At the end of the road three more silver police cars doppler past, speeding towards the warehouse. Low clouds glow red and blue from the gathering emergency vehicles. The nest is stirred and looking for the invaders.
Somerset and Sergei wordlessly turn and head away. The pre-dawn streets and pavements are deserted, a taxi turns down the street, light on.
Somerset steps out, and holds up his hand, smiling. His suit is dirty and crumpled, but in the dark he passes for a drunken businessman. The taxi stops, the drivers’ window open to discuss a fare. Sergei steps out from between the parked cars, “Out! Out!” he orders and puts a gun to the drivers’ head.
The driver scrambles out, terrified, pleading. Somerset drags him onto the side, and takes his place at the wheel. Sergei scans around, points his gun at the man on the road and puts a finger to his lips. It won’t stop the taxi driver talking to the police, but might give them a minute more.
Somerset drives calmly, like a taxi driver, out of the seafront area, towards the suburbs. Sergei checks his guns, and watches behind and side streets. The tacnet in his ear is buzzing with signal again. He’s about to try Katya, when blue lights appear behind them.
Somerset pulls to one side of the wide avenue, a good citizen letting the police car past, but it crash stops in front of the taxi, blocking them. Somerset grinds gears into reverse and floors it. The worn engine screams, but the car moves backward, gaining speed. The policeman is getting out, armed, when Sergei destroys his front tyre and wing with a three-round burst. Somerset spins the taxi round in the narrow street, de-clutching, yanking on the handbrake and effortlessly changing into second gear in one motion. The taxi speeds off, leaving the ruined police car.
In the wing mirror, Sergei watches the policeman radioing in. It’s time to see who’s on tacnet.“Anyone online?” he tries over tacnet. A long pause.
“ You are alive! Where are you?” Katya sounds relieved, tearful.
“We are in a taxi just trying to leave the area. Hang on.”
The trees and parked cars ahead are suddenly blindingly bright, a white light flows down the street, searching for them. Somerset turns the wheel, worn tyres slip on damp tarmac then find grip and the taxi scrapes into an narrow alley. There’s one lane, parked cars on the left, buildings on the right, no space to turn. The searchlight hunts the street behind them. They hear the whump-whump of a helicopter, low.
Ahead Somerset can see another main road at the end of the alley, blue lights visible in the reflections of a shop window. He presses down harder on the accelerator, though the taxi has no more to give. Cars and walls are flicking past, close on either side, then through the rear window the alley whites out, the whump-whump now deafening.
“Trouble!” yells Sergei.
“Not yet” responds Somerset.
He sees what he needs, flicks the headlights off, stands on the brakes and yanks the taxi hard into the only empty parking space in the alley. The brakes are good, the taxi skids, turns, and stops. Sergei’s hand on the dashboard to brace. The engine dies, and they are sat completely dark, hot metal pinging.
For a deadly second, Somerset watches the parked car on his left rock slightly, the alarm light blinking in the window. No alarm calls out.
The searchlight rolls over them, they hold their breath, but it continue down the street without pausing. The helicopter sound disappears over nearby roofs.
Sergei puts a finger to his ear, speaks to Katya over tacnet. “Thanks for waiting customer. Your taxi is on its way. We will meet you at the corner of Sofiiska Str in ten minutes. Don’t be late.”
Katya picks herself up, and with the tired, hunched walk of a derelict barely faked, heads down the main street towards the rendezvous. They are still alive.
Many police are at the warehouse district, and many not-police. Large, ugly men. Armed. Gangsters. She watches one Lisky Bratva discussing and planning actions with a policeman. It’s not clear who’s in charge, but it is clear they are on the same side.
The taxi pulls up at the corner, indicator blinking. A dark shape detaches from a shop doorway and quickly gets into the backseat.
“I thought you were dead, down in the tunnels.” she says.
“No, we came face to face with a doctor, the coffin and then Lil Blaise and had to get out, fast.” Sergei says.
“I kicked him hard” Somerset says with a smile, “We need to contact Donald and those Russian soldiers, get us a diversion so we can get out.”
“The soldiers are all dead, so is Donald. We met something.” Her voice is thin.
“What happened?” says Somerset.
“How do we get paid now?” says Sergei at the same time.
“I think, I’m not sure, but we met a zalozhniy, a dead soldier but alive, in the tunnels. I went in with the naval soldiers to rescue you. It killed them, or is killing them. I left them down there.” She’s shaking.
“The zalozhniy, it was in an American army uniform? With a chest wound?” Sergei leans over the passenger seat. Katya’s covered in dust and blood, she doesn’t look good.
“No, a Spetsnaz. It had a big hole here” she points at her front left forehead.
“There? Nobody should be moving after that.” He turns back around, thinking.
“We need to get out of Odessa, it’s a Lisky Bratva town and not very welcoming.” says Somerset. “Suggestions?”
Everyone thinks, Katya says “Donald Caroll said he had hidden something in his safehouse in Vienna. Check the airport left luggage 827. Then he died.”“We could get a flight from Kiev or Sevastapol to Vienna.” Sergei suggests.
“The Lisky Bratva are everywhere, it’s not just Odessa, it’s the whole Ukraine and probably most of Russia that’s not the Chechens. And they have cells everywhere in Europe and the Middle East. We’re not safe anywhere.”
