Sunday, 7 November 2010

Chapter 4

Chapter 4:

Jo swallowed, tried to speak.  Her throat refused to open, a small croak all that she could muster.  The man took a step forward, stepping out of the halo created by the bare bulb behind him.  The silhouette resolved itself in a hard looking man, six foot plus tall, dressed in a long trench coat, a wide brimmed leather hat set low on his brow.  The hair that escaped it was cut long for a man, falling across a lean tanned face in long black strands with just a hint of grey, the face itself was stern, with 3 days of stubble coating his cheeks, a shaggy goatee framing a tight, humourless mouth.  His eyes were dark and passionless, brooded over by thick, dark eyebrows, they seemed to be measuring her and finding her wanting.

"Well?"  His voice was low, but intense.  The gun in his hand was held stock still, with not a hint of wavering.  Her eyes were drawn from his face again to stare into the barrel.

"I...  I got lost" Her voice stammered into life before faltering again. "I..."
"I've seen you before."  A quizzical expression appeared on Dirks face, "Algiers.  I remember your face from the papers.  You were a witness to the murder of DeGras."  It was statement not a question. "What are you doing here?  And make it good."

"I saw him...  The killer I mean.  I was just walking and I saw him.  It was the same man I saw in Algiers."  Her injured ankle sent a jolt of pain up her leg.  She winced and for a second thought she would fall.  "I hurt my ankle, may I?  She tilted her head towards the nearest bunk bed, her hands still raised.  Dirk indicated assent with a curt flick of his gun and she gratefully stumbled across, letting her hands drop to lower herself.  The antique looking wooden frame of the bed creaked alarmingly for a second before settling into silence.
"I wasn't sure it was him at first, I followed him, I wanted to make sure before I called the police."  Dirk stood mutely, his silence making her uncomfortable, encouraging her to talk to cover up the silence.  "I was going to call the police, but then I didn't know what to say, and then I broke my phone."  Tears started to creep from her eyes.  "Please don't kill me, I didn't see anything, please just let me go."  A sob wracked her frame.

Dirk lowered the gun.  "Dirk Jones.  You didn't mention your name.  Jenna?  Jane?  Something like that isn't it"

"Jo.  Jo Jenkins."  Her hand betrayed her, lifting to wipe her tears away, her eyes never leaving the revolver.

"You saw a man you know to be a killer and followed him into what could have been his lair?  You are either incredibly stupid or incredibly brave.  Or you aren't what you say..."

"It's the truth, I swear it."  Her voice was suddenly cut off by a low thud echoing through the tunnel.  They both felt the ground shake and a haze of dislodged dust fell from the ceiling.  Dirk moved faster than Jo could ever have believed, his body spun with a blur, the gun whipping around as he dropped to a crouch.  His eyes alit upon another smaller tunnel exiting the bunker, twin to the one through which they had entered. 

"Get out of here!  Go to the police" he growled, stalking across to the exit he flung himself against the wall, his head peering around into the darkness.  The dust was worse here, and Dirk could see little beyond a few steps.  Glancing back at Jo he ensured she hadn't stirred, then taking a deep breath he stepped into the smoke.  Stalking forward, his left hand lightly brushing the wall, his right held out on front with the revolver ready to fire he felt the tunnel curve to the right, and after a hundred paces made out a flicker of light ahead.  More steps and the light resolved itself into a ragged doorway; a thick metal door lay on the ground, its rectangular shape distorted as if ripped by a great force.  Dirk sniffed the air, a sharp tang indicating to him the aftermath of an explosion, from the shape of the door he guessed shaped charges of C4.

Swiftly he stepped to the doorway, the smoke clearing to show a basement room, packed with filing cabinets and storage crates all in neat rows.  One filing cabinet lay face down on the floor, from its position it would have covered the doorway, the force of the explosion pushing throwing it into the room.  Dirk swore, he recognised the layout, this was one of the basement storage rooms of the British Museum, and he knew what the thief was after.   It looked like Mickey the Rat was right after all.  Dirk looked at the filing cabinet closest to him, a neat printed label affixed to the top drawer stated "Assyrian tablet.  Circa: 750 BC" A glance at the open shelves, items neatly stored, often in glass cases or bagged showed an array of similar artefacts from the ancient Middle East

Dirk paused, scanning the layout of the museums lower levels through his mind, he was sure he knew where the thief was heading, running to the far side of the room Dirk kicked open the door and sprang through, he leapt to his left and charged down the wide corridor he found himself in, sprinting he counted off the doors to his left and right, at the 5th door on his right he slowed down, stepping lightly he slowly crept up to the 6th door.  A small sign pinned to it stated "Storage Room 8b:  Islamic World"  to his dismay he could a slumped body lying just outside the open door, the guard he'd specifically requested the museum to place outside this room this night.  He hadn't truly believed in the need, but Dirk was nothing if not thorough.  Nevertheless it looked to be too little.  The guard hand was outstretched, still clutching the small can of pepper spray, all that the museum would allow as means of violence open to its guards. 
Dirk tightened his grip again on the revolver, it was strictly illegal, no permit had been, or ever would be issued for such a weapon in the country, but the British Museum would not be the first institution to have turned the other eye at its use, nor would the Metropolitan Police.  Dirk had scratched their back enough times over the years, and spared the embarrassment of the British Government more than once, enough at least for his methods to be tolerated as long as they did not cross some ill defined lines.  Dirk felt confident that its use tonight would be ignored if needed. 

