The alarms started wailing at eight twelve in the morning. So precise, I know. That's because it was less than two minutes after I arrived at Seccomb, less than one minute after I drove into maintenance on sub-deck two, and less than thirty seconds after I ran. Don't think about it Jessica, it can't have been you.
Oh but it could.
I didn't stop on sub-deck one as I ran through the sharp incipient bursts of noise and an angry red rash of light across the car park walls. I made it past twenty or so empty spaces before reaching the concrete ramps, but I didn't feel free. Not when the rays of sun broke through the projection screen entrance onto my face nor when I reached street level and rounded the corner of Trafalgar Square.
At every turn the throngs of pedestrians on the pavements looked like they could be Seccomb agents; suited and booted and looking at me with distaste. Could they be after me so soon?
I veered left down Raden street. Damn, Piccadilly tube isn't even on this road. I double-backed and found it on the corner of Regent Street and Oxford Road. How can it have been so long since I'd got the underground? Surely I'd know my nearest station. But then I've had knight rider for so long. The car I just ran from at warp speed.
'Security breach', the car had blared at me, flashing in a red bubble accompanied by an intermittent beep. I mean whose car talks to them? I shook the flawed thought away and jumped down the stairs two at a time to get into London's Underground, fighting the throngs of workers coming up into the West End. There wasn't a queue at the bottom for the machines and I only needed zone 1. 'Security breach' the ticket machine blared back as I tried to force coins down its throat. Shit. Seccomb? I glanced up, maybe a dozen camera domes twinkled from the arched ceiling. And now several cautious faces eying me with contempt, but no one moved towards me.
I hardly looked a threat; five foot four inches of semi-toned body, another three inches of not-quite-work-friendly Jimmy Choos that I was quickly starting to despise. Even so, time to run.
This time daylight seemed several shades darker when I came careering out of the stairwell. The strong heat I'd felt minutes earlier now neutralized in a musky cloud hung low above me, marred only by my panting breath as I ran.
I don't know why the bloody car was beeping. It was early, the traffic was light, why not bring her into Seccomb maintenance for an examination, wasn't that what I was taught? But I'd delivered my keys with less confidence this time; just left them in the security hub by the mechanic department. Perhaps I should have waited for Robert. Then I'd have explained that there must be a fault with the car. But he wasn't there, and the alarms had tripped. Oh what have you done Jessica Sharton, bringing a security breach into the nation's most secure building?
"Oy," I heard from the right. A male voice. Familiar? I couldn't be sure. Don't look, just keep going. Then I felt the blow that brought me to the ground.
I landed with a resonating thump and half a tonne of bricks on top of me. Actually no, it was more like a body, ferociously warm, and breathing with similar ferocity to me. Short, quick, ragged breaths. I started to scream, but the air wasn't there.
"Shuhh Jessica,," the male voice said; the same husky mans voice from only moments earlier, this time far too close to me; this time with his hand flat against my mouth.
"Frog?" I said, catching my breath. He loosened his grip around me, but pulled me back behind some bins. His hold less menacing now.
"Are you okay?" He said, looking closely at me like a doctor. I checked my hands and feet - all still intact - and shrugged. We were in an alleyway, between two rows of Georgian terraces that stretched six storeys high. "If I'd have thought that I would be sitting with Jessica Sharton behind a load of bins before breakfast, I may have loosened my tie," he said, dryly. By his deep frown, I was not out of the woods yet.