That look crossed Vladimere’s face again. He was enjoying my truths.
“The final stage of my plans. It will be a necessary sacrifice to see my opponent fall. Nobody likes a saboteur, as you’ve just proven. The public will think that Narnott destroyed my project, I will be rid of a failing institution on poisoned ground and I can glide to election glory. Perfect.”
“Now here you are,” I concluded. “Untying gangways and breaking ladders. Do you really think that will help?”
“That and dynamite.” Vladimere unclipped a box from his belt. He held it up so that I could clearly see the red button in the centre. A detonator. Thinking back, I had seen the charges underneath the scaffolding from which I had stolen my pole. Now I clung to it for dear life.
Vladimere neared with his knife. He strived to occupy that space between the fire-escape and me, knowing that I had little elsewhere to turn. There was a second set of scaffolding to the left of me, but that was at least a metre’s jump away, and I knew I could not make it with my ‘weapon’. To the other side of me was a long drop. Therefore, I had to make it forward, or I could risk heading back the way I had come.
“Do you want to play, little girl?” Vladimere cackled. “I’ll show you how to play.”
I told myself not to panic. I’d been up against a similar adversary before, in the size of my former Psychology teacher, Andrew Smith.
There was one big problem: this wasn’t like Mr. Smith at all; Vladimere was mad, and I was up against a true murderer, not a spontaneous secret-keeper.
“You just couldn’t resist coming back and seeing the investigation for yourself. You just wanted to gloat, didn’t you?” I found myself saying it, even when I had to force the words past the lump in my throat.
“And you never wanted to become part of politics, but here you are, trying to change the future of another country. What will you do, Miss King? Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you; won’t you join the dance?”
I backed along the edge of the scaffolding. Strangely, all I could think about was how much a drink would have been useful at that moment. I tried to swing the pole to and fro, a double-edged sword in literal, blunt sense.
Vladimere swung his knife at me and I toppled. His slight aim sliced the air, and my pole merely collided with the railings of the scaffolding. As I ducked, my foot caught in one of the gaps in the badly-made flooring, twisting my foot sharply as my soft-heeled shoe popped off, tumbling to the ground.
In agony, I swore loudly in French.
Tutting, Vladimere advanced. “Didn’t your daddy tell you not to say naughty words?”
Unable to do much more whilst my ankle was stuck in the space, I hissed at him. The pole was there, inches from my fingertips. I strained. The thought of possessing it again pressed down on me. Vladimere lowered his knife, and a chill ran through my spine as I felt its cold point at my throat.
“I’m going to enjoy this. There won’t even be a body when this place is blown apart. Tomorrow, nobody will know of your life. No inspector, no friend, no Russian mate.”
One more minute and my hot blood would have left my body unceremoniously. Luckily, my faffing about had left that one minute to spare.
“Aren’t you getting a bit old to be saved, Agnetha?”