Marcus Logan opened one eye and glared at the phone beeping insistently on the nightstand in his one-room flat in East London. He had no idea who would be calling him at, he glanced at the time, 8 a.m. Hell he just got off work two hours ago. He sat up, reached for the robe at the foot of the bed and noticed the displayed number.
“This can’t be good.”
The phone continued to beep as he moved to his desk, tying the robe around his waist.
“Answer phone,” he said as he sat down.
On the central monitor the image of an older, stately woman of Jamaican descent quickly formed. The fact that he was getting an early morning call from the CEO’s executive assistant quickly confirmed his first thought that the early morning call was not good news. The woman on the screen shifted uncomfortably in her chair and cleared her throat.
“Mr. Logan, if you weren’t properly dressed, two-way visual was not required,” she said.
Logan, as he like to be called, looked down and realized that the top of his robe was hanging mostly open revealing his muscular chest. He was in remarkably good shape for a man of 42. He carried almost no body fat, and his muscles were still clearly defined under his tanned skin, his face still chiseled. The former Special Air Service soldier prided himself on keeping his body in fighting trim, even after having been out of His Majesty’s armed forces for nearly five years.
“My apologies, Miranda, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a call so bloody early in the morning,” he said as he closed the robe and retied it. “My shift just ended three hours ago. What exactly is wrong, I assume that is why you woke me.”
Logan realized his temper was flaring and fought to control it.
“Sorry, Miranda, what’s wrong?”
“We need you to come back in. As soon as you can. You see, there was…”
She paused as if searching for the correct word. “or is a problem and we need you right away.”
“A problem? What sort? It was quiet as the proverbial tomb. Hardly a peep from Bessie all night.”
Logan noticed that Miranda glanced to one side as if looking to someone for guidance on what to say next. She opened her mouth as if to say something but was interrupted by two quick knocks on Logan’s door.
Logan half turned to glance at the door, then turned back to the monitor.
“And that would be?” he asked, knowing full well who it was at the door.
“The police,” Miranda said. “They wanted me to make sure you were home and . . .”
“And you were to keep me occupied until the constabulary arrived?”
“Exactly,” Miranda said, her voice tinged with a bit of sadness at having to be party to the deception. “See you in a bit, Mr. Logan.”
There were two more knocks on the door as the phone cut off.
“Mr. Logan, metropolitan police, please open the door.”
“Just a moment,” Logan called as he stood up. He briefly considered running but ruled it out. No doubt there were officers stationed strategically around his flat. There were two slightly more insistent knocks just as Logan opened the door.
“Good morning, gentlemen, do come in,” Logan said as he stepped aside. The two uniformed officers walked in and looked around. The flat was unremarkable, as one might expect of a former military man. Spartanly furnished and decorated with little flair and mostly blank walls.
“We’re here to escort you back to your office, sir,” one of them said stiffly.
“Am I under arrest?”
“Not just yet, sir,” the second one said.
“Grand,” Logan said. “Give me a few minutes to get dressed then we’ll be off.”
“We wouldn’t advise trying to sneak out the back or anything, sir, we have other officers keeping watch.”
Logan kept an affable expression on his face as the officer confirmed his initial analysis.
“Wouldn’t think of it,” he said with a smile as he walked into his bedroom and shut the door.
The Heuristics Research building was a buzz of activity. There were researchers, company officials, police and several men and women in military uniforms. Logan walked over to a tall, heavyset man with a goatee and horn-rimmed glasses.
“What’s all this about, Mr. Blankenship? Miranda was somewhat vague – said there was a problem and not much else.”
Blankenship nodded. “We just didn’t want to say too much on an unsecure phone line. Someone got in here last night and stole a prototype chip we’ve been developing for the military.”
“Right,” Logan said, looking around as he tried to get a feel for who was who. In addition to the obvious military, there were several men and women in suits who he assumed where British Intelligence, indicating the chip was much more important than perhaps even Blankenship was aware. “When was this chip pinched, as it were?”
“Last night, on your watch.”
“Is this him? The security guard from last night?”
Logan turned to see a tall, slender brunette walking towards him. Her loose hair hung midway down her back. She carried herself in a way that radiated self-confidence.
“Police Chief Inspector Elizabeth Robinson,” she said by way of introduction, before Blankenship could get around to doing the honors.
