|posted on 16-Sep-2002 9:22:59 AM|
|Title: Teenage Spy|
Catergory: ssshhhh its a secwet (lol)
Disclaimer: sadly I own nothing remotely of the Roswell series or the book The Stormbreakers so please have mercy on my poor soul sueing me would only get you $5 if ya lucky
Summary:Liz's guardian dies she founds her world turned upside down
Note: Liz never grew up in Roswell not even America mmmhhhmmm she grew up in London but I myself have never been to either of these wicked countries I live in the Pacific ya know nice cool breeze ocean right smack dab in front of ya well anywho Liz is a bit taller too and has a Maria from eppy 1 hair style
P.S. im real bad at posting sometimes sooo to all you peeps out there thats seen this fic around ima use this now as the main thread for it sooo sorry to confuse all your pretty lil heads out there but heeey what can ya do so cross ya fingers and hope I do this right for once hehe
oh yea im not that great at english ya know the class sooo bear wit me now plus most of the first couple of parts are straight out of the book
Liz Ortecho was awoken by the sound of the door bell her eyebrows scrunched together and her eyes jerked open but for a moment she stayed completely still lying on her back with her head resting on the pillow
she heard a bedroom door open and the creak of wood as somebody went down stairs while the bell rang a second time
she glanced over beside her where the time glared 3.02 a.m. in bright glowing red, there was a rattle as someone opened the locks of the front door
she rolled out of her bed and walked over to the open window the moonlight spilled over her face Liz was fourteen with short dyed blood red hair and stood tall over most girls and guys her age with a body of an athlete and her olive tan skin her eyes brown and curious
Liz looked out down where there was a police car parked outside and two men who were standing in the front door the porch light went on at the same time the door opened
"no im the housekeeper what is it? whats happened?"
"thie is the home of Mr Jeff Ortecho?"
"iwonder if we could come in ........"
and then Liz already knew from the way the police officers stood awkward and unhappy but she also knew from the tone of their voices, funeral voices the sort of voices people use when they come to tell you someone close to you has died
she went to her door she could hear the two men talking own the hall but only some words reached her
"...............a car accident .........called the ambulance .......intensive care ...... nothing anyone could do ....so sorry"
the next day Liz sat at the kitchen table trying to make sense of what happened her Uncle Jeff Orteco was dead driving home his car had been hit at a corner while turning and he had been killed almost instantly he hadn't been wearing his seat-belt the police said other wise he might have had a chance
Liz thought of the man who was her only living relative for as long as she could remember she never knew her parents they had died in a plane crash a few weeks after she was born she had been brought up by her uncle Jeff and had spent most of her fourteen years inthe same house in London
but only now Liz realized just how little she knew about the man, a banker Jeff was always travelling a quiet private man who liked good wine, classical music, and books who didnt seem to have girlfriends of many friends for that matter
he had kept himself fit never smoked and had dressed expensively but that wasn't a picture of life it was a thumbnail sketch
"are you alright Liz?" a young women had asked she was in her late twenties with blonde curly hair with icy blue eyes and pail skin and she sometimes reminded Liz of a gerbil Tess Harding was Australian she had come to London as a student seven years ago rented a room in the house with some baby-sitting duties and had stayed to become housekeeper and one of Liz's closest friends
Liz nodded "what do you think will happen?" she asked
"what do you mean?"
"to the house, to me to you"
"I dunno" Tess shrugged "I guess Jeff will have made a will he'll have instructions"
"maybe we should look in his office"
"yes but not today Liz lets take one step at a time"
Jeff's office was running full length of the house high at the top the only room that was always locked Liz had only been up there 4 times never on her own when she was younger she had fantasized that there might be something strange up there like maybe a time machine or a UFO but it was only an office with a desk a couple of filing cabinets, shevles full of papers and books
bank stuff that what Jeff said Liz wanted to go up there now because it had never been allowed
"the police said he wasn't wearing his seat-belt" Liz said turning to Tess
she nodded "yeah thats what they said"
"doesn't that seem strange to you? you know how careful he was he always wore his seat-belt he wouldn't even drive me round the corner without making me put mine on"
Tess thought for a moment then shrugged
"yes its strange" she said "but that must have been the way it was why would have the police have lied?"
