Author's Note: Okay, I've been wanting to write a modern
Hornblower story for a long time, but haven't had any good ideas,
till now. Also, I've never been to London, know nothing of the city
and very little about England in general, so bear with me and forgive
any egregious errors.
The office was dark, empty and cold. It had been completely
darkness as the sun set over London's horizon and night fell upon the
city. A single desk sat in the middle of the room, a beam of dim
light cast over its middle by the full moon. Papers spilled out over
it's edges, over the sides and onto the floor. The leaves of a small
plant bustled in the breeze.
No one was left inside the building, save the lone security
that slept peacefully at his desk with his feet propped up beside his
computer. His hat tipped down over his eyes, and even if he had
managed to open them his brim would have obscured his view of the
security monitors. As it was he never noticed the dark figure
venturing carefully out of the Women's bathroom on the third floor.
The plan was working out perfectly. It had been well worth
discomfort of nearly two hours stuck inside the ventilation system of
the building seeing as how much easier it was to break in once
already inside. The Women's bathroom had offered an especially ideal
hiding place since their were only a few women working on the third
floor. So the intruder had come in during regular hours, made their
way to the third floor restroom, crawled inside one of the air vents
and waited until the workers had left for the evening and the
security guards had made their final sweep.
The figure left the restroom as carefully as one was able.
person moved as close to the wall as possible, placing their arms
spread eagle across the plaster and sliding down the hall. The
security camera set up outside the office at the end of the hallway
could only capture a brief moment of the person's movement before
they moved out of range. The intruder didn't bother with the
pretense of the office door, it was surely locked, and even more
surely protected by something. Instead the intruder passed the
office, and slid open the window that led out onto the fire escape on
the North side of the building.
The spring night was still considerably chilly, and a steady
of swears passed quietly by the lips of the intruder. The breeze was
stiff and cut to the bone, the chills racking their body nearly
sending the person plummeting three stories down onto the concrete in
a dark alley. Two emerald green eyes briefly scanned the ground
below. 'Dear God how I hate heights.' Gathering reserves of courage
the dark figure stepped carefully off the fire escape and onto the
narrow six-inch ledge that wound beneath the base of the third story
Two gloved hands clung furiously to the brick wall, jamming
into whatever nooks there were to be found. The skin of the figure's
face pressed hard onto the cold brick and eyes squeezed shut tightly
as they tried not to think about the possibility of falling. Once
the figure succeeded in ceasing the tremors that racked their
shoulders he proceeded slowly along the edge, to the window nearest
the fire escape.
The window was unlocked, as promised. It slid up easily and
noiselessly, allowing painless entry into the office of interest.
The figure crept in unnoticed by anyone lingering in the streets, a
mere shadow among shadows. The window was shut as quietly as it had
The figure went first to the desk, rifling among the papers
without honestly expecting to find anything. There was nothing of
any spectacular interest, the most captivating of any of the papers
had to do with a new tax proposed on the shipyards. These papers
were not what the intruder was looking for and he left them where
they lay, askew atop the mahogany.
The figure's attentions were thus given to the heavy cabinet
next to the closet. It's solid oak doors were locked, but that was
an easy enough problem to fix. Withdrawing two slender picks from a
small case hanging across his chest the intruder went to work on the
doors. It didn't take very long to hear the satisfying click of the
bolt sliding into place but then, it never took very long. Sometimes
he would even time the process to make it more interesting.
The doors opened to reveal a large, heavy safe. The keypad
electronic locking mechanism stared out a glaring white against the
darkness of the rest of the room. It was almost inviting the
challenge. The figure let out the barest hint of a smile and green
eyes shimmered with excitement. Taking a slender, stiff piece of
plastic from out of the satchel the intruder went to work in prying
off the keypad.
The entire course of action took only a few minutes. Soon
encrypted nine digit number code was being worked out and locked into
the safe's tiny computer. Three-five-two-nine-one-seven-eight-two
and then the last, nine. There was a faint whir as the tumblers fell
into place and the safe swung open. The soft, sly smile was now a
Inside the safe lay a multitude of rewards, ranging from thick
of pound notes to papers to a set of keys that went along with who-
knew-what. The thick manila envelope was placed invitingly atop the
other papers. Pulling it out from the depths of the safe the
intruder ran their fingers over the seal on the front, the sign of
the official documents of the British Parliament. The intruder
bypassed the remainder of the contents, placed the parcel by their
feet and swiftly returned the keypad to it's rightful place on the
front of the safe. If all went according to plan no one would miss
the documents till Monday.
