Authors: Peter Jay Black
Dedicated to my mother
Jack Fenton sat on the pavement next to Charlie. He shivered and pulled a dirty blanket up to his neck.
They were opposite an apartment block near Hyde Park, London. On the ground floor, through a set of glass doors, they could make out a concierge sitting behind a desk, reading a magazine.
There was a clock on the wall above his head and its second hand seemed to be moving way too fast.
‘They’re an hour late,’ Jack whispered into the microphone on his headset. ‘If they’re any later, we’ll have to –’
‘Relax,’ a voice said in his ear. ‘It’ll be fine.’ Obi was back at their headquarters, surrounded by sophisticated computers that could tap into CCTV systems around London.
‘What if they don’t deliver it?’
Jack sighed. This was a special mission they were doing for Obi and they couldn’t let him down. Obi used to live in the apartment building, so he was the right person to guide them through the next half an hour or so, but Jack felt uneasy about it. He was used to being in control. ‘What if they deliver it to the wrong place?’ he said.
‘How do you know?’ Jack glanced at Charlie. ‘Wait, you do realise we have no way to –’
Charlie’s bright green eyes widened and she pointed at a delivery van as it turned into the road.
Jack let out a breath. ‘Thank God.’
‘Told you so,’ Obi said. ‘Get ready.’
The van stopped in front of the apartment block’s entrance and the driver hopped out. He walked to the back of the van, whistling as he went, and threw open the doors.
Charlie unzipped her backpack and took out a device shaped like a satellite dish, only this was a lot smaller. It was one of her homemade gadgets – a directional microphone, able to pick up the faintest whisper from a hundred metres away. She connected it to her headset so they could all hear.
Jack pressed a pair of mini binoculars to his eyes.
With a lot of grunts and moans, the delivery guy loaded a box on to a set of sack trucks and wheeled it to the glass doors.
He pressed the buzzer.
The concierge lowered his magazine.
The delivery driver nodded at the box.
After a few more seconds’ hesitation, the concierge typed a code into a keypad on his desk.
Jack closed his eyes and listened to the tones the keypad made in his headset. When he opened them again, the delivery driver was wheeling the box across the foyer.
‘Did you get it?’ Obi said.
‘Yeah,’ Jack whispered, keeping his attention on the building opposite.
The concierge stepped around the desk, scratching his head.
Charlie adjusted the directional microphone and his voice came through their earpieces.
‘Bit late for a delivery, isn’t it?’
‘Last one of the day,’ the delivery driver said.
‘Who’s it for?’ the concierge asked.
The delivery driver set the box down and checked the details on his mobile computer. ‘Paul McCartney.’ He held it out for the concierge to sign.
The concierge’s eyebrows rose. ‘
Paul McCartney?’ he said. ‘The guy from the Beatles?’
The delivery driver shrugged. ‘I dunno.’
Jack looked at Charlie and rolled his eyes, while Obi sniggered in their ears.
The concierge crossed his arms. ‘There’s no one here with that name. You’ll have to take it back.’
‘Not likely,’ the delivery driver said. ‘The address is right. See for yourself.’
The concierge didn’t move.
‘Look, mate. Just sign it, please? If no one claims it in the next few days, you can call the number at the bottom of the form and we’ll pick it up again. It’s Friday night, I gotta get home to the missus. She’ll throw a fit if I’m not back before eight. Last time she –’
‘All right, all right,’ the concierge snapped. ‘Give it here.’
The delivery driver thrust the mobile computer at him.
The concierge signed the screen and handed it back.
The delivery driver winked. ‘Cheers,’ he said, and marched to the door.
The concierge walked behind the desk and entered the security code into the keypad. To Jack’s ears, it sounded like musical notes. The door lock clicked open and the delivery driver left the building.
Jack watched him drive off, then he refocused on the concierge – he was back to reading his magazine.
So far, so good
‘OK,’ Obi said. ‘It’s time.’
There was a scratching sound.
The concierge glanced up for a moment, then continued reading.
There was another scratching sound.
The concierge put his magazine down and listened.
There it was again
He stood up and walked around his desk, following the sound, turning his head left and right, trying to locate where the noise was coming from. He paused for a moment, then bent down with his ear to the box.
The scratching sound was coming from inside.
