Mottled shadows swayed and stretched over the makeshift airstrip in mimic of the surrounding gums. The sun settled and darkened, swallowing up the dusty yellow grass. Two parallel lines marked the direction of the C90 King Air where it had climbed into the sky. Two vehicles sat abandoned. No equipment left behind and no one inside.
The land stretched down the side of the hill and into a valley, baring no identification as to what the property was used for or who owned it. A large rusting shed, which appeared to have not been used for decades, lay empty with no possessions, tools, or equipment.
Detective Bradbury stood on the yellow grass in between the two lines. The plane not even a speck against the pale sky. He walked until he reached the steep decent and stared out over the valley.
He pressed the phone to his ear and requested any possible information on the C90 from his sergeant. It would be a hopeless endeavor, but he went through the procedural motions anyway. Boyle finally got back to him and said they would find out through proper channels in 24 hours. He sighed and stared down at the grass. What could he do now but wait?
Jobe sat on the back steps watching the driveway when a car pulled in. Larry got out and picked Jobe up in his arms. His smile didn’t come easily, but it did, and he was rewarded with a returned lopsided grin from Jobe. They went in through the rear door to the lounge and sat down so Larry could tell him that everything was okay. Out the corner of his eye he saw Detective Bradbury walk through and into the kitchen where Sarah crashed and banged, purposefully noisy, while washing dishes. He knew her temper to be fragile and pitied Bradbury as he began informing her on what had just happened.
Both their voices stayed low and the dishes stopped clunking under soapy water. Sarah’s questions came as two word sentences in short sharp bursts. But still too soft for Larry to grasp more than their general meaning.
Larry began to tell a story to Jobe involving his mother and the both of them camping as a family. They would drive to the east coast, play quiz games and laugh until there were overflowing tears.
His mind stopped and he couldn’t remember what came next. Not a single thing. His mind had come to a locked door. He visualized running around in his head searching for more memories. He concentrated on the drive there, the tent, then his wife’s features. Finally he remembered a little more. He sighed. He wasn’t going forget everything. He remembered the doc’s words, who said it would take quite some time to recall everything he had forgotten. If he concentrated on his life, hopefully it would all come back soon enough.
Jack, their beagle, had run off along the beach and disappeared. They had all gone looking and found him in a cave eating a chopped off fish head. Jobe had then asked where the rest of the fish had gone, then he found an even bigger fish which the dog had been guarding for later.
While Larry told the story he wondered what had become of the Beagle—
Sarah screamed. A glass smashed. Then yelling.
Larry stopped his semi-remembered story and instead turned on a movie from Paul and Sarah’s collection—the newest Star Trek—then turned the volume up high.
Before settling on the couch next to his son, he went to get them a bag of microwave popcorn, although dreaded what kind of scene he would find in the kitchen. Once there he found no one. The glass had already been cleaned up and the dishes finished.
Out the window he saw Sarah watching the detective’s car head away from the property and up the driveway. She didn’t turn back to the house once the car disappeared. He sighed wondering what he should do.
The microwave dinged. Larry left the window and retrieved the popcorn. There was probably nothing he could say that would help. Nothing that would console her, at least not right now. Also, he knew exactly how she felt.
Detective Bradbury sat back in his chair. A loud crack sounded from underneath, he ignored it. Most of the Melbourne officers were already gone from the station and heading back to their hotel. The remainder of the Kinglake cops would all be cleared tomorrow. No information had been found linking any of them to either Tech Dynamics or Sincorp.
An analog clock hung high on the white wall a few feet from his desk. He had been staring at it the whole time without acknowledging what it displayed. The big hand ticked over: 8.07pm. His stomach gurgled and felt hollow. He pushed himself away from the desk and got up. His chair moaned as if relieved from the strain. The papers on his desk got a cursory glance, then he called out a good night to the two evening officers.
Maybe with some food in his stomach he would see everything more clearly. The speed his mind usually ticked over at had been replaced by a sluggish wobbling bowel of jelly. He grunted as he thought of it that way, and remembered how hungry he was. Bradbury got into a patrol car and drove himself back to his hotel and called Sunny on the way.
“Rough day?” Sunny said.
