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The Game He Lost (A Novel). - Literature - Nairaland

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The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 10:43pm On Jul 11, 2012
I plan to post a series of chapters of a romantic novel. It's gonna be eight chapters long, and I will be updating it daily or tri-weekly.

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Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 10:53pm On Jul 11, 2012
Chapter One: The Sighting
Finn wondered why he should notice this one person out of the hundreds of tourists who had passed by his post in the past hour. Even if he hadn't been on duty, he shouldn't have noticed him. Sure, he was attractive enough, in a compact "your man next door" kind of way. Soft black hair, alight chocolate skin, eyes the color of caramel, a hint of freckles on the tip of his nose and a quick, coiled-spring like energy in his movements. But he was the kind of man who would want to meet a woman's --or maybe a man's -- parents. He had probably picked out a china pattern and two names for his firstborn. He was the kind of man who usually made Sergeant First Class Finn O'Brian -- codename Braveheart -- of the Nighthawks break out in hives. A spot just under his left shoulder blade developed a sudden itch. Finn rubbed his back against the wooden bench. "I don't think he's our target." He barely moved his lips as he spoke. His words wouldn't have been audible to a person sitting beside him, but the microphone under his collar had no problem picking up everything he said. "He would be a good decoy." The voice of Sandra Flammel, -- codenamed Songbird -- the Nighthawks Team Two intelligence specialist, came through the pea-size receiver in his ear. "I wouldn't underestimate him." Songbird had a point, Finn thought. The black haired man with the freckles would make an excellent decoy, since no one would suspect an American who looked that wholesome and innocent to be involved with a group of terrorists who were dedicated to the overthrow of the Nigerian government. Then again, no one would expect a group like Boko Haram to be using the National Air and Space Museum for a ransom drop in the first place.
The man hurried past the bench without giving Finn a second glance. He headed straight for a pair of boys who were paused under the biplane that hung from the ceiling. For a moment all three of them craned their necks, gazing at the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flyer with expressions of delighted awe. Then the man herded the boys toward a group of more than a dozen chattering, fidgeting children. Evidently, the man hadn't come to the museum alone, he had brought aclassroom worth of kids with him. Unless Boko Haram had dropped their height requirements and were recruiting fresh-scrubbed seven year olds now, it was unlikely that the man was involved. He was probably exactly what heseemed, a teacher on a field trip. "Heads up. Ibru just passed the front entrance." The warning came from Finn's friend, Sergeant Rafe Marek -- codename Wildman. He was positioned outside where he could observe the approach to the building without attracting undue attention -- Rafe's recent scars tended to spook people who didn't know him. Although his posture didn't change, Finn's senses went on high alert. Ambassador Ibru was carrying the ransom himself, as the terrorists had demanded. The man was adamant. He would do anything for the safe return of his son.
If it had been any other case, the FBI would have handled it -- the Nighthawks normally didn't operate on American soil and when they did, it was in the role of advisor to other law enforcement agencies -- but this was no run-of-the-mill snatch.

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Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 11:04pm On Jul 11, 2012
Absolute secrecy was vital. Not only was Ibru the Nigerian ambassador, he was married to the niece of the Nigerian president. If a child of such importance was killed here, the delicate negotiations that were already underway for a mutual relationship between the strategic, oil-rich African nation and the States would be derailed. And if the media caught wind of what was happening, they might as well put on their silver suits because the political powder keg would blow.
So, ambassador Ibru had demanded the best. He had insisted on nothing less than the legendary hostage-rescue expertise of Nighthawks and the president had agreed. This was why Finn and the team of highly trained commandos from the Nighthawks were spending the day scattered around one of the most visited museums in Washington D.C, dressed in civilian clothing to blend in with the tourists. The mission was straight forward: recover the Ibru boy unharmed, hand the terrorists over to the Nigerians and keep the entire operation completely secret despite the few hundred bystanders with cameras who were wandering through the target zone.
Oh, hey, piece of cake, right?
A small, balding man Finn recognized as Anslem Ibru walked past his bench. His features were sharper than they had appeared in the briefing photo. Exhaustion did that to people: -- the man reportedly hadn't slept since his kid had been taken three days ago. Poor bastard looked to be near collapse. The top of his head gleamed damply and his fingers looked white where they curled around the strap of the green canvas backpack he carried.
How heavy was twenty million dollars? Finn wondered. Even in the large denomination the kidnappers had demanded, the weight would be substantial. He had heard the entire amount of cash had been provided by the U.S. government, an indication of how vital they considered Nigerian goodwill...and the mission of Finn's team.
Ibru reached the designated spot and stopped. It was hard to tell whether he intentionally dropped the pack or whether it simply slipped through his sweaty fingers. It hit the floor with a quiet thud, wobbled briefly, then slumped against the base of a trash can. The green backpack stuffed with twenty million dollars lay discarded like someone's forgotten lunch. The ambassador walked away without a backward glance, just as he had been instructed.
"All right, people. Stay alert."
Finn heard Ghost's voice and grunted an acknowledgement. Ghost was stationed at the temporary base they had established in a vacant warehouse. He was monitoring the feeds from the surveillance equipment that was positioned around the target zone, watching everybody's backs. When this went down, it would go down fast.
And that's just the way Finn liked it. He felt his pulse pick up. It didn't race: he was too disciplined for that. No, it was a steady, solid rush of blood to well-conditioned muscles that hummed in readiness.
He didn't know what the target would look like, or how many there would be. He didn't know what direction they would come from or how long he would need to wait. The odds of following the kidnappers without their knowledge, of assessing the best way to free the hostage, of bringing the whole incident to a quiet, successful conclusion weren't good. As a matter of fact, they were abysmal.
But Finn's team had pulled off missions that had been far worse. When they had, there had never any recognition: no medals or official commendations, because the government wouldn't even admit that the Nighthawks existed. The hours sucked and the stress was incredible. He had to be prepared to go anywhere in the world at amoment's notice. His home was whatever base he was stationed at; his family the soldiers of the Nighthawks. He was expected to accomplish the impossible, continually challenging his brain and straining his body to the limit.
Finn pressed his lips together and exhaled slowly through his nose. Damn, he loved this job.

