Samuel Dean lives an isolated, peaceful existence; he is alone and happy to be so. The remote coastal area of England where he lives provides all he needs to survive. His daily routine is to hunt, forage and poach. Someone, however, is stalking him.
One night, two officers from Special Branch pay him a visit and ask for his help. They claim two men, extremists in the Animal Liberation Movement, will soon visit a woman who lives in a near-by cottage. All Sam has to do is watch the cottage and inform Special Branch when the men arrive.
He agrees to help, not for profit or for patriotic zeal, but because he suspects they have told him a lie. Soon, his isolated existence is smashed into a world of murder, terrorism and international conspiracy.
Fleeing his own guilt, he is propelled out of his solitude and on to a trail that takes him to London, Paris, Malta and then to Africa, where he uncovers a sinister group of the world’s elite, who together conspire a dark future for all those beneath them.
Only by mimicking their twisted, ruthless logic can Sam hope to contain them.
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Why does God need people? What use are we to Him? In His possession is absolute knowledge, so what can God learn from people? Why create people? What’s the point of doing anything when you know it all already? He knows the beginning and the end of each and everyone of us, but still we keep coming, faster and faster, spamming His world with nothing he doesn’t already know, with nothing He hasn’t already seen. We enter His world and face two exits. We are tested, judged. We dare to live and fear to die. We can pass into heaven or fail into Hell. You created me God, but you knew I would ultimately fail. Was I necessary? Was I needed? Did you need me, God? Or am I weight, just ballast? A spec of junkie dust? What can you gain watching me suffer here or forever in Hell?
Does this, us, make Him happy or sad? Can we move God to tears, can we make him smile? If we fail to educate Him, is our purpose to entertain? Is life an audition for God? Well if so, look away, God, look away from me. I seek no recognition, I need no fame.
God, in my mind, is insane. Imagine knowing everything; imagine needing to do nothing and having eternity to do it in. Imagine having no hunger, no need or urge to know. Nothing would ever surprise you. Nothing would ever challenge you. You would exist in a singular state. Nothing would ever change, not even time. Nothing would really exist.
Why bother with people? Does He consume our souls? Do they somehow have a value? Is God addicted to beauty, to perfection, in finding it in something other than Him?
All this drama, it all seems a bit much to me, but then I am a simple man. My use to God, I dig graves. I earn money from death. In the countryside, you can often earn a few quid digging a home for the dead. I enjoy it. It’s one of my most favorite jobs, even in a winter freeze when the earth becomes one, a solid, zipped-up mass. I’m good at it, too. Not a boast you’ll often hear, but digging a grave satisfies well. Nothing morbid, you’ll understand. To me, it’s thirty quid cash-in-hand and a full body workout. Hard, manual labour can get me high.
Anyway, job done. Grave dug. The final resting place of Tony Spence, a man who died from a heart attack, aged just fifty two; a local man who I’d acknowledge with a smile, or a nod of the head. Whose death has inspired great pity and sadness, and created the catch phrase,
‘Just fifty two. So young, too young to die.’
But then, tell that to the billions who came before him. To all but a few the life of Tony Spence would seem divine. He was never short of food; he was never out of work. Not once did he fear for his life; not once was he told to kill. His house was solid and rightfully his own. He travelled to foreign lands as a free man, for pleasures as simple as lying in the sun. All his children lived. At forty five, when a mole on his shoulder became cancerous, a medicine man cured him, not with magic but with science. Of course, as modern wisdom insists, his fondness for cigarettes, pastries and beer pushed him hard to an early grave. But did he care? Should we? Historically speaking, he lived a long and successful life. In the history of humankind, Tony Spence was a winner.
My time is up, my thirty minutes gone. I’m lying in the grave looking up at a near cloudless sky - my usual practice once the grave is dug. I enter the earth to rest and think. To let my thoughts drift with the clouds. Not that they ever do. They always seem stuck on a topic that is rarely of my choosing. Often, I hear people, those visiting the dead, their feet on gravel, rarely the spoken word, but only once, and then a child, has someone looked down into the freshly dug grave to witness me resting. The child, a boy of about eight, on seeing me asked,
‘What are you doing down there?’ I should have replied,
‘Keeping it warm.’ But didn’t. I smiled, shrugged and stared.
I live off the land. I hunt, forage, grow and poach. When you live by the coast you can always find food. I eat well, better than most: fresh fish and seafood all caught by me; fresh game, poached of course, my me. I even rustle the occasional sheep and the farmer’s crop I treat as my own.
I live isolated, perched on a cliff top, in a four birth caravan on an acre of land. The land I bought for a single weeks labour. Cheap, I hear you think, but listen, hear the sea work the cliff, hear it smash and grab the earth and rock. In three years time my land will be gone, erased and fully consumed, a tenant of the sea once more.
The area where I live has never been a tourist haven. The coastline is too wild, the beaches too pebbled. Only walkers seem to visit. Today, however, we have marked the map and the map has called us treasure.
It is a brisk, autumn afternoon. Thick, sunken cloud is docking in the sky above. Embraced by a beautiful wind I walk along a ragged stretch of coastline on my way to gather mussels. This should be a solitary affair but today I am joined by people, crazed, manic people. Some are local, most are not. Whole families are out to snatch the bounty.
The full details, to me, are vague but we have made the news, captured the public’s imagination. A cargo ship, which failed to hug a storm, has spilled forty or so containers. The contents of which, from toys to home wares, unable to resist the desire of the people, have been pulled towards this beach, and now the people embrace the bounty as if a suddenly found long lost relative, a rich one at that.
Two women, mother and daughter would be my guess, bred in the fashion of Chinese Whispers, both wearing near identical sportswear and both carrying that fat gene, the one activated after eating copious amounts of cake, furiously drag a reluctant, bounty laden shopping trolley up along the beach. I know that modern woman, and man, likes to have things but thirty sets of cutlery? Thank God no one invites me to weddings. The beach becomes steep, the pebbles sharp and slippery. The trolley becomes stuck and their fury thickens. The trolley is now the latest scum that clogs their passage through life that conspires to deny them all that is rightfully theirs. They stop unable to progress. One pulls out a mobile phone and makes a call. Somewhere a skinny man with emotional problems splutters into action. Seagulls glide on the wind looking down, picking up tips.
I scramble up a grassy embankment onto a narrow footpath. Instantly my scent is snatched by a TV News film crew, one of six out hustling for the action. Without hesitation the Anchorwoman charges towards me, her microphone thrust forward and aimed directly at my face. A crew of two dutifully follows. Her smile glitters through the grey of the day. As she rapidly nears I hear her purr.
