The Hunter

The Hunter

A Story by J.P. Paradise
"

An evening shift for security guards in a tech firm takes a turn for the worse.

"

Malcolm stood outside the glass doors smoking a cigarette in the sharp February night chill, taking a quick break from duty. Through the distorted air, yellowed by tall car park lamps, he could make out the bright pinpricks of the constellation Orion. A cluster of lights, one continuously blinking red, pushed its way through the constellation and soon disappeared from view as the aircraft began its descent to nearby USAF Mildenheath. He took one final draw, savouring the contrast between the heat of the smoke and the acid coldness of the evening air, before dropping the cigarette to the floor. He crushed the butt with his boot, failed to extinguish the feeble orange glow and kicked the remains down a drainage grating where it hissed faintly as it struck the water below. Behind him, in the entrance lobby of Codex Computer Technologies, Steve was seated at the large reception desk watching television, occasionally glancing at the CCTV monitors. Malcolm turned and rapped on the heavy glass door to catch his attention. Steve sat up, feigning alarm, and cupped a hand to his ear pretending to hear something. Used to this ritual Malcolm continued knocking. Steve stood up and, leaning over the desk, strained to look in every direction except directly at Malcolm. Undeterred by his colleague's horseplay Malcolm thumped on the glass once more. Steve looked at him in mock surprise, reached down towards the control console and waited, finger poised above the access button and a hand cupped to his ear again.

"Come on Steve, open the sodding door!" Malcolm shouted. His workmate smirked, raised an eyebrow and waited. "Steve, you tosser!" yelled Malcolm, his breath spreading a misty film over the glass. "Open the friggin' door! It's bloody freezing out here!” 

“What’s the magic word?”

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” Malcolm muttered.

“I’m not hearing it.”

”Please?"

There was a click and the huge doors slid apart with a gentle hiss, allowing Malcolm to hurry inside. The warmth of the reception area hit him as the doors closed almost silently behind. "You utter b*****d, Steve! I was freezing my nuts off out there."

"Can't be too careful you know. You could've been anyone," Steve replied, sitting back down behind the desk.

“Anyone? Anyone in a security guard's uniform, remarkably similar to the one you're wearing?"

Steve's attention was firmly rooted to the screen in front of him. "A very clever and determined intruder maybe, using guile and ingenuity to penetrate the hi-tech security apparatus designed to prevent him from stealing the unique encryption microchip from the clutches of a powerful multinational..."

"What are you watching?" Malcolm interrupted.

Sneakers."

"On the CCTV monitor?"

"Of course," Steve replied, looking indignant. "What do you expect me to do? Bring  in my own laptop?”

“Bit before your time ain’t it?”

“Still a bloody good film.”

"And if we need to review the data from tonight?" asked Malcolm.

Steve opened a drawer, picked out a memory stick and waved it in Malcolm’s direction without looking up. "Already taken care of my good man. Last night's data with tonight's date on it. A little bit of in-house editing and, hey presto, problem solved."

Malcolm laughed. By rights he ought to report him but he admired the young man's nerve, something that Malcolm realised that he himself had lost a long time ago. "You tosser. One day you'll get caught out. Make yourself useful and stick the kettle on. Coffee for me. And the same for the other two whilst you’re at it.” He let his colleague out front from behind the reception desk and traded places with him.

"I believe the way you use the word 'tosser' all the time is a sign of deep-rooted insecurity," Steve called as he disappeared into the nearby office kitchen. "It could be a sign of pre-adolescent trauma. Were you bullied as a child?"

