Read The Mark of Halam Online

Authors: Thomas Ryan

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #War & Military, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Military, #Spies & Politics, #Conspiracies, #Thriller, #Thrillers

The Mark of Halam

BOOK: The Mark of Halam
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PRAISE FOR THE AUTHOR

‘Ryan is a freaking good storyteller. What a brain!’

— Ron Davis, author of
Disadvantage Line

 

‘A ripping good yarn, well told.’

— Capt. Martin Knight-Willis MC Rtd.

Formerly New Zealand SAS and Rhodesian SAS

 

‘Ryan is that rare breed of thriller writer, a craftsman and an artist.’

— Lee Jackson, author of
Redemption

ALSO BY THOMAS RYAN

Short Stories

The Field of Blackbirds
(Jeff Bradley Book 1)

Short Stories Volume 2

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organisations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Text copyright © 2015 Thomas Ryan

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by Thomas & Mercer, Seattle

www.apub.com

 

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Thomas & Mercer are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

 

ISBN-13: 9781503946422

ISBN-10: 1503946428

 

Cover design by bürosüd
o
München,
www.buerosued.de

To Meg
a true heroine

1.

A
roar erupted from the protestors gathered in front of Auckland’s Bledisloe Wharf. He was more than a block away but the chants were easily heard. An American nuclear submarine was about to visit and the citizens of New Zealand’s largest city were not happy. He shook his head. So what? He didn’t get the fuss. They rallied daily, but from his observations for most it was a game and each night turned into a party; barbecues, jugglers, buskers, alcohol and dancing. Where was the passion? Why hadn’t they ripped the dockyard gates down?

In the countries where he had lived, fighter planes fired missiles at buildings while residents slept. And car bombs blew up markets and killed whole families. That was something worth protesting.

He checked his watch. It was well after midday. If she had been coming home for lunch she would have been here by now.

The man opened the entry door to her apartment building and stepped into the foyer. The spring-loaded and sound-proofed doors shut with a barely audible click, muffling the din. He wiped his shoes on the welcome mat. Any grit would make a sound on the tiled floor.

As the elevator began its ascent he kept one eye on the floor numbers and visualised his next moves. When the elevator doors opened he would cross the floor, key in the lock, open the door, slip inside, close the door remembering to hold onto the door handle to make sure it doesn’t slam shut. Then pause, catch his breath and listen for movement.

During the day the blonde worked in a law office. A lawyer, maybe? A secretary? What did it matter? The previous evening when she walked home he had followed her. She stopped for drinks with friends. Everyone smiled at the sight of her and laughed at her comments; talked over each other to speak with her. People liked her; he liked her, he liked the way she moved. Her blonde hair, tied back, flicked like a horse’s tail as she walked. Her gait was athletic, head held high, not arrogance, confidence. He eavesdropped the conversation between her and her friends and learned her roommate would be gone for two nights.

The elevator doors opened. He moved quickly.

Entering her apartment in the day was risky, but checking the environment was a necessity. He didn’t need a dog the size of a horse ripping off his arm, or worse, a dog barking and waking her, or a chain on the door. The apartments that shared her floor had security peep-holes in their doors. At night the sound of elevator doors or unfamiliar noises might alert a neighbour. His movements needed to be smooth and assured so as to not draw attention. He would wear soft-soled shoes to muffle his steps across the tiled hallway floor.

It was easy enough to distinguish her room. Framed photos of her with friends and family hung on every wall.

Today, the trial run. Tomorrow he would return for the real thing.

2.

A
s he turned the corner Jeff Bradley decided he had enough energy left to sprint the last few hundred metres of his morning run. Rising to the challenge, his companion, Mary Sumner, dashed past him, her blonde ponytail bobbing and flicking like a horse’s tail. She turned, smiled, waved and then sped away. The perspiration coating her long legs glistened in the sunlight and the sight of her buttocks trapped within tight black thigh-length leggings offered Jeff some compensation for being bested. He had never beaten the Olympic triathlete medallist on any of their runs and she had never shown him mercy.

“Champions don’t become winners by training to lose,” had been her response when Jeff pleaded with her to let him win.

