We had been mates since we could walk but this was the first time Dierdre had put a gun to my head.
“You could have just asked,” I said.
“Couldn’t chance it,” she said.
“What’s to chance?” I asked. “We’re best mates.”
“They’ve got Nigel,” she said.
“Let’s go,” I said.
She looked ridiculous, riding one-handed while trying to keep the gun level. I had it easy by comparison.
“What do they want?” I asked.
“They gave me this,” she said, waving the gun. “They said to bring you.”
“And sent you off on your bicycle?” I said. “What kind of people are these?”
“Bad people,” she said.
We parked outside a warehouse. She paused to lock up the bikes. I stared at her. “What?” she asked.
The woman inside the door held up an apple. “Oh,” I said.
“Jetpacks,” she said. “Fifteen years in development. Production line right here in Yeovil. Twenty-three hundred workers in Somerset alone. And now this?” She shook the apple.
“This is how you do business?” I said. “Kidnapping? Extortion? I’m an orchardman!”
“Orchardman?” She spat on the concrete.
“I live in a tent in my front garden,” I said. “I ride a Royal York with dodgy brakes. I’m not much of a threat.”
“I bought this in Taunton High Street for fifty pence,” she said, holding up the apple. “It’s destroying the market. It’s killing jobs. It’s killing Yeovil.”
“What do you want from me?” I asked.
“Put a stop to it,” she said.
I snatched the apple and took a bite.
“Bitch!” the woman said.
“Think of Nigel!” Dierdre said.
But I was already high above the rooftops.