This is a draft of the beginning of DIXON’S REVENGE, the sequel to THE MACHAIR CROW.
“Stop leaving and you will arrive. Stop searching and you will see. Stop running away and you will be found.”
Chapter 1. Tinted windows saved my life. And the sweets that’d been in the passenger side glove compartment for ever. I was leaning over rummaging to find them when the windscreen shattered. The seat behind me shuddered as it took the hit. Two bullets had just missed my shoulder. A double-tap. There was no other sound. I was covered in shredded glass.
Grey Street was busy with morning traffic. I’d been waiting in a line of cars at the lights. Now I was down and staying down. Horns sounded from the cars stuck behind me. For a second I nearly hit the hazard warning lights to let them overtake. Then I stopped. The shooter was watching. My hazard lights would tell him he’d missed. He was out there somewhere. I scrambled around for my phone and called Graham Walton. Graham was bright and cheerful.
‘Riley, good morning. How are you today? You know you’re late again and there’s someone here to see you.’
‘Graham, photograph the street. Look out the window. I’m in my car. Take photographs. Quickly. Someone tried to shoot me. Check windows above shops. Look for a lone male. I’ll call Andy.’
I called Andy. Same office, different number.
‘I’m on my way. Don’t move,’ he said.
The only move I made was to turn around so that I was on my back on the floor pointing my gun at the side window. All I could see was clouds. I waited. Cars were overtaking now and honking at me as they passed. The passenger door opened and I pointed the gun at the shadow that appeared.
‘Are you hit?’
‘I don’t think so. Check the street, Andy. He’s probably a single male, with a cap or a hooded jacket. Maybe sunglasses? There’s not much time. He’s watching this.’
‘There’s a guy further down the street in a green parka, hood up.’
‘That could be him. He’s armed and he’s a trained killer. Follow him if you can. Don’t try to take him, Andy. He needs to think he’s killed me.’
Chapter 2. Andy Johnson used to be a DCI with Northumbria Police. Now he was an independent. It was well paid but often routine. Given a choice, he’d take mundane but well paid over exciting but poor, anytime. He’d taken a punt on Riley. She’d not let him down. He needed experience and she had it in spades. It didn’t take much persuasion for her to agree to join Andy Johnson Security. He’d been lucky. Her ex-husband was cheating on her and she needed a way out. He offered it to her. Call it good luck or good judgement on his part, Riley was an asset. Now he was fast-walking down Grey Street pretending he was talking on his phone while searching the pedestrians, taking photos of a potential gunman. Riley was an asset but she came with baggage.
The man in the green parka that he’d identified was one of the pedestrians. Andy was taking a movie of him now, hoping it would be useful. The man turned right at the bottom of Grey Street and Andy rushed to catch up. When he reached the corner, he turned it expecting the green parka man to be nearby. He wasn’t anywhere to be seen. He stood on the corner of Grey Street and Moseley Street looking around and scanning through the windows of passing traffic. Further up Moseley Street, about twenty yards on his right ran Mosley Lane. It was narrow and dark, lined with bins, fire escapes and air con vents. Andy cautiously edged along it. At the end of the lane, it turned to the left. When he got there he turned around the corner carefully. In the distance he spotted the man in the green parka, now on a motorcycle and disappearing fast out of the lane into the old Cloth Market. Andy retraced his steps back to the office.
Graham Walton swept the glass from the driver’s seat then got in. I was still on the floor covered in glass.
‘You all right down there?’
‘You had a lucky escape. Let’s get you out of here.’
Graham was our IT wizard. There wasn’t much about technology that phased him. He drove my windscreen-less car down Grey Street and into the lane that led to the back of our office. When he’d parked, he helped me out and started to pick bits of glass from my clothes. That’s when I noticed how much I was shaking.
‘I wasn’t expecting the day to start like this.’ My voice sounded far away, like it belonged to someone else. I took a deep breath and blowed hard. Then I rested against the car and took a few more.
‘Take your time,’ said Graham.
Andy Johnson came around the corner.
‘How are you? Any injuries?’
‘None that I can feel. How did you get on?’
‘I lost him. He had a motorcycle parked in Moseley Lane. I’ve taken some pictures, but I didn’t see his face.’
‘I took some too,’ said Graham, ‘but they might be too far away to be of any use.’
‘Lets get you upstairs, then we can have a look at them. We’ll also need to call the police.’
We climbed the twenty-two stairs and pushed open the glass doors to our office. Saul Mathews stood up.
‘Riley, are you all right?’
‘I think so Saul.’
‘Who’re you?’ asked Andy.
‘I’m Saul Mathews. I’m a sort of friend of Riley. We met during her Dalomedina escapade. I work in a similar line to you.’
‘What are you doing here Saul?’ I asked him.
‘I came to warn you. There’s a contract been put out on you. Someone wants you dead.’
‘We can go into the conference room to discuss this,’ said Andy.
Graham, Andy and Saul walked me over to the conference room. Andy asked our receptionist, Kelly, to get us some coffees.
‘What do you know about this Saul?’ said Andy.
‘We monitor the online chatter. I get summary reports. One of my jobs is to make links or delve further into any unusual conversations that are taking place online. Your name appeared. I came to let you know.’
Andy wasn’t impressed. ‘A telephone call could have prevented this.’
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t think this would happen so quickly. I thought there would be time to warn you.’
Andy was interrogating Saul. ‘Who set up this contract?’
‘I don’t know. We’ll need more time to track it down. Even then it’s likely to be on an encrypted network so we won’t be able to break into it.’
’So we know that there is a contract out on Riley, that someone took a shot at her today, but we don’t know who or why.’
‘That’s about it.’
‘Is this linked to Dalomedina?’
‘It could be.’
‘Who else would have a motive?’
‘I don’t know. Someone who’d be angry enough to hire a contract killer.’
‘We need to let the police know.’
‘Hold on,’ I said. ‘Our link to Dalomedina could compromise our client’s confidentiality. We shouldn’t be pointing the police in that direction.’
‘So what do we tell them?’
‘We tell them that we don’t know who did this. That’s the truth. We should look at the photographs before you call them,’ I said.
‘Fine,’ said Andy, ‘but not for too long. They’ll be even more suspicious if we don’t call them immediately. Graham, set up the screen please.’
Graham picked up the handset and lowered the screen. Then he connected his iPhone to the projector cable.
‘I just kept pressing for as long as possible,’ he said.
His photos appeared on the screen. We sat quietly as Graham flicked through pictures of pedestrians and windows. When the photos of the green parka man appeared he zoomed in, but there was no recognisable detail of his face. I was disappointed.
‘I’ll try to blow them up later when I have more time.’
Andy connected his phone to the projector and he talked through what he’d been doing.
‘I was trying to follow him and photo him. He never turned around once. Then he slipped up the lane to where he’d parked his motorcycle. When I turned the corner, he was gone.’
We watched Andy’s movie. Green parka man had his hood up. He looked tall. He was wearing blue jeans and white trainers and had a backpack on his shoulders. This was the man who wanted to kill me for money. He wasn’t running but he was moving swiftly past the other pedestrians.
‘Do you think he knows he missed?’ said Graham.
‘He’ll soon find out,’ I said.
‘Then he’ll try again,’ said Andy.
I sat quietly, thinking. Andy got to his feet.
‘I’m calling the police now,’ he said.