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Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 11:19pm On Jul 11, 2012
"Everything sure is old here, Mr. Locke."
Abe smiled at the boy on his left. "Yes, Bradley. That's because this is a museum."
The child on his right leaned over to roll his eyes. "Boy, Bradley, are you ever dumb."
"You are dump, Jeremy."
"Yeah, right."
"Uh-huh. As if."
The children were getting tired, Abe thought. The squabbling was a sure sign. "But as museums go, the exhibits here aren't all that old," he said. "How can anyone think of space flights as old? Not that long ago it was science fiction. Look over here."
"What's that?"
"It's the space capsule that John Glenn used when he orbited the earth." He said. "The first time, anyway."
"He went to space twice?"
"Yes, but the second time he was much, um older."
"It looks burned." "Yes, it heated up when it went through the atmosphere. That was before NASA developed the space shuttle. Astronauts were shot into space inside a little capsule like this that was fitted on the tip of a rocket."
"Wow," the boys said, tipping their heads one way and then the other to study the capsule. "That was more than forty years ago."
"Wow! That's older than my mom!"
"It's older than my mom."
"Is not."
"Is too."
Abe put his hands on their shoulders and gently guided them along with the rest of the class. "It's older than me too, Jeremy."
The boys looked up at him, their mouths rounded. "Hey. Really?"
Abe suppressed a grimace at their expressions of disbelief. He wasn't old, he reminded himself. Turning thirty didn't mean that he was over the hill. He was just coming into his physical and mental maturity. He had plenty of good years to look forward to.
But if he had intended to keep a positive attitude about his youth, visiting a museum on his birthday wasn't that great an idea.
"Mr. Locke?"
He smiled at a plump redheaded girl. "Yes, Beverly?"
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"Me, too," another child said.
Abe turned to the parent volunteers who had accompanied the class and efficiently divided everyone into rest room squads. It was time to call it a day, anyway. They had been on the go since the morning and the bus was due to pick them up in half an hour. Well-accustomed to the vagaries of seven year olds, he knew enough to allow plenty of extra time to organize their departure.
The unfortunate reminders of his advancing age aside, it had still been a good day. He was lucky to have a job he enjoyed as much as thisone. He loved children and longed for the chance to have one or two of his own someday. Yes, his ambition was embarrassingly old fashioned and maybe too far-fetched: a home in the suburbs filled with the warmth of a loving family...and of course, a nice, stable husband to share it all with. Was that really too much to ask?
Perhaps it was, since he'd always assumed he would have been married by the time he was thirty. That was probably what was causing him to be so conscious of this milestone of a birthday. But chances were that he wasn't going to find Mr. Right by the end of the day...unless he jumped out of the cake at his surprise party.
For a moment, Abe imagined the scene in his parents' house. His family always threw him a birthday party. He always pretended to be surprised. There was something wonderfully comforting about the whole thing, a sweet ritual that arose from his family's love. His mother would fix him his favorite potato salad, plates of fried chicken and egg sandwiches with no crusts. His father would make the same joke he always did about how Abe couldn't possibly be more than two because his mother hadn't aged a year since his birth. They would hug and laugh and make toasts to the future while he opened his gifts. He would bet a hundred, no, a million dollars that the gifts wouldn't include a cake with a man inside.
Abe chuckled at the whimsical thought and scooped up a pair of discarded jackets from the rest room counter, then guided the children to the lobby where they waited for the stragglers.
Of course, more jackets came off and backpacks hit the floor as they waited.
"Mr. Locke, I lost my hat."
"What did it look like, Ricky?"
"It was blue." Well, that narrowed it down. Abe spotted a ball cap on the floor and pointed at it. "Is that it?"
"Yeah! Thanks, Mr. Locke."
He held out the jacket. "Whose are these?"
Two children raced up to take them, and then dropped more of their belongings as they contorted themselves to put the jackets on.
Once the whole group was assembled, Abe did a head count. As soon as he was assured that everyone was present and accounted for, he hurried them toward the door before anyone could wander off or decide they needed another trip to the rest room. Ricky's hat fell off as soon as he startedmoving. Abe picked it up ashe passed by, along with three stray backpacks,breathing a sigh of relief when he saw the yellow school bus alreadywaiting outside.