Bradbury said, “When I find out where the plane ended up I can try and contact the colonel. Makes me wonder if Washington knows what he’s up to.”
Sunny in turn told Bradbury he had trouble getting access to the warehouses at the construction site. The military were definitely sending equipment there, but right now they ignored any civilian authority enquiries.
Sleep had come after an hour of staring at shadows flicking across his hotel room brought on by a few dull street lights. Back at his desk again he at least felt like himself. Some of the knots in his neck had settled as well.
“Bradbury,” he said, upon answering his phone.
“I found out where your Colonel went,” Bradbury’s sergeant said.
Bradbury straightened in his chair. The file he had been reading fell to the desk (containing information on Sincorp’s relationship with Tech Dynamics and some of the work they had run in collaboration).
“The first part of the flight plan was from Hopkins to Kinglake. So, that part we know. The colonel then flew to Melbourne airport where they bordered a diplomatic plane to San Francisco.”
“That’s all they’re giving us for now. The plane should have already touched down in the States, so I’m sure details will filter into me shortly.”
Bradbury nodded. He at least had a city to call and if nothing came from that, the embassy could get involved.
His sergeant went on.
“There was also an incident at Melbourne airport. I’ve a feeling it’s linked to the Colonel and the company he kept. I’m still trying to get us in there to investigate, but I’m having trouble with airport security and the federal police. Not to mention the mess with foreign politics.
“Colonel Redcliff is of course listed to be on that plane but no mention of your local civilian.”
Bradbury returned his phone to the desk and sat deep into his chair.
“So I guess we’re out of luck on this one,” Sunny said from the other side of the partition separating their desks, overhearing the conversation.
Constable Jones appeared at that moment in front of Sunny.
Sunny nodded to him.
“Some information on Tech Dynamics,” Jones said, and opened a manila folder.
He took out a sheet of paper and placed it in front of Sunny. “They only started their company in Melbourne a few months ago. Before that they were solely based in the city of New York.”
Bradbury stood from his desk and moved to stand beside Jones.
“They have interests in multiple areas. Mostly new technology. There’s human development—so that’s stimulants, such as your classic steroid as well as areas of psychology for mental health and improvement. They’ve had dealings with computer companies and robotics in Japan, although severed ties with them and now have warehouses in China. Most of their technology is sold to the military. A lesser amount to pharmaceuticals, phone and software companies.”
Sunny studied the paperwork. “Alright, look into any money that changed hands with Tech Dynamics and Sincorp. Maybe deals took place before everything went to hell. Then you and I are heading to the Tech Dynamics testing facility to see what else we can dig up.”
Bradbury said, “Time I headed out too.”
“Where?” Sunny grunted, while still reading through the files on Tech Dynamics.
“The appointment at Tech Dynamics labs in the city. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
“You could take Mr Emerson,” Sunny said, still looking down. “He may see something important if he’s there looking over familiar equipment and data.”
Sarah sat stoney faced while Detective Bradbury spoke of Paul and his international destination. She bit her lip at the end of each of his sentences and for a moment looked like she would become enraged again, or worse, burst into tears. She noticeably gulped it all back and took a huge breath. Then she nodded.
“They may already have landed in San Francisco,” Bradbury went on. “We’ve been in contact with the US government. They’ve assured me that if a kidnapping did occur, they’ll take action.”
Detective Bradbury turned to Larry. “I’m taking a trip to Tech Dynamics shortly, maybe you’d like to join us? It could jog your memory when we start the search on their equipment.”
Larry nodded. “I don’t think you’ll find anything. You don’t even know what your looking for.”
“This isn’t my first warrant search, Mr Emerson. I’ll guarantee you now that I’ll have somebody in custody by the end of today.”
Larry raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t mean it like that. I want to remember everything, so I can tell you what it is we’re after.”
Larry excused himself to get changed and later emerged from the bathroom with the bandages removed.
“Looks like the rest has done you well, Mr Emerson,” Bradbury said. “You look like a new man. Stitches could come out soon as well. And no nasty scars I see.”
Bradbury realized he looked quite a lot different from before. Something had changed in that man, both in his mind and face. Bradbury shrugged, it wasn’t any of his concern right now.
