As the Citröen came round the bend behind him, he saw the driver’s face, caught in a brief flash of sunlight, like a photograph engraving itself on Yves’ retinas. A familiar face. Round. Bald. But familiar from where? He had no idea. He only knew that he had seen it before. He could see the shadows of other men in the car, and suspicion burgeoned quickly into certainty and then fear. They had found him. They were following him. And sooner or later they would come for him.
With a deep inward sigh, Yves knew that it was time to move on.
A window along one side of his office looked down on to the floor of the indoor fishmarket below. It was a huge shed where long wooden palettes laid out on concrete displayed the day’s catch. 8 Peter May Sardines, mackerel, dorade, mullet, plaice. Boxes and boxes of them neatly arranged in oblong enclosures all across the trading floor, where buyers clustered to barter with white-coated marketeers. Raised voices floated up through the stench of fish and salt to rattle the window frames. Yves paused for only a moment to consider that it was the last time that he would gaze upon this scene. He had grown to love the smell and sights and sounds of the market during the nearly ten years he had worked his way up from humble trader to market manager. Considering that he had known nothing of fish or fishermen when he arrived from Munich, his ascent had been little short of meteoric. But his intelligence and ability to think on his feet had quickly singled him out from the crowd, and his bosses had not been slow to spot it. Increased responsibility had followed. Promotion. First to the running of the trading floor, then to assistant manager. And when finally his mentor had retired last year, stepping up and into his shoes had seemed the most natural progression to everyone concerned.
He turned away from the window, heavy with disappointment and regret. Each time, it seemed, that his future looked set, fate stepped in with a change of plan.
Run, Erik, run. Start again. Rebuild your life. But don’t ever think you are safe. Never think for a moment that I am not right behind you, ready to pounce.
He removed the picture from the wall above his desk, and spun the dial on the safe behind it left and right. He heard the tumblers falling into place as he stopped it at the final digit, and the heavy door swung open. Inside lay bundles of documents, official papers, a cash box containing several hundred Dirham. And right at the back, a padlocked metal case, which he removed and placed on his desk.
A small key on his car key ring unlocked the padlock and he threw back the lid. Inside were the passports they had given him. All the paperwork he would require when the time came. He took them out and slipped them into a compartment of his briefcase, and picked up an old black and white photograph. Magda and the children. He felt a stab of self-pity, almost remorse. In all these years he had hardly ever allowed himself to even think what might have become of them. And now wasn’t the time. It followed the papers into his briefcase, and he picked up the Walther P38 that he had taken from his desk drawer that fateful December night in Munich all those years before. Occasionally oiled, but never fired, in anger or self-defence. He dropped that, too, into the briefcase.
He looked up startled as the door opened. His secretary was a plump lady in her late thirties, dowdy and unattractive, with olive skin and dark eyes. Her long hair was tied up inside a black scarf. “What is it, Aqila?” The sharpness of his tone startled her. “I’m sorry, Monsieur Vaurs.” Her apology was both defensive and hostile. They had never got on. “I have Monsieur Cattiaux from the bank on the line. Do you want to take his call?” “No, tell him to call this afternoon.” His French, after all this time, was almost without accent and would never stand out in a country where almost everyone spoke it as a second language.
Excerpted from Freeze Frame by Peter May. Copyright © 2010 by Peter May. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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