Saturday, 3 September 2011

Episode 81

Harold found himself running across an area of rough ground, mostly loose, dry dirt with the odd tussock of scrubby grass dotted here and there. Behind him, he could hear the truck’s engine being revved and what sounded like a very bad-tempered clash of gears as it was hastily slammed into reverse. Hopefully, the Infinity Recycling crew would waste a lot of precious time getting the truck back out of the loading yard and onto the road again, time he could use to his advantage.

He looked back to see if any of them had followed him over the fence, but could see nothing except the sweep of the truck’s lights as it swung around, and even these disappeared as it drove out of the yard.

Where would they go?

Harold’s mind raced: having seen him run off into the dark, they would try to find a way onto this open area as soon as they could. He wasn’t out of the woods yet by a long chalk. Heh, woods would be quite handy in his current predicament.

Then he had an idea. Whipping out his phone, he called up Google Maps. It took a maddeningly long time for the app to work out where he was and display the map of the area, but eventually it appeared.

Up ahead, about half a mile off, Harold could see a line of moving lights. So that would be the highway indicated on the map just there then. So, that bit was the business park and there was the loading yard. Harold zoomed the image out to get the whole of the rough ground onto the screen. It looked like there was just the one place that a vehicle could get through and was it just over there….

Sure enough, as if on cue, like the eyes of some malevolent creature, the truck’s headlights appeared and began to grow larger as the vehicle bounced and bumped its way onto the field.

Harold headed for the lights of the highway. Maybe he’d be able to persuade someone to stop and give him a ride (unlikely! he admonished himself), but even so, once he actually was on the well-lit main road, surely the IR people wouldn’t be able to try and capture him without drawing a lot on unwelcome attention. It was definitely the best bet at this stage.

The truck’s engine roared as the driver floored the accelerator. Harold risked a look back and saw that the truck was on a somewhat oblique course to his; it looked like the truck’s occupants didn’t exactly know where he was at this point, which was fine by him.

The highway lights drew steadily closer. He might make it yet.

Suddenly, the truck accelerated past Harold on what was now almost a parallel course, albeit a hundred yards to the side. Darn it!  They must have figured out the highway was his best bet and were trying to get there before he did. That was not good news: the open ground was a rough wedge shape with the narrowest part abutting the highway. If they did get there in time and got their freezing machine going again there was no way he was getting past them. He slowed to a stop; no point in running straight into their trap. The obvious thing would be to head back the way he’d come, putting maximum distance between himself and them.

He turned and began to run back.

Behind him, the truck’s engine, which had been a more or less constant roar suddenly rose in pitch, giving out a tortured mechanical scream. This lasted but a moment, however, before being cut off by a horrendous crashing sound, followed by the nails-on-blackboard screech of something heavy and metallic sliding against something very hard and very rough.

Then all at once there was silence.

Harold whirled round.

The truck was gone.

He stood there for a few moments, at a loss. In his experience, trucks did not just disappear. After a while, though, a new sound came to his ears, an irregular ticking interspersed with the occasional spong of cooling metal.

Harold made his way over to where the noise was coming from. The mystery of its sudden vanishing act was solved.  A twenty foot wide, twenty foot deep solid concrete drainage culvert ran more of less parallel to the highway. The truck’s driver simply hadn’t seen it in time.

The truck lay on its side at the bottom of the far wall. It must have hit at an angle, its momentum flipping it round a full 180 degrees given that it was now facing back the way it had been going. From what Harold could see of it, the driver’s side was completely staved in and the rest of the truck looked pretty bent and battered. It wouldn’t be following anyone anywhere now.

For a moment his spirits soared. This was his chance! He could get away, hook up with Teatime, Othello and Mercury and figure out how to rescue Prada.

But, a more level-headed thought insisted, there were people in that truck. If they had survived the crash, they were very likely to be needing medical attention.

So call an ambulance and leave them to take care of it.

But an ambulance could take ages, those people needed help now.

But if they weren’t that badly injured after all, he’d be walking straight into their arms.

Not badly injured?  Seriously?  The truck was a mess.

Harold gazed at the crumpled truck for a moment longer and then with a sigh, walked to the edge of the culvert and jumped down into it.

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