A Hard Way to Heaven

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Chapter 5

Glasgow, Scotland

Syn had finally slipped free from her dreams, and stumbled to her bathroom just after 8am. She rubbed her face, looking in the mirror, spying the dark circles, the exhaustion. She chuckled, recalling that one doctor that had diagnosed her with a severe case of sleep paralysis. They told her that the neurons in her brain misfired most of the night causing extreme tiredness and anxiety. How wrong they were. When submerged in dreams, it was a perpetual bad B rated Godzilla movie that dragged her soul through a variety of landscapes. Those sharp claws holding her fast, and draining every ounce of her energy.

Sometimes, when she broke free, punched out of the vortex of images, she wasn't tired. She was fully charged like the pink bunny, ready to go with a host of ideas. She knew she skirted insanity because the docs couldn't explain those rare occasions she woke with deep bruises and cuts. How many nights had she spent in a variety of torture chambers, the sleep clinics in Scotland and in the States with little results. The staff writing her off as one of those singular unique cases that they could not pin down. She was an enigma, a puzzle, left unsolved. She liked it that way; a mystery.

Syn cast off her shorts, tee shirt, and stepped into the shower to wash away the sticky sweat from her neck, and between her breasts. The images of her dreams played like an 8mm home movie in her mind as the water cascaded down over her shoulders. She knew her mind would not settle until she researched the news, and validated or disproved her dreams. She had stopped praying a long time go for salvation from her extrasensory perception. She learned to live with her skill, funneling the information into good use. She rewound the sequence of her dreams, and delved deeper into the details, creating a check list of keywords to power search when she hit the computer. This time she hoped that her search would end in a big fat zero, but doubted it. Her wishes were never her reality.

She finished her shower, dressed in her favorite jeans, charcoal grey tee shirt, and bounded out to the kitchen. She patted her Keurig coffee maker, hitting the brew button, and making a strong Italian roast. As the coffee dripped into her cup, she scrambled up some egg whites, and spinach on toast, carrying her breakfast over the open space of her living quarters to a large interactive computer table. With several voice commands, her handmade computer fired to life as her eyes lifted to a bank of systems across the wall, located within a temperature controlled closet. She grinned at her baby. The computer had taken three years to create, and she was always tinkering with it, never satisfied. If the machine were a man, he would be one sexy beast with insatiable demands. And for her...well there were hardly enough adjectives in old Webster to describe the satisfaction she felt from using it.

Syn's expertise was in human computer interaction theory, computer design, modeling and security. She had inherited her skills from her father, the billionaire, Gordon Macdonald; a genius tinker with more than enough degrees and over two hundred patents alone. Syn had finished high school at the age of fourteen, college on her seventeenth birthday with degrees in computer science, and criminal justice. She entered the police academy two days later.

She had spent one year on the street before moving to major crimes because of her unique ability in using computers to analyze human behavior and the nasty side of life. While battling crime on the streets, she attended NYU at night and attained a masters and PhD degrees in forensic anthropology and computer science. She joined her father in creating systems of decision modeling for major law enforcement agencies. Their efforts cumulated in the development of a powerful VIA or virtual interactive analyst, connecting the platforms, software, and the human element.

She took a sip of her coffee, cleared her throat and spoke naturally, prompting the computer to ease out of sleep mode. Several more voice commands turned on three large monitors, and Syn watched the screens flicker to life in seconds. The voice recognition program yawned, and a man's face focused into place. "Good morning Gregor..."

He had a deep brogue, scruffy from non-use. "Good mornin lass." She smiled as his virtual hand rubbed a whiskered chin, and a smirk broke his face, "I need a bit of shave this morning." Code to tell Syn that he needed time for upgrades and reconfiguration.

Syn took a forkful of eggs, looked at several small pop-up screens that emerged at the bottom of her far left monitor, "Later sweet cakes. You can have shower and shave (code for diagnostics and restart) while you do a search for me."

"Another restless night?" Gregor's eyes narrowed in concern. He was pulling his long black hair back off his face into a pony tail. Those hands, the code she wrote to simulate such long fingers made her drool. A shiver ran up her neck, and she visibly jerked in her chair, recalling her dreams, and something more. Someone or something, some thought was tap dancing across her grave. She let out a deep sigh, and reached for her coffee.

The hot liquid burned her tongue, and she swallowed several times, before speaking, "Yes, I'm going to key in the words, you hit the road (the Net) and see where it takes you. As always wear your gear (follow safety protocols)."

"As you wish M'Lady." The computer desk lit up as Gregor turned on the virtual keypad, and Syn spoke her list, watched the keys light up as Gregor typed. "Have fun love. Going to finish dressing."

"As always." Gregor replied as he disappeared from screen.

She rose, took up her plate and crossed the room to the arched windows. There was very little activity on the docks beyond, but the Glasgow sky was a robin blue, and the distant hills across the water were a tapestry of russets and greens. She pulled on the pulley system that opened the small window above her head, and let the sweet air into the room. She scarfed down her breakfast, took her plate, her mug into the kitchen, and deposited them into the dishwasher. She returned to the computer console fifteen minutes later. Gregor was reclined on a chaise lounge under a brilliant blue sky. "Is that the Aegean?" He nodded, not bothering taking off his Ray-Bans. He was clean shaven and looking much neater. Apparently, his shower and shave turned out fine.