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Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 11:28pm On Jul 11, 2012
"What the hell just happened?" the major demanded. His voice was low, his words clipped and that was always a bad sign. "Braveheart, report."
Finn stared at the empty spot on the floor, and then looked at the departing group of children. "He took the backpack."
"Who?"
"That teacher."
"I told you not to underestimate him," Sandra said.
Finn folded his museum guide, stuffed it into the back pocket of his jeans and followed the man to the door. He deliberately kept his strides slow and easy, in case anyone was watching for a tail. "I can't believe this," he said. "He would be my last choice."
"It was neatly done," Sarah said. "The children swarmed the target zone while he lifted the ransom. We never saw it coming."
Finn emerged into the crisp sunshine of the autumn afternoon. The man was making no effort to disappear. In fact, he couldn't have chosen a more obvious mode of transportation. "You can't miss seeing him come now," he said. "Bright yellow mini school bus with a whole bunch of screaming kids. That is going to stand out in traffic."
"I need a visual confirmation that he has the money," the commander --Ghost -- said.
"The bus is blocking my view," Rafe said. "Braveheart, can you see the bag?"
Finn ambled toward the sidewalk. The man formed the kids into a line, and then stood by the open door of the bus and counted heads as they climbed inside. He handed what appeared to be a hat to one of the boys as he passed him and held out a sweater to another kid, all the while balancing three backpacks against his chest with one arm. "Affirmative," Finn said. "The green backpack he is holding appears to be the one Ibru dropped. Aren't the electronics we installed in the pack working, Commander?"
"The mike is muffled."
"Brilliant man," Sarah said. "Anything on the homing signal, Commander?"
"That's coming through no problem."
As the last child climbed on the bus, the man's shoulders rose and fell with a sigh. He started after them, pausing on the first step to glance over his shoulder at the museum, and despite the noise from the squirming kids that Finn could hear all the way overhere, he was smiling.
Finn took an involuntary step backward. If he had seen the man's smile before, he wouldn't have needed to wonder why he had drawn his attention. Despite the freckles, despite the wholesome demeanor, there was something...alluring about his smile. It was a private little tilt of the corner of his lips, not meant for display. It was the smile of a man who knew what he wanted, and for a crazy moment it made Finn wish he could giveit to him.
What the hell he thinking? Finn asked himself. The man just walked off with twenty million dollars in cash. What more could he possibly want?
He turned away. The doors of the bus closed. Finn snapped his attention back to the conversation that was coming through his earpiece.
"...the mike is working now. All I can hear are children's voices."
"...chase vehicles in position."
Finn pivoted and headedfor his motorcycle. He had chosen to use it because of the advantage it would give him in the Washington traffic, but considering the nature of the getaway car -- no, bus -- there was little chance of losing track of the ransom.

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Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 11:38pm On Jul 11, 2012
"This doesn't add up," he said, unlocking his helmet from the back of the seat. "He can't be with Boko Haram. They wouldn't use a foreigner, and they most certainly wouldn't use a bus full of kids to transport the ransom. It's too obvious and it's not maneuverable enough."
"But it would provide excellent cover," Sandra said. "They know we wouldn't dare make a strike with all those children in the way."
"Come on, people. Can't you see it was an accident?" Finn persisted. "He picked up that pack because he thought it belonged to one of his kids."
"That's a possibility, but..."
"He's not one of Boko Haram," he said.
"That might be true, but he might be working for them too." At the commander's voice, the radio chatter stopped. "Until we know for sure whether this was a legitimate ransom pickup or just bad luck, out only option is to split up. Team A follows the ransom; Team B remains in position to continue monitoring the museum."
Finn kicked his bike to life, slid down his visor and slipped into the line of traffic that inched along behind the school bus. He noticed Songbird's van waiting at the next cross street and heard the distant chugof a helicopter overhead. Much farther overhead, a satellite was beaming down second-by-second updates from the Global Positioning System that had been stitched into the pack.
The Commander was right. They had to cover all the possibilities. Considering what was at stake, they couldn't afford to make any assumptions.
But Finn wondered why he was so sure that the man was innocent. Simply because he didn't look like a terrorist meant nothing. Trouble came in all shapes and sizes. He had seen old women in patched coats and 'kerchiefs lob hand grenades. He had seen children act as spotters for assassins with high powered rifles. He knew better than to trust anyone except the members of his team.
Besides, even if he was right and the pickup had been accidental, it was too late to put the ransom back in place. Boarding the bus now and retrieving the money would attract too much negative attention, to say the least. And Boko Haram had ordered Ambassador Ibru not to alert the authorities about the kidnapping. No one, especially not the Nighthawks, was supposed to have been at the ransom drop, so how would they have known of the bungled pickup? Boko Haram could be following the ransom as easily as Finn was, and they would be sure to spot any attempt at interference.
Oh, hell. For the sake of the mission, he should hope that he was wrong about the man. It would be safer if he really was a brilliant terrorist in disguise who has just pulled off a brilliant plan.
Then again, since when had he liked things easier?
Finn dropped back, allowing more traffic between his bike and the bus as he followed it. Terse, one-line reports came over the radio link as Songbird and her friends in Intelligence scrambled to keep up with the situation. Information began to build. The license plates of the school bus were registered to a local bus company. According to their log, this bus was booked by Cherry Hill School for a field trip. Contact name at the school was a Mister Abraham Locke.
Abraham? It was more of an old fashioned name, perfectly suitable for a wholesome-looking schoolteacher. Finn wondered if his friends called him Abe.
As if following the script that Intelligence had written, the bus pulled into the parking lot of Cherry Hill School. Finn coasted past it, did a U-turn and let the bike idle in the shade of trees at the corner of the school yard.

