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The Man Who Would Stop A Clock

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: March 29, 2019

Reads: 318

Comments: 3

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Submitted: March 29, 2019

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ROGER HARPER, with his wife Julia and young son Oliver, had joined the end of a line that would gain them admittance to one of London’s most historic buildings. Shuffling closer to the public entrance, tourists were being methodically screened by security. Harper lazily scanned the panoramic view of his surroundings. He turned as he heard the squeal of tires when a black van screeched to a halt. The doors flew open and three operatives leaped out. Two men, dressed in dark suits, and a woman, donning a navy gabardine raincoat. Each wore the requisite cord of a communication device that plugged into their left ear. Purposely they marched towards the line.

“Take Olly!” Harper yelled to Julia. “Lose yourselves in the crowd.” Before his wife could ask why he broke into a run and headed west across the paved courtyard.

Chased by the woman estimated to be about five-and-a-half feet tall, in her late thirties perhaps, Harper decided this was no substitute for a sightseeing tour. But he had no choice. The pursuer, her long hair billowing behind her, was of a slim, athletic build and the American had trouble staying ahead of her.

Desperately seeking an exit as he sprinted along the inside perimeter of high wrought iron railings, every gate Harper came to was locked. He continued, hoping against hope that he would find a way out. For a moment the American stopped, sucking in air, trying to regain his breath. As he clutched the iron bars, he studied a plaque that stated

THIS IS A PROTECTED SITE
UNDER SECTION 128 OF THE
SERIOUS ORGANISED CRIME
AND POLICE ACT 2005
.

TRESPASS ON THIS SITE IS
A CRIMINAL OFFENSE.

“Now they tell me,” he said aloud. “I’m just an innocent tourist.”

The woman drew closer and stopped. Standing within twenty feet, “We need to talk, Mr. Harper,” she informed him.

“About what?”

“I have something for you.”

His pursuer took a step near.

“Stay where you are.” One, two, three more steps. “Stop,” he commanded. The woman took no notice. “Enough!”

Harper took off. Leaping over the low shrubbery; he sprinted across the lawn and headed east, towards the building. Eight hundred and twenty-seven feet in length, seventy feet to the roofline, the structure contained eleven hundred rooms, had three miles of passages and one hundred staircases. Harper had no time to digest these facts or to admire the architecture of the three towers and numerous turrets that enliven the skyline, as he desperately sought an escape route.

To his relief, the narrow door that presented itself at the base of the northeast tower was unlocked. Briefly looking over his shoulder, he saw the woman was still following, but now proceeded at a leisurely walk.

Harper stepped inside and ducked as a flock of birds flew over his head, screeching in alarm as they exited. The ravens circled twice before heading east-northeast towards their home. No time for bird watching, Harper slammed the door closed. “Damn,” he muttered, seeing there was no key to turn the lock. He realized there was only one way to proceed and that was up the winding stairs, which in the dim light seemed to ascend forever.

* * *

One fifty-one, one fifty-two, one fifty-three. Harper had been subconsciously counting each stair. One fifty-four, one fifty-five. Looking up and then down, he estimated he had completed nearly half the climb. The woman was still following. In no hurry, she knew Harper was going nowhere in particular.

Two-seventy-seven, two-seventy-eight. Suddenly there was a cacophony of noise that resonated down the stairwell, so loud that Harper stopped and covered his ears. It lasted for twenty-four seconds.

Three thirty-two. Three thirty-three, three thirty-four. The American had made it to the top. Now standing in a square chamber built of sand-colored limestone blocks, he viewed the oversized oil painting that dominated the wall in front of him.

In the foreground was a cobbled wharf, fronted by the River Thames. A foreboding outer wall protected a fortress, with its four turrets topped by onion-shaped domes complete with weather vanes. It was instantly recognizable as one of London’s picture postcard landmarks.

The first thought that crossed the American’s mind was why such an exquisite piece of artwork was kept in such an out-of-the-way place? His introspection was interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind him.

“You’re a hard man to catch up with, Mr. Harper.” The American turned and confronted the woman who had been pursuing him. He watched as she walked forward and her left hand moved slowly to her coat pocket.

Harper placed a thought in the woman’s head that would command her to stop. Her hand still moved.

“Nice try, Mr. Harper.” Her sentence was punctuated by what he took to be a smirk.

As Harper watched, fear welled up from his bowels. The game is up, he thought. After seven years of keeping my head below the parapet, they’ve finally found me. He continued to glare at the woman’s hand as she withdrew something from her pocket. This is it; a kill shot to the head, and it will be over in an instant.

“You’ll need this,” she said. Not a gun; instead she offered Harper a magnifying glass. “Take a close look at the painting; in particular, the top row windows of the White Tower.”

This is crazy, Harper thought. She follows me like a bloodhound on a scent, to hand me this?

Turning around, he moved nearer to examine the Tower’s windows. “They’re all glazed with leaded glass, except the one on the far right; it has an iron grill.”

“Look closer, Mr. Harper. Tell me what you see.”

He held the magnifier to the painting. “Someone’s face, behind the bars.”

“Anyone you know, Mr. Harper?”

He looked again. “Good God!” he exclaimed. “It’s my son. Why is Oliver being held a prisoner in the Tower of London?”

The woman gave a condescending smile, before answering. “I don’t know, Mr. Harper. You tell me. It’s your dream; not mine.”


Check out James G Riley's Book


The Man Who Would Stop A Clock

From Dubai, through the peaceful English countryside, to the tourist sites of London, a group calling themselves the Executive relentlessly pursues Roger Harper and his family. Inextricably entangled in a deranged scheme to hold the British Government to

© Copyright 2019 James G Riley. All rights reserved.

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