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Poor Table Manners by Steve Sheppard | Book 3 in the Lucy and Dawson Series

In which a woman gets a bloody nose, and a man falls off a roof


Table Mountain had always been on Dawson’s bucket list, but this was not how he had envisaged it.


He glanced across at Lucy and then back at the young couple pointing guns at them across the cable car. They were barely into their twenties and looked nervous. The guns were real enough though and the hands holding them steady enough. Dawson had originally taken the pair for tourists. He’d been surprised that there weren’t more passengers but it was only eight in the morning.


With two automatic pistols pointing in their direction and the cable car travelling slowly upwards through a thick mist, it was starting to look as though Dawson and Lucy might have to send their apologies for missing tomorrow’s meeting with Rebecca Erasmus of the South African State Security Agency. The thought gave Dawson an idea.


‘Excuse me, guys,’ he said cheerfully, holding up his phone. ‘Just got to make a call. We’ve a meeting booked and I’m guessing you might have other plans for us.’


The man grabbed for the phone. ‘Give me that,’ he snarled, but Dawson, who was a few inches the taller of the two, simply held it higher as the man came closer, gun beginning to waver away from Dawson as he did so. His female companion’s attention was momentarily distracted and it was a moment that Lucy barely needed. It had been months since she’d had the opportunity to practise any of the skills learnt in the MI6 dojo earlier in the year and she was more than ready for a bit of fisticuffs. Dawson had been counting on this.


The fight was over almost before it could be called a fight with their female assailant’s gun transferred to Lucy and the woman catapulted into her male companion, whose attention was split between Dawson’s mobile and Lucy’s unexpected assault. Unfortunately for him, when his colleague cannoned into him, he was already on tiptoe attempting to reach the phone. Equally unfortunately he was standing by a window which Dawson had pulled down to aid some photography he’d been attempting. With one hand holding his gun and the other now wrestling for the phone, the man was unable to prevent himself toppling through the open window. To assist, Dawson let go of his phone at peak-topple.


The man grabbed, despairingly but with surprising success – especially with the cable car rotating slowly through 360° – for the window sill and, displaying admirable gymnastic finesse, managed to swing himself up on to the roof before either Dawson or Lucy could react.


‘Watch her,’ Lucy said, tossing the woman’s gun to Dawson. Before he could stop her – which would have been an exercise doomed to failure in any case – Lucy had slithered out of the cable car window in pursuit. Dawson didn’t care to speculate exactly how far above ground they now were. 


‘She’s mad, your friend,’ mumbled the woman. She was slumped on the floor of the cable car, attempting to stem a heavily-bleeding nose with the fingers of both hands.


Up on the slowly turning roof, Lucy suddenly realised that her opponent, now with one arm wrapped around the stanchion linking the car to the overhead cable, still had his gun in the hand not wrapped around the stanchion, while she’d passed her own newly-acquired pistol to Dawson. Pos sibly I should have considered that, she thought, but too late now. She crouched at the edge of the roof, not daring to look over the side. She didn’t think she suffered from vertigo but glancing down might be pushing her luck. Luck: she could do with some now. Currently her options seemed to consist either of falling to her death with a bullet in her or falling to her death without a bullet in her.


When the shot came though, it didn’t come from the man in front of her, who was trying to steady himself against the jerky swaying of the cable car to get a clear shot at the crouching Lucy. Instead it came from beneath, and the bullet caught the man right between his splayed legs. Lucy winced. She’d always supposed that when a man got shot in the balls he’d scream. After all, she’d been informed (by men) that getting a knee in the bollocks was akin to the pain of childbirth, so a certain amount of screaming was to be expected when a bullet, rather than a knee, was involved. But there was nothing.


Just a look of complete surprise on the man’s face as he let go of the stanchion and disappeared silently over the side of the cable car into the mist.


‘Just skill,’ Dawson said immodestly, when Lucy had scrambled back inside the car and asked him how he’d managed to get such an accurate bead on the man through the thin but opaque steel of the roof.


She let that go. He deserved his moment and had just saved her life after all. ‘Thanks, lover,’ she said, kissing him on the cheek and retrieving the gun from his grasp at the same time. ‘I’d better take this. Now that you’re a cold-blooded killer it’d be dangerous for you to keep it.’ He didn’t demur. The cable car continued its slow progress up the side of the mountain. ‘Some bloody holiday.’ But she was smiling as she said it.


Dawson looked at her, not a blonde hair out of place after her expedition on to the roof.


‘I’ve lost my phone,’ he said.


‘Never mind; it was a rubbish phone. You must have had it about six years. Modern ones take colour photos, you know.’


She turned her attention to the bleeding woman on the floor, who looked stunned at the unexpected turn of events including the death of her colleague and the state of her nose. ‘Now then, who exactly are you and what gives you the right to ruin our holiday?’


The woman remained silent, glowering at Lucy through the blood. Dawson said, ‘You need to think about answering my partner’s questions. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.’


At that moment the car’s clanking signalled their arrival at the upper station of the cableway. ‘At least I can say I’ve been up Table Mountain,’ Dawson continued. ‘Even if it’s with a bloody-nosed gunwoman in tow and the death of a complete stranger on my conscience.’ They drew to a grinding halt. ‘What are we going to do with this one?’


Lucy was already pulling the woman to her feet. At least the bleeding was beginning to ease off. Lucy hadn’t hit her very hard. Definitely out of practice, she thought.


The automatic door slid open and they stepped out into the covered station, where two middle-aged cableway employees in bright green fleeces were staring open-mouthed at the three of them, focusing particularly on the gun in Lucy’s hand.


‘Hi, chaps,’ said Dawson, stepping forward and smiling at the two men. ‘You don’t by any chance have anywhere secure we could put this young lady for a couple of hours, do you?’


Lucy stared at him. ‘What are you talking about? We’re turning straight round and taking madam here to the police.’


‘I’m going nowhere until I’ve seen a dassie,’ said Dawson.


The brief exchange was all the distraction the woman needed. Previously diminished and well-beaten, she now turned and hared for the door, out on to the top of the mountain, pushing one of the cableway staff out of her way. Lucy spun round and raised her gun, but a staff member was between her and the door, and by the time she’d taken a step aside to get a clear shot, the woman had disappeared into the thick mist.

Poor Table Manners will be out on 17th April 2024

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