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Caught On Camera

Excerpt from Caught On Camera

In her head, Olivia was already practising the excuses she was going to have to make for committing the cardinal sin of being late on her first day in a new job. But that’s just how they came across—as excuses.

“How could you be so stupid?” She should have known it was going to be bad. They’d been digging up this section between West Acton and the White City toll plaza for months. One snarl-up after another.

It was all supposed to have got better after they privatised the major arterial routes into the capital. Olivia had only made sporadic visits into the city from her family home in Northolt while she’d studied for her degree at Oxford, but she couldn’t say she’d noticed much of an improvement.

And now it was going to make her woefully late for her first day on the job. Not just her first day, but her first job. First proper job since the mandatory community tasks to build enough citizen points to attend uni in the first place, anyway.

The car in front re-started, travelled another two yards, and stopped again. The hope that had begun to bloom in Olivia’s chest stopped with it.

Still, at least she could see the squat grey concrete structure of the toll plaza up ahead. There were only three lanes open, according to the in-dash monitor, which probably accounted for the delay as vehicles jockeyed for position.

Left to their own devices, the auto self-drive would feed everyone through the plaza in no time, but as soon as people with high-end models hit their priority overrides to jump the queue, you were back to chaos again. They were also the only ones who could afford the annual passes, which had their own express lane. Everyone else—Olivia included—had to buy the shorter duration tickets. Her parents had celebrated her graduation by chipping in towards her first month’s pass.

But it was the far left-hand lane—the cash lane—that always caused the most problems. The amount varied according to pressure of traffic and time of day, so you could never be quite sure in advance how much. Half the time people failed to bring the right money, or simply didn’t have enough for the toll. In fact, Olivia could see a young man standing by the cash window now, arguing with the woman behind the glass. His body language was pleading.

Olivia was too far away to hear anything of the exchange, but his thin arms windmilled. There were nervous stains on the back of his hooded sweatshirt.

The young man stepped back, shoulders slumping, and for a moment Olivia thought the argument was over. Then he reached inside the unzipped sweatshirt and when she could see his hands again, he was holding a gun.