Read by Sean Barrett

By Michael Robotham

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A kinetic standalone from “first class storyteller” Michael Robotham (San Francisco Chronicle).

Sami Macbeth is not a master criminal. He’s not even a minor one. He’s not a jewel thief. He’s not a safe-cracker. He’s not an expert in explosives. Sami plays guitar and wants to be a rock god but keeps getting sidetracked by unforeseen circumstances.

Fifty-four hours ago Sami was released from prison. Thirty-six hours ago he slept with the woman of his dreams at the Savoy. An hour ago his train blew up. Now he’s carrying a rucksack through London’s West End and has turned himself into the most wanted terrorist in the country.

Fast, funny, hip and violent, Bombproof is a non-stop adventure full of unforgettable characters and a heartwarming hero — Sami Macbeth — a man with the uncanny ability to turn a desperate situation into a hopeless one.


Before writing full-time, Michael Robotham was an investigative journalist in Britain, Australia and the US. He is the pseudonymous author of 10 best-selling non-fiction titles, involving prominent figures in the military, the arts, sport and science. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.

Also by Michael Robotham
The Suspect
The Night Ferry

Hachette Digital

Published by Hachette Digital 2009
Copyright © Michael Robotham 2008
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This one is for my Dad

A Very Bad Day
Some days are diamonds. Some days are stones. John Denver used to sing that before he crashed a plane into Monterey Bay. It wasn’t a diamond day for him.
Sami Macbeth’s day has been nothing but stones. Emerging from Oxford Circus Underground, he blinks into the sunlight and coughs so hard it feels as if his sphincter is coming up through his lungs looking for clean air. His clothes are torn and bloody. His face streaked with sweat. His skin coated in dust.
Sami ducks beneath a makeshift barricade of crime-scene tape hanging from plastic bollards. People step aside and stare at him like he’s some sort of ghost.
Six and a half pounds of TATP - the Mother of Satan - just blew a gaping hole in a packed carriage on the Central Line, peeling off the roof like a giant opening a big can of peaches.
It was horrible down there. Mayhem. One moment Sami was standing near the train doors and the next he was lying on his back, flapping his arms and legs like an upturned beetle. Papers were blown through the air, glass showered down on him and the train shuddered to a halt. Things went quiet for a moment and completely dark. Then the screaming started.
People were hurt. Dying. God knows how many. Who was sitting in the other carriage next to Dessie? A guy in a Jesus T-shirt with his eyes closed, doing the nodding dog. Next to him was a suit with a briefcase. There was also a girl standing near the doors, wearing a short jacket. She had white headphones trailing from under her long hair.
Sami looks up and down Oxford Street. Traffic is at a standstill. Buses, vans, cars and cabs - nothing is moving. Someone hands him a bottle of water. He pours it over his head. Soot runs into his mouth and grit crunches between his teeth.
Crossing the road between two trucks, he forgets to lift his feet and trips over the gutter. A driver calls out. Sami doesn’t answer. He turns down Argyll Street and crosses Great Marlborough, stepping round pedestrians. Moving quickly.
People are staring at each other. Shocked. Clueless. Sami hears snippets of their conversation: ‘. . . terrorists . . .’ ‘. . . a bomb . . .’ ‘. . . underground . . .’
They’re frightened. Sami is frightened. Dessie just blew himself to Kingdom fucking Come. He’ll need a very short coffin - Y-shaped to fit his legs and his bollocks.
The rucksack slaps against Sami’s back. He should ditch it and run. Take his chances. But what would Murphy do to Nadia?
It’s like the platform announcer said: ‘Please keep your bags with you at all times and report any unattended items or suspicious behaviour to a member of staff.’
Sami should call Murphy. Explain. What would he say? ‘Hey, Mr Murphy, a funny thing happened on the way home. We accidentally blew up a train and Dessie lost his head and a little bit more . . .’
Sami doesn’t have a mobile. Dessie wouldn’t let him carry one. Now he notices a guy sending a text message. He’s unshaven, wearing Levi’s, slung slow, showing his arse-crack.
Sami asks if he can borrow the phone. The guy stares at him. ‘Were you down there, man? Respect.’ He hands Sami the phone. ‘Take it. I can’t get a signal.’
Sami punches in a number. Nothing happens.
‘Too many people trying to make calls,’ says the arse-crack guy. ‘The network is overloaded.’
Sami hands him back the phone and keeps walking, crossing at the next intersection. He notices a black cab. Opens the door. Slips onto the back seat. Dumps the rucksack on the floor between his knees.
‘You’re joking, aren’t you, mate?’ says the driver. He motions to the road ahead. ‘I haven’t moved in forty friggin’ minutes.’
Sami catches sight of himself in the rear mirror. His face is caked in dark soot except for two streaks of white, one on the tip of his nose and the other a line of perspiration running over his cheekbone and down his neck. It could be war paint. He’s been into battle.
