Brian carefully made its way through that chosen night with its precious cargo.
The streets were empty of life beyond the occasional scrum of youths gathering on street corners and in front of the now vacant rows of shops. Elsewhere, the night housed the urgent passage of an ambulance, a police car or a fire engine. Apart from these obvious reminders of what was going on beneath their noises, there was a sort of peace, the type that comes before a storm.
Most people, not directly involved in events, had decided to keep indoors.
Laura sat in the passenger seat with Nick at the wheel.
A memory of driving gave him a confidence that would have amazed his passenger, who still sat dazed at the side of him. Although he didn’t know it, he had never driven a car before in his life. These were Laura’s dead husband’s. Nick even knew those little things that are learnt through an unbroken relationship between man and vehicle. He knew how not to slam the accelerator to the floor as Brian would cough and splutter to a standstill.
For years, the carburettors had been a little dodgy and, regardless of the times the car had been at the main dealers, the problem refused to go fully away. Laura had inherited the car when Simon had moved on to another, newer model. ‘Middle-age’ he had claimed as his excuse. That newer car had not survived the accident either, meaning that the expected onrush of middle-age had never had the chance to truly manifest itself. A sound of a gun broke the uneasy peace.
Nick was the first to react.
Outside, tens of youths were emerging from the shadows. Nick had only to look once to decide that now was the time to ease down on the peddle. Some of the youths were carrying knives, others had clubs, but a few were unmistakeably holding guns. The first shot had missed by inches. The owner of the gun was now readjusting his aim through a volley of expletives. The others were trying to make up the ground between them and the Volvo.
One of Fairfields’ old patients had given them the tip-off when he had picked up sight of the car on the city’s CCTV. They had set up their ambush in the knowledge that their prey would be going that way. A number of the soon to be assailants had broken into a builders’ merchants and were wielding ugly-looking house bricks. They threw them in unison and one smashed onto the roof of the car denting it and causing Laura to snap out of any remaining dreamy state.
Nick second guessed how this would run. The trap had been sprung and they were being pushed towards what they believed would be a possible escape. If Nick was to stay on this road, there would be some other surprise waiting for them. Something that would stop them either through force or guile.
Nick eased his foot calmly down upon the accelerator and began to put some distance between themselves and the gang. As soon as he was out of their sight, he turned off the main road and into a side street. He then switched off the car’s lights and drove quietly into the night.
He would take the back roads.
Half a mile ahead, two police cars were waiting for a certain speeding driver to make their night. They too had been former residents of Fairfields House. They would have a longer wait than they had intended.
In the protection of some helpful shadows, Michael watched them from across the street.
He was unsure as to whether he should approach them for help or to keep his position secret. There was something about the way they were watching the road that reminded him of carrion waiting for the kill to be completed.
Minutes earlier, he had heard what he thought was a shot from a gun. There had been a brief commotion and then the sound of a car picking up speed. There had been something about the way it had moved up through the gears that reminded him of Brian and his temperamental ways. Then the sound had quietened and disappeared. Pushing deeper into the shadows, Michael heard the unruly advance of feet. He decided that he was not going to hang around and find out who they belonged to.
He knew his way from here and could keep out of sight. There were lots of alleyways that he could navigate his way along.
He disappeared into the night moments before the first of the gang arrived.