Larry nodded and rubbed his scalp where hair had begun growing back over his stitches. He said good bye to Sarah and Jobe.
Bradbury called Matthews in from his post outside with the SOGs and directed him to come with them for Larry’s protection duty, as well as drive.
The warrant Bradbury had been issued with allowed them to search the premises and computer equipment, but with limitations. Sincorp had argued that ongoing developments at Tech Dynamics meant that secrecy was essential. Police, therefore, could only search for data and items specifically named and printed on the warrant, and nothing more.
A squad car had already parked out the front of Tech Dynamics when Bradbury, Matthew’s, and Larry arrived. Three officers stood on the sidewalk nearby talking. A detective dressed in dark pants, grey shirt, and a navy patterned tie, looked to be going over information with the other two. Both of them a lot younger than their superior. They wore white shirts—much too big for their scrawny pale bodies, and had hair engorged with product and swept to the side then forwards. Computer gear overflowed from their bags and were held by ghost white hands.
The three story high Tech Dynamics building swallowed all sunlight hitting the outside charcoal painted wall as well as the dark thickened glass, giving them no visual of the inside. A large sign above the door clearly identified the company as, Tech Dynamics, but gave no other indication or description as to what went on inside.
All the officers nodded to each other as Bradbury, Matthews, and Larry approached the entrance. Then as one, entered the building.
They walked through the first and then second set of automatic doors and were welcomed by a large, although dimly lit, foyer with dark reflective marble floors. Each footfall echoed (sounding more like a hundred hooves rather than twelve rubber soles) as they approached the reception desk. Bradbury waited while the secretary spoke in low tones into her headset and took notes on her computer.
An overgrown green oasis sprouted up from behind clear glass near the receptionist. Ferns, orchids, banksia and palms. Very nearly looking like a rainforest threatening to enter the foyer.
The clicking from the keyboard stopped. The receptionist ended her call. Possibly more rapidly upon seeing the group enter.
“I’m, Detective Steve Bradbury. I have a warrant to search these premises. If you could have someone, preferably, Mr Harry Childs, show us through immediately, we can get this over with as quickly as possible.”
Detective Bradbury would have preferred a surprise march into the labs and offices. He would have told everyone to move away from their computers and put everything they were holding back down. This would have allowed the officers to check every scrap of paper and every digital file completely. But that wasn’t to be the case, and the warrant wasn’t their only hindrance. The building’s security doors allowed only cleared personnel from one department to the next with a swipe card and PIN.
Hollow steps sounded from the other end of the reflective marble floor. A man with a neatly trimmed beard and tailored suit cleared his throat as he approached. Bradbury immediately had an urge to dislike the man, his oozing of self importance came out at them like a pheromone.
“I apologize for keeping you waiting as long as I have, but I’ve had to make a number of phone calls to rearrange my morning due to your unexpected arrival. I’m Harry Childs, CEO of Tech Dynamics. I’ve spoken to my solicitor who has read over the conditions of the warrant with me. I know exactly what you can and can’t view. I will oversee this process personally. You also have a limited time to find what you’re looking for; two hours from the time you enter the first security sealed room. You must then be back at this very spot two hours later. Not a minute more, otherwise be in violation of your warrant. This way gentlemen.’
Bradbury’s mouth twitched. He had some words in mind that he wanted to say to this self-important ass, but held back and instead cleared his throat and followed. Childs entered a code and swiped his card. A suction noise sounded and the door came ajar.
Harry Childs pushed through into a large office space with shoulder-high partitions sectioning off each person’s work area. When the door closed, Harry Childs clicked his watch.
After one hour and fifty five minutes of searching three floors and too many rooms to count, Harry Childs’s wristwatch beeped.
“Thank you, gentlemen for delaying today’s work deadlines,” Childs said, not looking at any one of them in particular. “Please kindly pack up and leave immediately to avoid me suing the department.”
Bradbury decided he didn’t like the American accent anymore. He looked back at Larry Emerson and saw an expression that mirrored his own.
