Kill Chase

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

Old Enemies

Catalunya

The men on the pit wall stared as the threesome walked away and the cars took their places on the start line. Grid girls wearing identical tight, red shirts and white hot-pants held each grid number up to the packed main stand. The smell of petrol, exhaust and burned rubber, stewed by the heat of the silent engines, wafted across the grid and the tarmac shimmered.

The drivers were under the control of the start lights. Mechanics jostled celebrities who eased through the gaps in the track wall to fill the grid, at their head the King of Spain with his entourage. The sudden silence left only the drone of the crowd. Occasional shrieks of laughter from the stands punctuated the air.

Jack Holborne led Guy and Henrietta through his pit. “My private vehicle’s parked over here, away from the noise.”

He pointed out the third pantechnicon, set aside from the rest. “Go in, please. We’ll talk. I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

Henrietta moved in first, the barrel of her long lens, hanging from the strap on her shoulder, banged against the doorframe as she stepped up the footplates. Jack Holborne locked the door. “This is my sleeping quarters. Go down the corridor. The reception lounge is at the back.”

The truck was sectioned by aluminium plating. Doors led off to its rooms. A tight-weave Berber carpet was fitted throughout, clamped down by metal runners. Guy smelled the musty, metallic odour in the closed vehicle as they reached the final doorway then he heard the animal’s deep growl before he saw it. Holborne reassured them. “Don’t worry. It’s my dog. He’s on a chain. Please go in.”

The transporter´s final section had no windows, it was fitted out sparsely with a metal table fixed to the floor and four metal, tubed chairs. But entering the room, Guy’s attention was held by the stocky man who stood in its centre - holding a gun - and his stomach churned. A short-haired Rottweiler was tethered by a chain to the door lever of the emergency exit. It crouched on its haunches, powerful muscles outlined by bristling fur, its teeth bared. It eyed the visitors and growled from deep within its throat. Henrietta recognised the leather leash around its neck and the small, plastic unit the size of a matchbox that hung there. The last time she saw one she had it wrapped around her own wrists, binding her hands behind her back on the inflatable. She thought she was seeing a ghost.

Tolman’s man, Marko, held a small, black semi-automatic pointed at them. Guy last saw him at the helm of the inflatable rib on the Thames before Marko went overboard. But here he was, very alive, and menacing them again. Marko spoke with a guttural Serbian accent. “Mr Holborne, these people should not be here.”

“I know who they are, Marko.” Jack Holborne grunted. “He’s a policeman. You must watch her, she knows everything.”

Marko tapped his chest with the barrel of the gun. “Yes, I know Miss Fox well. You must be a good swimmer, like me. Detective Royce I met with Mr Tolman in his dealing room.”

She was too stunned to speak. He continued. “It has been agreed with Mr Tolman. I am your new partner. Nothing will change, I will see to it.”

Jack Holborne shrugged. “It’s over, Marko. They know everything. It’s finished.”

Guy pointed to the weapon. “He’s right, Marko. Give me the gun. You don’t want more charges against you.”

Marko shook his head and moved the weapon to menace him. He glanced once over his shoulder, ensuring he was out of reach of the dog.

“It’s not over till I say so. We must continue. You, Detective, will disappear and you, Holborne, must go on. Go to the grid! Have your race! Leave them to me and the dog. Go! Shouldn’t you be with your team now?”

Marko’s jaw tightened. He urged the team boss. “Go! Get with your team. Act normally!”

Holborne ran a tongue around dry lips. “Are you sure you can do this, Marko? In fourteen minutes it’s the parade lap. Can you manage them both?”

“You want to go to prison for the rest of your life? Leave!”

Holborne backed into the corridor. “Make a good job of it, Marko. It’s known they’re here to see me.” He slammed the aluminium door shut and locked it. They felt the thud in the metal plating as he left the transporter. The dog inched forward, testing the limits of its chain, its brown eyes challenging. Guy moved to speak to the gunman, placing himself between the Rottweiler and the camera girl.

“Marko, this is madness. You want to add murder to the charges against you?”

“Be still, Royce. What are two more deaths to me? I set the dog on Nikki Montague. I’ve killed before. Death is an old companion. My dead friend, Carlos, would understand that. Ibrahim Tolman now depends on me.

Henrietta was inching slowly from behind Guy who asked. “How do you move the money? How exactly?”

Marko smiled, running his eyes down Henrietta’s body. “These toy cars crash all the time. It takes no room to store a handful of diamonds in the spares.”

Guy reacted. “Diamonds! So you convert the Fund’s profits into gem stones?”

“How else? Drugs are not acceptable to Islam. Banks are regulated. Our brotherhood of investors are in many Muslim countries. When the Grand Prix visits each territory so the stones are delivered and Ibrahim pays them their share of the profits.”

“Jack Holborne helps you do this?” He listened to the muffled hum of the crowd in the stands outside.

“We help him keep his toy cars on the track.”

“And murder is part of the price? Nikki Montague was murdered. And Marie. Did she know too much for you? You killed them both for this?”

