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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4. Chapter Four

The Boat was heaving on Friday evening as many of the Weather Centre staff had called in for a drink on their way home. Jeff entered the bar area and looked around. He’d missed this place, as he hadn’t been there since he left the Weather Centre. He spotted Bill, Rob and Serena sat at a window table and strolled across.

            “Jeff!” exclaimed Rob. “Serena said you were coming. What can I get you?”

            “I’ll have a pint, please,” Jeff replied as Rob rose to go to the bar. “Hi Bill. Hi Serena.” He pulled a chair across from another table and sat down. “Where’s Drew?”

            “He called in sick this morning with a bad cold,” Serena explained.

            “Serena said you’re running ReadiWeather now,” Bill put in. “How’s that going?”

            “Pretty well,” Jeff answered smugly. “Several of the Formula One teams have signed up this week.”

            “I’m sure the Royal Met. Society would love to hear how you do it,” Bill commented, sipping his pint.

            “I’m sure they would,” Jeff chuckled. “But I’m not telling. No, not even you!”

            Rob returned from the bar and handed Jeff his pint. “I’ve been authorised to offer you your job back at double your salary,” he offered.

            “In return for which, I daresay the Weather Centre want me to divulge my secrets…”          “We want you to set up the ReadiWeather system at the Weather Centre, yes,” Rob explained. “Just think – a regular salary and your pension back,” he persuaded.

            “I’m sorry,” Jeff stated. “But I can’t.”

            “The way I see it, you’ve got a moral responsibility to,” Bill interjected. “Just think how many more lives you could save during severe weather events.”

            “I’m sorry, but no,” Jeff refused, glancing at the clock over the bar. He drained his glass. “And whilst it’s been good to see you, I really must be going. Serena – do you want a lift?”

            “That’d be great, thanks,” Serena smiled, standing up. “See you on Monday, guys.”

 

            Jeff and Serena chatted amiably as they travelled back to Reading in Jeff’s car – a new one, Serena noted – ReadiWeather must be doing good business.

            “Are you happy to walk from my place?” Jeff asked as they approached Reading town centre. “Normally I’d be happy to drop you off. But I really need to get some things sorted out this evening.”

            “That’s fine,” she answered. “It’s a nice evening for a walk anyway.”

            The car pulled up next to the swimming baths and they both got out.

            “Would you like to come inside for a drink?” Jeff asked.

            “No, thanks,” Serena replied. “Thanks for the lift, though.” Jeff watched as she started to walk away. “Who do you think you’re kidding? You’ve no chance,” he told himself and walked around the corner of the building towards his front door. He saw at once that the door had been forced open and rushed inside. A man in a balaclava was stood over Jeff’s laptop, attempting to hack into it, while a second was rifling through a filing cabinet.

            “Hey, you!” Jeff called out. The two men looked at him for a second, then the one by the computer rushed Jeff and pushed him to the ground, half in and half out of the doorway. They wrestled for a few moments, but the man in the balaclava was stronger and soon had Jeff pinned to the ground.

            “What’s the password?” he demanded. Silence.

            “Hit him,” instructed the older man. Jeff braced himself for the blow, which crashed into his cheekbone. “I won’t tell you,” he hissed. Another blow. Jeff grunted with pain, but still said nothing. The other man picked up a wooden chair and smashed it against a wall. “Use this,” he said, passing one of the legs to the younger one, who raised it menacingly above Jeff’s head.

            “Tell us,” the older man said. “Or else.” The threat was clear enough.

            “It’s …” began Jeff. There was a sound of running footsteps. The man let go of him and stood up. “Let’s get out of here,” he said. “But bring the laptop!”

            The two men rushed out of the door. The one carrying the laptop felt a foot connect with his wrist and dropped it. He turned to pick it up and another foot crashed into his nose, throwing him backwards. The younger man grabbed at the laptop but a second pair of hands took hold of it too and tried to wrest it from him. He pulled harder. The other hands released their grip, the laptop flew through the air and landed in the river with a ‘plop’. The younger man rushed over to see where it had disappeared.

            “Leave it!” called the other. The younger man gave one last look at the river, then they both ran away along the towpath.

 

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