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A Kathryn Blake fragment . . .

She closed her eyes a moment, the better to concentrate on the floor plans. Then she drifted back from the doorway, and ghosted up another flight of stairs. She worked on the next door as carefully as she had worked on the last, her hands as steady and unhurried, though she left the free ends trailing. The work absorbed her making it easier for her to exclude all thought of who was waiting for her, of what had gone wrong. The door swung at her touch, but she did not pass through. She carefully stowed the tools that she would no longer need, swapping them for a silenced handgun, ugly in the faint light but familiar in her hand. John had collected it as she slept, taking it from their last and most secure cache. She had always known it was a necessary evil, though she had argued feebly against its inclusion in her gear. She hated to be proved wrong so conclusively.

She moved to the rail, sighting on the doorway two floors below. For a moment she wished for Peter at her side, but chided herself for the loss of nerve. It was not such a difficult shot. Anywhere in the postcard sized panel to the left of the door would be just fine. So much for finesse.

She put three shots in the plate, and for one frozen moment believed that she had failed. No alarms rang out. But then, if she had waltzed in to a honeypot they would not have wanted to scare her off with an audible alarm. Action erupted below her, confirming the thought, and she dived back through the doorway. By the time she reached the far end of the passage alarms were singing out around her. In three seconds she was through the door, short circuiting a handful of wires with the minimum of fuss.

She hurled herself down the stairs, knowing she could jump safely enough from any window on the second floor if she really had to, aiming for her preferred window on the far side of the block, one that had had a container abandoned beneath it since before they had first arrived in town. They had driven past it on their way in. She raced for it in certainty, but from below came running footsteps and low, urgent voices.

She threw herself around on the stairs, back-tracked a few strides, smashed her way inelegantly through a third floor doorway, and took the passage just slowly enough to maintain her silence. In moments she was working on another panel but she paused, this time, before she ran on. She was back on the main stairwell. There was no other option. She gathered her nerve in both hands and ran, keeping as far to the left as she could, unable to do more than to hope that there was no one on the stairs that lay to her right, or at least no one who could react in the moments it took her to cross the open landing.

She smashed the next panel and ran on, choosing speed over silence, though she moved lightly enough. One last door, and she was on the far stairs. Another flight and she was working on the window, the blueprints flashing to her mind’s eye as she required them, her hands flying, making no attempt to evade the alarms but only to release the electronic locks.

As she threw open the window she heard them behind her, two below and one above, and she knew she was silhouetted clearly against the sullen orange glow of the city. That was the least of her problems. Below her, no container, but three dark cars in a street that should have been empty – three cars with plates that she recognised, and beside them dark figures, their outlines interrupted by metallic reflections of the streetlights,

She could have jumped. She could not guarantee her landing, only her reception, and it made her decision very easy. Her hands were at her waist, fumbling slightly with the catch, casting the bag aside . . .

** * **

“And then?” he prompted.

“And then I put my hands up and went quietly.”


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