Five hours ago.
Lightning flashed through the sky. Angry purple clouds lit up then disappeared into the blackness of the sky. Thunder rolled a second later, the vibrations felt through your teeth and the soles of your feet.
Rain fell heavily on the streets outside, that big old fat rain where one bloated drop and a few of his bully friends could soak you through in one hit.
Jake absently felt the smoothness of his face. A result of the shave he had that morning, just another part of his morning ritual. His pressed gray three-piece suit hugged his thin frame, A white shirt beneath accented well with the white handkerchief in his top pocket.
The coffee shop wasn’t that crowded for lunchtime on a Monday even with the rain. Just 2 barristers trying to look busy while gossiping around the coffee machine. A slim lady at the counter ordering a double espresso, by the looks of her she was having a rough day at the office and needed the pick me up. A wide-eyed youth sat perched over a laptop in the corner like a vulture over some carrion.
Jake’s daydream was popped by the Goth barista.
“What can I get you, sir.” Drooled the pasty lad.
Jake eyed the lip piercing on the boy’s face.
“A latte please, that must’ve hurt?” Jake’s nodding towards his face.
The boy smirked. “what this?” He said pointing to his lip.
“Na mate that was nothing compared with my Arthur.” He gestures to his groin.
“Now that was some pain.” He turned away with a little laugh.
“Fuck that.” Muttered Jake as he moved down the counter to wait for his coffee.
The window of the cafe showed the blackness of London’s streets. Taxis navigated the crowded road to delivery their passenger to their daily grindstones. Buses heaved with bodies; umbrellaed pavements flowed like the tides of the sea. There was some sort of disturbance over on the opposite pavement. It seemed like a lot of people had fallen over on the wet stone paving, Umbrellas flying up into the air. A scruffy looking man with a gray coat and blue bottoms emerged from the pile. He stood up pushing his wet hair from his face as he glanced behind him, turned quickly he started to run away. He kept looking over his shoulder but not at the fallen chaos he had created but beyond them to a car in the traffic. That’s when Jake noticed the two men getting out of a jet-black jaguar XS. Both were dressed like the characters from the men in black.
“MI5 I bet,” said the barista at Jake’s side as he handed over his coffee.
Jake nodded and turned back to the window. The scruffy looking man had stopped on the far side of the road and was looking directly at the coffee shop.
The man looked quickly back at his pursuers, back to the shop then turned to carry on his headlong flight. Jake watched as the man slipped into a little passageway a little further down the street, the two agents careered through the throng of people in their path sending more umbrellas in the air and people to the ground. As they neared the passage, Jake watched in amazement as the agents spread onwards past the opening, the black jaguar following in the wake.
How the hell did they miss that? Some spy agency we have, can’t even catch a tramp.
As it all settled down and London went back to its usual pace Jake opened the door to the coffee shop and stepped out on to the sodden pavement. He looked up to the sky and let a few droplets of rain kiss his skin, then flipped up the black umbrella.
The rain had brought a nice clean breeze, and it felt nice on his smooth face as he dropped off the curb and navigated the traffic. The coffee shop’s aroma clung to his Armani suit like an arabica cologne. He thought about hailing a taxi to get out of the rain and then decide against it. He still needed to break in his new shoes and the long walk to the Taylor’s guild where he worked would help. The £500 black Barker shoes were a strain on his finances, but he had to look & act the part if he wanted to sell to the rich, and that’s why he has won the bonus for sale targets each month. What with his £1500 three-piece suit anyone would naturally think he was a whiz kid banker or stockbroker. As he made his way up the street he had completely forgotten about the black jag and scruffy looking man, his thought’s dwelling on it being “stock day,” hoping he didn’t get roped into helping.
Jake’s arm was yanked so hard that he felt his shoulder pop causing him dropping the umbrella. He stumbled sideways into the dark passage and into the chest of the scruffy man. Coffee splashed over his arm burning his wrist.
“What the fuck man! This is fucking Armani” Jake Spat as he met the man’s eyes.
Meeting his eyes reminded him of when you put a mirror in front of a mirror and the effect goes on forever. The man recoiled as did Jake.
“Don’t look me in the eye Jake” spoke the man in a gravelly voice.
“How do you know my name. I don’t know you, pulling my arm and shit. You’re lucky this didn’t get my suit my friend or there would be a hefty dry cleaning bill coming your way.” Jake straightened his suit and looked the guy over.
The man’s trainers were worn to the point that a toe was poking through. The gray coat was drenched by the rain, so was the blue pants with added mud and grass stains on his knees.
“Not that you could afford it anyway.”
His face was familiar to him, but he couldn’t work out where from. He had trouble seeing past the thick brown beard and the darkness of the alley. The man reached out and presses something into his hand.
‘Keep it safe, keep it hidden. Someone will come I promise. Don’t let them have it.”
With that, he turned quickly, looked left and right out of the alley then fled back out into the rain and mass of people. Jake stepped out of the darkness and picked up the fallen umbrella. Jostling the device and umbrella in one hand. He looked up the street to see the fleeting back of the rapidly disappearing figure.