Logan took the offered hand, getting a much firmer handshake then he expected from the young woman.
“Marcus Logan. And yes, to answer your question, I was on duty last night.”
Before the Inspector could ask any questions, Logan turned to Blankenship.
“Right,” Logan said. “Now exactly when do you think this happened?”
“Pardon me, Mr. Logan, but suspects generally do not ask the questions, the police do,” Robinson said.
“My apologies, of course,” Logan said. “No one had told me that I was a suspect in all of this.”
“You were on duty last night and had full access to the building, and there was no evidence of a break-in at all. The only reason you are not in handcuffs and talking to me at headquarters is because of your military record and the support of Mr. Blankenship.”
The police inspector looked around. “Before we continue, could we move to a more private location?”
Blankenship nodded. “Agreed. I suggest we meet in our security office. I’ll have all the involved personnel join us.”
“Grand,” Logan said. It was going to be a long day.
Logan, Robinson and Blankenship were joined by the lead engineer, Larry Barrister, several other staff members, and Maj. Rodger Williams, an older, tall, husky black man.
“Before we begin, everyone needs to be aware that these proceedings will be completely recorded, audio and visual,” Robinson said, indicating a device at the center of the table. “The recording will be made here, and simultaneously at headquarters.
“Now Dr. Barrister, when did you first notice the chip missing?”
“When I came in this morning, I noticed something amiss in the clean room.”
“Something amiss?” Logan asked. “Please explain.”
Robinson glared a bit at Logan but said nothing.
“Some equipment was slightly out of position,” Barrister said. “I know I’m considered a bit odd for it, but I do have this tendency to remember exactly where I leave things – exactly where a piece of equipment or furniture was left.”
“Go on,” Robinson prodded.
“So, it seemed that one of the monitors in the clean room was slightly out of position, so I went into the ante room, got suited up and went inside. It didn’t take me long to notice.”
Logan wanted to ask the obvious questions, and felt since it was his company and his responsibility he had the right, but he had notice Robinson’s look when he spoke up before, so he remained quiet.
“Notice what?” Robinson asked.
“Notice that the safe was open,” Barrister replied. “The safe isn’t visible from the main lab, so it probably would not have been noticed by any of the other lads had I not gone inside to examine the moved equipment.
“Of course, I immediately checked the safe and found that the Phoenix prototype was gone,” he said.
“And this chip -- what does it do exactly?” Logan asked.
Barrister looked uncomfortably at Williams.
Williams fixed Logan in a steely but friendly gaze.
“Honestly, lad, given your background and record, I’d like you fill you in completely,” Williams said. “But given the nature of your discharge, we can’t really go into details.
“Suffice it to say it was part of a new defense system we are working on.”
Barrister glared at Williams. “What harm is there in telling him what it does? Despite the incident in his past, his record here has been impeccable I trust him implicitly.”
Williams thought, then nodded his agreement.
“It’s the integral part of our new command and control network,” Barrister said. “It’s impervious to an EMP attack, or at least that’s what it is supposed to be, at some point.”
“Of course,” Logan said. It made sense. If you want to invade a country, a low-yield nuclear device delivers an electro-magnetic pulse, or EMP, to disable the defensive systems. In theory this would throw the target nation’s military into at least some level of temporary disorganization.
“How?” Logan asked.
“That’s the part we can’t tell you,” Williams said. “And the gritty details are really not that important. What is important is that somebody, probably one of the enemies of the crown, has the chip and will most likely reverse engineer it to find out how to make its development moot.”
Logan nodded. “So, what has this got to do with me? Surely, you don’t suspect me of pilfering the thing?”
“Unfortunately, that is exactly what the evidence suggests,” Robinson said. “Mr. Logan, according to the AI, you were the only one in the building last night and made several rounds of the building, including a stop in Dr. Barrister’s lab.”
Logan looked at Robinson.
“Of course, I was on duty last night, but my rounds do not include entering any of the labs,” Logan said. “I check the doors and if they are locked I continue on my way.
“I was never in this lab last night.”
“Logan, according to the AI you were,” Blankenship said. “And the AI has a recording of you entering the clean room and opening the safe.”
“That’s impossible,” Logan said firmly. “I don’t know the access code to the safe, Bessie herself would have to do that.”
