The third novel by Wanstead’s own Anya Lipska, A Devil Under the Skin, is being published today. Wansteadium is delighted to offer this exclusive extract. (Contains strong language.)
PC Natalie Kershaw gripped the wheel as she steered the armed response vehicle around the Green Man roundabout, the scream of the two-tone scything a path through the rush hour traffic.
â€˜Third exit. Left, left,â€™ said Matt from the passenger seat, sending her a grin. She smiled back, breathing fast, her pulse marking a purposeful beat, yet feeling totally focused. This was what sheâ€™d spent eight weeks training for, and from what theyâ€™d been told about the shout, it was no false alarm this time â€“ no kid poking a toy gun out of his bedroom window. Her brain noted the comforting cocoon of the body armour flattening her breasts, forcing her to sit upright, and the reassuring pressure of the Glock in its pancake holster against her thigh.
She felt â€¦ safe.
â€˜Itâ€™s the Maccy Dâ€™s on Leytonstone High Street, right?â€™ she asked, her voice sounding to her ears as tight and high as the engine of the BMW. She knew where they were going, obviously, but saying it out loud made it feel more real.
The gravelled voice of the Silver Commander came over the radio: â€˜Control room to Trojan 3. Latest we have is the suspect is in the toilets. Staff have been instructed to stay clear.â€™
The Sarge leaned in from the back seat, his face impassive. â€˜Pull up beyond the curry house, Natalie,â€™ he said, as calmly as if they were about to pop in for a biryani. A restless knot of rubberneckers had gathered on the pavement outside the McDonaldâ€™s. â€˜No borough uniforms,â€™ he noted, with just the ghost of a sigh. â€˜Natalie, you cover the front exit and manage the MOPs, okay?â€™ Although still conversational, his tone brooked no objection.
â€˜Sarge.â€™ She knew her place in the trio: she was the newbie, just a couple of months out of firearms training â€“ still learning the ropes. No problem.
Matt and the Sarge approached the glass door of the McDonaldâ€™s at a crabbing run, cradling their weapons, while Kershaw radioed in an update. After signing off, she left the ARV and took a few steps towards the onlookers. â€˜Armed police!â€™ she shouted, one hand on the MP5 carbine slung from her shoulder, the other gesturing south down the high street. â€˜Move away now!â€™
Most of them scurried off sharpish, either at her tone or the sight of the gun. But one guy stood his ground, ignoring her. â€˜Whatâ€™s going on?â€™ he asked in that â€˜I know my rightsâ€™ tone that always made her heart sink.
She threw a look back at the Maccy Dâ€™s â€“ wondering if the boys had immobilised the suspect yet. Where the fuck were the local uniforms?
â€˜Sir, will you just â€¦â€™ She didnâ€™t finish the sentence. Registered instead the sudden widening of his eyes, fixed over her shoulder. Heard the Sarge bellow â€˜Natalie!â€™ His voice not cool any more.
She spun round. In the car park, jogging towards her from behind a parked van was a young guy. Not very big or threatening to look at. Mousy, you might call him. Except for the thing he whirled in a great flashing arc out to one side. Something that made a rushing noise as it carved a passage through the air.
A giant samurai sword.
A Devil Under the Skin is published by the Friday Project/HarperCollins, and is available from the Newham Bookshop, Foyles at Stratford and from Amazon, who have it as a paperback and as an audiobook.
*Anya is offering a free signed copy to a Wansteadium reader. Email your name to firstname.lastname@example.org – the winner will be chosen at random.