Saturday, 2 October 2010

Chapter Twenty-Eight

The tears didn’t make the fear and confusion go away; the acute feeling of unreality that had settled like a haze over everything. Jobe didn’t know what the demon-boy had done to him, but he was certain it had done something. A dead murderer he’d just fucked was lying in his bed, with his sister. Slipped into a private hell, forfeiting some future redemption.
He stood at the sink, methodically removing traces of Prayer’s blood that lingered on his skin. He slipped on his bathrobe. When he finally went back into his bedroom he found it empty. He went cold again and called out his sister’s name. She answered him from down the hall.
He quickly dressed into a fresh pair of jeans and a clean black t-shirt.
Serima was in her room, packing clothes into a canvas laundry bag. Prayer was sitting on the edge of the bed, casually smoking a cigarette. She wasn’t blood-stained anymore, dressed in fresh clothes now; black jeans and a black woollen sweater. She must have cleaned herself up at the kitchen sink. Serima couldn’t bring herself to look at Jobe. He felt repulsive.
Serima didn’t look at him while she spoke. “Prayer told me that someone’s coming here to find us. Not just her, but all three of us. We’d better not be here when they arrive…”
“Police?”
Serima shook her head. “A Bad Guy, like in the movies.” A random laugh escaped her and she slung the bag across her shoulder. “Bang-Bang; Let’s go.”
Her disturbing acquiescence to Prayer seemed to have broken. She was curt and forceful now, without giving the other girl a second glance.
There was madness in the air.
Jobe turned and stalked down the corridor, Serima and Prayer trailing behind him. In the living-room he stepped into his trainers and pulled on his leather jacket, feeling for the car keys inside.
“Come on,” urged Serima, “Now.”
The three of them left the flat behind, and Jobe felt unsure whether he would ever see his home again. He said nothing but wondered if his sister was thinking the same. He wanted to pretend they had somehow stepped into a dream. But the soft rain on his shoulders, the solidity of everything around him, told him it was all terribly, numbingly, bizarrely real.
Two young boys on bikes were watching them walking to Jobe’s car. “Hey, Sexy Serima! Billy’s in love with you!” one of them called out, and the other one shoved him off his bike. The kid fell to the wet ground, laughing. Serima didn’t acknowledge them but suddenly stopped in her tracks.
Jobe followed her line of sight. A white Transit van was pulled in behind Abbey House, nearest to his red Ford. The driver spotted them immediately, and watched them.
“No,” murmured Serima, glancing at the other girl.
“Shit,” muttered Prayer, “We were too slow.”
Jobe felt a coldness crawling the nape of his neck. “This is the Bad Guy?”
Prayer nodded, “I believe so…”
“What do we do?”
“He won’t hurt either of you while I’m here. He’ll wait for his mates to arrive. It’s me they want, they’ll just take you two as insurance.”
Jobe stared at the driver of the white Transit. Not much older than himself. Intelligent eyes and close cropped hair. He pulled himself from the shared appraisal, and hooked Serima’s arms. “Come on, get in the car…” Serima didn’t budge. “Get in the car!”
He dragged her forward, hurrying to the red Ford, right up alongside the white Transit. Jobe glanced at the driver. This close he could see something else in the driver’s eyes besides intelligence – a practised, successful malevolence. He shoved Prayer into the back seat as Serima scrambled round to the passenger door. The guy in the van made no attempt to stop them.
Jobe started the engine as soon as they were all inside, glancing again at the van in front of them. The driver was now on a mobile phone. Jobe didn’t like the prospect of who he might be talking to. “Oh, man…”
He pulled the car from out of its parking space, slowly reversing away from the white Transit. Serima had her eyes pinned to its driver. “Come on, Jobe. Drive this thing.”
“He’s blocking the way, Seri. I can’t get out.”
“He’s waiting for the others,” said Prayer.
Serima glanced through the back window. “Reverse. Make an illegal turn onto Cromwell Road. Do it!”
Jobe immediately pressed his foot to the accelerator, and the car swept backwards with a healthy growl. The engine of the white Transit also roared to life, surging forward in the same narrow lane of concrete. Real fear began to dance across Jobe’s shoulder-blades.
The driver was going to ram them.
The young boy that had moments earlier called out to Serima was watching the car’s speeding reverse. He walked his bike forward in astonishment. His head snapped round when he heard the Transit looming up towards him. He leapt clear, his bicycle crushed instantly beneath its wheels as it thundered past. “You fucking prick!” the kid screamed, his friend frozen in shock a few feet away.
Jobe grappled with the wheel, pulling the Escort around as it fish-tailed slightly, as the Transit clipped their right side. Serima cried out in alarm as they pin-wheeled, spun like a revolving top, the left side of the car slamming into a low brick wall. The van ground to a halt. Jobe exhaled explosively and glanced up at the driver of the Transit, perhaps only ten feet away, safer in his elevated position. He smiled at Jobe, tipping the brim of an imaginary hat. Jobe saw a plaster cast on his wrist.
“Get us out of this!” Serima cried.
Jobe grabbed the gear-stick, putting the car in first. He rammed the driver-side of the Transit, and saw the look of surprise in the guy’s face. He’d obviously not expected his targets to fight back. Jobe reversed and attacked the van again, then again, shattering both headlights on the Escort. The Transit was too large to pull out easily, the kid’s mangled bicycle caught against one of it’s back wheels. The driver gunned his engine but couldn’t gain any leverage.
“Jobe, stop!” Serima cried again, “Stop and get us out of here!” Jobe was barely listening. He reversed and rammed the Transit so forcefully that the driver’s window cracked and the guy quickly turned his face.
“Bastard,” Jobe hissed and then finally pulled away, fast. He glanced past Prayer through the back window, reversing right out onto Cromwell Road.
They sliced right into the path of an oncoming Audi.
It pulled around them like a stunt car, half crossing into the other lane, spinning around to face them with the shriek of tires. The headlight-glare of other cars turning the corner further down, coming up behind it. Jobe glimpsed an attractive redhead woman behind the wheel, staring at them with sheer disbelief.
“Drive!” barked Prayer, “She’s one of them! Move!”
Jobe didn’t give himself time to think and righted the direction of the Escort, taking off around the redhead’s Audi. She turned the car again and came after them. Jobe shook his head. “This isn’t happening, man…”
The redhead seemed to be closing in on them. He gunned the engine. He felt Serima’s reassuring hand cover his on the gear-stick. In the rear-view mirror Jobe glimpsed a white flash as the Transit van appeared. It was coming up fast. The Transit pulled up alongside the redhead’s car and Jobe watched both drivers exchange glances. Suddenly the Transit pulled left and then banked sharply right, veering insanely into the Audi.
“Oh shit…” muttered Serima and Jobe, in near perfect unison.