‘Are you local? Can I ask you some questions? We are the news!’
They are the news. I thought we were the news. I have no intention of stopping. I lower my head and stare at the ground, enough body language to inform them all of my intent. The purr begins to growl.
‘We’re national! You could be on national television!’
They block the path. I continue to walk. The Anchorwoman stops, I do not. Her reactions are good. She just manages to twist her body beyond my course. The cameraman fails to react so gets lightly shouldered aside, as does the soundman.
‘Oh for fuck’s sake.’ I hear her snap, with bemused contempt.
I turn to look at the news. The Anchorwoman stares at me with a look of absolute contempt. A look I’ve seen before.
‘Bashful, are we? Grow some fuckin’ balls!’
Heard that said too, only said with more aggression.
What is it with balls? Everyone wants balls, especially people in suits. Get balls, go ruthless. Fine by me, but why draw the line? What if now I pulled out a knife and took it to her throat? What if I answered her with a cold, ruthless action? Would she congratulate me for having king-sized, made-of-steel balls?
My father, who was a violent man, loved to recall how he and an army friend once beat the living daylights out of four Punk Rockers. The irony of course, which wasn’t lost on him, was that the Punks, the anarchists, actually called the police and demanded that they arrest my father and his friend. As my father would say, they got taught a proper life lesson and for free.
I wouldn’t volunteer to live in a society without laws, but if it happened, then I believe I would prosper, certainly I would survive. Would the suits?
I leave the knife in my pocket and politely flash them a smile.
I gather the mussels quickly. The tide is starting to turn and will soon rapidly rise. The mussels grow on a series of decayed wooden jetties that have long stopped having any other use. In the distance, to my left, I can see the scavengers, all high on their own good fortune, and all blissfully unaware of how quickly the tide will turn. To my right, set back against a foaming sky, a Land Rover ambles slowly away. It is the same Land Rover that I have already encountered four times in the last two days. Now, I’m not classifying this as suspicious, but five times, in my isolated world, and each time in a separate location? Whoever sits in that Land Rover may not be watching me, but me, now, I am watching them.
My day had nearly finished. The time is 9.38 p.m. I am at home in my caravan, well fed and warm. I am standing at a window, peering through the curtain, watching a car as it pulls up outside. I am expecting no visitors, I never do. The car engine is switched off, the headlights follow. The shape of a Land Rover silhouetted against a moon-lit sky is revealed. I step away, stand still and wait.
Two cars doors open then gently close. I hear no voices. Footsteps approach. A short, sharp, not too loud knock on the door. I wait, let them knock again. Seven seconds later they do. The knock is exactly the same - no increased force considered necessary. I open the door, and in the murk of the night, see two men and a Police wallet-badge raised for me to read.
‘Mr. Dean, we’re Police. We need to speak to you. Don’t worry; we’re aware of your disability.’
I have a disability? I assume they mean that I am mute. They both seem serious and, unless armed, physically not a threat. Both are touching forty and dressed as company men in smart, office clothing. Both are lean, fit and seemingly healthy. The badge I ignore, it tells me nothing. I mean, how can I tell if it’s real? I gesture for them to enter, which they calmly do.
‘My name is Phillip and this is my colleague, Andrew.’
First name terms already. No constable or detective. He continues.
‘We’re from Special Branch.’
I stare at them passively, remaining outwardly calm. Inside a swirl of confusion, is this serious or ridiculous? When spoken, it sounds both. They stare back at me, solid and without reaction. Should I believe them? I could ask them to prove it but what good would that do? They couldn’t. All I can do is let them speak; let them say what they’ve come to say.
We crowd around a small dining table. We are bunched tightly together but neither of them seems uncomfortable. There is a fresh pot of coffee sitting on the stove; its smell is loud and delicious. I offer them nothing, but neither seems to care. Andrew pulls out a notepad and pen from his coat pocket then slides them towards me. Phillip places the black leather folder he has been holding down on the table then quickly gets down to business.
‘Mr. Dean, firstly let me make it clear, you are not in any trouble. We are not investigating you or anyone you personally know. Our visit is for one reason and one reason only and that is to ask for your help.’
He opens up the folder. I see a photo of a house that looks familiar. He slides the photo towards me and continues to explain.
‘This property, it’s familiar to you.’
It is, so I nod my head.
‘It’s isolated, but you pass it on a regular basis, when you’re out poaching or foraging for food.’
Again, the truth, so I nod.
‘Recently the property has been bought by this woman.’
From the folder I am handed a second photo. It is of a woman standing outside the house. She is about sixty years of age, a pensioner hippy-chick dressed in colourful woolens, the sort you can buy at craft fairs. Somehow I think she looks wise, with skin regularly refreshed by the great outdoors. She is smiling even though she seems to be alone. Phillip continues.
‘Now, what we can tell you about this woman, and we can tell you this with absolute certainly, is that this woman, is active within the animal liberation movement.’
Without pause the double act begins. Andrew breaks his silence.
‘She’s a key player.’
‘A figurehead.’ Adds Phillip.
‘Not as physically active as she once was, but as an organizer, as an inspirer, she is still very much an important figure.’
Silence. They both look at me for a reaction but I give them nothing. Andrew continues, somewhat impatiently.
‘Her views are extreme. Do we need to explain them to you?’
I shake my head. He continues.
‘Do you sympathise with her views? Do you have any sympathy at all for what she believes in?’
Phillip rolls in seamlessly.
‘If you do, you must tell us, you must tell us now?’
I shake my head.
‘You’re saying no?’
‘Good. As we thought.’
They pause, watching me, making sure. Convinced, Andrew continues, his impatience settled.
‘We want you to watch the house. We need you to tell us when either of these two men visit, which they will.’
Andrew fans out eight photos on the table, all are ten by eight inches in size. They show candid surveillance shots of two average looking men, both aged around thirty. In none of the photos are the two men seen together.
‘These are dangerous men.’ So you say.
‘Not one-on-one.’ Adds, Phillip.
‘They’re terrorists. Cowards. They harm from a far. The sort of men it’s easy to hate.’
Pull me in. Let us hate together. Phillip continues.
‘We can’t talk specifics, but we need to know when they visit her.’
‘This doesn’t mean we want you to set up a surveillance unit on a twenty four seven basis. We’re simply asking you to be aware, to be vigilant. To pass the property in the morning and at night. To follow your usual routine, nothing more.’
