to be able to take ‘hands free’ calling using the car's speakers as they made calls, the first one was the worst.
The female voice from Google started giving directions as soon as they left the car park.
“Have you called your Mum and Dad yet?” he was thinking of the difficulty she’d have making that horrible call, he chanced a glance at her, she was looking vacant, not really with him right at the moment, not surprising really considering the situation, but some things can’t wait and the worst thing he could think of was the family finding out through the TV instead of a family member. “Want me to call them?”
Sandy didn’t reply, she just nodded.
“Phone” Joey spoke in a command voice; the phone had verbal command facility. “Call Sandy’s parents”
There was a slight pause as the phone worked its way through the programme then a quiet musical tone as the phone called the number told him that they were connecting, Sandy was quiet but tears were coming, he pulled the car over ready for the phone call, the last thing he wanted was to be trying to speak as they were driving.
The phone came to life as a female voice came on the line. “Little household” it said, “How can I help?”
A lump came in the throat as he stated to speak. “Mrs Little, I’m Joey Metcalfe”
“Oh hello Joey” the voice came back. “Sandy’s told me about you; to what do I owe the pleasure”
“Mrs Little,” Joey spoke again, “I’m really sorry but I’ve got some tragic news for you, is Mr Little there?”
Take a look at the neighbourhood
Talking to London
As soon as the call was finished Joey put the car into drive and set off, they knew they should call in to Sir Michael, ‘he can wait’ was the thought on both their minds, Sandy did however dictate a message to the phone to go as a text that simply said. “Both OK, will report more fully at 0700 GMT”
The phone was sending the message as she spoke up next, “That’ll give us about three hours before we need to call.” She looked at the GPS, it was estimating their arrival at the hospital in just over an hour.
“We’ll find out the situation with Helen, then I’ll leave you at the hospital and go make the call” Joey glanced over at her; he was quietly amazed at how well she was handling things. Yes agents get training in how to handle high stress situations, but they don’t usually involve immediate family members and triple fatalities, like today.
“Thanks” Sandy replied “But I probably should be there for the call”
“You’re probably right” Joey replied, “But that’s not going to happen, you need to be with Helen and be there when the family arrive, I can deal with the office, you need to be there for family”
Sandy wasn’t going to argue, she knew Joey was right, but didn’t really want to think much about it. Letting him deal with London would be fine.
They arrived and found a park in the multi storey car park at the hospital, the light had already gone and darkness was fast falling when they found the A and E department, Sandy approached the desk, “excuse me” she began, “but we’re looking for my sister, she was brought here by helicopter earlier”
The nurse on the desk looked up, “Do you have a name? One that I can look up for you that is”
“Her name’s Helen” Sandy replied. “Helen Smith, she was brought in about half an hour ago by helicopter” she looked hopeful.
The nurse started tapping on the computer keyboard, the screen changed as she worked through the system looking for the name she’d said. “Ah, here we are, she looked intently at the screen, it looks like she’s still in surgery” she looked up. “If you like I can find out how the surgery is going?”
“Yes please” they both replied in unison. Then Sandy spoke up. “Is it possible we can wait somewhere?”
“We’ve got a waiting room just round the corner” the nurse replied paging a porter, “Give us a moment and I’ll get someone to show you where and then they’ll go find out for you”
A couple of minutes later they were shown a small room that had a couple of chairs and a couch, there was a waist height table that ran the length of most of the room with a small kettle and tea making equipment in the middle. As soon as they were in there the porter disappeared saying that he was going for a doctor to find out how things were going on.
As soon as he was out of the room Joey turned to Sandy, “are you going to be okay, or do you want me to stay?”
“No, I’ll be okay” Sandy replied, “You really need to call the office and let them know what’s going on”
“He CAN wait you know.” Joey replied, he wasn’t totally sure that Sandy was ready to be left alone.
“No, you go and make the call” Sandy replied. “Mum and Dad will be here in the next few hours, I’m going to need you then”
There’s a lake not too far from the Hospital, he’d seen it from the windows in the stairwell on the car park as they were entering the main building, Joey headed outside and made his way towards where the lake should be, he soon found it and was pleasantly surprised to find it had a walking path that encircled it.
The path wasn’t all that well lit which made it perfect for what Joey wanted, he didn’t really need people coming along listening in to the phone call, he looked at his watch, five minutes to the appointed time, he found a bench and waited.
As soon s the five minutes were up he was pressing buttons, the call was connected almost instantly, a slightly gruff voice came on the line, the tone wasn’t Sir Michael’s usual one, but it was him. “What happened?” there was no need for pleasantries.