the day dragged on Liz hadn't gone to school even though, secretly she had wanted to, she would have preferred to escape back into normal life the clange of bells the crowds of familiar faces
instead of sitting there trapped inside the house but she had to be there for the visitors who came throughout the day one of who were from the bank
"all of us at Royal & General are deeply shocked"
he was in his thirties wearing a polyester suit with a tie he had the sort of face you forget even while you were looking at it introduced himself as Dan from personnal
"but if theres anything we can do .........."
"what will happen?" Liz asked
"you dont have to worry" Dan said "the bank will take care of everything that's my job you leave everything to me"
when the day of the funeral arrived Liz found herself dressed in black preparing to leave in a black car that had come from nowhere surrounded by people she had never seen or met
a grave had been dug close to the lane that ran across the cemetery and as the service began a black Rolls-Royce pulled up the back door opened and a man got out Liz watched as he walked forward and stopped
Liz shivered there was something about the man that made her skin crawl and yet he seemed ordinary to look at grey suit, grey hair, grey lips, grey eyes his face expressionless the eyes behind his square spectacles completely empty maybe thats what disturbed Liz
whoever he was seemed to have less life than anyone in the cemetery above or below ground
"that's Mr Pierce" the personnel whispered leaning to her
"he's the chairman of the bank"
Liz looked past Pierce and over to the Roll-Royce two more men had come with him they were wearing identical suits with sunglasses both watching the funeral with the same grim faces Liz looked back and forth at the men and Pierce
had they really known Jeff Ortecho? why had she never met any of them before and why did she find it so difficult to believe that any of them really worked for a bank she turned her attention back to the service
"...........a good man a patriotic man he will missed"
the words struck Liz as odd, a patriotic man? that meant he loved his country but as far as knew Jeff Ortecho barely spent time in it she looked around ans saw Pierce making his way to her
"you must be Liz my name is Alan Pierce your uncle often spoke of you"
"thats funny" Liz said "he never mentioned you"
the chairmans lips twitched briefly "we'll miss him he was a good man"
"what was he good at? he never talked about his work"
suddenly Dan was ther e"you uncle was the overseas finace manager Liz"he said
"he was responsible for our foreign branches you must have known that"
"I know he travelled a lot Liz said :and I know he was very careful about things like seat-belt"
"well sadly he wasnt careful enough" Pierce's eyes focused on Liz'z own
she felt like she was pinned down like an insect under a microscope "I hope we meet again" he said
while tapping a finger on his face "yes.........." then turned and went to his car
as he was getting into the car Liz saw the driver leaning across to open the back door and his jacket fell open revealing not only his shirt underneath he was wearing a leather holster with an automatic pistol strapped inside Liz saw it even as the man realizing what happened
quickly straightened up and pulled his jackey across his cchest Pierce had seen it too he turned back and looked at Liz again she saw some emotion slither across his face then got in the car takingoff
a gun at a funeral? why? why would bank managers carry guns
"lets get out of here" Tess said coming to her side
"cemeteries give me the creeps"
"yes and quite a few creeps have turned up" Liz muttered
as they made their way home turning into their street Liz noticed a removals van parked outsie their house the words STRYKER & SON on its side
"what's that doing........?" Liz began
at the same moment the van shot off the wheels skidding on the road Liz said nothing as Tess unlocked the door and let them in but while she went into the kitchen to make some tea Liz looked quickly ound the house a letter
that had been on the hall table now lay on the floor a door that had been half-open was now closed tiny details but Liz's eyes missed nothing somebody had been in the house she was sure of it
she wasn't certain until she got to the top floor the door to the office which was always, always had been losked was unlocked now Liz opened it and went in. the room was empty Jeff Ortecho was gone and now so had everything else
anything that might have told her about the dead mans work had been taken