The concierge continued to listen, unaware a tube had now slid out of a hole in the side of the box and was pointed directly at him.
A small blast of gas hit him square in the face and he straightened up with a look of surprise. He staggered sideways and gripped the edge of the desk for support. He swayed there for a moment, then stepped behind it and picked up the phone’s receiver.
He began to dial.
Jack’s stomach tightened. ‘No, no, no.’
But the concierge stopped dialling and his eyes lost their focus. He rocked backwards and collapsed in the chair. The phone slipped from his fingers and clattered to the floor.
The concierge gave a final jerk and fell unconscious.
Jack stared at Charlie. ‘What was that gas stuff?’
She grinned. ‘Best you don’t know.’
‘We’ll have to use that again sometime.’ Jack focused the binoculars at the box as the tip of a penknife blade poked out and, from the inside, someone cut open the tape securing the flaps.
The blade retracted and, after a few seconds, a head with blonde flowing curls popped out and looked around.
Wren was only ten – five years younger than Jack and Charlie – and the smallest of the Urban Outlaws. Hence she’d been the ideal one to use for this part of the mission.
‘Let’s go,’ Jack said, getting to his feet.
Charlie stood and slid the directional microphone back into her hard-shell backpack.
Jack adjusted the camera on his shoulder. ‘Image good?’ he asked Obi.
‘Yep. I can see everything.’
Jack glanced up and down the road. ‘CCTV?’
‘No one’s watching.’
Jack and Charlie hurried to the front door of the apartment building.
Wren smiled and waved at them.
Charlie waved back.
‘Get a move on, guys,’ Obi said. ‘Someone might come.’
Wren climbed out of the box and walked behind the desk.
Jack closed his eyes and remembered the precise sounds the keypad had made. ‘The code is: two, seven, seven, eight . . . three, five, five.’
Wren typed in the numbers, the door buzzed and the lock disengaged.
Jack pushed it open and gestured Charlie through.
‘That was clever,’ she said.
Charlie cocked an eyebrow at him. ‘Captain Modest.’
They smiled at each other as they marched across the foyer.
‘Good job,’ Charlie whispered to Wren.
Wren rubbed her neck. ‘I thought I was never gonna get out.’
Charlie ruffled her hair. ‘You were brilliant.’ She turned away and whispered into her mic, ‘Obi, you said the lift’s down this hallway, right?’
Charlie looked at Jack. ‘See you there.’
Charlie and Wren jogged around the corner and disappeared from view.
Jack opened the door behind the desk, grabbed the back of the chair and wheeled the unconscious man through.
The room beyond was a few metres square. Against the back wall was a small table with a kettle. To the left was a door with a
Jack tipped the concierge’s head back and checked his breathing. Fortunately, it was steady and strong.
Satisfied he’d be OK, Jack slipped back through the door and closed it behind him. He peered around the foyer – no one was there – so he hurried down the hallway and into the lift with Charlie and Wren.
Charlie had the button panel open, exposing a mess of wires and circuitry. She had clipped a small black box with a digital readout to several of the wires behind the panel and numbers scrolled down the screen. Now and again Charlie would press a button on the device.
She glanced at Jack. ‘This is taking longer than I thought.’
The lift was locked with a keypad. If they wanted to go to a specific floor, they had to hit that floor number and type in the corresponding code.
They didn’t know the code to the penthouse, which Obi said was changed weekly. Charlie’s code extractor would find it for them. The only problem was, it was random. She had no control over the order in which codes for each floor would come up.
‘What ones have you got so far?’ Jack asked her.
‘Seven, one, two, six and nine.’ Charlie took a breath. ‘None of them close to the top floor.’
Jack’s stomach tightened. Without the code, they wouldn’t be going any further.
‘Why can’t we go up the stairs?’ Wren said.
‘The cameras in the stairwell are on an isolated security system,’ Obi said. ‘They’re connected to a computer on the ninth floor.’
‘We couldn’t have turned them off at the concierge’s desk?’
‘No. He only monitors the cameras. He has no control over the main system.’
Jack and Obi had spent a long time trying to work out how to get past the cameras. There was just no way to reach the computer on the ninth floor and shut down the security system. The only other way to turn off the cameras was to use the override panels in each of the apartments. But breaking into one of them was too risky – they had no way of knowing if people were home or not.