Sitting Duck

We’d been found. The house wasn’t safe. Just sitting there, I felt like a sitting duck. I wished we had more cameras. By the time any attackers got to where the cameras were positioned, it was going to be too late for me anyway.

I pulled everything out of the go-bag and examined it all.

There was a map and a programmed SatNav showing the route to the address in North London I was to head to next. A set of instructions to destroy all the computers and hard drives upstairs. A bulletproof vest. A loaded Glock 17 with suppressor. Night vision goggles. Some smoke and flash bang grenades.

In my hands, most of it was an accident waiting to happen. Fat chance it was going to save my life in the face of a team of professional killers.

It occurred to me then that the person who left the manuscript had nothing to do with those coming to kill me. Funny. Right then, someone who had broken into the house without us knowing was the least of my problems.

I put some stuff in the boot of the car and got things ready for a quick getaway.

I paced.

I ate.

I peered through every window.

I watched the security cameras.

I had to see what was out there.

Leaving the lights on and making sure everything was locked, I slipped out the front door with the bulletproof vest on under my jacket and wandered along the same route as before – down the street running across the front of the house, down the narrow track, over the fence and into the woods behind the back garden.

In a way, I was probably safer outside, because the attackers would be drawn to the house.

I kept going, trudging through the trees, heading away from the house. I followed a well-trodden path I had used plenty of times before, where I knew I could walk quietly without a load of noise from cracking twigs and rustling leaves underfoot.

My skin prickled suddenly.

I stopped dead. I glanced around me – then darted behind the nearest tree.

My pulse hammered through my bones. My lungs wanted to gasp for breath. But I held it all in and breathed as quietly as I could. There was no sign of anyone about. But something felt wrong.

I’ve developed this sixth sense. I can feel when someone is watching me. Now I was experiencing something else – a sense of danger. My newfound ability was evolving.

I ventured forward, moving from tree to tree, stopping and looking around me before moving on – until my sense of danger throbbed through my skull like silent alarm.

The night vision glasses Six had left me were in my jacket pocket. The Glock 17 was shoved in my belt, pressing against my lower back. I put on the night vision goggles. I waited. I listened, straining to catch the slightest sound.

A twig cracked, making me jump out of my skin.

I ducked down to a crouching position and peered around the tree.

My eyes caught a movement at the far edge of my vision.

And another.

And another.

Then there were five figures moving in my direction, picking their way through the undergrowth and the trees. Three of them carried guns – not 9mm handguns like mine, but automatic assault rifles. Not a fair fight.

 

 

Hitman

The closer I ventured to the house, the darker the windows seemed to be – the lights hadn’t just been turned off, something else had filled the space left behind by the light.

I eased the front door open and closed it quietly behind me. I edged across the floor towards the stairs.

A dark shape appeared at the top of the staircase, making me jump out of my skin.

The hitman.

But there was no immediate attempt to kill me. Instead he turned and disappeared.

I hurried up the stairs after him.

He loomed in the room I’d been using as a study, his head nearly touching the ceiling. He grasped a manuscript in his gloved hand – one I hadn’t got around to working on yet.

“Where did you get this?” he growled.

“I found it on my desk,” I shrugged. “Like I always do. It came from him – the same as all the others.”

The hitman’s expression was grave.

“No. It didn’t.”

I stared at him dumbfounded.

“What do you mean – it didn’t,” I uttered.

“This didn’t come from him,” the hitman snapped. “Someone else broke in here and left it for you.”

“Why would they do that?” I blurted.

“I don’t know.” The hitman slammed the manuscript back on the desk, making papers and books spill onto the carpet. He gave me a murderous dark scowl. “There’s something about you they find special.”

“I haven’t found what the detective left,” I blurted.

“I know.” He strode out of the room. “Looks like you’re too important to kill – for now. You’d better get on with it.”

I studied the mystery manuscript. I scrolled through hours and days of security footage. I found nothing. No one could have got in, left the manuscript and got out again without us knowing. But someone did.

Gone

I lulled myself into a false sense of security. I’d convinced myself we were safe.

I lumbered downstairs for breakfast one morning – to find Six was gone. He’d left a go bag on the kitchen table with a note:

“Be ready.”

That was it. No explanation. No saying where he was going or when he was coming back – even if he was coming back. He was just gone.

