OLD HABITS (Pt III)

The route I followed into town took forty minutes instead of the twenty minute ride on the main roads. I parked the bike in a yard at the back of dilapidated short rent houses. Finding roads and parking not covered by cctv had proved impossible in the second most watched state in the world, but I had avoided all the good quality traffic cameras, and the yard was not an area anyone cared enough about to spend money protecting. A false number plate and a few cosmetic tweaks to the bike covered the rest.

I took the holdall out of the top box and, still wearing the helmet and one piece suit, walked down the alley. I turned right at the end and into a mean back street that ran behind what had once been a market building. Twenty yards down the street I made sure the security cameras I had vandalised a couple of nights before outside the public toilets were still wrecked. Sure enough they remained smashed and the cables missing. I went in and changed. The suit, helmet, gloves and boots replaced the hoodie, jeans and baseball cap in the holdall and I tucked the reunited contents of the attic boxes into an inside pocket of the hoodie.

The phone rang.

I looked at the incoming number. Emma.

I let it ring again a couple of times then answered before the voice mail system kicked in.

‘Hello?’ I said as groggily as I could.

‘Dad. Did I wake you?’

‘It’s all right love. Everything all right?’

‘No I’m bored, Mum’s being so embarrassing and Josh is being a little swine.’

‘How’s the show?’

‘We’ve only just got here Dad. What time do you think it is? I’ve got hours of this to put up with. Why couldn’t I have stayed with you?’

‘Because it’s a nice treat for Mum to have her two lovely children with her and share a joyous day out.’

‘Sarcastic much.’

I had to think of a way to stop this conversation. It had served its purpose. The link through from my phone back in the garage had worked. It would show my phone communicating with Emma’s while based in the area of our house at a time that made it impossible for me to have done what was about to happen. But I needed to move fast now.

Charlotte’s work friends the Watsons saved me.

‘Oh Dad, sorry got to go, Leila’s here. Got to ask her what happened to Jack.’

‘I thought he left her to join the Army or something?’

‘Exactly.’

‘Okay love, enjoy it. The show, not being mean to Leila.’

‘Oh yeah, thanks. Love you, bye.’

The call ended, and with it my link to current normality. I had ten minutes to be in place. The old market was due for renovation. It had been due since the council shut it temporarily ten years previously. Just before the banks crashed and the council’s money went south, invested in Icelandic herring futures or whatever had sounded a good deal three months prior to the crash. A prime centre site like the market would have expected to have been grabbed at a bargain price as the recovery started, but savvy investors could see the writing on the wall for bricks and mortar city centre retail. I pushed my way through a first floor window I had forced a couple of days previously.

They were due in half an hour. I would have preferred to have had more time to scope the place but I had to work with what I had. I’d had my suspicions about Alan at the time but I’d had no real proof until it was too late. He had gone abroad afterwards in triumph and it became clear that Peter Colston had covered for him and carried on the good work. HR had shunted me sideways into ‘something less stressful’ so I needn’t worry too much about all these ‘reds under the bed’. After all we were all friends now in any case. Weren’t we? I pulled the revolver from my pocket and the two spare speed loaders. I’d have preferred long or a machine pistol but again, you have to work with what you have.

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