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  As they raced past the next junction two more police cars joined them, both Volvo estates, and between the four of them they punched a hole in the traffic. At such high speed they were covering ground fast, which was what Paul wanted.

  Within twenty minutes, Paul caught sight of the BMW, with its distinctive smoke-black windows, in the middle lane. There was a gap in the traffic to his left and he slipped into the inside lane to undertake it. He began to slow down, as did the police cars with him. It was definitely the right car as he could sense Ruth and the overpowering presence of Storn in it. In the same moment he also sensed the other car that was carrying Storn’s men too. The Chrysler Voyager in the outside lane, that at first glance appeared to be overtaking the BMW, braked hard in front of the police car that was rapidly coming up on its rear bumper. The driver’s reactions were faster than most, yet he still had to swerve across the carriageway to avoid a collision. The BMW also swerved, but in a deliberate manoeuvre, pulling across the front of Paul. The police car screeched through the gap between them, leaving the road at speed, and Paul aimed for the space the BMW had occupied. Chaos quickly ensued as the traffic behind them began braking in an effort to avoid the possibility of further collisions. Paul ran the Audi down the offside of the BMW and, inadvertently, clipped it sideways. Surprised by the outcome, he saw the big German saloon bounce over the hard shoulder and slide down the incline into the drainage channel. Instinctively, he slammed on the brakes and slewed the Audi sideways across the motorway. The Chrysler had also stopped, some thirty odd metres behind him, as had one of the Volvos. It though was entangled with the centre crash barrier. The last police car was just a few metres away from the Audi.

  Within seconds of events unfolding, the side door of the Chrysler slid open and bursts of automatic gunfire began issuing from the four men inside. Thankfully, the following traffic had pulled up short and the occupants of the vehicles were quickly running for cover. Paul dived out of the Audi and crouched by the front wheel for cover, as several well aimed bursts peppered the bodywork. The driver of the police Volvo nearest him was also doing the same. Paul called over to him.

  “You okay?!”

  “Hardly!” he called back. “The bastards have nailed my mate.”

  “What about the others?!”

  The officer squeezed tightly into the meagre cover as further shots pinged into both cars and the tarmac between them. “They’ve raked the one in the barrier, I can’t see any movement! The other car’s gone off the road back there!”

  “Shit,” Paul cursed, under his breath. “Can you use a gun?!”

  The policeman nodded. Paul carefully tossed him his automatic pistol and the spare magazine.

  “Don’t waste ’em, that’s all there is!” Paul warned, as the officer gratefully accepted the weapon. At the same time Paul slipped back into the car and retrieved the machine pistol and mobile phone. The distance between him and the hard shoulder, and in turn to where the drainage channel ran, was too far. The men in the Chrysler would cut him down long before he could reach any sort of cover. There was no sign of the BMW or its passengers as the ground level below the road was three or four metres lower. The real fear was in them coming up to the edge of the carriageway. If they did they’d have the cover and he and the policeman would be dead. Again another burst of fire picked at the ground close to the car. The officer tentatively returned several shots. At least they would be wary of a frontal assault, now they knew they could return fire.

  Paul was quickly on the phone.

  “Yes?” Smith answered.

  “Its gone pear shaped,” Paul said, simply.

  “The police controllers have lost contact with their cars. What’s happened?”

  “We’ve had a shunt.” As he spoke another hail of bullets tore across the top of the bonnet and over his head.

  “Is that gunfire?” Smith asked, anxiously.

  “Too right. They had an escort. The BMW’s gone off the road and I can’t see it or get to it. All three cop cars are out of it and we’ve at least one dead copper, possibly more.”

  “There are more men and a helicopter on the way. Just sit tight they’ll be with you shortly,” Smith added.

  “Yeah, yeah,” Paul replied, hanging up. With the road behind them blocked, he seriously doubted they would get reinforcements so easily. However, moments later he heard the unmistakable sound of a fast approaching helicopter.

  “About time too,” he muttered, looking towards the east. It was flying low, zeroing in on their position and Paul saw that it was a civilian machine, a Bell 222. Ignoring the open carriageway, it swung in for a landing in the field next to the motorway. For several long seconds it dipped out of sight below the road, yet it did not power down. He did not have to sense the intention of the pilot, it was obviously Storn’s way out. Again Paul cursed. There was no way he could cross the killing ground and make an attempt to stop it. A few moments later a second helicopter appeared from the other direction. It was dark blue and yellow and Paul spotted the police markings on its fuselage. Turning overhead, he realised that it was getting too close to them. Desperately, he tried to wave it away, but it was too late. The men in the Chrysler had waited until the helicopter got near before concentrating their fire onto it. It was their responsibility to provide cover for Storn and his helicopter needed clear airspace to get away. Their aim was deadly accurate. Paul saw the cockpit canopy shatter and the machine lurch sideways, before it dropped from the air and onto the vacant carriageway. As it hit the tarmac the fuel tank ruptured, igniting in a loud explosion of orange flame. The tangle of wreckage, its rotors still turning, cart wheeled off the road and into the field just metres from Paul. Less than a second later the Bell took off. He watched it climb away, unable to react positively, knowing that Ruth and Persephone were on board. He could not fire at it to force it down for fear that he would kill them both. It did not linger over the chaotic scene for even one second and kept low as it swiftly flew southwards.

  “Shit,” Paul cursed, and as he did, he heard the policeman shout.

  “They’re coming through!”

  Paul heard the revving engine and squeal of tyres. The men in the Chrysler had done their job, covered Storn’s escape, and now they too were attempting to leave. Without looking first, Paul rolled out from the cover of the car and onto the hard shoulder. A scant moment passed before the Chrysler slammed through the gap between the Audi and the Volvo. It was enough to slow the fleeing car and for Paul to come up onto one knee. He could see the side door open with a man in the opening, crouching, and another behind him. Both were holding onto the seating to steady themselves. Paul had no second thoughts; he emptied the entire magazine from his machine pistol into the doorway in one burst. The car swerved crazily towards the outer lane as he got to his feet and rapidly changed magazines. The policeman was up and firing too, but there was no return fire. The two gunmen in the doorway were dead, both cut down by Paul’s first onslaught. He emptied his second clip into the back of the car, taking out both the rear tyres and shattering glass and bodywork. The Chrysler careered to the right and smashed into the central barrier, coming to a stop when it became wedged. The policeman ran up to it, pistol at the ready, but there would be no resistance from the only survivor, the unconscious driver. Paul stood motionless, studying the carnage that surrounded them. The police helicopter was still burning in the field where it had come to rest. Pursuit was futile. Storn’s aircraft was already out of sight and he could never match its speed, even if he had a car that was serviceable. The sound of multiple sirens began to increase as Paul shook the feeling of uselessness from his thoughts and glanced at his watch. The whole drama had been played out in less than three minutes.