It threw me. I saw in a daze for a few hours, then something fired up inside me and I got myself ready. Six had been the careful one – checking our security systems, scrolling through camera footage, occasionally patrolling the perimeter, which meant wandering out with a football at random times of day looking like a normal kid and seeing what he could find. But there’d been nothing.

The only strange thing that happened recently was the last time we’d driven into town, which we’d done a few times. He’d been kind of spaced out in the car. I’d turned the radio on and sung along to a few classic tunes and he’d sat there in a daze. Then, in town, he’d vanished suddenly, only to meet up with me back at the car. He never told me why or what he’d done.

Now this.

I’d gone out for the odd wander anyway, mainly to get some air and exercise, but I’d always been careful and kept my eyes open for anything unusual. But I had Six for backup. Now it was all down to me.

I went through everything he’d shown me, making sure all cameras and motion sensors were working, which I could do from the computer upstairs. I scrolled through the last few hours of security camera footage. It all seemed fine.

No. Wait. Something nagged at the back of my brain.

I checked it again.

No one appeared twice. Two kids kicking a football one time. A married couple strolling past. Apart from that it was the residents of the streets – and we’d identified them, their vehicles and any regular visitors ages ago.

I found it. One car passing by slowly – four times. You don’t just pass our house unless you have somewhere to go. It didn’t stop anywhere. Within minutes each time, it passed traffic and security cameras on a main street nearby, which Six had hacked into. Even pausing on the car and zooming in, there was no way of making out who was inside. I was pretty sure it slowed right down as it passed the house, but no one ever got out. I grabbed a pen and paper to make a note of the number plate – but it was spattered with mud – just enough to make reading it impossible.

“Do you know where Six is?” I texted Silas.

“No,” came the instant reply.

How do you tell if someone is lying on a text? Well, the answer was too quick and only one word. Silas knew more than I did. And there was no way of getting it out of him.

“I’m in more danger now he’s gone.”

“You’re fine.”

Another short answer. What the hell was going on?

That night, after checking and double-checking doors, windows and the security system, I headed out for a walk. I wandered along the road in front of the house, turned right down a pathway bordered by wooden fences, vaulted over one at the end to double back on myself, this time approaching the house from the wooded area behind the back garden.

No one around.

Then I saw something that made an icy chill shoot up my spine.

The windows of the house were dark. And I’d left the lights on.

endgame book cover

Endgame – Out now on paperback

Endgame is now available in paperback form. It’s a YA action thriller, the fourth title in the Mondial series. Here’s the synopsis:

What would you do if you were arrested for murder? Run from the police? Fight to prove your innocence? Take part in a deadly game to win a fortune?

The evidence says he did it. The police, his teachers and his friends think he’s a killer. When the chance comes, teenager Matt Tyler has a choice – face life in prison or run for it

On the run with no friends, no money and nowhere to go, Matt is cornered by a man calling himself the Bounty Hunter and issued a challenge: survive 48 hours with a rucksack on your back and the million pounds inside is yours.

Matt joins up with Teagan, who helps him search for answers and stay ahead of his pursuers. But she has her own criminal past and a real taste for danger. Can Matt stay alive long enough to prove he’s innocent?

To find Endgame on Amazon, click on the relevant link below.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Amazon India

Part Two of the story I’ve been serialising on my blog, the Diary of the Writer on the Run, begins again next week. To read Part One, totally free of course, click on the link.

The Diary of the Writer on the Run

 

The Hidden Venue

ShadowAspect melted through a couple of walls and emerged in a small electronics shop that had been closed hours ago. Heavy shutters hid what was happening inside.

The two men with guns lingered out of sight by the door. Their boss followed a woman dressed like a shop assistant to a door marked “Private”, then through a stockroom to a large bookcase covered in boxes set against the back wall.

Slinking behind them, ShadowAspect had already seen seven tiny security cameras. They had all been turned off – apart from the one in the bookcase.

The bookcase swung aside. They stepped inside and it shut behind them.

After waiting a few seconds, a heavy security door opened. The man made his way in alone and strode down a dimly lit corridor with impressionist paintings on the wall. Most were fake, but some were originals. The corridor opened out into a bright café with marble floor and walls.

A waiter with a Glock 17 strapped under his apron greeted him and showed him to a table under a rooflight. A glance around the room told the new arrival that everyone there was armed – in one way or another. And they were all watching him.

