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Buildings Most Unstable
Author's note: This is a revision of my original book, Buildings Most Unstable.
The light drizzle was making little streams run down the window. I was looking over my past detective records for the pleasure of recollection. Outside the evening light was shrinking, it being near five o’clock. A few cold drops of coffee lay in my cup. My dog, Jesse, was laying on the rug by my blue armchair, sides rising and falling slowly in slumber. Ace, my cat, was curled up on the couch nearby.
All was quiet. Peaceful. I laid back my head, eyes weary. Sleep slowly encircled and crept through me. Jesse's gentle breathing was now silent. All was calm. It was quiet.
BOOM… a thunderous, distant explosion. I started to full consciousness, and stumbled over to the window.
What.. on.. earth? Peering into the declining light of the city, I saw a far off sky-scraper crumbling down upon itself to the earth below. Dusty gray smoke billowed out of and clouded around it.
I thought of the hundreds of people who must have been dying in that building. I agonized for them. My mind throbbed in anguish. After a shocked few moments of standing there staring at the debris and smoke, I grabbed the phone and called Inspector Burrow.
“Find anything out?” I had met up with the inspector, who had been investigating the explosion’s cause.
“Ehh, not much. But I mean, there’s not much obvious to tell, if you’re talking about cause.” I shoved my hands in his jean pockets to listen.
“Well, we think the explosion came from the power room, on the very bottom floor of the building. But, it was far too big- the explosion, that is- to have been an accident with the power. Rather I think that it was probably some sort of a bomb… perhaps set by some person that disliked the owner of the business? Er, hated, I should say.”
Over a period of the next few days, I did what little I could to find out more of the facts. I took a look at what the papers said about the explosion; I researched the people and such that they mentioned; I looked up records of the building that had blown up and collapsed.
But before I had even caught on to anything, another explosion occurred. It was exactly five days later, at exactly the same time, 5:00 pm. All the same evidence. Inspector Burrow again said that he and his team thought the explosion had come from the power room, and that it had probably been a bomb of some sort. The building this time was a hotel. No survivors were found.
Local government now declared it law to maintain double security all the time, until they caught whoever was planting the bombs. Most large businesses were especially watching their power rooms.
Now, I have to say I had plenty of experience with people of all levels of insanity, which indeed comes with being a detective; I knew that more bombs would be detonated in the city. Whoever this person was, he wouldn't stop at just two. There would be at least three, or maybe even five, if he was like the common loony; although all such people are odd and deranged and different... but somehow it works.
By now nearly all my thoughts were concerned with getting this case uncovered. Day and night I researched anything that might be relevant. It was a matter of life and death to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. I just could not, would not stand by and let them die, while I might be able to prevent their deaths. If there was just the slightest chance, I was gonna try.
But, despite all this, I couldn’t find out anything in time that would help predict what building the third one would be. The very sound of the distant explosion brought me to my knees in agony for all those people. I could barely look up to a clock with teary eyes and see that it was again 5:00 pm; five days after the previous explosion. For just a moment, I felt defeated, helpless. I looked down, crying hard. A third building of fellow human beings had been destroyed, while I couldn’t stop it!
But suddenly, my face hardened, I clenched my fists, and I rose to my feet. NO! That’s IT! If there was anything thing I could do to stop him, I would not let this man murder a single other person.
I called and asked the inspector to send me an areal view of the three buildings that had been obliterated. I hoped that there might be some kind of a pattern. The map came through, and I printed it off. I was right. There was a sort of V pattern in the three buildings. But what was the rest of the pattern? What did the person planting the bombs plan to do next? I studied the map hard, leaning over it on the table. What could that V be part of?
I didn’t know how I could be sure of anything the V might have stood for. Was it part of a W that stood for something? A name, perhaps? Or was it the upper part of an X, or just a V?
Out on the sidewalk, in my armchair, looking out the window, staring at the maps… I wandered around hour after hour, pounding my head with ideas. What on earth is it?
Dah! I stood up from my map table and took a sip of cold coffee. Already it had been four days. Tomorrow was to be the day of the fourth explosion. Tomorrow! The fourth one! I grabbed my jacket and went out for a walk.
