Tiberius found, p.10
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       Tiberius Found, p.10
 

          
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CHAPTER 10

  It was a busy Saturday lunchtime and The Cell Shack shop on the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place was crowded with people. Daniel took a ticket from the automated dispenser near the front of the store and waited for his allotted number to be called.

  When he told the salesman – Benny – that he needed a new phone but he’d had his passport and DNA card stolen, Benny’s smile turned to a frown.

  ‘You gotta have a DNA card before I can hook you up with a cell,’ he told him. ‘That’s the law.’

  ‘I’m only here for another week,’ Daniel lied, ‘and they don’t think I’ll get any replacements before I have to go back home.’

  Benny’s answer was a smile crossed with a grimace.

  ‘I only need a phone that works over here for a while, just a few days or so,’ Daniel continued. ‘To keep in touch with my friends, you know? I can pay cash.’

  Benny screwed his face up in a pained expression. He grabbed a pen, gave two quick glances to either side and scribbled something down on a piece of paper. ‘I’d like to help you, kid, I really would.’

  He covered the paper with his hand and slid it across the counter top towards Daniel. ‘But there’s nothing I can do for you if you don’t have the correct ID. Everything’s got to be registered and logged, you see. Federal law, sorry.’

  Benny kept his eyes fixed on Daniel as he pushed the paper towards him. Daniel covered the paper as Benny moved his hand back and went to read what the other man had written.

  ‘Nope,’ Benny continued in a slightly louder voice, stopping Daniel from looking at the paper, ‘nothing I can do, I’m afraid. Course there’s always some back-street crook who’ll say they can hook you up with something but I wouldn’t trust any of them to save my life.’ He looked Daniel square in the eye. ‘Unless I knew them personally, like.’

  Daniel slipped the paper into his pocket. ‘Oh, okay then,’ he muttered then raised his voice a little. ‘I guess I’ll have to wait ‘til my new papers come back.’

  Benny smiled and nodded. ‘That’s the ticket. And when you get them, you come on back here and we’ll sort you out with something. If I’m not here, ask anyone. Just tell them that Benny Lebrano said you were okay and that you’d been recommended. Okay?’

  ‘Benny Lebrano,’ Daniel echoed.

  Benny smiled again. ‘You got it. Look, kid, it’s crazy in here today and I’ve got targets to hit, so I don’t want to seem rude but …’

  Daniel said that he understood, thanked Benny once more and melted back into the crush of people. He headed out onto the pavement and walked the short distance to Washington Square Park. He took a seat on one of the benches near the central fountain and pulled the piece of paper out of his pocket. Benny had written a phone number on it along with the name “Pickford”. If he understood the gist of what Benny wasn’t saying, then this Pickford might be able to get him a mobile phone without asking too many awkward questions.

  He put the paper back into his pocket and headed over to the nearest phone booth, searching his pocket for a dollar coin as he went.

  Cross answered the call before it had rung a second time. ‘Cross,’ he said. He stood on the north side of the park below the Washington Square Arch.

  ‘Back in the city,’ he answered after a pause. ‘Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. He’s just tried to get a cell phone and is now making a call from a public booth.’

  Cross waited for the other person to finish speaking. ‘Some back-street hotel a few blocks from here,’ he said. ‘You know, maybe this kid is as smart as you think he is. Even using face-recognition it’d be hard to locate and follow him around here.’

  Cross paused again as the other voice spoke. ‘So what do you want me to do?’

  He listened again to the voice. ‘Will do.’ He ended the call and slipped the phone back into his jacket.

  Daniel pushed the dollar coin into the phone booth slot, waited for the tone and dialled the number. It rang eight times before being answered, just as he was about to hang up.

  ‘Yeah?’ a man’s voice said.

  ‘Hi,’ Daniel said, suddenly nervous. ‘Would it be possible to speak with Pickford?’

  There was a slight pause. ‘Who’s askin’?’

  ‘Is that Pickford?’ Daniel asked.

  ‘Maybe. Like I said, who’s askin’?’

  ‘I’ve been given this number.’

