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Authors: Barbara Spencer

Turning Point

BOOK: Turning Point
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Turning Point

Barbara Spencer

Copyright © 2013 Barbara Spencer

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,

or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents

Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in

any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the

publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with

the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries

concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.Matador

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Kibworth Beauchamp

Leicestershire LE8 0RX, UK

Tel: (+44) 116 279 2299

Fax: (+44) 116 279 2277

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Web: www.troubador.co.uk/matador

ISBN 9781783067978

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Cover image: Jessica Carreras

Matador
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd

Converted to eBook by
EasyEPUB

To all the fans of Running, who asked for another adventure

Also by Barbara Spencer

Young Adult

Running

Time Breaking

* * *

Childrens

Legend of the Five Javean

The Jack Burnside Adventures:

A Dangerous Game of Football and

The Bird Children

A Fishy Tail

Scruffy

* * *

For Younger Readers

A Serious Case of Chicken-itis

Prologue

The man paused and glanced back, his hand on the doorknob.
‘Kill them.'

His words registered in Scott's brain like a solid weight. Surprisingly, he no longer felt scared. Drained of energy, tiredness swept through his body blocking every sensation. Too tired even to keep battling. He eyed the open door. Once that closed it was over – all the anguish and pain. The door closed and silence fell. Pete drew his weapon. ‘You always were a gutsy kid,' he drawled. ‘I'm almost reluctant to kill you.'

Scott raised his head wearily. Like a juggernaut running amok, these people had become unstoppable. ‘Then don't.'

‘Sorry, kid.' He aimed the barrel of his weapon at Scott's chest. ‘As I told you before – this isn't personal. It's business.'

Scott watched the finger on the trigger tighten and shut his eyes.

One
Summer

The porter tapped politely before opening the door a crack, coughing loudly to alert the occupants of the room to his presence.

‘Mr Randal, sir, a visitor,' he announced, his voice carefully schooled to sound portentous.

The young man sitting by the window, his feet on the desk, was tall and dark with fine features that had stopped short of Homeric good looks by a broken nose and a kink in the jaw line – left from a high-speed collision with a tree while out skiing.

At the sight of the thin figure peering over the porter's burly shoulders, he leapt to his feet, a half-eaten doughnut dangling from his fingers.

‘Great Scott, it's Terry.'

‘You know this gentleman, sir?' The porter stated the obvious, although doubt was still uppermost in his tone. The gentleman in question was most likely one of those Yanks of Irish descent, badly dressed, not even bothering to shave. Not something the hallowed portals of Jesus College, in the fair city of Oxford, encouraged.

‘Absolutely, Bates, we're old climbing buddies.'

‘I see.' Pushing the door wide open he stepped to one side, almost grudgingly allowing the visitor to enter. ‘In that case, Mr Terry, sir, you are welcome.'

‘And to what do I owe this pleasure?' Beau's irresponsibly infectious tones burst out as the door finally closed behind the porter.

The middle Randal child ought to have been born on a Sunday. Nothing else would account for the ease with which he floated through life. Monday's child might have been fair of face and Tuesday's full of grace… But it was only the child born on the Sabbath day to whom the rhyme awarded gifts of being fair and wise and good and gay (in the old-fashioned sense of being happy). And his acceptance into the University of Oxford at seventeen had been as easy as everything else. Surprisingly he had applied to live in Hall and had been lucky enough to be awarded a room in his second year.

By contrast, the man standing by the door might easily have been mistaken for a down-and-out
,
someone
who hadn't bathed, shaved, or eaten in months. The porter had been correct about his being an American, although for the inhabitants of the eastern seaboard showering and bathing were as much a daily routine as the saluting of the flag in middle-America. And, as Beau knew only too well, the whippet-like figure disguised muscles of unbreakable steel, the result of climbing mountains most weekends when not working. Only the stubble on his chin provided a genuine clue to the man's character, his entire being devoted to the American Secret Service and their pursuit of the men who had destroyed America's reputation as a world leader.

‘Sit down and take the weight off while you explain what you're doing in Oxford,' Beau babbled cheerfully. ‘Coffee?'

Sean Terry's steely blue eyes broke into a reluctant smile and he collapsed his angular frame into a conveniently placed armchair. Beau disappeared into a side room, accompanied by the clatter of pottery and the abrupt click of an electric switch.

It was a large room overlooking the outer court with its immaculately kept lawn, the turf as sacred to the college authorities as any religious artefact was to the Church. The old-fashioned casement windows still retained their original wooden shutters, painted white and set deep into a recess on either side of the window. Thick walls and double doors kept sound in; the original oak door left in place as a gesture towards preserving the soul of building. Dark beams spanned a tall ceiling, which was sprinkled with ugly white cables running down the wall, splitting off into fire alarm, telephone and electric lighting, an aesthetically-challenging attempt to provide modern conveniences in a room five centuries old.