The driver is listening to the radio.
‘What’s happened?’ asks Sami.
‘Bomb went off,’ says the driver. ‘There could be more of them.’
‘More what?’
‘Suicide bombers.’ The driver looks at him. ‘You must have been down there. You look like Al fuckin’ Jolson.’
‘Who’s he?’
‘You never heard of Al fuckin’ Jolson?’
‘He was a white guy used to black up his face and sing like a nigger.’
‘Fuck knows.’
The driver has his door propped open. He lights a cigarette and the roll of smoke seems to evaporate on the breeze.
‘You got a phone?’ asks Sami.
‘Can I borrow it?’
‘Won’t do you any good. They shut down the network, or the whole thing has crashed. Every man and his dog is trying to call home.’
‘Why would they shut down the network?’
‘Stop them setting off any more bombs. That’s how the ragheads do it - use mobile phones. Call the number and boom. Makes no sense to me. Live and let live, I say. We should make a deal with the terrorists - we won’t invade their fucked-up countries if they stop blowing us up.’
‘Maybe it wasn’t terrorists,’ suggests Sami.
‘Of course it was friggin’ terrorists,’ replies the driver. ‘You’re not bleeding, are you? I don’t want friggin’ blood on the seats.’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘You’re covered in that black shit. Maybe you should just get out.’
‘Couldn’t I just sit here?’
‘Does this cab look like a friggin’ backpacker’s?’
Sami gets out. Swings the rucksack over one shoulder. Drops his head and keeps moving.
Turning out of Rupert Street into Shaftesbury Avenue, he almost runs into a big black rozzer standing on the corner, directing traffic. Really big, two-fifty pounds at least, made even larger by his vest, which is bristling with Old Bill gadgets.
Sami apologises. The rozzer tells him to slow down and watch where he’s going. Then he clocks Sami’s clothes and the rucksack.
‘What you carrying, lad?’
‘Looks pretty heavy to be nothing.’
‘Dirty laundry.’
‘Show me.’
‘It’s locked.’
‘You always lock up your dirty laundry?’
‘There’s loads of perverts about,’ says Sami. ‘You can’t be too careful.’
The rozzer is already reaching for the radio on his arm. He tells Sami to put the rucksack down and slowly step back.
Sami’s insides are betraying him now. His hair is full of broken glass. His clothes are covered in shit. He doesn’t need this. Looking past the rozzer, a camera shutter blinks in his mind and suddenly he can see a dozen years in prison. The shutter blinks again and he sees his sister Nadia lying on a bed, her dress plastered to her body, a crack whore for Tony Murphy.
The black constable grabs hold of Sami’s arm. Instinct kicks in. Sami drops his head into the rozzer’s stomach, hearing the wind whistle out of his mouth and nose. He’s running now, dodging pedestrians, leaping over a dog on a lead, bursting through a queue, knocking over a man carrying a sandwich board.
The Underground is closed. The steps deserted. There are station guards at the stairs. Across the street, between ambulances, fire engines, there are more police officers keeping the crowds back. Sightseers. Rubbernecks.
Sami crashes into an outdoor table, spilling a bottle of wine and upending a woman in mid-meal. A waiter gives him a gobful. He keeps running. The bag over one shoulder. Slapping against his back. He should stop and tighten the straps, clip the belt around his waist, redistribute the weight, but he’s too scared to stop.
Run. That’s what every sense tells him to do. Just run. Get away. Find somewhere quiet. Hide the rucksack. Steal a moment to think.
He ducks into an alley, leans his back against a wall. The rucksack props him up. He listens. Sirens. Stuck in traffic. Trying to outrun them on foot is a loser’s game. They’ll corner him and wait for reinforcements.
Sami has to go off the radar. Disappear. He has money now - the stash from the safe. But first he has to get out of the West End . . . out of London.
There’s a church across the square. He can hide inside. Stash the rucksack in a dark corner. Say a prayer. It’s a good plan.
He comes out of the alley and finds three policemen in front of him. One of them has a gun and is crouching, holding it in two hands, like he knows how to use it.
‘Don’t move,’ he yells. ‘Put the bag down.’
Sami looks behind him . . . looks ahead. Holds his fist in the air; his thumb cocked. Empty, but they don’t know that.
‘I got a fucking bomb,’ he yells, not recognising his own voice. ‘Get back or I’ll flatten this place.’
The rozzers melt away. Sami runs past them. The one with the gun is lying on the ground, on his elbows, trying to get a shot. Sami keeps moving, stepping from side to side.
A bomb. He told them he had a bomb. What a prize fuck-up. What a joke! Sami isn’t just unlucky; he’s a walking jinx, a Jonah, a one-man wrecking crew. He’s trouble with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘D’ and that stands for dead.
Three days ago he walked out of prison and swore he’d never go back. Thirty-six hours ago he was shagging Kate Tierney, the woman of his wet dreams, in a suite at the Savoy thinking life was looking up. Now he’s carrying a rucksack that could send him to prison for the rest of his life through the West End of London and he’s turned himself into the most wanted man in Britain.
This is how it happened.

