“I do love a little secret agent shenanigan at times. Here’s a story along those lines.”
“Something was wrong, Dowden could feel it.”
After a week of washed-out days, it was nice to feel the sun on your face again. Dowden was determined to take full advantage of the beautiful day. He meandered through the city. He wasn’t going anywhere specific or planning to do anything. He was just walking and enjoying the beautiful day.
The discomfort grew from his back and shoulders. It reached into and tightened his chest with the creeping suspicion of being watched. Was it the growing number of CCTV cameras, or the fleeting glimpse of people looking his way through windows? Whatever it was, something was wrong Dowden could feel it.
Deciding on a coffee to calm his nerves, he took a left into a pedestrian path leading towards the river. The café sat at the bottom of a stepped humpbacked bridge.
Dowden put his hand on the coffee shop door and recoiled.
A man wearing a trench coat and Panama hat rose from his seat inside. In doing so he revealed the grip of a Sig-Sauer pistol in his waistband.
“What the hell?” Dowden breathed. A glance behind him revealed another man blocking any escape. Breaking into a run, Dowden leapt up the steps onto the bridge.
Even after a few feet, fear and adrenaline were stealing his breath. Dowden reached the centre of the bridge and froze. A third man was already blocking his way.
“No use running, Dowden. Freeze where you are?” he demanded in the cold voice.
“What? Why? I haven’t done anything.” Dowden raised his hands.
“Friedrich Dowden, you’re charged with the theft of millions from the government,” said the man with the Sig-Sauer; now behind him. “You —”
“This is absurd. I’m a retired civil servant. The only money I took from the government is that which they paid me in wages and pension. I demand you let me go.” Dowden glanced between the three men.
“Lying will do you no good,” the man drew his gun.
Dowden panicked. He grabbed the iron railing and jumped.
Bullets zinged into the railings and brickwork.
There was no splash. Dowden landed in the small motorboat. The engine coughed into life as the boat roared away down the narrow river under a volley of bullets.
“Gah! Think I broke my bloody shoulder!” Dowden complained as he rolled into a sitting position.
“Well, that’s better than being drowned or shot full of holes, wouldn’t you say?” replied a feminine voice.
For the first time, Dowden noticed the woman at the controls. Sleek, electric blue hair pulled into a no-nonsense bun. Sharp grey, tailored skirt suit. This woman was all business. “Why do I have the feeling, you know why those agents are trying to kill me?”
“You’re very perceptive,” the woman smiled as she drew the motorboat around a bend into a canal. This area was busy with canal boats visiting stops along the banks.
“What the hell is going on?” Dowden demanded to know through the burning pain in his right shoulder.
“You stole two hundred and thirty million dollars from the American government. Those guys don’t like that.”
“I did not!” Dowden was aghast at the accusation. He’d never even stole a ballpoint pen from his desk.
The woman took a computer tablet from her bag at her feet and threw it to him. “Check your bank account.”
Dowden caught the device. He was surprised to see his bank’s website already on screen. Entering his details, he waited for his account to load. “I never stole the thing. What the hell is going on?”
The woman said nothing. Focusing on piloting the boat between the other craft on the river.
On-screen, Dowden saw his bank account appear. “I only see the forty-five thousand, I already had. Thirty-five of that was my pension fund.”
“Check the transactions.”
Dowden followed the instructions. There it was. Two hundred and thirty million had been credited to his account this morning. Right after it cleared, it was transferred to several other accounts whose details were hidden. “Bugger me! Someone used my account to commit fraud. Who are you? You must know I had nothing to do with this.”
“They call me, Sapphire. Click on the second tab you have open,” she replied edging past a rubbish barge. “Ugh, that thing stinks!”
“Smells like the conspiracy I’m stuck in!” Dowden sighed as he followed the instruction. The second tab showed a list of bank account numbers. Dowden saw his was the tenth on the list. “Did all these accounts get hacked?”
“Not hacked, made. The top nine are fake. Those were created to siphon money from the government into your account. The money was then dispersed into the rest of those accounts. The only account connected to anybody on the list is yours. That’s why those people are after you.”
“Shit!” Dowden felt cold sweat running down his face shock set in.
“That sums it up eloquent —” Sapphire gunned the accelerator. “Hold on!”
“Waaa!” Dowden slammed back into the boat through the acceleration. The first bullet slammed into the woodwork by his ear. A second ramming home. “Argh … I’m hit!”
“Hold on!” Sapphire spun the boat into a side-channel cutting off the line of fire. Another motorboat coming the other way swerved and smashed into the concrete wall in an explosion of fibreglass.
Dowden watched blood blossoming, red and warm through his shirt. “They shot the same bleeding shoulder I hurt when I fell in the boat.”
“Haha!” Sapphire chuckled. “Now, that’s some accuracy!”
“What’s the point in killing me? If I did know something about where the money went; I couldn’t very well tell them when I’m d—” Dowden swallowed. “They stole the money. They need me dead to break any possible chain linking to them.”
“As I said, you’re very perceptive.” Sapphire brought the boat under another bridge. Veering right she slammed it onto a concrete ramp. It ground upward, shot onto the road and stop neatly on a zebra crossing. “Let’s go!”
Dowden tried to climb to his feet. Pain and blood loss left him so dizzy he toppled straight out into the road.
“That’s the way, keep face planting the road until you get shot in the arse!” Sapphire hauled him to his feet. “Come on!” She half dragged him into the nearest building.
“H-hospital. I … need a … doctor,” Dowden managed.
“Yup, I noticed. Hold on.” Sapphire took him into a lift and pressed a button.
Dowden felt it surge up through the building. A bell signalled the doors opening. Sunlight beamed inside revealing it had stopped at the roof access. With no choice but to follow; he allowed sapphire to drag him between satellite dishes and antennas. Then down a flight of metal steps.
“I hope you like flying!” Sapphire yelled over the noise of rotors gaining speed.
“Do … I have … a choice?” Dowden wheezed.
“I could always throw your arse off the buildings if you prefer,” Sapphire smirked. “You’d still technically fly for about two seconds though.” She loaded him into the bright yellow Airbus H135 air ambulance. The moment the doors closed it took off.
Dowden felt many hands touching him. They removed his clothes and began patching his wounds. A needle pierced his arm and numbness set in.
“You’re going to be alright, pal,” remarked a bearded man smiling down at him. “I’m going to clean and stitch your wounds. Just lay back and relax.”
Dowden barely nodded before passing out.
Waking up hours later, he was greeted by burning pains in his shoulder. “Gah, that wasn’t a nightmare then!” he groaned as he opened his eyes. With some relief, he recognised his own wardrobes. He was in his own bed at home.
Sitting up, he smiled at a teddy bear with electric blue hair on the bedside cabinet. An envelope was grasped in its arms.
Dowden took and slit it open at once. A letter on a single sheet was addressed to him.
‘Friedrich Dowden, we’re sorry you became embroiled in the situation involving the government money. The threat to your safety has passed. The money has been reclaimed. You will find two million credited to your account. That is yours and so long as you keep this entire event secret, nobody will ever trouble you again. Signed sapphire x,’
Dowden grinned. He’d happily do the secret agent stuff again if it meant getting paid two million dollars for the effort.
I still need your precious votes!
My story ‘Oracle Train’ is leading in the final round of the Purple Wall Competition.
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