The breeze pleasantly brushed my face. It was pretty refreshing. Some leaves were scritching across the pavement; the few fenced-in trees throughout the city did scatter a few leaves over the streets in autumn.
I had an idea. I went back to the apartment building.
I ran up the stairs of the building, floor after floor, until at last I came to the very top. Breathing heavily but smiling broadly, I walked across the gravel to the wall at the edge and the wind hit my face even more. It seems that the more a cool breeze hits my face, the bigger my smile grows. It’s so refreshing and invigorating!
I looked out over the large English city of Enfield. My apartment building was the sixth tallest building in the city, and from it you could see almost the entire city. The view was amazing. The evening sun gleamed orange off the windows of the various buildings. Away in the distance there was a flock of geese flying north in V-formation.
I looked at where the three buildings had been, down below. I envisioned a giant capital V lying over the city. I shook myself slightly. That was weird. But my thoughts did go back to the matter close at hand.
I looked back at the V-pattern. I wonder… The lines that I imagined to connect the three buildings took on a new shape. I hadn’t yet studied the three buildings directly, just on maps. What if… A square… and then, a central point... My mouth parted slightly. A diamond shape with an inner, ultimate target! That’d make it five buildings. This might be it…
Back at my apartment on my laptop, I did some research. I did that all night. I thought I was on to something. It was only when I just couldn’t keep my eyes open at all that I went to bed, but I did so with a renewed hope.
The next morning I was up again early, back at my research. All morning and into the afternoon I sat either in my armchair or by the window, or somewhere, studying the screen. Occasionally I’d take a short break to make a sandwich or some coffee, or just rest my eyes. But I couldn’t stop for very long; I had something, I knew it, and would not let those people die just because I had gotten hungry, or my eyes had wearied!
I had been studying deep into the roots of a certain site for a good while; it was the Saturday Evening Post’s website. Suddenly, I saw something. Maybe this was it!
See, that central building and ultimate target in the suggested pattern was the Saturday Evening Post, and I saw something that might have sparked bitter feelings toward its owner. In 1992, the business’s owner had cheated someone by the name of James Cleveland of a good bit of money. I scrolled down a little, and followed links to a number of social network histories. I saw that since that scandal, there had been several bitter statements and comments by this James Cleveland, directed toward the Saturday Evening Post and its owner. I went back to The Post’s website, and found Mr. Cleveland’s name in the “Rate Us” section: he had rated the business at 0 out of 5 stars. Also, I discovered that he had publicly denounced it and its owner, speaking out in conferences and such. He had actually made the news twice.
I stood up slowly and grinned, hardly believing I’d really finally found it. I made sure, though, and looked back over the pages. But, everything sure did look right. Working quickly now, I shut my laptop and put on my conceal-carry holster for my Ruger LCR. I grabbed my coat and, once outside, headed for the police station.
It was an amazing, cool, refreshing autumn day. I stuffed my hands into my coat pockets, and my scarf blew up as I ran toward the street to catch a taxi. Hurrying even as I was, I immensely enjoyed being outside. I grinned. I received a few strange glances, but grinned all the more, and got into the taxi.
Once at the station, I told as much as I could to Inspector Burrow with the time we had. There was only an hour before the bomb would be planted.
I looked at my watch. It was 4:45. We were right on-time. The inspector and I both drove separate cars, and a number of his men rode along; we were all headed for the Baker Street Hotel.
We parked a short distance away, in different places, all made for our positions; but the policemen were stalled. I could see them down the street from where I was at time. There was a “disturbance of the peace” that, by law, I knew they were bound to deal with. Burrow would have just had some of his men do it, but then we would have been short-handed. This is ridiculous! I thought, and I knew Burrow was thinking the same thing. We made eye contact, and he shrugged helplessly, regretfully.
Pressing on, I was able to make it to my station- the building’s power room- on time. I hid behind the door, and waited what seemed a long two and a half minutes. My pulse began to quicken. Was the man coming? Would he be scared off by the presence of Burrow and his men? Would he plant the bomb in a different room this time?... Was my theory correct? Was this even the right building?