Three Days Ago


On his last morning in prison Sami Macbeth woke early, brushed his teeth, folded his blankets in a neat pile and sat on the bed, waiting.
He told himself that everything he did was for the last time. It was the last time he would piss into a steel bowl; the last time he was strip-searched, or deloused, or would wake to the dawn chorus of farting, belching, swearing and coughing.
Unable to keep still, he rests his feet on his bunk and counts down through a hundred push-ups, breathing through his nose. He stands and looks into a shaving mirror, no longer surprised at seeing himself with short hair, although it’s growing out quickly. He’s put on weight. Most of it is probably muscle but he’s not like those cons who spend every waking moment pumping weights and flexing in front of the mirror. Who are they trying to impress?
With two short fast steps, Sami leaps at the wall, planting his foot at chest height and spinning in a complete somersault before landing on his feet. He does it again . . . and again.
A voice from below interrupts.
‘Cut it out, cocksucker, I’m trying to sleep.’
‘Almost done,’ says Sami.
‘Do it again and I’ll kill your entire family.’
Sami’s cell is on the first floor. No. 47. D-wing. It is eight feet wide and ten feet long, with brick walls and a cement floor. The only window, high on the wall, has tiny glass squares, some of them missing or broken. When he first arrived, in the middle of February, wind used to whistle through the gaps and the cell was freezing. Eventually, he filled the gaps with toilet paper, chewed into a pulp and wedged like putty into the holes.
He won’t have to worry about another winter. By midday he’s out of here. Not completely free, but as good as. Parole is a wonderful thing.
Sami yawns and rubs his eyes. He didn’t sleep well. A fresh fish arrived yesterday and they put him in the cell next door. The kid tried to look relaxed and act tough but his eyes were big as saucers and he kept looking at people sideways like a bird in a cage.
The cons called him Baby Ray and he spent all night talking to Sami - too scared to go to sleep. First night jitters. Everyone has them. He told Sami he wouldn’t be staying long, a short season, for one night only. He had a bail hearing the next day and his old man was going to pay whatever it took to get him out.
‘Your old man must have deep pockets,’ Sami said.
‘I’m his only son.’
Baby Ray had a silver tongue, a sharp tongue, a tongue for every groove. He talked about the girls he’d shagged, the fights he’d won, the deals he’d done. Sami wasn’t bothered. He was never going to sleep on his last night. He was going to count down the hours.
Baby Ray must have gone to breakfast or still be asleep. Sami’s stomach rumbles. Normally, this is the only meal of the day he doesn’t miss. You can’t fuck up breakfast. You scramble eggs, you grill sausage, you heat up beans; nobody can fuck up breakfast.
Today he’s not going. He doesn’t want anything to go wrong. No shoving in the food queue, no fights, no bullying, nothing that could see him brought up on charges or see his parole revoked. Instead he sits on his bed, stares at the concrete wall and thinks of Nadia.
Nadia is his sister. She’s nineteen. Beautiful.
They don’t look like brother and sister. Nadia has long dark hair, brown eyes and golden brown skin. She’s part Algerian. So is Sami, but he inherited his father’s blue eyes and dirty blond hair.
Nadia was only seventeen when Sami was sent down. She was still at school. Now she’s working as a secretary and going to college two nights a week. She’s renting a flat and driving her own car - one of those Smart cars that look like it comes with a Happy Meal.
Sami hasn’t seen her since Christmas. He only transferred back to the Scrubs a fortnight ago from Leicester nick, which was a long way for Nadia to travel, even with a rail warrant.
Someone drove her to see him. Waited outside. Her boyfriend. She wouldn’t tell Sami his name. He had a sports car and drove with the top down, mussing up her hair.
When everyone has gone to breakfast, Sami leaves his cell to use his last phone card. He calls Nadia. No answer. It’s been three days. She knows he’s getting out today.
He goes back to his cell. Sits. Waits. Watches the clock.
Time has special meaning to him now. He has studied it closely and mastered the art of imagining it passing. For two years, eight months and twenty-three days he has become an expert in how much a minute takes out of an hour and how much an hour takes out of a day. How fast a fingernail grows. How long it takes for his fringe to cover his eyes.
He has missed two birthdays, two Christmases, two New Years and countless opportunities for meaningless one-night stands with single London girls who have a thing for guitar players. He’ll have to play catch-up.
At 11.30 Mr Dean, the senior screw on D-wing delivers Sami’s belongings in a pillowcase.
