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Resonance: Chapter Thirty Two

       Last updated: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 16:51 EST



    He tried to think who. He sifted through memories of photo albums, his journal. Was there someone in his family he resembled?

    The phone rang. Graham jumped. Annalise tugged at her bag, found the phone and juggled it open.


    Annalise didn’t move. The phone stayed clasped against one ear. Then her eyes widened, she switched off the phone and threw it into her bag. “It’s the phone!” she hissed. “They’re using it to track us.”

    She pushed past him, pulled the curtain back an inch and looked out. “All clear,” she whispered and slipped out. Graham followed. One, two steps and then Annalise turned and bundled him back into the cubicle.

    “They’re outside,” she whispered. “I don’t think they saw us, they were looking the other way.”

    Graham could hear the implied ‘but’ on the end of the sentence. The two men knew they were close. They’d see the changing rooms and make the connection.

    Annalise pulled the curtain back a fraction of an inch and peered out. Graham held his breath. She pushed the curtain forward and looked along the line of changing rooms. Suddenly she started gesticulating, beckoning someone to come over.

    Graham slipped over to the near side and pressed himself out of sight against the cubicle wall. He felt the wall give slightly.

    “May I help you?” asked a female voice - young, accentless, perhaps a hint of an expensive boarding school.

    “I’m sorry,” said Annalise. She sounded upset, close to tears. “Can you call the police. It’s those two men over there. They,” she took a deep breath, “they were in Selfridges earlier. They pretend to be police officers, they have these fake ids and…” She hesitated. “They hang around the changing rooms. You know, spying on the girls.”

    The girl gave a knowing look and glanced over her shoulder.

    “They,” Annalise looked down embarrassed. “They told this girl she had to be strip searched and, you know, they…“ She paused, her voice faltering. “The guy on the right had a camera.”

    “Leave it to me,” said the girl.

    Annalise turned and winked at Graham before resuming her vigil by the curtains. The assistant walked over to an older woman - probably her boss. They talked for a while, a conversation punctuated by dagger-laden glances before the older woman walked over to her station and picked up the phone.

    The two men hovered in front of the left-most changing cubicle. They shuffled from foot to foot, checked their watches. Women came and went, cubicles emptied and filled. The men stayed. Eventually one of them moved forward and tugged at a curtain that hadn’t moved for some time. A woman screamed.

    “Over there!” shouted the younger assistant as four uniformed security men marched onto the floor.

    Graham and Annalise slipped out in the confusion. All eyes were turned towards the commotion in the other corner where two men protested their innocence and held out warrant cards which no one believed. A woman shouted abuse at them. Four men blocked their escape.

    Graham didn’t look back after that. They retraced their steps, found a down escalator and headed for an exit on the far side of the store. In the crush by the door, Annalise dropped her phone into a woman’s shopping bag.

    Graham stopped outside the store and looked around to take his bearings. The nearest tube had to be…

    Something hard pressed into his back.

    “Don’t turn around, don’t say a word.” A man’s voice – harsh and menacing. “We’re going for a walk. Do as I say or I’ll kill you here.”

    Graham froze. Annalise walked on a few steps then turned. “What’s the matter?” she said and then stared over Graham’s left shoulder. A look of surprise. “Who?” she started to say, and then stopped.

    Graham mouthed one word, ‘run,’ but she didn’t move. The gun dug into his back. “Come on, move!”

    Graham implored Annalise to run. Couldn’t she read his lips? Instead, she rocked on the balls of her feet. She’s going to do something stupid. Graham shook his head. No! Run! Save yourself. The man pushed again, hissing the word, “move!” into Graham’s ear, so close he could feel the warm spittle on his neck. The gun dug further into the small of his back, grinding against his spine. The man shoved with his shoulders. Graham held fast, digging in with his feet, leaning back. He wasn’t going anywhere until Annalise was safe. ‘Run!’ he mouthed again. She didn’t. She just stood there, rocking, her eyes flashing from side to side, lips parted, hands poised. She was going to do something stupid. He could tell.

    Another shove from behind - harder this time - another hissed, “move!” Graham lurched forward. Annalise stayed where she was. ‘Run,’ Graham mouthed for the last time. Why wouldn’t she run? Why wouldn’t she save herself?

    He glanced frantically about him. Thoughts coming thick and fast. So many people, shoppers coming into and out of the store. Witnesses everywhere, store surveillance cameras - you’d have to be crazy to shoot someone in such a public place.

    Or desperate.

    Graham relaxed - totally - slumping to the pavement like a dead weight. He’d feign a heart attack, he’d feign death, he’d do whatever it took to make it difficult. He wasn’t going to walk meekly to his death in some deserted side street.

    People surged forward, faces peered down at him. Is he all right? What’s the matter? Do you want a doctor? Anyone know him? Graham stared blankly up at them, a wall of faces, was one of them his kidnapper? Or had he fled?

    And where was Annalise?

    “It’s okay,” said a male voice Graham recognised. “I’m his doctor. My car’s round the corner.”

    His kidnapper hadn’t given up.

    Should he call out? Tell people he was being kidnapped? Or would the doctor turn into a psychiatrist? Was there an accomplice ready with a hypodermic? He needs to be sedated, sad case, completely delusional. Everyone would nod their heads and stand back.

    Strong hands dug under his shoulders, he was being pulled up from behind. He had to speak out, he had to say something. But what? His life might depend on finding the right words.

    His kidnapper’s face pressed close to his. “We’ve got your girlfriend,” he whispered. “One word out of you and she’s dead.”

