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Quentin Black: 'Project Unknown'

By Lachlan. S. Driscoll All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery


Something has been hidden for a decade, long forgotten and abandoned by the people who brought it into the twenty first century. In New York City, the buried secrets of Project Chronos are about to be unleashed, and for Quentin Black, his life is about to flipped on it’s edge and everyone in it as well. Quentin works for MI6 in London, transferred to New York with Julia Ellis-Lloyd and Colin Schipero to work with the New York Police Department. Six months turned into two years, and Quentin wonders whether he will ever return home. But his biggest problem is just about to begin. When a mysterious woman approaches him with a dilemma involving an international conspiracy, an illegal experiment, a hazardous weapon, five million dollars, and a criminal known as the ‘Sabbath’, Quentin struggles with his morals and reputation as a psychological cat and mouse chase begins, a chase which will lead to his downfall.

The Drug Lord of New York

Quentin Black nervously drummed his fingers on the glove box of the police van as it sped through Fifth Avenue, possibilities flashing across his mind like bolts of lightning. What if Moldova knew that they were after him and had escaped the old house already? What if he was there waiting for them, with weapons out and opened fire in ten seconds of complete pandemonium and trigger happy madness? What would Frayhad say if they had failed to capture the drug lord for the third time this month? Even worse, what would Evelyn be screaming down the phone at him? Quentin shook his head and the thoughts went away. He had a way of clearing his mind and focusing on nothing, something most people found very difficult to do. A tiny thought still nagged at the back of his brain, like someone knocking at the back door of your house.

What now?

He went to see what it was. This time, the thoughts were racing past him and it was hard to keep up, like when you turn on your Wi-Fi to check your emails after a particularly long plane flight. He closed his eyes to concentrate, but to no avail. Sighing, he pushed the annoying visitors out the door and slammed it shut.

Much better.

Quentin took a deep breath and opened his eyes. The van turned into a side street, and pulled up on the sidewalk with a screech. He got out of the passenger seat and stepped onto the pavement. He could smell burning rubber, smoke issuing from the back tires. Quentin’s dirty blonde hair flapped in the light breeze like some giant bird. It perched precariously atop his head. Julia always said he should cut it, but he never got around to it. A man got out of the other side of the van and started barking orders to policemen, who had jumped out of two trucks that had just arrived, heavily dressed in black, padded armor and carrying bulky weapons. Quentin didn’t like the sight of the weapons. It not only made him feel nervous, but incredibly useless. The men stormed the decrepit house that loomed in front of them, shouting orders. Quentin stood and waited. He checked his watch. Ten minutes passed.

What was going on?

Finally, a skinny man dressed similarly to the other policemen came running over to him.

“Mr Black?” he gasped, clearly out of breath, “We’re waiting for you to make the arrest.” The man clutched his sides, and Quentin thought he was not fit for his job.

“You’ve caught them then?” Quentin asked, his voice deep, sophisticated, and smooth like caramel.

“There’s only one person in the house,” wheezed the policeman, “We’ve searched. There’s no one else. Only Moldova.”

Quentin smirked. “Lead the way.”

They marched towards the house. It was dark inside. The windows were tightly boarded up and a rancid smell hung in the air that made Quentin gag. Surrounded by gun bearing men and cowering on the dirty floor was a pale figure, shaking with fright. Quentin chuckled at the man’s cowardliness, something he had wanted to do for quite some time. He looked around.

“Nice place you got here,” he said, passing a couch that looked as if it had attacked by several meat cleavers, “I must say, you’ve really done it up.”

He swiped a finger on a table top, leaving a big black smudge on the tip. He sniffed as if he was a potential buyer inspecting the property.

“I really am impressed,” he concluded, “What happened to all your loyal customers?”

The shivering man opened to mouth to speak but then closed it, a sour look on his face.

“Edward Moldova,” said Quentin calmly, bending down so he could be face to face with the criminal, “I am arresting you under countless illegal drug and assault charges.”

He reached into his coat pocket and took out a pair of handcuffs, passing them lazily to an unexpecting policeman, who almost dropped them.

