I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritising.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
Was I working for a ghost?
O’Connor seemed to be more affluent than I because he was living in a flat located in an upmarket building. Getting into the ground floor required a passkey, one I suspect might also be needed to get in the front door of his flat, but I’d worry about that later.
My first problem was that front door, and it was not until a tradesman exited that I took the opportunity to appear to arrive at exactly the same time, pretending to find my card, and brushing past him as he was exiting. He ignored me, his hands full, being in a hurry.
It took a day and a half of watching the building, waiting for an opportunity. His flat was on the third floor and although there was an elevator, I took the stairs, hoping that I wouldn’t run into anyone.
Quickly and quietly, and thankfully without seeing another resident, I came out into the passageway, and it was about ten steps to his front door. Number 37. Not far away, in one direction, the end of the passage, and numbers 38, 39, and 40. In the other, four more flats and the end of the corridor. Windows at either end, perhaps an escape route. I would not use the elevator if I had to leave in a hurry.
There were two elevators and one staircase. Both elevators were stationary on the ground floor.
I knocked lightly on the door to number 37.
I knocked a little harder on the door. It was quite solid, and I had to wonder of the knocking sound penetrated the solid wood.
I checked the lock. Simple to open. We’d been given instruction by a master locksmith, and I’d brought my tools.
I waited a minute, checked to see if the elevators were still on the ground floor, then picked the lock, and was inside within a minute.
I felt along the wall for a light switch, usually by the door, and found it, and flicked it on. The sudden light was almost blinding, but then my eyes adjusted.
Trashed, much the same as my flat.
But, with a difference.
A woman was stretched out on the floor, unmoving. I could see, from where I was standing, she had been hit on the back of the head and could see the wound, and a trickle of blood through her hair.
Five steps to reach her, I reached down to check for a pulse.
Yes, she was alive.
I shook her gently. She didn’t react. I shook her a little more roughly and she stirred, then, as expected, lashed out.
I caught her hands, saying, “I just found you. I’m not your enemy.”
Of course, taking into account I was a stranger, in her flat without permission, ignoring that and continuing to struggle was an option. Instead, she said, “Who are you?”
“A friend of O’Connor. I worked with him. Something happened to him at work and he said if that happened, I was to come here. He didn’t say anything about you, though.”
“I live here, in the flat next door. I heard a noise and came to investigate. That’s all I remember.”
I helped her up into a sitting position, and, holding her head, looked around. “Did you do this?”
“No. Just got here. But it’s the same at my place. The people who did this are looking for something. By the look of it, they didn’t find it here either.”
I let her go. “I’ll get a damp cloth for your head. It didn’t look serious.”
“It hurts though.”
I stood and went over to the kitchenette. O’Connor was not much of a cook, the benches looked new, and there was nothing out. I looked in a draw near the sink and found a cloth, still with the price tag on it. I ran it under the water, then went back to her, now off the floor and sitting on one of the two chairs. I handed her the wet cloth and she put it against the injured part of her head.
“Who are you again?”
“I worked with him. My name is Sam. It’s unlikely that he mentioned me to you, or anyone. It’s the nature of our work.”
“You told me your name.”
“I’m trying to be helpful.”
“What do you do, what did Oliver do?”
“That, I’m afraid, I can’t say, except that we work for the government, what you might call supervisory work. Usually, it’s very boring, but O’Connor’s latest assignment got him into trouble. He was trying to find a USB with stolen documents on it. We think it has information someone wanted to leak to the newspapers. Oliver found it, and that’s what some people are looking for.”
“He didn’t give it to me. And he never said exactly what he did, but it was as you said, something to do with the government.”
“Perhaps you should go back to your flat, and report this to the police.”
“I was never here. I’m sorry that we couldn’t prevent this happening to you, but it might be a better idea to say nothing and keep well away from here. It can only cause you trouble.”
“I think you’re right.”
She stood and started walking towards the door. Me staying any longer would raise her suspicions about me, and any search I was going to do would have to wait.
I opened the door, she walked out, and I followed shutting the door after me.
“There’s nothing for me. I found out what I needed to know, now it’s time to go.”
I left her standing outside the door, and headed for the stairs. A last glance back showed her still outside the flat. I went down to the first landing, then stopped. It was part of the training, to treat everyone as suspicious.
Then I heard her voice, as she passed the top of the staircase, on her way back to her flat. “He was here, looking for the files. No, he’s gone.” A minutes silence, then “On my way.”
Another minute, I heard the elevator car arrive on the third floor.
I quickly ran down the stairs to the ground floor and waited at the door until she came out of the elevator, and heading for the door.
Then as she passed through the front door, I came out into the foyer just in time to see a car stop out the front, and a familiar face out through the rear window.
\© Charles Heath 2019