The whirr of the engine masked the rain. The limo edged forwards and paused at the filters. From here, Nancy could see a convoy of break-lights delineating the contour of the A45. Vince’s quiet tone clipped the air. ‘I think it’s time we took a detour, Leon.’
The limo got moving in spite of the congestion. Quadrangles of light shifted eerily across the seats, creating the illusion of a swirling exterior around a stationary cab.
Nancy’s tailbone rocked with the shift in direction. The limo gained speed once Leon had cut into a narrow lane. Darkness now pressed against the windows. Nancy could sense no motion although the engine’s murmur conveyed effortless power. The windows of the cab became a mirror of the interior. She could see Leon’s profile on the reflection of the front passenger window. He could see him. That is if she looked. Nancy kept her sights diverted. That brief but burning scrutiny would come back to haunt her. He would never remember her face. She was one of many faceless subjects who earned him silver bottle-tops. Still, that look, that…that sizing-up A page bearing his face would instill a swift turning of the page.
Nancy checked her bag and the sight of her mobile provided assurance. She would ring in sick from work. Nancy would become invisible for a while. The media attention could not possibly have much sustenance. After all, what is there to print about yokels?
Leon’s disc player cut in. A Bee Gees number offered reprieve from the silence. Vince’s tone came dryly. ‘Very funny.’
Leon’s bluesy lilt had been resumed. ‘It all began with the Brothers Gibb, Mr. Jonas.’
And then he embarked upon a flat offering of How Deep is Your Love? Nancy could picture Vince’s porcelain white teeth flashing in the gloom as his chuckles rippled the air.
Nancy closed her bag and tucked it into the gap between her thigh and the door. She would be glad when the ride was over.
‘They don’t write songs like that no more, Mr. Jonas,’ Leon finally said.
The lower corner of the windscreen flickered. Before she could register what she had seen, a sonic pulse forced a pressure wave into her eardrums. The floor quaked beneath her feet; the chassis jerked to the right as though the grille had been snagged by rope. For an instant, the flickering shadows seemed to rear up into a solid wall and crash against the windows. But all she could see was a narrow funnel of light in front. The road capered insanely. Branches whipped the windscreen leaving a sappy imprint. Leon’s head jerked to the left like an eastern European puppet in silhouette. The door panel smashed her shoulder; her seatbelt seized her in a molar-rattling embrace. Copper basted the roof of her mouth; her scalp mottled hot and cold. She became the pinion from which everything spun, like a fairground carousel on a tumble down a hill. Barry Gibb’s arpeggio continued to caress the air just beneath the tortured sounds of an endless seam of bolts at sheering point. The limo screeched; the cab clashed. Gooseflesh scuttled across her back. An ominous radiance now lit up the lower right corner of the windscreen. A web of scratches flickered against a landscape in flux. And then she pictured a tyre blowout. She pictured the wheel arch pounding against the tarmac, emitting a plethora of sparks. Rubber, slapped the passenger windows like demented bats.
She could see nothing yet sensed she was tumbling not forwards but downwards with horrible force. The road, complete with catseyes receded away in a sickening freefall that flattened her against her seat. A pair of headlights screeched past. Her stunned windpipe would not permit a sound.
Please make it stop!
Her knuckles hardened into a rigor mortis on the edge of her seat. And that’s when she saw them… a row of streetlights ahead. Their beams pooled over railings. The railings appeared to tassel a bridge…or perhaps an overpass. She hated that bridge being there. She hated the way those railings fluoresced against a black background offering no sense of scale to what lay beyond. All they did was torment her. She imagined a void concealed; a void miles deep, or perhaps without end.