  ‘You don’t say?’

  ‘By Benny Lebrano. He said that Pickford might be able to help me.’

  There was another pause before the man replied. ‘Benny gave you this number, huh?’

  ‘That’s right.’

  ‘Small wiry guy, right? Long blond hair?’

  ‘That’s him,’ Daniel replied. ‘Assuming that he’s grown at least fifteen centimetres, put on about twenty kilos and had his hair cut since you last saw him,’

  The man gave a grunt-like laugh. ‘Okay, so who are you and what do you want?’

  Daniel looked around him, to make sure that no one overheard. ‘I need a cell phone,’ he said, knowing that if he said “mobile” the man may not understand.

  ‘A cell phone?’

  ‘Yeah. The only thing is, is that I don’t have a passport or DNA card.’

  ‘Ouch.’

  ‘Benny said that you might be able to help me?’

  ‘Benny really shouldn’t go around saying stupid things like that,’ Pickford said then made a noise that sounded like he was picking his teeth. ‘Help is something which my old pop used to say was for shmucks. I don’t help people, buddy. I’m a business man, and what I do is provide a service. My time ain’t free, if you know what I mean.’

  ‘Totally.’

  ‘I mean my time don’t even come close to being cheap.’

  ‘I can pay whatever you ask,’ Daniel told him.

  ‘You haven’t haggled much before, have you?’ he said. ‘Where you from?’

  ‘England.’

  ‘Yeah, that’d explain it. What’s your name?’

  ‘Daniel.’

  ‘Okay then, Danny, I’m gonna tell you what I’ll do. You come down to my office tonight – alone, mind you – and we’ll have a little chat about what it is you want and what I might be able to offer. Then you can decide on whether you can afford it, or not. And I don’t take credit, my Brit friend. Just old-fashioned folding.’

  ‘That’s just as well,’ Daniel said, ‘’cause that’s all I have.’

  Pickford laughed again and told Daniel where to meet him and what time. Daniel hung up and looked at his watch – he had a little over eight hours between now and when Pickford said he’d meet with him. He’d have to go back to the locker at the train station and collect some money, but that still left him with plenty of time to kill.

  He wondered how busy the library would be this time of day.

  The phone call had gone about as well as Brennan thought it would. Control had belittled him again in that muted, condescending voice of his. It was almost as if the man couldn’t raise his voice above a soft, irritating whine. Perhaps he did it on purpose, to anger people even more?

  Lithgow waited until Brennan’s phone had stopped bouncing around the dashboard of the Lexus before speaking. ‘He took the news well, then.’

  Brennan turned toward him and answered the question with a dark look. ‘Just find out where that damned tunnel leads.’

  Lithgow nodded and tapped at his Tablet.

  The beam from Professor Cuthberts’s flashlight landed on the hatch control panel. He was panting from the effort of the three quarter-mile trek through the tunnel, and his breath misted in the cool air. The explosion had rocked the brickwork long before he’d reached half way and for a moment he feared that it would all collapse around him.

  He reached out and pressed the green button on the control panel, entered a ten-digit code and the heavy metal hatch above him began to swing open. He switched off the flashlight and slowly climbed the concrete steps up to ground level. The
flash of red and blue lights came to him almost immediately.

  The orange flames from his house lit up a huge area making the night as bright as day, and two fire engines were dousing what was left of the property. Alan stood for a few moments looking at the devastation with tears staining his cheeks. He wiped them away with the back of one hand and blew his nose into a handkerchief.

  ‘God bless you, Simon.’

  He reached inside the hatch and pressed the red button on the control panel. The metal door began to close and after half a minute no one would ever have known there was an entrance to an underground tunnel there.

  His reserve car was parked in a garage a few hundred feet away, and by the time Brennan was walking through the smoking ruin of the house, Alan was safe within his flat in Hessle on the outskirts of Hull, a glass of whisky in his hand. On the table next to him lay a ticket on the eight a.m. ferry to Rotterdam. Beside it lay an embossed invite to a “Superhero Stag party”.

 
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