Satisfied that all things had been rightfully set in their
intruder trod swiftly back toward the window. There was, after all,
no sense in being someplace you weren't supposed to be for longer
than absolutely necessary. A faint creak in the floorboards back by
the other end of the office made the intruder stop dead in their
tracks. The hair prickled on the back of their necks and a chill ran
through their spine that had absolutely nothing to do with the
weather or the breeze. By the time the thief realized that they were
not alone in the room it was too late to do anything about it. All
that came across in the thief's mind was the sensation of being
struck firmly over the head, and sinking to the office floor.
"Sirs! Over 'ere sirs," a thick, heavy voice called
from the edge of
the crowd of police and emergency workers. Two officers, one
smallish with flaming red hair, the other large and ruddy faced waved
over the two men that had just emerged from the dark sedan.
The elder of the two moved more quickly through the ever-growing
crowd. "What the devil is going on here Oldroyd, Styles? This crowd
should be held back. We're not running a show here."
"The men are doing the best they can Mr. Clayton sir,"
protested mildly. "The more we try to keep them from lookin, the
more they seem to want to look. Not that I blame them sirs, what
with all the speculation goin' on."
"So then it's happened again," the fair haired young
beside Clayton muttered. He was a few inches shorter than Clayton,
though not built so lean, and was more than a few years junior of the
other three men speaking. "Wonderful." Archie Kennedy's deep blue
eyes were darkened by concern.
"Well we don't rightly know what's goin' on, but I'd expect
happened again since they called in the likes a you two," Oldroyd
said definitively. "Tends never to be good news with your kind
around. No offense."
"Well, I should say we ought to stop hypothesizing and
what's going on then," Clayton stated reasonably. "Who is running
this operation at the moment?"
"Constable Matthews sir. I'd expect you'd find him somewhere
there," Oldroyd gestured vaguely to the middle of a fairly large
circle of police officers nearest to the house entrance.
Clayton nodded curtly and turned on his heel. "Come on
Kennedy smiled falsely, agreeably. The blonde trotted off
superior after amiably parting ways with Styles and Oldroyd. The
murmurs drifting out from the agitated crowds were eased only
slightly by the platitudes the uniformed officers handed out in
droves. Clayton seemed altogether impervious to the unsettled
masses, his face revealing no hint of emotion. The blank poker face
stare irked Kennedy unbelievably, though it seemed a staple of many
of the members of British Intelligence, his closest friend included.
Matthews was not a particularly large man. His stature was
wiry, and his frame of medium stature. Curly gray hair sat atop a
weather beaten visage. Matthews spotted Clayton and Kennedy moving
closer and quickly shooed the remaining officers away. "Over here
sirs," he beckoned with a wave of his hand. Matthews removed his
cap, ran a hand through his hair, and licked his lower lip. These
were telltale nervous habits, and Archie ought to very well know,
seeing as he was an incurable pacer himself.
Clayton greeted Matthews with a nod and a handshake. "What
got then Constable?" Clayton's eyes flickered over the front door
briefly. "Is it another?"
Matthews nodded solemnly. "That's what it looks like
groaned audibly. "But I'd say we're bound to have a better idea to
the whole matter after you question the suspect."
Clayton's poker face slipped for a moment as a smile washed
features. Kennedy's head sprang up with new life with this plain
statement. "There's a suspect? In custody?" Kennedy pressed.
Perhaps all hope was not lost.
"Not as of just yet sir. But we believe the killer to
within the premises. The housemaid, she uh, arrived this morning to
find Mr. Stewart slain in his library on the second floor. She must
have been a might frightened but she followed a blood trail down the
stairs till it disappeared behind the doors of Stewart's study."
Clayton's pursed lips suggested that he was altogether unimpressed
with the information. "Did she go in the study?"
Matthews shook his head. "The lady was quite out of her
wits by that
point sir. She fled the flat and rung us up usin a neighbor's phone."
"So then how do we even know for certain that the killer
inside? He could have escaped, could have climbed out a window,
walked out the front door even."
"I respectfully have to disagree there sir. According
to Ms. Mason,
the housemaid, the windows in that study haven't opened in near to
ten years. The killer would be hard pressed to get through one a
those windows. And my boys have been inside, the blood trail stops
at the door, doesn't come back out. We're fair certain that whoever
ran in there, is still there."
Clayton nodded as Matthews spoke. "Are your men ready
to go in then
"My men are always ready sir."