Mr Dean waits for him to get changed into a pair of jeans, a shirt, a leather bomber jacket and trainers. Sami has to hand back his prison kit which Mr Dean checks off on a list. Afterwards he walks in front of the warder to the reception centre, carrying his personal effects in his arms. They don’t consist of much: a wristwatch, a transistor radio, three photographs - two of Nadia - a bundle of letters, a mobile phone with a flat battery and a plastic bag containing thirty-two pounds and seventy-five pence. Sami has to count the money and sign for it in three places.
As he walks along the landing and down the metal stairs, some of the other cons are calling out to him.
‘Hey, Sparkles, when you get out get yourself laid for me.’
‘Get shit-faced,’ someone else yells.
At three minutes past noon, Sami walks out of the small, hinged door in the much larger gates of Wormwood Scrubs Prison. It’s been raining, but the shower has passed. Puddles fill the depressions, reflecting blue sky. Bluer now he’s outside. He raises his face and blinks at the sky. Takes a deep breath. He knows it’s a cliché about freedom smelling sweeter, but it’s a cliché for a reason.
He keeps walking across the cobblestones, away from the gates. There’s no sign of Nadia. She could be running late. London traffic. There’s a car parked opposite in a bus zone, a big black four-wheel drive Lexus with the darkest legal tint.
As Sami walks past a window glides down.
‘Are you Sami Macbeth?’ asks a squeaky voice coming from a head so round and smooth it looks like it should be bobbing on the end of a string. Maybe that explains his voice, thinks Sami.
There are three other guys in the car all wearing dark suits like they’re auditioning for a Guy Ritchie film. They’re not friends of Nadia’s and they’re not from the local mini-cab firm.
‘Are you fucking deaf?’ asks the guy with the balloon-shaped head.
Sami scratches his cheek. Tries to stay calm. ‘Why do you want Macbeth?’
‘You him or not?’
‘No, mate,’ says Sami, swinging his bag over his shoulder. ‘Macbeth kicked off at breakfast this morning. Got into a row with some bloke and threw a mug of tea in his face. They’re keeping him in.’
‘For how long?’
Sami motions over his shoulder. ‘Knock on the door. Maybe they’ll tell you.’
Then he gives a little skip as he walks away, telling himself not to look back. What do these guys want with him? Where’s Nadia?
Down the street he finds a bus stop. Sits down. Waits some more.
A bus pulls up. The poster on the side shows a woman in a bikini lying on a pool chair. Golden skin. Clear eyes. Sami is so busy looking at the girl he forgets to get on the bus. The doors close. The bus pulls away.
He waits. Another bus comes. The driver doesn’t look at him.
‘Where you going?’
‘Which one?’
‘Two quid.’
Sami takes a window seat. Looks at the playing fields. Nadia must have had to work. She’ll have left a note at the flat. They’ll celebrate later. Order a curry. Watch a DVD.
Ever since their mum died, Sami and Nadia have looked after each other. And even before then, he’d kept Nadia out of harm’s way when any of their father’s lecherous friends took a liking to her.
She wanted to leave school at sixteen. Sami made her stay. He did courier jobs, drove a van. At night he played gigs. He wasn’t cock deep in cash but he had enough to keep the wolf from the door.
Sami had often wondered what that saying meant. What sort of wolf - the fairytale kind, like in Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs, or the human kind?
It wasn’t always happy families. Sami and Nadia’s fights were legendary. That’s the thing about Nadia. She’s not some sort of innocent butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth angel. She’s had her moments. Skipping school. Underage drinking. Sneaking into nightclubs when she was only fifteen.
Nadia also had some black days. It was a family disease. A school counsellor wanted to send her to a psycho-whatsit, but Sami wouldn’t let them. He also had to fight Social over letting her live with him. He went to court. Won. Didn’t rub it in. You don’t give them any excuses.
For a long time Nadia had no idea she was beautiful. Blokes would have licked shit off a stick for her, but she didn’t care. After a while she began to realise.
She had a few modelling shots taken when she was seventeen, glossy professional ones, soft focus around the edges. She touted her portfolio around some of the modelling agencies but they said she didn’t have the look they were after, you know, the anorexic don’t-let-me-near-the-fridge heroin chic look.
She did have something going for her. The photographers knew it. One of the agents knew it. Nadia had that vulnerable, big eyes, full lips, just-been-shagged look that directors love. Porn directors.
Sweet but not so innocent Nadia.
Sami saved her from the wolves.
That’s what big brothers are for.


