Night had fallen by the time anything moved in the hearse. The hand of the freezing darkness was upon Flowers as he slowly blinked himself back to waking.
The first thing that he felt was the immense pain exploding along the landscape of his head. The blood that had erupted was now frozen and congealed. His mouth was dry from having had to breathe through it. He realised that he was doing this because his nose was a swollen mass whose passages were no longer open. A hard concussion drummed out a beat that he presumed must be audible to the rest of the world. What he saw before him did not make sense. He was looking at the world through the narrow opening that ought to have been a windscreen and he was doing so from a horizontal position. His conclusion was that he must have fallen asleep so he tried to sit upright and found that he could not. He looked to where he thought the roof should have been and found that it was much, much closer than it ought to be. From behind him came a noise that suggested movement. Flowers remembered his companion and spoke.
“You crashed,” the voice replied with just an element of reproach in it. “You crashed into a tree and it fell on us. You must have been asleep.”
“Not asleep. I was unconscious. You? What about you?”
“I am trapped. I have attempted to free myself but cannot. I thought you were dead.”
Flowers examined his position and tutted, “Still might be if we don’t get out of here.”
The prospect of dying no longer appealed to him. He was in no doubt that his present predicament would be one which would lead to his demise. It would leave him as only a bit player who was no longer required on stage and he would have lost everything. Everything that he had gone through, everything that he had been promised would remain here in this crushed sarcophagus. “The last mile in style!” How they would laugh with relief. His enemies would be safe not to fear him. They would think that he had run away and all that he had achieved would be lost. He tried once more to move and found that it was in vain. Soon the winter would claim him.
The thought of The Piper ran through his mind.
“Why have you deserted me?” Flowers whispered resentfully and no answer came. He closed his eyes and waited.
On impact, the Daimler DS20’s engine had stalled. A huge shudder had run along its length and then the motor had fallen silent. The tree that had subsequently descended onto the roof of the hearse was an old elm whose life had long since been taken by disease. For years, it had remained standing with the help of those around it as its own innards rotted. Such a tree was always going to be a potential danger. So, when Flowers lost control and veered off the road, the elm was all too willing to give up its own ghost. Still, the weight of even rotting timber was sufficient to partially crush the offside roof and door effectively trapping the occupants.
Flowers thought about Hope and this fetched him back to the world. Where there was Hope so there would be Flowers. He would have his revenge. All that stood in his way was the little matter of the tree, the tree whose branches had smashed through the glass to the front and the side of him.
“Can you move at all?” he asked the Leatherman.
“No, my coffin is half in and half out of the vehicle. The roof has pinned it down. Can you?”
Flowers was in the process of saying that he didn’t when he found to his amazement that his right hand was free. He pulled it up in front of his eyes and saw it through a double focus. His arm hurt almost as much as his face so he rested it on the steering wheel. A branch reached out and ran its raking fingers across the back of his hand bringing an instant sting of blood. Liam responded in the only way that he knew how to; he struck out.
Two things surprised Liam. The first was that he should have responded to an inanimate object in that way (He hadn’t done anything like that for a good time). The second thing was that the branch crumbled beneath his strike. It was this that forced his recently discovered mind into action.
Action was what he was good at so it did not take him long before he made his move. His logic was that, regardless of the cold, the tree’s branches should have been stronger. The branches that had hit were dry, they had crumbled under minimal pressure. He took a gamble and reached towards the Daimler’s ignition keys and turned them. Lights were illuminated on the dashboard but no spark of life. It seemed that the battery was flat. His eyes were playing tricks on him with the double vision multiplying itself. A red light was flashing a message but he was having trouble reading it. The drumming in his head had increased and he was aware of every pulse of blood that was being pushed through his brain. He sharpened his focus, straining his eyes to see what the car was telling him. From his position, he could read only part of the message and that part was, ARKING. Whatever that meant was a mystery. Then he saw it.
Just in front of him, on the column that housed the automatic gear lever, were the letters R, P, and D. As it stood, the lever was now in the D position. He pulled it back to P. Twisting his leg as best he could, contorted with the pain and exertion of it all, he then reached up to turn the key. The engine coughed into life immediately and he lifted his foot off the brake. The car moved slowly forward and the huge weight of the tree started to give. In the end, it needed only a couple of yards to free the hearse from the grip of the old elm and that short space enabled The Leather man to break out, once again, from his premature grave.