by Malcolm Ferrier
Jack and Blake surveyed the ruins of an expansive office. The furniture was destroyed, the pictures on the wall were shattered, and a paper fire smoldered in the trash can. The computer monitor on the scarred desk was smashed, and pieces of a motherboard lay on the floor beside a cracked CPU case.
It was the morning after his escape from Galiano. Jack had managed to climb into the kayak and paddle to nearby Thetis Island. His arm caused him trouble, but fortunately the injury was not debilitating. Once on Thetis, he made an emergency call to update Blake and then chartered a float plane back to Vancouver. He arrived early in the morning to find Blake waiting for him.
“I’ve been to see Stevens in the hospital,” said Blake. “He’s not talking.”
“And we’ve got no proof,” said Jack.
“Let’s check out his office.”
When they arrived at Stevens’ downtown Vancouver office, there were police cars outside. Lieutenant Gardener was on the site and told them that Stevens’ office had been ransacked. He was able to get them into the crime scene.
They found themselves in the middle of chaos. Stevens’ office was destroyed.
“I have a feeling McCallum had one more errand to run before he skipped town,” said Jack.
“Stevens definitely covered his tracks,” replied Blake.
“I’m not so sure. All the paper is gone but I don’t think McCallum is a computer whiz.” Jack picked through the remains of the CPU. “The motherboard is smashed but the hard drive is still in one piece. We may be able to pull something from it.”
Jack pulled out a Swiss Army knife and disconnected the hard drive from the cracked CPU case. They walked into the empty office next door and Jack wired the hard drive into the computer on the desk. After booting up the computer, Jack scanned the drive. In addition to the usual administrative documents of a senior government official, there was a surprising amount of porn.
“Our tax dollars at work,” said Blake.
“I wonder what his expense account looks like,” said Jack.
There was one file that caught his eye. It was a PDF file of the detailed blueprints for the Parliament building in Victoria.
“Why would he have these?” asked Jack.
“That’s a good question. You wouldn’t think he’d need more than a basic map to get around the building…”
Jack and Blake looked at each other.
“…unless he was trying to get someone else in!” finished Jack.
“The Premier’s greeting the Chinese Ambassador this afternoon. They’re unveiling a peace statue on the lawn in front of the Parliament building.”
“That’s where Richards will be,” said Jack. “And I’ll have to be there too.”
Richards wheeled the custodial cart down the south hallway. He was dressed in a grey coverall with a staff ID clipped to his front breast pocket. The wheels squeaked as he turned the corner.
He was amazed at how simple it was to get into the building. Even with the enhanced security surrounding the Chinese ambassador's visit, he still had no difficulty getting access with the pass provided by Stevens.
He went to a storage closet halfway down the hall and went in. It contained cleaning supplies, paper for the photocopiers, and stacks of foldable chairs. He began to move the boxes of paper.
Jack jumped out of the helicopter as soon as the skids hit the ground. Blake had arranged a charter jet chopper to take Jack to Victoria Harbor right after their visit to Stevens’ office. He ran off the landing pad into a waiting car.
“The Parliament building. And don’t waste time,” said Jack.
“Yes, sir,” said the dark suited driver. “It’s only a few blocks.”
“Step on it.”
The lawn of the Parliament building was already starting to fill with people. A large stage facing the building had been erected in front of a shrouded statue. Curtains covered the backstage areas.
Behind the left curtain Premier Wayne Stewart paced in front of Donald Grant, his chief of security.
“I don’t like this, Donald. What if that psycho is out there?”
“He’ll never get near you. We've secured the Parliament building, we’ve got men in the crowd, and there are no lines of sight from the surrounding buildings.”
“What about the call you got from the spook, Blaine or Blade?”
“Blake. He’s just got a hunch. He's sending a man to check it out.”
“I still don’t like it. I'd cancel if I could, but relations are difficult enough with the Chinese. Especially because of the Dalai Lama’s recent visit.”
“Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered.”
Richards finished moving the second row of boxes and started on the third. At the bottom of the third row he pulled open the middle two cartons. Underneath the paper in the boxes were the parts of a high-powered rifle and scope. Richards put them at the bottom of the shredded paper in the trash bag of his custodial cart. He wheeled the cart out and shut the closet door.
Jack was out of the car before it came to a complete stop. He sprinted up the steps of the Parliament building. Two dark-suited men with sunglasses and earpieces converged on him and blocked his way.
“I’ve got clearance,” said Jack. “The code phrase is 'Buffalo.'”
“You can pass,” said the larger of the two.
“I need your help,” continued Jack. “There may be a security breach. We’re looking for a white male, early forties, six feet, possibly wearing a disguise.”
“That’s just about everyone here,” said the smaller agent.
“He’ll be armed.”
“We’ll do what we can.” The larger agent spoke quickly into his wrist mike. Jack continued into the building.
Richards was almost there. He reached the small door at the end of a narrow corridor on the third floor when a voice called out.
