Ryan Kaine is On the Offensive...
A kidnapped daughter, a desperate husband and a team of ruthless killers.
Ryan Kaine and his team have a deadly enemy to confront. Even Kaine is shocked by his merciless new foes. After months on the run, with government agencies still on his trail, Kaine needs to find a way to save the girl and somehow walk away alive.
But this is not to be Kaine’s day.
Ryan Kaine is back in the breath-taking thriller On The Offensive.
The Ryan Kaine series has attracted more than FIVE THOUSAND five-star reviews.
**** “Better than Jack Reacher”
***** “A modern Bond without the class and pomp”
***** “Brilliant story lines, you just have to keep on turning the pages”
***** “Brilliant read which steams along at a cracking pace, with relentless action.
Tuesday 30th May – Micah Williams
Toulouse-Matabiau Station, Toulouse, France
Don’t look back.
Micah repeated the same three words in his head, over and over. His mantra. For Molly. He could do this for Molly. He had to.
Body drenched in sweat, stomach clenching, he’d already puked into a gutter once since leaving the German’s grubby apartment. It hadn’t helped. Left a bitter taste in his mouth. He needed water, but couldn’t spare the time to buy one. The scorching sun beat down on his head and shoulders, merciless. The head insufferable.
Don’t look back.
No point in looking back. How could he spot them even if they were following him. What would the evil bastards look like, anyway? So many people. All total strangers. They could be anywhere. Everywhere.
Don’t look back.
Despite the words and the intention, Micah glanced over his shoulder. Couldn’t help himself. The pull was too strong. Dozens, no, hundreds of people thronged the station’s concourse. Any one of them could be watching him drag his wheeled suitcase over the shiny tiles and into the station. Any one of them.
The elderly Frenchman leaning against the support column, sucking on the roll-up cigarette. Did he just sneer at Micah through half-closed eyes? No. The smoke had stung his eyes. The stinging blue smoke. Nothing more.
The station announcer’s garbled message boomed through the station, the echo and language making it unintelligible.
The woman in the headscarf. Did they call it a hijab? A burqa? Was she looking at him through those dark eyes? With most of her face hidden by the headgear, he couldn’t tell what she saw, what she thought, what she looked like. Couldn’t tell her intentions. Which was the whole point of the hijab-burqa. The woman bent, picked up a small child from a bench, and balanced him on her hip. Pulling her own wheeled case behind her like a small animal on a lead, she manoeuvred her way through the crowd, heading towards the platforms.
Micah swallowed. Definitely not. She wasn’t one of them.
What about the middle-aged couple in the loud clothes surrounded by suitcases? Were they paying him undue attention?
Stop it, Micah.
That’s what paranoia led to. Everyone became the enemy even if they were innocent.
Another passenger—a middle-aged man in a flowery shirt and blue, knee-length shorts—glanced away as Micah caught his eye. Suspicious or shy?
Pack it in. You’ll never know. You’ll never see them watching.
A family—father, mother, and two blonde-haired girls—bustled past on their way from the platforms towards the taxi rank he’d left behind him. The smaller of the girls dropped her doll and bawled as the family continued on their way, oblivious to the disaster. Mother turned, stopped the troop, picked up doll and daughter, and they continued on their way, catastrophe averted.
Micah gritted his teeth. Molly needed him to follow the instructions to the letter.
Don’t look back.
The handle of his case slipped in his sweaty fist. Could he go through with it? What had they slipped into his case? The sealed tin of talcum powder tucked in the toiletry bag amongst his T-shirts and his underwear looked innocuous enough, inconspicuous, but Micah knew better. Why go to all the trouble of coercing him into taking it for a simple tin of talc? No, it had to be more sinister than talc. In his fist, it seemed to weigh far more than the 500 grams the label claimed. Far more.
Drugs probably. Not that Micah would ever open it to find out. That much curiosity would lead to disaster. He had to act natural. Calm. Innocent.