“Nevertheless, until this is cleared up I’m afraid you are relieved of duty,” Blankenship said, extending his hand. “I’ll need your ID badge and keys please, Mr. Logan.”
Logan looked at Barrister.
“Larry, this is a load of bullocks, and you know it.”
“Logan, I don’t know what to believe,” Barrister said. “All I know is the chip is gone and all the evidence points to you.”
“Logan, your ID and keys please,” Blankenship repeated with his hand extended. Without another word, Logan handed over the requested badge and keys.
“And of course, all of your access codes have been revoked.”
“Of course, they are. I’d do the same thing.”
Logan turned on his heels and headed for the door.
“Oh, and Mr. Logan, don’t leave town.”
Logan stopped for a second. “Of course not, Chief Inspector, wouldn’t think of it.”
Logan walked along the A3211, the River Thames flowing quiet and brown on his right as it has for hundreds of years, Big Ben chimed the hour behind him. Ahead on his right stood what remained of the London Eye. He walked briskly with both hands in the pocket of his leather aviator jacket, ignoring electric-powered small cars and trolleys that hummed past him almost silently. He paused at the intersection of the main street and a side alley between two office buildings and looked around, unable to shake the feeling that he was being watched.
Moments later, even as he was mentally chiding himself for being paranoid, he felt someone come up close behind him and felt the unmistakable press of a gun in his back.
“Afternoon, mate, now why don’t we take us a little stroll into this alley right here.”
His assailant was about five feet, 6 inches, a bit shorter than Logan. He pushed the gun a little harder into Logan’s back.
“C’mon, now, don’t make this harder than it needs be.”
“Very well,” Logan replied, “After you.”
The mugger chuckled.
“Very polite of you, mate, but you go first.”
Logan nodded and started to walk slowly toward the alley. As they entered the shadows, Logan pretended to stumble over the curb, forcing the man to bump into him. The moment he felt the gun at the small of his back, Logan quickly spun around, bringing his right elbow up to catch the pistol and force it to the side. His quick spin caught the mugger by surprise and by the time he could squeeze the trigger, the gun had moved passed Logan enough that the bullet smashed harmlessly into a nearby wall.
Logan continued around, bringing up his left hand and smashing the mugger across the bridge of his nose, the palm of Logan’s hand breaking it in one strike and splattering blood all over both the man and Logan’s jacket.
“Now you’ve done it,” Logan said as the mugger fell to his knees, holding his broken nose in both hands. “I just had this jacket cleaned.”
Logan took a hold of the man’s hair with one hand and pulled him roughly to his feet. He looked behind him and spotted a pile of trash, mostly empty boxes. He pulled on the man and tossed him roughly into the pile. He then bent down and picked up the gun. He pulled back the barrel to chamber a round and then aimed it at the whimpering figure in the trash.
“I have half a mind to save the police the trouble of arresting you and taking you to trial,” he said coldly. “But fortunately for you, I’m going to listen to the other half today.”
He un-cocked the weapon and slipped it into a jacket pocket. From another pocket he pulled out his phone.
“Dial Metropolitan Police.”
“Specify,” the phone said.
“Working,” the phone said as Logan’s exact position was determined by the phone’s GPS.
A moment later, the phone beeped, which was immediately followed by a ringing sound.
“Baxley district, Inspector Greyson Overby speaking, how may help you.”
“Yes, this is Marcus Logan. I’m in an alley just off of A3211 north of Derby Gate. Someone just tried to mug me.”
“Very well sir, we’ll send a unit down to take a description, but I must tell you that it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever capture the bloke. We just don’t have the manpower to track down common muggers these days.”
“Inspector, you needn’t worry about tracking him down. I’ve managed to, shall we say, convince him to wait for your unit. But do hurry up about it.”
“Right,” the inspector said. “We’ll have someone there right away.”
“Cheers,” Logan said, then he closed the phone. He sat down on nearby box to keep an eye on his former attacker as he waited for the police.
After he finished with the police for the second time that day, Logan walked the rest of the way to his friend’s garage. As usual, no one was in the front office so he walked directly back into the shop area, which was mostly empty except for a 2095 Jaguar and a significantly older Bentley.
He walked up to the Bentley and stopped beside it. He knelt down beside the car where a man was lying on a dolly. Most of the body was underneath the car, with only the legs protruding. From underneath the car came the regular, rhythmic sounds of someone snoring rather peacefully.