“I dare say your friends will be joining you in the comfort of your cell soon. In fact, I’ve already put your name on the door.”

He motioned to the other men to take him away, then, moving as quickly as he could, Quentin stepped out of the house and breathed fresh air again on the busy sidewalk of New York City.

Quentin Black was a very unusual man. If you hadn’t known him well, you would have thought he was American. He was in fact British, but could blend in perfectly with the lifestyle and culture of wherever he went. This proved to be an advantage for him. It had been two years since he was last in London. He worked for MI6 for the Secret Intelligence Service. The organization had only expected Quentin to be in New York City for a few months, but that had not gone to plan. Quentin missed home and he missed his family. He hadn’t spoken to them since last month and he wondered how they were.

No news means good news, he thought.

The man now sat at the head of a large table, holding a bottle of beer in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. His friend Julia Ellis-Lloyd sat across from him. It was midday. They were in her apartment, located in Greenwich Village, and Quentin still found himself wondering how Julia afforded it. Whenever he asked, she would smile and say simply, “I handle myself just fine.” She was a hard working, no nonsense sort of woman and he loved that about her.

“You’re joking!” she spat suddenly, halfway through her mouthful of chick pea salad.

Quentin had just finished telling her about the arrest of Edward Moldova. Julia was a lady in her early thirties, around the same age as him. He often said that she was the mother hen of MI6, and she always scolded him ironically when he did so. She had thick, brown hair and her eyes were a vivid blue colour.

“It’s true,” Quentin grinned, leaning back in his chair, “We got him at last; about bloody time too.”

Julia eyed him for a moment and then said, “Are you alright?”

“Of course I’m alright! I just arrested the greatest drug lord in New York!” Quentin stopped and took a swig of beer. It was the cheap kind and tasted like gasoline.

“Anyway,” he continued, “Can you imagine what Evelyn’s going to be like? She’ll be thrilled!”

“I know, and now she won’t have a reason to tell you off,” said Julia, casually twirling her fork in the air, “Do you want something to eat? You look like you’re about to drop dead.”

This was true. Quentin’s face was white, with big, black rings under his eyes.

“I’m just tired is all,” he said, burping loudly, “Besides, I’ve got all I need here.”

He patted the bottle of beer fondly, as if it was a small child he had grown to like. The mobile phone rang and Julia gasped.

“It’s her, isn’t it?” she asked, but fell silent when Quentin answered it, listening intently.

“Quentin,” came a harsh voice from the other end of the phone, “Evelyn here.”

“Hello,” Quentin croaked, “Can I help you with anything?”

He giggled.

“I’ve just heard from Frayhad,” continued the voice, “Congratulations. At least now I know you’re not completely useless.”

“Whaddya mean?” said Quentin, feeling genuinely taken aback, “You know who I am. I have an international reputation!” He burped again and Julia cleared her throat disdainfully.

“Are you drunk, Quentin?” asked Evelyn, “It sounds a lot like you are and that’s not good. You’re right, you do have an international reputation so don’t squander it.”

The man belched as Julia rushed up beside him to try to listen better. “You did well today. I’m proud of you. Get some rest.” The call ended, and Julia straightened up.

“I think you’ve had enough to drink,” she concluded, picking up the empty bottles littered around the table.

“It’s piss any way, absolutely disgusting,” Quentin grunted.

“Then why’d you drink it?”

“If you put free booze in front of me I’m going to drink it eventually ain’t I?”

Quentin paused and burped once more.

“Please don’t do that,” said Julia crossly.

Quentin stared up at her suspiciously. “Where’s your bathroom again?” he asked.

The woman sighed and pointed down the hall.

The loud thumping on the door downstairs jolted Quentin awake from his disturbed sleep. He had been dreaming of his family and all the dark times they had had. There hadn’t been many good moments; Faux had put a stop to that. In the dream, Quentin was walking down a long hall lined with empty, overturned bed pans and wheelchairs, the floor scattered with discarded medicine packs. The lights were flickering in and out of focus, and doors were open a jar on both his sides. The horrors he had seen there that day had changed his innocent mind and propelled him into working for the Secret Intelligence Service. Perhaps it was his heart pounding in his chest, but the thumping had gotten louder. He was terrified out of his mind. A lot of things had happened during his career but nothing could prepare him for what lay around the open door to his left.

