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A Plague of Dissent

A Plague of Dissent


Book excerpt

Chapter One

Rosie sat all night alone in the dark, not daring to turn on a light and far too frightened to sleep. Fear crept through every pore of her body. How could she sleep when she knew that there were men outside who were waiting for her to leave the house. Knowledge of that terrified her. The men banged on the front door, shouting through her letterbox and checking every accessible window.

All night she’d huddled up on the couch, fearful of every sound outside. Each creak of the old house filled her with panic.

Had the men somehow got inside?

She saw them arrive outside the front of her apartment, only minutes after arriving home. She’d parked her car in the car park just around the corner, rather than outside the apartment. She didn’t want to advertise her presence. She was uncertain if they knew she was home, but convinced they wouldn’t leave until they’d found her.

Rosie’s heartbeat pounded in her ears; her breath caught in her throat, acid rose in her stomach, and the urge to be sick consumed her. She needed to focus and clear her mind, but the fear of being captured overshadowed all her thoughts.

The events of the past week churned through her mind. How had they discovered what she’d done? Everything had been arranged by text. No one could have overheard a thing, but evidently someone had. And the news of that; how had it spread so quickly? One second she was committing the act, and the next these men were everywhere.

Over the past hour, her thoughts gradually turned from fear to the desperate need to escape. Weighing her options, he paced her small living room in an attempt to calm her thoughts. The front door was out of the question. She could climb out of her bathroom window, sneak out through the rear garden of the apartment below and into the back lane, and then get to her car before it got light. That was her best option. No, it was her only option. Dawn was an hour away, and she was nearly out of time. It was now or never. She had to make a decision.

She slipped on a pair of trainers and packed a small bag. Necessities only, her car keys, a pair of pants, and the cash she’d frantically scraped out of a drawer, her passport and credit cards were the only items she carried in the bag. Her only coherent thought was to get the hell out of town before the shit truly hit the fan.

Opening the bathroom window she slid out with her bag in tow, and dropped the few feet into the garden, trembling as she did. It was dark, very dark, and what little light the moon would have provided was soaked up by the thick black rain clouds that hung overhead. Cautiously, she made her way down the garden path, taking care not to kick one of the numerous potted plants that lined it, towards the gate and the back lane.

She checked; the lane was clear, and she could see the car where she had left it the night before. None of the men were in sight.

It’s now or never.

They would spot her soon enough, and the chase would begin.

With all the strength, she could muster Rosie took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she had to do before she slowly eased open the gate, hoping it didn’t creak and give her escape away. She entered the lane. The street lights at each end of the short lane, normally welcome, would tonight spotlight her to anybody at either end. She took her first steps as two men appeared under the street light at the far end. Too late now, they’d seen her. The shout went up

“There she is! She’s going for the car park.”

These words were quickly replaced by the sounds of running feet, as close to a dozen men appeared around the corner, illuminated under the street light.

She had no choice now, running was her only option. Rosie froze, but only for a moment. Then she ran.

Only three hundred meters to the car park. Get into the car, and get away.

I can do this.

Rosie ran, heedless of the numerous potholes brimming with water from the overnight rain that contrived to bring her to her knees, and dodged the randomly placed waste collection bins overflowing with rubbish. She crossed the road at the end; the car park and her car was close now, just on the other side of the road. She could hear her pursuers’ feet splash through the puddles, getting closer with every second. Venturing a glance over her shoulder, she could see they were gaining on her. She saw the double-decker bus when it was far too late.

When she turned her head back, the bus was on top of her, the shock on the driver’s face clearly visible as he tried to brake and steer away. Rosie screamed. The scream was followed by a sickening crunch, as the number six bus flung her ten meters through the air, to crumple like a rag doll onto a parked car.

Rosie lay over the front of the car, crumpled and broken on this wet forlorn morning, with her dying thoughts.

Why?

 

The seduction that started it had been going on from the moment she first began to temp in his office. Yes, of course she had known Alex Great was married, but his power and all that money he controlled as Chief Secretary to the Treasury seriously pressed her buttons. After all, all the politicians did it, didn’t they? The more senior they were, the more they slept around, and the office temps seemed to be the nature of the game. At least that was what her friend Jonathan had told her.

For the past five years, ever since her divorce, she’d had a succession of temp jobs. The first, in the International’s office, where she had met and had a brief fling with Jonathan Mason, and then one Fleet Street office or another followed. None being quite what she truly wanted; all of them left her unfulfilled, her true worth never recognised. The men she worked for saw only one thing, her stunning figure, which if truth be told, she’d always displayed and used to her advantage. But she craved more, much more; one day the right job or man, perhaps both, would come along, but until then she would make the most of her situation and her assets.

When she ran into Jonathan at a party, she’d told him quite innocently of her new job and the attentions she was getting from her new boss. She’d jumped at the offer Jonathan had made.

For several weeks, the Chief Secretary had been pleading with Rosie to have dinner with him. Following Jonathan’s suggestions she had capitulated, accepting an invitation to dine at the penthouse he kept at the Soho Hotel. He didn’t want to be seen out in public with her, she assumed. The thoughts of the eventual, generous pay day that Jonathan had promised removed any residual doubt she might have had.

That fateful night, Rosie knew she looked exceptionally good, she always did. Her office attire was revealing enough, but the dress she wore tonight, was little more than a spray- on. A sheath of red, clinging to her every ample curve, revealing more than it concealed. She’d expected that they would eat before she got her clothes off, but it hadn’t happened that way. No sooner was the door closed, than Alex began to pull off that tantalising dress, quickly revealing her stupendous body.

