ICYMI – Here's Snippet #1

Chapter 2

The last of the winter sunlight faded away, and Cody watched the clock on her tablet, counting the remaining seconds of her shift. At first, she didn’t notice the armored truck approaching the parking lot, but the deep, throaty growl of its engines alerted her, and she looked up in time to see the matt black truck nosing forward, the automated barrier rising to allow it through. Must be a delivery or a pickup. Security trucks arrived every day, shifting valuable equipment or taking sensitive data to be destroyed, but when the truck swung smoothly across the parking lot, she narrowed her eyes. What the hell is that thing doing here?

This was no security truck, but a BEAR—a tactical support vehicle favored by SWAT teams and the military—and it was turning up on Cody’s watch.

“We’ll soon see what this is all about,” Cody muttered. She pocketed her tablet and marched across the lot, on a path to intercept the vehicle. But the truck skirted the edge of the lot and ground to a halt directly outside the main entrance. Cody jogged to the truck. She hadn’t seen anyone step down from the vehicle, so she had to assume the driver was still inside, but the truck’s windows were heavily tinted and well above eye level, so it was impossible to see inside the cab. Cody looked along the vehicle, surprised to see no badge or identifying marks, then she took out her tablet and checked the delivery schedule. “That’s weird,” she murmured because there was nothing: no pickups or deliveries for the rest of the day.

She kept her eyes on the cab and walked around to the front of the truck, holding up her tablet and activating her scanner, but for some reason, the scan wouldn’t run. Cody tried again, but when someone opened the truck’s passenger door, she forgot about her tablet and stepped back, ready for anything.

The man clambering down from the cab wore a well-cut business suit over a dazzling white shirt, and he would’ve looked more at home in a Bentley rather than a BEAR, but even so, he had the relaxed poise of someone accustomed to being in charge. He buttoned his jacket as he strolled toward her, and when he spoke, his voice was deep and commanding: “There’s no need to scan this vehicle. We’re authorized to be here.”

Cody hesitated. “I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t leave your vehicle in this area—it’s for emergency services only.”

The man slid his hand inside his jacket, and when Cody tensed, her reaction seemed to amuse him. “Relax,” he said. “I’m just getting my ID.” He held out a card bearing the Vortax logo, and when Cody read the man’s details, she stood to attention, her eyes fixed dead ahead.

“I’m sorry, Colonel Banks, sir,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting anyone from V Division.”

The colonel pocketed his card and looked Cody up and down. “That’s understood. You’re doing your job, and we’d appreciate it if you’d let us do ours.”

“Of course, sir.” Cody’s mind raced. This could be a great opportunity, a chance to make a good impression on someone from V Div. But you couldn’t just soft-soap a colonel, could you? Cody cleared her throat. “If there’s anything I can do to help, Colonel, please let me know. In the meantime, I was wondering if I might—”

Banks didn’t give her the chance to finish. “Thank you, but it’s best if you go about your business as usual. We’ll be out of here as soon as we can, and that’s all you’re authorized to know.”

“Yes. I understand. Sorry to have kept you, Colonel.” Cody stood still, waiting to be dismissed, but the colonel was already walking away. He climbed back into the BEAR’s cab and slammed the door without a backward glance.

I was just a glitch in his day, Cody thought. An irritating interruption to be dealt with. She took a breath and exhaled loudly, then she headed back across the parking lot. The day had gone just about as badly as it could, but at least it was almost the end of her shift.

She took out her tablet and checked the time, and that was when she saw the notification on the screen: a new message. Her mood brightened. Perhaps it was Joseph, getting in touch to apologize for earlier. But when she opened the message, her smile disappeared. It was from Chalmers. A few terse sentences:

Milbourne – it seems you sent a parking fine to an official visitor from the State Department. Come and see me in the morning. And the guy covering the next shift phoned in sick, so you’d better cover for him. Stay put until I can find someone to take over. And no more tickets unless you check with me first.

“No,” Cody groaned. “This can’t be happening.” But the implication of Chalmers’ message was clear. If she wanted to stand a chance of keeping her job, she had to do what she was told without complaint. She had no choice.

I hope you enjoyed that snippet.

Prison Quest is available on all Amazon Stores and can be read for free by members of Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime. To learn more visit: Find Prison Quest Online

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