“We were hit by a car” Joey began. “Biking on the Coromandel peninsular.”
“Hit and run?”
“No boss” Joey cut him off, “The car was a write off, it was also a McLaren” Joey replied. “It lost control on a bend and ploughed into us”
There was an audible sigh of relief. “So it was an accident then?” was half statement and half question, Joey wasn’t sure which.
“Not sure I’d say that just yet boss” he responded. “I saw the driver; he was fighting the car, almost as if he wasn’t in charge if you know what I mean”
Sir Michael knew exactly what he meant, some of the latest cars on the roads were so advanced they had ‘driverless’ features that was supposed to mean the car was capable of driving itself, but also meant they could be ‘hacked’ and driven remotely making them a new very frightening and deadly weapon. “You think the car was hacked then?”
“Boss” Joey wasn’t sure how Sir Michael was going to take this, but he had to say it. “I saw the driver; I saw the terror on his face and the way he was fighting for control, I’m bloody sure he wasn’t the one in control, I just don’t know why they’d choose a McLaren as a murder weapon if we were the targets.” Joey went on, “I mean, if that was the case it was one bloody expensive murder weapon!”
“Explain yourself” Sir Mike was curious, ‘Why would Joey say that?’ he thought
“Remember a couple of years ago boss, Rowan Atkinson pranged his McLaren, an F1, cost the insurance company an arm and a leg literally, probably the most expensive auto repair job ever! Damn things are worth tens of millions, and I’m talking pounds”
“That was an F1 boss, a nineties model, this was a brand new P1, they go for a couple of million pounds new! Ain't no way anyone would use them as a murder weapon for a grunt like me, much better to put a bullet through my thick skull.” Joey was very businesslike. Almost cold and detached, but he was right.
‘This boy’s very perceptive’ Sir Michael thought, he’d said nothing to any of the team about his suspicions about the mole, but it sounded as if Joey at least had worked a few things out. “Do you think you were the target?” he asked.
“Not totally sure boss” Joey was truthful, “We made a hell of a mess in Iran, and I’m pretty sure they’re still pissed off at us, but getting this far out? All I can say is what I saw!”
“And to you it seems suspicious!”
“There is something else boss, that’s bothering me a bit”
“Oh what’s that?” suspicious minds were ticking over.
“The cops” Joey replied. “They took a statement sort of, at least the rookie cop at the scene did, but the senior cop was only really interested in the car wreck! We were a bit far away, but I’m sure I saw him put something into the car which is bloody odd if you ask me!”
“I’ve had a couple of people listening in on their frequencies, they did say the cops reported finding a half empty bottle of booze in the car, are you saying he planted it?”
“Like I said boss, I was a bit too far away to be certain” Joey replied. “There’s no harm in checking out who was the driver of the car though is there?”
“I’m already ahead of you on that one” Sir Michael replied, “and with it being a McLaren I’ve got a couple of friends there who’d be very interested to find out what went wrong, they take their car building and safety to extremes over there at McLaren, I got the registration number from satellite photos and have been running it against the NZ database, I’ll check it against McLaren’s own information about the car owner, I should have the details in a few minutes, I’ll email them to you”
Joey was impressed, he’d thought they’d need to wait at least a couple of days for the information, and then he’d have to go through ‘official channels’ to get them. “Thanks boss” was all he said.
“Don’t worry” Sir Michael replied, “It’s all above board and legit,” he continued. “By the way, while we’re talking, just to let you know no one in NZ knows what Sandy does, as far as they’re concerned she works for Sun Alliance insurance, and so do you right now, have you got that?”
“The McLaren Company is also with Sun Alliance so you won’t have a problem getting a look at the car if you need to, they’ll insist on it, but it’ll be after any Serious Crash Unit investigation, I’ll email you any credentials you need.” Michael continued, “I’ll also get them to let the NZ subsidiary know you’re the one dealing with it, Let me know if you need anything else” and with that he hung up.
Joey sat there stunned for a few moments, he’d expected to just report in that they were okay, he wasn't really expecting Sir Michael to take his suspicions as seriously as he seemed to, then again Iran had caused a real shit storm to break loose and there were more than a few wanting blood from the fallout, and they weren't all people on the wrong side of the law.
All for now
As I said at the beginning, there are a few 'teasers' and then the rest is in the book, actually I've 'cut and trimmed a little' to make things fit the Hubs, hope you don't mind.
The book is available on Kindle and in paperback now.
Stay tuned for more.