4961 words (19 minute read)

Chapter 2

That was the last time Hale ever went back to hospital for his illness. You’ll be happy to know that whatever mysterious light that silver box held, Hale never again had an "attack".

While it was the last time he went back to hospital for himself, he and his mother visited Ivy on a weekly basis. Hazel could not get over one of the saddest stories she had ever heard. Ivy’s tale of tragedy. While Hale was heartfelt sorry about what happened to Ivy, he really enjoyed her company. Between you and the wall I think the cheeky bugger had somewhat of a crush on her. The 2 kids became the best of friends that would flourish into adulthood. The 2 became inseparable. Always laughing and finding ways to get in and out of trouble.

As i finish the first part of the story i can see Dotty’s eye’s turn from brown to red. The poor girl is tired. "You look wrecked" I admit to her. She smiles back at me like someone who is about to drop their head on the table and start snoring. "You always this charming?" she asks. I reach into my back pocket and pull out my wallet. "I’ll tell you what. Here’s $20, I’ll call a cab. Let’s get you home". She shakes her head slightly. "That’s ok, I will walk". I stare at her sternly. "Like hell you are. You saved me from becoming part of the morning garbage pickup. The least I can do is make sure you get home ok". After some persuasion and stubbornness from my side of the argument she agrees and I call a cab for her. I walk her to the street shielding her from the rain with the neighbours umbrella I swiped from his front door. Don’t worry, I’m a cop. I’ll put it back. I open the cab door for her. "Thanks. You know, for tonight" I say finally admitting I couldn’t have gotten home without her. She hops in the cab and closes the door. She winds down the window. "I’m glad you didn’t become part of the garbage pickup. Besides, pick up isn’t until Monday. You would have stunk up a perfectly good alley by then". I chuckle at her sense of humour. It’s almost as bad as mine. I tap on the cab roof signaling the cabbie to leave already. The cab slowly pulls out and starts heading down the street as Dotty’s face vanishes behind a darkened car window etching its way up. I begin walking back inside cursing the footbath a just slipped on. I almost enter the front door to the apartment block and hear the cab reversing back up to my building. Dotty winds down the window and blurts "Well?” I look at her confused. "Well what?" I ask. She looks forward and giggles while shaking her head. "When can I hear the rest of the story?" Wow! She found what I said interesting? Why are the pretty ones so strange?

"I don’t know, tomorrow?" I can barely hear her reply. But I think it was "Can’t, it’s Saturday. Busiest day of the week at the pub". I hate it when people ask “when” and as soon as you choose a time they say "can’t". Just tell her whatever day suits her. "Sunday?” she yells out nearly waking the neighbourhood. I nod and wave back at her. The cab pulls away again. I wait a little longer on the footpath just in case she has something else to tell me. Nope, she’s gone. I look like an idiot standing here.

I stomp my way through the puddles and back up the stairs to my apartment. I bounce off the door to the bathroom trying to peel the drenched clothing off my skin. I take a long hot shower. Ahhh, that’s much better. It sucks walking around in wet clothes. Especially wet clothes with blood, guts and alley muck splattered in different spots. I chuck on some more comfortable clothes and make my way to the lounge room. I fall back into my recliner and stare at the sleepy neighbourhood through the window. What a day. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I sit there for a moment trying to blank my thoughts. But the forced blackness of my mind keeps getting interrupted by Dotty’s cute face like someone hacking a tv station signal. Damn it. I’d better not do something stupid and allow feelings to appear like a jack in a box. As you might have guessed, I am not much of a people person. I like it that way. People are manipulating, selfish and quite honestly boring. “Guess what I did today?” I don’t know? Annoy a person who’s trying to get away from you?

Having feelings for someone most always leads to depression. I might sell that to Hallmark.

