away in embarrassment, avoiding involvement. Not Jenny. She fumbled with her phone’s camera setting. Take a photo, get him banned. Fed up of being knocked about.

What was wrong with him, anyway? All that scrubby pale hair, could be alopecia. Or chemo. Jenny had momentary second thoughts about the photo. Then the yob gave a weird guttural roar and lunged at the goth, head-butting him. The goth yelled, tumbled backwards, blood on his face.

The yob whirled round, sweeping his surroundings with a roar. It was a horribly realistic mask – red-eyed, drooling, and now flecked with blood. Jenny’s thumb jerked, almost involuntary, on the shutter button. The flash flickered, the yob threw up a clawed hand.

‘Gotcha,’ said Jenny. Except she hadn’t. She’d been distracted by the camera flash, and the yob must have slipped away into the crowd.

A young woman skidded to a halt beside her. Long black hair, straight-cut fringe, bit of a wild look in her eyes. Nice jacket, noticed Jenny, but the security tag was still on the sleeve. That would explain the beeping alarms. An angry blond lad – blue Valley Girl shirt, pink face – grabbed her shoulder. The dark-haired woman delved into her handbag and brandished an ID at him: ‘Leave it. I’m Gwen Cooper, with the police.’

‘Police don’t shoplift,’ snapped the angry lad. His pink face paled when Gwen Cooper replaced her ID with a handgun.

A space appeared in the crowd. Gwen Cooper closed her free hand over Jenny’s phone and shut it so that Jenny couldn’t photograph her. ‘Did you see where it went?’

Jenny shook her head mutely.

The armed woman was fishing something else out of her bag. Too small to see what, but she was poking it into her ear with her finger. ‘Tosh,’ she was saying now. But anything else was lost in another shattering roar behind her.

Two more yobs smashed through the nearby fire doors and charged their way through the crowd. A strong blast of cold air gusted through the mall behind them. Newspapers and leaflets whirled and spun. Shoppers tumbled aside, sprawled onto the floor, their bags bursting and the contents scattering. Several people howled in shock and pain as the masked hooligans forced their way past. Screams mixed with the howl of the wind. There were tears and blood. The yobs slashed at people with knives, like talons in their hands. The crowds shrank back as the yobs shoved past and fled for the exit doors.

A wall of cowering shoppers shied backwards, inadvertently pressing Jenny against the plate glass of Valley Girl. A stiletto scraped her instep, a damp umbrella pressed against her face. She could hear the glass behind her creaking. Panicked, Jenny jabbed with her elbows and shuffled sideways as best she could. She managed to squirm off the window and practically fell through a pair of fire doors.

Jenny staggered into an echoing space of cold air. These were the emergency stairs. The fire doors had swung closed. She peered through their tall, narrow windows and saw the crowd was still thronged outside. No way past, so she decided to take the stairs and cut across the upper floor instead.

On the next landing she found a torn leather coat. Further up the stairway was the slumped body of another yob, still wearing his face mask. Had he fallen? Maybe he was drunk. He smelled as though he’d shat himself. Jenny ventured closer. ‘You all right there?’

There was so much blood. One of the figure’s arms had been torn off. The arteries had sprayed out over the stairs and up the wall. She could see that it wasn’t a person, more like a savage ape. Who would dress an animal up like that yob in the mall? She still had her phone in her hand, so she checked the picture she’d taken – the creature was unmistakably the same. In the confusion before, she must have forwarded it to her mum. Her mum was returning the call.

Jenny whimpered as she pressed Receive. Then she shrieked as the fire alarm went off.

The clamour disturbed something else in the stair well. Jenny hadn’t noticed it where it had spread itself on the underside of the stairs. A hellish bat-like creature dropped in front of her, the size of a large dog. It surveyed her with pitiless, pitch-black eyes.

The phone dropped from her hands and skittered down the stairwell. Jenny’s desperate thought was: ‘If I’ve broken that phone, my mum’ll kill me.’

But it wasn’t her mum that killed Jenny Bolton.

Gwen couldn’t understand where the abrupt rush of air was coming from. Even if they’d opened loading doors somewhere, it shouldn’t whip up this kind of through current. She cupped her left hand awkwardly over her right ear. ‘I can barely hear you, Tosh. Get back-up to Pendefig Mall. I got two uncontained Weevils, and it’s a mess.’

‘I said, I thought it was your day off,’ shouted Toshiko. ‘Anyway, back-up isn’t available.’

Gwen pursued the fleeing Weevils away from Valley Girl and through the yelling crowds, unable to take a shot for fear of hitting a terrified bystander. Most of the shoppers jumped aside, and those that didn’t were slashed by the Weevils. Gwen couldn’t remember seeing these alien creatures in crowds like this before. Maybe that was what had spooked them. The ugly brutes kept glancing over their shoulders as they tore through the mall. Eventually they must have spotted natural light from the glass entrance doors that led out into the street, and their pace increased.

She half-considered abandoning her expensive boots, because the heels made chasing at full pelt quite difficult. But by the time she’d tugged them off her feet, the Weevils would be long gone.

The fire alarm went off, startlingly loud. A new ripple of uncertainty ran through the crowd.

The Weevils slammed into the glass doors on the hinge edges, and bounced off. Gwen took careful aim at the nearest one, but her target was obscured by a woman running across her line of fire. Gwen stepped calmly aside and refocused. But the Weevils had given up their brief assault on the exit. A fire door opened in the flanking wall. The Weevils leaped for the gap, knocking aside a startled janitor whose dropped bucket clattered down the steps after them.

‘Bloody hooligans!’ he bellowed after them. Further remonstrations died in his throat as Gwen squeezed past him, her gun ready.

The stairs led to the service area in the basement. In the blissful absence of screaming shoppers, the loudest noises were the hum of equipment and the insistent clamour of the fire alarm. Even the sound of rushing wind was replaced with the whine of air-conditioning systems. Gwen could finally hear Toshiko yelling at her through her earpiece. ‘OK, you’re very loud and clear now, Tosh.’ Her own soft voice echoed oddly in the concrete stairwell.

Toshiko’s voice crackled in her ear again. ‘I’m on my way.’

‘Who’s looking after the shop?’

‘I’ve left the pet in charge.’

‘Does a pterodactyl know how to answer a phone?’ hissed Gwen.

‘Pteranodon,’ retorted Toshiko.

‘Yeah, that’d make a difference. What about everyone else?’

‘Jack’s out in Newport with Ianto. Checking out Rift activity.’

‘Is that what they’re calling it now?’

‘Suspicious peak in the readings around a church,’ continued Toshiko. ‘And Owen’s doing that hotel investigation. So it’s just you and me. See you soon.’

The connection dropped.

Gwen continued down the cold, grey-painted steps. Smears of blood on the walls showed where the Weevils had pressed against them on their headlong flight down the stairs.

The lighting in the maintenance corridor hummed overhead. One fluorescent tube with a faulty starter struggled to come on, sparking its fitful illumination. Gwen tried to get her bearings. If Toshiko had been there, she’d have called up a schematic of the mall on her PDA and picked out their precise location with GPS. Gwen didn’t have the time to get her PDA out of her handbag, never mind work out how to interface it to the mall’s wireless network. From what she remembered of the sloping ground where Pendefig was built, this maintenance corridor below the main shopping area would lead out into the rear of the mall and the loading areas.

In a pool of light fifty metres ahead, one of the Weevils had stopped. It hunched down against a wall, quivering. Beneath it was a crumpled body. Another human victim, thought Gwen, a hot flush of anger suffusing her. Killed and eaten by the alien. No matter how many victims she’d seen since joining Torchwood – and it must have

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