"Liz .....!" Tess called
Liz took one last look around the forbidden room wondering about the man who once worked there then closed the door and went back downstairs
with Hamersmith Bridge just ahead of her Liz left the river and swung her bike through the lights and down the hill towards Brookland School the bike was a Condor Junior Roadracer custom-built for her on her twelveth
birthday it was a teenagers bike
with cut-down Reynolds 531 frame but the wheels were full-sized so she could ride at speed with hardly any rolling resistance she spun past a Mini and cut through the school gates
she double-locked it in the shed and went into yard Brookland was new comprehensive of red brick and glass modern and ugly Liz could have gone to any of the smart privates schools around the area but her uncle had decided to send her here he said it would be more of a challenge
the first lesson of the day was maths when Liz walked into the classroom the teacher Mr Donovan was already chalking up a complicated equation on the board as Liz took her plac near the back wondering how she was going to get through the lesson how could she possibly think of algebra when there were so many
other questions churning through her mind the gun at the fueral, the way Pierce had looked at her, the van with STRYKER & SON written on the side, the empty office, and the biggest question of all the one detail that refused to go away the seat-belt but of course he had
Jeff Ortecho had never been one to give lectures he had always said Liz should make up her own mind about things but he'd this thing about seat-belts the more Lis thought about it the less she believed it a collision going round a corner
sundenly she wished she could see the car at least the wreckage would tell her the truth that the accident had really happened Jeff Ortecho really died that way
Liz looked up and realized everyone was staring at her Mr Donovan had just asked her something she quickly svanned the blackboard taking in the figures
"yes sir" she said "x equals seven and y is fifteen"
the maths teacher sighed "yes Liz you're absolutely right but actually I was just asking you to open the window"
somehow she managed to get through the day but by the final bell her mind was made up while everyone else streamed out she made her way to the secretary's office and burrowed a copy of the yellow pages
"what are you lookind for?" the secretary asked Jane Bedfordshire was a young women in her twenties and had always had a soft spot for Liz
"Breakers yard....." Liz flicked through the pages "if a car got smashed up near Foxlaw Street they'd take it somewhere near wouldn't they?"
"I suppose so"
"here......" Liz had found the yards listed under 'Car Dismantlers' but there were dozens of them fighting for attention over four pages
"is this for a school project?" the secretary knew Liz had lost a relative but not how
"sort of....." Liz was reading the adresses but they told her nothing
"this one's quite near Foxlaw Street" Miss Bedfordshire pointed at the corner page
"Wait!" Liz tugged the book towards her and looked at the entry underneath the one the secretary had chosen
J.B STRYKER it said Liz recognized the name J.B Stryker she thought back to the van she had seen outside her house on the day on the funeral STRYKER & SON of course it might be a coincidence but it was still somewhere to start she closed the book
"see ya later Miss Bedfordshire"
"be careful how you go" the secretary watched Liz leave wondering why she had said that maybe it was just her eyes dark and serious but there was something dangerous there then the telephone rang and she forgot her as she went back to work
J.B Strykers was a square of wasteland behind the railway tracks running out of Waterloo Station the area was enclosed by a high brick wall topped with broken glass and razor wire, two wooden gates hung open and from the other side of the road Liz could see a shed
with a security window and beyond it tottering piles of dead and broken cars everything of values had been stripped away and only the rusting bodies remained heaped one on top of the other waiting to be fed into the crusher
there was a guard sitting in the shed reading the Sun in the distance a crane coughed into life then roared down on the battered Ford Mondeo its metal claw smashing through the window to scoop up the vehicle and carry it away
a telephone rang somewhere in the shed and the guard turned around to answer it that was enough for Liz holding her bike and wheeling it along beside her she sprinted through the gates