I look around the lounge room trying to find anything that shows the time, forgetting that a watch does exist on my wrist. “You idiot” I think to myself. It’s almost twelve and I can’t be bothered getting up and walking the 10 meters to my bed. The recliner will have to do for tonight. I get myself comfortable and as I take the last yawn that sounds like a snort ending in a hiss my bloody mobile phone rings. Stuff it! It’s all the way in the kitchen. Whoever it is, they can go jump. I turn my body on its side and stretch one leg out like a dog. The phone rings again. For the love of God. I get up and zig zag my way into the kitchen. I look at the caller ID. “Captain Henry”. Great! What the hell is the boss doing ringing me at this hour? “Captain” I answer in an exhausted voice. “Chase! Where the hell have you been? You were supposed to be in my office at 6pm tonight!” I laugh quietly to myself. “Sorry boss. I had an appointment tonight and completely forgot” I didn’t forget. I just didn’t want to sit in his office full of ugly pictures of his family while he lectured me on the duties of a sergeant for half an hour and the latest case. “I want you in my office at 8am on the dot! We need to go over the FCCT case” I roll my eyes and shudder at the prospect of going over this case with the Captain. “No worries boss. See you then”. The mongrel doesn’t even say goodbye as he hangs up. I drop the phone to the table and drag my feet into the hallway. I’m halfway between the recliner and bed now. Stuff it. I plop back into the recliner.

8am the next morning I’m standing in Captain Henry’s office listening to the old fart ramble on about the FCCT case. “I want you to make this case priority” he barks. “This case needs the best person on it. And since the best person was shot 2 weeks ago and is lying in hospital, you’re it”. I walk over to his desk and grab the case files out of his chubby hands. The file is an inch frigin thick. I flick through the paperwork. “Don’t you have a desk? Get out of here Chase and update me daily!” I screw my nose up as his morning breath punching me in the face. “Will do sir”. As I walk out of his office I let out a soft yet loving “you smelly asshole” His hearing isn’t the best but he knows I called him a name. The silly old goat won’t fire me. I don’t know why. He just won’t. Trust me, I’ve tried. I walk to my desk and look around at the other poor souls called in on Saturday. There’s Teresa, the Captain’s right hand man, or woman I should say. She’s a tough old chook but fair. She’s got a contagious laugh and a witty sense of humour. She has a heart of gold but hides it under a vail of annoyed grunts. Then there’s Sam. A 21 year old rookie. He’s eager but stupid. He ran into a storage container to take cover during a gun fight with bad guys on his first day. Thing was, there were 2 bad guys in the container too. Apparently the gunfire went quite enough that the other officers could hear Sam yell “Ah Shit!” Lucky bastard survived with a few shots to his right arm. He’s one of us now because of that day.

I sit down at my desk and drop the file in front of me. With a sigh I open the folder and start reading. The FCCT Case. Let me brief you. I won’t read the whole thing because I’m bound to lose your interest. FCCT, that’s short for Fos City Central Tower. The central tower is where the entire city is controlled. From bus timetables to water treatment. Police procedures to hospital expansions. What children are taught in School. Even why your dog can’t take a crap in the park without a permit is decided there. Wonder why we sit at red lights that seem to never change? Ask the genius in the tower who controls that.

If you are thinking about going to the Tower to speak to the “Lovely and thoughtful” people who run this city, think again. It is the most heavily guarded building in the entire city. There’s more men with guns who are willing to use them than this entire police station. Even if you are lucky enough to be allowed in, the body search is enough to make you want to go straight home and shower. It is very intimate to say the least. They don’t even spoon you after.

Anyway, what happened about a week ago was that some brave yet suicidal person broke in and stole a hard drive from the main server. It’s incredible. It’s insane! Someone had enough guts to not only contemplate breaking in, but actually did it. In my time as a cop I’ve taken down some pretty scary scum bags. Guys that would make you shriek like a little girl just by looking at you. I’ve seen some crimes that were ambitious even by those who thought they were clever. But it was widely known. It was Lore. You don’t mess with the Tower. But this person did it. They messed with the tower and so far have gotten away with it. How the hell did they get in with all that security? The security camera footage and facial recognition program was useless at identifying this person. Someone broke in, took secret information and walked away. And no one has the faintest clue who it was. So far no evidence or leads. I almost wet myself laughing when Captain Henry briefed us the day after it happened. The look on the faces of those who came down to the station from the Tower was priceless. They were shell-shocked. And I loved every second of it. I won’t love what they will do to the person who broke in though. He or she, if caught, well let’s just say I’m trying to keep this story under the “R” rating. While I took great pleasure in hearing about the break-in, the ruthless people in charge have put a tighter squeeze on this city. Random ID checks. Road blocks. Car searches. They can send their own agents (The CTA) into your house without a warrant, make a mess, threaten you and walk out. Try and defend yourself and you’ll wake up in a cell at the lower levels of the tower crying for your mummy. I hope the person who did this does some good with the information they wanted. As I read more and more of the case I decide to make a field trip to the tower. I know, I know. I just gave reasons why you shouldn’t go there. But with this case file in my hand, I shouldn’t get the chilly greeting I just explained earlier. I grab my coat and the case file and walk to the Captains office. “Boss, here’s your first update. I’m going to the Tower”. He stops typing and looks over his computer screen “And what? Need a hug before you go?” Sometimes I like his sense of humour. I said sometimes. “No thanks. Maybe next time”.

