Thanks to the wonderful group who met in Derry last weekend, we have our penultimate section of the story. The authors of this chapter are: Niamh Shields, Niamh Nesbit, Dessie McGilloway, Philippa Robinson, Mary Bonner, Hilary McClean, Kathleen McMonagle, Sean Moloney, Nina Mukherji and Leanne Toye. They had the difficult task of trying to continue the threads from Banbridge and Ballymena, while having to set up the story for the final chapter. I think they’ve done a great job with it. Hope you enjoy Chapter 4! All that remains now is for the Omagh group on Saturday to wrap the story up for us…
The Next Chapter
‘Shit John, we’re in trouble. Is it the cops?’ Kate spoke through gritted teeth. A queue of cars sat ahead of them. She could see a figure in a high visibility jacket standing at the foremost, leaning down, speaking to the driver.
John swore. ‘Just drive on, Kate, for God’s sake. The bloody rhino horn, never mind all the money in my bag. We’re done for sure.’
Kate twisted, as if planning to reverse. Headlights behind them flashed. ‘Damn! There’s a car behind us. We’re hemmed in,’ Kate said. ‘There’s nowhere to go.’
As they inched forwards, towards the flashing blue lights, panic was setting in. Watching anxiously through the blinding rain, Kate suddenly realised that the cars ahead seemed to be simply turning and coming back the way they had come. No one was being searched.
John had released his seat belt, ready to make a run for it, when Kate snapped, ‘Sit still. I don’t think it’s the police.’
As they rolled forward they saw clearly now. A rain soaked figure, waving a bright lamp, approached their car. Kate wound the window down.
‘Good evening madam. I’m with the Water Service. There’s been a major burst ahead so I’m afraid there’s no access this way. Go back and take the first left.’
‘Is that way okay for Ballymena?’ Kate interrupted.
The man nodded as he stepped back to allow them to turn.
John sank back in his seat with a sigh of relief. As their car sped through the night neither spoke. Then a quick glance at each other and they both began to laugh.
‘Jeez! That was a close one,’ John whistled. He thought a moment, then spoke. ‘It’s a pity we just couldn’t keep going Kate. To hell with Keith. There’s over a hundred grand in my bag. We could just keep going.’
He glanced across at her, trying to read her expression by the passing lights of the street lamps.
‘He’d find us,’ Kate said, grimly. ‘The way he found you.’
‘I’ve been thinking about that, “ mused John. ‘How do I know it even was Steve’s finger? We all have those rings. Keith has one too. It’s like a brotherhood, a sign, how we recognise each other.’
‘Well, it was someone’s finger!’ exclaimed Kate
‘Yeah, some random dead guy. Keith runs an undertakers. Not hard to sever a finger or an ear from the corpse before you close the coffin. Make it look like Steve’s with the ring.’
Kate cringed at the thought. ‘Regardless. He has my licence.’
John considered again her ‘lost’ purse. ‘You’ve really kept your cool in all this,’ he said.
Kate smiled, but said nothing. As they drove down the now empty road, she thought about her brother, Bruce, who had been the one who taught her to drive. Kate remembered Bruce’s smile, his black hair, his dark skin and how patiently he had waited, without comment, through lessons as she ground the gears. She remembered the coffin, the tears.
‘Where’s the turn-off for the church?’ she asked, keen to dismiss the thoughts. Failing.
‘About a mile further up the road,” said John.
They were slowing now, on a bendy, narrow, downhill road, the tarmac slick with rainwater. Suddenly the inside of the car was lit up with the blue flashing lights from two emergency vehicles coming fast from around the bend.
‘Not again!’ John said, twisting sharply to see the car behind them.
Kate said, ‘Easy John! No panic.’
The cars stayed behind them, the bending road providing no opportunity for them to pass.
‘Do you think they’re looking for us?’ John asked.
‘If they were after us, we’d already be off the road,’ Kate muttered.
As they rounded the final bend, a mile from the Church, the road straightened out and the two police cars roared past them. No sirens just flashing lights. In a hurry to get somewhere, but not wanting to alert anyone that they were on their way.
Kate slowed down as they both realised that the police cars were turning into the church grounds ahead of them. The road ahead was blocked. They would have to turn back, or turn in towards the Church where Keith had been waiting. Where three Police carns now sat, their occupants spilling out into the church grounds.
‘Turn back!’ shouted John as they suddenly saw two figures running across the car park towards their car. Neither could tell if one of them was Keith.
Kate braked hard, twisting the steering wheel, bringing the car round, slamming into reverse to correct their angle, then shunting into first, speeding off back the way they had come once more.
She saw, in the rearview mirror, as one of the police cars peeled away from the others and set off in pursuit.
‘They’re-’ John began.
‘I see it,’ Kate said quietly and accelerated the BMW fast. The squad car kept pace with them and its blue dashboard lights flashing, indicating them to pull over, the siren blaring now.
The pair sat in silence, but where Kate’s eyes were on the road, John’s were on the rear view mirror, watching the police behind them, trying to pull past them as they headed back up the winding road they had just travelled.
The driving rain pelted down on the windscreen, but Kate continued to pick up speed. At each twist in the road, John’s stomach turned, hoping that they would pull away, but the blue lights were ever-present. It seemed as though there was no escape.
As they rounded another bend the car began to slide. The wheels screeched as Kate steered in to the skid. John slowly turned his head to find blinding lights hurtling towards him, faster and faster. The police weren’t trying to overtake now. They were trying to hit them.
The collision itself was brief.
The force shunted the rear of the car out to the left, setting the BMW in a spin. It took only seconds for it to breach the wooden posts at the road’s edge and drop forwards, though the treeline, before coming to rest in a ditch.
John started suddenly with the overpowering smell of petrol. It took him a few seconds to realise that he was still in the car. He could see steam rising from the buckled bonnet. He gingerly turned his head, expecting to see Kate still in the driver’s seat; instead he found fragments of the shattered windscreen strewn across the seat.
John then looked to his own side door and reached out for the handle, but the door would not open. He furiously pounded on the door but despite his efforts, it would not budge.
He was startled by a sudden movement at the passenger door and turned to find Kate trying to lever the door open. Working together, the door creaked and groaned as they managed to pry it open.
He climbed out and fell to the ground. Looking up, he found Kate staring down at him. ‘Thank God you’re alright.’ John gasped.
Kate nodded, ‘We need to get out of here, before they make their way down to us.’ She grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet.
‘What about the rhino horn?’
She shook her head, ‘There’s no time. Leave it. We have to go.’
They’d been on the run for fifteen minutes when John finally realised something. ‘My money!’ he cried. ‘It was in the boot, too.’
Kate flashed him a smile, reaching into her jacket pockets and pulling out a wad of notes. She smiled, breathlessly, then tucked the money away again.
‘Keep moving,’ she said. ‘I’ve an idea where we can go.’