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Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 11:39pm On Jul 11, 2012
More tomorrow, I've got the flu and I'm gonna go sneeze myself to sleep.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Gentiejag(f): 8:24am On Jul 12, 2012
Am waiting
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Sapphiredamsel(f): 8:27am On Jul 12, 2012
continue abeg
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:03am On Jul 12, 2012
Alright, let's complete chapter one, shall we.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:04am On Jul 12, 2012
[center]
The teacher -- Abraham -- got off the bus but he was unable to stem
the flow as the kids burst out after him. He did manage to hand out a few
jackets and two of the backpacks before the children met up with their
waiting parents, but the kids were eager to be gone. The whole thing was
over in matter of minutes.
A strange man's voice came over the radio. It was soft and tinged with
humor and somehow Finn knew it had to be the man's.
"...good thing their heads are permanently attached." "I've patched
in the feed from the mike in the backpack," the Commander said, confirming
Finn's suspicions about who was speaking. "The man's been trying to give
the ransom away for the past ten minutes."
"Could he know the mike's there?" Sarah asked.
"Possibly, not unlikely."
"What is going on at the museum?" Finn asked.
Rafe's voice replied. "Nothing. If Boko Haram is here, they are not
making any moves yet."
Finn leaned forward and crossed his arms on the bike's handlebars,
straining to se across the schoolyard. Mr. Abraham Locke waved at a few of
his departing students, and then turned away. "Geez." He gave a breathy
grunt as he hitched one strap of the green backpack over his shoulder. "How
many Pokémon cards can they cram into these things?"
"Abraham Locke has brown hair, brown eyes, is five feet seven
inches..." Sandra's voice droned in the background, describing the details
of the man who was walking across the parking lot toward a beige
subcompact. "He is the registered owner of a beige Pontiac Firefly license
number..."
Finn's lips quirked. Well, either this particular terrorist had
established an exceptionally solid cover and was so clever that he was
deliberately acting innocent for the microphone he knew was in the
backpack...
Or he was exactly what Finn hoped he was.
Wait a minute. He had been through this already. He had no business
being pleased. His innocence was going to increase the difficulty of this
mission by a factor of ten.
They had to get the money back before Abraham discovered it; -- along
with the surveillance devices in the specially designed pack, -- and
decided to be a law abiding citizen and turn everything over to the
police. Once that happened, it would be next to impossible to contain the
damage. The secrecy of the mission would be compromised. Rumors would get
started, questions would be asked and Boko Haram would cry `double cross'
and kill the Ibru kid.
"He's twenty feet from his car," Finn said. "With this bike, I can
reach him and take the backpack before he gets the keys out. Few if any
witnesses will see it. He'll think it was a random mugging."
"Negative." The Commander said. "We can't make a move on him in
public. If Boko Haram did tail him and are watching, they will know Ibru
talked."
And cry "double cross" and kill the kid, Finn repeated to
himself. "Tell me where he lives," he said, easing his bike into gear. "I
think it's time we meet."

[/center]

1 Like

Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:06am On Jul 12, 2012
Seun why is this happening? I was posting last night on my mobile and the lines were more spread-out. What gives?
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Sapphiredamsel(f): 9:10am On Jul 12, 2012
kip it coming
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:11am On Jul 12, 2012
Oh well, I'm leaving it like this. Seun please take a second look at your script.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:13am On Jul 12, 2012
Whoa! I just upturned a bowl of noodles on my laptop. Lemme clean it up. Brb.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:15am On Jul 12, 2012
Chapter 2: The Meeting
Abe flicked another glance at his watch as he dug his keys out of his
pocket. The traffic had been worse than usual. Every direct route to his
apartment building had been blocked by stalled cars or minivans. Why
couldn't everyone simply follow their vehicles manufacturer's recommended
maintenance schedule? He always did and he hadn't had any problems with his
car yet. Still, it was odd that the car trouble seemed limited to his
neighborhood. It was almost as if there was some grand conspiracy out there
to delay him from reaching home.

He shook his head at the ridiculous thought. Washington was
undoubtedly full of enough conspiracies, but they wouldn't be targeting
him. No, he was about as ordinary and law-abiding as a person could get. He
understood the value of structure: maintenance schedules, school timetables
and to-do lists. These gave a solid framework on which to build a life.

Of course, sometimes timetables did require adjustments. He'd have to
pencil in thirty-five as his next target date for the husband, family and
home in the suburbs.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," he muttered, fitting the key into the
lock. "Get over it. Thirty is only a number."

The phone was ringing when he opened the door. He bolted the door
behind him and flicked on a light just as the answering machine picked up.

"Hi, dear." It was his mother's voice. "I hope everything is all
right. I thought you would be home by now."

Abe hurried through the short entrance hall to his living room, dodged
around the avocado plant and reached past the fig tree to grab the
telephone. "Hi, Mom."

"Oh, you are there. How was your day, Abe?"

"Great. The kids loved the museum." he started to shrug off his
jacket, belatedly realizing he was still holding on to the backpack he had
picked up. He had meant to leave it in the car so he could take it in to
school tomorrow, but in his rush to get home, he must have brought it
upstairs to his apartment without thinking. He was getting as absentminded
as his students.

On the other hand, wasn't forgetfulness a sign of advancing age?

He grimaced, dropped the pack and his bag beside the fig tree and sank
into a chair. "How are you, Mom?"