she found herself surrounded by dirt and debris the smell of diesel was thick in the air and the roar of engines was deafening Liz watched was a crane swooped down on another one of the cars seizing it in a metallic grip and dropped it into the crusher
for a moment the car rested on a pair of shelves then the shelves lifted up toppling the car over and down into a trough, the operator - sitting in a glass cabin at one end of the crusher - pressed a button and there was a great belch of black smoke
the shelves closed in on the car like a monster insect folding in its wings there was a grinding sound as the car was crushed until it was no bigger then a rolled-up carpet the operator threw a gear and the car was squeezed out like mettalic toothpaste being chopped up
by a hidden blade the slicies tumbled on to the ground leaving her bike propped against the wall Liz ran further into the yard crouching down behind the wrecks with the din from the machines there was no chance that anyone
would hear her but she was still afraid of being seen she stopped to catch her breath drawing a grimy hand across her face her eyes were watering from the diesel fumes the air was filthy as the ground beneath her
she was beginning to regret comming - but then she saw it her uncles BMW was parked a few metres away seperated from the other cars at first glance it looked absolutely fine the mettalic silber bodywork not even scratched certainly there was no way this car could have been
involved in a fatal collision with a lorry or anything else but it was her uncles car Liz recognized the number plate she hurried closer and it was then she saw that the car was damaged after all the windscreen had been smashed along with all the windows
on one side Liz made her way round the bonnet she reached the other side and froze Jeff Ortecho hadn't died in any accident what had killed him was plain to see - even to someone
who had never seen such a thing before a spray of bullets had caught the car full on the drivers side shattering the front tyre, then smashing the windscreen and side windows and punching into the side panels Liz ran her fingers over the holes
the metal felt cold against her flesh she opened the door and looked inside the front seats pale leather, were strewn with fragments of broken glass and stained with oatches of dark brown she didnt need to ask what the stains were
then she imagined she could see everything a flash of the machine-gun the bullets ripping into the car Jeff Ortecho jerking in the drivers seat, why would they want to kill a bank manager? she thought
Liz thought why had the murder been covered up? it was the police who had brought the news so they must be part of it had they deliberately lied? none of it made sense
"you should have got rid of it two days ago do it now"
the machines must have stopped for a moment if there hadn't been a sudden lull Liz would never have heard the men coming quickly she looked across the steering-wheel and out the other side there were two of them both dressed in loose-fitting overalls
Liz had a feeling she'd seen them before at the funeral one of them was the driver the man she had seen with the gun she was sure of it who ever they were, they were only a few paces away from the car talking in low voices
another few more steps and they would be there without thinking Liz threw herself into the only place avaliable inside the car itself using her foot she hooked the door and closed it at the same time she became aware that the machines had started again and she could
no longer hear the men she didnt dare look up a shadow fell across the window as the two men passed but then they were gone. she was safe.
then something hit the BMW with such force that Liz cried out her whole body caught in a massive shock wave
that tore her awat from the steering-wheel and threw her helplessly into the back at the same time the roof buckled and three huge metal fingers tore through the skin of the car like a fork through a eggshell trailing dust and sunlight
one finger grazed the side of her head - any closer and it would have cracked her skull Liz yelled as blood trickled over her eye she tried to move then was jerked back a second time as the car was yanked off the ground and titled high up in the air
she couldn't see, she couldn't move, but her stomach lurched as the car swung in an arc the metal grinding and the light spinning it had been picked up by the cran it was going to be put inside the crusher with her inside!..........
