Season Two – Chapter Forty Two

My eyes fell on the jagged patch of skin missing from the back of his hand, watching in slow motion as blood seeped from the wound each time the tendons flexed, exposed bones moving, its grip tightening around mine. I didn’t panic, didn’t want to scream out, it was like I was watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel. My concentration drifted to the pistol holstered at his side, distracted away only by Toni’s strength pulling at my other hand. The race of engines echoed from down the lane, growing each moment I listened. I took no part in the tug of war, pulled by a hand either side, only snapping my attention to the pain as with a sharp snatch of force, I pulled free of its grip, leaving its face to slap down to the remains of the stone wall.

I stumbled back, Toni catching my fall, her arms under mine until I leapt forward, righting myself, not waiting to steady. Instead I leant down, heaving a great rock, pulling it high above my head before letting it fall, flinching away as the legs shot up, going limp as blood slapped across my bare legs. I was too busy for my eyes to linger on the great clots rolling down, already trying to forget the squelch, the liquid slap as the stone hit. With no time to pause, the engines so near, I leapt out, steadying myself on the rocks, pulling my glance away from the misshaped head remaining, my hands on the holster, the gun in my grip as I cleared the rest of the debris, turning back only to make sure Toni was following.

We ran along the hedge on the inside of the wall, knowing whoever was following, whatever was chasing after their colleague, could go no further than the Land Rover blocking the road, but just as the thoughts came I heard the aggravated bark of hungry dogs in the distance. Down into a shallow valley we took our first opportunity to make sure nothing had followed, thankful we couldn’t see the scene we’d left behind so knew they couldn’t see us in return. With the view blocked we swerved across the field, running until our breath couldn’t pull any harder.

Coming to rest on the other side of a hedge, together we leant behind a tall, wide tree, its branches gnarled and bare. Peering around the side, my breath shaking my body, I watched the line of black smoke in the distance whiten, soon disappearing altogether. Listening out for the snarl of chasing dogs, all I could hear was Toni’s deep breaths as she tried to regain control. My view turned down to my feet. I was up to my ankles in mud, scarlet flecks of clotted blood had dried hard and despite all I kicked they clung on to my legs as I tried to hold back the gag.

I turned away, looking around for something to help, something to wipe the mess away, instead my eyes settled on Toni as she watched, eyes squinted to where we’d come, her breath slow and I wondered, hoped she was feeling better, hadn’t swung the other way. She turned, her face solemn, a grin rising in the corner of her mouth as she looked me up and down. I did the same, taking in her disheveled hair, her face lined with black soot and darkening blood, smudged together with a sheen of perspiration at our effort. My eyes fell down her top, the rip in her t-shirt at the arm, the white of her left cup showing through, the t-shirt potted with black rimmed holes, exposing tiny patches of pink flesh. The corner of my mouth rose.

I watched as she grinned my way, the way my Toni did when times were good. I watched as her smile grew and she shook her head until her eyes fell on the pistol I’d nearly forgotten I held in my hand. The grin lessened as she pushed out her hand, her eyes narrowing with the crumple of her face as she reached out for the gun. I had no hesitation in my head, but didn’t understand why my arm was so reluctant to offer her the gun. Her head turned sideways, her eyes narrowing to a pinch as she stepped forward, her smile back, but its nature gone. She stepped closer, so close I could smell the burn mixed with her unforgettable scent pulling hard on snatched memories. I closed my eyes as her flingers ran light down my arm, letting go as she gripped the barrel of the pistol and my hand emptied.

Opening my eyes, I saw she hadn’t stepped far, but looked sideways in the sky, for a moment turning her head around until she found the low sun half way around its journey and I knew the words before they came out.

“We have to get back to the van,” she whispered.

I nodded.

“The cameras,” I said still tilting my head, but she raised her eyebrows, turned her head to the side, righting it after not too long.

“Your medicine,” she said, her voice lowering. “We need to retrieve it before night.” She smiled, bunching her cheeks in my direction and I felt an overwhelming need to be close, to feel her warmth, the hunger lying low inside me. I stepped closer as she peered the way we’d been heading, snapping her head my way as I wrapped my arms around her, her skin cold to touch for a fleeting moment before she flinched away, stepping back, her eyes wide, face curled up in disgust. She flinched for a second time and I realised she’d heard the dogs before me, had heard their panting snarl. Together we turned as I backed away and stood transfixed on the Alsatian running across the field, puffs of vapour pumping from its lungs like a steam engine, its eyes and wide hanging, tooth laden mouth, fixed in our direction.

 

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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.

Not read Season One? Here it is.

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