Chapter Four

A long procession of cars wheeled out, silent to the extent of my vision as I climbed from the car, my face fixed as my friends held theirs, mouths wide, a bewildered stare ahead. Engines lay at rest, the traffic filling the two thin lanes bordered by a dry stone wall, each abandoned, only some of their owners having the presence of mind to close doors.

“What the fuck?” were the words I barely heard from Toby’s mouth, words I knew weren’t meant for anyone.

“Why the fuck?” I said, mine coming without command, my feet unbidden the same, one in front of the other, slowly at first, building, building until I was flat out. My eyes jerked this way and that, searching out for new information, searching for the end of the line as I swerved left and right around cars, sometimes three across as each one tried and failed, despite the brush of metal on metal, to squeeze past. Shoes and bags, luggage and holdalls littered the remaining gaps, slowing me to more of a hurdle as I raced to the head of whatever this could be until I swerved right, the bumper of a van having smashed the wall before bogging down on grass, its doors wide, a glance of orange handprint to the white paint of the bonnet.

I turned away, my progress doubling as I ran unimpeded along the grass. Slowly, the density of  cars seemed to increase, no air either side, but it had done them no good, each car wedged, windows smashed, a vision flashed of people hauling themselves out, biceps tight, clawing to climb from the crush of metal. I turned back ahead, my daymare still only a patch on reality. My breath caught and I saw the queue stop, abrupt, the road blocked with three cubes of concrete stacked at the junction.

Slowing my pace, I climbed back onto the wall, stones crumbing to the ground as I leapt to the roof of a stocky sports car, easing my way forward, the journey unhindered by gaps as I moved to the next. Ahead I could see the concrete blocks were like those used to put across disused carparks, like those used to protect the unwanted colonisation by families armed only with their homes towed behind them. Beyond the concrete was nothing. Nothing at least when I took my first look, an absence of traffic, cars, vans, the spray of glass, but there was plenty to see, bags, clothes, suitcases strewn across the road cutting left to right, blocked by the concrete. Blood was the only sight more numerous.

Glancing back at the sound of panting breath, I saw Toby and Andrew hurrying forward on the grass, their eyes not as wide as mine, wide only to the abandoned cars, soon they would be as wide as they could, seeing the despicable scene that spread out in front, as they saw the three piles of clothes that looked out of place, looking bigger than all surrounding. Both climbed to the car as I stood on without words, both took steps with me, jumping over windscreens, landing to the clear tarmac. Soundless we headed on, our eyes keen on the blood, our feet stepping sideways, glances meeting for the first time as my foot knocked something we all recognised. The spent cartridge like a tiny bell as it rattled across the floor.

Soon the sound was like a miniature orchestra, our feet sweeping the path left and right, clearing the way so not to slip and fall on our collective, unspoken journey to the closest of the dark bundles. Definition grew, the shades of greens, browns and black recognisable on the arched back. We arrived and I watched my hand reach out, pulling at the shoulder, wheeling back as the body of a young woman, a young lieutenant according to her lapels, rolled under her own weight. My stomach reacted first, gripping vice-like, but it was already empty, my gasp of air enough to control my flinch at the crushed side of her face, a muddy footprint to the other. The same could not be said for the other two.

As the body came to rest on her back, I spotted the handgun lain underneath. I turned left and right to the pair standing bent over, hands to their mouths in unison, their eyes on what I had seen. Toby nodded, Andrew gave no reply. The gun was still warm and nearly fell as an almighty rumble, felt deep in my chest, ripped through silence, lighting the horizon.

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