she tried to raise herself up to punch through the windows but the claw of the crane had already flattened the roof pinning her left leg perhaps even breaking it she could feel nothing she lifted a hand and managed to pound on the back window, but she coudn't break the glass and even if the workmen were staring at the BMW they would never see anything moving inside
her short flight across the breakers yard ended with a bone-shattering crash as the crane deposited the car on the iron shelves of the crusher Liz tried to fight back sickness and despair and think of what to do
she had seen a car being processed only a few minutes before any moment now the operator would send the car tipping into the coffin-shape trough the machine was a Lefort Shear, slow motion guillotine at the press of a button, the two wings would close on the car
with a joint pressure of five hundred tonnes the car with Liz inside it would be crushed beyond recognition and the broken metal - and flesh - would then be chopped into sections nobody would ever know what had happened
she tried with all her might to free herself but the roof was too low her leg and part of her back were trapped then her whole world tilted and she felt herself falling into darkness the shelves had lifted. the BMW slid to one side and fell the few metres into the trough
Liz felt the metalwork collapsing all around her the back window exploded the glass showered around her head, dust and diesel fumes punching into her nose and eyes there was hardly any daylight now but looking out the back she could see the huge steel head of the piston that would push what was left of the car through the exit hole on the other side
the engine tone of the Lefort Shear changed as it prepared for the final act the metal wings shuddered in a few seconds time the two of them would meet crumpling the BMW like a paper bag
Liz pulled with all her strength and was astonished when her leg came free it took her perhaps a second - one precious second - to work out what had happened when the car had fallen into the trough it had landed on its side the roof had buckled again .......enough to free her
her hands scrabbled for the door - but of course that was useless the doors were too bent they would never open. the back window! with the glass gone she could crawl through the frame but only if she moved fast.....
the wings began to move, the BMW screamed as two walls of solid steel relentlessly crushed it glass shattered one wheel axles snapped with the sound of a thunderbolt the darkness closed in. Liz grabbed hold of what was left of the back seat
ahead of her she could see a single triangle of light shrinking faster and faster with all her strength she surged forward finding some sort of purchase on the gear column she could feel the weight of the walls pressing down on her
behind her the car was no longer a car but a fist of some hideous monster snatching at the insect that it had become, her shoulders passed through the triangle out into the light but her legs were still inside if her foot snagged on something she would be squeezed into two pieces Liz yelled out loud and jerked her knee forward her legs came clear then her feet but at the last moment her shoe caught on the closing triangle and dissapeared back into the car
Liz imagined she heard the sound of the leather being squashed but that was impossible clinging to the black oily surface of the observation platform at the back of the crusher she dragged herself clear and managed to stand up
she found herself face to face with a man so fat that he could barely fit into the small cabin of the crusher the man's stomach was pressed against the glass his shoulders squeezed into the corners, a cigerette dangled on his lower lip as his mouth fell open and his eyes stared
in front of him was a girl in rags of what had once been a school uniform a whole sleeve had been torn off and her arm streaked with blood and oil, hung limpl by her side by her side by the time the operator had taken all this in and came to his senses and turned the machine off Liz was goneshe slambered down the side of the crusher landing on one foot that still had a shoe she was aware now of pieces of jagged metal lying everywhere if she wasn't careful she would cut the other foot open
her bicycle was where she had left it leaning against the wall and gingerly half-hopping she made for it, behind her she heard the cabin crusher open and a man's voice call out raising the alarm at the same time a second man ran forward stopping between Liz and her bike it was the driver the man she had seen at the funeral his face twisted into a hostile frown was curiously ugly; greasy hair, watery eyes, pale, lifeless skin
"what do you think....!" he began his hand slid into his jacket Liz remembered the gun and instantly without even thinking swung into action
she had learned karate when she was six years old one afternoon with no explanation Jeff Ortecho had taken her to a local club for her first lesson and she had been going there once a week ever since. over the years she had passed through the various Kyu - student - grades
but it was only the year before that she had became a first grade Dan, a black belt when she had arrived at Brookland School her looks and accent had quickly brought her attention of the school bullies; three hulking sixteen-year-olds
they had cornered her once behind the bike shed the encounter had lasted less than a minute and after it one of the bullies had left Brookland and the other two had never troubled anyone anyone again
now Liz brought up one leg twisted her body round and lashed out the back kick - ushiro-geri - is said to be the most lethal in karate her foot powered into the man's abdomen with such force that he didnt have time to cry out his eyes bulged and his mouth half-opened
in suprise then with his hand still halfway into his jacket he crumpled to the ground Liz jumped over him, snatched up her bike and swung herself on it in the distance a third man was running towards her
she heard the single word "Stop!" called out then there was a crack and a bullet whipped past Liz gripped the handle bars and pedaled as hard as she could the bike shot forward over the rubble and out through the gates she took one look over her shoulder nobody followed her
with one shoe on and one shoe off her clothes in rags and her body streaked with blood and oil
Liz knew she must look a strange sight but then she thought back to her last seconds inside the crusher and sighed in relief. she could have been looking a lot worse
like I said before aint it a relief to know she's ok because come on I wasn't gonna kill our Lizzy off!!
