The shout made him jump! He didn’t realise it came from his own mouth at first and that freaked him out. Not to the scale that he had been freaked out over the last few hours but his nerves were shot to pieces now and any little thing was likely to set him off.
He glanced down at the clock on the dashboard and the green neon showed it was 21.33 the same time as when he had looked a few seconds before. He was driving south on the 220 through Virginia close to the North Carolina border in his rental. It was a Dodge Neon which he had picked up from Charlotte airport a week earlier. He liked it because it was inconspicuous and he was trying to keep it that way. He was driving just below the speed limit to avoid attracting any attention. This he was finding, was harder than it looked. The more he concentrated on his driving the more he seemed to overcompensate for everything which in turn made him think everybody was watching him.
“Relax” he was telling himself just as another set of flashing blue lights raced towards him in the distance. He checked his speed again and held so tightly onto the steering wheel his knuckles went white! He tried to sink his six foot three frame down into the seat and at the same time will the car to drive on past him. It was moving pretty damn fast and even though he was telling himself not to look he couldn’t quite help it. As it went past him on the opposite side of the road he chanced a look. It was a black and grey State Police car with TROOPER emblazoned on the front wing. The “Trooper” had his full attention on the road and didn’t even glance in his direction. As he watched the flashing lights fade into the distance in his rear view mirror he noticed that his face was covered in specks of dried blood.
Actually, there was blood everywhere! On his tee-shirt and on his jeans and even on his brand new white trainers. It was also on his arms and hands and he had managed to smear blood onto everything he had touched in the car. The thought of the blood, somebody else’s blood, made him nauseous. He remembered there were some wet wipes in the glove box and lent over to grab them. As he did he was overcome by the nausea and threw up on the passenger seat!
“Fucking wonderful, Shit, Fuck, Shit!”
There was an intersection coming up and he thought it would be prudent to get off the main road and find somewhere quiet to clean up the mess. He turned off onto the 87 and headed towards a town by the name of Eden. Eden, that sounded like a great place to live, though there seemed to be a strange irony that the name sort of summed up his current situation. He had entered the garden and while knowing damn well he shouldn’t have, took a bite out of the juicy fruit and then had been well and truly bitten by the snake in the grass! Jesus! He thought to himself, I must be scared if I’m thinking in metaphors.
The road was a single carriageway with no streetlights, although it was dark now it was well illuminated by a very low, nearly full moon which seemed to fill a clear sky apart from the liberal peppering of brightly shining stars. He had been amazed over the last week on how different the sky looked at night from the middle of the country as opposed to the tainted look he usually got from the city. He didn’t have time to revel in the cosmos now he needed to concentrate on the road. Even though it hadn’t snowed for a couple of days there was a lot of snow on the verge and the last thing he wanted was to get stuck out here.
He kept his eyes peeled for an appropriate place to stop and after about a mile down the road he promptly drove past it! He stopped, backed up the car to a shingle track that cut its way through a heavily wooded copse then got out the car and checked that once he was off the blacktop he would be able to get back on it again. The track looked fine and he reversed up it far enough to be invisible from the road and then he cut the engine and turned off the lights. The moon was now obscured by the overhanging trees and he sat there for a moment in the dark, held his head in his hands and started to cry.
He didn’t have time for self-pity! He had to get himself cleaned up and away as fast as he could, or did he? Maybe he should turn around and face up to his responsibilities! Whatever he decided he needed to get himself cleaned up and the smell of vomit was making him feel sick again. He got out of the car into the cold night air, it was well below freezing now but he didn’t feel at all cold, and took off his tee-shirt. He walked around to the passenger side, opened the door and used the shirt to clean the sick off the chair. He then popped open the boot and rummaged through his travel bag until he found a large towel, white, perhaps not the best colour, and a half drunk bottle of mineral water. From the light inside the boot he used the towel and water to wash the blood from his face, arms and hands. When he thought he had done a reasonable job he stripped out of his Nikes and jeans and wrapped all the clothes and shoes in the towel, which he put back into the boot. Now he was standing in his boxers on a gravel track in a foreign country in sub zero temperatures and his little mantra came back to him. “What the fuck am I doing here?”
