David sat in First Class his eyes darting around. He knew the twins were on the train but that they wouldn't do anything until it arrived in London. At High Wycombe he toyed with the idea of jumping off the train at the last minute but he knew one of them would just wait for him and the other would have a head start that would be impossible to assail. He looked at the text message 'I'll be waiting by the tube entrance in a light green top'. He hoped he could trust her, but using total strangers seemed to be the only way the twins and their network could be beaten. It had been five years and they were still very much at the top of their game. Could this year be David's year?
As the train pulled into the station he hung out of the window and pulled the handle to release the door. The train was still slowing as he jumped, stumbled and then started to run. As he got to the end of the platform he nervously glanced behind, vaulted the turnstile and continued to run.
There were shouts from the platform attendants and Clare noticed the two men chasing him from the train. They were tall and wearing badly cut business suits. They looked like twins but then don't all city slickers these days? It was however less usual to see two of them chasing a third through Marylebone Station on a busy Monday morning. The first man passed by, stopped at the left luggage lockers and pushed a carrier bag into one of the lockers before rushing on. Suddenly a transport policeman appeared from nowhere and tried to block David's way. He stopped and started looking around him; he spotted Clare and rushed back to her. He grabbed her around the waist and kissed her passionately. He forced her mouth open with his tongue and the kiss lingered for longer than was probably safe for him. Suddenly there was shouting and they were bustled, the policeman grabbed David pulling him away. The man looked relived as the two pursuers were still struggling to get through the turnstiles and he was now safely in the arms of the law. The two chaser ran passed Clare but when the saw their prey they slowed down, looked at the ground, then at each other and slunk down into the underground station.
Clare carefully held her handkerchief to her mouth and spat out the small key. She hoped he wasn’t in too much trouble, but for now she had the key and the next task was hers to complete.
She rushed out of Marylebone station down towards Baker Street. She knew at rush hour this would be quicker than trying to get on a tube train at Marylebone. Once she got there she bought her day travel card and quickly rushed through the turnstiles heading for the escalators, faltering only slightly, her fear of escalators holding her back for a second, her excitement of the task in hand pushing her forward. Once she was down on the platform she jumped onto the first south bound jubilee line train and pushed her way to the only available seat. She knew once they found out David no longer had the key they would make the connection and be after her quickly. Hopefully the fact he was now in police custody would slow down the twins finding anything out, but you never knew. From what she had heard they had connections in some strange places. She looked around and tried to see if there was anyone she recognised or anyone who looked out of place. The main give away would be someone looking at her, no-one made eye contact on the tube, especially not at this time of day when the only travellers were commuters. At Green Park she waited until the very last minute and jumped from the train just as the doors were closing. She rushed to pick up the Victoria line train down to Stockwell and then took the Northern line to London Bridge. At London Bridge she jumped back onto the Jubilee line and headed out to North Greenwich. She knew that all this zigzagging was slowing her down but she had more than enough time and she needed to ensure they were not following her. Positive she was in the clear she exited the North Greenwich tube station and started walking over towards the Emirates Airline, the new range of cable cars that had been built especially for the London Olympics. This was the one place she was vulnerable. She was out in the open and she had a five minute walk to get to the cable car where they could easily see her.
She stopped in Costa and ordered a cappuccino. As she considered her next course of action, out of the window she saw one of the twins talking to a tall blonde woman. The woman was wearing an Emirates uniform and must have worked at the ticket booth, where Claire would need to go if she were to make it across. The twin wasn't looking at her and had probably not yet worked out that she had the key. Clare could just make out that he was showing the woman a photo on his mobile phone that must have been David. Just then he lifted the phone to his ear, the look on his face made it clear things had changed. He suddenly started shouting down the phone. With any luck they had not yet realised that she had been passed the key but she couldn't to be sure. She left her coffee on the table and headed towards the bathroom, just as the twin and his female companion walked in and sat down.
'We'll have to wait for the photo to come through,' the tall man muttered to his companion.
'How can we be sure that it will be correct?' The elegant woman asked.
'We have the technology to compare all his known associates with all the people in that station. It won't take long and we still have another two hours until the deadline.'
As Clare emerged from the toilet wearing sunglasses and a long floral scarf wrapped over her head, looking strangely conspicuous in her attempt to look inconspicuous, the twin's phone bleeped and both he and his partner stared intently at the screen.
'What do you mean they can't find her in the database?' he shouted into the mouth piece
'Calm down Johnny,' she gently placed a hand on his arm. 'We know what she looks like and I can keep an eye out at the ticket booth. Let's get over there now.'
Clare started to run as soon as she was out of sight of the Costa. As she approached the cable car she was relieved to see a large American lady and her tiny husband arguing with the ticket attendant. Clare rushed over to the self-service machine and purchased her one way ticket. She rushed up the stairs and jumped into the first car that came round. The couple already seated looked at her with disgust but she just waved her ticket at them, 'Spot check to ensure the booths are clean.' She quickly sat down and tried to ensure the couple were between her and any spying eyes that might be looking from the viewing platform.
Ten nervous minutes later she was off the cable car, rushing to get on the DLR and trying to remember the quickest way back to Monument. She carefully placed the cable car ticket in the see through plastic document wallet she had on a lanyard around her neck and settled down to wait for the train to trundle back into central London.
