Short story - Crime, Short story - Mystery, Short story - Suspense

The Runner – Part Three

She drove north on the motorway for about two hours, using the time in the car to think, to take stock. She knew they would be looking for him; it would only be a matter of time before they realised something had gone wrong. But how was he going to contact them, what was their procedure? Would he have used the mobile phone that she had dumped down the grating? It must have been a pay-as-you-go, nothing to tie the phone or number to anyone except calls made and received. It would only have been used a couple of times on this one job, then destroyed.

She knew she had taken a risk by stealing the car, but the priority had been to get off scene as quickly as possible in case he had support positioned nearby. She instinctively knew the number plates would be fake. How clean was the car? What other risks had she taken?

She signalled to turn into a service station and parked the car away from the main forecourt to avoid being caught on camera. She got out and casually looked around. There was no obvious tail: it was a good two minutes before the next vehicle, a school minibus, pulled in to get petrol. She opened the boot and ran her hands quickly and expertly around every seam, fixture and crevice. Nothing. Closing the boot, she opened the rear door. Leaning in, she ran through the same careful inspection process before moving to the front seats. She slid the passenger seat as far back as she could then, angling her body, she sat in the footwell and looked under the dashboard. Her heart sank, even though she had known all along she would find it somewhere. Sitting back, she started to think. Just fix this problem first before planning anything else. And don’t ever assume you will only find one. She checked the rest of the car and the engine, but found no other trackers.

She looked over at the minibus, a bunch of excited kids on their way to a football tournament. Some of them spilled out of the shop, loaded with sweets and fizzy drinks and shouting excitedly to those waiting on the bus. They looked so young, so happy. Some were already dressed in their team kit even though it was now dark and the only football they would see tonight would be on TV. She looked away. She couldn’t do it; her conscience wouldn’t let her.

‘Alright darling? Lost something?’ The man’s voice made her jump, even though she had seen him in her peripheral vision. She had assumed he would walk past her towards the shop. ‘No! Thanks. Actually, I was just trying to find a pen. Could you lend me one? Just need to write down a number while I remember.’ She had already scanned him and knew he was no threat, given his weight, laboured walk and food-stained clothing. She turned her full-on smile at him, knowing the effect it would have on a fat, lonely, middle-aged trucker.

‘Yes, sure sweetheart. Always happy to help a damsel in distress. Come with me back to my wagon and let’s see what I can do for you.’ He chuckled suggestively.

‘I’ll follow you over. Just let me grab my bag.’

She turned back to car and watched in the mirror as he reached the door of his wagon and lumbered up to the driver’s seat. Sprinting as fast as she could from the car to the wagon, she jumped up the step to the cab then slipped and fell into his lap.

‘Oi! You’re keen aren’t you?’ he laughed, making to grab her round the waist.

She immediately straightened up and moved away from him, appearing flustered. ‘Gosh, so sorry. Lost my footing there. Is that the pen? Do you mind if I have it?’ It was a cheap biro and, as quickly as he nodded agreement, she was gone. Running back to the car she gunned the ignition, leaving a puzzled and disappointed trucker staring after the rear lights of the BMW as it shot off to re-join the motorway.

Checking the rear view mirror a moment later and seeing no vehicle behind her, she finally allowed herself to let out a long, steadying breath. Where to now, what was the best strategy? She knew the fact that she didn’t have a settled plan or a fixed destination made it harder for them to predict her next move. They had bargained on her winning the fight against whoever they had sent in the BMW: that was why they had planted the tracker. But what would they think now?

It wouldn’t take them long to work out that the hit had gone wrong. He would have had to send some sort of coded confirmation to them so, when they didn’t get that, they would have been relying on the tracker. They would catch up with the trucker pretty soon, no doubt flashing badges, using blue lights and giving official warnings to force him to pull over. Checking, just in case, but knowing the tracker had been switched over.

She needed to sleep and eat, to keep her energy up and her mind functioning. After another hour of taking exits, joining new roads and zigzagging, she pulled into a layby where there was a mobile canteen. She bought a bacon sandwich and tea as well as extra bottles of water and some small snacks. After another hour’s driving she pulled into a picnic area and switched off the engine. A couple of hours’ sleep, then let’s see what first light brings. But the inevitable question kept going around in her mind – how long could she keep running?

The only answer was As long as they keep coming after me.

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