But finally, the door opened and someone entered, stopping in the center of the smallish room. It was exactly 5:00 pm.
The man was dressed like any other person, in jeans and a T-shirt, with a bag strung over his shoulder. I figured him to be in his early to late forties, though he appeared to still be pretty well in shape. He glanced about the room- thankfully away from me.
I rose up quietly behind him, and was about to- NO! Bits of glass lay on the floor now under my foot. I jumped back and away from the blade whizzing through the air; it just missed my gut. The weapon’s owner stepped back and threw the knife aside before reaching for something else under his coat; I lounged at him and grabbed his wrist, twisting it around behind him and in the act shoved him against the wall. I looked at the 1911 pistol in the man’s hand for a brief moment, before receiving a jab to the side. I involuntarily bent to my left, sending off my balance. The man spun around and brought down his right fist, to strike me with the handle of the gun, but I blocked it and through him to the ground.
And so continued our struggle. The position of having the upper hand was exchanged several times between us. One would slam the other against the wall; one would knock the other to the floor; one would kick the other’s leg out from under him. Back and forth.
At one point, when I was not in this position- that of having the upper hand- my opponent had me held up against the wall in such a way that I could barely move. He held me there for several moments, withstanding my attempts to break free. I knew he was trying to get into my mind and knock down any hope of ever getting the upper hand again.
But in those moments, my mind went to all the people this man had murdered with those horrible bombs. All those souls, those faces I had never seen. Those lives people had been living that this man had ended. Also I thought of all the people he would kill if he went unstopped.
A fire was kindled in my heart. It grew to a raging fire that burned deep. Righteous anger filled me, and in a sudden burst of adrenaline I pushed against the wall and ran backwards, slamming the man into the opposite wall. I threw off his hold on me, and spun around and slugged him hard in the gut, then knocked him to the floor with another blow, now to his jaw. I lifted him up and threw him back against the wall. My onslaught grew so furious and to such a speed that the man could hardly think, much less defend himself.
Eventually, when I thought the man was wearing down, I let off. We both stood there for several moments, breathing hard. But I let down my guard.
The man brought his doubled fists up hard under my chin. My head was sent back, flinging blood. I fell to the floor, half blacking out. My mind spun from one random thought to another in my near-unconsciousness.
But when I came round a little, I realized that the man was taking the bomb out of the bag. I forced myself to rally enough to pull the pistol out from my waist holster, and roll over onto my stomach. The man froze, eyeing the weapon that was pointed at him. His eyes went to his own gun, which lay on the floor behind me. He looked at his knife a little closer, but that thought was quickly overthrown.
At first he just stared at my handgun warily. But soon, caution was overcome by the hatred that ran rampant in his heart, and he shifted his gaze to glare coldly at me. He slowly continued to raise the bomb above his head, watching me, as if in a dare.
“You wouldn’t kill a man, would you?” he sneered.
I breathed somewhat heavily, but replied,
“If he was about blow up a fourth building filled with people, I might.”
For a moment he glared at me even more coldly; then, he stripped the cover off the sticky underside of the bomb. Looking back at me, he stuck the bomb on the ceiling.
“Don’t,” I warned.
“You don’t have the heart.” And he reach up and pushed the ACTIVATE button.
A shot rang loud in the small room, and the man fell forward with a cry of agony, blood spurting from his shin. He limped out of the room as fast as he could manage, for the bomb was already counting down.
I jumped up, dominating as best I could the dizzy sensation that wanted to overwhelm me, and punched four digits into the bomb keypad. I ran out after the would-be murderer. But he had stopped. Burrow and his men were at the entrance of the hotel building. I lowered to one knee to help with the dizziness, and extended my handgun out before me.
The man was breathing heavily and glancing scared, with leg bleeding, from the policemen to me and back again. He counted at least five pistols pointed at him. Reluctantly, slowly, he gave up; he tossed the bag to the side, and raised his hands.
“Jack,” the inspector walked up later. “W-what on earth did you put in for the code for the bomb?”
“Just a guess- 1992.”