Terrorists threaten to nuke London.
Jake Armstrong believes Becky Rackley is the recipient of his wife’s donated heart. She goes through the same thought process, but neither tells the other. She’s a secret agent for MI5, working on anti-terrorism. He’s an investigator for an insurance company, specialising in the theft of valuable works of art.
When a terrorist organisation threaten to blow up London with a dirty nuclear bomb unless their demands are met, and Jake tells Becky he’s going to Moscow to hunt for a stolen painting, she thinks his trip could lead to the whereabouts of the nuclear missile launch pads. She wires him up with a tracking device – without his permission or knowledge – and keeps track of his movements from London.
The plan goes badly wrong. Jake is captured, left to die in a damp, cold shed in Moscow, and the terrorists issue an ultimatum: they’ll nuke London in seven days unless their demands are met.
The clock starts to tick. London’s evacuated, and Becky flies to Moscow in an attempt to avert a world catastrophe and find Jake, dead or alive.
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The Beginning of September
‘Skinny latte,’ Jake said, barely a second before he heard the explosion. He turned to see where it had come
from, and a second blast blew him off his feet. He was in Starbucks, Leicester Square. The plate-glass windows
shattered, people screamed, parts of the ceiling caved in, and jagged, lumps of timber and brick flew through
the air. Tables and chairs smashed into each other and lay broken and upended. The injured moaned, and cried
out. Bodies were everywhere. Jake ended up facedown on the floor, pinned against the serving counter where
the force from the blast had left him.
He was brought to consciousness, seconds later, by the sound of ambulance sirens and the wailing of the police
cars. He lay still, with his eyes closed, and waited for a surge of pain. When it didn’t come, he opened first one
eye, then the other, and flicked dust and debris from his eyelids. He gasped. He could make out the blurred
outline of people moving slowly, but with purpose, through the swirling detritus that filled the air. Now and
again, they’d stop and lean down, and tend to a person who lay on the floor. Jake became aware of sounds he
hadn’t heard before. After a bit, he realised the sounds were of people in pain and distress. Some were yelling
for help, some were screaming in agony, some just crying from shock, and some, he guessed, were dying.
He thought immediately about Jodie. ‘Oh my God,’ he shouted. ‘I must find her.’ He struggled to his feet, and
started to weave his way through the carnage and destruction that lay before him. He started to tremble and
shake, and felt sick. He stopped and stood still, and stared into space.
Should I stay and help? he wondered, and then thought again about Jodie. He’d been due to meet her. A
medic, trying to reach someone lying nearby, pushed him to one side. Other paramedics with stretchers passed
in front of him, stepping carefully around and over inert bodies.
Jake blanked out the terrible scene: the many people who lay still and lifeless, the broken and twisted chairs,
the gaping holes in the walls and ceiling where sharp, twisted, metal girders protruded in an eerie manner. He
waded through the millions of shards of glass, tried to not to step on the bloodstained floor, and made for the
door. He was driven by one thought: his concern for his wife, Jodie.
He emerged from Starbucks, and tried to head off down the east side of Leicester Square, towards Capital
Radio, where Jodie worked. He couldn’t. Police had blocked the way. He ran up to a barricade. ‘Please, I need
to get through. My wife may be in that building,’ he pleaded with the group of police who had stopped access.
He didn’t hear their reply. He’d caught sight of the building that housed Capital Radio. The façade was gone,
leaving a gaping hole that stretched from the ground to the top of the building. Steel rods and iron girders,
twisted and distorted, stuck out into the open air, with lumps of broken masonry randomly attached.
Most of the floors had collapsed. Here and there, part of an office hung eerily in the air, with a few of its chairs
and desks still intact. Firefighters, perched on the ends of elevated ladders, shouted to their colleagues inside
the remains of the building. Ambulances queued like taxis. Once loaded up, they raced off, with their sirens
blaring, to make room for another. Several large tents stood on the south side of the square. Jake watched as
medics carried stretchers with wounded people into the tents. Some stretchers were covered and taken to
different areas. He shuddered and staggered back to a lamppost, and grabbed hold of it. He slid down it, until
he sat on the ground.
Who could have survived? he asked himself, put his hands up to his face, and started to cry. For some time, he
let his shock and despair consume him, until the sight of his shirtsleeve, wet and filthy-dirty from wiping his
tears, kick-started him into action. He had to find Jodie.
‘How do I find out about my wife?’ he spluttered to one of the police officers. ‘She worked in that building.’
‘I’m sorry, sir.’ The policeman put his arm around Jake’s shoulder. ‘I can’t let you through, it’s too dangerous.’
He pulled out his notepad, and scribbled a number on a sheet of paper.
‘That’s the helpline number. Try that. They may be able to give you some information.’
‘Thanks,’ Jake said, and kept his lips closed tight, while he turned away.
The policeman reached forward and patted Jake on the shoulder. ‘Good luck, sir. I hope she’s okay.’