‘To react to any intelligence that we feed you.’
‘When they show up, which they will, for a period of two to three days, all you need to do is make contact with us.’
‘Make a note of any car number plates and any other details you think important. If anyone else visits, then do the same.’
‘Simple, but important.’
There is a pause. Being a mute, pauses don’t unsettle me like they do other people. I can quite happily stare someone silently in the eye without a care in the world. Andrew sees this and breaks the silence.
‘Why you? Why are we asking you? Well there’s the obvious reason, you’re local, you know the area, it wouldn’t be unusual for you to be seen in the area, or to be seen carrying binoculars or wearing camouflage.’
‘Of course, we know other locals who fit the bill, but none of them are quite like you, are they, Mr. Dean?’
I offer no response. Unfazed he continues.
‘It’s also a question of resources. We have none.’
He smiles. He wants me to share his truthful joke. We’re all mates now. I return no smile. Phillip brings the matter back to business.
‘Or rather, what we do have quickly runs out. The service is under a lot of pressure. I’m sure you can understand that, that animal liberation is not exactly our priority.’
‘To be perfectly honest, you’re the easiest option.’
‘So, can we count on you?’
I write on the notepad, ‘I don’t work for nothing.’ Seeing my words Andrew is quick to reply.
‘A payment, of course, if reasonable.’
I add to the note ‘A thousands pounds, cash.’ Again his reply is instant.
‘Done. So we have a deal, Mr. Dean?’
I nod. Job done. They both look ever so slightly relieved and pleased with themselves. Phillip glances at Andrew then speaks.
‘Well, that was all very, civilised.’
They share a smile then focus on me. Andrew speaks.
‘Do you have mobile phone?’
I shake my head.
‘I assume you know how to use one?
I nod. From his inside jacket pocket he pulls out a mobile phone and charger then places them on the table.
‘For you. Standard, simple to use. In the contacts is one number, our number. If you need to contact us, use it, text us. Oh, and business only. Over step the mark with personal calls and you’ll have the most feared men in the service after you, the accountants.’
They both laugh. I force a slight smile.
‘That’s not a joke. They will check the bill. Anyway, to reiterate, if either of these two men visits, which they will in the next month or so, then we need to know A.S.A.P. That is your prime objective. If they arrive in a vehicle then take the details. Same for anyone else who visits. That’s all we require of you. You need do nothing else. Is that clear?’
I nod. He continues.
‘These people assume they are under surveillance. It’s not in your interest, or ours, for you to take any unnecessary risks. Neither is it in your interest, or ours, for you to tell anyone what we have asked you to do, or in fact to tell anyone anything we have said here tonight. Is that understood?’
I write, ‘It is. Now, what about the cash?’
After fetching the money from the Land Rover, they leave.
I sit at the dining table and study my bounty: a thousand pounds in twenty pound notes, a mobile phone and charger, a notepad and pen and eight photos of two men wanted by Special Branch. Not a bad haul, but then life never deals straightforward, unambiguous positives and tonight is no exception.
One of the photos concerns me. It shows one of the men, his back to the camera, his head turned to look behind. He is wearing a t-shirt tucked into a pair of jeans. The jeans are Levi’s 501 Red Tab. The waistband Red Tab label is clearly visible, as is the red Levi material tag that is stitched to the left side of the right back pocket. My concern is simple; the Red Tab label is made from suede. Now wouldn’t a man involved in the animal liberation movement, involved to terrorist level, be a vegan? Wouldn’t he be savvy enough to know a label on his jeans was an animal product and so point blank against all that he believes in? To my mind, yes. So why is he wearing the jeans? Maybe he’s undercover, posing as someone who couldn’t give a shit, but that would be stupid. A man who assumes he is being watched by the government undercover for his cause? Maybe he’s a double agent. Maybe this man was himself an agent of Special Branch and the photo shows him in Civvy Street. Maybe this man has nothing to do with the animal liberation movement and is instead wanted for something completely different.
I have been in the employ of Special Branch for less than fifteen minutes and already I am becoming paranoid.
My day had nearly finished. All was calm and settled. My only pressing decision was one whisky or three. I could have said no. I would have, if all had seemed well and genuine but it didn’t, so I said yes. I couldn’t resist. I will not walk away from a lie.
Could someone be trying to mess with me, playing a practical joke? But then who would play it? No one I know, after all I know so few, and those I do, would have more sense. Maybe I am over reacting. Maybe there is a true and valid reason why he’s wearing the jeans. After all, even people with serious, passionate causes can be stupid. The majority of people I’ve met who have held deep, unmovable beliefs have seemed pretty thick to me. If the human race has one true genius it’s the ability to adapt, to think freely and to understand, at some level at least, that there is no one, singular, absolute truth. Many a stupid man has been empowered by an ideology. It saves them from having to think for themselves and provides easy, ready made quotes and answers. It wraps them up all snug and warm in the collective acceptance of others.
Of course, this man may be a psychopath, and animal liberation an easy route to violence, murder and pain. I mean, how many psychopaths have used a political cause to satisfy their psycho desires? Two percent of the population is thought to be psychopathic. Now violence is always in the hands of the minority, but what minority, two percent? Take the IRA or Al-Qaeda. What percentage of catholic men in Northern Ireland joined the IRA to kill and maim?
Animal liberation, my honest opinion, depends on my mood, depends on the image. See a monkey chained, his eyes silently screaming why, then gladly I’ll sign the petition, but such an image will quickly fade as I get back to my own survival.
The most interesting animal experiment I know of is this: two mice kept in large, separate cages. Both cages were full of twisting tunnels, and natural vegetation. One mouse was given all the food he could eat, and guess what, he got fat and lazy. When he wasn’t sleeping he was sitting perfectly still, waiting for the time he could feast again. The other mouse was given hardly any food, certainly not enough to survive, and guess what, he stayed sharp and active, lean and healthy. He spent his day scurrying around the cage investigating, looking for food. He was happier, healthier and lived longer.
So if you can stay hungry whilst all around are feasting….
I could contact them, text them on the phone and demand an explanation, but why should I? I’m sure they could come up with a plausible explanation. What good would it do me? The only thing to do is to play along, to act out what I have agreed to do.
The cottage does indeed stand isolated and alone, but as a place to hide from prying eyes, it is useless. It is perfectly exposed, no trees, hedges or fence attempt to obscure it from view. The landscape which surrounds it is hilly pasture and woodland. As a defensive position it is futile. I can take my pick of places to hide and never be seen.