How calm and innocent could he look when he was sweating so much? Micah caught sight of his reflection in the station’s grey windows. God, he looked rough. Creased shirt, hooded top with the zip at half mast, baggy shorts, trainers—no socks. Sunken, haunted eyes stared out from an unshaved face. His hair, dank and lifeless, screamed, “Look at me, I’m a drug smuggler!”
Pity’s sake, Micah! Pack it in.
He looked no worse than any of the hundreds of hot and weary travellers wandering through the concourse. Who could remain cool on such a scorching, steaming day? No. He didn’t stand out. He looked no more suspicious than anyone else.
Micah swallowed the rancid, viscous spit and breathed deep. He could do this. Molly needed him to be strong. She was depending on him.
You can do this.
He pulled back his shoulders and marched through the main entrance. There. Out of the burning sun and into the cool, shaded confines of the massive stone-and-tinted-glass building. Blinking against the gloom, he stood and shivered in his damp shirt. The shivering had little to do with the sudden drop in temperature.
Don’t look back.
Another distorted announcement boomed through the cool air. With precious little understanding of French, he had no idea what the woman had said. Hopeless.
The electronic arrivals and departures board stretched out overhead, displaying hundreds of names and a dozen platforms. So bloody confusing. Despite the vaulted roof, lack of litter, and missing graffiti, the place reminded him of every UK railway station he’d ever been through. It smelled of decades-old dust, concrete, and decay.
Micah reread the note the man with the scar over his eye had stuffed into his sweaty fist before dropping him off at the station. The note, half an A4 sheet printed on an inkjet, contained nothing but an address in London. How in the hell was he going to find his way to London from the depths of Toulouse? Eurostar or the cross-channel ferry? Which route would get him to London faster?
He searched the concourse area for a queue, and found one leading to a row of ticket machines. No signs of a ticket office or an information desk.
He’d have to wing it. How difficult could it be to buy a train ticket to England from France? He had no idea. Never done it before. He and Molly usually drove everywhere.
Micah joined the back of the fast-moving line and, after a wait where he did nothing but study his shuffling, dirt-encrusted trainers, eventually found himself in front of a modern electronic ticket machine. Mercifully, the welcome screen allowed him to select his preferred language and he tapped the area of the touch screen displaying the Union Flag in huge relief.
The process turned out to be far easier than he believed possible. Toulouse to London via Paris with a change at Paris Montparnasse to Gare du Nord, and then straight through to London’s St Pancras International. All being well, the eleven-hour journey—including transfers—meant he’d reach London by early evening, UK time.
A sliver of hope ran through him. Maybe he could do this.
Micah slid his bank card into the slot and dialled in his PIN. He didn’t even look at the cost of the one-way ticket. He’d have paid anything. He’d have paid the earth to save them. What good would all the money in the world do him if he lost Molly and … and … his whole world.
God. Don’t go there, Micah. Don’t go there.
The machine disgorged his ticket, a long, grey card with a detailed itinerary which included station names, platform numbers, and a QR code at the bottom.
He stepped away from the machine, read the ticket, and found the designated platform on the departures board. He had thirty minutes to kill.
No. Stop that.
Why use that word? He had thirty minutes to wait.
Wait, not kill.
The mobile phone vibrated in his jeans pocket. He fumbled it free and read the caller ID, Molly. The evil bastards were using his wife’s phone. Micah hit the green button and pressed the phone to his ear.
“Y-Yes?” he answered, his voice weak, terrified. He cleared his throat and repeated, “Yes?” This time he sounded stronger, more in control.
Control he didn’t feel.
“Well done, Micah,” Luc growled, his German accent thick, his voice a throaty rumble. “You now have your ticket and your travel itinerary. Your train awaits. Have a safe journey.”
The evil bastard did have people watching him.
Micah searched the concourse for anyone with a phone clamped to their ear. Couldn’t help himself. Hundreds of passengers filled the station, many walked head down, concentrating on their phones rather than looking where they were going. Travellers sitting on benches or seated outside concession stalls also worked their mobile phones. None of them seemed to be looking in Micah’s direction.
“Do not bother looking, Micah,” Luc growled. “You will not find us. What time do you reach London?”
