Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Chapter Twenty

Suicide had never been a real option. Katherine Reece stared from her living-room window at the Thames, smoking yet another cigarette. The London sky was a pale grey, with angrier greys hugging the south. An arbitrary decision, but she’d made it; consigned herself to the roulette wheel now. She had no choice but to play it out, this sticky game of chance; staring into possible oblivion. If she died it wouldn’t be by her own hand.
She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.
She was afraid to stay in the flat and wanted to leave, wondering if there would be a containment agent knocking on her door in the next few hours. Or worse; a sprightly Tracer bringing a message of death laced with bad puns.
She toyed with the idea of letting herself get executed, and for some reason the idea thrilled her. It felt like she’d stepped off the edge of something, numbed yet delighted by what she saw; all that she had let herself become. She was afraid at what they might have in store for her, afraid that maybe she deserved it, and she grinned in a way that scared her further. Into her bedroom, glancing at the gun and photo still lying on the duvet. She snatched up her mobile phone, flipped it open and dialled a number.
“Yes?”
“So you’re answering my calls, Wesley?”
“Yes. You have superb timing.”
She pulled on the cigarette. “I’ve been thinking about what you said, babe. I think you’re right. They’re leaving me with nothing, aren’t they? What’s happening there?” She could almost hear him thinking.
“Deacon’s already given the word. All your key-cards have been blanked. You won’t be able to get into Locus. You don’t have a job anymore. They’re going to have you arrested. The pale woman you met; Angelina Rose – she’s heading this now. They’ve sent someone over. He’ll tell you the score, but it’s up to you.”
“Are you screwing that lab-rat?”
She heard him laugh, “Kathy…you sound jealous.”
Katherine took another drag of the cigarette, glancing at the gun on her bed. “What if I don’t go peaceably?”
She heard him laugh again. “Then you’re dead. It’s up to you.”
“So what you’re saying is…that this is a whole new game. Rules of engagement don’t apply. I’m on my own. A career trashed.”
“It isn’t a game, Kath. It’s business. They’ll want you to serve a prison sentence. For treason. Lock you up and throw away the key. Failing that they’ll kill you. Especially if you run. I just don’t understand why you were protecting her. She got you believing in all this apocalypse nonsense, didn’t she? I thought…well, I thought you were smarter than that. Did you really think you would get away with it? How old are you?”
Katherine wandered to the window. “She’s just a girl, Wes. She didn’t agree to any of this. She was a prisoner.”
He laughed again. “But there’s the rub…she’s not just a girl, is she? And we’re all prisoners. Why her, Kath? You know how valuable she is. You think your hands are clean? The blood never washes away. It’s an inevitable part of what we do. I’ve seen you with a gun, darling. You’re a natural.”
Katherine winced, swallowing hatred – acknowledgement. She laughed bitterly. “You think you got me on my knees, right? You better watch your back, Wes. I’m going to put a bullet in it. I’ll end you…and I’ll relish it.”
There was silence on the line. Eventually Dr Wesley Morgan said, “You’re going to run, aren’t you? This man is under orders to kill you if you resist. Like yourself, he’s good at what he does.”
She whispered into the phone, “I’m going to fuck you up, Wesley.” She heard him lighting a cigarette.
“I don’t think you’ll lie down without a fight. I know you a bit better than that. You don’t have much time – he might already be there. Still, it’s your call.”
“Call’s over.” She hung up and hurled her expensive mobile phone through the open window in what was almost a reflex action, watching it sail lazily through the air for a moment as if defying gravity then plummeting seven floors towards the Thames Embankment.

She quickly gathered some clothes together, and the MP3 of Prayer, throwing them all into an old Adidas sports bag. Her heart was now beating like the call of an interior tribe. She snatched up the sleeved photo of Sean and glanced at it. “Happy birthday, baby,” she muttered, slipping it into her jeans back pocket.
She took the gun from her duvet, holding it tightly in her palm. It was the only thing that felt real now. She shoved it into the waistband of her jeans, took the bag, and hurried out into the living-room.
She dialled Robert’s number on the home phone and sat gingerly on the edge of the couch. She got the answering service and slammed the handset back into its cradle. Out in the hallway she pulled on her hooded trench coat, pressing her lips together with resignation. She slung the bag over her shoulders.
The seventh floor corridor was empty. She strode towards the elevators, entered the carriage, quietly ringing her hands together. She descended.
The elevator opened its doors in the basement car park.
She moved swiftly across the brightly-lit space, amongst the other expensive, shiny cars, towards her BMW. She glanced around but saw no one. She pointed her alarm key and the headlights flashed, the car bleeped and unlocked. She pulled the door open and tossed her bag inside. As she did so, the reflection in the wing mirror settled on a moving blur.
“You’ll have to come with me…”
Katherine snapped round on her heels immediately as someone lunged at her. A fist glanced her chin, barely catching. She grabbed her attacker and pivoted in a fluid motion, using their momentum to hurl them into the side of the BMW.
For a brief moment she saw a man’s face; younger than her, with a close-cropped haircut. She buried her fist in his gut but it was like rock. In the same instant he grabbed at her coat and tugged her off balance, slamming his forehead into her face.
Her vision lost its sharpness. She felt blood in her nose. No, NO...
She lashed out with a fist. The silver flash of a gun pulled from somewhere quick as lightning. She glanced his arm away, and then his other arm, too fast to know what she was doing. She heard a gunshot. She grabbed him, slipped, and they both crashed to the floor. Katherine’s gun snagged free of her waistband and skittered away across the concrete.
He lunged up immediately, his elbow raised like a jackhammer, bringing it down a moment after she turned her head. She hooked his arm and pulled as hard as she could. His face hit the concrete beside her. She brought her fist down on the back of his neck, scrambling to her feet and diving into the open door of the BMW, throwing herself across the front seats.
The gear-stick caught her in the abdomen and she winced, flipping over, reaching to close the driver-side door. She saw him raising the gun in his hand, shoving it into the car, inches from her face. In a reflex action she slammed the door on his wrist, hearing him scream as the gun jerked in his hand and went off, like thunder that close. The shot streaked past her cheek, slicing into the dashboard. Chiming, quivering bells in her ears.
He had no aim and she slammed the door on his wrist again, screaming like he screamed. She heard a ragged howl of agony. He dropped the gun at her feet. His hand recoiled as he fell away, cradling his broken wrist, moaning on the concrete floor.
Katherine locked the doors and snatched up his gun. It felt like salvation when she gripped it. She glanced and saw him stumble quickly behind another car. She stabbed at the ignition and the engine growled. She reversed with her foot on the accelerator.
He rose up from amongst the cars, her own gun in his good hand. They’d inadvertently traded weapons. She was already pulling at the wheel, and had enough distance to see his face clearly for a moment. Teeth clenched. A curious look in his eyes beneath his pain. He raised the gun almost casually, and fired three times. The shots streaked the driver-side door but didn’t penetrate.
Katherine sliced across the car park, easing off the accelerator only as she hit the ramp. She struggled to control the car from sliding out as she took the left into the road.
Her ears were still ringing painfully from the nearness of the shot. Her heart was pounding. In the rear-view mirror she saw blood from her nose smeared across her lips. She suddenly took a deep, ragged breath, tears spilling across her cheeks.

