This has nothing at all to do with my next book. For a start, it’s set pretty much 200 years later. It’s just the start of a tale that’s been ratting around my brain for a few weeks. I write it up simply to get it out of my head and put in in yours. Nothing more than that, honest.
But, well, what do you reckon?
She was talking to him, really talking to him. That singer from A-ha. She was trying not to babble that he’d been her first crush, back when she was seven years old. No gushing, no need to make the poor bloke feel old.
He had the sweet Scandinavian charm, and still possessed that smile that had made her melt when she was little. He reached out took hold of her hand, gently pulling her towards him. She went willingly, absolutely thrilled, and saw herself tuning into black and white, something two-dimensional. A figure in a comic.
He vanished as her phone rang.
Kate Thornton sat up. For half a second she didn’t know where she was. Then it hit. In her bed, her husband David sleeping next to her, the early light coming through the curtains.
‘DI Thornton.’ Her voice was croaky, still heavy with the wisps of dreams.
‘Kate, headquarters as soon as you can.’ Chief Superintendent Brandon, sounding like death itself. ‘Don’t even take time to shower.’
She was on the road in five minutes, a blouse, comfortable trouser suit, low heels. She’d combed her hair and swiped some lippy across her mouth. The Corsa was running at the speed limit down through Chapeltown and onto the Inner Ring Road. Half-past four in the morning and it was already 17 degrees. Today was going to blaze.
‘Kate.’ Brandon acknowledged her with a nod. He was in a shirt and a pair of jeans, his hair wild, face unshaved. It was the first time she’d ever seen him when he wasn’t sleek and buttoned down. He handed her a pair of headphones. ‘Listen to this.’
No hiss, just a digital silence. Then: ‘Someone is bringing a bomb into Leeds One person out of all those who arrive every morning. It’s big enough to do some real damage, yeah? And they don’t even know it’s there. But we’re gonna give you a chance. You got eight hours to find it and defuse it. If you don’t, that’s it.’
Silence again. Christ. It…no, she daren’t even imagine. Leeds was on the front line. She moved her hand in a circle. Play it again. And she stared at Brandon as she listened. Warm outside, but she was freezing, almost shivering with fear.
‘Is it real?’ It was the first thing any police officer would ask.
He gave a curt nod. ‘They call themselves Section 88. One of these neo-Nazi groups, very quietly outlawed a couple of years ago. He gave the right code.’
‘Any trace on the phone?’
Brandon sorted. ‘The call came from York about forty-five minutes ago. Phone’s registered to a teenager in Harrogate who was assaulted on Monday. It was stolen then. He’s clean. Every officer is on their way in. Every one. Northeast Counter Terrorism is already rolling.’ He glanced at the clock. ‘We have seven hours and eleven minutes.’
‘He wasn’t local. Sounded like a London accent. Estuary, something like that,’ Kate said.
‘It’s being analysed, but I’d agree,’ Brandon said. ‘This Section 88 is a small group, there’s a good chance we’ll have a name very soon. What are your first impressions?’
Kate’s mind was racing. The adrenalin was roaring through her body. She needed coffee, but there was none in the room. She gathered her thoughts, surprised and flattered that the Chief had asked. She wanted to be certain she nailed it all.
‘It sounded like he was reading from a script, didn’t it?’ she said. ‘But it was as if he couldn’t read that well. You heard he put in that “yeah?”?’
‘Very good. Anything else?’
She knew something else lay in the words. She went through them again in her head, examining each one, and looked up.
‘He said whoever’s carrying it doesn’t know it’s there, but that it’s big enough to do real damage. That means it’s not going to be small enough to fit in a backpack or anything like that.’
‘He didn’t say carry,’ Brandon corrected her, ‘just that they don’t know it’s there. But you’re right on the damage.’
‘Car?’ Kate suggested. ‘In the boot.’
Suddenly she felt a little more hopeful. Something in a car would give them a fighting chance.
‘Possibly,’ he agreed, then frowned. ‘Or it might have been sent in a package for delivery.’