Read 48 Hours - A City of London Thriller Online

Authors: J Jackson Bentley

Tags: #thriller, #london, #blackmail, #bodyguard, #josh, #blackberry, #hammond

48 Hours - A City of London Thriller

BOOK: 48 Hours - A City of London Thriller
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48

HOURS

 

A City of London Thriller

 

J Jackson Bentley

 

 

 

©Fidus Publishing 2013

 

Second Edition (re-edited & formatted for
tablets)

First published on Smashwords by Fidus Publishing in the
United Kingdom 2011

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This
ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you
would like to share this book with another person, please purchase
an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book
and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only,
then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses,
organisations, places and events are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely
coincidental.

Write to
Fidus Books at: Fidus
Publishing
, PO Box 304, Rossendale, BB4 0FP

 

Email us at: [email protected]

 

Visit the company website below for information on current and
future publications

 

http://www.fidusbooks.co.uk

 

Cover Design by Altered Images, original photo by manandhiscam
altered and used under Flickr Creative Commons License
Deed/attribution; see license at
www.flickr.comphotos/manandhiscam

 

Acknowledgements & Authors Note

 

For authenticity, I
have kept locations and places exactly where they appear in
reality. Obviously in any work of fiction it is necessary to have
fictional locations but where this has been done the fictional
locations are situated on real streets or in real areas of London.
Most buildings given a historic background exist and can be seen by
walking around London. One is fictional and it is for you to find
out which one.

I have taken very few
liberties with the transport arrangements mentioned in the book,
and most journeys can be travelled as described. Believe me, I have
travelled many of these routes hundreds of times.

I am grateful to the
experts in gems, firearms, physical combat, loss adjusting,
insurance and banking who freely and enthusiastically give their
time to allow us authors to maintain authenticity.

I reserve my most
grateful thanks for Sue W, my editor, who has proof read and
improved all of my books since my first book was published by
Macmillan in 1994.

Finally I acknowledge
the assistance given by Fidus Books on taking the City of London
Thrillers into electronic format for the Kindle.

 

J Jackson Bentley,
London.

Prologue

Threadneedle Street, City of London, Wednesday,
11am

The rain was persistent but not heavy. It drizzled down like
sugar onto strawberries. At first the tiny droplets sat on the wool
worsted of my suit as if on a newly waxed car. Then, within
seconds, capillary action sucked the water into the fabric until it
became saturated. I hadn’t moved far along the slick pavement
before the rain had soaked through the lining of my jacket and into
my thin summer shirt.

It was still warm, and the rain that hit the warm concrete
paving vaporised, sending a thin mist swirling around the feet of
the people rushing for cover. The skies were darkening by the
second, but not as rapidly as the mood of the commuters struggling
to unpack pocket sized umbrellas that took longer to erect than
Ranulph Fiennes’ Arctic tent.

A Starbucks coffee shop was quickly looming on my left. The
dull green lighting scheme seemed to brighten as the contrast with
the naturally lit street increased. I stepped into the doorway and
shook the excess water droplets from my jacket in much the same way
as a wet dog shakes its sodden pelt. The windows in the shop were
already steaming up, and a long line of men in ruined silk ties and
women with flattened hair queued to order a serving of comfort in a
cup.

I waited patiently as the machines coughed and spluttered out
order after order, sounding like some geriatric patient in a
hospital waiting room. The rich, dark coffee odour was thick in the
air. There was no need to ingest the caffeine. You could just
breathe it in.

My spirits lifted as I held the hot cup in my hands and blew
gently across the surface of my Caramel Macchiato, as if my breath
produced some super cooling breeze that would make the scalding
brew instantly consumable. With no tables available I propped
myself up against a shelf and set down my drink next to a blueberry
muffin.

I sighed and let the tension flow from my body. I was about to
lift my cup and see how many layers of skin the superheated
concoction would dislodge from the inside of my mouth when I heard
three successive beeps. A text message had arrived on my
BlackBerry.

I took the BlackBerry from my pocket immediately, as we all
know it is important that you don’t offend your mobile phone by
ignoring it, even for a few seconds, and so I flicked a couple of
buttons to reveal the text message:


Mr Hammond,

If you do not pay me £250,000.00 in the next 48 hours, I will
kill you after noon on Friday! Check your emails for
instructions.”

Chapter 1

Starbucks, Threadneedle Street, London. Wednesday,
11:10am

I was still wondering which of my certifiable friends had sent
the text message when the phone beeped again, this time sounding a
long single throaty tone. I had an email. I crushed the last of the
muffin into my already full mouth and struggled to chew as the cake
dehydrated my mouth to the extent that swallowing became almost
impossible. I thought I might choke, and then when I read the
email, I did.