Mary was stretching when Jeff ran on to the Cheltenham beach sand. Hands on hips, he threw his head back and sucked air. The rising sun failed to bring any warmth to the morning chill. The bay was empty; the onset of autumn had sent sunbathers to cafés and shopping malls. That was fine by Jeff; he liked the sense of remoteness brought on by an uninhabited beach in the heart of the city.

“Ready for a swim?” Jeff asked.

Mary, her leg extended and resting on a block wall, nodded and bent forward, her nose touching her kneecap. “One more.” She changed legs and repeated the exercise then followed Jeff to the water’s edge. “It looks cold, Jeff.”

He stripped off his T-shirt and ran into the tide. An involuntary cry escaped from his lips as the cool water sprayed over him. “It’s not so bad . . . bloody hell it is cold.”

“Don’t be a coward,” she said, as she splashed him.

“I think this will have to be our last sea swim until next summer,” Jeff said. “I hate cold water.”

The tepid waters of the swimming pool in the city would be the new venue for their twice weekly water sports. They raced each other out to the yacht moored two hundred metres from the shoreline and put in a burst on the return leg. Again Mary finished well ahead. She was drying herself off with Jeff’s T-shirt when he made it onto the beach. She tossed the wet garment at him and ran off. When he caught up with her she was waiting in the driveway of his Church Street house. He waved to his neighbour, Larry Connors, who was buckling his two children into their safety seats. They had never talked but Jeff knew that Larry was an accomplished yachtsman with a growing international reputation if media reports were to be believed. He received a smile and a return wave. The young girls, following their father’s lead, waved as well. Jeff considered himself a bad neighbour but he wasn’t the
bake a cake and welcome to the neighbourhood type of guy and he
guessed his neighbour wasn’t either. No cake had ever been left on his doorstep.

“Are we weight training this morning?” Mary asked.

“Sorry, I have an appointment with your boss and then I need to get out to the vineyard. I’ll go to the gym tomorrow. You use the shower first. I’ll brew some coffee and after breakfast I’ll take you to work.”

“We could share the shower,” Mary teased.

“Be careful, or one of these days I’m going to take you up on that offer.”

“Sure you will. You’re all talk, Bradley.”

After a hot shower Jeff threw on jeans, a blue polo shirt and his brown Timberland boots. It took a good half hour to drive from Devonport, down the length of the Peninsula and on to the harbour bridge crossing, and another twenty minutes before he drove into the parking area next to his lawyer’s office. Jeff had engaged Quentin Douglas’s services when he assumed ownership of the West Auckland vineyard from his grandparents, and over the years they had become close friends.

“I have news,” Quentin said when he saw Jeff enter.

He pushed a document across the table. Jeff picked it up.

“One of the properties your grandmother left you. The ten hectares near Huapai? I have a buyer.”

Jeff looked up. “I thought you advised me to hang on to it?” he said.

“As your lawyer I must advise you when circumstances change. This is one of those circumstances. You’ve been made an offer that I’m not certain you can walk away from, two and a half million dollars.”

Jeff blinked.

“Yes I know. I was shocked as well. Someone has more money than sense.”

“That’s way above market value.”

“Sure is. And it’s in cash. When the agent phoned me I told him you weren’t interested in selling. Then he came back. Said the buyer wanted the property and price was no object. Apparently he’s a successful merchant banker. More money than he knows what to do with and he wants a country estate near the city. With a pond, just like the one on your property.” Quentin shrugged. “I told the agent a silly price and the banker accepted. So, what do you say?”

Jeff scratched his dark brown hair. Too long. He needed a haircut.

“It would mean you’d have enough cash for the divorce settlement and to pay out Rebecca.”

“Will she accept a deal and not take the vineyard to auction?”

“With cash in your pocket I can talk to her lawyer. Offer a little extra to clinch it. You need to agree to deal on this Huapai property first though. Even if the vineyard did go to auction you’d have more
than enough to make your own bid. Then you can send your ex-wife
on her way and get on with your life.”

“Funny things happen at auctions, Quentin.”

“The money, Jeff, do you want it or not?”

