The Weatherman

When Serena Frost starts a new job at the British Weather Centre, she learns about a rival company, Readiweather.com, whose forecasts are uncannily accurate. A chance encounter with Readiweather's founder piques Serena's interest, but she soon finds both her heart and her life in danger, as some people will stop at nothing to discover Readiweather's secret.

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1. Chapter One

            Serena Frost approached the 1950s brick and concrete office block – the British Weather Centre’s headquarters building in the Thames Valley – with trepidation. Today was her first day of her new job – her first proper job since graduating a few months earlier with a Second Class Honours degree in Meteorology. It hadn’t got off to a good start – she’d knocked over a whole bottle of milk at breakfast, some of which had spilt on the smart trousers she’d been wearing, necessitating a change of outfit. That and the clean-up had made her almost miss her train, which had already started to depart from the platform when she arrived at Reading station, and which she had only caught by running alongside, pulling the slam door open and leaping inside – to the chagrin of the platform staff. As a result, her previously-pristine top was now showing evidence of perspiration (“glow”, she corrected herself), but too late to change it now. She took a deep breath, ascended the short flight of steps and entered the building.

            “I’m here to see Rob Green,” she explained to the middle-aged security guard.

            “Miss Frost?” the guard asked. Serena nodded as he handed her a temporary pass and dialled a number on his phone. A few minutes later, a short, balding man in his late fifties appeared in the lobby.

            “Serena Frost? I’m Rob Green.”

            Serena stood up from the plush chair she’d been waiting in and shook Green’s hand. They chatted together amicably as he led the way through the warren of corridors and staircases that led to a small shared office laid out for three people.

            “These are the people you’ll be working with,” Green explained. “Bill Brewer,” – Serena shook hands with a tall man with unruly hair and a greying beard, who was perhaps five or ten years younger than Green – “who develops short range thunderstorm warning software, and Andrew Foot, our radar specialist.” Serena glanced at Foot, who was a young man, about six inches taller and not much older than her, and smiled.

            “Foot?” she asked. “Any relation to…?”

            Foot nodded. “My father”. Clarence Foot was the Weather Centre’s well-respected Chief Executive. Serena looked at him again. He was handsome, with a well-toned physique and a warm pair of eyes, and Serena felt her heart beating faster as he smiled back at her.

            “Nice to meet you,” she said, flustered.

            “We’ll all go down to The Boat at lunchtime, to give you chance to get to know us all better,” Green stated, leading her to the empty desk, with a window commanding views across the car park and the nearby residential estate. “Andrew will help you log in and get yourself set up. I’ll be along in a few minutes with some work for you to do.”

 

            Three hours later, the four colleagues were sat around a table at The Boat, a local hostelry where many of the Weather Centre staff could be found when they wanted a change from the food served in the canteen.

            “So, how are you finding your first day?” Brewer asked, putting down his pint and picking his fork back up.

            “There’s a lot to learn,” Serena replied between sips of her apple juice, “but I’m sure with Drew’s help I’ll pick it up pretty quickly.” She turned to him. “I hope I haven’t been asking too many silly questions,” she apologised.

            Foot smiled at her. “Don’t worry,” he reassured her. “I don’t mind answering your questions. And at least you’re better looking than Jeff,” he joked, making Serena go red again.

            “Who’s Jeff?” she asked, when she’d regained her composure.

            “Jeff Watson,” Green explained. “Your predecessor. He left about three months ago.” He turned to the others, “Have either of you heard anything of him since he left?” Foot and Brewer shook their heads.

            “He always tended to keep himself to himself anyway,” Brewer remarked, finishing his pint. They rose from the table, found their coats and headed out into the September sunshine.

            “I see ReadiWeather are forecasting gales and heavy rain overnight,” laughed Brewer, looking up at the cloudless sky.

            “ReadiWeather?” Serena enquired.

            “They’re an independent weather firm,” Brewer explained contemptuously. “Probably just one man in a garden shed.  Look at the weather we’ve got now. No way there will be wind and heavy rain tonight.”

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