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 20-Sep-2002 4:50:23 AM ]
|posted on 20-Sep-2002 4:49:46 AM|
the bank rang the following day
"this is John Crawley. do you remember me? Personnel Manager at the Royal & General. we were wondering if you could come in."
"come in?" Liz was half-dressed, already late for school.
"this afternoon. we found some papers of your uncle's. we need to talk to you ...about your own position."
was there something faintly threatening in the man's voice? "what time this afternoon?" Liz asked
"could you manage half-past four? we're on Liverpool Street. we can send a cab-"
"I'll be there," Liz said. "and I'll take the tube." she hung up
"who was that?" Tess called out from the kitchen
"that was the bank." Liz came into the room wearing her spare uniform. she hadn't told her what had happened at the breaker's yard.
she hadn't even told her about the empty office. Tess had enough on her mind.
"I'm going there this afternoon," she said
"do you want me to come?"
"no. I'll be fine."
she came out of Liverpool Street tube station just after four-fifteen that afternoon, still wearing her school uniform: dark blue jacket, grey girls school skirt,
a white button up long sleeve shirt with a striped tie.she found the bank easily enough. the Royal & General occupied a tall, antique-looking building with a Union Jack fluttering from a pole about fifteen floors up.
there was a brass name-plate next to the main door and security swivelling slowly over the pavment.
Liz stopped in front of it. for a moment she wondered if she was making a mistake going in. if the bank had been responsible in some way for Jeff Ortecho's death, maybe they had asked her here to arrange her own. no.
the bank wouldn't kill her. she didn't even have an account there. she went in.
in an office on the seventeenth floor, the image on the security monitor flickered and changed as Street Camera #1 smoothly cut across to Reception #2 and #3 and Liz passed from the brightness outside to the
cool shadows of the interior. a man sitting behind a desk reached out and pressed a button and the camera zoomed in until Liz's face filled the screen.
"so she came," the chairman of the bank muttered
"that's the girl?" the speaker was a middle-aged woman. she had a strange, potato-shaped head and her black hair looked as if it had been cut using a pair of blunt scissors and an upturned bowl.
her eyes were almost black too. she was dressed in a severe grey suit and she was sucking a peppermint. "are you sure about this, Alan?" she asked
Alan Pierce nodded. "oh yes. Quite sure. You know what to do?"
this question was addressed to his driver, who was standing uncomfortably, slightly hunched over. his face was a chalky white. he had been like that ever since he had tried to stop Liz in the breaker's yard.
"yes, sir," he said
"then do it," Pierce said. his eyes never left the screen.
In Reception, Liz had asked for Dan Crawley and was sitting on a leather sofa, vaguely wondering why so few people were in or out.
the reception area was wide and airy, with a brown marble floor, three elevators to one side and, above the desk, a row of clocks showing the time in every major world city. but it could have been the entrance to anywhere.
a hospital. a concert hall. even a cruise liner. the place had no identity of its own.
one of the lifts pinged open and Crawley appeared in his usual suit, but with a different tie. "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, Liz," he said "have you come straight from school?"
Liz stood up but said nothing, allowing her uniform to answer the man's question.
