I think I've lost them for the moment but it's taken me five minutes of flat out running through Norfolk to lose my tail, I'm not even sure who it is I'm running from now, probably some agency that's been hired to track me down for the military. Do people still do that? I'm currently hiding behind a load of garbage cans in a small dirty alley, though I hadn't really noticed till now. All I know about my current pursuers is they're relentless and they seem to be everywhere, at first there were just the four guys who seemed to be waiting by the airport, and now they're just round every corner. The problem is I don't really know where I'm going, the plan was to get to America, but I didn't think to add a step two. I can't help but remember how Alice and I escaped the soldiers in Doncaster by taking the train south but I don't know this area well enough to find the station, let alone actually get on a train.
I duck behind the garbage cans as I hear footsteps approaching the alley, I can just make out a tall silhouette facing away from me scanning the street beyond. I wait with baited breath but he soon moves off to search another street, I shift my weight in discomfort but accidently knock over one of the cans into the street. I don't wait to see my pursuer turn and advance but I know he's there, I leap from the ground and rush along the alley, all the while his footsteps are getting louder. The alley takes a sharp turn to the left, I'm forced to follow but I slam on the breaks just in time to stop myself from colliding with a concrete wall. I can hear him getting closer to the corner but there's no way out, I'm trapped which doesn't make sense, what's the point of an alley that doesn't go anywhere? I scan the solid wall in front of me and my eyes rest on a stack of black sacks piled up in the right hand corner, I can just about see light filtering through the gaps between the sacks. Hearing my shadow getting closer and closer I tear away at the sacks until the fall away from the wall to reveal a slim archway cutting through the wall, I smile triumphantly to myself but the gap isn't exactly the Arc de Triomphe. Heavy footfalls behind me grab my attention and pull me round to see the suited man rounding the corner behind me, he's out of breath but he smiles wickedly as he approaches me slowly. But I have a plan of my own and I smile back, this confuses him slightly as I half throw myself at the gap between the buildings, I stick initially but I scramble about until I start to move along the gap. The brick and concrete rub at my skin sending prickling pain along my cheeks but I push through it and slide along the slim gap, behind me I can hear the man scrabbling at the entrance, trying to squeeze in, but as I expected he's far too big to fit. The gap opens up onto a wide main street, at the far end to my left I can make out three men in black suits and dark shades so I immediately turn right.
Unfortunately the crowds on the streets are wearing thin as the light begins to fade and the stores begin to shut up for the night. Alright for some but it means much less cover for me, during the day I rely on the massing crowds of people to keep me hidden, but now in the fading light I feel exposed and very much out in the open. I keep walking hoping to come across something as helpful as a porn brokers but I doubt I'll have any such luck, my best bet is to stay to the small streets and alleys but they pose dangers of their own after all this is America and there are far more homeless people sleeping rough out here. I check the next alley is clear before entering and taking a seat behind a stack of old crates and boxes, it smells foul but there's no light and I'm fairly well hidden down here. I take a moment to catch my breath and drop my adrenaline levels, self-consciously I reach my hand up to touch my cheek to check the damage I sustained trying to squeeze through that gap. To my surprise however, I find no imperfection of any kind. No cut or graze, not even a slight bruise. But I felt it I'm sure of it, just the same as the bullet wound. What is happening to me?
"Ya lost pet?" A croaky voice emanates from the darkness making me jump, I stand ready to run if necessary but in the darkness I'm not sure what I'm running from.
"Who are you?" I ask the darkness, trying to scan my surroundings for any movement.
"No one, I'm no one, but you're someone aren't ya pet" The voice replies again but I still can't pin point its origin so I start to back down along the alley towards the street.
"What do you want? How do you know who I am?" I'm starting to freak out a bit now.
"Don't go that way!" Suddenly a hand arrives on my back and I swing round to find a frail old man standing between me and the street, "they'll get you if you go back that way."
"Why do you care?" I ask, taking a step back from the old man.
"Because I heard them talking a few blocks back, they're gonna kill ya pet" He tells me with a concerned look in his eye.
"But what's it to you?"