Richards turned around slowly. A security agent was walking towards him down the hall.
“Yes, sir?” said Richards.
“What are you doing here?”
Richards looked at his custodial card and then back at the agent. “Cleaning,” he said simply.
“I need to check your cart.”
Richards stepped away from the cart. The agent looked at the collection of cleaning products and then stuck his hand into the mass of shredded paper. His eyes widened when he felt the barrel of the rifle but before he could react Richards was on him. Richards locked his right arm around the agent’s neck and pushed hard with his left hand. There was a quiet snap and the agent went limp.
Richards slowly lowered the man down to the ground. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It would all be over soon, though.
He unlocked the door, carried the body inside, and then retrieved the rifle components from the cart. He went through the door and pulled it shut. The hallway, empty except for the custodial cart, was quiet again.
Jack looked at the printout of the building's blueprints. Security had checked every floor but nothing was out of order. He tried again to put himself in Richards' mind. Where would he go? The roof was out of the question. There were no escape routes and he’d be a sitting duck. An office window would be the obvious choice, but all of the offices had been searched and the hallways locked down. So where was he? Jack didn’t believe the man had given up. He was too motivated…
Wait. That was it. Richards didn’t need an escape route because he didn’t plan to escape. He’d sent himself on a suicide mission!
Jack ran towards a nearby stairwell.
Stewart was about to step on stage. He would introduce the Chinese ambassador and then together they would unveil the new statue. He still thought this was madness, but he had to trust his people. They knew what they were doing.
Richards finished assembling his rifle. He was on the small exterior balcony at the top of the Parliament building's domed roof. He had a complete view of the stage.
He looked through the scope. An aide was standing at the podium introducing the Premier. Richards thought about the irony of a leader struck down by a bullet from his seat of power. It wouldn’t be long now.
Jack emerged from the third story stairwell at a run. There was only one covered position on the roof and this hallway led to the access point. He saw an abandoned custodial cart sitting in front of a small door at the end of the hall. Richards was close.
He opened the door at the end of the hall and saw the agent’s body. He quickly checked for a pulse. Nothing. Richards had a lot to answer for. Jack continued up the spiral staircase to the roof.
Premier Stewart walked out onto the stage to both cheers and taunts. He waved and took his place at the podium.
Richards centered the crosshairs on the Premier’s head. This was it. Stewart’s decisions had led to the death of Richards' wife and child. Now Stewart would pay. He held his breath and slowly squeezed the trigger.
Jack reached the top of the staircase and saw Richards fifteen feet away, ready to fire. There was no way Jack could reach him in time.
“Richards!” Jack called.
Richard spun around, leveling the rifle at Jack.
“If you shoot me, you won't get another shot at the Premier,” Jack said calmly, slowly moving towards Richards. “A security team will hear the shot and have him shielded before you can fire again.”
“Stop where you are!” said Richards.
Jack stopped. Richards was still ten feet away.
“This won't bring your wife and child back,” said Jack. “Lay down the gun and I can help you.”
Richards' eyes filled with fury. “Someone has to pay,” he said quietly. He spun around, raising the rifle’s scope to his eye.
There is a story about Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. In the early 1920's, shortly after the invention of the motion picture camera, Ueshiba was filmed practicing Aikido. When the film was developed it was noted that between two frames of film, Ueshiba had moved ten feet. Given that each frame was 1/24th of the second apart, he had moved at approximately 160 miles per hour.
There was no way Jack could have reached Richards before he shot the Premier, but he did. As Richards pulled the trigger, Jack pushed his shoulder. The gun fired.
The bullet passed through the podium and embedded itself into the stage. A fraction of a second later the sound of the shot reached Premier Stewart’s ears. Instantly he was surrounded by a disorienting number of security agents who rushed him off the stage.
Richards tried to level the rifle at Jack but was blocked by Jack’s arm. Jack managed to twist himself between Richards and the rifle. The weapon went flying. It hit the ground, slid, and fell down the stairwell.
Richards locked his arms around Jack’s neck and tightened his grip. Jack grabbed the man’s arms and attempted to free himself but Richards' fury had given him additional strength. The man was too strong. Jack fell to his knees, fighting for consciousness.
His vision swam. With a supreme effort, he got his feet underneath his body and pushed up as hard as he could. Richards hit the railing of the balcony hard enough to knock the wind out of him.
Jack seized Richards' arm, pulled it away from his neck, and initiated a full body throw. In his oxygen-starved state, Jack miscalculated his opponent's landing position. Richards fell over the balcony railing and hit the domed roof. He scrabbled for a handhold but found nothing.
Jack leaned over the railing and tried to grab Richards' hand but he was out of reach. Jack looked into Richards' eyes and saw resignation as he slid down the dome, gaining speed. He flew off the edge of the dome, out of sight.
Even during the fall that killed him, Richards didn’t make a sound.