Authors: COLE JACKSON
Book #1 of the Territories Trilogy
The Book Folks
© Cole Jackson
Table of Contents
A polite note to the reader
This novel is written in British English hence some spellings and linguistic conventions may differ from North American usage. We hope you enjoy the book!
In the 1960s, the singer Bobby V said, ‘
The night has a thousand eyes, and a thousand eyes can’t help but see
.’ He was of course referring to the stars; how it would appear that as we gaze upwards, a million eyes seem to be peering down at us. His words, however, have a more accurate meaning in the modern day.
Circling high above our heads are over two and a half thousand satellites that we know of, and almost certainly a fair few more that we are unaware of. Their purpose of course, as we are told, is to maintain a careful eye upon our planet: to calculate crop growth, map out terrain, and interpret our planet’s weather patterns. Sometimes with accuracy.
However, with the ever increasing advances in technology, these satellites can also spy on us.
Advances in satellite technology mean that they are now able to zoom in with phenomenal accuracy, and view the tiniest details upon the surface of our world. And now they can even see through walls and ceilings. They can even read the label upon your clothing items.
They watch us.
These unseen observers record our movements like a child might use a magnifying glass to study a colony of insects.
One such satellite now orbits over the southern hemisphere, focusing its attention upon all of the tiny little ant-like humans – it’s all-seeing, unblinking eye, concentrating upon Australia.
To the densely populated western world, the Northern Territory of Australia may seem like a wide expanse of nothingness. With its vast arid landscape of hot baked earth, dotted with small communities, in comparison to the majority of the world, the Northern Territory is almost unpopulated. Davenport is one of its few inhabited areas, and with a population of just 2,105,800, and a total area of 1,852,642 km
, there are just two people for every 1,000 km
Here, amongst the dusty earth, is a house standing alone on a small single-track road. The house would be best described as
in a state of disrepair
, serving its purpose as a roof over somebody’s head. Nothing more.
At the kitchen sink is a woman. Her name is Sarah Whittaker, the girl who tried to leave all of her troubles behind her in England for a new start in Australia.
But her troubles followed her.
She is nearing her thirtieth birthday, although she stopped celebrating her birthdays years ago. She is slim, athletic, of average height. Coupled with her sun-bleached blonde hair, Sarah would appear to many who saw her to be the perfect human specimen.
But her eyes tell a different story. After the things she has seen and endured, they no longer sparkle like they used to. They are now the eyes of a tortured soul.
She turns the faucet off and heads for the sitting room to lose herself in television, which has become her only escape from an otherwise nightmarish reality. She changes the channel a few times before finding a native soap opera. It’s a repeat, but it still won’t air in England for at least four months. This, she realises, is her only victory since leaving England: she knows what happens in
Home and Away
before any of her old friends.
She feels the sadness of the situation, and she wonders when she stopped being able to cry.
2,598 km to the south-east of Australia on the outskirts of the country town of Tamworth, a bar fight is spilling out onto the street. A partially drunken man comes reeling through the door backwards and lands heavily upon the ground outside. He is followed quickly by three locals who crowd round him. They are Jake, the landlord’s brother, and his cousins, Cliff and Wesley: they are all in their late twenties, and are all of a useful size. Tall and well built, mostly muscle, but some flab also.
The three men lean in, clenching their fists.
‘Drinking ‘til closing time without any money isn’t very clever,’ Jake states.
‘Neither is bothering the locals,’ adds Cliff.
‘I hate the English. Let's teach him a lesson,’ chimes in Wesley.
Still no one moves.
Beating a partially drunken man three on one is not beyond them, but nobody wants to throw the first punch either. Eventually though, Jake loses patience. He draws his foot back, ready to unleash a kick to the English guy’s kidneys.
Then everything happens at once.
Jake’s foot is caught, violently twisted and pushed upwards. Jake screams as his knee is dislocated and he spirals towards the ground head-first. This stuns Cliff and Wesley, who don’t immediately react.
Which is a mistake.
The English man is on his feet within a second. He drives his left elbow into Cliff’s throat, whilst his forehead connects with Wesley’s nose. There is an almighty crunch as Wesley goes down in a heap and Cliff falls to his knees, clutching madly at his windpipe.
Then the English man strolls away along the street, satisfied that he got what he came for.
His name is Charlie. He is a thirty-five year old, six foot, two hundred pound killer.
And he is looking for Sarah.
At lunchtime in England, another man stands in a queue at Heathrow airport.
His name is John Marshall.
He is thirty-three years old, tall and toned. He has heard stories of people leaving the forces and turning to flab.
Since he left the SAS nine months previously, he has continued to train and stay in shape.
The queue has not moved for ten minutes now, and Marshall is slowly losing his patience. There is only one person between him and the ticket clerk, but that one person seems to be having a major issue. Marshall has only heard half of the conversation, but it would seem that the elderly passenger in front of him is attempting to board a plane with an expired passport. Marshall sighs, and turns to the young lady behind him to pass the time. She is pretty, which is a bonus. Marshall guesses she is around twenty-two, and she seems excited.
‘Holiday?’ Marshall asks her.
She seems to take a moment to shake herself back to the present before responding.
‘Work, I hope,’ she responds, smiling.
Marshall looks at her properly. The perfect hair, perfect nails and perfect make-up.