From within the room he could hear the sound of a steel box being opened; taking a deep breath Dirk stepped into the doorway.  "The game is up Granby."  He pointed the gun in the direction of the noise.  Pain lanced into his chest, Dirk felt the dagger punching through the thick fabric of his coat and punch into his chest.  The force drove him to his knees as a foot swept up to kick the gun from his hand, it flew to the left, impacting the floor with a thunderous bang as the bullet discharged to shatter a bas relief carving, splinters of stone scattering.

A body clad in a pale suit followed the foot, thrusting Dirk to the side and sprinting down the corridor.  Dirk lay still for a moment, his breath ragged as he fought down the pain.  His hand lifted to his chest, probing the hole in his trench coat.  "Thank God for kevlar," he muttered, pulling himself to his feet.  His chest hurt like hell, bruised, possibly a broken rib or two, but better than a hole in the heart, his mind raced as he looked to retrieve his gun, then he remembered the woman he had left in the bunker, swearing again he started to sprint after the fleeing figure.

He raised his gun, loosed a wild shot that caused the thief to flinch before ducking into the doorway leading to the tunnel.  By the time he reached the doorway Granby was out of sight, Dirk paused to listen, the sound of running footsteps echoed from the tunnel and Dirk started to run into the darkness, once again his left hand brushing the wall, in the first few metres he stumbled twice in the darkness, forcing him to drop his pace to a jog, for a moment he considered using the lighter he had taken from Gilbert to illume his way, but the risk was too high.  Then from up ahead he heard a scream, the sound forcing him to throw caution to the wind and start to run again.


Jo had sat in the bunk bed for maybe 30 seconds, breathing slowly to try to calm her frantic heart.  The man who had spoken to her left her bewildered, despite the gun and the grim look there was something about him that attracted her to him, made him trust her.  He had her under his power, a gun to her head and he had released her, even telling her to flee, instinct told her he had nothing to do with the pale man she had been trailing.  And he had wanted the police involved.  She started back up the tunnel she had entered from, took two steps before her ankle gave way.  Tears filled her eyes as she looked upwards, she could crawl up, but no more than that, and the dreadful though of the pale man catching her as she struggled her way slowly up the stairs was too much to bear.

Reaching down she rubbed her ankle, before hopping back into the bunker, she flinched as a muffled retort echoed from the direction Dirk had run, followed several seconds later by a louder one.   Frantically she searched the bunker, her eyes alighting on several fallen, pieces of timber.  Breathing hard she hopped across to the nearest piece, reaching to grab it her ankle gave way again, dropping her to her knees, a small cry escaping her lips.  Gritting her teeth, using the timber as a crutch she forced herself upright and hobbled across to stand by the tunnel entrance, her back to the wall she prayed silently.

After what seemed an eternity running footsteps echoed and Jo tensed herself, balancing on her good leg, lifting the timber above her waist, held in both hand.  Her hands clenched tightly, blood started to seep across her palms, her skin ripped by splinters.  A pale shape came running out of the tunnel mouth and Jo swung the timber at its legs with all her might, a scream of panic voicing her fear.  The impact wrenched the beam from her hands; the man stumbled, pitched forward and dived into a gymnasts roll.  His hat dislodged and still running he turned, releasing the knife in his hand, sending it speeding through the air towards her in one fluid motion.    

Her ankle saved her, she stumbled to her left and the blade glanced across her forehead, scoring a thin line of blood, impacting against the wall where her head had been an instant before.  The bag the man had dropped skittered across the room, the impact splitting it open and a small stone carving rolled along the concrete.  Already the man was drawing another knife from his belt as he dived towards the statuette, he landed heavily the rough floor tearing the fine linen of his suit as his outstretched hand clasped around the piece.  Clasping the statue to his chest he gracefully rolled over, arresting the slide and leapt to his feet.

His grip on the knife in his handed shifted to a throwing position and he looked at Jo, his arm starting to swing when, with a roar, Dirk charged into the room, his gun in hand he fired two quick shots, the first striking the wall, the second thudded into the shoulder of the pale man, the force of the impact spinning him around, the knife flying wildly to the left of Jo.  Dirk paused, the sight of Jo lying near the entrance, blood pouring down her face distracting him.  In that instant the pale man, blood staining his shoulder dived in the tunnel, Dirk fired another wild shot and gave chase, through the tunnel and up the stairs.

 Several times Dirk caught a glimpse above him but the curve of the staircase served to frustrate him, hiding him from his pursuer.  Dirks ribs ached as he climbed, he stumbled several times, and each time he heard the footsteps ahead further away.  A long clang awaited him as he reached the summit, stumbling found himself faced with a closed door, the sound of a deadbolt being drawn the final insult.  With a curse Dirk kicked the door twice in frustration then turned to wearily walk back down.

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