As he fought off the desire, he caught a movement in the trees out of the corner of his eye. Someone was standing there, watching them. Banks whispered to Annie and Smythe, who walked along the bank in opposite directions to circle around and cut the interloper off. Banks edged back toward the trees. When he thought he was within decent range, he turned and ran toward the intruder. As he felt the cold, bare twigs whipping and scratching his face, he saw someone running about twenty yards ahead of him. Smythe and Annie were flanking the figure, crashing through the dark undergrowth, catching up quickly.
Smythe and Annie were by far the fittest of the three pursuers, and even though he'd stopped smoking, Banks soon felt out of breath. When he saw Smythe closing the gap and Annie nearing from the north, he slowed down and arrived panting in time to see the two wrestle a young man to the ground. In seconds he was handcuffed and pulled struggling to his feet.
They all stood still for a few moments to catch their breath, and Banks looked at the youth. He was in his early twenties, about Banks's height, five foot nine, wiry as a pipe-cleaner, with a shaved head and hollow cheeks. He was wearing jeans and a scuffed leather jacket over a black T-shirt. He struggled with PC Smythe but was no match for the burly constable.
"Right," said Banks. "Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?"
The boy struggled. "Nothing. Let me go! I haven't done anything. Let me go!"
"Mark. Now let me go."
"You're not going anywhere until you give me a reasonable explanation why you were hiding in the woods watching the fire."
"I wasn't watching the fire. I was . . ."
"You were what?"
"Nothing. Let me go." He wriggled again, but Smythe kept a firm grasp.
"Shall I take him to the station, sir?" Smythe asked.
"Not yet. I want to talk to him first," said Banks. "Come on, let's go back to the canal."
The four of them made their way through the woods back to the smoldering barges. Smythe kept a firm grasp on Mark, who was shivering now.
"See if you can scrounge up some tea or coffee, would you?" Banks said to Smythe. "One of the fire crew's bound to have a flask." Then he turned to Mark, who was staring at the ground shaking his head. Mark looked up. He had pale, acned skin, and the fear showed in his eyes, fear mixed with defiance. "Why won't you let me go?"
"Because I want to know what you're doing here."
"I'm not doing anything."
"Why don't I believe you?"
"I don't know. That's your problem."
The foregoing is excerpted from Playing with Fire by Peter Robinson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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