Anthea ought to have seen him coming; she was staring into a shop window, and if she had been paying attention, she would have seen his reflection. But the afternoon was crisp and cool, her Blackberry was tucked away in her pocket, and she had been thoroughly seduced by a display of designer trench coats. And then, because she apparently had the sort of life where she might be taken hostage if she let her guard down for a moment, a gun was pressed into her back and a strange man was standing behind her.
“Get into the car.”
The voice was rough and low but tinged with amusement. She barely had to ask who it was.
He leaned in so closely that she could feel his breath on her neck. “In the flesh,” he whispered into her ear.
She studied their reflection in the shop window. His arm snaked around her waist. To the outside world, they must have looked like lovers. She cocked her head slightly.
“Doing your own dirty work?” she asked. She hadn't imagined him for the type. “Has something happened to your criminal network?”
“You know what they sa-aaaaaaaaaaay. If you want it done right...”
His sing-song voice was unnervingly loud. Passersby turned to stare.
“Call for help,” he whispered. “I dare you.”
Anthea shook her head, a smile playing at the edge of her lips.
“You'd like that, wouldn't you? To show me that I'm powerless.”
It wasn't really a question.
“I know you're afraid,” he said.
It was true. Her heart was beating wildly. She imagined he could see the pulse jumping in her neck. Afraid and powerless were hardly the same thing, though she wouldn't tell him that. She allowed herself to be pushed toward a black car waiting at the end of the block.
Of course, she knew how to get away. She could bring her heel down hard on his instep, slam her elbow into his solar plexus, and run. She doubted he would shoot her; hostages were not particularly valuable dead. Only, if she escaped, he would escape too, and she simply would not allow that. She had devoted far too much of her time and energy to tracking him, and she had no intention of starting over again.
There was a crack in the pavement, and she decided to trip on it to buy herself more time to think. Moriarty's hand closed around her elbow and yanked her up before she could fall very far.
“Are you alright?” he asked, faking concern for the people in the street. In her ear, he whispered, “Did you really think that would work?”
“No. But a girl has to try.”
Better he think her desperate.
“Am I bait for Mycroft Holmes?” she asked conversationally. She already knew the answer. Neither she nor Mr. Holmes imagined that Moriarty would forgive his interference at the swimming pool, and Sherlock Holmes could not be destroyed while his elder brother lived.
“Think he'll come for you?” Moriarty asked.
She wasn't going to give him the chance. Anthea was no one's bait.
They were standing in front of the car door now, and she opened it obediently. Then she turned to look at Moriarty for the first time.
“Make me,” she said, gesturing at the interior of the car.
He shoved hard on the small of her back, and she fell forward faster than she had expected. But not so fast that she couldn't hook one of her legs around one of Moriarty's. He hadn't been expecting it, and her momentum carried him down on top of her.
“Go!” he shouted at the driver, but the door was still open, and when he reached to close it, she slammed the heel of her hand into his nose. Blood spurted, and he jammed the gun against her head. She lay flat against the car seat, still and obedient once more.
“You'll have to close that door,” she said. The car was moving, but not very quickly, and she imagined it was rather conspicuous. Getting on the motorway was out of the question.
“You oughtn't have taken me in broad daylight,” she added. “This would have been much easier if you had taken me from my flat in the middle of the night.” It had been a statement, she knew. Snatch her off a busy street just to show Mr. Holmes that he could. She did not care for the arrogance, or for the assumption that she was a pawn in his game with the Holmes brothers.
“Easier, but not nearly as interesting.” His eyes flicked momentarily to the driver. “Cover me.”
“Mr. Holmes won't come for my body, you know.”
He was too practical for that; he would wait until he had plotted a perfect – and deadly – revenge. In any case, the driver couldn't take his eyes off the road long enough to watch her. The threat depended on her lying still in the seat simply because there was a gun pointed at her head.
Moriarty lunged for the car door, and Anthea kicked him hard in the ribs with the heel of her boot. One more kick and he was out the door, gun flying out of his hand. She flung herself out of the car on top of him; his head hit the pavement with a crack. A bullet whizzed past her shoulder. Moriarty's gun lay centimeters from his outstretched hand, and his fingers groped toward it, but Anthea jammed her knee into his solar plexus and snatched the gun from the pavement before he could reach it.
“Shoot me and he's dead!” she shouted to the driver.
Police were running toward them now, whistles blasting, and Anthea smiled before she brought the butt of the gun down hard on his temple.
“I'm no one's bait,” she said.