The last part of this conversation was almost drowned out by the sound of running water as he filled the kettle. Malcolm made no effort to reply. “Bloody psychology student tosser," he muttered and seated himself behind the desk. In front of him was an array of CCTV monitors, a hard drive recorder with DVD re-writer, camera control toggles, door access computer equipment, and a good old-fashioned visitors’ book complete with a biro missing its lid. On each of the monitors Robert Redford crawled his way through ventilation ducts, trying to evade Ben Kingsley's henchmen with little success. Malcolm jabbed the stop button on the HDR - he hated watching a film if he had missed the beginning - and the screens reverted back to images of various locations around the complex. A faint bleep drew his attention and noted a new record on the door access computer: 01:17:35 Access granted local : Terminal - Server Room North : Badge 2207  Anthony Giles. Malcolm turned slightly in the swivel chair and glanced at one of the CCTV monitors. The screen was split into four different camera views of the computer suite, the very hub of the organisation. In the top right picture he could make out the top of Tony's cap passing out of view. Malcolm relaxed back in the chair and twirled his own cap idly on his right index finger. Life as a security guard was so routine; he knew that within three minutes the computer would bleep again and Tony would appear through the door on the far left of the lobby at 01:20 almost to the second.

Steve came back with a tray of mugs, the pleasant smell of fresh coffee preceding him across the entrance foyer. Malcolm would give him that; Steve may be an undergrad trying to reduce his student loan by working late nights when he should be studying, but he could make damn fine coffee. Steve put the tray down on the reception counter and passed his workmate his brew by the handle. Malcolm winced as the hot mug burnt his hand and swore loudly, slopping coffee on the desk and some over the keyboard. He swore again and muttered angrily under his breath whilst mopping up with tissues from a box under the counter.

“Bloody students; no common sense. Always handle first, you muppet,” he growled.

“Make your own bleedin’ coffee then,” Steve said, picking up his own mug and wandering round behind the desk to get back to his film. "Hey!" he exclaimed, noticing the screens, "I was watching that."

"Yeah - was," Malcolm answered. "But not any more. As soon as Tony and Derek get back from their rounds it’ll be our turn." 

"Killjoy. I bet you're the type of dad who won't let his kids watch telly until they’ve done their homework," Steve muttered.

"Bloody right! Education before Eastenders."

"And by the time they've finished the homework you say it's too late and send them to bed."

Malcolm grinned. "Only way I can get to watch what I want to."

"Christ, I'm glad you ain't my dad," Steve replied, wandering away across the lobby to stare out of the glass doors.

"The feeling's mutual."

The computer bleeped again and another line scrolled up on the security access screen. Tony called out as he crossed the foyer; "One of those for me?"

"Yeah, help yourself," Steve answered without turning round. "They're both sugared.” 

Tony took his cap off and threw it frisbee-style onto one of the visitors' chairs.

"Anything exciting out there?" Malcolm asked.

"You are joking?” Tony snorted as he leaned over the desk and retrieved his paper from behind one of the monitors. 

"I wondered where you kept that," said Malcolm. "I could have done with something to read on the crapper."

“You can see why I kept it hidden, and now I’ll have to find somewhere else you can’t find it,” Tony replied as he picked up his coffee and took a seat next to his cap.

Silence descended upon the men for a few brief minutes, only broken by the rustling of pages being turned or the indelicate slurping of hot coffee. After a few moments Tony looked up from his newspaper.

"Have you seen Derek yet?" he enquired.

"No, his coffee will get cold if he don't hurry up," said Steve.

A flicker of concern appeared upon Tony's brow. "Give him a call and see where he's at, Malc."  

Malcolm turned to the security access computer and tapped a few keys. "Well he went through into the loading bays...," he looked at his watch, “...two minutes ago. He's a bit behind on his round - I'll give him a shout." He picked up a hand-held radio off the desk. "2 - 3 - Derek? 2 - 3 - Derek? This is Malcolm. Do you read me? Over."

There was a loud burst amount of static on Malcolm’s handset. He looked at Tony.

"Try him again," Tony urged. 

"2 -3 - Derek? 2 - 3 - Derek? Come in Derek. Do you read me? Over."

There was another burst of static and then a voice. "...Yeah, 2 - 3. Sorry, Malc. I dropped the friggin' radio in surprise when you called through. What's up? Over."

"What's keeping you, mate? Your coffee's waiting."

"...Yeah, sorry. I'll be right there. I'm just having a cheeky f*g. Over and out."