Logan smiled, then stood up and gently nudged the sleeping mechanic with his foot.
“Come on David,” Logan said.
“What, who’s that?”
“It’s Logan, and I need my car.”
“Hang on a moment, lad.”
A second later David Spano pushed himself out from beneath the Bentley.
“I was just finishing her up,” David said as he stood up and acted as if he were wiping grease from his hands.
Logan placed an arm around Spano’s shoulders.
“Of course you were. Is she ready?”
“As ready as I can get her, Marcus. It’s a miracle that old car still runs.”
“Well, she has too. I couldn’t afford one when I was working and I certainly can’t now that I’m suspended.”
“Some computer chip was stolen on my watch and they think I had something to do with it,” Logan said.
“I’d ask what sort of chip, but we both know it would mean nothing to me,” Spano said.
“Likewise,” Logan said with a laugh. “I’m hoping Willie can fill me in. Well, let me pay you and I’ll be off to see Willie.”
Spano shook his head.
“That’s all right, boyo. If you’re out of work, you need to hold onto every credit you’ve got. Tell Willie I said hello.”
“Will do,” Logan said as he slid behind the Bentley’s wheel. He fired up the eight-cylinder engine. “See you, David.”
Logan wheeled the car out of the garage and into the streets of London.
Logan walked up to the locked gate of a midtown apartment and pushed the button next to the name Alonso. He waited about a minute and when there was no answer, he pushed again, this time holding the button a bit longer, getting him a curt response.
“Who the hell is it?”
The voice had just a trace of a Spanish accent and sounded sleepy and annoyed at the same time.
“It’s Logan, Willie, I need a favor.”
There was a pause that stretched for a moment or two. Then the electronic latch on the gate buzzed.
Logan pushed the door open, walked inside and up the stairs to Willie’s second floor apartment. He knocked twice on the door. After a brief delay he heard a soft whir and looked up to see the security camera tracking in on him. He looked up at it, smiled and waved.
“How are you, old chap?” he said to the camera just as the door silently popped open.
The apartment was dark and in its usual state of disarray. Plates of half-eaten food were on the table and counters, discarded clothes draped over the couch and chairs. Not finding Willie in the living room, Logan almost reached for the Beretta he had relieved from the mugger earlier, then silently chided himself for his paranoia. Willie had let him in, hadn’t he?
Logan walked over to Willie’s banks of computers in the living room and looked at the monitors, trying to make sense of the electronic gibberish they were displaying. He was just about bored with trying to figure the displays out when he heard the sound of the toilet being flushed. A few moments later Willie Alonso walked into the room. The dark-skinned man was in as good a shape as Logan, if not better. He moved smoothly, almost catlike. He immediately went to the big leather chair at the largest computer monitor and sat down.
“Not even a hello? Not very hospitable of you, mate.”
Willie didn’t say anything, but just gave Logan a sideways glare before returning his attention to his computers.
Logan pulled a chair over and sat down.
“What in the world is bugging you, Willie?”
Willie glanced at him, then put his hands on the keyboard and started typing.
“You don’t mind if I finish up this little project, do you?”
Logan turned Willie’s chair so the two men were eye-to-eye.
“I asked you what is wrong, Alonso, and I expect an answer.”
Willie reached down and forced Logan’s hands off his chair, then turned back to his computers.
“Don’t you cop that superior officer crap with me, Logan, we’re not in His Majesty’s Service anymore.”
Logan stood up and ran his hand through his hair.
“I’m sorry, old man, you’re right of course. But I’ve had a hell of a day.”
“Well I don’t give a hoot about your day, just don’t take it out on me, especially if you want me to help you with something,” the tall Spaniard said. “What exactly do you need? You do need something don’t you?”
Logan took about 15 minutes to fully brief Willie on the day’s events, from the loss of the chip to the near mugging.
“So, you want to know what’s so all-fired important about this chip that’s gone missing.”
“Precisely,” Logan said. “Can you find out?”
“Give me a day,” Willie said as he turned back to his computers. Logan knew better than to try and continue the conversation. Willie was already half way into the ’net in ways that most men couldn’t even begin to imagine.
“Don’t bother getting up, I’ll show myself out,” Logan said as he quietly left Willie’s apartment.