"Just fine." There was a spurt of conversation in the background that
was quickly muffled. "Are you still going to come over tonight? You haven't
forgotten, have you?"

"No, of course I didn't forget. I was late getting in because traffic
was horrible. If I hadn't used all my shortcuts, I'd still be sitting in
it."

"Well, I hope it clears up before you set out for our place." The
sound of a doorbell came over the line.

"I'll be over as soon as I can. Is someone at your door, Mom?"

"Oh, that's nothing. It's just your dad fidgeting with the bell again."

"Mmm." Abe was sure he heard more muffled conversations in the
background. It sounded like his older sister's voice. "Are you sure you are
not expecting visitors?"

"Now, why would we be expecting anyone but you, dear?"

"I don't know. Are you making fried chicken?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact. How did you guess?"

Fried chicken, potato salad and egg sandwiches without crusts. Just
like every year. The surprise party was on, "I could smell it from here,
Mom."

"Oh, you." She laughed. "We'll see you in a little while, then. Drive
safely, dear."

Abe put the phone down and leaned his head against the back of the
chair. He had to try to think positively about this birthday, he thought as
he studied the ceiling. Apart from a different digit at the start of his
age, it was the same as all the others.

He looked at his watch and did a quick calculation of how much time he
would need to drive to his parents' house if the traffic didn't improve,
and then pushed to his feet and hurried toward the shower. He had better
get moving or he was going to be late for his own party. He just hoped he
would be able to act surprised. It was going to be tough. He had never
liked surprises.

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Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:28am On Jul 12, 2012
"Twenty-nine years old," Sandra said. "No, make that thirty. Birthday
is today. Single. He has worked at Cherry Hill School for the past seven
years. Four hundred and sixty one dollars in his savings account, seven
thousand dollars in government bonds. Want his credit card balances?"

Finn buckled on the electrician's tool belt as he swung around another
turn in the stairwell. Sandra was on the radio, feeding him information
about Abraham Locke as it came in. he was thinking on his feet now, making
up the action plan as he went along; so, any fact, even a date of birth
might prove to be useful. "Does he have a debt problem?"

"No, he has a good a credit rating. No debts apart from a car
loan. He's a nonsmoker, according to his insurance records," Sandra
continued. "No outstanding traffic fines. He has three library books on
loan. The books are possibly history texts, judging by the titles."

Finn wasn't surprised at the depth of detail Sandra could obtain on
such short notice – all it took was a little know-how and nothing that
had ever been entered into a computer was secret. If the public became
aware of how easily the privacy of a private citizen could be breached, the
conspiracy theorists would have a field day.

One detail that hadn't shown up on Abraham's records though was the
fact that Abraham could drive a like New York City cabbie. If Finn hadn't
seen it for himself, he never would have believed what he could make that
little beige Firefly do. He had gotten past every one of the obstacles they
had set up. It was a good thing he had been on his bike, or he would have
lost him back at Sandra's "stalled" van.

Finn clipped a fake power company ID card to his shirt pocket. "What
about girlfriends?"

"No data about that so far. He doesn't use his Facebook account often
and has even less information there than he does on his file at the
school. He could be gay for all we know. But I could dig deeper and find
out more about that."

"No." Finn said immediately. He didn't know why, but he didn't like
the idea of Intelligence digging quite that deeply into Abraham's life. "I
only wanted to know whether he might have company with him at his
apartment."

"Sorry. Records online won't help you there. He has his mother; Clara
Locke listed as his next of kin. Parents live in Maryland. One older sister
named Martha, a younger one named Eleanor, both married with kids." Sandra
paused. "Abraham's sisters are named after first ladies, and he himself is
named after a president. It seems like he's not the only history buff in
the family."

Finn reached the next landing just as the lights were out. The power
failure didn't startle him – evidently Specialist Blake Gonzalez had
located the main breakers in the basement and had done his job right on
schedule. This was the reason Finn was using the stairs to get to the
seventeenth floor instead of the elevator. He waited where he was until the
emergency light clicked on, and then continued climbing.

"Ibru just received word from Boko Haram." Ghost's voice replaced
Sandra's. His words were even lower and more clipped than they were earlier
– definitely a very bad sign. "They claim they were double crossed, that
he never left the ransom as he had agreed."

"What did he tell them?" Finn asked.

"Ibru said that he left the money, but it was picked up by a
schoolteacher."

Finn increased his pace, taking the stairs three at a time. Great. If
the terrorists hadn't followed Abraham home from the museum, they would be
able to find him for sure, anyway, now that Ibru had told them the ransom
was picked up by a schoolteacher. They wouldn't need the of resources the
Nighthawks to be able to trace which school had field trips at the museum
today, all they would need would be a telephone. It was only a matter of
time before they narrowed it down and decided to come after Abraham and the
money themselves.

"Wasn't anyone with him when he took the call?" Finn
muttered. "Couldn't they have stopped him from talking?"

"He was advised not to say anything but Boko Haram put his son on the
line and then struck the child. When Ibru heard his son scream, he
disregarded our instructions."

Finn felt a surge of adrenaline. Boko Haram had abused a helpless
child. They would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. They wouldn't
care how many innocent people were hurt or how much collateral damage they
did in the process.

Mr. Abraham Locke, who turned thirty today, with his three library books
and his little beige car, was a sitting duck. He had to get the money away
from Abraham; – or get him away from the ransom; – as soon as
possible.