***

Katherine Reece had searched the minidiscs again and found a reference to Castor Estate. She’d waited for nearly an hour, parked on Cromwell Road, at an angle that allowed her to watch the building. She smoked, listened to the radio, sometimes finding herself crying. And then all of a sudden she’d glimpsed them, all three of them. This girl that her employers were scrambling to find. Suddenly it felt unreal and too easy. What the fuck do I do now? A blind panic washed through her. She started the engine, cut swiftly across the lane and nearly hit them as they launched backwards into the road like maniacs.
Prayer thinks you’re here for her, she thinks you’re here to try and contain her. Do you blame her, Little Red?
She realised the truth a moment too late.
They were being hunted.
A white Transit van in the rear-view mirror pulled up alongside her. She clearly saw the driver’s face. Intelligent, curious eyes. A white plaster cast on one wrist at the wheel. She nearly lost control of the vehicle.
It was the man from the car park of her building, her would-be executioner.
He looked just as surprised to see her as she was to see him. And then his expression boiled over. He banked left and then veered madly towards her. The car shuddered violently with the howl of metal kissing metal. She let out a groan of fear.
He tried the same move. This time the impact was harder and she felt the side of her head knock painfully against the window. She pulled away from the impact and then veered into him but the Transit was too big to be greatly shaken.
He banked away again, about to slam her car for the third time.
Katherine stepped on the brakes. Rubber tires grinding the road, her car came to an abrupt stop, pitching her forwards and then yanking her back by the snap of the seat-belt. The Transit swept across the lane in front of her, clipping the curb, nearly tipping over. He must have hit the brakes too because the van finally stopped, rocking dangerously from side to side like a boat at sea.
Other motorists began furiously beeping their horns from behind her
Katherine slowly expelled the breath caught in her lungs. The Transit was stopped almost twenty feet ahead of her. She pulled the gun from the glove-compartment, waiting, panting softly, but the driver didn’t get out of the van. Without a second thought she drove around it and sliced away down the road. He didn’t follow her, and she didn’t know why.
Up ahead at the next corner, the faded red car had disappeared from sight. She doubted an apology would matter to Prayer.

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