At 9.15 Abby drove the black Honda diesel off-roader she had rented last night, on Ricky’s very specific instructions, up the hill towards Sussex House. Her stomach felt as if it was full of hot needles, and she was shaking.
Taking deep, steady breaths, she tried her hardest to keep calm and not let another panic attack come on. She was on the verge of one, she knew. She had that slightly disembodied feeling that was always the precursor.
It was ironic, she thought, that Southern Deposit Security was less than half a mile away from the building she was headed to now.
She pulled the car up as instructed, in front of the massive green, steel gate and put the handbrake on. Sitting on the passenger seat was the plastic groceries bag she had put her mother’s medications in yesterday. Also inside it was a Jiffy bag. Her suitcase was back in her room at the hotel.
Glenn Branson appeared and gave her a cheery wave. The gate began to slide open and, as soon as there was a large enough gap, she drove through. The DS signalled for her to park in front of a row of wheelie bins, then he held the door open for her.
‘You OK?’ he asked.
She nodded bleakly.
He put a protective arm around her shoulder. ‘You’ll be fine,’ he said. ‘I think you are a strong lady. We’ll get your mum back safely. And we’ll get your stamps too. He thinks he’s chosen a smart place, but he hasn’t. It’s dumb.’
‘Why do you say that?’
Ushering her through a door into a bare stairwell, he said, ‘He’s chosen the place to frighten you. That’s his priority, but it shouldn’t be. You’re frightened enough, so he doesn’t need to ratchet things up. He’s not thinking this through. He’s not doing it the way I’d do it.’
‘What if he sees any of you?’ she asked, walking along a corridor, struggling to keep pace with him.
‘He won’t. Not unless we have to show ourselves. We’ll only do that if we start to think you are in danger.’
‘He will kill her,’ she said. ‘He’s that spiteful. If anything goes wrong, he’d do it for the hell of it.’
‘We understand that. You have the stamps?’
She lifted up the carrier bag to show him.
‘Didn’t want to risk leaving them in your car in a police station?’ He grinned. ‘Wise decision!’