Once she arrived at the bottom of monument she couldn't believe the queue. It was 11am and she only had one hour left to finish her task. She rushed to the front of the queue but there was no way anyone was going to let her push in, no matter how French she tried to look. Just then a family came down the stairs and started to exit.
'Would you like your certificates?' The attendant asked.
'Oh yes please.' the mother of the group said, wanting the family to have something to remember their trip by.
'Oh Mum do we have to? I need to sit down,' A large red faced boy had obviously not enjoyed the walk up all 311 steps to the top of Monument.
'You can take them and fill them out at your leisure.'
The family filed out each taking a certificate as they went. Clare smiled and followed them. At the first cafe they passed the large boy, whose name appeared to be Simon, complained to such an extent that his mum gave in and took them inside for a sit down and a drink. Clare went inside and managed to grab the next table along, nearest to Simon.
'Pssst,' Clare tried to attract Simon's attention.
He turned and looked at her, opening his mouth to call his mother.
'Shush and you could make a tenner.' Clare said
He raised his eyebrows.
'I need your certificate.'
‘The one you just got from Monument.'
'I just do and if you give it to me I will give you a tenner.'
'No then.' He turned his back to her.
As his mother returned Simon was stuffing something into his pocket and the door was swinging shut behind Clare as she rushed out.
She started heading back towards the tube station and just in time spotted one of the twins queuing at the bottom of Monument. She darted in the opposite direction and headed over to Canon Street to avoid being spotted. She carefully placed the certificate in the clear plastic wallet and breathed a sigh of relief.
There was a long line of people standing facing the luggage lockers when the policeman walked David back into the station. He sheepishly stood there as the twins and five other couples all stood in a row.
'Right now David is here we can begin,' said a woman dressed in bright flowery clothes who sounded a little too jolly to face people who had been madly running over London for the last three hours.
She turned and faced a camera, 'So the final challenge is this years' scavenger hunt has now been completed and we shall see which team have won. As usual the items have to be inside the teams’ nominated locker before noon and we will now open them and check the details.'
'Kevin and Debbie are currently in last place so let's check their locker first.' The presenter took the key from them and opened the locker. She then took a ridiculous amount of time removing the items and displaying them for the camera. First a ticket to Blenheim Palace and a bookmark bearing the famous house's logo from the well-stocked gift shop, then an bus ticket to Thame, a train ticket from Thame to London, an all-day tube ticket and a ticket for the Emirates Airline. She then dramatically searched the locker and turned to face the camera with a look of sad disappointment.
'Well Kevin, Debbie not everything but that still gives you a good standing so far.'
'Thanks Kelly,' said Kevin. 'Unfortunately we just ran out of time.'
The theatrics were continued as each locker was opened and none of the other couples had the final item on the list.
'Finally we come to David and the Butler twins. Johnny, Steve, shall we start with you first?'
'Why not?' said Johnny smiling smugly.
'Now as we know,' Kelly addressed the camera head on, 'David and the Butler twins were neck and neck on the challenge after the last checkpoint. We have never had a tie break ...'
'I don't think we will this time,' interrupted Johnny
Kelly opened the locker and showed its contents to the camera.
'We're still missing that final item so if David has all items on the list he is the winner. If not the title goes to the twins for the sixth year running. David you key please.'
David looked at the policeman who had him in handcuffs and smiled. The policeman slowly undid one of the cuffs whilst David looked at all the faces in the crowd. David couldn't see her, he was done for. He started patting his pockets to try and waste some time.
'Come on David, no key, no win,' Kelly said.
Suddenly the crowds started to part and Clare pushed her way through. She deftly vaulted the barrier set up to keep the crowds back and rushed towards David. Steve Butler grabbed hold of her as she rushed passed him and wrestled her to the floor, but not before she had time to hurl something small and silver into the air. Whilst everyone was staring at the small woman on the floor being forcibly pinned down by the six feet tall twin, not the best image for a previous winner to display, David managed to step on the key were it had fallen. In the commotion as Clare was being dragged away he quickly bent down and popped it into his pocket.
'Right David, your key please,' Kelly said
David again felt through all his pockets before finally producing the key out of his back one.
'Let's see how you got on. First a ticket to Blenheim Palace and a bookmark bearing the famous house's logo from the well-stocked gift shop, then an bus ticket to Thame, a train ticket from Thame to London, an all-day tube ticket, a ticket for the Emirates Airline. Looks like it's a tie.'
The twins couldn't believe how David had done this, but the rules stated that if there was a tie and the previous years' winners were involved then the trophy stayed with them. A silly grin was just starting to appear on their faces when...
'Wait a minute, what's this,' the presenter turned to the camera and slowly lifted a role of paper from David's locker. 'I do believe it's a certificate to say you climbed to the top of Monument. Well done David, I don't know how you did it but you're this year's winner.'
David looked over at the Butler twins and smiled. The look of astonishment on their faces was worth more that the five thousand pound prize and the television exposure put together. As he stood in front of the cameras to accept his prize he saw Clare in the background, waving as she went through the turnstiles to catch her train home. Once on board she could count the two thousand pounds David had left in the locker for her to collect as she put the last three items needed for the scavenger hunt inside.