Chapter Two

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17 years later.

"Sir, two visitors from the Department of Health and Social Affairs have just arrived and would like to speak to you."

Martin's voice sounded strained. Charles Eastman pinched the top of his nose. The tension headache that had been bothering him all day was about to get a lot worse. He reluctantly pressed the talk button.

"Thanks, Martin. Please offer them some coffee and ask them to take a seat outside whilst I finish up in here."

He released the button and surveyed his office, looking for anything out of place. The room was as usual, pristine; a combination of ceiling-to-floor windows, functional yet elegant furniture and one wall of shelving holding neatly organised folders. Charles stood up and removed his white coat, hanging it on the peg behind him. He returned to his supposedly ergonomic, but bitterly uncomfortable chair and took a deep breath. Through pursed lips, he released it slowly, trying to quell his growing anxiety. Charles had always known it would eventually come down to this, but he couldn't believe it had taken this long. In fact, recently he'd entertained fantasies of a long and peaceful retirement and last month he'd even bought a dog. He chuckled at his own stupidity.

Feeling a little more composed, he quickly reviewed his situation. Fortunately it required little preparation. There was no need to conjure up excuses or alibis; that would just be a waste of energy, as would showing signs of remorse. Anyway, he wasn't sorry. It needed to happen. Seventeen long years had passed since he'd hidden away the information pods, all twenty of them. He'd picked well or so he hoped. Now it was up to others to take on the challenges that would inevitably come. Beyond anything, he truly hoped that his actions, all those years ago, might amount to something and not just some stupid social experiment gone wrong.

Charles turned to look at himself in the mirror on the wall behind. At fifty-eight, he could easily pass for early fifties and had recently been described as a silver fox by a keen female admirer. The natural salt and pepper tones of his hair complemented his steely blue eyes. Regular games of golf and tennis at the Club had helped him maintain his athletic frame and while born a 99.6, even now in his advancing years he was still a 98.4. His score had given him a comfortable life, had given him access to all the opportunities one might ever want or ever need. The only thing missing from his life was a family, but right now he was glad that in the end that wasn't to be. Charles smiled as memories of happier days revisited him. Yes, it would end with him. He peered closer at his eyes and the developing crow's feet that gathered in the corners and felt a surge of panic. What should he use to do it, where should he do it? He couldn't believe he'd not considered that one small, final detail. Charles quickly evaluated is options. The data had to irretrievable, impossible to download.

"Sir." Martin's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Your visitors insist that they see you immediately."

Charles turned away from the mirror and pressed the button. "It's okay, Martin, I'm ready for them now."

Charles unlocked and opened the top drawer of his desk and after a little searching found the sealed envelope. It contained all of the information they were here to recover. He placed it on the desk in front of him just as the door opened and Martin walked in, followed by a man and a woman.

"Do you need anything else?" Martin asked.

"No...err yes, thank you." He hurriedly thought of an excuse to get his personal assistant out of the office as quickly as possible. "Could you pick up my dry cleaning? The store closes in ten minutes."

Martin nodded, but looked uncertain. He had worked for him for nearly ten years and in all that time Mr Eastman had never asked him to collect his laundry before. Charles gave him a smile he hoped looked reassuring. Martin, took a second look at the visitors and then quietly left the office.

"Good afternoon," he said to the two Agency employees, who hadn't worked a day in the Department of Health and Social Affairs. Their smart, grey-suited appearance gave them away immediately.

"Mr. Eastman, could I please scan your office for a moment?" the female agent asked.

"Of course, although I can assure you that you will not find anything."

The female agent begun waving a wand-like piece of equipment over the office. After several minutes, and having not found anything suspicious, she took the seat next to her colleague.

"So, Mr. Eastman, do you know why we're here?" The blonde-haired male agent asked.

"Yes, I believe I do."

"Good, so you must know then that I need to collect all relevant evidence and take you into custody?"

Charles leaned forward and gestured to the envelope on his desk. "You'll find everything you need in there." The confidence in his own voice surprising himself. He certainly didn't feel that way inside.

Charles picked up the silver letter opener, which lay on his tidy desk and slid it carefully into the corner of the envelope. He sliced cleanly along the edge and removed a sheet of paper from inside and passed it across the table. The male agent, clearly the more senior of the two, leant forward and accepted it. He unfolded the paper, briefly read it then folded it back up and placed it in his inside suit pocket.

The male agent nodded lightly to his colleague, then turned back to face Charles.

"Mr. Eastman, could you please stand? We'll be taking you back to the Centre for questioning?" The agent pulling open his grey jacket just far enough to reveal to Charles a view of the holstered hand gun beneath.

Charles looked him straight in the eye. "You won't be needing anything like that I can assure you," he replied.

Charles reached over and went to switch off his computer.

"Please don't touch the computer, sir."

A stray pen, his favourite pen, was resting on the top of his keyboard, so he picked it up and placed it in the drawer to his right. Finally satisfied, that he wasn't leaving behind too much of a mess, he looked back up at the blonde agent and nodded politely. Then in one fluid movement, Charles firmly gripped the cold handle of the letter opener, raised the long silver blade and plunged it into his own left eye, embedding it into his brain.

"What the ..." spat the male agent. The body of Charles Eastman slumped forward onto the desk and blood began to pool beneath Charles' head.  "Great, just great." He took a tissue from a box on the desk and wiped away the blood that had spattered across his cheek.


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