I have no doubt that it was recently sold. I clearly remember seeing the “For Sale” and “Sold” signs. It can’t have been cheap, either. My guess, three hundred grand at least, and that’s now, 2010, in recession. Four bedrooms, full of character, in good repair and with half an acre of land. One old lady living alone, but surviving on more than a state pension. The half acre of land is unkempt and without any specific purpose, no flowers, no vegetables or well kept lawn, exactly how the previous owner left it. Parked outside the cottage is a 2006 Nissan Micra. For now, I will assume this is the woman’s car.
It is 6.30 a.m. and not yet fully light. I am well hidden in a patch of woodland and have my binoculars trained on the front of the cottage. Through the kitchen window I can see the woman. She is wearing a blue dressing gown and is standing perfectly still, as if listening to something intently. On a kitchen table I can see a radio. Suddenly, she becomes animated, her body language dismissive. A wave of contempt pulses across her face and she seems to mouth the words ‘Oh, fuck off!’ Shaking her head, she turns and quickly paces away.
Through a second downstairs window I see her enter a room. She hurries to a desk, sits and begins to work on a laptop computer. I cannot see the screen.
She continues working, typing furiously away for an hour and twenty minutes. During this time I scan what I can and, although my view is limited, I see no signs of protest. Nothing makes me suspicious. I’m sure this woman has passions, and maybe even causes, but am I really watching the hub of animal liberation? Maybe I am, but to be sure, I need to get closer.
For the rest of the day I shop. They paid me a grand and however I, the woman and Special Branch play out, I’m keeping it. I stock up on food, on basic supplies. I then treat myself. I buy a new coat, not one to appease the latest fashion but one to take on the elements, likewise a pair of boots. I then go to the butchers and buy a rib of beef, a family joint for six. An expensive cut of meat, but one I will consume in a single, joyful sitting. The rest of the money will be hidden, stashed away for a moment unknown.
It is 4.05 p.m. and I am hurrying down a country lane on my way to watch the cottage. Night is quickly approaching and will soon smother what remains of the day. In the distance, I can hear a car lumbering towards me.
The lane is narrow and twisting, edged with tall hedges that act as blinkers. Hearing the car reach the corner ahead I step off the road and onto a narrow grass verge, where I stand waiting for the car to pass. An act of self-preservation. The sound of a car slowly approaching is no guarantee of one competently driven. The car cautiously appears from around the corner. It is the Nissan Micra that was parked outside the cottage. Inside I see the Woman, driving. Seeing me she brakes and slows to a pace that is polite but also unnecessary slow. As the car rolls towards me she looks at me and smiles. I reply with a nod and a smile that feels somewhat awkward. Her stare and smile continue. Time it seems is sticking. Finally, the car reaches me, as it passes she manages to keep her smile fixed on me for a few seconds more by turning to look out of the driver’s side window. Her smile widens and her eyes seem to say ‘There, we made it.’ As she accelerates away she toots her horn twice.
We have made first contact, we have looked each other in the eye, and without saying a word, I told her a lie. In my world, she is significant, a fact that is known to me. In her world, I am significant, a fact that is unknown to her. How many such shadows follow us around?
Now, unless she is on her way to visit someone who lives close-by, and there aren’t many who live close-by, the nearest, rational location for her to visit, a local village shop, is twenty minutes away minimum. This gives me forty minutes to move in closer. Forty minutes to put the lie to rest.
Five minutes later I reach the cottage. Scanning the view nothing alerts me to company. With darkness is fifteen minutes away. I could play it safe and wait, or I could make my move now. Given the odds that hidden eyes are watching me my decision is easy. I approach the cottage. The hall light is on. I walk directly to the front door and knock loudly. Silence. I knock again. Silence. I quickly try the door, it is locked. I turn to face behind, take several paces away then turn back and hurry towards the rear of the cottage. Here I see two doors. I try the first. It is bolted shut, but the give is considerable. All that holds it firm is an inside bolt fixed to the top of the door. I concentrate my force over the bolt and the door opens.
I step inside and close the door. Inspecting the bolt for damage, I see none. The catch on the door frame is loose but no wood has splintered away. I turn a few screws and conceal my entry.
The house smells of baking. I am standing in the kitchen and the welcoming smell of fresh pastry hangs sweetly in the air. I take several deep breathes and my pounding heart begins to ease. My gran, who for a time brought me up, could always soothe my moods with an afternoon of her magic baking.
The light is low but I have no trouble locating the fridge. I move to it and open the door, inside: bacon, cheese, eggs and milk, an organic salmon fillet, salami and a pork chop. We all have guilty pleasures but can this really be the fridge of an animal liberation extremist? To my mind no, it can not.
I decide to leave. I know I could stay and dig deeper; rummage through her belongings and look for clues, but what right do I have? I have trespassed long enough. This woman has only ever smiled at me. She wasn’t the one who told me a lie.
Passing a kitchen table I find a laptop. The screen is on, so I can’t resist a look. It shows a web page, address https://boxxx5481422.com/oakley. A casual scan of the text heavy page suggests an academic report on the subject of growing algae. Is she an academic? She has the look. Next to the laptop is an empty bottle of wine. Has she gone for supplies?
I exit through the second back door and head back to the caravan, for whiskey, beef and thought.
I am alone in the caravan, sitting in silence for tonight the elements are still. The beef was delicious and the whiskey a warm embrace. I should feel contented; however, loose-ends nag me. I don’t like it when people complicate things. My life is simple; it’s what I have chosen. Some people get off on drama and constant complications I, however, do not. I like routine. Change is fine when it’s paced with the seasons but ultimately, in routine I can trust myself, in routine I can know myself.
I decide to do nothing, to pull myself from the loop, to continue as I was before the visit. They asked me to watch an animal rights extremist, but this was a lie, so now the contract has been broken and the deal is off. For all I care, Phillip and Andrew can come and go along with the truth of the situation. I care for neither. It would be easy to sit here a slave to imagination, a slave to the question, why, but I desire not the truth. I desire my own peace of mind. If, in time, I am confronted by the truth then fine, I am more than willing to defend myself, but for now, for me, the adventure has finished.
So quiet is the sea I step outside to check it still exists. It does, as does the wind. I will sleep outside tonight, and tomorrow I will continue as I normally would.