Luc didn’t know. He hadn’t been close enough to read the ticket machine. It meant he could be watching from anywhere in the station. Or someone else could be watching and relaying Micah’s movements to him. It was hopeless.
“What time!” Luc repeated, increasing his volume to a near-shout.
Micah consulted the ticket and gave Luc his answer.
“Very good. My people will be waiting for you at the address in London,” Luc said, reverting to his usual deep growl. “Do not keep them waiting. You know the consequences.”
Micah took a breath. He had to take the risk.
“Will you let me speak to my wife?” Micah begged.
A deep rumble coughed down the phone line. Luc’s version of a laugh. A heavy smoker’s laugh.
“Say please,” the evil bastard demanded.
“Please,” Micah snapped. “I need to know she’s okay.”
“Very well, Micah. Since you asked so nicely. Wait.”
The ensuing drawn-out silence cut thin slices through Micah’s heart. All around him, the station bustled with normal life. A train’s horn tooted its arrival, brakes screeched, and metal wheels clanked.
“Micah?” Molly asked, her voice timid, tearful.
Micah fought back his tears of fear and rage. He had to stay strong. Strong for Molly. Strong for them both.
“Yes, love. Are you okay?”
“I-I am.” She didn’t sound it.
“Have they hurt you?”
“No, no,” she said, rushing the words. “They haven’t touched me, but …” Her words trailed into silence.
“But? What is it, love? What are they doing?”
“They’re saying things. Horrible things. Threatening me. Threatening us.” She broke down, her cries shredding Micah’s innards.
“Stay strong, Molly. I can do this.”
“Do as they say, Micah,” Molly cried. “Please do what they say. And you must trust in the Lord. Remember that. We need to place our trust in God. He will see us through this. Pray to him. It’s what Dad would have done.”
Trust in God? Where’s God in this?
“I will, love. I will. Be strong. I love you so much.”
Her words cut off mid-sentence and she yelped.
“That is enough,” Luc said, seething menace. “You have your instructions. Carry them out and we will reunite you with your wife. Fail us and she dies. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, yes,” Micah said, desperately trying not to scream the words. “I’ll do everything you say, but please don’t hurt her.”
The phone clicked and an ominous silence boomed through Micah’s head.
“Hello?” he shouted. “Hello!”
Micah pulled the mobile from his ear and stared at the blank screen. He wanted nothing more than to redial the number and talk to Molly again, to hear her voice, to comfort her. But he couldn’t risk it. No telling what Luc would do to her if he did call. While Luc held Molly, Micah was powerless. He could do nothing but follow their instructions and pray for a miracle.
Fat bloody chance.
Trust in God? Where the hell had that come from? Molly didn’t even go to church, not since her dad’s funeral.
Micah raised his head to the vaulted roof, desperate to hold back the tears that threatened to roll down his cheeks.
They’d probably kill Molly the moment he’d completed his task—assuming he made it through customs without being searched and caught. They’d probably kill him, too. Once he’d delivered the package he’d be of no further use to them, and neither would Molly. What would stop them? Nothing.
They would die, but what choice did he have?
He couldn’t go to the police. Not a chance. Luc said they had the local police in their pockets. A lie, probably, but Micah couldn’t take the risk. He knew nothing about the French police, except that they were routinely armed. The gendarmes he’d seen swaggered around the country, confident and superior. Nothing like the good old British Bobby.
Something tapped his shoulder. He jumped and jerked around, heart in his throat. A short, sixty-something woman looked up at him, concern written over her deeply tanned and heavily wrinkled face. She said something he couldn’t understand.
“Excuse me?” he gasped.
“Ah,” she said, smiling. “You are English?”
He nodded, swiping the tears from his eyes.
“Are you okay, monsieur?”
Micah nodded. “It’s just that I hate saying goodbye.”
The old dear smiled. “Ah oui, je suis d’accord. I understand, monsieur. But do as you are told, and all will be well. Molly will be returned to you.” She dropped the smile and stared pointedly at him. Then she turned and strolled away before he could respond.
One of them.
Micah nearly collapsed.