They ran until they came to Deansgate again, then stopped to catch their breath.
Here, there was no hint of the carnage going on up the street. Traffic was thinner here, down from the mass of congestion earlier. No-one in any of those cars could possibly know what was happening, or they would be turning around, peeling out and speeding off.
Tom looked back up the boulevard they had rushed down. There were no other figures on it. He could see almost all the way back to the square, the last few feet obscured by trees. Nothing could be hiding behind those trees, he reasoned. But he bent down to have a look from a lower angle, just in case.
The girl who had joined them was looking up and down the street, along with Danielle. She was still wearing just her bra and a pair of jeans over big boots that had spots and blobs of blood on them. Tom shrugged out of his jacket and tapped her on the shoulder with it.
The girl looked at the jacket, not sure what she was supposed to do with it. Realisation dawned on her after a moment, and she took it with a little nod. “Thanks. My name’s Siobhan. Who are you?”
“I’m Tom, this is Danielle.”
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know yet. Where do you live?”
“There!” Danielle shouted. Tom and Siobhan turned to see her pointing. She was indicating a car coming down Deansgate at over the speed limit.
The big black Bentley raced past, the rapid explosions in its twelve cylinders merging into an angry roar. There was no doubting it was the car they had been chasing earlier and, as they had hoped, it was returning to the city centre.
“We’ve got to see where they go!” Danielle shouted. “Warn Terry about the things on the loose.” She set off after the car at a run.
Siobhan looked at Tom. “Really?”
“Best we stick together.” he said, setting off after Danielle.
There was no way they had a realistic chance of catching the vehicle up, but they ran after it anyway. Their prospects looked better when it slowed and pulled up behind another pair of cars at the lights for the junction.
Danielle pushed herself harder, until a squeal of tyres on tarmac from the junction up ahead made her stop. A car had just pirouetted across the junction, trying to change direction as it accelerated away from the carnage on the square. It had hit something, and was reversing to get around the obstruction. Just after it sped off, another car raced across the junction.
Tom and Siobhan had cough Danielle up and stood with her to watch the cars. Before they could set off toward the Bentley again, it accelerated hard. The rear wheels spun for a moment, trying to transfer more power than the grip of the tyres could handle, and it left short parallel lines of rubber on the street. It jigged out past the queue in front of it, then turned hard up the street the two cars had been fleeing.
“Shit! We’ll lose him.” Danielle sprinted off again.
“Lose who?” Siobhan asked as she and Tom tried to keep up.
They rounded the corner, and saw the effect of the bus crash and carnage from a different angle. Cars were backed up behind the accident, some trying to reverse, others abandoned as their drivers and passengers had got out to help. A van, part way through turning round, blocked the street. The Bentley had tried to pass it, and there had been a collision.
As they drew closer, the big black car squeezed past the van, scraping on its bodywork and the tall kerb, and headed down a side street. The van reversed a short way, then headed after it.
There was a crash of metal on metal. Then another, louder this time. They kept arriving at the scenes of accidents just after they had happened.
The Bentley was nowhere to be seen, but the van had driven down a ramp heading off the street. When they were close enough, they could see that it had hit shutter doors that hadn’t lifted completely. Beyond the doors, there was a delivery bay or garage. There was nowhere else the Bentley could have gone.
Its collision had left the van skewed across the concrete of the ramp. At the front, the passenger side was jammed up against the wall, whilst the rear had swung out and hit the wall on the driver’s side. Using the van body and the wall for leverage, it was possible to scramble up to where the gap was wide enough to get through. Danielle was already on the other side by the time Tom and Siobhan caught up with her.
“I don’t know about this.” Siobhan eyed the gap, and the view through the part opened gate. The sound of screams from behind them changed her mind, and she used the rear bumper to boost herself through the gap.
Tom lifted himself up using the railings at the edge of the wall. When he was in the gap, he turned to look back to the street. There was no sign of the crazed creatures he now thought of as zombies. Then, a black cab reversed down the street, two of the once human creatures hanging off its bonnet. He jumped down into the gap between the van and the wall.
Danielle and Siobhan had opened the driver’s door, and were trying to get him out. Siobhan was reaching across him, trying to get to the seat belt release, as he came round.
“Get off me! Get the fuck off me!” He tried to hit her, but the first blow was swallowed up by the half inflated airbag drooping from the steering wheel. Danielle grabbed his hand as it raised for a second blow, and they struggled. “We’re just trying to help.”
“Get off!” the driver pushed Danielle back. She would have stumbled and fallen, if the wall hadn’t caught her. Then he landed a weak blow on Siobhan’s shoulder as she wriggled out of the cab and landed on her backside on the ground.
“Fuck you then!” Siobhan found the edge of the door, and slammed it shut hard. She scrambled backwards, pulling herself to her feet as she went.
Danielle shook off the daze of hitting the wall, and glanced through the gate. She saw the rear of the Bentley, and beckoned the other two to follow her.
The van door was opening again. Siobhan slapped the window, and it pulled closed quickly. She and Tom followed Danielle into the underground space.
The garage was well lit. Once they were inside, they found it brighter than the street lights outside. The Bentley was directly across from the gate, nose up where it had collided with a row of motorcycles and one had lodged under it. The driver’s door, and the rear passenger side door, were open. The interior lights let them see, even through the darkened glass, that the inside was empty.
There were two others in the garage. A tall, slim, pale skinned woman, and a short, pinch faced man were beside the brushed steel frame and door of a lift. They were both dressed as if for a fancy formal event, though the man’s single breasted suit had a hint of chauffeur about it. What they were doing didn’t register for a moment. The woman had the man by the neck, and appeared to be throttling him after lifting him off the ground and pressing him against the concrete wall.
Terry wasn’t with them.
Danielle took half a step forward, then faltered. Siobhan voiced what they were all thinking about the new strangeness they had walked in on. “What the fuck is this?”