The elevator door pings on the basement floor. It’s were we keep our patrol and unmarked cars. I sign out an unmarked car and head towards the Tower. No matter where you go in this city, the tower is always visible. If I were artistic in any way I would say that “the tower is a beautiful piece of architecture. A truly magnificent building with its marble structure that is reminiscent of Ancient Greek buildings. Its poetic like arch on the top made entirely out of stained glass is awe inspiring” Well I’m not. It’s a tower. Just a tower and the Tower is always watching you. I pull into the front of the main entrance of the tower. I grab my credentials and the file and walk towards the front door. Here come the security baboons. “ID?” they snarl. I show them my ID and explain that I am there as the primary investigator for the break-in. They radio back to head security in the Tower. After a few seconds of him nodding his head to the moron on the other end of his ear piece, the bloke waves his arm and I begin walking into screening. If they aren’t gentle with me today I’m going to kick one of them in the neck. That’s after I kick him in the nuts of course. As they begin the screening which starts off with a similar procedure you would get at an airport, I hear a familiar voice. “Chase!” I turn around while these maniacs man handle me. It’s my old boss, Agent Loven.

“Miss Levon, always nice to see you” I say while death staring one of the men patting down my inner thigh. “Back down. He’s clean. He’s a sergeant at the station” The men remove their hands and chuck back my coat, ID and files but keep my mobile phone. “So you’re the one who’s going to assist us with the break-in case?” I smile at her. “Well since your agents allowed someone to skip in and out, the almighty ones thought you might need some help” She looks away from me in annoyance and starts walking towards the elevator. I slowly follow behind smirking. We enter the elevator and Agent Levon removes a key from her pocket. She unlocks a small compartment in the elevator. The compartment hides a keypad with numbers and letters. She looks at me. “Turn!” I turn around and face the elevator wall and hear her type in a sequence long enough that I thought she was making an international phone call. I wait for the ill feeling of an elevator moving upwards. Instead the elevator starts moving sideways. “New security?” I ask. She doesn’t reply. Instead she grabs the files out of my hand as we move sideways to god knows where. The elevator finally stops moving and the door opens. Levon steps out and instructs me to wait in the elevator. She walks off down a corridor with white walls and black carpet and turns left into another. I hear a door open and more keys being shuffled. She re-enters the elevator with a red security card in her hand. “Turn!” I turn around again while rolling my eyes. She types in another long sequence. I brace myself for the elevator to go sideways again. This time the elevator moves upwards. Wow, they really have changed things since I was last here. Again the elevator stops and the door opens. “Am I allowed out this time?” I ask. She looks at me again annoyed and walks off into a corridor that looked exactly like the last one. I stay in the elevator. She stops walking and turns around. “You are upsetting me Chase. Don’t upset me today”. That means get the hell out of the elevator. I step out and follow her down the corridor.

At the end of the corridor is a metal door with voice recognition attached to the wall. “Agent Levon”. The door opens. We walk through to another door only 10 meters away from the one we just went through. Levon swipes the red card and the door opens with a hiss. By now I’ve had enough with the “get smart” like security. “Exactly where are you taking me?” She opens the file in her hand. “To the server room. Have you any idea who may have done this?” she asks. “Just got the file this morning. So no” I answer. Finally we arrive at another door. This time the door is glass and 2 heavily armed men stand in front of it like the Queens Guard. Levon shows them her ID and instructs me to do the same. The door opens as we walk into a dark room with white tiled floors and no windows. There’s rows and rows of black servers emitting red, green and blue flashes of light. The electronic hum made from the servers starts to get on my nerves as Agent Levon walks past the first 7 servers. She points me to a server near the back wall. “This is where the hard drive was stolen from” she announces. I look at the server. I look around at the other servers. “May I?” I say as I point around the room. I walk around and think to myself there doesn’t seem to be any forced entry or damage to the room or other servers.