"Right then, gather them up. We'll go as a cohesive wave.
Constable Matthews readjusted the cap on his head and winked.
that's good, but we only need two."
Matthews was as good as his word. In a matter of moments eight
officers, not including Kennedy, Clayton and Matthews, were ready and
waiting for orders near the bottom step of the London flat. The rest
were still doing their best to hold back the ever-growing crowd.
Clayton moved to the front of the group. His presence on the second
step drew every eye on him. "WE move on my order," he commanded.
Kennedy stood on the first step, not really paying as much
to Clayton as he probably should have. His thoughts were elsewhere,
drifting through memories. The old sick feeling was back, the
intense apprehension that gnawed away at his belly, making him feel
like a man half starved. He wondered if the others among him now
were guilty of such distresses. But then, he wasn't an ordinary
officer, and was not entitled to the same fears as those he was now
in the company of, or so he saw it anyway.
He wondered briefly if perhaps HE had ever felt so uneasy,
quickly cast the thought aside as rubbish. He would never panic;
never fear approaching dangers, it simply wasn't in his character.
He.....Kennedy was driven from his daze when Clayton barked at him,
and he resolved to listen to the rest of the impromptu speech.
A set of startling green eyes opened slowly, blinking rapidly
attempted to adjust to the bright stream of sunlight that lay over
them. The world that greeted these eyes was a blur at best. The
figure crumpled down at the foot of a large oak desk tried to move,
but halted abruptly as a sharp stab of pain lanced through his head.
Gingerly one hand was lifted to the head, and it registered a large
and rather nasty bump near the hairline. Dried blood flaked away
beneath the probing fingertips.
Bemoaning their present state of being, as well as the awful
his head, the intruder rolled carefully onto his stomach. He drew
his knees up under his body, forehead still resting on the ground.
Then, using the desk as a base of support, the figure lurched upright
onto unsteady legs. The world pitched violently before those green
eyes, and the figure nearly went down again. The eyes blinked again,
and the room finally began to come into focus, or at least, stopped
imitating an amusement park ride for the time being.
Voices approached the study door, becoming louder as they drew
nearer. A wave of panic struck cold, like ice down the back. Oh
God, to be caught at all would be humiliating, but to be caught
without even an attempt to escape, just standing clumsily by a desk,
would be a disgrace. The intruder's eyes darted around the room
uneasily. Was there anywhere to hide?
"Now," Clayton ordered. The study doors flew open
and eight officers
streamed in, four abreast in two waves. Clayton and Kennedy flanked
the men at either side and Matthews brought up the rear. The men
were ready for almost anything; a vicious attack from the side, a
half crazed killer threatening them with a knife. They weren't
however, prepared for what greeted them. Nothing. Aside from the
blood, now mostly dark and congealed, there was not a single sign of
anyone in the room.
Clayton turned on Matthews. Not even anger could shake the
expression from his features. The tone of his voice was curt, yet
polite, but the words scalding. "I thought you said the perpetrator
"He was here. My men have been guarding all the entrances
call came in. No one got out of this house."
"Then Constable could you please show me this perpetrator?
Was it an apparition that suddenly decided to vanish in thin air?
He's not here."
"I'm telling you sir he's here."
Casting one last hard look at Matthews Clayton turned to the
men. "Spread out all of you! I want this entire place searched from
top to bottom. If our man really didn't leave then he's hiding in
the house somewhere, and I expect you to find him. Now go!" The men
scattered, and Clayton stormed out of the study with Matthews on his
heels, leaving Kennedy alone in the study.
He sighed and leaned against the desk shaking hid head. Had
situation not been so dire he could have laughed. All his anxiety,
all his energy wasted on an empty study.
He breathed deeply. The room was utterly quiet, but for some
the hair at the back of his neck began to rise on end. A chill
coursed down through his spine and he suddenly got the distinct
feeling that he was NOT alone. He straightened tense and jumpy once
Kennedy moved cautiously about the perimeter of the room.
inspected everything around him for any movement, anything remotely
out of sorts. He circled the room once and had half convinced
himself that he was being paranoid, when one of the cupboards beneath
the bookshelves burst open. A figure, shrouded in black came at
him. Head down and driving like a rugby player, the figure slammed
straight into Kennedy's midsection. Caught unawares, Archie toppled
backward onto the carpet.
He landed squarely on his back, the wind forced from his lungs
momentarily. The figure scrambled back to his feet, but Kennedy was
ready. As the person's feet passed by his ear he lunged out and
latched onto their ankles. The suspect landed hard and grunted.