"Is the kid all right?" Finn asked.

"We have no way of knowing," Ghost replied. "All we know is that he
was alive and conscious ten minutes ago."

"How long do you estimate I have before Boko Haram gets here?"

"We are keeping our units in place to gridlock the traffic in the
immediate area, so best-case scenario, you'll have thirty minutes."

Finn didn't need to ask what the worst case scenario was.

He stopped when he thought he heard footsteps in the stairwell below
him. He waited until he could be sure the footsteps were retreating –
probably one of the building tenants, nervous about the power failure. He
placed his hand on the door to the seventeenth floor. "What's the latest
from the electronics in the pack?"

"The pack is stationary, somewhere in Abraham's apartment."

"Has he opened it?"

"Unlikely. The mike didn't pick up any sound to indicate the buckle
was being unfastened."

"Did it pick up anything?"

"Only a phone call from his mother. They are expecting him for
dinner."

"Maybe I should wait until he goes out."

"Boko Haram won't wait if they find him first."

"Right. What is he doing now?"

"There is nothing on the mike except some shuffling sound. He is
probably trying to find his way around in the dark."

"Okay. Keep me posted, I'm going in."

1 Like

Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:31am On Jul 12, 2012
Abe balanced on one foot to put on his trousers as he peered through
the peephole in the door. He tried to make out the features of the man who
stood there, but the beam from the emergency light at the end of the
corridor didn't reach this far. All he could see was a tall, broad
shouldered figure with some kind of tool belt strapped around his hips.

"Who is it?" he called through the door.

"I'm with the power company, Mister."

He adjusted his trousers and checked with the light he could use to
see if he was showing the bulge down there. The hot shower had left him
feeling hot...and needing, but he was thankful that he had finished his
shower before the light had gone out, which would have been impossible if
he had taken time to minister to his needs. The bathroom had no windows, so
it had been pitch dark, but at least there had been enough light from the
dusk filtering through the other windows for him to find his
trousers. "That was fast," he said.

"There is a problem with the wiring in the building. We have traced it
to a circuit in your apartment. I need to check it out."

Water dripped from his chest down his stomach. "What?'

"Do you mind letting me in?"

He opened the door to the limit of the security bar. "Do you have any
identification?"

There was a rustle of fabric as the man in his doorway reached for
something on his chest. "Here's my I.D. card."

Abe squirted at the card, but all he could make out was a pale
rectangular blur. "Sorry, I can't..."

"Hang on." Finn took a flashlight from his belt, clicked it on and
directed it toward the card. "This should help."

The suddenly bright beam made Abe blink. He looked at the printing on
the card. Finn O'Brian. Sure enough he was an employee of the power
company. He glanced at the small color photo in the corner. His grip on the
door tightened.

Who had ID photos that turned out like that? Even the stark head-on
flash couldn't hurt that square jaw and those high cheekbones. A picture
like that should be gracing an ad for designer cologne, not an
identification card for the electric company. He raised his gaze to Finn's
face.

The photo wasn't that good after all. He looked far better in the
flesh.

Good Lord, but he was gorgeous. Not in a pretty, cover boy way, but
like a man. All attractive. Those deep-set thick eye lashed blue eyes
gleamed with quiet male confidence. His nose was bold and straight, his
lips framed by twin lines that etched their way down from the hollows of
his cheeks. His hair was black, curling over the tips of his ears and the
back of his collar in a way that invited a tousling. In his plaid flannel
shirt and his snug-fitting jeans, he looked rugged but approachable, a
natural born heartbreaker.

Abe wanted to slam the door on his face.

"Mister? Would you like to call my supervisor? He'll verify my ID for
you."

"No, I..." he cleared his throat, thankful for the lack of lighting so
he might not notice how he was staring. On the other hand, a man who looked
like that would be accustomed to attracting plenty of male and female
attention. Yes, he probably reveled in it, drawing women like mindless
doomed moths to flame.

It was a good thing he was immune to men like that. That was the
advantage of being infected before – it served as a vaccination against
future bouts of the same affliction. "Are you sure the problem is in my
apartment? I haven't had any trouble with the electricity until now."

Finn took a slim, rectangular device from his pocket of his jeans and
held it toward Abe. "The readings I'm getting on this gauge pinpoint your
place."

Abe made a show of studying the numbers that were flickering across
the screen of the instrument, but it could have been a pocket calculator
for all he knew. "I see."

Finn hesitated for a moment, and the n he lowered his voice and bent
his head toward Abe. "Please, man. I'd like to get this job finished and
get home. You see, it's my birthday."

The door wobbled as Abe jerked. More water dripped from his hair to
his shoulder and trickled down to his trousers. "Your birthday?"

"Uh-huh."

"You are not serious."

"I'm afraid so. I hit the big three-oh today."

"That's...odd."

"Sure is, according to my folks. They claimed I'd never make it this
far."

"That's not what I meant."

"They are expecting me for dinner tonight, but I have to finish this
job before I can leave so if you don't mind..."

Abe gritted his teeth and forced himself to return his gaze to Finn's
face. He was smiling; a hopeful tilt at the corners of his lips. Abe could
almost hear moth wings sizzling. "I meant I can't believe that it's your
birthday today. It's mine too."

Finn's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

"Yes."

"Now that's a coincidence." The lines beside his mouth curved as two
dimples appeared in his cheeks. "What are the odds?"

