07 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part four

Chapter Three


Cartwright drove at just under the speed limit, saying little. The radio played some kind of jazz music, as it often did at this time of night. Seth sat in silence, half listening to the awful music, half staring blankly ahead and trying not to get his hopes up. This could well be a dead end.

The rain was easing off when the car pulled up behind a blue Ford. Seth recognised the registration number. Thomas had already arrived.

Cartwright nodded toward a building a few metres further down the road. 'That's the place. Third floor.'

Seth looked over at the building. A window on the second floor shone light out into the street, through thin curtains. The rest of the building was lifeless: no lights, no open windows, no sign of activity at all.

Cartwright pulled a gun from his shoulder holster and checked it.

'You won't need that,' said Seth.

'It makes me feel better.'

'Just don't go for it. It won't do you any good.'

'Yeah. I got that much from the CCTV.'

The younger man slipped the gun back into its holster and they both climbed out of the car.

Cartwright pulled his coat tighter around himself and turned up his collar. 'Bloody rain. Feels like it's been raining for days.'

Seth walked over to the blue Ford and knocked on the driver's side window. There was no answer.

'Maybe he's already inside,' said Cartwright.


Seth knocked again. No answer.

He opened the door.

Thomas sat motionless in the driver's seat. His safety belt was fastened, his hands were folded on his lap. His head lolled to one side.

Seth reached in and felt for a pulse. There was none.

'Shit,' he muttered.

Cartwright reached for his gun. Seth shot him a stern glance.

Cartwright lowered his hand, sheepishly. 'Sorry. Instinct.'

'It'll get you killed,' said Seth.

He reached around, unfastened the safety belt, and slipped his hand into the dead man's jacket. Thomas's gun was still in its holster. He flicked off the strap that held the gun in place and pulled it out.

'Two bullets missing,' said Seth.

'So he wasn't killed here.'

'Most likely.'

Seth slipped the gun back into its holster and closed the door. 'Let's check inside.'


The building was an old, run down block of flats in the centre of town. Seth tried the door, found it locked, and quickly had it open. The lock was an old Yale type, providing little resistance to anyone but an honest man.

It was cold inside and smelled of mould but at least it was dry. Seth looked around, taking in all the important details quickly. Two doors, both closed and no spy holes. One set of stairs leading up. One set of double doors leading into a communal area of some kind. He turned to Cartwright and pointed up. The younger man nodded.

They took the stairs one at a time, sticking to the outside, along the wall, to minimise the chance of creaking wood giving away their presence. The first floor had four doors leading off from it, all closed, all with spy holes. If anyone was at home, there was a chance they would be seen.

He decided it was a risk worth taking.

They continued up the next flight of stairs, leading to an identical set of four doors. Muted sounds of talking and music came from behind the closest door. Seth pictured the layout of the building in his mind and determined the sounds were coming from the room with the lights on that he had seen from outside. Would they be a problem? It was certainly possible, but it was a risk he would have to take.

Cartwright nodded toward the door, a questioning look on his face. Seth shook his head and pointed upward.

Another flight of stairs, another set of identical doors. Seth looked around. Nobody there. He glanced at Cartwright, who pointed to the door marked '3c'. Seth nodded and the two men took up positions on either side of the door.

Seth reached out and tried the handle. It turned. He opened the door gently and stepped inside.

The flat was small, poorly lit and unfurnished. An empty carton on orange juice, sat on the counter in the kitchen, beside a tall glass. Seth picked up the glass, sniffed at it, and set it back down on the counter. It smelled of orange but the dried remnants in the bottom were tinged with red.

Cartwright entered from the hallway. 'There's no one here.'

'There was,' said Seth. He drummed his fingers on the counter. 'Question is: have they left for good?'

'So what do we do?'

'We wait. Maybe she'll come back.'

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