Thursday, 9 October 2014

A path less straight (pt. 8)

Refusing the Italian job

“I think we’re being followed,” I said, overwhelmed with the feeling that somehow I had ended up in a gangster movie.

A long, low, black car had pulled out of the gate behind us, when I had taken Egg’s short cut along the farm track it had made the same short cut. It had then follow us back onto the road and was looming large and menacing in the mirror.

“Yes,” agreed Egg. “Sorry, I thought we could avoid something like this if we popped in unannounced.”

“You knew something like this would happen and you didn’t bother to tell me?” I was quickly throwing off the lethargy lunch had tried to induce. “And now we’re being tailed by the mob?”

“I misjudged,” he said. “He knew I would turn up and had prepared for it, that’s not good news. We’ll have to lose them.”

“How?” I asked.

“Our car is much smaller, we’ll find someplace they can’t follow,” he said. “Just drive like Bracken was teaching you.”

“Randomly and rely on hope to get out of this?” I felt a seed of panic start to germinate in my stomach. “What if they have guns?”

“Guns would turn this from a cheeky infraction to a major incident, he wouldn’t risk offending my family that much,” he explained. “Turn right when we get to the village.”

I increased my speed as much as I dared on the narrow twisting road, but habit made me slow down as we passed by houses and people. Turning right took us onto a road that lead straight back out into fields and farms. The black car was still behind us, I could see it on the short straights between bends.

“Left here,” Egg called.

I only just saw the turning in time and nearly put the car into a wall. The road descended, crossed over a stream on a little stone bridge and then climbed back up. Egg directed my through a farmyard and along a short, dusty farm track and then, on reaching another road right and into a village.

If this was a different village, then it appeared to be laid out very similar to the one we had already driven through. There were no satellite dishes or solar panels on the houses, and none of the few cars parked by the side of the road looked to have been made any later than the sixties. We rattled through the cobbled square and Egg directed me onto a narrow street that lead back out into farmland.

“Are they still behind us?” I asked, unwilling to take my eyes from the fences and stone walls as they rushed past us.

“Yes, but they’ve dropped back a bit,” Egg replied. “Take this right.”

Again we bounced along a farm track, grape vines lining our passage. I hoped the dust that the car was raising would obscure the view of our pursuers and then realised it was as good as leaving a trail for them to follow. Egg pointed out an opening on the right and we joined another track of hard-packed earth.

Oddly this led into another village, a rather grubby affair, the street became paved with stone only as we approached the inevitable square. A woman paused in tipping a bucket of dirty water into the street, a donkey hitched up to a cart gave me a wary eye as I skirted around it and a nun crossed herself at our presence. I noticed the lack of telephone wires and television aerials. I was about to comment on this when something struck me.

“Egg, it’s the same village,” I said.

“How can you tell?” He asked. “They all look the same to me.”

“It’s the same village, but as it was a hundred years ago,” I insisted.

We left the village square by another road which rapidly became a dirt track as the houses receded. A glance in the mirror showed me that the black car was now closer. I looked across at Egg for an answer.

“Get ready to turn left,” he said.

“I don’t see anywhere to turn,” I replied.

“You don’t see anywhere now,” he said.

“That’s what I said,” I replied, panic rising a little.

“Nearly, nearly,” he said.

“There’s nowhere to turn,” I told him.

“There’s nowhere yet,” he confirmed.

“Then how can I turn?” I asked, flustered.

“Turn now!” He said with such force I nearly heeling the car over into a ditch at his say-so.

But then I saw it, I spun the wheel as hard as I dared and the sound of tyres screeching on Tarmac greeted me. Suddenly we were travelling along a modern road, a sliproad, in fact, for a multi-lane highway. I merged behind a large truck with French plates and looked in the mirror for signs of pursuit. There was nothing but a gaily coloured hatchback filled with a quartet of chattering Italian women and a white van whose driver was leering at them.

My heart rate slowed and I let the traffic carry us along. Inside of me I started building up the ball of invective that I wanted to launch at Egg.

“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re a fantastic getaway driver?” He asked.

I glanced across at him. The tension burst like a bubble and I started to laugh so hard that I could hardly see where I was driving. When sanity made it slow way back into my body I relayed to him what Isabella had told me.

“Pull over so that I can kiss you,” he said.

“You’ve been drinking,” I told him.

“I have,” he admitted, pulling out his phone and starting to fiddle with it.

“Now what are you doing?” I asked.

Booking tickets,” he said. “I believe I promised to take you to the opera.”

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