Gun once again at the ready, I proceeded up the stairs quickly but cautiously. There were only two flights – both concrete in the plain stairwell – and they ended at a fire door which had been allowed to swing shut. The plus point was that nobody could see me coming. The downside was that I didn’t know what awaited me on the other side.
I kicked hard at the release bar then flattened myself against the wall opposite the hinges. Surprisingly, nothing happened.
Carefully poking my head out, I could see why not. The helicopter’s rotors were already turning and the noise had covered the sound of the door. Hynes was already sat in the cabin, the pilot talking on the radio – most likely seeking permission to take off.
One of the bodyguards was stood with his back to me, about to climb into the back of the chopper but I couldn’t see the other one.
Then something hit my hand and my entire lower arm went numb. I looked down and my gun was on the floor. Blood was splashed all over it and my hand was a mess.
The other bodyguard had been hiding just outside the door and taken my pause as a chance to fire wildly into the stairwell.
Refusing to let the pain take control, I grabbed my gun with my left hand and fired shot after shot as I ran out into the daylight providing cover for myself. As I burst onto the roof I made sure I was aiming left and caught the hidden gunman in the shoulder. He span and clutched at the wound giving me time to reach him and kick him hard between the legs.
I’m not as strong with my left arm as with my right, but I can kick pretty hard. He doubled up and as he went down, my right knee came up. The bones in his nose shattered and he crumpled in a heap on the concrete surface. I stomped on the shoulder wound but got no reaction – he was out cold. Just to make sure, I put a round through his mangled face.
More lead peppered the wall around me as the last remaining guard spotted me. He was settled in the rear section of the helicopter which was already looking noticeably light on its skids. Fortunately his seated position, belted in for safety, restricted his movements enough to stop him getting a good aim.
I raised my gun and fired quickly, my shot ricocheting off something metallic and disappearing somewhere useless. I pulled the trigger again and found that I’d loosed off more shots than I had thought coming out of the stairwell. My magazine was empty.
Dropping the gun, I felt around for the spare I’d put in my back holster. There was no point checking the one the recently dead guard had dropped – it could be empty as well for all I knew. Annoyingly my holster was designed to allow a gun to be drawn right-handed, so it wasn’t going to be easy to get it out.
I approached the helicopter as I tried to hook the gun, making sure to stay as much in the guard’s blind area as possible.
Finally, I pushed the pistol out but couldn’t get a grip on it and it dropped to the ground. As I bent to get it, the chopper began to lift and one last shot whizzed over my head.
I grasped the gun in my left hand and sprinted. No more time to think. In fact, thinking would be a really stupid idea right now as then I might realise what I was about to do and not do it.
As the chopper turned to depart, it dipped at one corner long enough for me to make a leap and wrap my weak right arm around a skid. Using what momentum I had, I managed to get a leg up and over to provide more grip. Just in time as the pilot pulled the craft up sharply and without it I would almost certainly have been jolted free.
The next thing I knew I was 14 storeys up over the streets of south London, the Thames disappearing rapidly into the north as we headed for destination unknown. With my damaged arm, I didn’t know how long I could hold on for so I had to do something, and quick.
This was a civilian helicopter so I gambled that it wouldn’t be armoured. With that in mind, I pointed my gun at the area underneath where the pilot would be sitting and pulled the trigger again and again until the ammo ran out. At least one of my shots must have hit home as the craft lurched suddenly, tilted and began to spin.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever flown a helicopter, but it needs legs and hands to keep it straight and level. The spin told me that the pilot wasn’t using his legs and the tilt told me he wasn’t holding the joystick either. Of course I now had another problem: I was hanging on for dear life to an aircraft that was about to crash. Hold on and get crushed or jump and plummet to my death.
Not a great situation to be in.