Hannah Shawcross jumped, spilling tea on her jeans as the doorbell rang. She swore under her breath as she got to her feet to fetch a tea towel from the kitchen area of her poky little flat. As she mopped at the damp patch on her jeans, the doorbell rang again. This time, it was accompanied by a hard knock on the door.
“Jesus,” Hannah muttered. “How big do they think this place is?” She walked into the tiny hallway, just large enough for a couple of coats to hang up by the door, and looked through the spy hole in the door. When she saw the distorted faces of two men looking back at her, one of them in a police uniform, her heart fluttered in her chest. Hannah opened the door a couple of inches and peeped through…
The white envelope fluttered down to the carpet. In the kitchen, Seb Shaw put down the spoon he was using to make himself a cup of tea. He walked through the hall towards the front door. It could be a birthday card,’ he thought. He’d had enough of those over the last week, and the mantelpiece in the living room was almost full of cards celebrating his 40th birthday.
The only people who had really celebrated with him though were his friends and family. They’d had a small party in the evening to mark the event. However, he would have quite happily spent the evening on his own, nursing a quiet pint in the pub and reading the local paper…
It was just a regular day at the office. Then the power went out. When your office is right at the bottom of a top secret bunker in the middle of nowhere, well, let’s just say that’s not good.
Technically, it wasn’t a top secret bunker. It was a COSMIC secret bunker, which is two full security levels above top secret. Even the term COSMIC is top secret. Plenty of people knew of the bunker’s existence, but not many knew where it was. I could tell you its exact location, but then I’d have to kill you if I could. You get the picture.
Two weeks before the day Mum died I went up there to sort the garden out. I’d loaded the car up with gardening tools my neighbour had lent me. I didn’t get to see Mum anywhere near as much as I wanted, maybe once every few months, but getting up to her house was difficult.
Every penny counted, and keeping a car on the road was expensive enough without having to factor in the cost of petrol all the way from Kent to Norfolk. If I’d known that my time with her was going to be so limited, I would have adjusted my finances and gone without the odd bottle of Pinot Grigio here or there.
Emily hit the steering wheel of her car, muttering under her breath. She leaned forward, groping in the dark with her hand to find the release lever for the bonnet. When she had located the lever, she pulled it and heard the satisfying noise of the lock being released.
Emily got out of the car and pulling her coat tight to protect against the cold November air, raised the hood in the universal signal to tell the world she had broken down.