The rattle of the exhaust pipe cut across the sound of the motorway as he revved the old engine beyond its limits. The car trundled onto the road as he desperately tried to get the momentum going. His foot stayed glued to the floor, helped by the rising panic within him, making his limbs stiff with fear.
Despite the rain, he wound down the window to let the smell of wet tarmac fill his lungs in a bid to distract himself from reality. He allowed himself one quick glance in the rear view mirror. Nothing. Nothing but sleepy traffic in his wake. What did he expect, exploding bombs and helicopters following this car chase? This wasn’t like the movies. Real life was more sinister. There were no death defying stunts in shiny, black sports cars. This was the real Kurt Davies legging it down the highway in a beaten up old mini he’d bought for £500 in cash. It would be a while before the dealer discovered they were fakes.
For now, he kept his speed steady at 85 mph which was reluctantly the best the mini could do. His ideal getaway speed of 150 in some supercharged, turbo-powered engine was unthinkable. He steeled another check in the mirror behind. All clear. He knew his time would be all too short when that white van came hurtling over the horizon. On the straights, the steadfast little mini, now producing pitiful whining noises, was no match even for bulkier van. Kurt’s only hope was to exit the motorway and hope he could lose himself in a little town somewhere in the countryside.
A blue sign came into view: Next Junction – half a mile. Thank God, he thought, and passed over two lanes in one swift manoeuvre, willing the exit nearer. If he could get off before they made up the distance, they wouldn’t know whether to stay on or exit.
For this, Kurt was too hopeful. A quick shot at the mirror confirmed his worst fears. There was the white van, chasing down the slope after him, causing shocked motorists to veer off onto the hard shoulder. A flash of ginger hair in the weak sunlight shook away all doubt that it was him, leading the pack. Kurt was sure he would never forget the sight of that greasy mop of ginger hair, lying limp above that menacing face.
The exit emerged ahead. He willed the car on. He was sure they’d seen him by now and they would know where to follow him, but he couldn’t stay out in the open and watch his deranged hunters eat up the half mile that lay between them.
Red traffic lights ahead. He had no choice but to jump them. Break the law. It wouldn’t be the first time. He coaxed the little car round the roundabout and off into a minor road. He didn’t note where the signpost pointed. He didn’t care. He would die at some point. The precise location of his death was no concern of his. He just wanted to slow his killers down as much as possible.
Now, what was the reason for his untimely demise? Let’s just say he was caught in a crossfire, of sorts, heard a little more than he should have and now was being hunted for silence. That’s what he’d tell the police anyway. His word against a bunch of bloodthirsty individuals whose rightful place was in a lunatic asylum. The truth would grant him jail for sure. Even though any sane man would welcome him as a hero, but the law was the law. The arson was arson, not some valiant act of defiance from one man against the inner workings of the underground drug dealership taking place in that warehouse. The bodies were bodies, probably seen as manslaughter or perhaps even murder, instead of fourteen less criminal masterminds to capture and bring to justice.
He cursed as the traffic started to build up. The landscape turned to dirty grey brick and people were milling around, going about their business, unaware that their lack of haste could amass to the difference between life and death. He did his best to weave in and out of the jam but came screeching to a halt, inches before an elderly lady, who was crossing on red, at a snail’s pace. A slam of doors behind him told him his killers were not going to let a bit of congestion stop their pursuit. Kurt’s heightened senses heard the tread of heavy boots on smooth tarmac, pacing slowly towards him. They think I haven’t noticed them, he thought. Well, I’ve got some news for you, matey. Two can play at that game. He hared out of the car and down the high street, followed by the clamour of angry horns and the lights turned green.
He ran towards people. A crowd would be a blessing right now. He barrelled into a chemist store, sending bottles and boxes crashing to the floor. He sprinted through the shop into the dim lighting of a shopping complex, his damp soles squelching on the marble floors. Still not enough people, and by the sound of the calamities happening behind him, this little detour hadn’t broken their trail. He turned and ran out into the daylight. The sky had cleared since the motorway and people were sat lazily outside cafes, pondering over what to have for lunch. Kurt would have given anything to be making the same insignificant choices right now. In fact…
He slipped into one of the cafes and had just enough time to shrug of his jacket and grab a tray before two men went pounding past the shop door. Hidden in plain sight, he thought. Perfect. Only two though… that’s not right. He gingerly poked his head out of the door. There was the third. Heavier, not as fast as the others. But even so, he had a menacing glint in his eyes as he locked sight on Kurt. Kurt rocketed out of the café across the road and down a side street. It was too late before he realised it was a dead end. Ironic how they should be called Dead Ends, he thought.
He spun around the face the silhouette of his hunter against the brightness of everyday life in the street beyond. He saw that one arm was longer than the other. Then he realised the hand was suspiciously gun-shaped. He swallowed hard. The gun was brought up to aim. His heart rate went up sky-high. His palms grey sweaty, so much he almost dropped the tray. The tray. He swung it up in front of his face, deflecting the first, and the second. He moved the tray down to cover his chest, anticipating the third shot. But it did not come.
The man grunted. He began to close the gap. Kurt saw him replace the gun in its holster and caught the glint of a long blade being withdrawn from somewhere within his jacket. He pressed further into the wall, praying for it to open and swallow him whole. He looked for exits. None materialised. Trust him to choose the narrowest alley ever known to mankind.
The man was now close enough for Kurt to see layers of grime on his scarred face and smell the acrid scent of week-old sweat and dried alcohol. He was panting from the exertion of the run and Kurt had to try hard to keep his breakfast down, as the man snorted in his face. He produced a thick leather strap which he pressed against Kurt’s bare neck, choking him.
“I always liked a more personal approach,” he said in a gruff voice, placing the cool blade in position above Kurt’s heart. “Any last words, fella’?” Kurt muttered an incoherent phrase of spluttering and choking. “What’s that?” said the man sharply, loosening the leather just enough for him to speak.
“I’ve got your gun. Fella’.” Kurt retorted in a coarse whisper, and fired a shot clean through the man’s skull. He dropped to a crumpled heap on the floor. Kurt staggered away, gasping for air, shaking with the realisation that he’d just made his first kill. The people in the warehouse didn’t count. Their deaths were a by-product of justice. He’d just killed to live. He was one of them now.