To read the first eight chapters, please click here. For the first two sections of chapter nine, please see my related blog posts #9a and #9b.
Monday 4th November 1985: 18.05 – 18.30
‘This will be fine, thank you, dear.’
Kevin Proctor jerked out of his reverie. ‘Oh – right.’
He drew to a halt and watched the old woman climb out of the car; rather stiffly, as befitted her elderly status. At least, that’s what he told himself. He really didn’t want to think what else the stiffness might be due to.
He’d been aware of a strange odour emanating from her during the journey. A kind of…
Dead smell? Was there such a thing?
What with that, and the – ‘voice’ – beaming directly into his head.
And the fact that he’d seen her flattened against his windscreen before she’d quite casually appeared at the side of the car asking for directions.
And the other voice, apparently coming from nowhere, that had suggested he give her a lift.
And the –
He stopped totting up the ‘and thes’. That was quite enough for now.
He’d spent much of the journey wondering if he could find time in his hectic schedule of reading other people’s (ie, HL Danvers’s) novels to write one of his own. His experiences during the last half hour could surely fill a chapter or two.
And not a Patagonian shepherdess in sight, which would be more relief than even thinking about Sally Evans each night afforded. Instead, there’d be a hero; perhaps the editor of a small publishing company in a provincial town?
And there’d be a love interest. Perhaps the beautiful, curvy (but aloof) PA to this editor bloke?
And there’d be a scene where the beautiful, curvy (but aloof) PA to this editor bloke would be in desperate danger, and this editor bloke would leap in at the last moment to snatch her from the jaws of perildom.
And she’d turn to him with her eyes shining, and her lips quivering, and she’d say…
‘Thank you for the lift, dear.’
‘Oh – right,’ he said again. But then he realised that the woman was already through the garden gate he’d stopped outside, and was half-way along the path that led to the front door beyond; and he shuddered as he realised as well that there was no way a normal voice could have carried back to him, what with the doors and the windows being shut; and he shuddered further as he also realised as well that no matter what his fantasies, Sally Evans would never turn to him with her eyes shining and her lips quivering…
Oh, hell. Stop being such a prat, Proctor.
With a sigh, he engaged first gear to pull away.
Then, as he glanced for a last time towards the old woman, he frowned, the clutch still depressed and his hand still grasping his gearstick. (Which, he would later realise, was the perfect metaphor for his life thus far.)
She’d reached the front door.
And drawn back her foot. Rather stiffly (as befitted her elderly status, of course…).
And then, as he watched, his foot slipped off the clutch, and the car, held in place by a handbrake that if he pulled it up too far took both hands to release, jolted into silence.
She’d just taken the door clean off its hinges with one mighty (albeit stiff, as befitted…) swing of that foot.
He stared in disbelief at the ruins of the door, as the old woman lumbered through then made a right turn and disappeared from view.
And as he stared, a young woman strode up to the gate, noticed the door, and hurriedly lifted the latch and ran along the path into the bungalow. She too turned right and disappeared from view.
And then a tall, thin young man strode up and performed exactly the same sequence of actions.
And then a car drew up behind his, and glancing in his mirror he saw two men get out. His frown deepened and his mouth fell open as he saw that one of them was Joseph Makumbo, his trainee editor. Joseph and the other man also looked towards the bungalow, then shot through the gate and in; the other man, who was older, lagging behind by a few seconds.
Then there was the sound of another door opening, and a third man emerged, staggering, from the car, and lurched in after the other two.
And then another young woman, Asian-looking and rather attractive, walked up to the gate and repeated the process the others had gone through.
And then another young man, small and rather seedy looking.
And then an older man, who bore a marked resemblance to the previous younger one.
And then, after a few more seconds, nobody else arrived.
And then he heard a scream.