Hanoi Heat

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Chapter 2

So, running past a restaurant. Quarry ahead of me, but disappearing amongst the busy crowd. At least two men of Arabic descent following me at quite the pace. They obviously had less regard for their clothing as I for mine. They also had less regard for the populace, seeming quite happy to push and shove their way through the lunchtime throng.

I, on the other hand, had opted to sprint down the road and take my chances with the traffic. While this was working on the whole, every so often a moped would speed towards me against the flow of traffic. While miraculously missing every other vehicle, they always seemed to be making a bee-line for yours truly with every intent of coating my rapidly-browning finery in another layer of exhaust fumes.

Despite these problems, I was gaining slowly on the fleeing asset who was facing the same obstacles but with less training or physical fitness. Like our over-eager companions, he was from the Arabic region. While I wanted to find out what was in his head, they had orders to ensure that those particular secrets remained unuttered. Permanently, if necessary. I wasn’t their target – he was.

Dodging a taxi which had decided that red lights were purely for Tet decoration, I sidestepped a group of tourists and made to swing my arm out and obtain a moped or scooter. Spying a likely candidate, I swivelled, extended my arm… and rapidly pulled it back in.

As much as my orders were to retrieve this intelligence no matter the cost, I simply was not going to knock a pretty young thing like this moped’s rider flat on her back. It’s just not the done thing.

Instead, I spied two young men pushing a bike up a small ramp onto the pavement. Or “parking area” as it is often referred to by the locals. The keys were still in the ignition and they hadn’t seen me, so I ran up behind them.

Tapping the boy on the left on one shoulder and his friend on the other, I diverted their attention from the bike. As they both turned away from it, I jumped into the saddle and pushed them hard in the back so they stumbled in opposite directions. A twist of the key and a stab of the ignition button and the engine roared into life.

No, it didn’t. It buzzed into live. And rattled a bit. But it was going. Before they could recover, I revved the engine and lifted the front wheel, using the ramp to help me. The bike span round with the front wheel at waist height as I pointed it in the correct direction, let gravity lower the handlebars and twisted my right wrist.

I set off at a surprisingly brisk pace, and decided to use the driving technique I had picked up in my various stays in the region. To whit: floor it and dodge the oncoming traffic because it may decide not to bother dodging you.

Risking a glance over my shoulder, I spotted my two rivals deciding to plagiarise my idea although they were somewhat less subtle about it. One man lay on the ground cradling his nose and another flat on his back having obviously been knocked off his mount.

I made the most of the advantage I had and leaned forward watching the traffic part in front of me like a school of fish avoiding an obstacle.

Very quickly I caught up with the fleeing target. He was running the run of the obviously terrified, not knowing who was chasing him – only that it couldn’t be good news. He was lucky that I was the one who got to him first.

He wasn’t so lucky so as to remain unhurt, though. I throttled hard, hitting one of the pavement ramps at enough speed to get the clapped-out hairdryer I was riding to leave the ground momentarily. As it was about to touch down again, it sideswiped him and knocked him off his feet and into a display of mobile phone cases that one vendor had been urging a passing couple to peruse.

I leapt from the bike as the non-existent suspension caused its trajectory to become impossible to control and rolled to a halt as it crashed into a tree which took up half the pavement.

My suit was now beyond repair. To say I was angry was an understatement. If the man who was now pushing himself to his knees hadn’t run like a scared rabbit when he’d seen me approach him a few minutes ago we would both have been on the way to a safe house by now. And I would not be looking at another visit to Savile Row when I got back to London.

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