Yes, indeed. What are the odds? Having a man who looked like Finn
O'Brian show up on his doorstep was unlikely enough, but sharing something
as personal as a birthday with him was beyond strange. It bordered on
bizarre.

1 Like

Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:32am On Jul 12, 2012
Was this some kind of cosmic joke? he wondered. Was this fate's way of
pointing out the road he had almost taken, the very thing he used his
schedules and his timetables to guard against? Just as he was about to
adjust the best before dates on the plans for his life; instead of
Mr. Right, Mr. Finn O'Brian shows up at his door with his blue eyes and his
dimples like some karmic birthday present.

Abe ran his hand through his short hair and then wiped his hands on
his boxers. "Did you say that your parents were expecting you for dinner?"

Finn's budding smile disappeared. "Hey, that I'm thirty and spending
my birthday with my parents is no big deal."

Abe's conscience twanged. Finn couldn't help how he looked, he
repeated to himself. He had learned the hard way not to trust handsome men
– or to put it more accurately, not to trust his reaction to handsome
men – but he really shouldn't be letting his personal prejudices color
his judgment. Who knew? If Finn actually did plan to visit his parents,
maybe there were a few ounce of human decency behind that pretty face,
after all.

Not that he would be willing to bet money on it.

This man's character had no bearing at all on the current situation,
he reminded himself firmly. "Excuse me, I didn't mean to imply there was
anything wrong with that. I was getting ready to go over to my parents'
place for dinner myself when the power went off."

Finn was silent for a moment, then shook his head and chuckled. "Go
figure. Guess you are in as much a hurry as I am, then."

"Yes, I believe I am."

Finn clipped his ID back on his shirt pocket and gestured toward the
door. "Well, the sooner I get started, the sooner both of us can leave."

Abe hesitated. The logical side of his brain waged a big battle with
the dark little corner where he kept his instincts. As usual, though, logic
won. He had to get organized and get out of here within the next thirty
minutes or he was going to disappoint his family. He eased the door shut to
unlatch the security bar, and then stepped aside to let him come in.

It would be all right. He was just letting the man into his apartment,
not his life.

Finn kept his light aimed at the floor as he walked into Abraham's
apartment. Abe pressed himself against the wall giving Finn as much room as
possible; – but still somehow their bodies touched as Finn entered; -
and then closed the door behind him.

Abraham Locke was a cautious man, Finn thought. It was a good thing he
had hit on the idea of making up the story about today being his birthday.

Finn was good at saying what people wanted to hear be. It was a useful
talent to have in his business – talking his way out of a situation was
often preferable to using force. In spots like this, people called it quick
thinking. When it was off duty, people called it charm.

The technical word for it was lying.

But it wouldn't have accomplished his objective if he told Abraham
that he had celebrated his thirtieth birthday more than two years ago. And
it sure as hell hadn't been with his parents. He had been six years old the
last time he had seen his mother and as far as he knew, his father was
somewhere in Brazil with his wife number four.

"What exactly are you looking for?" Abraham asked.

Finn glanced over his shoulder. Rather than staying at the door, Abe
had followed him into the living room after grabbing on a pair of pants
that were lying somewhere along the way from the door to the living room –
obviously the one he intended to wear to the dinner. There was more light
here than in the hall, but still the place was too dim to see more than
dark shapes and outlines.

Abe's outline was worth seeing. Compact and ripped in all the right
places. He must have been fresh from the shower when he had answered the
door. Finn had caught a whiff of fruit scented soap – apple or
strawberry, he'd guess. His short hair was wet and plastered flat to his
head. Finn's eyes ran downwards where drops of water trailed to Abe's
boxer. Abe probably hadn't realized that drips of water had been turning
his boxer transparent and had somehow made the clothing cling to
his...body.

Finn kept his flashlight aimed at the floor. "Like I said, I traced
the short to your apartment, but that's about as specific as the gauge
gets. I need to test each one of your electrical outlets until I find the
source of the problem."

"But wouldn't each apartment be on a separate circuit? I still don't
understand how a problem here could black out the entire building."

"Seems the wiring in this building wasn't done to the standards
specified in the electrical code," he improvised. He had to distract Abe
before he realized how flimsy his story was. "Wow, I still can't believe
that we share birthdays."

"Me, neither."

"And that we will both be spending it with our parents."

"Mmm. Yes." Abe said as he put his shirt.

"Are you close to your folks, then?"

"Yes, you could say that."

Finn heard the caution in Abe's voice go down another notch. He
decided to play up on the family angle. "So am I. A lot of people would
call it old fashioned, but there's nothing like family."

"Especially on birthdays."

"You got that right." He paused, trying to think of the most likely
spot for Abe to have dropped that backpack. "Kids make it the most fun
though. I've got two nephews who can't wait to blow out my candles."

"Do you like children?"

"Love them," he said figuring that would be what a schoolteacher would
want to hear.

A sigh whispered through the darkness. "So do I."

Finn used the flashlight to scratch his elbow as he moved toward the
outline of the living room window.

"Oh, watch out for the..."

Something stiff and dry hit Finn's face. He automatically brought his
forearm up to block the next blow and jumped backward.

"...avocado plant," Abe finished.

Finn directed his flashlight upward. A branch thick with long, wavy
leaves hung at head level. He traced the branch to an enormous plant that
grew from a pot besides one wall. "What the...?"