It has been said numerous times that a criminal will often return to the scene of their crime. This is something I have always thought stupid; however the next day I cannot resist walking past the cottage. Admittedly, I am on my way to do other business, but still, I stop and stare. The Nissan Micra is once again parked outside but I see no sign of the woman. The hall light I notice remains on, no curtains are drawn and all other house lights are off.
I quickly move on. The best time to shoot rabbits is early morning and today, this is my goal.
Early evening and again I pass the cottage. The car is parked exactly where it was this morning, the hall light continues to shine, no curtains are drawn and no other house lights are on. All remains the same.
The following day I fight the urge to go to the cottage. By nightfall I am standing in woodland looking down on a scene that refuses to change. The car, the hall light, the curtains are all as before, and all other house lights remain off.
All is probably fair and rational. I have suspicions, but only ones that concern a pensioner living alone - a trip or a fall in a house that cannot hear you scream. I could find her in need, but if I did, how would I justify my presence? Through lies or confession? I cannot find her by accident. She could simply be out, she probably is. I’m speculating, procrastinating. I cut myself off and decide to move.
I hurry to the cottage, straight to the front door and knock loudly. No answer. I knock again. No answer. I head straight to the first back door, apply the correct force in the correct location and push the door open.
I step inside, stand perfectly still and strain to hear any sound. Silence. No sound of human occupation. The smell of baking has gone, replaced with the smell of rotting household waste, both vegetable and flesh. I stand in darkness. The only artificial light is that from the hall, which spills through the gaps of an ill fitting door. I move to this door and open it. My eyes take the first wave of light with a beat of pain and a heavy blink. Quickly, however, I see, and what is it I see? I see her, the woman, in the hall, slumped on the floor, her head and face bludgeoned. I freeze, speechless of course, but also thoughtless. For a time, I do not know how long, I stick to this moment, this snap of time, and then, I wake. I do not panic, I do not fear, I feel no revulsion, disgust or even anger. All I feel is sadness, sadness for this woman. I kneel beside her and hold her hand, and of course it is cold and stiff, but still it feels human. My gaze turns in on itself and I see her face from memory - her smiling, pleasant face. But then, suddenly I wake once more. I drop her hand as my thoughts start shouting, what are the consequences, the consequences for me?
Now sickness turns in my gut. Now my stare is drawn to her face. Now I see the horror of what truly is before me. I see the present and flashes of the past, this woman hit once then battered beyond death. Murdered for business and pleasure. I see the horror in her stare as she takes the blows. I see her staring at me, directly at me, but I wasn’t there! She and others are staring at me, but I wasn’t there! I am not the witness to her last, final scream!
Instinct propels me to leave, but I resist and force myself to stay. I cannot runaway. Something cold and ruthless has caused this, and now, if I am to face it, I too must find a chill in my soul. I stand trying to think clearly, trying to resist the call of flight. I am in her house, I’ve broken in, and my fingerprints wait to snare me. Using the sleeve of my coat, I vigorously wipe the interior door handle, then the fridge door, then all other areas corrupted by my touch. My coat, my new coat, bought with their money. Good. For tomorrow I will burn it, along with everything else I am wearing.
Will my fingerprints be on her hand? I refuse the risk and wipe it anyway. Her fingers are long and slender, her nails without varnish. I look for rings, there are none. No watch or bracelets. I look at her crushed and broken face then down at her neck where I see no necklace. Her blood-matted hair covers her ears. I hesitate for a second then brush the hair away. Her left ear is pierced but holds no earring.
I stand and see my muddy footprints covering the tiled hall floor. I need a mop. I find the kitchen light switch and with my sleeve covered hand turn it on. Instantly my reflection in the kitchen window pounces. I feel watched, observed in the distance. I rush to the window and kill my reflection with the pull of a blind.
Muddied footprints cover the kitchen floor. I kick off my boots and then cover my hand with a tea towel. I look for a mob and quickly find one, bucket and all. Frantically, I begin to clean the floor. Evidence washes away but do I save more than myself?
Job done. I return the mop and stuff the tea towel in my coat pocket. I pause and catch my breath.
Why murder? I quickly move through the house lightly looking for clues. Nothing is disturbed. No draws pulled out, no looting. If robbery was the motive then the robber came with knowledge.
The urge to flight floods through my veins. I have to leave. Never have I felt so wrong. I pause and think. Do I leave here for good? Do I take with me all traces of my visits? I think about burning the house down, a thought I barely resist, but instead I pick up my boots and move to make my exit.
Outside in the darkness I struggle to put my boots on. Standing on one leg is impossible. All balance is void, my equilibrium is smashed.
Back at the caravan, in an oil barrel blaze all that I was wearing is destroyed.
Freshly washed, scrubbed hard, I sit naked and alone. Rarely do I feel alone, but tonight, I recognize that this is what I am, completely alone. I console myself by reminding myself that at least I am alive. I live. All that I want, which isn’t much, is still within my grasp. I am more than willing to fight for it, and now, whatever comes my way.
I could call the police and submit my truth. I was watching the woman yes, a request from two men claiming to be from Special Branch. They said it concerned animal liberation but this I know was a lie. Do I sound convincing? No. Do I sound like a nut? Yes. And maybe that’s the point, to sound like the local nut, the weirdo amongst us. He who never speaks, who lives alone, removed from normality. The hunter, the poacher. Paranoid. Dressed in camouflage, waiting for the world to end. Put me under the microscope and they’ve got their disease.
I was lied to. They came to my caravan and lied to me. They involved me in this, but what is this? Murder, obviously, but who am I? What is my role? They lied to me! To what extent I do not know. My first move now? Strike for clarity. Do I text them murder? No. I will text them what they wanted to know.
The next morning, dawn has barely woken. I am once again hidden in woodland looking down on a scene that refuses to change. Holding the mobile phone I input the message,
‘The two men have landed, both seen together. At the cottage now!’
I select the number stored on the phone then send the message away.
Now, I wait. For what, I don’t know. For helicopters to swoop in? For time to pass into nothing?
The phone beeps. I look at the screen and see the message, ‘Message not sent. Message sending failed.’
I try again. The same message is returned. I check the signal power, which is fine. I call the number and hear a voice tell me,
‘The number you have called is not recognized.’
Two lies down and increasingly, I am the fool. Maybe the mobile is faulty. I hurry away, desperate for the nearest phone box.
Inside the local shop. I have to buy a newspaper, to break a twenty for change. Familiar faces greet me with a smile. Am I different, tainted? Will they see odd behavior when asked to remember?
Sheltered inside the phone box; at one with it, as lonely and redundant it stands today. I dial the number. An automated voice tells me,
‘The number you have dialed has not been recognized.’