“Dude!” said a loud voice, something soft but forceful hitting him in the back. Quentin rolled over and rubbed his eyes, visions of dark, empty hallways evaporating in the sunlight that streamed in through the open windows. He picked up the pillow that had been thrown at him and gazed around the room in a dazed focus, searching for the attacker.

“Dude!” came the voice again, as a figure entered the room. It was only Colin. Quentin groaned and flopped back down into bed again.

“It’s morning, shouldn’t you use a more formal greeting?” he yawned, as Colin came into view.

His thick black hair was always in a mess. Bright green eyes adorned a squashy, acne ridden face. Quentin had known Colin for five years since they met at MI6 in London. When Quentin was sent to New York City, a team of four people accompanied him; Julia, Colin, Angelica and Miles Frayhad, who was the team supervisor. Quentin considered Colin to be one of his greatest friends, and he was grateful for that. He wasn’t sure where he would be without him. Colin crossed the room, carrying what looked to be two steaming mugs of coffee.

“Here, take this,” said Colin, shoving the mug into Quentin’s hand.

“You know I hate coffee,” Quentin sighed again, “I told you I only drink tea.”

Colin shook his head. “Well I couldn’t find any of that,” he said, “Besides you better drink it; you’ve got a big day ahead.”

Scowling, Quentin sat up against his pillows. “My plans today involve staying right here, and you can bet your job that I won’t be drinking this filth.”

He set the cup on the dilapidated bed stand that looked so ancient that it might break if so much as a breath of wind touched it.

“You will when you look outside,” said Colin, taking a sip of his coffee, “Come and see.” He walked over to the window and motioned to his friend.

“I told you, not moving,” Quentin said, his eyes closed.

Colin gave a small smile. “It’s the press, dude,” he said, “They’re all out there. Everyone!” He walked over to the closet. “Get dressed, they want to see you.”

“What for?” said Quentin, yawning widely again.

“Don’t you remember? Moldova?” asked Colin, tossing a collared shirt onto the bed. Yesterday’s experience came flooding back instantly. The drug lord had been carried out of that old house, kicking and screaming. He remembered the satisfying feeling to see that horrible man in distress. For the first time, Quentin noticed voices chattering outside the window. He lived in a second level flat in Harlem, with a particularly good view of the Bronx. It was about as big as a small classroom.

“Who’s that?” he asked instinctively, jumping out of bed and hurrying over to the grimy glass panes to have a look.

Colin rolled his eyes. “I think you’re going to need this,” he said, pushing the still hot coffee mug into Quentin’s hands.

Jesus, thought Quentin.

He loathed the press, but somewhere inside, pride swelled like a lion flaunting its great mane. The news of Edward Moldova’s capture must have spread quickly and in a place like New York City, it was no wonder. A part of him wanted to go downstairs and boast of his talent and courage, but another wanted to curl up in a ball and occasionally shout at them to go away. This half always got the better of him.

“Bloody hell,” Quentin whispered, gazing out at the sea of reporters dressed in tacky looking suits and coats, cameras and recorders at the ready, “I’m not going down there. I hate those people.”

He shuffled over to the bathroom, the kind where you have to shower where the sink is.

“I have to go now,” said Colin, draining the last of his coffee, “Think about saying a quick hello, okay dude? It’d be great for you, get some business out there.”

“I’m not a private detective, you keep forgetting that,” came the muffled voice of Quentin from the closed door of the bathroom, “I’m not a dude either.”

“I brought your mail up for you too,” shouted Colin. He was washing his mug out in the tiny kitchen.

“Thank you, but there’s no need,” came Quentin again, “I never open any of them unless they look important.”

He flushed the toilet and walked back into the bedroom before flopping onto the bed, sinking into the soft, warm mattress. The stack of letters waited patiently on his bed stand, the usual mix of crisp white envelopes with neat letters printed onto it and junk advertisements. A flyer for six dollar Friday night pizzas at Giovanni Pastrami stuck out of the bottom. Quentin reached for the mug which was still sitting on the table beside. He took a sip and gasped, coffee gushing over his tongue and into his mouth.

