I find my feet, and run again. Adrenaline gives me a boost, but barely three streets later I'm gasping for breath. My legs feel heavy and cold, I'm not running anymore, just staggering. It's a damn fast stagger, but it's still a stagger. The houses round here are all residential, there's no one on the streets, and no cars either. They'll all be locked up in garages, or hidden behind high wrought-iron gates. Maybe I did the wrong thing leaving my car behind.
I can't go any further, my chest is burning and heaving and my legs are so shaky I'm barely keeping my balance with each lurch. I slump against a privet hedge, letting it take my full weight. Prickles stab into me but I don't care. I tell myself I'm too old for this, but I'm not. If I were I'd be dead already.
The streets are silent for now I think, but it's hard to hear anything over the blood pounding in my ears and my gasps for air. The burning in my lungs is easing a little, but my vision's blurring again, narrowing into a little tunnel, and I can't stop myself from shivering like it's freezing cold.
"The next gate along is open," says a man on the other side of the hedge. "Go in, and into the house. You need to change your clothes. They're tracking you."
"Who are you?" I say. My throat is sore and my voice sounds hoarse. There's no answer. Of course there's no answer.
I want to just sit here and let someone else have all my problems, but I can't. I'm not betraying the conspiracy because I'm bored, but because it's wrong. I have to get back to St. Paul's. I try to stand, but my legs aren't co-operating, so I crawl instead, bruising my hands and knees against the paving flags.
The red-painted, tall wrought-iron gate is open, just as the voice promised, and I push it open with my head, and crawl on through. It swings shut behind me, and there's a click as the gate's bolt shoots home. I roll sideways onto the lawn and bury my face in the grass when I hear it; it takes a few seconds before I realise what's happened. The grass is easier to crawl on anyway, the driveway is gravelled.
I use the gargoyle shaped door knocker on the front door to pull myself to my feet, and push the door tentatively. It opens a little, I have to push harder to open it enough to slide around the edge of it. I push it shut behind me.
The hallway is bright, light comes in from a window beside the door, and two windows in the wall that the staircase runs against. Opposite the staircase is a hall with two more side doors and a door at the end. There's a telephone table with a kitschy bakelite telephone on it, and a picture of a rottweiler in a tacky plastic frame hanging on the staircase wall. The first of the side doors in the hallway is open. I pick that one as requiring least effort.
Through the door is a sitting room with a couch, a table, and an LCD television set. There's a fresh set of clothes lying on the couch, and -- I freeze -- a bomb on the table with a digital timer counting down from 7 minutes and 31 seconds.