“Hey!” The man kept on running until he couldn’t see him anymore.
He let the umbrella sag over one shoulder and slowly unfurled his hand. In his palm was a long slim metal rod. Jake flipped it about in an examination. It had a see-through cap on one end with what looked like a crystal within. A collar of Silver a couple of millimeters thick, twisted back and forth when Jake turned it. The other end looked broken; some clear sticky fluid slowly leaked out. Half-way down he noticed what looked like three triangles etched on the side. They overlapped to form a rough pyramid shape.
Jake looked up again in search of the man.
What did he say? Keep it safe. Well, that didn’t matter, it was broken already. what was the other part? Someone would come for it. Psst, what a load of crap.
As soon as he found a bin, he would ditch the thing.
Probably someone pranking him or some sort of scam. Either way, he wasn’t playing ball. He took out a handkerchief and wrapped the device before placing it in his jacket pocket, then turned his feet toward the tailor’s guide and work.
Jake carefully cut the top off the box with a Stanley knife. Another pristine suit wrapped in shiny plastic stared up at him.
The stocktake was always a drag and Jake hated doing it but Tony; the store manager was on the floor and would never dream of getting his hands dirty. Heaven’s forbid grime under his man-incurred fingernails.
The soft ring of the doorbell sang through the air and two men in black suits pushed through the door. Jake brought the suit out of the back storeroom into the hallway that led between to the shop floor and the rear trade entrance. Jake froze by the door leading to the storefront.
The newcomers walked up to the servicing counter as Tony greeted them in his perfect queen’s tongue. He was sure it was them, the same men who were chasing the tramp. Jake realized he never ditched the device. If this was some kind of prank, it was a dedicated one. He would get whichever mate was behind this and pay them back in kind.
Jake could hear the muffled voice’s speaking but couldn’t distinguish what was being said. Tony was bobbing his head and pointing at him. The suits looked toward the door where Jake was now standing. An involuntary breath caught in his throat, and he ducked behind the door hoping that the two guys didn’t see him. If he was being made a joke of, he was going to make the guys work for it. He chanced another peek around the door. The lead man was a little taller than his companion, what struck Jake as strange was that both men had bald heads and not like it was cut short more of a total lack of follicles.
The former of the men walked to the front door. Tony must have said something that pleased the man because he started to smile. All in one instance The shorter man turned around the closed sign and the taller man pulled a weird-looking gun. Within a breath, he pulled the trigger, a flash of intense light and Tony fell toward the ground. Smoke curled from his head.
Jake slammed his back against the door, the splash of light overwhelmed his eyes; blood pounded through his head, and his breath came in short sharp bursts. In one motion Jake pulled down his jacket on the hook behind him and swung it on. That’s when he felt the first kick down the door. Jake tensed.
ok. ok. Six boxes to my side, pull them down, run for the back door, get away.
The next shove was harder, Jake didn’t wait till the third. He pulled at the boxes and fled the corridor, swinging the back door open he cleared the three steps down to the cobbled floor. The back end of the shop was a small dead end that serviced the few shops on the busy road. Jake neared the corner of the T- junction just as the two agents crashed through the door.
They sighted him almost instantly as Jake turned towards the noise.
He caught at the lamp post to swing him around the corner as another flash of bright light swept before his eyes. The lamppost above his hand had a hole through it that glowed molten red. The tube station was only over the next street. He thought if he could make that he might be able to escape them in the mass of people that used the underground. His headlong flight was unchecked and erratic, people shouted and cursed as he pushed his way through London’s crowded rush hour streets.
Jake slipped on the first step down to the tube and fell down onto his bottom. The impact jarred his teeth, and pain shot up his hip. He didn’t even consider the stain he might have put on his designer suit. Righting himself, he set off for the ticket barrier armed with his Oyster card. A group of tourists new to the underground crowded around the turnstiles, their leader trying his best to understand how the machines worked whilst translating to his companions. Jake pushed through apologizing as he went. He hit the pad with his card, and the yellow plastics arms swept back reviling his freedom. Jake allowed himself a smile. They wouldn’t be able to find him in this mess, not at this time with so many people.
His through was interrupted by first two pairs of black shoes followed by black suits rapidly appeared down the stairs.
Jake turned and ran. At the bottom of the escalator, the tube train entered the platform. Jake cleared the last stretch of metal grates and skidded on the tiled floor. Two quick brushes of his legs carried him into the tube cart, the window absorbing his energy. Not wanting to stop, He continued moving through the body’s on the tube compartment until he reached the first carriage. A few seconds later, the beeping of the doors sounded, and they started to slide closed. With the snap of the doors joining Jake let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
He had done it; he had got away. Again, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled the device out. What was so special about this piece of metal, It looked like a children’s toy that you’d see in Hamley’s toy store.