Malcolm placed the radio back onto the desk and drained the last of his coffee. Tony was sucking the top of a pen, deeply engrossed in a crossword. Steve sidled over and, pushing Tony’s cap to one side, sat beside him. He stole a glance at the crossword and then sat back for few seconds, concentrating. "Rousseau," he said suddenly, making Tony start.

"What?"

"Ten across: Philosopher's topless outfit.”*

"How the hell did you get that?" Tony asked, genuinely amazed.

"Well a trousseau is a bride's outfit, and if you take away the t, making it topless, you get Rousseau, a French philosopher," explained Steve, rather smugly.

"Christ! You ought to get out more. I was trying to do the quick crossword below and I'm struggling with that." Tony passed the paper over to him. "Go on, you've obviously got the knack."

Malcolm smiled inwardly. It always amused him that someone of Steve's intellect was quite content to work as a security guard. It was a topic that he had often raised with the lad but had yet to obtain a satisfactory explanation. A bleep from the door access computer distracted him. His eyes strayed to the screen for a cursory glance. His brow furrowed. "Er, guys, I think we may have a visitor," he said.

Steve leapt up, throwing the paper down in an untidy bundle on the chair, and hurried across to join Malcolm behind the desk. Tony wandered across and leaned over the counter-top, craning his neck to see the screen.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"I don't know. Look here at the last entry," said Malcolm, tapping the screen. "Access override, Research."    

"Whose card is it?" asked Steve.

"Well that's the point ain't it, it's overridden the system. There's no card details," Malcolm snapped.

"Could be a glitch I suppose," said Tony. The computer bleeped again and more information scrolled onto the screen.

"Fast moving glitch," said Steve dryly. "It's just through into the Labs."

"Be serious, Steve!" Malcolm looked worried. "We may actually have an intruder."

"Cool!" Steve quipped. "Action at last!"

Malcolm glared at him. "Tosser!"

The computer bleeped again, making all three of them jump.

"Jesus, they're moving fast, whoever they are. They're in the Lab Stores now,” whispered Tony, though unsure why he was keeping quiet.

"Oh s**t!" Malcolm gasped.

"What? What? What's up, man?" Steve said, his voice betraying anxiety.

"They're catching up with Derek!"

"Jesus!" Tony yelled. “Radio. Get him on the bloody radio."

Malcolm's hand reached for the radio and hesitated as the computer bleeped several times. Lines of text scrolled down the screen, sending a chill through Malcolm.

"Go on," Tony urged.

“It's rejecting Derek's card. He can't get out of the loading bays."

"Call him up!" blurted Steve, his face etched in panic.

Malcolm grabbed the radio and spoke as calmly as he could. " 2 - 3 - Derek. 2 - 3. Come in, Derek. Do you read me, over?”

There was a short burst of static and then Derek's voice broke in. "...hear you loud and clear, Malc. Quite arsing around and let me through. I'm gasping for that coffee, over."

"Derek, it isn't me."

"Yeah, right! Pull the other one. Must be Steve then. Come on, mate it's bloody cold down here."

The computer bleeped again.

"S**t! S**t!" Steve exclaimed. "They're through into the loading bays."

Derek's voice spat from the radio in the disembodied trebly tone you only get from a small speaker. "What are you guys up to up there? Come on, stop buggering around and open the bloody door."

Malcolm looked quickly at the other two and then whispered into the radio.

"Derek. There's an intruder in the bays."

"Sorry mate, you'll have to speak up. Can't hear a thing above the extractor units."

"Derek! There's a bloody intruder in there with you," yelled Malcolm.

"You what? You're really taking the piss. Just open the door you b******s and I promise not to let your tyres down."

"Look, I'm not bloody joking! Hold on and we'll be right there."

There was no reply.

“Derek?...Derek?..."

Nothing but static.

"Oh, Christ!" The blood appeared to have drained from Steve's face. 

"Steve! Tony! Get down there and check he's okay," Malcolm barked. "I'll phone the police. Stay in radio contact."

"On our way, Malc," shouted Tony, already running across the lobby.