Kennedy rolled over and moved over the fallen soul, dodging a foot
that threatened to break his nose. He leaned one knee into the small
of the person's back and wrestled their hands behind their back.
"Clayton! Matthews!" he bellowed. "Get in
here!" It wasn't until
he turned his attentions back to his new captive that he noticed that
the person was smaller than he would have imagined, their hands less
course, and their wrists very narrow indeed.
The person didn't stop struggling. "Get off me you big
oaf, I can't
The voice was light, and as the suspect craned his head around
Kennedy was met with a shock that nearly made him let go of her
hands. Her hands. The person staring back at him with spitting
green eyes was a female. "But...But you're a woman," he stated
"Well aren't you the bloody friggin' genius? Is this
sort of earth
shattering observation something they teach you when you become a
cop, or does it just come naturally?" she sneered.
Clayton and Matthews had arrived, and both seemed just as shocked
Kennedy had been. "Well I'll be damned," Matthews said, taking off
his hat to scratch his head.
"Oh for the love of.....You ain't never seen a woman before
can hardly believe that it's such a shocking development. It's like
if I walked up to one of you and said, 'Oh, you're a man. I was
expecting a rabbit. Please."
Clayton managed a small smile. "A talkative one at that.
do you say Archie? Should we bring our rabbit in and see what good
ole Pellew makes of her? Can't wait to see the look on his face."
Two men stood beside each other in the dark, watching the proceedings
going on in the next room. Archie and Clayton were inside a small,
bare, gray room furnished only with a small table. A woman was
seated on one side, facing a mirror on the far wall. It was through
the mirror that the two men watched. Clayton and Kennedy peppered
her with questions, though in truth the woman seemed far more
interested in playing with the shackles that bound her right wrist to
the table, than she was in answering any of the questions.
The two men in the next room didn't speak or exchange glances.
people could have mistaken them for father and son. The elder of the
two had a regal, statesmanlike appearance. The younger was
approximately Kennedy's age, tall and willowy, almost gaunt with
severely defined cheekbones and a long straight nose. The stern set
to his mouth and curly dark hair completed the fairly appealing
But even more so than their features was the way in which the
represented themselves, the way they stood and the mark in their
eyes. Each stood with their backs ramrod straight, their hands
clasped firmly behind their backs. Their dark eyes were serious,
almost brooding. Both could hear the conversation in the next room
and it wasn't proceeding in the direction they had first hoped.
"What were you trying to accomplish by killing Stewart?"
prompted. He'd shed the navy jacket he'd been wearing on the back of
one of the chairs and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt.
"Stewart who?" The woman responded flippantly while
giving a light
tug against her manacles.
Clayton tried his hand. "I suppose you didn't go there
kill him now did you? You just wanted some information right? We
know you're a part of the terrorist group. We're just wondering what
you wanted from Stewart."
She laughed outright. "Me, a terrorist? Not bloody likely.
am a thief, nothing more, nothing less. You're yipping up the wrong
tree." Clayton and Kennedy exchanged glances. Sadly enough to say,
that was the straightest answer she'd given them all
afternoon. "Could one of you boys be a doll and get me some water?
I'm feeling a bit parched. Thanks love." She seemed happy enough to
ignore the fact that neither Kennedy nor Clayton had moved.
Clayton bit back a sigh. "So then, you went to steal
Did he get in your way?"
"You two are right thick aren't you? I didn't go to Stewart's
all. I went to his office building and broke into his safe. I do
believe I've mentioned this before. I've no idea how I got to
Stewart's flat, I don't even know where that is! I was hired for the
purposes of retrieving some documents. Although it seems someone was
trying to set me up, for when I went there I was struck unconscious
and the next thing you know I end up at this poor sod's flat."
"What were the papers you stole from the office?" Kennedy asked.
The woman sighed again. "How the hell am I supposed to
didn't go looking at the things. Can't you just call someone and
find out what I took? I mean, you all do communicate with one
another don't you?"
"Excuse me if I find what you're saying a little difficult
Miss," Clayton said. "But you claim to have broken into the office
of a member of the Ministry of Defense."
"Well my God you make it sound as though it's difficult,"
guffawed. "You know for a government organization you really ought
to have better security. Anyone with half a brain could sneak in
"Anyone with half a brain and a thousand pound set of
lock picks you
mean," Kennedy countered. "We uh, found your tools."