    Graham stopped struggling and let the man haul him to his feet.

    “He’ll be fine now,” said the man. “This has happened before.”

    The crowd pulled back, show over, nothing more to see. Graham was led away, an arm around his back, a threat over his head.

    After fifty yards, the arm was removed - his kidnapper looking left and right before dropping slightly behind Graham. A familiar feeling in the small of his back told Graham the gun had returned.

    They turned a corner. Graham wondered where he was being taken - a building, an alley, a car?

    And where was Annalise? Where had they taken her? There were so many people on the pavement it was difficult to see more than fifteen yards ahead.

    The man steered Graham towards the roadside edge. Parked cars formed a line to his left, shoppers filed by on his right. Was he being taken to one of the cars?

    A large black car was parked three spaces ahead. It became a magnet to Graham’s eyes. Was it that black car? The one they’d used before? The one that Annalise Twelve had seen him bundled into the back of?

    They walked closer. Black tinted windows hid whoever was inside. Suddenly, the rear door clicked and swung open across the pavement. A hand, briefly visible, withdrew back inside. They were five yards away. Five yards from the gaping maw of the black car and…



    She came through the crowd in a blur of orange. People stopped, stood aside and gaped. Graham couldn’t believe it. It was Annalise, coming in from his right, a flaming waste-bin held out in front of her, walking across his path towards the black car. There was a strong smell of petrol. Flames licked two, three feet into the air. She didn’t look at him once. Her gaze was fixed on the black car. She tossed the bin and its flaming contents through the open door onto the back seat, slammed the door shut and turned towards Graham, her eyes wild.

    “I’m soaked in gasoline,” she said, staring beyond Graham to his kidnapper. “And I’m going to kill you all.”

    She held a lighter in her hand. She looked insane, her head tilted to one side, her eyes wild and staring.

    A muffled scream came from inside the car, its roadside doors opened, smoke billowed out, the smell of burning, the smell of petrol everywhere. A man rolled in the street, his clothes on fire. A uniformed chauffeur tried to beat out the flames with his hands. Traffic stopped. People screamed. Flames danced inside the car.

    Graham could feel the man’s hold on him relax. The gun moved away from his back. Annalise advanced, the lighter held high, its flame flickering. Any second now, Graham was certain, she was going to rush forward, grab the man and immolate them all.

    “Keep back!” yelled the man, his gun now pointed at Annalise. Graham could see it close to his left shoulder.

    The kidnapper glanced to his left - the man rolling in the street, the driver trying to beat out the flames, the screams, the car about to explode.

    Graham grabbed the gun and pushed it up and away from Annalise. They wrestled, the gun went off. Annalise came in kicking - once, twice - the man crumpled, holding his groin. The gun fell to the ground.

    “Run!” shouted Annalise.

    Graham hesitated. Was she really dowsed in petrol? Was she going to set light to herself?

    “Go!” Annalise shouted again, bending down to pick up the gun.

    Graham turned and ran. The pavement opened up in front of him. People had heard the gun shot, seen the flames, heard the screams. No one blocked his way.  

    His thoughts strayed behind him. Was Annalise following? Was she running too? He glanced back. She was.

    A bus pulled out ahead of him, a red double-decker lumbering away from its stop. The rear platform beckoned - a few strides, a jump and he’d be safe. Annalise too. It was the logical choice. He was running back towards the department store. Who knew how many other men ParaDim had out looking for him.

    He jumped, grabbed the pole and swung himself aboard. Annalise was twenty yards behind and gaining fast. A gap had opened out behind her as people moved away from the black car. Graham wasn’t sure but he thought he saw a body lying on the pavement with another man leaning over it.

    The bus began to accelerate. Annalise was closing but not as fast as before. She was five yards away and pumping fast.

    A pain hit Graham between the eyes and dropped him to his knees. No! Not now! Annalise was three yards away, her right hand outstretched towards him. The bus keeping pace with her. He reached for her, one hand on the pole, one hand waving through the blur. He couldn’t see. His eyes were clouded in pain and smeared in colour. He was losing consciousness, the world receding…


    He tore himself back. He would not leave. Not this time or any other. He would stay or die in the attempt.

    The world surged back, images rolling in like a surf up a beach. Annalise - she was there - dropping back but still running. Surely the bus had to stop sometime - a junction, a traffic jam!

    Five yards away, six, seven, nine. He couldn’t bear it. The pain in her eyes, the effort in her face. After all she’d done, he couldn’t leave her. He couldn’t…

    His stomach contracted - it felt like he’d been punched. A stabbing pain in his side, an explosion in his head. Someone screamed. Probably him.

    He’d roll off the bus, that’s what he’d do. His legs might not work but he could still roll, couldn’t he?

    He rolled, let go of the pole and hoped gravity and centrifugal force would do the rest. He’d hurt himself but she’d find him and know what to do.

    Hands grabbed him. People on the bus? He could make out vague images of faces and arms and concerned voices.

    No! Let me go!

    He tried to fight back. He was sure he did. But his limbs had taken on a dreamlike quality, they shimmered and moved back and forth out of time. He was losing them, he was losing everything.


    One last effort. All or nothing. Concentrate! Focus! Annalise!

    He saw her - crisp and clean - twenty yards back, her hand still reaching for him.

    “I’ll find you,” he shouted. “Whatever it takes, I’ll find you.”

    A shot rang out. A vague image of a man in the distance, a spark flashing from his hand.

    A second shot, a third. Annalise fell.

    And everything went black.

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