Again. One more time.
‘The number you have dialed has not been recognized.’
I hurry back towards my caravan. Avoiding the roads I go cross-country. I now expect the worst. I expect the police to find both the body and a trail, a trail which leads dishonestly to me.
I try and stay calm. I can feel anger, almost a panic, a scream to release. I must focus on the now, anchor myself to the present. I must keep control, consider what I know.
Two men call on me. They tell me they’re from Special Branch and ask me to watch a woman, to look out for two men who will visit her. They claim the crime is animal liberation, to terrorist level. I sense a lie and accept the challenge. I watch the woman and discover she has nothing to do with animal liberation. Two days later I find her dead, murdered brutally. The number they gave me doesn’t work. By entering her house I have incriminated myself. Was this their plan? How could they be sure I would? They couldn’t. If I am the stooge then there must be more, unknown plants and plots. They gave me a grand, some of which was publicly seen. Does the money call theft, add up and lead to murder?
In the distance I catch sight of the sea. The tide is crashing in. Do I ride the wave? Will I tame it? Do I swim ahead of it or has it already washed over me and left me choking, gasping for air?
I must ask no questions, myself no questions. Why me, I banish. Back to my caravan; pack what I need then vanish.
Why would anyone kill the woman? The woman, I don’t even know her name. I must return to her house, risk one more visit, but this time I must look properly for clues. I am tempted to wait until nightfall before making my entry but I cannot be still. Once packed, and ready to flee, I rush to the house and enter by usual route. Standing by the backdoor, I pull off my muddy boots and ready my senses to block out any sight or smell of the woman. I am here to know her past not her present. I quickly move through the kitchen ignoring the many draws and cupboards. My first priority is her laptop, which has been moved from the kitchen table. I enter the hall and pass the woman who I barely acknowledge. Into the study and straight to the desk where I find the laptop. I snatch it, leads snap out. I grab the power cable, yank it from the wall socket, wrap it around the laptop then stuff them into my rucksack. Suddenly, my focus spins to a sound outside. I look to the window and recognize the sound as a car engine. I drop to my knees. I was in full view of the window. The sound continues, getting louder, getting closer. It stops. I crawl to the side of the window, pause and listen. I hear a car door pushed shut, quickly followed by another. I raise myself up and peer out through the side of the curtain. Two suited, middle-aged men take the final few steps towards the front door. They look like police, CID. I lower myself and take cover. I strain to listen, desperate to hear any snippet of conversation, but all I can hear is my breath being pumped hard through my mouth. If they look through the letterbox they will see the woman. I could move her. I hesitate. A loud, three second knock on the door. I could move her. Another knock, louder, shorter, quickly followed by the snap of metal on metal.
In a flash I raise myself up, take a peek then lower myself into cover. One of the men was rushing towards a parked silver saloon car, his colleague, tried to shoulder the front door open. The door holds; it is heavy and solid. I slip my rucksack on then sneak another look. The man at the car reaches in through an opened front side window and grabs an in-car radio. His colleague rushes away, I assume towards the back of the house, to the first, unlocked door.
I scramble away crawling under the window. Once clear, I rise up and sprint through the hall into the kitchen. A dash to my boots. I grab them but now, where? I see a door. The backdoor shakes. I pull open the door, step inside and pull the door shut. Blackout. The darkness is complete. I am squashed into a pantry. Cool air and the smell of spices mixed with marzipan and icing sugar. This is not the time to venture into youth, but I have hidden in such a pantry before. No sight, only sound. I hear the backdoor flung open then footsteps rush across the kitchen floor. Silence. Slowly and gently I begin to put on my boots. Footsteps again, rush across the kitchen floor. Then voices.
‘Do nuisance calls lead to this?’
Nuisance calls? Is that why they came? Wasn’t she reported missing? Fifteen minutes, for back-up? I have one option, to run. Boots on, hood up, sneak out and flee. Quickly with the boots. Surely all attention is on the woman. If they see me, so what? I run, what changes? Two middle-aged men cannot catch me.
‘There’s a message.’
Four electronic beeps. From a phone?
‘It’s a mobile number.’
‘As she said. Return the call’
‘Now? Should we?’
Another single beep. I finish with the boots. Then suddenly, startled, I jump as a shiver vibrates through me. The mobile phone, their mobile phone, in my trouser pocket fizzes into life. It vibrates then squeals with ever increasing volume. No time to think. I shoulder the door open and spill out into the kitchen. The two police officers stand staring at me, rooted in stillness through shock. Seeing them I, too, pause. As sense returns the officer holding the phone presses a button and cancels the call. The mobile in my pocket squeals no more. I turn to run. This movement fires the officers into action. They rush towards me. I stop, then turn and attack. Four quick, hard, even brutal punches later and my pursuers writhe slowly on the floor. I need a head start. I am but one, they will be many.
I sprint out through the door. Once again I have nowhere to go, but never have I ran so quickly to get there. Reaching the front of the cottage I see the police car and skid to a stop. I pause, hesitating. Instinct pleas with me to flee but still I stand, staring at the car as a voice in my head begins to scream ‘in order to survive you must take risks!’
If I run into the countryside what chance have I got? How far can I get before man, dog and machine start to hunt me down? I cannot be predictable. I must fight myself as much as I must fight everyone else.
I rush to the car and gently open the boot. A glance back reveals I still have time. I whip open a back door, reach inside and release the catch that allows the back seats to fold down. I then quietly close the door and move back to the boot. For a beat I freeze, hesitating. I force it down and myself inside, into the empty space. Without a handle to close the boot properly I have to pull-slam it shut. He noise echoes inside.
Once again I am squashed into darkness. The phone, turn off the mobile, it could ring. I pull it from my pocket and silence it. Dogs. What if they bring sniffer-dogs here? My scent could reveal me. I could be running, I could be free, but that is what they expect of me. And now, what now? Nothing, just wait. How is this a good idea? I could be running free but instead I am trapped. All I can do is think, remind myself of where I am, the darkness, the increasing lack of fresh air. I have handed myself over to fate. I must fight these thoughts. Fear was youth and ignorance. They will not take you; they will not take you away!
I hear a car, the sound of a car fast approaching. It stops aggressively somewhere close-by. Doors open then slam shut. A man’s voice calls out.
‘Round the back!’
The silence returns, a minute dead, but then the sound of people approaching. The rub of heavy coats. In my mind I see uniformed police rushing towards me. Voices call out.
