Under cover of darkness the taxi sped down the A12, heading further and further into the edges of London. It wasn’t the route Eric had desired to take, but as he did his best to ‘drive casual’, all he could think about was that he was driving a car every camera, every police car in the area would soon be looking for. He had to get off the road, and do it sooner rather than later. It was stupid, stupid to take the taxi…
Darkness was now enveloping everywhere, but the lights of the road and street meant he had to find somewhere secluded. Seeing a turning ahead, with lines of trees either side, Eric took his chance and turned left. From there, he was disappointed to realise that the bank of trees was not very deep – so he had little choice but to keep going.
Nothing but fields shot by, aside from one or two shops and homes. In the distance there were lights, which meant he was heading toward built-up areas, exactly what he didn’t need. A small roundabout was ahead – Eric turned right, looking for salvation in the form of a quiet, secluded area. His luck turned at last when he saw a small side road, not well lit, and a small forested area. The taxi rumbled over the dirt road, and Eric turned off the lights. No one appeared to question why he was pulling in – across the other side of the main road was a crematorium, which appeared to be empty, and to his right, a small car park, for what appeared to be a cycling centre. Three other cars were parked up – perfect.
Eric stopped, and scooped the gun out of the glove box. For a moment or two he stopped to consider his next move. His would-be assassin had not attempted to cause him any grief – yet – but that might change if he got sloppy. First things first, get information.
Eric had to spend a couple of minutes wrestling with the boot where he’d broken it. Once it popped open he stepped back quickly, keeping the gun trained on his attacker. Ice-cold blue eyes glared up at him, but looked slightly groggy; the balaclava was looking damp where blood was soaking into it.
The man curled his top lip up, sneering. “If I say no?”
“Then you get caught, arrested for a double-murder, and the police pry into your business.
“You think I am concerned?” For the first time, Eric noticed an accent. Scandinavian.
“I think your employers will be, and they might not be best pleased with how incompetent you are. Move.”
Reluctantly the man started to walk, with Eric keeping the gun tucked in by his side, in case anyone was watching. The two of them moved slowly into the woods, and at Eric’s urging, headed further and further in.
“Stop here. Take that off.” Eric gestured with the gun when the man had turned around, his back against a tree. Wordlessly the man slipped the balaclava off, tossing it away.
Blond hair had been ruffled from being stuffed under the balaclava. The man had a somewhat thin face too, as though slightly malnourished. The high cheek bones were a little unsettling. Around the broken nose the skin had started to turn a painful shade of purple, and blood was still dripping both from the nose, and a small gash on his forehead. The eyes held nothing. Pursed lips gave away no trace of emotion.
“Who are you?”
“Go to hell.” But the voice carried a trace of amusement.
Eric took a breath, then in one smooth motion stepped forward and smashed the hilt of the gun against the man’s left temple. A swift kick to the stomach followed. The man grunted in pain and knelt on the ground, struggling to right himself. Another kick followed, to the ribcage, sending him sprawling to the earth beneath him.
“No games. Who are you?”
“I… I… will not be broken…”
“Oh yes you will. This isn’t my first dance.” A sharp kick to the man’s left knee came with a satisfying and audible crack. A sharp gasp of shock and pain escaped the man’s lips. Before he could respond, Eric had him by the scruff of his jacket, and with a deft thump to the ribcage, honed by years of experience of hurting other human beings, Eric was rewarded with the sound of a crack. The man lay on the ground, bleeding from both his nose and the fresh wound on his temple, and he stared up at Eric with a mixture of fury and fear.
“You have no idea what you have gotten yourself into old man!” He shouted, his voice hot with anger and defiance. “My associates will kill everyone you love!”
“But before that, they’ll start with you. Empty your pockets, all of them, now.” Eric cocked the gun.
The man hastily turned out everything, not that there was much. There was no driver’s licence or other form of ID, no keys, nothing except a smartphone.
“Chuck that over here.” The man did as he was told, and Eric scooped up the device.
Part of him immediately felt stupid. It was switched on, which meant it was probably tracking his whereabouts. Unsurprisingly the home screen was locked, with a four-digit code.
“What’s the code?” Eric asked.
“No chance.” Replied the man, though he coughed and groaned in pain as he did.
Eric was sorely tempted to shoot him, as he was running out of patience and very likely time as well, but he was sure he could still somehow use his would-be assassin. With the gun pointed straight at the man’s head, he stepped forward and slammed his foot down upon the man’s right ankle. This brought about a satisfying yelp of pain, and for good measure, Eric stamped on his left ankle too.
“The code.” He intoned.
“Wrong answer.” Eric brought the heel of the gun down on the man’s right knee – there was no crack this time, but he knew it would have to hurt. “You should know something, and you probably already do know it, but it escaped your mind – I am ex-SAS. I know what it means to be hurt, and how to hurt people. I can keep this up for as long as I need to.”
“If I unlock that phone I am a dead man.”
“If you don’t you’re a dead man, only difference is I’ll prolong it. Your choice.”
Silence reigned. Eric didn’t care for that, so he kicked the man. “Time’s up, you die here, now, in agony, or you have a shot at living. What will it be?”
For a moment the man hesitated, but looking into Eric’s steel resolve, he made his decision. “7822. That will unlock it.”
Without taking his eyes off the man, Eric tapped in the code, and sure enough, the phone unlocked.
“Thank you.” Without another word Eric shot the man, squarely in the forehead.