CXVI:Secrets Broken(6)

By: Angie Smith

McLean looked aghast. “They failed to stop?!”

“It staggers me too,” Foster agreed, feeling far from happy. He knew things were spiralling out of control. “Why would they be heading towards Manchester?” he asked.

Jacobs clicked his fingers. “Albion Bedford,” he offered, spontaneously. “Barnes said she’d recognised something on the internet. She’d recently been to Manchester to visit Bedford.”

“Right, I’m heading out to Tintwistle, to look at the mess they’ve created there. Ask Manchester Police to go and check on Bedford’s office. If necessary I can go straight there from the accident scene.”

The journey in the boot of the Mercedes was much more comfortable than the ride in the back of the Transit, and Barnes found herself ignoring the car’s audio system and reflecting on events back at Bedford’s office.

It had all started going wrong from the second Woods crashed through the door. As planned, he’d rolled to the right, yelling “Police! Get Down!” She’d been less than a second behind him and run to the left, straight at Williams, who was already aiming the gun at Woods. She had lunged at him with the car jack, but he’d discharged the weapon and raised his arm to deflect the blow. That’s why he’d dropped the gun. She’d hit his arm first and followed through, striking his head. Woods had made it to the area at the side of the chair Plant was strapped into — again, all as planned — but on the way he’d been shot in the shoulder. She’d immediately snatched up the gun, trained it on Williams, who was on the floor dazed, and backed up to check on Woods. But why had he been shot? That wasn’t supposed to happen. It was as though Williams had pre-empted their entrance. He was ready for them. How could he be? And then that was when things totally went out of control.

Guilford-Johnston, who was strapped into the other chair next to Plant, had started interfering, pleading to be released and issuing orders. Meanwhile, her priorities were checking on Woods, calling for backup and keeping the gun fixed on Williams. But Guilford-Johnston, Plant, and then Williams had all unsettled her.

Williams had claimed to be her half-brother and she’d been completely thrown by this. Whereas Plant said it was a ruse to unbalance her concentration, which it certainly had. The last straw came when Guilford-Johnston demanded she shoot Williams. Finally, after ordering the former MP to be quiet several times, she’d turned the gun on him. But she’d never envisioned shooting him. She’d aimed for the chair arm, to frighten him, and keep him quiet.

She shook her head in disbelief. What have I done?! Then she considered the gun. Why is it so badly out of alignment? Suddenly, she wrestled with the strange possibility that her accidental shooting might turn to her salvation. Maybe that’s it, as long as he is aiming at my upper body I’ve got a chance. She momentarily felt better. But it was Williams’ weapon. She shook her head again. He’ll be used to the poor alignment!

What was it about the gun? Had she missed something? She relived the last seconds before Guilford-Johnston was shot. Over and over again in her mind, second by second, until the realisation hit home, and the relief engulfed her. “I saw fragments of wood flying from the chair arm,” she whispered to herself. It wasn’t me who killed him! The bullet must have come through the window! At the same time I fired. This must be Faulkner-Brown’s doing! Before the thought had a chance to envelop her, Woods’ blood loss and the possibility that help may not yet have been summoned started to fester. I dropped my phone. He’ll be able to crawl to it and call backup. But then she recalled his last words: “Jesus Christ, Maria, why the hell did you do that?”

“He thinks I killed Guilford-Johnston,” she said quietly, “but he was on the floor next to Plant. He couldn’t see.”

Her thoughts flashed to Williams. Why is he doing this? Why has he kidnapped me? What use am I? Maybe a hostage or some form of insurance? She wasn’t certain, but she knew she had to get away from him. The last thought lingered as the Mercedes slowed to a standstill and waited, engine purring. “Where are we?” she mused. After a minute or so they moved off. It sounded and felt as though they were on cobblestones. The car reversed and then stopped. The engine was cut. She listened as the seat belt was unclipped, the driver’s door opened, someone, she assumed it to be Williams, got out, and then the door closed softly. She lay motionless, unsure if he was still nearby. Nothing. Ten minutes passed. Still nothing. He must have gone. She tapped on the boot lid and listened for a response. There wasn’t one. This was her chance, there was enough room for her to get on all fours and she pushed her back upwards on the boot lid, arching and straining, trying to force it open. It wouldn’t budge. Maybe if she could find the rear light cluster she could fuse the wiring circuit using the metal handcuff; the boot catch might release. She scrambled around in the corners trying to locate any removable panels, but couldn’t find any. She sighed, lay back and waited.

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