Beau stuck his head back into the room. ‘Nice isn't it. Can you believe I also have a kitchen and shower? I'll give you the tour later. May I tempt you with a doughnut? They are quite divine – I pick them up from a bakery on the way back from my run. I hope you're planning on staying. You can join me in the morning if you are – best way to see Oxford, a ten-mile run at six a.m.'

‘I'll not say no to a coffee and doughnut. I was up at five. I saw your dad last night. He said you'd taken up athletics.'

Beau reappeared carrying a tray which he placed on the table, passing across a steaming cup of black coffee. ‘Had to,' he said, sitting down again. ‘The old jaw won't take contact sports any more. That's why I'm still here – training stops for no man. Well…' He shrugged, ‘Holidays anyhow. Most of the others have already left for the summer. So, Dad?'

Sean Terry took a cautious sip of the steaming liquid. ‘Good man to have on your side if there's a spot of bother. Nice place you've got here. Historical!'

Beau grinned. ‘Terry, you didn't drive nearly three hundred miles to discuss the wallpaper. What's going on? Did you lose another Cornish resident?'

‘Give it time.' The agent rubbed his chin ruefully. ‘It's only a few months since the last one.'

‘Bill's okay, though.'

‘We were lucky there. Fraction of an inch either way and Scott'ud be an orphan right now. He's home – and mending nicely but that's about all. Got one of my men stationed there permanently.'

‘And Scott?'

‘Still hates my guts. Thinks I'll try and involve his dad again.'

‘And will you?'

‘I need him to convince the UN that America didn't blow up Iran and we aren't the bad guys…'

Beau grinned. ‘They already know that.'

Terry responded with a scowl. ‘But getting them to admit it, that's a whole different ball game. In any event, he and the Styrus project should stay together. No one else really understands it…'

‘So you are getting him involved again. Scott won't like that one little bit.'

Terry dropped back into his chair and gave a curt nod. ‘I know. Still, it's only till the UN scientists get up to speed. Hey, give me some credit, I'm into good deeds these days.'

‘
Lord above!
Things are definitely serious.' Beau grinned wickedly and took a bite of his doughnut. ‘But with you at the helm don't be surprised when it backfires.'

Terry acknowledged the hit with a rueful smile. ‘Okay, so in my walk of life good deeds are a sign of weakness. But they're a decent family and I like young Scott. He doesn't trust me, never has, and makes sure I know it; not by anything he says or does, but it's there deep down – tightly controlled. I admire that in a kid. That's why he can climb, because he's able to control his emotions.' He leaned back in his seat and picked up his coffee cup, wrapping both hands round it. ‘Once Bill is totally recovered and the UN are out of the way, I'll drag them back to the States – they'll be safe there.'

‘You mean they might still be in danger? How come? The bad guys ran away.'

‘Did they though?' The agent stared across at Beau, his blue eyes deeply serious. ‘I went over Bill's debriefing. It keeps me awake nights. I was talking to your father…'

‘Dad again! Aren't there any Americans worth talking to?'

Terry ignored the jibe. ‘Think about it. Somewhere in Europe is a man with dreams of becoming king. Then Bill and his little team of scientists come along with a world-beating computer virus…'

‘Is Styrus really that good?'

‘Bill says the only way to stop it is to switch computers off – permanently. He admits it was badly named – Black Death would have been more appropriate.'

Silence fell broken only by the sound of distant laughter. ‘It's impossible to imagine a world without computers,' Beau said after a moment, his brow furrowed thoughtfully.

‘Hell yes! That's why the UN must take it on. No one country – not even my own – can be allowed to wield
that
sort of power. Half the team that created it are dead, Bill captured, and it's not even out of the wrapping paper yet. Okay, so we managed to get him back, but the men responsible vanished with the computer discs, blowing up half of Holland on the way. We were lucky not to have more casualties.'

‘But…'

‘Ferdinand Aquilla, the mysterious Mr Smith's right-hand man, told Bill – and I quote, “In the big scheme of things, this doesn't even register”.'

‘Ah!' Beau dusted the sugar off his fingers. ‘Hence the sleepless nights.'

‘Yep!' Sean Terry's expression took on a grey glaze, his eyes bleak. ‘I think it's about to get scary – and I've seen scary.'

Beau gave a whistle of surprise. ‘The ace detective admits a weakness – whatever next? So what is this good deed you happened to stumble over?' Beau strung his long legs over the arm of the chair.