Later, lying back on the bed, she thought that, for an old, fat and balding guy, he was quite an attentive lover. It had been far better sex than she had anticipated. He certainly talked a lot in the office, and she had just discovered that his tongue was quite skilled in several other things as well.

There was a knock on the suite door.

“Room service.”

Alex opened the door and invited in the waiter with a service trolley.

"Over there," he said.

Ah yes, the hotel does like to look after their distinguished guests; I wonder what they have sent me?

The waiter pushed the trolley through the doors and into the center of the lounge of the hotel suite, and then proceeded to remove one of the silver domed lids covering the plates.

As he did so, it struck against a metallic object underneath, and the sound of metal upon metal caught Alex’s attention. As the lid cleared the plate, Alex was perplexed to see not a plate of food, but a camera. This the waiter-playing paparazzi quickly picked up, shooting five frames per second before he even had his eye to the viewfinder. It captured the balding, fat politician wrapped only in a towel, with his pretty blonde temp in bed behind him, clearly visible through the wide open double bedroom doors.

“What do you think, ah..?”

As soon as the paparazzi had picked up the camera, Alex Great raised his hands to try to cover his face, letting go of the towel around his waist, which had quickly slipped to the floor. The final shots captured Alex naked, red faced and screaming obscenities.

“No, stop! Get out, get out!”

It was over before they knew what had hit them; a precursor of the double-decker bus that would take her life twelve hours later. The paparazzi was gone within a minute, his memory card full and containing over a hundred compromising shots of them. It undoubtedly was far too late to panic, but that is precisely what the politician had done. He was still screaming obscenities at Rosie, accusing her of setting him up; that his career was over and his life in ruins.

It had all seemed like such a brilliant idea at the start. The plan, as suggested to her by Jonathan, had been exceedingly simple. Sleep with him for a few months and get something on him which Jonathan could use. The affair in itself would probably be enough; she would also be amply rewarded, the five figure sum Jonathan mentioned would have been very useful indeed.

She hadn’t bothered to think what Jonathan was getting out of the arrangement, or why he was prepared to pay so much for it. She’d worked with Jonathan as his secretary at the International, and should have been aware of his unorthodox methods. Unfortunately, like most dead certainties, it really wasn’t turning out the way she expected, although this was precisely what Jonathan had planned. It never crossed her mind he wanted the dirt on Alex Great now, not in a few months.

Rosie hadn’t anticipated this result at all. Lying in bed with a hysterical and profusely sweating politician, who was standing naked in front of her screaming obscenities at her, was not what she’d had in mind. Definitely this was the time to leave town for a while. One thing was for sure, he was not going to be a minister much longer, and he was no use to her anymore.

Grabbing her things, she’d slipped back into her dress. It wasn’t the sort of thing she would wear underwear with, so there was no need to search for them. Then she’d run as fast as she possibly could, pulling on her shoes as she ran down the hotel corridor and arrived home minutes before the hordes of press arrived at her door.

 

The bus driver had not seen the men chasing Rosie, and so hadn’t realised quite how the accident had happened. Nor did it occur to him to think how the press had arrived so quickly.

Rosie was splayed and motionless over the bonnet of the parked car, her head sagging down over the front, her neck broken. She was clearly dead, having taken the full impact of the bus as it accelerated away from the bus stop.

The driver immediately phoned for an ambulance before jumping out of his cab, and then checked for a pulse, which he felt sure was not going to be there. He grimaced as he did, trying to look away. Streams of blood ran down the bonnet and over the front of the car, pooling on the street. The tips of her long blonde hair, already beginning to stain the color of her blood, nestled in the widening red pool.

Her eyes were wide open and her crimson blood ran from both her mouth and nose, clearly illuminated by the cameras’ flashes. The paparazzi had arrived.

The first two, surprisingly, did not go for their cameras immediately, but as the rest arrived with their flashes blazing, Carl turned to his associate Fred and said:

“Stupid bitch! We might as well get something for our trouble”.

They, too, pulled up their cameras and recorded the scene, in all its gore.

Chapter Two

Several hours after Rosie’s death, Carl and Fred were in their office at The International’s HQ, or what used to be their office until recently. The office was hardly recognisable to what it had been only a week before. The four interconnecting rooms that made up the office space had been crammed with electronic monitoring equipment. It looked more like mission control for a space flight than a typical media office. Banks of flat screen computer monitors lined each workspace and a touch screen commanded the majority of most desks, with more monitors hung from a metal lattice work attached to the ceiling.

There wasn’t a communication device, computer or data network in the UK, even those that didn’t officially exist, that couldn’t have been accessed from here. Now all that remained was the metal framework hung from the ceiling, along with a few desks and hundreds of cables that sprouted from every conceivable point or coiled up upon the remaining desks.

A TV on in the corner of one of these rooms, the boss’s office, showed the Secretary of the Treasury getting out of his limo, outside No 10. The scene was a complete free for all; every TV crew in the western world seemed to be there, all jostling for the best position to record the action. They had only one theme to their shouted questions.

“Did he have any comments on the news stories that morning? Did he think the girl had committed suicide by running in front of the bus? And had he been summoned to No 10 to hand in his resignation?”

Carl, Fred and their boss Jonathan sat in his office, watching the breaking news. Through the glazed wall at the rear of the office, in an adjacent suite of rooms, three others could be seen packing the last of their delicate and expensive equipment away. When the breaking news bulletin finished, Jonathan turned to Fred and angrily spat:

“What the hell went wrong?”

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