“I guess I have no choice.”

“Not quite true, you do have a choice. I’m your lawyer so I know your circumstances. You have more than enough money in assets and cash to never work again. The vineyard is only a hobby for you. It keeps you from spending your days on a stool in a bar somewhere. You don’t even like wine, you’re a beer drinker.”

“My vineyard, Boundary Fence,” Jeff said, “is very important to me as well you know. I promised my grandmother I would keep it in the family. And remember, it was overgrown with weeds when my grandmother gifted it to me. I’ve put in the hard graft to get it where it is today. I’m not letting it go, ever.”

“All right, all right, I get it,” Quentin laughed. “Keep the bloody thing. Now, do you want to sell the Huapai property or not?”

“I guess so.”

“Great, because I’d already accepted on your behalf and the cheque is in my trust account.”

Jeff grinned then shook his head. Mary entered, carrying two coffees.

“Jeff, Barbara Heywood from Channel Nine has been on the phone again. They want an interview.” She raised her eyebrows and gave a hint of a smile. “Seems like everyone wants a piece of you.”

Jeff shook his head. “Just tell them no, Mary. I don’t know why they keep bothering me.”

“Oh, I think bringing down that terrorist group in Kosovo might have had something to do with it. If you want to keep off the front pages of newspapers don’t be such a hero.”

“Just tell them no, can you do that Mary?”

Mary smiled. “Do you want me to always say no, or might there be a time you might want me to say yes?”

Jeff poked his tongue out at her.

Mary left the room and Quentin eyed Jeff suspiciously. “Have you two been training together again?” he asked.

“We often train together.”

Quentin frowned. “Just training, Jeff, nothing else I hope. Go find someone else to play with but stay away from my staff. And anyway, why is everyone phoning here looking for you?”

“Kimie at the vineyard tells everyone to phone my lawyer. I think it’s an East European thing.”

“Now. I have other news,” Quentin said. “I have a dream,” he said with a lousy Martin Luther King accent.

Jeff let out an involuntary groan.

“I want to open a nightclub,” Quentin said with a broad smile. “With a live band, bar, light snacks, the whole thing. What do you think?”

Quentin had the twinkle in his eye that Jeff had seen whenever he talked of his band days.

“I think you’re trying to relive your childhood, which I remind you was some years ago.”

“Of course I am. That’s the whole point. Who doesn’t want to be young again?”

Jeff knew of Quentin’s band days, how could he not, whenever they frequented a bar a few beers was enough to send Quentin down memory lane. Jeff had heard all the stories more than once of Quentin’s golden days of rock. If that wasn’t enough he had filled his office with rock paraphernalia. A jukebox sat in the corner and his old guitar hung on the wall above it. From time to time he would let his dark brown hair grow longer than it should until a judge’s frown sent him scurrying to the hairdresser.

“Does Jeannie know about this?” Jeff asked.

Quentin’s sideways glance told him she didn’t.

“I’m going to tell her when the time is right. I wanted to run it past you first.”

“Quentin, if you want a nightclub I’m behind you all the way, you know that. You don’t need my permission. I’m your friend not your mother.”

“Here’s a thought. I’ve made you so much money you could buy in with me. Partners. Fifty-fifty.”

Jeff shook his head. “I don’t want a nightclub and besides, I don’t have time.”

“You’ve plenty of time, but don’t worry, you can be the silent partner. I’ll run it. You don’t need to do anything but come when you want a night out. You’ll get to meet a lot of women.”

“I don’t need a nightclub to meet women.”

“Then do it to help me out. I’ll owe you. Besides, we can stock it with Boundary Fence wine. If you won’t do it for me, do it for your business,” Quentin pleaded.

“All right, all right I’m in. But if it becomes a hassle I’m selling up.”

“Fair enough.”

“You’ll still have to get it past Jeannie and I can’t believe she’ll agree,” Jeff said.

“Well, that’s sort of why I want you to be my partner.”

“You’re going to blame this on me. Great. Jeannie will never speak to me again. When do you intend starting this venture?”

Quentin grinned, school boyish. “I started three months ago.”

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