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Fifth Victim excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 40
“He’s injured!” I said, cutting across whatever Parker was saying. “He’s wearing a T-shirt and he’s just lifted his right arm, but stiff, awkward. I see a bandage.”

I remembered the close-up CCTV image of the guy in the passenger seat of the Dodge, throwing his arms up as the side glass rained around him. Maybe even throwing an arm into the path of my next round. The arm nearest the window. His right arm.

Parker went silent for a moment, all arguments about law enforcement intervention put on hold.

“Can you engage with minimum risk?” he asked then.

Risk. An all-purpose word with a raft of meanings. Risk of success. Risk of discovery. Risk of imprisonment. Risk of injury or death.


“OK,” he said, his voice shortened and tense. “If you can, lead him somewhere…quieter. What’s your current location?”

“On Atlantic Avenue-don’t ask, it was the satnav’s choice. I was going to take the Williamsburg Bridge in but there must have been some sort of traffic snarl-up.”

“Stay on Atlantic and head for Bushwick. Plenty of places there to have a nice long…discussion, without being disturbed.”

I said dryly, “The last time I went to Bushwick, I was arrested in a brothel.”

“Yeah, try not to do that again, huh?” He paused, as if hating to ask, but doing so anyway. “You need backup?”

“No time. I’ll call you.”

“You better, or I’ll be sending search parties.” Another pause, and this time I heard the smile in his voice. “And when you talk to this guy, Charlie, be polite.”

“I’ll do my best,” I said, and hung up.

I got off Atlantic at the next lights, started threading deeper into run-down side streets lined with decrepit apartment buildings that looked barely able to support the weight of their own roof. The factories were huge old red-brick affairs, closed mostly to the point of dereliction. Someone had told me that Bushwick had the cheapest rents in the whole of New York City, but you got exactly what you paid for. I saw nothing to disprove it.

As I’d reminded Parker, the last time I’d been here—the last time I’d done more than drive through the place with the windows up and the door locks buttoned—it had ended badly. I’d been arrested in a police raid on a brothel, in the company of Sean, my father, and an underage hooker. Not one of our finer moments.

My tail, meanwhile, stuck within a couple of cars’ lengths all the way. He was too anxious about getting cut off at lights and losing me to ask himself where the hell I might be leading him. He might as well have had a flashing neon sign on the roof.

Eventually, after several abrupt turns, I found myself back in the same kind of area as that seedy brothel. The scenery was overwhelmed by gang-tag graffiti and litter. Not so much quiet as cowed, with no inquisitive faces likely to appear at windows. Hardly any windows, for a start, and most of those had part-rotted plywood instead of glass.

It was not a side of the city mentioned on the tourist tours, but perfect for what I had in mind.

I slowed, ducking in my seat and making a big show of looking at the buildings on either side of me, as if searching for an address. The guy in the Accord naturally hung back, so he was caught flat-footed when I hit the accelerator and the Navigator’s massive V8 attempted its best impression of a fighter jet leaving an aircraft-carrier catapult along the empty street.

The Accord driver floored the throttle in an attempt to close the gap. Immediately I was up to speed, I stamped on the brake pedal and stuck the gear lever into ‘Reverse’. The transmission thunked in protest, but Lincoln build ’em tough and I had actually managed to pick up some rearward velocity when I connected with the nose of the Accord.

The laws of physics took over at this point. The Navigator’s large ground clearance and twenty-plus inches of departure angle meant its fat rear tyres were already attacking the Accord’s front bumper before the overhanging body fouled on the low-slung bonnet.

The tyres gripped and lifted, carried up and on by buckets of torque and a driver who was not about to let her foot off just yet. The Navigator mounted the front end of the Accord and sat on it, crushing the engine bay. I can only imagine what it must have looked like from inside the car.

I rammed the gear lever back into ‘Drive’ and, with less difficulty than I’d imagined, bounced back down onto the road surface. I’d always been taught to ram a solid object with the back of a vehicle rather than the front, if that were possible. Fewer vital moving parts to damage, for a start. As it was, the Navigator still felt perfectly driveable. The airbags hadn’t even deployed. Glancing in the mirrors, I was pretty sure the Accord was a write-off.

By the time I was out from behind the Navigator’s wheel and level with the wreck, leading with my left shoulder, I had the SIG out in a double-handed grip and pointed firmly at the driver’s fear-frozen head. It took him about half a second to jerk both hands up in surrender, palms facing.

The speed with which he got his right hand in the air, in particular, gave me a moment’s horrible creeping doubt. Bullet wounds, in my experience, severely restricted all movement, regardless of the situation. In the back of my mind, I began to wonder if I might have to go for a variation on the ‘I’m just a girlie and my foot slipped off the brake’ excuse.

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