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Third Strike excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 22
Until the arrangements could be made for them to go home to the UK, my father booked a room for himself and my mother at the Grand Hyatt, which was somewhat more in keeping with his tastes and made me realise I should have questioned who’d chosen his previous hotel.

There were a lot of things I should have questioned.

My father refused Parker’s offer of the use of McGregor and the Navigator while they were in New York. Instead, much to my mother’s obvious disappointment, he insisted that they would catch a cab on the street, and Sean and I went down with them to the lobby. It was a good opportunity to have one last go at getting my father to make a stand, but he’d fallen back on frosty formality.

My mother did her best to fill the awkward silence with nervous, inconsequential chatter that put nobody at ease. I wasn’t the only one who was glad when we reached ground level.

Sean nodded to the doorman, who whisked outside to summon a cab, something he seemed to achieve almost instantly.

“You should have told me you were in trouble,” I said, making one last effort at getting through, aware even as I spoke of the stiffness in my voice that would prevent me from doing so. “Whatever you may think of me, this is what I do.”

My father looked down his nose at me. “I’m well aware of your capabilities, Charlotte,” he said curtly. “That is precisely why I didn’t.”

We saw the yellow Crown Victoria pull up smartly outside, and moved towards the doors. My mother seemed to have some spring back in her step, as though now she was reunited with her husband, all was right with the world again. With a sense of panic, I felt my parents slipping away from me. Unwilling to let it end like this, I walked with them, out into the pale slanted sunshine.

Sean had carried my mother’s heavy suitcase as far down as the lobby without apparent effort, setting it down while he tipped the doorman. My father picked it up, clearly surprised by the unexpected weight, and began lugging it across the sidewalk to the waiting cab while my mother paused in the doorway to rifle through her handbag for her sunglasses.

I had started to follow him when I heard an engine, away to our left, even above the normal background sounds of traffic. American engines are generally big and torquey. They don’t need to rev in order to provide power unless you want a lot of it, and you want it now. This was being thrashed and I turned instinctively towards the noise.

I was just in time to see another taxicab mount the kerb about ten metres away, trailing sparks as it graunched over the concrete, front suspension taking the hit. It came barrelling along the sidewalk towards us.

Like the one idling by the kerb, the second cab was a yellow Crown Victoria. The big car leapt towards us, seeming wide enough to totally fill the space between the building and the street, engine roaring. The front wing grazed off the front façade, striking yet more sparks like it was breathing fire, and it kept on coming.

My father froze in its path, still clutching the handle of the suitcase. Adrenaline fired into my system like a shot of nitrous. I took three or four rapid, boosted strides and hit him shoulder against shoulder, the force of my momentum enough to send him pitching clear of the cab’s flight path.

Spinning halfway towards the threat, I saw nothing but the black plastic of the front grille and a vast sea of yellow steel that made up the car’s bonnet. I even had time to notice the taxi medallion riveted to the centre.

In that weird, slowed-down way things have, I recognised that I didn’t have time to run, and nowhere to run to. My only thought was to minimise the hit.

Years of falling off horses as a kid taught me not to try and break a fall with my limbs outstretched. Later, years of martial arts training of one form or another taught me how to use them to slow my descent much more scientifically.

So I jumped, straight up, tucking my knees in like I was dive-bombing into a swimming pool. I didn’t have nearly enough height to clear the Crown Vic’s front grille, which clipped my left leg halfway down my calf as the car shot underneath me, causing me to tumble violently. As I somersaulted across the expanse of yellow bonnet, I slapped my hand and forearm down hard onto the steel to lessen the impact, but hit the windscreen hip and elbow first with enough force to break the laminated glass anyway.

I had visions of continuing to roll right up over the roof, at which point the huge slant-sided advertising hoarding that ran full-length along it would probably have broken my back. Then the driver of the rogue cab slammed on his brakes.

The Crown Vic lurched, slithering, to a stop, jolting as it hit something that I could only pray wasn’t my father’s body. The sudden deceleration was enough to spit me straight off the front edge of the bonnet and send me thumping back down onto the ground, knocking the wind out of me. The last time I’d been hit by a moving vehicle while on foot, I recalled whimsically, at least I’d had the forethought to be wearing bike leathers.

Rid of his inconvenient hood ornament, the cab-driver punched the accelerator before I’d even hit the deck. I flinched, trying to roll out of the way of the fat front tyre that was now heading straight for my chest, and knowing I didn’t stand a hope in hell of doing so. All I could smell was hot oil and burnt rubber and rust.

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