"It's men like those, that brought this world to its knees, it's because a' their kind that we'll never go back to the way things were, so I help ya"
"As payback to the man!" I smile at his integrity
"Something like that pet, now how can I help ya?" He asks waiting for my answer, but I can't help but feel guilty for asking him for help, as if he hasn't got enough problems of his own without getting involved with mine. I sigh then give him my answer.
"I just need to get out of the city" I inform him, not really asking for assistance. But he suddenly starts to rummage around in various pockets and zippers looking for something in his incredibly large overcoat and jackets. After a moment he seems to find what he was looking for and he slowly takes his hand out of a pocket, gripping something tightly.
"I think these may help ya pet" he holds out his hand and in the faint light I can make out four slips of card between his gloved fingers.
"Train tickets!" I say breathlessly as I reach for them but he suddenly jerks his hand away from me and I frown in confusion.
"Ah, ah, ah, not so fast, I'll be needin' something in return pet, these don't grow on trees ya know!" He states holding the tickets close to him. I could probably tackle him to the ground and prise them off him, but the noise would draw attention and I'd soon be caught, no I'll have to give him something but what?
"I don't have anything to give you"
"No trade, no tickets pet" he declares taking a step away ready to leave but I grab his arm and he comes back.
"Wait" I begin, taking my backpack off and bring it around to search it for anything I can get rid of, though I don't think he'd have much use for my clothes, the only things of value I have are my purse of Euros and my phone which I momentarily take out of the bag but he's onto it like a moth to the flame.
"That!" He half shouts pointing at my phone, I grip it tighter, "that is my price"
"But I need this, you have..." I begin but he cuts me off.
"You want the tickets you give me the cell phone, or you'll never see me again and you're on your own." He states rather threateningly, but I need the tickets so I surrender.
"Fine" I sigh, "you can have the phone but I also want directions to the station"
"You drive a hard bargain pet, but that there gadget could feed me for a whole month, so I'll tell ya." The old man gives me directions to the nearest tube station then hands over the tickets while I relinquish my phone, I'm not entirely sure how I'll survive without it now but I thank him for the tickets and in a matter of moments he's vanished again, into the darkness of the night.
I stow two of the tickets into my bag and shove the remaining two into my trouser pocket where they won't get lost and even if I lose my bag I still have two tickets with me. I check the street before leaving the alley and emerging onto the deserted street, I walk alone for a good five minutes before I walk past a side street where a suited man is talking into a phone, he spots me instantly and once again I'm running full pelt along the street. Two blocks, three, four, I keep running remembering the directions the old man sold me and hoping his memory is better than his manners. One left then straight ahead until the fourth right, still the suit is chasing me around the city, I double back around a block and I lose him long enough to get back on course and soon I'm tripping down the stairs to the tube station. It's cold down here compared to the humidity up top and I shiver in my thin t-shirt, I reach the bottom of the stairs and walk out onto the platform which is practically empty save for a few drunks propping each other up by the line, a girl in a rather short dress and a pile of clothes against the wall which I assume is another homeless person sleeping rough. I check the automatic bill board on the wall to my right, the next train arrives in three minutes. My attention is suddenly drawn to the rowdy group of drunks by the edge of the platform as they swagger closer and closer to the girl standing alone. She moves away slightly, looking at the ground, tying to stay standing on her pencil thin heels.
All of a sudden one of the drunks lurches towards her, she avoids him but her heel gets caught in a crack in the concrete and she trips, falling head first over the edge and onto the track. Before I know what's happening I've dropped my bag to the ground and I'm pelting towards the edge of the platform, I stop and skid over the edge, dropping myself beside the terrified girl. She can barely speak she's so scared but I stay cool and help her to her feet, I nod to her in reassurance as a sudden gust of air whooshes along the space around us and I can feel the track start to shake beneath our feet. The girl starts to cry but I kneel down beside the wall of the platform and give her a boost up, the soberest of the drunks waddles over and helps to haul her back up. She sits there shaking but now I have no way to get back up and I can hear the train tearing along the track towards me.
