Botherington briefly considered other ways of getting him to talk — money, fame, chocolate — but was distracted by the sound of approaching sirens and the screech of car tyres. It seemed to be coming from the front of the building. Next came the noise of a battering ram being taken to the front door, which was curious, considering the door was unlocked. There were no protestations from the security guard, who was, presumably, sleeping through the whole thing.
Seconds later, four burly men burst into Musson's room. Their uniforms were pitch black, from the balaclavas on their heads down to the substantial, shiny black boots, capped with metal studs. The words 'Secret Service' were emblazoned proudly on the back of their thick cotton skivvies, along with their marketing slogan, which went simply, '... ssssh'. Botherington had to admit that she was rather excited by their presence.
She considered ways of getting him to talk, but was distracted by the sound of approaching sirens and screeching car tyres.
The four men had been exceedingly vocal as they had moved down the corridor into Musson's room without actually saying anything. Instead, they uttered a broad range of guttural sounds in a way that each seemed to understand. They were surprised to find that Musson had company, and grunted a few more indistinguishable syllables to each other. One of them looked the young journalist up and down and grunted in a fashion that appeared to be some primeval form of lust. The other three gathered around her, grunting similarly, their arms swinging around their knees at a speed that indicated great excitement. It was as though they were some sort of genetic throwback to Stone Age man. Either that, or they were security guards who had managed to land a better job.
Moments later, their grunting was drowned out by the sound of a helicopter, which appeared directly over Eton Towers. One of the men pulled a black rucksack off his back and took out a black harness. Another removed a black bag, while the other two tried to constrain Musson, which was not an easy undertaking, as they all found themselves skating on the paper-plated remains of a fortnight's Chinese takeaways. After considerably more grunting, the bag was placed over Musson's head, the harness secured over his shoulders and the four men bustled him up the stairs and on to the roof.
Botherington followed behind, trying to keep up, but by the time she got to the roof, Musson had already been winched into the helicopter, and, although the pilot seemed to be struggling a little with the weight, it soon disappeared swiftly through the cold night air. And then Eton Towers went strangely quiet.
By the time she got to the roof, Musson had been winched into the helicopter, and it soon disappeared swiftly through the cold night air.
She wondered who they were. The whole operation had happened so quickly, and, even though they wore secret service uniforms, she doubted it could be anyone from the government. It had been too efficient. Perhaps they were from 60 Minutes.
She glanced at her watch. There was still time to make the next morning's newspapers. The front page of the Sydney Mail didn't go to print until 9 o'clock, and it was still early enough in the evening for the chief of staff to be relatively sober.
She flipped open her mobile phone and quickly dialled the news desk. The line was silent.
'Dammit,' she said, shaking her PocketFriend 2050 as though a few sudden movements might magically fix the problem. It didn't. She looked in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and saw there was no signal. She held the phone higher; still no signal. Yet she was in the centre of town; how could this be?
Botherington wasn't the only one suffering mobile coverage problems. The entire network was out, and had been for several hours. It probably would have been fixed if Jimi Jones hadn't sacked the head of engineering. Out of many hundreds of thousands of people who contributed nothing at all at VastTel, his first choice had been to get rid of the only person capable of fixing the problem.
The Incumbent is Phil Dobbie's first novel and these excerpts have been used with his permission. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. To purchase the entire novel in digital format, click here. It is also available in printed format ... for more details click here.