The Newton Enigma.  A novel by Linton Herbert. 

Chapter 2b


The sounds from Jon’s condo made it clear that the door was yielding only grudgingly to men storming it from the hall.  Jon went over to the neighbor’s door and rapped on the glass.


A white haired woman inside looked up from the Halloween treats she was making.  She smiled at the sight of the two men and beckoned.  They opened the door and slipped in. 


“Mrs. McGillicuddy, Ivan.”


“He’s so cute.”


The racket of the siege indicated that the door had finally yielded.  The voices were only mumbles, but the tune indicated the intent.  “Nobody here.  Get help.  You stand guard.”


Mrs. McGillicuddy said sweetly, “It’s been so many years since boys came climbing onto my balcony.  Are you having friends over?”


“Not friends,” said Jon, “We need to get out of here.  And I think you had better come.  It’s probably not safe.”


Beaming, she swept up her pocketbook and went out the door.  She smiled sweetly at someone in the hall and then under cover of fumbling with keys and messing with her hair she raised her index finger.  There was only one of them in the hall.


Lithe as a black panther, Ivan bounded to the door, swung around on the frame and landed a haymaker.  By the time Jon made the hall, Ivan had already lowered the unconscious guard to the floor.


Mrs. McGillicuddy seemed worried.  She whispered, “I hope you haven’t killed him.  He was sweet.”


There seemed no point in bringing the guard along.  It would only slow them down and indicate their route when they left him.  Mrs. McGillicuddy made her way cattycorner across the hall to the stairwell.  They started down.  After a few steps Mrs. McGillicuddy was leaning on the rail heaving herself down two feet to the step.  “O dear.  I’m afraid my hips just won’t do what they used to.  Don’t ask.  Don’t even ask what they used to do.”  Ivan swept her up, and the party gathered speed.


“Just like old times.  First they climb over your balcony, and then they expect to take you in their arms without so much as a by-your-leave.”


Two flights down they ducked out of the stairwell and into a hall again.  Mrs. McGillicuddy pointed and whispered, “Freight elevator.”  They found it at the back of the building.  After a brief ride they emerged squinting in the bright autumn sun.  She said, “Get in the dumpster… no not me.  They aren’t looking for me.”


Ivan obediently set her down.  The two men climbed into the dumpster and settled in with the trash. 


Mrs. McGillicuddy made her way boldly to the front of the building.  There seemed nothing amiss.  Trucks for a carpet company, an exterminator and an appliance delivery service were tucked into a loading zone.  Young men in coveralls were casually moving things in and out of the trucks.  There was hardly more activity than there might have been any morning.  Only Mrs. McGillicuddy did not recognize any of the companies’ names.  Many years of keeping track of what the neighbors were up to had made her familiar with a host of service trucks.  A strange one meant nothing, really.  But three strange ones, that was too much. 


She made her way right passed the working men, smiling as she did.  They didn’t smell of insecticide or packing material.  They smelled of gun oil.  She climbed into her prim little Cadillac.  It dated fifteen years back to days of low speed limits and expensive gas.  It had few of the gadgets and little of the power of a modern luxury car.  It was sedate and modest but respectable.  She started the motor and pulled out of the lot.


A few minutes later the men heard a voice outside the dumpster.  “Get out, boys.  It’s clear for now.”


She led them through a hedge to the parking lot for the next high rise over.  The little white caddy was there with engine running.


“Now you boys seem to have quite the day ahead of you.  There is a small army of men searching the building.  You take my car.  I wish I could come along.  But the hips, don’t you know.” 


Jon handed her his own keys.  “Use mine if you need one.  I don’t know when we’ll be back.  Will you be all right?”

“I’ll just duck in here and visit some neighbors.  We’ll have a nice gossip.  I can tell them how terrible it was.  I’ll be the envy of all.”


Jon said, “I don’t know how to thank you.”


“Coming back alive would be a good start.  I’ve been thinking a long time that you needed some interests, but stay safe.  Oh. There is one other thing I can do for you.”  She fished a small card out of her purse.  “This is where my granddaughter works.  Her name’s Tracy.  There isn’t anything wrong with her hips.  And don’t forget to take your passports, and wear clean underwear.  You don’t want to be found dead in dirty underwear.”


They pulled out of the parking lot and made their way out of the sub development.  Presently Jon glanced in the rear view.  “Uh oh.  More company.” 


“What is it now?”


“A white van is following us.”




“Did you ever know a terrorist that didn’t drive a white van?”


“That would be a no.”


They reached a five way stop.  Jon did a leisurely U turn.  You make U turns at intersections in Florida.  They passed the van again, but its heavily tinted widows gave them no view.  Then the van made a three point U turn and started after them again.  At least they weren’t shooting.”


“Ivan, take the wheel.  This is going to call for younger nerves than mine.”


Ivan took the wheel and put his foot over the accelerator.  Jon unbuckled and pushed himself over the back of the seat, winding up crumpled in the rear while Ivan slid over and buckled himself into the driver’s seat.  


“All right Ivan, next right.  When they are out of sight, gun it.”


The car completed the turn and then accelerated as much as its light engine could manage. 


“Good.  Next left.”


The soft tires wailed around the curve. 


“Fourth driveway.  Pull around in back of the house and kill the motor.”


They waited a moment in silence and then heard the van rocketing past in front of the house.  They pulled out and went the way they had come. 


“Now, Ivan, we need to get to a computer and work on that code.”


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