"let's go up to my office," Crawley said. he gestured. "we'll take the lift."
Liz didn't notice the forth camera inside the lift, but then it was concealed on the other side of the two-way mirror that covered the back wall.
nor did she see the thermal intensifier next to the camera. but this second machine both looked at her and through her as she stood there, turning her into a pulsating mass of different colours, none of which translated into the cold steel of a hidden gun or knife.
in less than the time it took Liz to blink, the machine had passed its informaton down to a computer which had instantly evaluated it and then sent its own signal back to the circuits that controlled the elevator. It's OK. She's unarmed. continue to the fifteenth floor.
"here we are!" Crawley smiled and ushered Liz out into a long corridor with an uncarpeted, wooden floor and modern lighting.
a series of doors was punctuated by framed paintings, brightly coloured abstracts. "my office is just along here." Crawley pointed the way.
they had passed three doors when Liz stopped. each door had a name-plate and this one She recognized - 1504: Jeff Ortecho. white letters on black plastic.
Crawley nodded sadly. "yes. this was where your uncle worked. He'll be much missed."
"can I go inside?" Liz asked
Crawley seemed suprised. "why do you want to do that?"
"I'd be interested to see where he worked."
"I'm sorry." Crawley sighed. "the door will have been locked and I don't have the key. another time perhaps." he gestured again. he used his hands like a magican, as if he was about to produce a fan of cards. "I have the office next door. just here."
they went into 1505. it was a large, square room with three windows looking out over the station. there was a flutter of red and blue outside and Liz remembered the flag she had seen. the flagpole was right next to Crawley's office.
inside there was a desk and chair, a couple of sofas, in the corner a fridge, on the wall a couple of prints. a boring executive office. perfect for a boring executive.
"please, Liz. sit down," Crawley said. he went over to the fridge. "can I get you a drink?"
"do you have coke?"
"yes." Crawley opened a can and filled a glass, then handed it to Liz. "ice?"
"no thanks." Liz took a sip. it wasn't coke. it wasn't even pepsi. she recognized the over-sweet, slightly cloying taste of supermarket cola and wished she'd asked for water "so what do you want to talk to me about?"
"your uncle's will-"
the telephone rang and with another handsign, this one for "excuse me", Crawley answered it. he spoke for a few moments then hung up again. "I'm very sorry, Liz. I have to go back down to reception. do you mind?"
"go ahead." Liz settled herself on the sofa.
"I'll be about five minutes." with a final nod of apology, Crawley left.
Liz waited a few seconds. then she poured the cola into a potted plant and stood up. she went over to the door and back into the corridor. at the far end, a woman carring a pile of papers appeared and then disappeared through a door.
there was no sign of Crawley. quickly, Liz moved back to the door of 1504 and tried the handle. but Crawley had been telling the truth. it was locked.
Liz went back into Crawley's office. she would have given anything to spend a few minutes alone in Jeff Ortecho's office. somebody thought the dead man's work was important enough to keep hidden from her.
they had broken into her house and cleaned out everything they'd found in the office there. perhaps the next-door room might tell him why. what exactly had Jeff Ortecho been invovled in? and was it the reason why he had been killed?
the flag fluttered again and, seeing it, Liz went over to the window. the pole jutted out of the building exactly between rooms 1504 and 1505. if she could somehow reach it, she should be able to jump on to the ledge that ran along the side of the building outside room 1504.
of course, she was fifteen floors up. if she jumped and missed there would be about seventy metres to fall. it was a stupid idea. it wasn't even worth thinking about.
Liz opened the window and climbed out. it was better not to think about it at all. she would just do it. after all, if this had been the ground floor, or a climbing-frame in the school yard, it would have been child's play.
it was only the sheer brick wall stretching down to the pavement, the cars and buses moving like toys so far below and the blast of wind against her face that made it terrifying. don't think about. do it.
