I’m sitting here getting House Hunt ready for submisison when I notice the date. And end up grinning like a loon, since… well, it’s Jack & Gareth’s anniversary, the day they met again when Jack went to Nancarrow Mining to talk about a job. House Hunt is set around their first anniversary while, technically, this year would be their third. And yes, I’m quite aware that both Jack & Gareth are fictional characters. So what?
While I’m stuck knee-deep in edits and holiday preparations, I’ll keep this short. Instead of an essay about English weather or learning Japanese, I’ll give you a little bit House Hunt, of Jack getting ready to come home. Hope that’s okay.
Thank you for your company… and happy anniversary to Jack & Gareth!
3am. The jazz club in the courtyard had closed its doors. The purple neon lights outlining the building were still lit, their glow steady now instead of flashing a syncopated beat in time to the music playing inside. It was a time of day Jack loved. His corner of London was quiet, or as quiet as it ever got, and nothing illuminated his small apartment but a crescent moon and the glow from the club’s lights, lining the corners of the room with shadows of purple-black velvet.
Some nights, when sleep eluded him more thoroughly than usual, he would drag his comfortable armchair in front of the open floor-to-ceiling windows and wish for his guitar, but right now he had more important things on his mind. Things that required the windows to be tightly shut and the apartment secured against snoopers and eavesdroppers.
“Tomorrow.” Jack’s voice was crisp and decisive as he spoke the single word into the mobile phone he pressed to his ear.
“Negative,” the voice on the other end replied. “We won’t be able to cover you adequately during the first part of the operation. Suggest we wait until his men are busy with the next shipment. Two weeks, that’s all.”
“Tomorrow.” Jack said again. “I had a window and I’ve seeded the server backups. They’re running as we speak.” The hissing inhale told Jack what Lisa thought of that bit of news. Not that he cared. Lisa Tyrrell hadn’t been standing in Jack’s place that morning, five feet from a paranoid drug dealer and with his mission target, the coveted server and its line into the dealer’s distribution network, close enough to touch. She hadn’t had to make a decision in a blink. “Don’t give me any crap. The plans have been in place for weeks. You have eight hours. Be ready.”
He ended the call, unclipped the back of the phone and extracted the SIM card. He dropped it into a stone mortar, crushed it with the heavy pestle and carefully collected the pieces. He wrapped the phone in lemon-scented antiseptic wipes and scrubbed the handset’s outside surfaces several times, before he slid it into a plastic bag, covered it with a pillow to muffle the sound, and smashed it with a rolling pin. In the back of his mind, like a ball of warm fuzzies tucked away as a secret treat, he could hear Gareth’s voice commenting on his unconventional kitchen skills.
If all went as intended, this would be the last time he had to destroy a brand-new mobile phone. Though wanton destruction of property was the least of his worries. Undercover work was never clean and clear-cut, whatever he’d been taught. He rarely had contingencies to cover his contingencies—well, maybe in the furthest reaches of his mind, but never out in the open. He had options and possibilities, rather than actual plans. For much of the time, he flew by the seat of his pants, reacted to events by instinct alone. He’d long ago given up wishing for situations where he could let his mind shut up and his training take over. He was wired and on edge all the time. He had to police his reactions more and more stringently the longer the assignment lasted. Even so, the course of action he’d just embarked on was just a tad reckless. It held a hint of impatience that could cost his life.
Jack Horwood didn’t care. As he changed into tracksuit and running shoes, readied himself to go out into the night to dispose of the phone and SIM card ahead of being woken at sunrise by Kiriyenka’s goons for their daily search of his apartment, his gaze kept straying to the calendar over the fridge.
Tomorrow was September 18th.
And he had somewhere to be.