‘He can’t have gone far!’
‘Wait for the helicopter.’
Body heat. Thermal imaging. Am I safe in here? Surely better than dogs? The sound of people moving towards me. A voice, one of the CID Officers.
Followed by the voice of someone new.
‘Are you sure you’re not concussed?
The front doors of the car are opened. The car bounces on its shock absorbers as people take their seats. The doors are slammed shut. The CID officer speaks.
No reply, nothing verbal anyway.
‘Bastard! We’ll get him! Fuckin’ twice over!’
The engine ignites and we drive away. Finally, I have movement and pace, all of which feels good. Sometimes I desire stillness, need it in fact, but here, now, it is movement I crave.
Lying here, in the fetal position I start to feel calm, even secure. Does the position induce a subconscious journey back to the womb, where all was right and peaceful? Maybe it’s the sense of movement mixed with the feeling of invisibility. I love to feel invisible. Once I was afraid of the dark, until one night, I thought fuck it, let the worst happen. Let whatever you fear come and do its worst. After all, fear may shout, ‘you can’t see them in the shadows’, but so what, neither can they see you.
The car picks up speed. We have left the country lanes and hit the A-roads. Twenty minutes to the nearest town. With a fair amount of success I try and empty my mind, to think of nothing. I see no point in trying to formulate a plan, as my vision into the immediate future is a black as my ride.
Twenty five minutes into our journey and the car slows to a halt. The handbrake is pulled and the engine is killed. The CID officer speaks.
‘Right. Let’s get you looked at.’
The front doors open and the officers climb out. The doors slam shut and footsteps hurry away. The car alarm beeps with activation; remote central-locking has secured the car.
With their footsteps fading I push the backseat forward then pull myself into the back of the car. Slowly, carefully I lean up and look through the side window. Before me stands the local hospital. The two officers are hurrying towards A&E. I wait for them to enter the building then make my move. I open the door and set myself free.
I walk calmly away from the car. I need a plan. A place to hide, to study my only clue. Or maybe I should seek distance, continue to run, to get as far as way as possible, away from the public’s gaze. How long before my story goes public?
As I walk around the car park, trying to look as if I have destination, anger starts to fuel me, anger at the people who put me here. I had my routine; I had my peace and now, all is chaos, all is unknown. I want solution. I want answers. I need to hide. There is too much light. I hurry towards the Out Patients building. I have been here before, visiting, saying goodbye, silently of course. I know a place where I can sit in peace.
As I enter the building I slip off my rucksack and carry it by hand. This, I think, makes me look less noticeable and helps push me into the background. Several CCTV cameras watch me. Does this matter? Will the police suss my escape and review the footage? Could they? Would they have the time? Maybe later, tomorrow but today, I doubt it.
I enter the building. It is busy with people. It is nearly noon and morning visiting hours are due to end. No one seems to pay me attention. I glide pass reception and hurry along a corridor. Reaching a door I take it and enter the Men’s Toilets. I go straight to a cubicle, shut the door and lock it.
I am alone, hidden. My surroundings are warm and spotless, as they say, it could be worse. I push the toilet seat down and sit. From the rucksack I take out the laptop, open it, turn it on and boot it up.
Waiting for Windows to load I almost feel guilty. I could have access to a world, a life that shouldn’t be mine to view. Twice in my life I have had the option of reading someone else’s secret diary, and twice I chose not to. Does that make me boring, too good to be true? Did I refuse to read because I feared the truth? Or maybe I didn’t care enough for the people whose diaries they were. Mind you, neither diary left me unharmed. I tore from each a dozen or so random pages, which I later destroyed by fire.
Windows loads and I begin my search but quickly find nothing of any consequence. No pictures, downloads, nothing that reveals the essence of this woman. Is the computer new? Or barely used? Has it been tampered with, cleaned of vital information? Maybe she missed the techno curve and now only uses computers under protest, if so, I sympathise.
Finally, I find two files that interest me. That could possible contain the information I seek. The first is a Word document named Draft 1. I do not have the time to fully investigate but it seems she was writing a novel. The first line of which reads,
‘You can take the man out of the cunt, but you can’t take the cunt out of the man.’
The second is an email conversation between the woman and her son, which reads:
‘Oh what joy. Welcome to my past. A place I had easily forgotten until you, in all your wisdom, deemed it correct to remind me. Well speak to me, dear mother, but I warn you, I am no longer a weakling and I no longer see with the eye of a child. You tracked me down. This shouldn’t surprise me; after all you are not without intelligence. I should thank you for my genes, Professor. Nature or nurture? Obviously both. So thank you for the genes although nurture, not you. Anyway, how are you? How well have you aged?’
‘Oakley, my son. Thank you for your reply. It means so much to me. My health is fine. Of course, as my doctor tells me, my cholesterol and blood pressure could both be lower, but what the hell, I have no intention of fading away whilst making up the numbers in some care home.
I have recently retired to the countryside – proper peace and quiet, although a little boring. I have plenty of time to think and read, maybe too much time to think, never enough time to read.
I would like to meet up with you, at the very least speak to you on the telephone. I know we have our issues and perhaps, in some ways, I can understand the way you have chosen to isolate me from your life, but can we now at least be civil to each other? I would like to speak to you, is this possible? Can I call you?’
‘No. Not interested. Can manage email only.’
‘Then email it is. How are you? Are you happy? Speak to me. Tell me where you have been, what you have achieved, tell me your life. Is there family?’
‘Life is great. There are challenges and fights. Thankfully, I work towards a time when the challenges and fights have all been won. Science is our only hope and I am a scientist. I have no family.’
‘You have me. You’re a scientist, of course, what else? Your passion. Your brilliance. I knew you would be. You work away from academia, can I ask why? You had so much promise. I looked for papers published by you but found nothing. This surprised me. What is it you research? I would be interested to know. Your cousin Reese, remember him? I am sure you do. You were once as close as brothers. He is soon to marry and would love you to come to the wedding. Can I tell him you will?’
‘My work is secret. I have fulfilled my promise and more! Tell Reese, no. As close as brothers? For a time yes, but then you sent me away. Ask him about Newnham. Were we close? Never. The law is for cowards.’
‘Why do you still hold what happened against me? On one level I can just about grasp your feelings but on another, dare I say it, it all seems so insignificant.’
‘The butterfly flaps its wings.....My mind is tuned to the future.’
‘You were sent away to school. You won a scholarship. Wasn’t it for the best, for your intellectual development? You had a mind for science. Is what we did so wrong?’