2 Likes

Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Kk4(m): 9:50am On Jul 14, 2012
I love this. If I was a publisher I'll give u a book contract asap. Keep it coming plsss
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Sapphiredamsel(f): 8:06am On Jul 18, 2012
where art thou
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:30am On Jul 18, 2012
Sorry, there was school stuff and boyfriend stuff.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:30am On Jul 18, 2012
Sorry, there was school stuff and boyfriend stuff. But I'll complete chapter two and post the link to the renaming chapters. So sorry.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Sapphiredamsel(f): 9:40am On Jul 18, 2012
u be guy,gay,or girl?
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:46am On Jul 18, 2012
"It's an avocado plant," Abe repeated. "I started it from a pit. I know it's in the way but it does best in that spot. Are you all right?"
"Sure, I managed to fight it off."
"Don't worry, it's not carnivorous."
Finn heard a smile in Abe's voice. It reminded him of that private smile that had so intrigued him before. He swept his flashlight around the room, this time aiming the beam higher. A pair of monster plants hulked under the window. No, it was a glass door, not a window. Probably led to a balcony, but he hadn't been able to see it before because of the plants. More pots and foliage clustered on the top of the low bookshelf. "I see you are good at growing things."
"It's my hobby."
"I'm a civil war buff," Finn said, remembering what Sandra had said about Abraham's library books. Maybe he was piling it on a bit too thick, but he would do whatever it took to keep Abe off guard.
"I enjoy studying history, too," Abe said. "I believe there are worthwhile lessons to be learned from the past. As long as a person is smart enough to remember them," he added.
Not a good topic, Finn decided hearing the note of thoughtfulness in Abe's voice. He didn't want him thoughtful. He wanted him off balance. He chuckled. "Let's not mention history on our birthdays, okay? After the day I've had, I feel ancient enough today."
"I know what you mean." Abe sighed and moved toward him. "You'll never find what you are looking for in this jungle. Better let me help you."
The flashlight was still high, so when Abe walked into the beam, it shone directly on his chest. Finn tried not to look, but it was impossible not to notice the perfectly shaped nipples with a dash of black hair between them.
Finn's gaze skid downwards as Abe bent over to move some plant and Finn suddenly realized that the innocent, house plant-loving, visit-his-folks-on-his-birthday Abraham Locke's underwear had soaked up quite a bit, plastered to his bum – which was an eye-full.
Finn turned the light aside and scowled. Abe hadn't provided the peepshow deliberately – he must have been a hurry to get dressed when the lights had gone out.
But he was supposed to be the one distracting Abe, not the other wayround.
Abe turned to him, and the look his eyes kind of said, Find what you are looking for?
Well, he sure wasn't here to look for a good looking butt without an underwear, however lush and temptingly displayed it might be. He had to find that backpack, he reminded himself. A green backpack. In a jungle of green houseplants.
Abe touched his arm. "You might as well start in the kitchen. The outlets are easiest to get to there."
Abe's touch was soft and hesitant. It was meant impersonally, a practical way of getting his attention in the dark. He felt Abe's warmth through his sleeve, through his skin, and right to his bones.
He couldn't afford to feel anything. He had a job to do. A kid's life and the political stability of an entire nation were resting on the success of this mission. He had to stay focused.
The outlets, Abe had said. Right. He took a screwdriver from his tool belt, turned around and followed him to the kitchen. The receiver in his ear crackled. "Braveheart."
Finn was careful to betray no reaction to the Commander's voice. The radio had been silent since he had made face-to-face contact with Abraham. The commander had been monitoring everything of course, but for him to risk direct contact, it had to be important.
"A car passed one of the roadblocks one minute ago," Ghost said. "They flagged it as suspicious so we ran the plates. It was reported stolen this morning."
Okay. Ghost had to let him know about anything suspicious. This could be coincidence, nothing to do with them.
"Three black male occupants."
Three. Boko Haram operated in cells of three.
"Sandra turned the parabolic mike on the car. It picked up a snatch of foreign language conversation. He identified it as Hausa."
That clinched it. The Hausa language was one of the languages of the Northern region; the base of Boko Haram.
They were about to have company.

1 Like

Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 9:54am On Jul 18, 2012
"The stairwell is getting busy with tenants making their way downstairs," the commander said. "We'll runinterference there when our visitors arrive, but we still can't risk confrontation. I estimate you've got five minutes tops."
So much for the half hour he had hoped for.
"Better wrap things up, Braveheart."
Sure, find the ransom; get it and Abraham Locke out of this apartment before the terrorists dropped in without compromising the mission by blowing his cover.
Why had he thought he didn't like things easy?
_
That's chapter two.
For the rest, go here
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by adetunrayo(f): 4:53pm On Jul 19, 2012
nice piece, but i dont like the gay part.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 10:06pm On Jul 19, 2012
adetunrayo: nice piece, but i dont like the gay part.
_
Huh. She doesn't like the gay part. And you think I like the straight part of every other writing here? Read it or leave it.
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Sapphiredamsel(f): 10:19pm On Jul 19, 2012
oya continue jor
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 10:23pm On Jul 19, 2012
Follow the link
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Sapphiredamsel(f): 1:16am On Jul 20, 2012
what link?
Re: The Game He Lost (A Novel). by Nobody: 8:32am On Jul 20, 2012
This link:
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For the rest, go here

1 Like

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