"I would suggest that you start to cooperate Miss,"
"And why exactly is that?" she sniggered. "Are
the two of you going
to start really intimidating me with your mental prowess? Forgive me
for not being all that impressed thus far."
Kennedy was under the distinct impression that he and Clayton
longer in control of this interview. She was as well practiced in
evading their questions as they were at giving at them. He didn't
like the feeling that he was being toyed with.
"You two aren't police are you?" They must have
looked at her oddly,
for she hurried on. "You two are wearing holsters," she
declared. "I was under the impression that guns were not permitted."
"We don't carry them on a day to day basis, but members
governmental Intelligence Agencies are permitted to carry them if
it's deemed necessary."
"Is that like Military Intelligence?" She laughed
part of the government are you two with anyway?"
Now utterly annoyed with the situation Kennedy leaned closer
resting heavily on his knuckles. He whispered darkly. "We're that
part of the government you don't need to know about. This is
pointless." With a sharp jerk of his head, he and Clayton left the
room. The two men from the other room met them outside.
"That was getting us nowhere sir," Clayton fumed.
"Half of what she
says is just irksome, and the other half unbelievable."
"She's certainly a pert little thing," Pellew agreed.
"Go call the
Ministry anyway Mr. Kennedy. Let's see if there really are any
missing papers. Have them scour their security videos as well."
"You don't really believe her to be truthful do you sir?"
"I believe that it behooves us to asses all the possibilities,
matter how improbable they may be." Reddening slightly, Archie
nodded, turned on his heel and strode quickly down the hall toward
his office and a phone.
Pellew regarded his two remaining men critically for a moment.
dark eyes flicked from one man to the other, one with many years of
experience and proven loyalty and the other, a young upstart who
would doubtlessly surpass him in later years.
"You gentlemen ought to be aware of the implications of
Stewart was performing for the defense department. He was a special
investigator. We have reason to believe that one of our own agents
is working with someone linked to known terrorist actions. Six
months ago a small shipment of arms was discovered coming into
Wales. We caught wind of the shipment, moved to intervene, but by
the time we arrived they were gone. There was no way for them to
know about the operation unless they were tipped off."
Clayton and Hornblower exchanged glances. A leak in the
organization, especially if it came from one of the higher ups, could
potentially be very, very bad. "Stewart was brought in as a
nonpartisan investigator to derive the identity of our rogue agent.
Judging by the somewhat limited information supplied by our female
friend, Stewart may have found what he was looking for, and got
killed for it."
Pellew appraised his agents again, now that the proverbial
out of the bag. Clayton appeared to be taking the announcement in
stride. Horatio, with his furrowed brow, seemed deep in thought.
Not of course, that Horatio being deep in thought would be anything
incredibly out of the norm. "Clayton, go ring up Constable
Matthews. Tell him we have a thief he can take in."
"A thief sir? But Stewart?"
"I highly doubt that she had anything to do with his demise.
Stewart, as you may remember was quite the large man. I doubt she
would be able to subdue him and slit his throat."
Clayton nodded. "yes sir. I'll make a check to see if
has made a fingerprinting match yet."
Clayton left, leaving Pellew and Horatio alone together in
Pellew knew the look on the young man's face well. "Is there
something you'd like to ask Mr. Hornblower?"
The expression of consternation did not leave Horatio's face
posed his query. "That's not all there is to tell, is it sir?"
"Now why would you say that?"
"Because sir, you would not have sent Kennedy on such
endeavor unless you wished for him to be out of the way. I imagine
the Ministry of Defense has been tearing Stewart's desk apart from
the moment news arrived. Unless... Is Mr. Kennedy is under suspicion
as the rogue?" Horatio bristled at the thought. "Sir, I've known
Archie for some time now and he would never...."
Pellew held up his hand for silence. "Enough, enough.
AS much as I
admire your loyalty, I would say that you are wasting your wind.
rest assured that Mr. Kennedy is NOT under suspicion. But you are
correct in that I wanted neither Kennedy nor Clayton to hear what I
have to say next. I can trust in your silence can't I Horatio?"
Horatio's mind was racing now. What exactly did Pellew want
quiet? Why, of all people to keep secrets from, would he want to
withhold information from two of his best agents? then he realized
that he had not yet answered Pellew and mentally kicked himself. "Of
"Good. I believe I mentioned earlier that the rogue was
alongside a man linked to terrorists. What I omitted however, was
that this link used to be one of our very own, making him a double
threat. You knew him, though not quite so well as Kennedy or
Clayton. We believe that man is Jack Simpson."