‘No. For the best. I left, we parted. Simple. There is no big issue here. I do not need a therapist. You sent me away to school. Initially I hated it. Fear and abandonment etc, etc caused by you and by father but then I settled. I found solace in my work. I grew beyond you. Learnt to live without you. Evolved and adapted. It takes a lonely man to see, or rather feel, real truth. Think how the gods walked alone from the desert. Get over me. Move on with your life. I wish you no harm, but then again, I wish to share no more of my life with you.’
‘I see. Then let me say this, when I read your words they made me feel that you are far from happy, contented or fulfilled. You have no family, this pleases you? Who are you professionally? Wasn’t the world to know your name? To celebrate your achievements? You told me your ambitions and they were far from fantasy. Many expected them from you. So why have you walked away from them?’
‘I work for the private sector and this offends you. You are, were, a socialist but you sent your son to be privately educated. Suggestion, grow up. Engage with the real world. Mother, the idealist, well so am I. However, you won’t access my idealism in a library. I am totally committed. One day soon, you will see. I will visit you and inform you of my work, of all my many achievements. You will see my wealth and the power of my influence. I will tell you everything, which will result in us parting for good. This is now inevitable. I find your emails distracting, a nuisance. Stop them. I will be flying (by private jet) into the country soon enough. A member of my staff will soon be in touch.’
After this I find two separate emails from Oakley, without any reply from the woman. The first email reads,
‘New plan. Will call you.’
‘Educate yourself. Permission will follow.’
The words ‘educate yourself’ have a website link attached. Placing the cursor over the link reveals the web address, https://boxxx5481422.com/oakley. This is the same, or similar, to the page on her laptop, that night I first broke in. Did it show his work, his science?
Families, how they fill your life with joy. These emails, this straw to grasp, are these all I have to go on? They contain nothing explicit, but still, I could do worse than follow the stench of power and money, both of which would have been needed to put me here.
The son, you are now a suspect. Can I get to him? No. All I have is an email address. I could test him. Let him think I have evidence that proves his guilt. If he thought I did then surely he would try and get to me, and in doing so, prove his involvement. A son? Come on, never, it’s ridiculous. But it’s all I have. Anyway, who else, what else? What enemies can such a woman have?
I need access to the internet. The laptop has Wi-Fi. The only place I know where I can gain Wi-Fi access is the local library. Do I take the risk? Of course. What else is there for me to do?
I pack the laptop away and make my move. I step out of the Toilets into a flow of people, visitors all rushing to leave. The pace is good, brisk, but then no one healthy ambles slowly away from a hospital.
I reach the exit, step outside and quickly see two options. A queue of female pensioners waits patiently to board a bus, which will take them into town. I could join them, or I could go alone in one of three black cabs, which wait in line for a fare. I choose a cab, less people and much more direct.
I reach the lead taxi, pull open the back door and climb inside. The driver, a woman, which is bad news as she’ll remember my face more clearly, turns to look at me. Gently rubbing my throat, as if it was sore to the touch, I mouth the words ‘can’t speak’. I then point at the hospital then back at my throat. She gets it straight away.
‘Lost your voice. Oh well.’
‘Is it contagious?’
I shake my head.
‘You can’t give it to my husband then?’
I fake a smile.
‘Where you going? Here, write it down’
She passes me a notepad and pen. I write ‘railway station’. Taking back the notepad and pen she smiles.
‘The station, it is.’
I recline in the seat and try to look ill, too weak to enter into any form of communication verbal or otherwise. She starts the engine and pulls smoothly away. It should be a ten minute journey maximum. She spies me in the rear view mirror.
‘You look like you could do with some rest, luv.’
I nod. She smiles and looks back at the road. For the rest of the journey I am left in peace. I try and think of only my immediate objectives, to get to the library and send the email, the contents of which I write in my head. My focus, however, is fallible and other thoughts push in. I see myself, the image of me labeled and condemned. I think of the driver, her beat of fame, her picture and the headline ‘The killer was my fare.’
I have never got angry at people who have thought ill of me, never felt disrespected by an insult or a so-called dirty look, and this in Britain where a flash of violence can spring from an eye-line crossed. But by tomorrow, the ill thought that people aim at me will cut deep, and I will feel more than disrespected. I will feel, in part somehow guilty. I can feel it now, guilt stirring anger; a feeling that I am contaminated, that inside me rises unease.
A sharp left hand turn taken too quickly snaps me from thought. We have reached the railway station. As the driver pulls up directly outside the entrance I hurry to pull a ten pound note from the money belt strapped around my waist. Money saved for an unknown time.
She turns to face me. I pass her the money, smile and nod then move to exit.
‘Do you want your change?’
I glance back briefly and shake my head. She smiles.
‘Thanks. You get well soon, hey?’
I open the door and hurry out.
Since she brought me to the entrance I feel obliged to enter. I told her the railway station as a precaution, as I didn’t want to give my true location away. I walk through the sliding doors and up to a timetable pinned to the wall. I stand pretending to read it until the taxi pulls away. Once clear, I hurry outside. The library is only a minute away.
On my approach to the library I pass through a small courtyard area where cycles can be parked. I scan the half dozen or so cycles present but all are securely locked.
The library is barely active. More staff than punters. I locate the Wi-Fi area, sit at a table and read a leaflet explaining how to connect. It seems easy but then technology always does. CCTV watches my every move. Ten minutes later I have a connection. I open the woman’s email and the Inbox begins to fill with Spam. With the email from her son opened I click reply and write,
‘You set me up. I know this. The evidence is mine. You killed your mother. I know the truth. I still have the mobile phone, call me.’
With the email sent, I try and open the link attached to ‘educate yourself’, but all that opens is a box requesting a password.
The temptation to search the local news, to see how much of a story I am, briefly comes and goes. I must get away, and fast.
As I hurry into the courtyard area I see a teenage girl, about seventeen years old, dressed as some sort of part-time Goth. She has her back to me and is unlocking a security chain from a mountain bike. This gives me an option, a choice I can’t refuse. A quick look around confirms our solitude. I rush towards her and strike, a single punch to the back of her head. She flops to the ground, semi-unconscious. I take the bike and cycle away. It makes me think, how far can I go?
Exercise, or rather physical activity, always clears my mind. I cycle hard and think of nothing. I know where to go and how to get there, into the countryside and high into the hills. To a place, that tonight, may offer me sanctuary. To a small, isolated chapel nestled discreetly