***

It was still raining, silvery needles hitting the wet ground. Serima and Anna were standing on the steps of Wells Gate College of Arts. They were sharing a cigarette as other students milled around them. The rain felt good on Serima. Anna stood cupping the cigarette and dipping her head as she took a pull.
“So you’re gonna call me, yeah? Don’t be a stranger.”
Serima frowned. “I won’t. We’ll do something.”
“Don’t worry. Okay?”
“Who’s worried?”
Anna gave her the cigarette and took her hand in the rain. “Your mum will be fine.” Serima nodded and forced a brave smile.
Jamie’s car pulled up on the other side of the street. Anna gave Serima a little wink and hurried down the steps and across the road through the silvery rain. Jamie waved at Serima from the car and she waved back as they drove away.
She waited for a few minutes, letting the rain hit her face, grateful for it really. She finished the cigarette and tossed it into the bushes.
Michael came out of the exit and saw her, a big smile spreading across his face. He gave her a hug and planted a kiss on her lips. “I didn’t see you in the canteen today.”
“Yeah, I had some stuff to take care of.”
“Did you see the news?”
“Yeah, I did.”
He shook his head, “Man, crazy isn’t it? The hospital’s only fifteen minutes away from my place. I’d seen all the police there but I didn’t think anything of it. Then when I saw the news I was like ‘bloody hell’. Literally. I tried calling you but you had your phone switched off.”
“I know. Sorry.”
“You waiting for your brother?”
“Yeah.”
Michael stared at the ground. “Okay. I’ll make myself scarce then, shall I?”
Serima didn’t need this right now. She wanted to tuck this boy away in a box somewhere, until she was feeling lustful again. The thought filled her with self-disgust as she stared up at his almost-innocent eyes.
“I’d like to meet him,” he said, staring at her.
“You wouldn’t like him, Michael. He’s a morbid freak.”
He frowned. “You told me he’s all artistic, that he’s a writer. Anna says he’s really cool. I think we’d get on fine. We’ve probably got a lot in common.”
“He’s nine years older than us, baby. You’d just be a kid to him. He’d talk down to you.”
“Okay,” he sighed, “Whatever you say.”
“He’ll be here soon.”
Michael smiled humourlessly. “You haven’t told him about me, have you?”
She didn’t answer at first. Eventually she said, “No…I haven’t. But I will. It’s just, he’s overprotective of me. He thinks I’m a little girl. He acts like he’s my father sometimes.”
“It sounds like he’s got a hard job.”
Serima stared. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
He raised his hands defensively, “Hey, I’m just saying. Your not the easiest person to read.” She couldn’t think of anything to say so she looked away. “Am I gonna see you over the weekend?”
“Maybe. I told Anna we’d meet up for drinks. You can come if you want.”
Michael raised an eyebrow. “I think you can find some time to fit me in to your busy schedule. At least I hope so.”
She gave him the evil-eye. “Don’t be a prick…”
“I’m not the one being a prick,” he said, with an edge in his voice that she hadn’t heard before. “I just want to spend some time with my girlfriend. Damn, maybe I’m asking too much. Forget about it. I’ll see you on Monday.” He turned from her and walked down the steps.
“Michael…” she called half-heartedly. He didn’t look back as he walked away. Serima didn’t hurry after him. She remained on the steps of the college, in the rain. “Shit,” she muttered to herself.
She’d lied to Michael’s face and took the bus home, sitting on the top deck, watching the reflections from car headlights on the wet roads, listening to an Aretha Franklin track on her iPod. She’d really pissed him off this time. Images from the news had been flitting around in her head all day. Everyone at college had been talking about it. A little excitement in their dull lives. She couldn’t handle not knowing. She punched angrily at the seat in front, hurting her hand.

1 comment:

  1. I like that Katherine is fighting now. That's good for her.

    ReplyDelete