Dead Centre
cream tiles. It had been targeted by a Chechen suicide bomber a year ago. Forty people were killed.
    Less than an hour later, another device had gone off at Park Kultury, also on the red line, raising the death toll by a further fourteen. A couple of hundred were injured.
    Both stations were quickly back in business. Muscovites still had to get to work, and above ground the city was gridlocked between eight and eleven in the morning and five and eight in the evening, and no picnic the rest of the time. Down here, you never had to wait more than about a minute for a train – even if, at peak hours, it was like being caught in a stampede.
    The escalator finally unloaded me onto the platform. Two dogs stretched out alongside a couple of young guys gripping beer bottles like they were gold bars. Passengers just stepped over them and went on their way. They also swept past a policeman curled up in the corner. He wasn’t drunk. He was covered in dirt, leather jacket shredded, his face bloodied and beaten. This lad had been kicked to shit, but nobody batted an eyelid.
    I plotted a route through the rat’s nest that would eventually take me back up to Lubyanka. I wanted a better look in Room 419, without Mr Lover Man hovering over me. I’d start with what was under that bed. Another little chat with Rudy and his boy, if that was possible, would be a bonus.
    This was the second busiest underground system on the planet after Tokyo’s. Eight million people used it every day, and they always seemed to be sharing my carriage. There’d be no hopping on and off just before the doors closed to avoid being followed, like you see in the movies. It would be more like wading through treacle.
    Losing Ant and Dec wasn’t going to be easy.

    THE CROWD SWAYED uncomfortably close to the edge of the platform as we waited for the north-west train. People shouted. Drunks sang. Dogs barked. Nobody cared. At least it was warm down there.
    I didn’t scan the place for Ant and Dec. I didn’t want them to know I was aware. And all that mattered was that they weren’t still behind me when I exited. If they were, I’d dis appear back into the rat’s nest. At the worst stations it was easier to take the first available exit than fight your way through the maze to get a couple of blocks closer to your destination. If the worst came to the worst I’d just make a run for it.
    Our train arrived. The crowd surged. I didn’t wait for anyone to get off. The doors on the Moscow Metro didn’t take prisoners. They were like guillotines. If you were caught when they snapped shut, your next stop was A&E.
    I shuffled and pushed my way aboard, and grabbed a handrail. The doors slammed shut, imprisoning me in a world of tobacco and beer fumes. The woman to my left was overloaded with market-stall perfume. At least it took the edge off the stench of vomit from the two drunks who’d annexed the three or four seats alongside me. Another sat by their feet, trying to navigate the neck of a vodka bottle through his full-face motorbike helmet. Nobody paid them the slightest attention. It was the Metro Derby. For 60p a race, who cared?
    Head lolling with the rhythm of the carriage, I let my gaze wander casually along it at about shoulder level, trying to catch Ant and Dec’s coats, not their eyes. They were probably doing exactly the same, unless I’d already given them the slip.
    The train lurched. A female voice announced the next station. I was going in the right direction. It was a male voice when you were going towards the centre, a female when heading away from it.
    Three stops took me to the intersection with Moscow’s answer to the Circle Line. The masses fought their way on and off at the first, Chistye Prudy, giving me the chance to see a bit more of the carriage.
    I finally spotted Ant trying hard to look as though he hadn’t spotted me as we pulled into Krasnye Vorota. The train jolted, there was a surge of bodies, and I lost him again.

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