He put on a clean pair of jeans from his bag and pulled on his old boots, he also put on a cleanish tee-shirt and a sweatshirt. It was a new one, Carolina Panthers it declared on the front, with a huge panther on the back, he was hoping it would make him look like a local. Before he shut the boot he took his cologne out of his overnight bag and poured it liberally over the passenger seat and was ready to hit the road again.
He got back into the car and cranked the engine suddenly he realised how tired he was. His emotions were starting to get on top of him, he was frightened and lonely and all of a sudden very cold.
“What am I going to do?” he mumbled under his breath.
He couldn’t just sit there that was for sure, so he decided to head for Eden to see if he could find a room for the night. Then he could make a decision in the morning that is, if someone hadn’t done it for him already!
As he drove down the road there were now signs of life. Houses set back from the road with lights glowing from their windows, many with a 4x4 truck out front which seemed to be the standard mode of transport here, and nearly all with the ubiquitous stars and stripes hanging limply in the still of the night. He liked the way they were able to show their patriotism by flying their flag outside their house, his own flag had been taken over by the far right and football hooligans and flying it from your house was seen as a racist act! Crazy in his mind, but then the whole country was obsessed by political correctness!
He drove past churches that would have been full earlier that day now with empty car parks and the occasional roadside diner who all seemed to be doing good business. They had probably filled up after their clientele had vacated the church car park had headed over to eat. As he got nearer the town there were a build up of shops and industrial units all closed up for the night, illuminated only by the odd arc light acting as some form of security. He past a huge lot full of mobile homes, double and singlewides offering an opportunity of a brand new home “for only $999 down”. He had looked at homes just like these only a few days before! Just beyond here was a sign for a Days Inn motel.
He pulled into the car park careful to park well away from the office and went inside to get a room. The office was scruffy and dimly lit, there was a television on in the corner showing some game show but the volume was turned off and the only sound came from the drinks vending machine by the door. There was an Asian guy behind the counter reading the local paper who hardly looked up when he came in and announced he would like a room for the night. He tried to add a southern drawl to his voice so as not to draw attention to his accent, who was he kidding he still sounded English. Asif, this was the name on his badge, really didn’t seem to give a shit, he was just happy to be paid in cash and left alone to get back to his paper.
He found the room and parked outside, went in and locked the door behind him. The room was awful; no wonder Asif paid no attention to him. He thought, they must get all sorts in here! It was a square room just big enough to accommodate the double bed, an easy chair that looked anything but easy, a bed side table and a chest of drawers with a television on top of it. At the far end of the room was a dressing area with a basin and a clothes rail and a door to the bathroom.
He drew the curtains, carefully, as a majority of the curtain hooks were missing then he turned the heating unit under the window up to full blast! The place stunk and he didn’t want to linger too long on what the smell might be, it was also filthy. The carpet was covered in stains and he was sure if he lifted the moth eaten rug at the end of the bed there would have been a chalk outline of a body underneath. At least he had a roommate, a cockroach; it sat in the middle of the rug staring him out. He wasn’t in the mood and stepped on it crunching it into the rug with his size 12. I might need to sleep in my boots, he thought to himself, just in case the rest of the family come looking for me!
He turned on the television and, with the remote that was chained to the headboard he found channel 18, the local news channel expecting to see his picture all over the screen. Luckily no mention of him yet but the film crews were still camped outside the house and there were a lot more patrol cars there than when he left. He left the television on and turned on the shower and was surprised when the water didn’t come out brown and lukewarm. He got undressed and got into the shower, as he stood under the hot powerful jet trying to scrub the blood out of his skin his mind wandered back to the beginning and how he got into this mess in the first place.
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