Do you know that feeling when you know someone is watching you, that feeling like their eyes are boring into your skull? Jake felt it like a probing of his awareness and looked up and along the crowded cart. Commuters sat on the rough fabric seats engrossed in the phones or papers, some watched out the window into the blackness of the tunnels and some even dosed where the stood. But one man in a black hoody looked directly at Jake.
Quickly he rewrapped the gizmo and concealed it in his inside pocket. Jake was pretty sure he couldn’t have seen the device from where he stood, but the man was definitely watching him. At that moment the door at the end of the carriage opened and to Jake’s horror, the tall man who had shot Tony came through.
The man in the black hoody shifted away from the central gangway towards the center carriage doors. In quick succession, the suited agent found Jake, saw the Hooded man and pulled his gun. The carriage erupted in bright light as the agent, and the hooded man exchanged gunfire. People shrieked and throw themselves to the hard metallic floor of the carriage. The smell of acid and burnt metal filled the air. Jake hit the floor of the cart and rolled toward the rear door; the glass partition showered him as it took a hit from the light gun. One of the armed men must have hit the carriage light as suddenly the tube went pitch black.
The carriage lit up in flashes as the men exchanged gunfire. Jake glanced over the rail to look down the cart; the agent was pinned down by the connecting door. The man with the black hoody managed to move closer to Jake. Jake felt a sudden surge as the brake of the tube bit down on the metal tracks. Slowly, the tube cart slid into London Bridge station, the first two carts emerging onto the platform while the rest remained in the darkness of the tunnel. The hooded man sat opposite Jake now, the strange gun lit with blue along the shaft of the barrel; smoke hung heavy over their heads.
Jake watched as the man fired again at the agent, the gun emitting some sort light or laser, Jake couldn’t tell, but he could see the damage it had caused the tube cart. He didn’t know if people were dead or just laying down playing dead. Most were cowering under the seats trying to get out of the line of fire.
The man looked at Jake and signaled at the door. Jake squirmed over and tried prising it open with his hands. Either he wasn’t strong enough or the door had been sealed for some safety aspect he didn’t know. The hooded man jumped up and fired in rapid succession. The agent took a shot to the chest and was thrown backward with enough force to bend the connecting door. The hooded man stepped over Jake and added his strength to the door. Smoke curled out of the door to the platform. The commuter of London’s underground had shrunk back from the tube cart as it entered seeing the commotion onboard.
Finally, the door opened. Jake felt a hand grab the back of is his gray suit jacket. The man half lifting him off his feet, Jake scrambled up; his savior pulled him toward the exit as he shouted over the crowd.
“Quick before the others come.”
Dumbly nodding he followed up the escalator towards the ticket barriers. The hooded man vaulted the gates; a transit guard shouted and then immediately stopped seeing the gun the man carried. He didn’t get paid enough to deal with guns. Jake fumbled with his Oyster card.
“Don’t worry about that you moron just jump over. QUICK.”
Jake’s brain was still trying to sort through the confusion; the gate beeped as the Oyster card was accepted. The man grabbed Jake again; a bolt of light went widely over his head and ripped a hole in the far wall. Everyone ducked, screaming girls cringed against the wall trying to find a corner to slink into. the man pulled him along, he stumbled and nearly falling up the concrete steps out into the fresh London air. The rain had stopped, which was good although the pavement would be more slippery now.
The entrance the guy had used was behind the station proper, where townhouses within the borough still stood. Jake and the guy slid to a stop behind a blue Mercedes Van; the guy peeked through the passenger window at the station’s exit. Two men in black suits scrambled up the step and briefly stopped at the top. They exchanged a quick glance and sped away in different directions.
The man slid back to Jake and blew out a breath.
“We’re not clear yet mates, where’s that gate lead?.” He nodded toward a big set of ornate black iron gates that led to a fancy courtyard with a wide whitewashed building behind it.
“That the um, King’s College campus, the other end leads to another street, behind the hospital.” Jake thought hard hoping that this could get them safely away from the agents.
The man chanced another glance through the window and then up and down the pavement. He looked at the gate up and down.
He aimed his gun at the heavy chain and padlock, the gun fired with a pulse sound and the lock and chain fell away smoldering onto the concrete floor.
“They might have heard that so let’s get moving.” The man reached for Jake’s arm and pulled him to his feet.
“Who are they and who are you.” Reluctantly, he followed, maybe it was better the devil you know.
“I don’t have the time to explain, quickly…run… quickly keep up.”
Their feet pounded over the pathway into the archway of the college and then out the other side. The sound of their footfall echoed back amplified by the brick and stone walls of the college. At the other end of the courtyard stood a similar gate, one shot from the gun left it in a similar state as its brother. Jake was happy that his time in the gym had finally been for something other than keeping trim.
They ran down streets after street, Jake following. The man would often look at something like a watch on his wrist then alter his direction.
“Ok, in here.”
The man ran to a broke up house, the front door was hidden by an MDF board riddled with graffiti. The windows were grimy. A few upstairs ones had holes where someone had thrown stones through them. Pulling the board open, he ushered Jake inside and then squeezed inside himself, The board sprang back as their both panted in the dark corridor.