Hi Josh,

OK, here is the deal. You pay me £250,000.00 (details of bank
account to follow) within 48 hours and you get to live. If for any
reason I don’t get that money you die by noon Friday. I appreciate
this is a shock and perhaps you are wondering if I am serious.
Please see attached photos.

Regards,

Bob

PS: Usually blackmailers tell you not to call the police etc.
etc. This is both boring and unproductive as people always do. Feel
free to call the police or anyone else you care to, the fact is it
will take you 48 hours to persuade them that this isn’t a wind up
and by then you will either have paid me or be awaiting your
fate.”

I sipped my coffee nervously, the base of my glass cup
tinkling against the ceramic saucer as I waited for the attachments
to open. The phone told me that there were two pictures to display;
josh1.jpg and josh2.jpg. It took a while, but they slowly began to
appear. Line by line, left to right, the pictures were revealed.
The process reminded me of the old BBC teleprinter, revealing the
soccer scores as they happened on the TV screen on a Saturday
afternoon.

The first picture was a head-and-shoulder close up of me
walking along the street. It had been taken less than an hour
earlier, and I appeared to be looking straight at the camera. I
thought it was rather a good picture of me. Anyone who knew me
would instantly recognise my fair hair with its tousled style, the
blue eyes in my clean-shaven face, and the lean, muscular build I
had acquired as a result of playing in a local squash league. The
definition was so good I was sure I could actually see wispy hairs
growing out of my ears. Bob, my new friend, had also rather
worryingly photo-shopped red crosshairs onto my
forehead.

The second photo was equally sharp, and showed me sitting in a
client’s office earlier that morning. I seemed to be leaning back
in the chair, one hand scratching the back of my head. I recognised
my shirt, the one I was still wearing. The buttoned cuff had ridden
up a little as I stretched, showing my watch. This one had a target
superimposed onto my back.

The fact that the background of both photographs was out of
focus suggested to me that the depth of field of the camera lens
was narrow, which suggested a long telephoto lens had been used to
take the snaps. Clearly I had no recollection of being
photographed, but these days even small compact cameras had zoom
lenses capable of magnifying sixteen times without having to resort
to digital zooming. The photographer could have been some distance
away when he took the pictures. If a camera could shoot me so
easily without my being aware of it, I wondered what else could,
and I didn’t like the answer to that question.

While I was examining the photos a seat became free by the
window, and I sat down. I won’t be sitting by any windows after
Friday noon, I thought. I looked at my BlackBerry again and tried
to work out what information I could glean from these brief
messages.

Firstly, I thought, it could still be a joke, but that seemed
less likely now. Secondly, someone had clearly been following me
and clearly they could have attacked me at any time during the
morning. Like most of us going about our daily lives, I was
vulnerable whilst I was unaware of any threat. Thirdly, the
relatively paltry sum of money that had been requested in exchange
for my life was almost impossible for me to raise, but not quite,
although how I could gather those funds in just forty eight hours
was a concern. Finally, Bob was not worried about me calling the
police; either that, or he was bluffing. Unfortunately, I had to
assume that he was right. I could easily waste much of the next
forty eight hours in police stations begging to be taken seriously
if I’m not careful, I thought.

So what to do? Pay up or wait and see?

I am, by nature and training, a decisive man and so I quickly
concluded that if I began the process of raising the money straight
away, then at least I was keeping all options open. I didn’t have
to actually hand it over if I didn’t want to, after all.

Unthinking, I wiped the condensation from the inside of the
glass window with the side of my balled right hand and saw that the
rain had stopped. Bright rays of August sunshine were cutting
through the clouds, seemingly spotlighting individual Londoners
going about their business. Now that the sun was beating down
again, the smiles quickly returned to the faces of the pedestrians
and they looked as if they didn’t have a care in the
world.

I did. I had forty eight hours to live unless I could raise a
quarter of a million pounds.

Chapter 2

Dyson Brecht Loss Adjusters, Ropemaker Street,

London. Wednesday, 12noon.

I heard a clock chiming the noon hour as I sat outside Toby
Baker’s glass walled office. The church clock tower bell had been
discordant and tuneless for as long as I could remember, but no-one
ever seemed to do anything about it. The old doorman we’d had when
I started this job years ago told me that it had never been the
same since it had been damaged during the Blitz, so it was the
Germans’ fault. Ironic, since my company was founded by a German
and an American.

My eyes were fixed on Toby’s office, where the morning meeting
was breaking up and individuals were gathering their papers and
belongings. There was a round of ritual handshaking and fake
smiling, with everyone putting aside the bitter arguments of the
morning for the sake of maintaining the prospect of an amicable
settlement. Toby ushered out his guests and looked at me with a
puzzled expression. To be fair, I rarely sought him out in person.
We had even conducted my annual review over the phone whilst we
were both just a mile apart in Dubai.

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