‘Modelling?’ he enquires. It is a safe bet, and even if he is wrong, it will be taken as a compliment.
‘How did you know?’ She blushes.
‘Just one look,’ Marshall says, smiling back at her.
‘We were all recruited by a company called Portfoliotiers in Australia,’ she tells him. ‘My name is Christine.’
Marshall checks behind her, and sure enough, there are nineteen other beautiful girls lined up.
‘Is that a St. Christopher ring?’ he asks, pointing to the ring she has on a chain around her neck.
‘Yes, it’s my father’s. He gave it to me for good luck.’
‘I have a St. Christopher pendant,’ Marshall says, displaying his necklace. ‘I never go anywhere without it.’
‘Hopefully we will both be safe then,’ she replies, still smiling her beautiful smile.
‘Indeed. Well it’s nice to meet you Christine. If we are lucky, this queue may move soon and you’ll be on your way to celebrity status.’
‘I hope so!’
However, as Marshall turns back to the elderly passenger, he realises that it won’t be happening soon. The old guy has pulled reams of paper out of his bag to show the clerk. Marshall checks the clock. He doesn’t have time for this. He knows what to do; he just hopes the airport hasn’t had a security staff change recently.
He takes a deep breath. Then he turns back to the girl.
‘Hey Christine, how would you like a story to tell when you get to Australia?’
She creases her brow. The smile is gone now.
‘Like what?’ she asks uncertainly.
‘Watch this,’ he says.
Then he runs.
He barrels through two security guards, then dashes through the door frame shaped metal detector, and on towards the departures lounge. All hell breaks loose as armed security personnel seem to pour out of the walls, but Marshall ignores them. He is moving forward, and that’s what matters.
Alan Mason – the head of transport police for the airport – is soon leading the man hunt. Even at forty-eight years old, he is in great shape and can outrun men half his age. But he knows that it is better to outthink them.
The description he has been given is that of a white male, approximately thirty-two years old. Six feet three inches tall, two hundred pounds, and wearing dark jeans and a black shirt over a white top. Mason heads straight for the most obvious place: when searching for a male target, the most common hiding place is the ladies toilets.
He finds Marshall in the third cubicle.
The security crew group in tight behind Mason, armed and ready.
Then Mason steps forward and hugs Marshall.
‘Shit, it’s been a long time soldier,’ he says grinning.
‘Too long,’ Marshall agrees.
The security crew stand a little awkwardly looking at their shoes.
‘Were the theatrics really necessary?’ Mason asks.
‘I’m afraid so, I’m on a very tight deadline here, Mason. I’m just glad you’re still in charge around here. But can we talk somewhere in private?’
‘Stand down people,’ Mason orders his team. ‘This one’s with me, and I take full responsibility.’
The group physically relax and begin to disperse; although they do so as slowly as possible, so that they don’t miss any gossip.
‘Let’s go to my office,’ Mason says. ‘I assume you have a story to tell me.’
‘I sure do,’ Marshall agrees, ‘but let’s make it quick, Mason. I need to be on the next plane to Australia.’
Mason leads Marshall up two flights of stairs and into a large side office. Marshall notes that all of the chairs and the sofa look to be expensive Italian leather.
‘It looks like you’ve done alright for yourself since you got out,’ Marshall says, taking in the elegant and expensive looking office fittings.
‘The wages are better than we used to get in the SAS,’ Mason responds neutrally.
When Marshall finally bought himself out of the services Mason was his Commanding Officer in the SAS. Marshall was surprised to learn that Mason got out three months later, but had never got the chance to ask why.
‘Anyway… Australia.’ Mason says as they sit down. ‘Any particular reason? It’s not the best place for a holiday, y’know, despite what you may have heard.’
‘I’m not one for holidays,’ Marshall exclaims. ‘You know that.’
‘So what’s going on then? Nobody jumps airport security for no reason.’
Mason raises an eyebrow.
‘The very same.’
‘Well I guess it might be easier if I shut the fuck up then, Marshall, and you tell me what is going on.’
Marshall recounts the story in the clear and concise way he has been trained to do. In the services, missed or altered instructions cost lives. That was one mantra that Mason taught him as his Commanding Officer. And in the SAS, it was serious shit.
Marshall recalls the moment that Sarah re-entered his life three days previously. He took the dog for an early morning walk, and then when he returned there was a personal looking envelope waiting for him amongst his post. He recognised the handwriting instantly, although he hadn’t seen it for over three years. It was definitely Sarah’s.
‘Where is the dog?’ Mason interrupts.
‘You said you were walking the dog, and now you are heading to Australia.’
Marshall smiles. Mason has always loved dogs. He always said that they are more reliable than people.
He was probably right too.
‘The dog is fine,’ Marshall replies. ‘She is with a friend.’
Marshall does so.
He was a little nervous to open the letter at first, because of the way that he and Sarah had parted. Marshall chose to remain in the SAS after Sarah had asked him to buy out. Sarah handled it by moving to the other side of the world. He opened the envelope with ever-so-slightly shaking hands to find that inside was an invitation to a wedding.
He pauses at this point to see if Mason will kick all kinds of shit out of him for jumping airport security to get to a wedding. But Mason knows him better than that.
Marshall continues with the story, but he keeps one eye on the large clock on the wall. The plane for Darwin, Australia, leaves in forty-seven minutes.
He must be on it.