Sometimes, she thought, she made the program too realistic, and on occasion threatened to turn him off. Gregor would come back, and cock a virtual eyebrow at her, reminding her just how much she would miss his ass. His lovely ass. She would turn him off anyway, needing to get back to reality. "Well, how did the search go?"

"I did several variations of strings and found several hits. They are marked and awaiting your perusal at your convenience."

"Anything..."

"Yes, just prepare yourself."

"Great, thank you. You can take a nap for a while. I'll call you if I have need."

"You always have need cheri." With that he faded from screen, and minimized to a small square in the right hand corner. She turned to the other monitor, and saw the folder on the desk top. She touched the screen, and gently tapped the folder to open. She groaned, "150 files. You call this several hits. Jesus it's a bloody book." She sat down and opened the first file.


Akir watched Raven and Lars Cameron ascend the stairs into the Gulf Stream 650ER. Lars turned and took another black bag from Reiser before their sniper joined them inside. Dac’s voice brought him back to the phone at his ear, “The usual protocols, find us a base of operations, somewhere off the grid. Have team two follow as soon as possible.”

Dac’s laughter rang in his ears, “Port Lewis is in the middle of fucking no where mon. We will be off the grid.”

“Make sure ye keep any reference to our activity…”

“I ken, away from the family. Why nae let Raven and Lars handles this, stay with Roric?”

Akir’s sighed deeply, his head fell back, thinking on his brother, “Nae…nae, I’m poison to him bràthair. Best I disappear back into the field.”

Dac had to try, “He needs ye too. He’s your last...”

He cut Dac off, “And I’m the reason he is now fighting for his life. I need to see this through once and for all. Time to bring him down.” But Akir’s gut was telling him differently, his sixth sense was vibrating like a lightening rod in the middle of a thunder storm. This was not going to end well. Élan Louvella was Akir's white whale, and he feared their fates were intertwined. He hit the end button, and took another black bag from Bryne. Their eyes locked, and Akir exchanged a subtle nod, turned and climbed the stairs into the aircraft.


Port Lewis, NY

Gordon Macdonald rubbed his face, exhausted. A twelve-hour long marathon coding session would do that to anyone. Starring at a screen, a SMART board, and paper for so long had started a dull throb at his temple, made his blue eyes dry. He pushed away from his desk, stood and crossed to a custom made mahogany sideboard. He opened one of the doors, revealing a small refrigerator. He pulled out one of his favorite green ice teas, and turned his back on the computer, needing a break. He reached for a button on the wall, and depressed it. The floor to ceiling windows opened to fresh air and the gardens beyond. He breathed deeply of the tangy autumn air, and walked out onto the stone patio.

A chime sounded behind him, alerting him to his email account's reception of a message. He returned to his desk, leaned over and tapped his touch screen. His jaw clenched as the one secure email account he never liked to see open, flared to life. The family was reaching out, and asking for something.

The message was from Archie Macleod, one of the senior elders. He frowned, and then his heart stopped at the clear warning. Gordon tapped another point on the tabletop, and the large TV plasma screen on the wall flared to life. Another button split the screen into four different sections for local news channels. He came around his desk, and leaned against the edge, watching, listening closely. All four channels were reporting on a grisly murder down at the old, unused dock area in the northeast part of town. The news crews were writing it off as nothing, but Gordon knew differently. This was just the start.

His exhaustion was forgotten as he returned to his desk, closed down his email account, calling out, "Marg, secure the keep."

The silky tones of a female voice sounded through the room, "Of course sir." The windows closed at the command, and a subtle hiss echoed through the room.

"Fire up level two, I am heading down there now."

"Need I remind you sir, that you have been up for over twelve hours."

"I ken that Marg, but this is more important." He snatched a fleece from the closet on one side of the room, then went to the bookshelves, to a place where a compilation of William Dunbar's poems stood. He pulled that book, the book to either side from the shelf, and depressed his thumb over the key pad. The scanner read not only his thumb print, but the veins beneath his skin. He heard the distinctive click of the lock releasing the door to the hidden elevator behind the book case. He replaced the books, and slipped behind the door, depressed the button for level two as the elevator doors closed, and the bookshelves slid back into place.

He shrugged into the fleece as the elevator descended. Gordon had the lower levels constructed to protect the most important family heirlooms, and information he had compiled about his ancestors. He knew just how precarious their existence was, having been kept appraised of the long standing feud between their family, and their enemies by Archie and the other elders. He passed the first level after several minutes, and knew he was more than thirty feet below ground. Five more minutes passed, and he finally reached the second level. The third and fourth levels were another twenty feet below ground. A cold blast of air greeted him as the doors split open, and Gordon stepped into the climate controlled room. A grin broke his face as he crossed to his specifically designed SMART table that stood in the center of the room.

He called up the email from Archie, and archived it into a specific folder. "Marg?"

"Here sir." Her soft tones echoed in the room as her beautiful face appeared on a screen that ascended up from the table.

"Call up all the information we have on Élan Louvella."

"Yes sir."

"And then, and I ken you will hate this, link into Gregor. Back door protocols, family matter."

"Yes sir, Inverness protocol?"

"Aye."

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