Vincent Ruiz’s worst dream has always included an orange sledge and an ice-covered pond with a hole at its centre. A child is pulled from within, blue lips, blue skin. He is to blame.
His second worst dream features a man called Ray Garza, who is like the ghost of Christmas past showing Ruiz his past failings. Garza’s face has sharp features, bone beneath skin, with a scar across his neck where someone once tried to slice open his throat but didn’t cut deep enough. Hopefully they were more successful at cutting their own throat because you’d want to die quickly if you crossed Ray Garza.
Ruiz is one of the few people to know about Garza’s true nature. Others seem to have forgotten or chosen to ignore the evidence.
Garza is now a pillar of society, a member of the establishment, rich beyond counting. He is invited to dine at Downing Street, given gongs by Her Maj and gets mentioned in newspaper diaries as a philanthropist and patron of the arts.
Yet every time Ruiz sees a photograph of him at some charity function, or film premiere, he remembers Jane Lanfranchi. It was twenty-two years ago. She was only sixteen. A wannabe beauty queen.
Garza was going to make her a page-three sizzler, the next Sam Fox. That’s before he sodomized her and chewed her cheek open to the bone.
Such a beautiful face, destroyed. Such a sweet girl, traumatised. Ruiz promised Jane that he’d protect her. He promised that if she were brave enough to give evidence against Garza, he’d put him in prison. He made promises he couldn’t keep.
Jane Lanfranchi committed suicide two days before the trial, unable to look at her face in the mirror. The charges were dismissed. Garza went free. He smiled at Ruiz on the steps of the court. His crooked mouth lined up when he grinned and his acne-scarred cheeks looked like lunar craters.
Ruiz has always been a pragmatist. There are bad people in the world - rapists, murderers, psychopaths - many of them nameless, faceless men, who are never caught. The difference this time was that he knew Ray Garza’s name, knew where he lived, knew what he’d done, but could never prove it.
One of Ruiz’s mates, a psychologist called Joe O’Loughlin, once told him that some dreams solve problems while others reflect our emotions. Carl Jung believed that ‘big dreams’ were so powerful they helped shape our lives.


On Sale
Feb 11, 2014
Hachette Audio

Michael Robotham

About the Author

Michael Robotham has been an investigative journalist in Britain, Australia and the US. One of world’s most acclaimed authors of thriller fiction, he lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.

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