The door sealed behind them with a pressurised whump followed immediately by a chime, completing the locking process. Matthews, Bradbury, and Larry walked back to the Lobby, following Harry Childs. They then stopped when he stopped and stood facing him. The frightened receptionist and two burly security guards who had been waiting for them in the foyer, looked from their boss, then back to the police, and were quite ready for any kind of confrontation. The remaining officers, including the tech experts, talked and walked as they made their way back to their vehicle out front.
Bradbury asked Larry to wait by the door. They were not done with the CEO of Tech Dynamics just yet.
“Is there something else you wish to waste my time with, Detective?” Childs said, and noted something into a tablet he had been using during the entire time of the search.
Bradbury folded his arms and wondered what was going through this man’s mind. Childs had been communicating with someone or maybe some people the whole time through that tablet. The name Mr Green had come up at one moment before Childs had tipped the screen closer to his chest.
Bradbury stood and waited for Childs to look up. He wanted to make the arrest while watching the man’s expression. It took another few moments before he did and it was only for a split second, before he again went back to working on his device. Finally he finished and stared back at Bradbury with his eyebrows raised.
He grunted as if the conversation was over and began to walk away.
Bradbury unfolded his arms. “Yes actually. I most certainly do. You can come with us.”
The two security guards took a step towards Detective Bradbury.
A half foot taller, Bradbury produced a second warrant in response; first showing it to the guards then Childs. The guards shrugged and backed away.
Matthews, who was of comparable size to the guards, put Childs in cuffs at their tightest setting and walked him to the front door and past a smiling Larry.
“As you remember from when you read me my rights, Detective, I’m allowed legal council. I would like to call that representation now,” Childs said, then looked at his watch.
“Absolutely,” Bradbury said, “But first would you mind telling me why you stole data from Sincorp.”
“That’s a lie, Detective, and you know it. Tech Dynamics is not in the business of criminal dealings. Anything your people found would have been of legal purchases.”
“Just not from companies who legally own the product, right?”
Detective Bradbury sat back as if to make himself more comfortable, then clasped his hands over his flat belly. He probably wouldn’t have the pompous bastard for long, but while he did, he liked the fact that he had him in a room alone and chained to a metal desk.
Child’s turned away from Bradbury and stared at the most prominent feature in the grey walled room; a security camera flashing a red LED.
Bradbury smiled. Something for him to contemplate and give him an idea of what prison might be like.
“Tech Dynamics bought research owned by Sincorp,” Bradbury continued, “but not from Sincorp. In fact from another company claiming to own the research. Strange thing is, this company does not seem to exist. How could you make your legal purchase from a company that doesn’t even seem to have an owner.”
“It’s obviously a real company otherwise we could not have bought the product in the first place.”
“That’s a very round about way of answering.”
“Well, without you being specific, I have no way of knowing what you’re talking about.”
Bradbury’s frown deepened. He felt as a school teacher would dressing down the fibbing student.
“Oh I think you know what I’m talking about, Mr Childs. You’ve been interested in Sincorp for a very long time. From what we’ve discovered, you often visit their offices to liaise on assorted projects. My guess is that once you became aware of their viral experiments, you tried to swoop in and take the idea and the company for yourself. When they stood against you, your company took more drastic measures.
“Sincorp Australia’s parent company, Sincorp USA, was the first to be bought by Tech Dynamics. Unfortunately since Sincorp Australia was in essence a separate company from its American parent, they were not as open to intimidation as you hoped. So, you conveniently ridded yourself of the people opposing you and took what you wanted. Should the law not apply to you, Mr Childs?” Bradbury didn’t pause. “You then covered your tracks by having one of your bogus company’s sell you the information for a substantially lower cost than the perceived market value. Sound about right, Mr Childs? Considering what kind of breakthrough this biotechnology is supposed to be, I don’t think the price would only be four figures. A man with this kind of technology could pretty much write his own cheque. What do you think, Mr Childs?”
Detective Bradbury clasped his hands on the table, the chair creaked when he leaned forwards.
Harry Childs said, “Do I use your phone, detective, or may I use my own to make the call to my lawyer?”
“I’ll get you your phone, Mr Childs.”
Harry Childs was out within an hour.
“Your move,” Bradbury said, as he watched the man leave the building.