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Not Allowed To Die

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Max Winter’s classic BMW hummed along the road back towards Palma. He and Miranda Blake had just completed a long afternoon’s work on their new case. A German billionaire whose gated mansion overlooked the sea near Porto Cristo had reported the pilfering of antiques and valuables from his home. Expensive items had been disappearing, one at a time, for several months, and the German billionaire suspected that one of his staff was responsible.   Max and Miranda had duly taken details of the stolen items, inspected the locations from which they had gone missing and interviewed sundry members of the billionaire’s staff. They had noticed that the housekeeper had the same unusual surname as a well-known local petty crook and they were planning to look into any possible connections.  

In the late afternoon Max had started complaining of hunger and trying to wrap up interviews more quickly. At the same time, Miranda had had enough of being told how to do her job by the complaining, charmless billionaire. Rather than argue with Max, she had been ready to agree to his suggestion that the next part of the investigation could wait until tomorrow. Once he knew that they were heading home and that his evening meal would be coming soon, Max had quickly cheered up. He was playing upbeat music and talking about food as they sped away from Porto Cristo.

“Christian says that new fusion restaurant near my place is amazing,” he enthused.

“Fusion isn’t even an actual cuisine,” Miranda said sceptically. “A fusion restaurant is just one that can’t make up its mind about what it wants to be.”

“Not at all, they have adventurous chefs who dare to mix flavours and cultures,” Max insisted. “You should open your mind, Miranda, and give something new a try. I’m thinking of going there tonight, want to come?”

“No thanks, I’m busy tonight.”

“Doing what? Your laundry? Rearranging your wardrobe in alphabetical order? Feeding the stray dog you don’t even like?”

Apart from an indignant glare and compressed lips, Miranda refused to rise to this provocation.

“Well, enjoy your busy evening,” Max continued, when he didn’t get an answer. “Think of me enjoying a delicious meal, and -“

He was interrupted by a crackle from the police radio, which was tucked into a car pocket in front of Miranda. “Calling all mobile units, any units in the vicinity of the 4020 road near Manacor please respond.”

Max and Miranda exchanged a startled glance, and Miranda reached for the radio. After muting Max’s cheerful CD, she pressed the police radio’s transmit button. “This is Detective Blake. Detective Winter and I are right here on the 4020; we’ve just left Porto Cristo going in the direction of Manacor.”

“Thank you for responding, Detective. A uniformed team have requested assistance. They were making an arrest of some suspected drug dealers who escaped from them. The suspects were last seen driving towards Porto Cristo approximately ten minutes ago. They must be heading right for you. Uniform are in pursuit, but some way back. They have lost visual contact with the suspects.”

“Can you describe the car, please?”

“Silver Audi, two men inside, damage to driver’s side headlight, registration ends with YRH. There’s a possibility one man may be armed.”

“We’ll watch out for them.”

“Thank you, Detective. Will advise Uniform you are in the area.”

Max looked at the few cars which were passing them in the opposite direction. “This is going to make us really late for dinner,” he complained.

It was only a minute later that Miranda said, “There – look!” Coming towards them, at a noticeably high speed, was a silver Audi. As it approached, they could see the damage to the headlight. “YRH, two men,” said Miranda, as the car sped past. “That’s them.”

The road happened to be clear of all other traffic at that moment, allowing Max to swing the BMW into a swift U-turn. He pressed his foot down on the accelerator and set off in pursuit of the Audi.  Miranda got back on the radio.

“Detective Blake here. We have a visual on the silver Audi, two men inside, registration ending in YRH. Now in pursuit of them, heading towards Porto Cristo on the 4020.”

They followed the silver Audi as it sped down the road ahead, rapidly approaching the big roundabout on the outskirts of Porto Cristo. The driver of the Audi went into the roundabout a little too fast and took a sharp right, tyres squealing, avoiding the town and turning onto a long straight stretch of road which ran parallel to the coast. Max swung the steering wheel of the BMW round, negotiated the roundabout and increased speed again to catch up with the Audi. Miranda was hanging on to the side of the car with one hand and holding the radio with the other to give brief radio updates on their location.

On this straight road both cars could really accelerate. The Audi swerved dangerously to overtake a truck. Max waited for a gap in the traffic, got past the truck and set off in pursuit again. Miranda saw the Audi’s passenger turn to look at the BMW. “He’s seen us,” she said.

“Yes. Stick the light on.” Miranda reached for the blue light they hardly ever used, pulled it out, leaned forward around the windscreen to stick the magnetic light onto the bonnet in front of her and switched it on. The blue light began to flash, confirming to the Audi’s occupants that they were being followed by an unmarked police car.

“They’re not stopping.” At the sight of the flashing light, the Audi’s driver had accelerated still more.

“Scheisse.”

“At least they’re not shooting at us. Maybe they’re not armed after all?”