“Colin!” he spluttered, “Can you get me some water?” There was no reply. His friend must have left already. Quentin trudged grumpily into the kitchen. He poured himself some water and slammed the glass back on the counter, wiping his mouth.

Later that day, Quentin got dressed and went out to buy a salt bagel from the local deli downstairs. It was beautiful outside, with a clear blue sky and very few clouds. This spectacle was ruined by the unrelenting reporters, furiously clicking cameras and shoving microphones in his face.

“Mr Black, do you feel any remorse for Mr Moldova?”

“Will you have any input on his sentence?”

“Give us the inside scoop!”

“How did it feel to finally be arresting him after many years of eluded capture?”

Quentin, with his face buried deep in his leather jacket, stopped and turned to face a tall, slender woman with red hair tied up in a ponytail. She was smiling slightly with a peculiar look in her eyes.

“How did you know about that?” he asked, staring in bewilderment at the lady.

Nobody was supposed to know anything about the Moldova case. It was classified information. Before he could get an answer, a swarm of camera men suddenly appeared on his left and he had no choice but to run. He covered his face in his jacket again and ran down the street. He didn’t stop until he reached the deli. Gasping for air, he glanced back behind him. He had lost the mob. Quentin entered the shop, purchased his bagel and left. He was still unsettled by what had been said to him mere minutes ago.

How did it feel to finally be arresting him after many years of eluded capture?

How on Earth had the reporter known about that? Maybe something had leaked from MI6 and had spread to the press. Perhaps he was over thinking the whole matter. Perhaps she had made it up, pretended to know anything at all, just to get close to him and hope to get some inside information.

Fat chance, he thought and bit into his bagel.

Brushing the thoughts from his mind, he spotted a familiar figure walking hurriedly down the sidewalk, and he began to wonder. He crossed the street and walked briskly up towards the man who was hunched over like a beggar and limping slightly on his left leg. Quentin had only worked with this man for a brief period and now, more than a year later, he felt it appropriate to connect with his old boss.

“Good morning Bruce,” said Quentin, walking side by side with him. He looked up startled and rolled his eyes.

“What do you want?” he asked gruffly, hands shifting uncomfortably in his coat pockets, “I thought we had a mutual agreement to leave each to ourselves.”

Quentin paused. “True,” he admitted, “But that’s in the past now. At least tell me how you’ve been doing.”

“How do you think, Quentin?” snarled Bruce, his voice now full of anger, “I can’t get a job, my fifth girlfriend is dumping me and I’m currently living off packets of two minute noodles. Just try to connect the dots.” He crossed his arms and made an angry hissing noise with his throat. “You don’t really care do you?” he continued, “You just came here to gloat.”

“Part of me does want to gloat,” Quentin said, “But another wanted to know how you were.”

Bruce frowned, and it was some time before he spoke again, as if his mind was slowly processing everything that had been said.

“Congratulations,” he said finally, “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

Quentin nodded and said, “I know.”

There was a pause and they both stopped walking.

“Where are you living currently?” Quentin asked, taking another bite of his bagel. Bruce scoffed. “Wherever I can,” he said, “I’m not well paid like you.”

He looked for a minute as if this was his ex-employees fault but then his gaze softened.

“I wish we could have known each other better,” he said sadly.

Quentin was puzzled by this. He had never expected Bruce to say that, especially after what had happened last year between them. It felt like a surprising slap in the face. Quentin stuttered, words failing him. Bruce smiled, shaking his head slightly.

“Forget about it,” he said, and continued to walk up the street.

It didn’t take long before the man had disappeared, swallowed by the sea of people during their lunch break. Quentin looked down at his half eaten bagel, no longer feeling hungry. He didn’t want to admit it but he would have liked what Bruce had proposed. He stood still for a while longer, watching the birds spiral around the sky in great flocks. They seemed so carefree.

Bastards, he thought.

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