"Can't I stay here and phone the police?" Steve asked. He was shaking visibly and sweat was breaking out on his forehead.

Malcolm had already lifted a telephone handset. Anger flashed in his eyes. "No you bleedin' can't. Just get a bloody move on. Get after Tony and stay together. I mean it; stay together.”

Steve chased after Tony and they disappeared from view down the corridor leading to the shop-floor area. Malcolm started to dial. The security access computer made a strange electronic squeak and the telephone began to ring, even though he was still holding the handset. He put the phone down but it kept ringing: a shrill, uninterrupted chime. He picked the handset back; the ringing continued. He stabbed at the buttons, punching in 9-999 but the ringing persisted, stopping him dialling out. Malcolm slammed the phone down and hurried into one of the side offices. There were several telephones in the room and they were all ringing. He grabbed up each handset in turn but the phones kept up the cacophony.  Snatching up his radio from the desk as he ran by, Malcolm dashed back out into the reception area as far as he could away from the din. Covering an ear trying to shut out the noise, he radioed through to his colleagues. "Tony! Steve! Come in! Do you read me? Do you read me, over?"

There was a fleeting second of hesitation then the sound of Tony's voice shouted back, distorted and breathless. "Yeah...getting you Malc..."

"Where are you guys?"

"We're in Component Stores...You'll have to speak up. Bloody phones have started ringing. Who's wants stuff from stores at this time of night?”

"Tony, they're all ringing!"

"What?"

"Every sodding phone in the place is ringing and won't stop. I can't call the police.”

"Oh that's bloody fantastic," replied Tony, sarcastically, but he sounded worried. "What the friggin' hell is going on?”

"Just find Derek and make sure he's alright. Watch yourselves," Malcolm ordered.

"Yeah, and you mate. Over and out."

Malcolm ran and vaulted over the reception desk, crashing into the swivel chair and knocking it over. Barely audible above the noise of the telephones the access computer bleeped again. He stared at the screen. Whoever, or whatever had been in the loading bays had gone through the door that had locked Derek in. He flicked a switch on the control console and toggled through the various images on the CCTV screens. Malcolm checked each of the monitors in turn but could see nothing amiss. The existing bank of images were replaced by others from various parts of the complex as he scrolled through each camera. Tony and Steve hurried in and out of frame on one. The telephone kept ringing, tying his nerves in knots. Grabbing the wire and giving it a savage yank he ripped the connector out of the socket below the desk. The phone went dead, but the ringing continued from nearby offices. Another bleep, another line of text on screen. Access override : Packing Plant. Malcolm could feel the panic rising within him. He grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. The computer bleeped again and he saw Tony's card flash up. They were through into the main assembly area. He thought quickly, mapping the complex in his head, mulling over the patrol routes they took. There was no doubt about it; the intruder and the two guards were on a collision course. Malcolm yelled into his radio, "Guys, it's me. Come in! Come in, for God’s sake!”

"I read you, Malc," Tony's voice replied.

"He's coming straight at you. In the packing plant. Should be getting to the drying room any time now. Where are you?"

"Just coming up to the drying room, south end door," Tony called back. “Blip us through,” Malcolm heard him telling Steve, the talk button obviously still held down. The  access computer bleeped several times in succession. Malcolm glanced at the screen. Steve's card had been rejected. There was another bleep and more data spilled onto the screen; another rejection. And another.

"S**t, Malc!" the radio crackled, "We can't get through!"

Another bleep from the computer.

“He's still coming at you. He's in the drying room," Malcolm barked back.

"Oh bloody hell, Malc. Steve, find something heavy to hit him with."

"Can you hear anything?" Malcolm asked urgently.

“Sod all over the noise of the friggin' phones!" came the terse reply.

"What can you see?"

A pause.

"Nothing yet."

The computer bleeped. Access override : Drying Room South.

"He's with you," Malcolm bellowed.