The road had curved around towards the coast and in the distance they could see the shimmering blue of the Balearic Sea and a cluster of seafront homes and apartments. A smaller roundabout was ahead. The Audi checked its speed before heading straight across, with the BMW close behind it.

“He doesn’t know where he’s going,” said Miranda. “He’s just going to get stuck in all those streets of houses down by Cala Magrana.”

“Maybe they’re planning to dump the car and run for it.” All Max’s concentration was on the road ahead.

The road had split into a network of residential streets – red-roofed villas, apartments, gardens, parked cars and a few residents turning to look curiously at the two cars travelling so fast. The Audi rounded another corner into a dead-end street and screeched to a halt. At the end of the street, a footpath led down towards a rocky cove and the blue, blue sea. As the Audi’s occupants jumped from the car and sprinted for the footpath, Max slammed on his brakes and Miranda threw open her door.

“They’re out of the car, on foot heading down towards the cove. We’re in pursuit,” she shouted into the radio, as Max snatched his keys from the ignition, jumped from the car and ran.

“Received. Thank you, Detective. Uniform should be with you very soon – two teams on their way.”

There was no sight or sound of the uniformed police yet as Miranda dropped the radio and raced after Max.

If the suspects had been hoping to get away by running along the beach, they had made a terrible mistake. Sloping slabs of rock scattered with pebbles led down to the water and huge boulders lined the way on each side. There was no sandy beach here. The only way to escape was to slither across the stones to the water’s edge and try to clamber over the large rocks which lined the coast. One of the men from the Audi had reached the shoreline, turned right and was desperately slipping and sliding over the rocks in an attempt to climb round to the next cove. Max, pebbles flying under his feet, was gaining on him fast.

“Palma police! Stop!”

The second man seemed to have disappeared. Miranda paused and looked around, but could not see him. Was he further ahead? Had he already made it along the rocks and around the corner, out of her sight? She hurried forward again, trying to catch up with Max and the man he had almost reached. At last, she could hear the sound of police sirens growing louder behind her. They would soon have plenty of backup in the pursuit of the suspects.

It was at that moment she saw the second man. He must have got ahead, and dodged behind one of the huge boulders on the right-hand side, near the water’s edge. As Max ran past that boulder, the man stepped out suddenly behind him. Before she could react, Miranda saw a handgun extended and heard the shot. Not the sharp crack of a small pistol, but the deep boom of a much larger-calibre weapon. The sound echoed off the rocks in all directions.

As if in slow motion, her warning shout barely on her lips, Miranda saw Max stopped and spun around by the force of the bullet hitting him in the back. He did not make a sound or raise a hand before he went down. A brief expression of surprise crossed his face as he crumpled and fell forwards, his head striking the rocks beneath him.

“Max!”

The man who had shot Max must have heard Miranda cry out, because he whipped round and saw her behind him. He raised the gun again, but this time Miranda was faster. A wave of white-hot fury and shock surged through her, but her trained instinct kicked in. She pulled her own gun from its holster and fired into the shoulder of the man who had shot Max. His weapon flew from his hand and clattered away among the rocks, while he screamed and wrapped his injured arm around his torso in agony.

The sounds of shouts and running feet scattering the pebbles nearby alerted Miranda to the uniformed police units who had finally arrived. Four Spanish officers skidded to a horrified halt beside her as they took in the scene – Miranda ashen and aghast with the gun in her hand, the shooter writhing in pain on the ground beyond her and, another few metres further away, Max face-down, unmoving, with a horrible red stain spreading fast across the back of his shirt.

Miranda let her Spanish colleagues take custody of the shooter, grab his weapon, chase the other suspect over the rocks and make urgent calls for more backup and an ambulance. She had sprung into action, holstering her gun automatically before flying across the stones towards Max, throwing herself down on her knees, feeling for a pulse in his neck and calling his name.

“Max! Max! It’s okay - the ambulance is coming, Max – can you hear me?”

There was a faint, thready pulse in his sun-browned neck. His breaths were fast and shallow - the breaths of someone losing blood, going into shock, gasping for oxygen. He was unconscious and his lips were becoming blue-tinged. More blood was pooling on the stones below the wound on his head.

Miranda felt a hand on her shoulder. It was a young uniformed officer she knew was called Mateo. “Better not to move him – the ambulancia will be here soon. But we can try to stop the bleeding – here –“ He pulled off his light jacket and held it out to Miranda.   His partner was already running back to their vehicle for the first aid kit, to find some dressings or bandages or anything they could press on to that awful wound to try to staunch the blood. The warm blood which kept welling up through Miranda’s numb fingers as she pressed the fabric of Mateo’s jacket down on to Max’s back with all the strength she could still summon.

It felt like a year, but was in fact less than ten minutes, before they heard the wailing siren of the approaching ambulance.

***