Liz lowered herself on to the ladge outside Crawley's office. her hands were behind her, clutching on to the window-sill. she took a deep breathe. and jumped.
a camera located in an office across the road caught Liz as she launched herself into space. two floors above, Alan Pierce was still sitting in front of the screen. he chuckled. it was a humourless sound.
"I told you," he said. "the girl is extraodinary."
"that girl is quite mad," the woman retorted.
"well, maybe that's what we need."
"you're just going to sit here and watch her kill herself?"
"I'm going to sit here and hope she survives."
Liz had miscaculated the jump. she had missed the flagpole by a centimetre and would have plunged down to the pavement if her hands hadn't caught hold of the Union Jack itself.
she was hanging now with her feet in mid-air. slowly, with huge effort, she pulled herself up, her fingers hooking into the material. somehow she managed to climb back up on to the pole.
she still didn't look down. she just hoped that no passerby would look up.
it was easier after that. she squatted on the pole, then threw herself across to the ledge outside Jeff Ortecho's office. she had to be careful, too far to the left and she would crash into the side of the building,
but too far the other way and she would fall. in fact she landed perfectly, grabbing hold of the ledge with both hands and then pulling herself up until she was level with the window.
it was only then that she wondered if the window would be locked. if so, she'd just have to go back.
it wasn't. Liz slid the window open and hoisted herself into the second office, which was in many ways a carbon copy of the first. it had the same furniture, the same carpet, even a similiar print on the wall.
she went over to the desk and sat down. the first thing she saw was a photograph of herself, taken the summer before on theCarribean island of Guadeloupe, where she had gone diving.
there was a second picture tucked into the frame. Liz aged five or six. she was suprised by the photographs. she had never thought of Jeff Ortecho as a sentimental man.
Liz glanced at her watch. about three minutes had passed since Crawley had left the office, and he had said he would be back in five.
if she was going to find anything here, she had to find it quickly. she pulled open a drawer of the desk.
it contained five or six thick files. Liz took them and opened them. she saw at once that they had nothing to do with banking.
the first was marked: THE CLUB - ZEAL* - SUPPOSED FREAK SHOOTING ACCIDENT Liz put it aside and looked at the next files.
SILVERHAND - 8 BODIES FOUND AROUND NEW YORK CITY WITH A SILVER HANDPRINT IMPRINTED ON THE VICTIMS CHESTS.
growing even more puzzled, she quickly flicked through the rest of the files, which covered numerous teenagers and disturbing murders mostly around the United States
she went to another file that was just as strange as the others: SERENA HAWKS - TWO WITNESSES CLAIM SERENA HAWKS WAS SHOT AT BUT A BOY - NAME UNKNOWN HAS NUMEROUS PIERCINGS AND TATTOOS WITH SPIKEY HAIR - WENT TO HER
AND LAID A HAND OF HER STOMACH WITNESSES SAY THEY SAW HIS HAND GLOW THEN LEAVE WITH HIS COMPANION - NAME UNKNOWN BUT HAD NUMEROUS PIERCINGS AND TATTOOS LIKE ZAN BUT HAD
A MOHAWK. the last files was simply labelled: TEEN ALIENS?.
Liz was about to read it when the door suddenly opened and two men walked in. one of them was Crawley. the other was the driver from the breaker's yard. Liz knew there was no point trying to explain what she was doing.
she was sitting behind the desk with the Teen Aliens file open in her hands. but at the same time she realized that the two men weren't suprised to see her there.
from the way they had come into the room, they had expected to find him.
"this isn't a bank" Liz said "who are you? was my uncle working for you? did you kill him?"
"so many questions," Crawley muttered. "but I'm afraid we're not authorized to give you the answers."
the other man lifted his hand and Liz saw that he was holding a gun. she stood up behind the desk, holding the file as if to protect herself.
"no- " she began
the man fired. there was no explosion. the gun spat at Liz and she felt something slam into her heart. her hand opened and the file tumbled to the ground. then her legs buckled, the room twisted and she fell as she was engulfed into darkness.