Tony's voice replied, anxious and afraid. "Okay, Malc. Ready Steve? Let's smack the son of...Oh, Jesus Christ!... What is that?…Steve!…”

“Guys?… Guys?… What the hell is happening?… Tony?… Steve?..."

There was no reply.

"Come in...please...come in...Tony...," Malcolm pleaded. “Tony? Steve? Come on guys…” He turned up the volume on the radio but could hear only static. In the nearby offices the telephones trilled with a new sense of excitement. On the reception desk the phone  began to ring again, its torn cord clearly unconnected. Angry, frightened and desperate, Malcolm smashed at it with the radio handset, breaking the phone apart in a explosion of plastic and electronic components. His radio now squealed like an injured piglet. He switched it off. It kept squealing. Malcolm threw it across the lobby; it bounced then skittered across the marbled floor and disintegrated as it collided with a pillar. He stabbed the entrance release button, expecting the heavy glass doors to spring apart. Nothing happened. He pressed the button again and again but the doors refused to open. "S**t!" he yelled and ran to the doors, futilely trying to force them apart with his hands. Terrified, he beat upon the glass with his fists. Malcolm did not need to count the doors between the assembly plant and reception; he knew there were four. Four doors between whoever or whatever was coming for him now. 


Bleep.   


The telephones stopped ringing. The silence was deafening. His head pounded and his heart felt as if it were trying to hammer an escape from behind his ribcage. Icy sweat stuck his shirt to his skin.


Bleep.


"Think, Malcolm, think!" he screamed at himself. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and flung it at the glass. The doors shook upon impact but refused to yield. A jet of water sprayed out under high pressure from the ruptured extinguisher, causing it to flip and tumble around the foyer soaking everything in its path.


Bleep.


All the lights in the complex went out. The building and the car park were plunged into darkness. Through the doors Malcolm could see the blinking red lights of another jet bomber taking off through Orion. He began to cry.


Bleep.






Fin







*Crossword clue from The Telegraph, 1st September 2001.

© 2021 J.P. Paradise


Author's Note

J.P. Paradise
Many moons ago I worked for the local constabulary. One of my roles was the setting up of access rights to a new door security system. I could open any security door in any police building across the county at the click of a mouse, or could lock anyone out should I have been so inclined. It gave me a sense of being in control but made me wonder what would happen if that sense of security and control was lost, if someone or something infiltrated the system and there was nothing I could do to prevent the consequences. This story arose from those thoughts.

My Review

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Featured Review

A very good mix of showing us enough to know where we are, but holding enough back that we aren't quite certain what's going on. Classic horror storytelling executed tremendously well. Bravo, man.

Also, used to live near Mildenheath. Cool to see it in a story.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J.P. Paradise

1 Week Ago

Glad you enjoyed. I've always felt that the scares come with the build-up of suspense. What could be.. read more
doot

1 Week Ago

Oh, I thought Lakenheath was Mildenheath. Was there with my dad a few years back, he was military at.. read more



Reviews

A very good mix of showing us enough to know where we are, but holding enough back that we aren't quite certain what's going on. Classic horror storytelling executed tremendously well. Bravo, man.

Also, used to live near Mildenheath. Cool to see it in a story.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J.P. Paradise

1 Week Ago

Glad you enjoyed. I've always felt that the scares come with the build-up of suspense. What could be.. read more
doot

1 Week Ago

Oh, I thought Lakenheath was Mildenheath. Was there with my dad a few years back, he was military at.. read more
Wow! Awesome story, I love a good horror/suspense. This left so much to the imagination yet didn't leave anything out.


Posted 2 Weeks Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

J.P. Paradise

2 Weeks Ago

Thank you for taking the time to read it. I absolutely concur with you; the unknown is far scarier t.. read more

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Added on July 10, 2021
Last Updated on July 12, 2021
Tags: Horror, security, computer, Orion

Author

J.P. Paradise
J.P. Paradise

Wiltshire, United Kingdom



About
Occasional writer, serial procrastinator.I write tales that are sometimes comedic, often tragic, and nearly always very dark. Bad things happen to good people, even worse things happen to bad people.. more..

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