Chapter 11 (pt 2)
I hadn’t been going for half an hour when I started getting twitchy about being followed. They were sure to find my credit card reference at the hire place, in time. It was important to keep moving. The speed limit on these minor roads seemed to be around 55mph so I would be beyond Florence by mid-afternoon. I needed to start thinking about where to head off to afterwards. Once I get to Florence I have two options. I can keep right and head up towards Bologna then northwest towards the Swiss border, or carry on round Florence and head for the coast, continuing on to the French border. I am leaning towards the latter because I am more familiar with France. It’s a bigger country and offers more routes to the channel.
The weather was good as was the visibility and so no reason to stop, so with luck I would make the French border today. Hopefully, and it is only a hope, I should be in the clear then. I pressed on looking frequently in the mirror. The roads were reasonably quiet so it would be hard to follow me. Now I was getting paranoid! What if they predict my route and are waiting for me? They seem to have hundreds of ‘troops’.
I was travelling on the outskirts of Arezzo heading towards the A1, which continued up to Florence. It is a dual carriageway and would make progress even quicker. I needed a drink so I decided to pull up at a local store in the nearest village I came across. That happened to be Poggola. I found a shop that resembled a small supermarket and bought water, crisps and chocolate, really healthy(!), and returned to the car. I was off again within ten minutes and on the dual carriageway in fifteen. I reprogrammed the Satnav for Pisa and increased speed to the 110kph that is the motorway limit. I have about 60 miles to go to the coast so a good hour and closer to safety. However, the plans I had for crossing the border today were a bit awry. It was nearly 200 miles to Genoa on the twisting coast road! That would take it to evening mealtime! I would need to drive until midnight to reach the border. Not impossible! I pressed on. I was looking forward to the next part of the journey, irrespective of how long it was going to be, travelling through the millionaire’s playground that was the northern Italian coast and on to Nice and beyond.
Then I got to thinking about the Torino family and what I would do in their position. Obviously, my first thought was they would be at the border crossing and would have the make of car I am driving. But God bless the EU there are no queues for passport stamping etc. and borders are open which should make it easier to sneak through. Of course, there is a downside to that because there would be few cars travelling late at night and I will be easier to spot. I could worry myself into an early grave at this rate. I will cross that bridge and the border when I come to it!
I nibbled crisps and drank water as I continued. The miles flew by on this excellent road and it wasn’t too long before I saw the city of Pisa in the distance. I had turned off the A1 as instructed by the Satnav and was on the SP10. I felt that large towns should be avoided so I turned off at Cascina and took the country roads to the north of Pisa. It didn’t save anytime because the smaller roads take longer to negotiate but I felt better! I hit the A11 at Pugnano and the A12 north at the coast. Next stop Genoa!
I started feeling uneasy again. Everything seemed too easy. Also where was Sumisu? With his contacts surely he could have helped me out! What a whiner! There is no point in feeling sorry for myself. After all, I was trying not to be found. I could message him. It would seem pathetic though. Ok! If I get desperate that is what I will do. The car was running well but I will need to buy fuel before I cross into France. I’ll find a cash machine in the next town. I pulled into the main square of Santo Stefano di Magra and found a bank where I took out the maximum cash allowed then got on the road again within ten minutes. The traffic was quite heavy round the towns but progress is good. I am aiming for France by midnight. Should be no problem! Crossing the border is a total unknown. There are no longer any passport controls so it could be just a straight drive through without a pause. I found a self-service petrol station and filled up paying cash on the way out. I got back on the A12 and continued northwards. While I had been stopped in Santo Stefano I checked the map for my route round Genoa. The most obscure would seem to be straight on from Genoa rather than following the coast to the millionaire’s playgrounds of Nice and Monaco. This would take me into the foothills of the Alps to Cuneo and crossing the border at Argentera and then on to Gap. The only drawback I could foresee would be the lack of traffic in the mountains approaching midnight. I would stick out like a sore thumb! On the other hand it would be equally difficult for any would-be pursuers to stay concealed. It gave me a crumb of comfort.I still kept a close watch on my mirror. As evening fell and I rounded Genoa the traffic indeed began to thin and night closed in quickly. I had to slow because of the conditions. I was feeling tired and my eyes were gritty. I was also hungry and thirsty. I had about two hours to go to the border with France, according to the Satnav. The terrain was quite hilly and wooded and there were firebreaks every so often. I could drive on to one of those and have a few hours’ sleep, then cross in the morning. I continued more slowly looking for an appropriate place to stop. After a few minutes and several possibilities I settled on a firebreak that ran off the road to my right and was intersected by another running at right angles about fifty yards from the road. I pulled into the firebreak feeling confident that no one had seen me and settled down for a few hours. I think I need at least five or six hours sleep so I set the alarm on my mobile for 5am. Dawn would break around six so I wanted to be on my way about that time, hopefully on very quiet roads. I took the Glock from the bag in the boot and lay with it next to me. I had reclined the front passenger seat to make as comfortable bed as possible. Having slept in cars on a few previous occasions, I have not found them very pleasant and this was no exception! Still I needed the rest and soon fell asleep.