“The guards, where were they when it happened?” Levon informs me that the guards were found unconscious at the door and have no memory of the incident. Great! Fos City’s Scariest and they are left scratching their heads like apes not knowing what to do with snot on a stick. “Any finger prints?” I say knowing there wasn’t otherwise they could match the prints on the Central System and kept the cops out of the case. “None” she replies.

One of the 2 guards walks into the server room and whispers in Levons ear while handing her a phone. She walks out of the room in a hurry. I try my best to look like I’m half interested in the case while the guard eyes my movements. I walk back over to the server and hear a crunch under my foot. I lift my foot and look under. It’s a screw.

I carefully look back at the guard who’s looking around the room at this point. I quickly pick the screw up and walk further away from the guard without him realizing. I take a glance at the screw. It doesn’t seem to match any of those on the servers. I walk around again trying to look as if nothing is happening until I hear the faint sound of air from above me. I look up. The air vent. I squint as I take a look. There’s a screw missing from the vent and I’m betting it’s the one in my hand. Just then Agent Levon appears. “That’s the end of our tour. I have other matters to attend to” I slyly put the screw in my pocket as I walk past her towards the door. “Chase!” I stop in my tracks. Levon stands beside me. “Find anything interesting about the incident?” I’m still twirling the screw in my pocket with my fingers. “No. Haven’t found anything you wouldn’t have already found” I say telling myself to shut up in my head. Levon point’s towards the door.

I walk back through the labyrinth of corridors behind Levon to a different elevator where she once again opens a compartment. This time on the outside of the elevator. “Turn!” That word, she’s ruined it for me now. She enters a code much shorter than the 2 prior and the door opens. I walk in and look back at Levon still standing on the outside of the elevator. “I promise not to fart this time” Levon pushes a button in the compartment while offering an “I hate you” grin. “I expect you to update me immediately if you find any information” she says while the door closes on her evil grin. I’m expecting the strange elevator experience on the way down as I did on the way up that made me a bit green around the gills. This time the elevator just went straight down to the ground floor. I walk out of the Tower’s front entrance forgetting my phone until a hand grabs me on the shoulder. I turn quickly, my hands raised and in punching position. It’s one of the guards. He lifts his arm up waiting for me to strike. “Your phone sir!” he bellows. I lower my arms and take my phone from his hand. “Thanks mate” He shakes his head as he walks back into the Tower. I check my phone to see if there were any missed calls or messages. Looks like Teresa from the station tried calling. I hop into the car and see a parking fine folded against the wiper and windscreen. To hell with it. Maybe it will blow off as I drive back to the station.

On the way back to station i scratch my chin thinking about the break in. Who? Why? It still gets me. I also remember that Teresa called so I pick up my phone and dial her desk. "Hey Teresa, I missed your call?" I swerve in and out of traffic trying to concentrate. Yeah it is illegal to talk on the phone and drive. I hope they pull me over. Hahaha. Last time I was pulled over I had gone through a red light. Cop car on the other side of the T section switches its lights on, speeds up and pulls me over. Out steps a cop who is as big as he was dumb and asks me for a reason I had gone through a red light. “Officer, I am sorry. The lunch special at Max’s Takeaway is almost over. I need a burger real quick” The look on his face as he barks “License!” was priceless. I hand him my license along with my police ID. “Get a move on officer. You’re making me miss my lunch” Poor bastard went white when he realised he was dealing with a superior.

"Yeah Chase, someone by the name of Dotty is here to see you". Crap. That’s right. I had rung Teresa back when I went off on a side story. “Thanks Teresa, please tell her I am on my way”. Teresa sighs. “Tell her yourself. I’m not your PA”. God I like that woman. “Thanks Teresa” I say back as I hang up and make my way to the station. Dotty? What is she doing there?

Back at the station I see Dotty waiting at my desk. Damn it, she looks cute today. Yellow skirt with a brown top. Beautiful black hair. And those eye’s. Damn it. Snap out of it you old perv. As I walk up to her smiling at me the captain bellows “Chase! Update!”. I pause in annoyance with a sigh. I open the folder in my hand and pretend to look at the files as if I had actually noted anything down. Which I should have because the sight of Dotty has thrown me.