The Boss

A man climbed out of the backseat of the Jaguar parked up the street. There was nothing special about him as far as ShadowAspect could see – just some normal-looking guy in jeans and a blazer – but he strode down the middle of the road like he owned it.

Two men jumped out of the front of the car and followed him. They were bigger and more imposing. I could tell by watching them in the Infinistra that they were both wearing body armour and hiding guns under their jackets.

Their boss strode past ShadowAspect and up to a darkened shop front. He gave a quiet knock. A few seconds later the door opened. All three men marched in.

To Remain Unseen

The notes on the laptop ShadowAspect had left me didn’t say when it had happened, but the fact the incidents were marked “Urgent” suggested it had all taken place recently.

Shadow Aspect emerged in a central London street in the dead of night. It was darker than he’d expected. Over half the streetlights he could make out in either direction had failed to turn on. It was perfect for him – and anyone else not wanting to be seen. Someone had taken out the lights on purpose.

A car rolled down the street, its headlights already turned off. It parked about fifty metres away.

ShadowAspect noticed something on the wall above. He stretched up the wall and touched his elongated fingers to the security camera belonging to the shop behind him. It wasn’t working. Every other security camera on the street wouldn’t be working either. Someone didn’t want to be seen. And they had the power to make that happen.

The Secret Identity of Annie Banks

The Secret Identity of Annie Banks is now available in paperback on Amazon. The ebook is still just 99p /$0.99/ EUR 0,99 or FREE to download with Kindle Unlimited.

After uncovering secret rooms, a stash of weapons and evidence of her parents’ dangerous past life, Annie Banks discovers a bigger secret buried in her own brain – codes, files and deadly martial arts skills, which snap into life when she needs them.

When their parents disappear, Annie and her brother Pete work together to unlock the clues left behind. Pursued by trained killers, they use all their hidden talents to search for their parents and survive a deadly chase in a dangerous world of spies and organised crime.

The Secret Identity of Annie Banks is the second instalment in the Mondial Series, the follow up to Atticus Crayle: The Accidental Spy.

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/author/jasonrybak

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Jason-Rybak/e/B0177V508Q

 

annie-promo-8

 

Safehouse

Six drove hard, sticking to quiet country roads, As it started to get light again, he skidded to a sudden halt. Without saying a word, he grabbed his phone and spent ten minutes tapping away at it with a frown on his face. Then he handed it to me, telling me to flick between a map and what looked like a live camera feed of the inside of a house. He drove on and a couple of hours later, parked in the garage of a cottage on the edge of a village close to London.

“What is this place?” I asked.

“Safehouse. Officially it’s a holiday home. No one will think it’s strange that we’re here. We’ll be safe for a couple of nights and we can plan our next move.”
I recognised the interior from the camera feeds I’d been watching.
“This belongs to your emplyers? Won’t they look for you here?”
“No. It’s mine. No one else knows about it.”

Six wouldn’t answer any more questions. He set about checking his many hidden security measures and reported that no one had been there. I knew we were safe – for the time being at least.

It was about twenty-seven hours later when I realised that someone had been in the house while I was asleep and left things for us. There was a laptop containing every note and every manuscript I’d left behind in our crashed car.

My eye was drawn to some material I didn’t recognise – titled “URGENT”
It showed what else ShadowAspect had been up to recently.

The first incident sent a chill up my spine.

Escape

jason ryback bullet point for blog

Six turned and ran for it. I scrambled to my feet and followed. I felt dazed and a little delicate from being hit, but I just shook it off as I ran.

The farm was further away than it looked. Running in the darkness towards the shape of a group of buildings, I didn’t dare slow down. Glancing over my shoulder, it didn’t look like anyone was following.

Eventually we reached the farm and hid behind the wall of a barn. I collapsed to the ground, my lungs burning. My legs screamed in pain.

“Who the hell were they?” Six uttered. He wasn’t even breathing heavily.

“Dunno,” I gasped.

“They weren’t like ShadowAspect,” he thought out loud. “They were more like the woman who dodged my bullets.” He peered around the corner. “We need to get out of here before any of them see what car we’re driving.”

Six led the way and I staggered after him. He found a barn by the lane leading out of the farm and hauled the door open.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. Car doors unlocked in front of me. The lights came on inside the Ford Focus sitting in the barn.

Six jumped in the driver’s seat. I sank into the passenger seat. He accelerated and drove at breakneck sped out of the farm.