Somerset looks at her in the reat-view mirror,, “Vienna’s neutral, the Lisky Bratva won’t, and can’t, act there without bringing down more trouble than we’re worth.” I hope, he thinks.
He continues. “We can cross into Hungary and then to Vienna on the road..”
“What about Moldova? Or, even better, Transnistria! I know a good fellow in Tiraspol. Mr Happy.” says Sergei.
“Transnistria is a criminal state, it’s not controlled by anyone” Katya says, “well, not by the Lisky Bratva. It’s totally corrupt, dangerous Wild West.”
“Sounds perfect for a city break. We’ll need cash to get in though, and we’ll need another car to get out of Odessa.” says Somerset.
Somerset abandons the taxi across the street from the sprawling Continental Hotel. Sergei books a room, Katya borrows a couple of expensive looking suitcases and all three rest, order room service and get freshened up. A few hours later, dressed in someone’s nice clothes, Katya’s back herself.
She flirts shamelessly with the young valet, lifting a set of keys while he writes down his phone number.
Ten minutes later, Somerset’s at the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee and the team are heading for Transnistria, an hour down the highway. Something’s gone wrong though, and immediately outside Odessa, police cars wail in the distance behind us.
Somerset drives like a demon, 40km to go, 30km to go. On the highway, the front tyres explode, and the Jeep slews across the road. Somerset fights the wheel, trying to control, trying to drive on rims, but the Jeep will go no further.
“Spike strip on the road” he says.
The windscreen shatters, a small hole in the right, passenger side. Sergei grabs his shoulder, blood welling through his fingers, “Sniper!”
Everyone bails out of the car, running for the verge. The driver side is open fields, the other side woods. Somerset stumbles then runs on, the sound of the shot arrives a second after the bullet.
“He’s far off. Too far.” He says, grimacing.
There’s the sound of a helicopter overhead. Katya can just make out a lay-by in the trees, 150’ away. There’s a shape there, a car shape. She turns and sprints for it, pistol in hand.
Maybe she can get there before the sniper realises.
Sergei turns and shoots the Cherokee’s fuel tank, a huge orange flash lights the area and oily smoke pours into the sky. Somerset runs full pelt into the undergrowth, closely followed by Sergei. It’s dark under the canopy, the burning SUV screwing their night vision.
“Did you see where he is?” Sergei asks Somerset, then sees Katya lit by the flames, running down the road, in the open.
A chunk of tarmac explodes at her feet, she’s randomly jinking across the road, the theory she was taught to avoid snipers. Ahead she can see movement at the car, but can’t make out what it is. The leg she landed on in the tunnels is hurting badly. She’s breathing hard, but there’s only 30’ more to go.
The shapes beside the car resolve into three shapes, three people. They open up with SMG’s and pistols. She gets hard punches in her chest and stomach, she staggers, her pace broken.
“Chechnya manoeuvre!” Sergei shouts. Somerset’s simpler, “Duck!”
Sergei squeezes off a three-round burst into the location a petrol tank should be on the dark shape. The car explodes into an orange fireball, blowing the armed men apart and scattering them. With the split second warning Katya throws herself to the verge, a ragged piece of metal scythes over her head.
The bark of a tree next to Somerset’s head explodes as the sniper gets a clear line. It’s pitch black, so he must have some sort of night-vision goggles. Nobody moves in the lay-by. Somerset and Sergei head through the undergrowth, calling in Arabic to each other and Katya, hunting the sniper.
“We’ll circle round to get close enough to finish him off. Stay there.” Somerset orders.
Katya can hear the helicopter close by now. She points her pistol down the road, trying to stay out of sight. The SUV is burning down the road, as is the car in the lay-by. The helicopter is hovering overhead, it’s about to open fire, Sergei thinks. A shot rings out and the chopper rocks, then rises up out of sight.
Somerset is creeping through the undergrowth, he can hear the sniper a way ahead, moving stealthily but fast. Really fast.
A bullet hits the ground in front of Katya, she ducks further down. The helicopter comes back down, over the field now. It hovers a couple of feet off the ground, the height for fast-deploying troops.
There’s a wild shot from the sniper, into the dark.
Somerset crouches down, sees Sergei “We’ll never get him, he’s too fast.”
“Are you lot gonna get in my nice helicopter before I get shot again, for fecks’ sake?” Patrick says over tacnet.
Inside the helicopter, Sergei treats Katya’s bullet wounds and braces her knee damaged in her fall. Somerset’s bullet wound is mainly bruise under the flak-jacket.
From the cockpit, Patrick’s talking non-stop.
“Odessa was all a mess, and so I knew you lot couldn’t be far away. And then I saw this beaut sat all alone, pining for a good flight she was. So it was a merciful thing liberating her, like. And luckily you were lighting bloody big bonfires on your stealthy escape there, so I found you easy enough.”
He’s flying just above the pylons and trees.
“ We want to get to Transnistria, we need to hide from the Lisky Bratva, they are working with the police, and have helicopters.” Sergei climbs into the front with him.
“They really don’t like you, that’s for sure, they’re spending a devil’s fortune to kill you.” Patrick guides the helicopter through a valley, just above the roofs of a village.
Sergei fiddles with the transponder. “That will make us look like Bulgarian Diplomatic flight. They won’t shout us down now.”