“Update. Yep. Sure do” I say. Dotty senses my uncomfortable situation and peeks over my shoulder into the case folder where there are no notes. “Well! What the hell have you found out” he demands. I close the file proudly like I have some amazing piece of information for him. “I found that someone has definitely broken into the tower and stole data” I wait for the insults. He looks over at Dotty who is trying to hold in a giggle. “One of these days Chase they’ll bring a law out allowing me to beat smart ass staff. And when they do, I’m gonna invest in a steel drain pipe”. He waddles back into his office slamming the door. Dotty lets out a chuckle. “He’s going to get you one day” she says with a hint of concern. “I hope he does” I reply. “He’ll have every right to. I’m fairly sure half of those wrinkles on his face are because of me”

I tell Dotty to take a seat and I ask if she would like a coffee. She turns down my offer for what passes as coffee in this station which generally is the right choice “So, what brings you to this delightful place?” I ask as a criminal is brought into the station screaming profanities that even made Teresa gasp. “I thought you were working today?” Dotty adjusts her bum cheeks in the chair and replies “well as you would know, bars usually open after 3pm. It is only 10am” I chuckle back thinking “you smartass” to myself. She laughs back and says “The story you told me last night, I liked it. Very much. I actually came here to ask that instead of Sunday would you like to join me for dinner tonight so you can tell me the rest” I pause for a second as my mind tries to recall the last time I was invited to dinner. “Sure?” I reply. Dotty smiles back at me, stands up and informs me to come to the bar after 9pm. “9pm? Bar?” Dotty looks back at me and raises one eyebrow “Problem?” I shake my head and tell her I will see her after 9pm at the bar for dinner. Dotty slowly makes her way to the door. “Chase! Stop staring’’ Teresa says way too loud. I look at Teresa with wide eyes as in to say “shut up”

I look back in Dotty’s direction. She disappears into a group of officers walking into the station. I turn back to my desk. 9pm? The bar? Dinner dates sure have changed since the last time I gawked at a woman across a restaurant table. I hope she doesn’t consider soggy peanuts and stale chips a dinner staple.

The day rolls on. I’ve been flicking through the FCC files ever since Dotty left 3 hours ago. I still can’t understand how these people were able to steal data from Fos City Central. I say “people” now because I’m almost certain this wasn’t a one man job. No way in hell. No one is that stupid to take on the tower by themselves. I rub my forehead as I contemplate who these maniacs could be that it only just dawns on me. Forget who for a second, how about what they stole. What data was on that hard drive? If you know exactly what was stolen you can narrow down who might have wanted it. Whatever was on that hard drive was so valuable that someone wanted it enough to take on the tower? I pick up my phone and start dialing the number for the tower security. “Fos City Central Tower. How can I direct your call?”

“Sargent Chase from FCP. Can I please talk to Agent Loven?” The person on the phone immediately puts me on hold. As I bob my head to the awful hold music I again have a waking thought. Levon is not going to tell me what was on the hard drive. Even if she had an ounce of niceness to her, she couldn’t anyway. She would lose her job. I’ve wasted this call. Agent Levon picks up the phone. “Chase?” Shit, what do I say? Do I just bite the bullet and ask? “Chase! Are you there?” I’d better say something. “Hi” That’s it. That’s all that comes out. “Hi? You rang to say hi?” I fumble my words “No, no” Levon gives a sigh slash grunt “Well?” Stuff it. I should just ask. Who knows, maybe she got lucky last night and is feeling generous. “The hard drive. What was on it?” There’s a lengthy pause.

“Hello? Agent Levon?” She is still silent. “Levon? You still there” Then suddenly she speaks. “Shut up Chase. I’m thinking” I tap my fingers on the desk while her majesty thinks. “You know the drill Chase” she says sternly. “It’s classified. Tell anyone what I say right now and I’ll personally shoot you myself”

I sit up straight in my chair. She threatened me which means she’s about to tell me what’s on the drive. I grab a pen to make a note. A few seconds go by. Then, she says it. “TF-1980” For a moment. A split second. I think to myself how that code is familiar. I’ve seen it before. How do I know that code? “Chase, you know the severity of this case. Don’t make even 1 mistake” She hangs up. I’m still holding the phone to my ear. That code. Where the bloody hell have I seen it?

As I slowly put the phone down, it hits me like a ton of bricks. TF-1980. It’s Hale. It’s the secret data they have on Hale.

Next Chapter: Chapter 3