Guy was aware the paparazzo was edging away, making space between him and herself. Marko sighed. “Sometimes, Ibrahim, is a little crazy. His passion for Nikki killed her. When she betrayed him to her sister, he could not forgive her and used her against Marie.” He shrugged, “but Ibrahim did not kill Marie, Detective.” He produced the red, remote dog controller in his palm. “When the engines start, so will the dog. Your screams will not be heard. You will die quite quickly. An unfortunate accident, the dog crazed by the noise.”

Guy took an involuntary step back, looking to size up the animal carefully. He wanted to tell Henrietta, Hit it with a fist full on the nose! Don’t grapple with it! He might only get one chance but she had her own plan. Marko glanced down at his watch. Henrietta seized her chance.

In one violent movement she swung the long lens by its canvas strap, straight from her shoulder, arcing it in the air like a bludgeon. Before Marko could move she cracked the metal barrel of the 500mm lens across his face. With a scream he staggered backwards, the automatic wavering wildly about the room.

Blinking the blood away from his eyes he turned on Henrietta, shifting the gun to her, giving Guy his opportunity. Guy took one, long, stride before unwinding a crashing right cross. Marko’s bloodied face flattened under his fist. His nose broke with a crack! The blow propelled him backwards across the floor and he landed, sprawled on the Rottweiler. Marko’s hand crushed the remote controller he held. The gun skittered across the Berber carpet and thudded against the metal wall.

The Rottweiler howled with agony as the electric charge activated its training collar. Its gaping jaws closed immediately around Marko’s exposed throat. Bared rows of jagged teeth snarled in a fury as it squeezed the air from its tormentor’s windpipe. Marko’s fingers raked its chest. Guy knew Marko was screaming, but no sound emerged from his crushed voice box. He was carried down by the dog’s weight. For a moment he resisted and he and the dog were frozen in their private struggle, but then he saw Marko’s strength betray him as the dog suffocated him, the blood filling his nose, preventing him from breathing and Guy recognised the inevitable. The animal fought to breathe, snuffling through its wet, black, nostrils but it would never let go.

The attack dog shook at Marko and the pair rolled across the floor, its chain locking them together in their deadly frenzy, all its rage transferred to its handler. Marko was gasping for air but the dog’s murderous intent was clear. Guy guessed the dog was making Marko pay for their past together.

Guy took his opportunity and leapt them both in one, big stride. He unwrapped the dog’s chain from the door handle so it could better do its work then he punched the emergency door mechanism. The transporter flooded with sunlight. He shouted at Henrietta.

“Get out of here! Get out!” He held a hand out for her. She long-jumped the villain and the dog grappling on the floor and grabbed Guy’s hand.

“Go! Go!”

They both landed heavily, rolling across the tarmac. The drop from the transporter onto the paddock tarmac came as a shock as they leaped out into the daylight. She held onto Guy. In that moment the air was rent by twenty Formula One engines revving up simultaneously. Henrietta clapped her hands over her ears.

“My God, Guy. The noise!”

Guy reached up to slam the emergency door shut, leaving Marko to the dog. He shouted above the howl of engines. “We must get to Holborne. They’ll go round once then they’re off!”

*

Jack Holborne was by the pit wall. He watched his two sleek, black cars as they sat side-by-side on the grid, their engines screaming. The deafening crackle of exhausts reverberated back and forth between the main stands. Shimmering waves of heat distorted the air as the racers’ eyes fastened on the five red lights. They were going out, four…three…

Jack Holborne turned at the hand on his shoulder. Guy and Henrietta stood impassive before him and he slumped back against the pit wall. The life left his eyes and Guy could see he had lost his will to fight.

Guy shouted. “Jack, why did you kill your wife? Why kill Marie?”

Holborne snarled, his lips white. He screamed out above the raucous crackle of the cars. “Do you think I would kill my wife like that? You think I’m an animal?”

“Then who killed her, Jack? Not Ibrahim Tolman.”

“No. He was with me.”

“Come on, Jack. Let’s go. Time to tell the Police the truth.”

The fifth and final red light extinguished. Jack Holborne gave a deep sigh. He stepped backwards, slipping through the crew access gap in the pit wall. He took two steps onto the track to stand in front of his own black cars.

Simultaneously the drivers punched their accelerators, launching the race cars forward like artillery shells from a barrel. Their engines rose to a screaming crescendo and the wide tyres scrabbled for grip.

Both Holborne´s cars piled into him. The first snapped his body at the knees, doubling him over, throwing him sideways into the second race car. It took off into the air, ramped by his body as it lay on the track. The car flew ten metres before landing on four wheels in an emergency stop. The next row of Formula One cars slammed into them. Shards of breaking Kevlar bodywork exploded across the track through clouds of burning rubber as they braked. The following cars dodged out around the smashed racers, banging wheels to force a path around the pile-up. Then the red lights halted the race.

In the silence that followed, Jack Holborne lay broken and battered on the track. Guy’s hand went to his scar. Henrietta lifted her big Nikon, focusing it carefully. She wanted desperately to throw up and to cry. Instead, she fired the motor drive.

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