‘Oh that!' Terry reached forward and topped up his half-empty coffee cup from the filter jug on the tray. ‘I suggested Hilary should think about quitting the service.'

‘Ah! Young love, eh. Very powerful stuff. My advice is: never get involved.'

‘How old are you? Nineteen? Twenty?'

Beau hooted with laughter. ‘A very old nineteen. I'm right though. Scott might forgive you his dad but not his girlfriend. So why are you unloading this on me?'

‘I trust you.'

Beau leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. ‘Trust and faith – the most seductive words in the English language,' he said dreamily. ‘Tell people you have faith in them, trust them, and they queue up to do your bidding.'

Terry shifted in his seat as if suddenly uncomfortable. ‘Back at the hospital in Lisse, you said you might like to join our team.'

‘Absolutely, once I've finished my degree – I'm your man.'

‘Trouble is – it can't wait.'

Beau's eyes flew open again and he bent forward, his normal amused expression wiped off. ‘I should have been a betting man. When I saw you standing there, I got this chill deep in my bowels, that was nothing to do with my run earlier in the day. Knew all along you had something up your sleeve. Spit it out.'

‘I hope you are still acting this cheerful when I reach the end. It's refreshing.' Sean Terry's voice took on the texture of gravel – harsh and rough. ‘Have you been keeping up with the news?' Beau gazed across the room, one eyebrow lifted questioningly.

‘Two major conglomerates – rock solid for a century – gone into receivership. Debts galore. What's the betting our Mr Smith is behind it?'

Beau sprinkled some flakes of sugar into his coffee, stirring it briskly. ‘So soon?'

‘Told you it was getting scary. Do you know what I did last night, and the night before? Watched student riots on
News 24
. Belfast suffers riots most weekends; so does Paris, Lyons, Stuttgart, Rome, Lisbon, Brussels – you name it. On any weekend, the police throughout Europe are up to their asses.'

‘Isn't that to do with unemployment?' Beau asked

‘I don't think so!' The agent cut through Beau's words like a guillotine slicing paper. ‘On the face of it, maybe,' he conceded, ‘but behind the scenes, I believe they're being orchestrated, and rather carefully too. Aquilla actually boasted to Bill that Europe was packed with angry, unemployed youth who could be manipulated into doing anything.'

‘So how can I help? I'm definitely not angry although you could say I'm unemployed.' Beau reached for the coffee jug.

‘I want you to get yourself arrested.'

‘
Arrested
?' He burst into laughter. ‘Dad would never go for that. It would damage the fair name of Randal… ' Beau glanced affectionately round the small room, its white walls austere and lacking any form of embellishment except the memories of centuries. ‘Besides, the College would chuck me out.'

Terry rubbed his ear lobe. ‘Doug actually thinks it a good idea. Says, it's something he'd have wanted to do at your age.'

‘Go on!'

‘There's a rally planned for London in the next couple of weeks – royalists determined on bringing back the monarchy. It's an all-across-Europe thing. You know – a bunch of deluded middle-aged people who want to re-write history. Don't be surprised when violence breaks out. Join it. If possible, get yourself arrested. For minor affray you'll most likely end up at one of the new internment camps. All very practical and sensible. Everyone agrees that short, sharp punishments are the way forward.'

‘But why?'

‘Ten years ago, a young immigrant applied to me for a job. Brash chap. Wanted to serve America. I had agents coming out of the woodwork – they weren't needed any more with the US foreign policy in tatters – and reluctantly I sent him away, telling him to keep in touch. He wandered back to Europe and got hired by a nest of villains. To my surprise, he contacted me a few years later offering information in return for… peanuts, I guess.' Terry shrugged and took a sip of his coffee.

Beau rested both feet on the table, his glance absentmindedly flicking through the window where a couple of sparrows were bickering over a crust of bread on his window sill.

‘A job was what he was after in the US, with a green card,' Sean Terry continued his monologue. ‘For a couple of years he was involved in some pretty nasty goings on – feeding me information when he could, protecting our interests in Europe. A year ago, he asked me to meet him in Belgium. For some reason, pure instinct, I told no one. Thank God, he wouldn't be alive today if I had.'

Beau raised his eyebrows. ‘Nice people you mix with.'

‘If you look hard enough,' the agent's tone grated harshly, like stone through a crusher, ‘you'll meet up with murderers even in the most exclusive society – and don't you ever forget it. You won't live long enough to regret it, if you do.'

‘Like that, eh?'

Terry gave a curt nod. ‘The chap had changed, coarsened, and he admitted he'd killed. Swore it was necessary to stay alive and become trusted. Had a strange story to tell. One that involved computer scientists and underground cities, in which armies of teenagers were being programmed to set Europe alight… Those were his exact words.'

BOOK: Turning Point
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