"Run!" The girl screams at me through her sobs. I oblige and pelt along the track towards the other end of the platform where I can see a small box probably containing electrical equipment, sitting on the ground between the track and the platform. I head towards it as the light from the train illuminates the path before me, it quickens my pace and I leap for the box, placing one foot on it I use it to boost myself back up onto the platform in one swift movement. I crash into the platform on my back just as the train sweeps into the station and halts just before the next tunnel entrance. I lay still for a moment and try to catch my breath, I winded myself on re-entry but I can feel a hand on my shoulder, I look to my left to find the still sobbing girl sitting by my side.
"Are you... ok" she spurts out at me, helping me sit up.
"Yeah, I'm, I'm fine, are you ok? Nothing broken I hope?" I check her bare legs which are bruised but not broken.
"Only this!" She holds up her shoe to reveal a very broken heel. I laugh half heartedly and get to my feet grabbing my bag as I do.
"You saved my life" she states as the train doors slide open and people filter in and out of the carriages.
"Come on it was nothing!" I try to shake off her appreciation, I've never liked being the centre of attention.
"You call leaping onto a train track to rescue a stupid girl before she gets crushed by a train nothing?" She asks as we approach the train and step over the gap, "hay everyone!" she shouts getting the attention of the train, "this girl just saved my life!" she announces and I can't help but blush. Everyone cheers and the girl takes a seat while I stay standing, however it's not until everyone's returned to their business that I see him. Standing in the next carriage looking at a notepad, a man wearing a dark suit and shades. A little dark down here for that I think. The train jerks into life and I kick myself for staring at the guy because after a few moments he looks around and fixes his gaze on me, I avert my eyes but it's too late. He moves to the doors and enters my carriage. Thinking quickly I get everyone's attention.
"He's trying to kill me! Help! Stop him before the next station!" I yell at the silent carriage but it has the effect I wanted, everyone looks at the man in the suit and soon they all start to block his way, shouting abuse at him and preventing him from reaching me, I smile at him and leave my carriage, that should hold him for a minute or two, long enough at least for me to get off at the next station and catch another train.
I hurry into the next carriage which is more crowded than the last, I squeeze through the masses of people on the late trip home, trying not to breathe in the smell of hardworking Americans I push and shove my way towards the end of the carriage. By the time I reach the end the train pulls into the next station, I push through the crowd towards the door, I want a clean getaway otherwise he'll catch me before I can get through the barrier. The train skids to a halt and the moment the doors peel open I'm off like a shot, dashing through the crowd on the platform towards the barriers that lead to the next tube station. I don't look back to see if the suit is following me, I know he must be, that or there were probably more of them on the platform. I reach the barrier and fumble with my ticket trying to slot it into the machine, someone shouts STOP behind me and I make the mistake of turning round, they see me and head straight for me. The barrier opens just in time and I slip through into the tunnel beyond but the suits barge through the crowds and queues and leap over the barriers into the tunnel behind me and the chase begins again.
The tunnel between the platforms is long, dark and dank, it reminds me of the cargo hold in Stew's boat. The wall tiles are cracked and falling off and pools of water reflects what merge light is cast by the flickering lamps on the walls. I've gained a considerable lead over my pursuers but I can still here their footfalls and voices echoing off the curved walls of the tunnel, once I'm sure I'm out of sight I slip into a small siding in the wall and flatten myself inside it. Luckily this section of tunnel has no lights and I'm hidden by the shadows so as the suits finally rush past they don't see me at all. I wait until I'm sure they've gone past before stepping back into the tunnel and carrying on towards the next station, hoping that the suits don't realise I've duped them.
The tunnel forks in two directions, I turn left though I have no idea where the train at the end will take me, but right now anywhere would be good. I slow down as I near the end of the tunnel so as not to raise suspicion but I'm still a little out of breath as I scan my ticket and walk onto the platform where the train is waiting to depart, I check around me before boarding the train, I don't see any suits but that doesn't mean they're not there. I step onto the train and find a vacant seat on the opposite side, settling down I watch through the window as the train departs and two suits burst through the crowd and stand helpless as the train departs without them, I can't help but feel a little triumphant.