The motorbike raced down the back lane for the third time that evening, the sound of the exhaust disappearing into the distance giving the hint of peace and quiet, then reappearing yet again.
Shaun looked at his alarm clock, 2:05. He’d been awake for two hours now, if he’d ever been asleep. He had a lot on his mind.
The quilt lay crumpled on the floor, a victim of a central heating system with a mind of it’s own. He’d considered getting it fixed in the winter but these things cost money. Money Shaun didn’t have.
The open window was meant to bring fresh air but all it brought was noise and reminders of where he now lived. At least the wafts of barbecue smoke had finally disappeared.
It hadn’t always been like this, he once had the high flying job, the four bedroom detached house, the loving wife. Not anymore.
He peeled himself from the bed sheets and sat up, picking his book from the bedside cabinet and flicking on the lamp. He didn’t read as much as he used to; he didn’t do a great deal that he used to. He opened the book at the page with the turned corner, Chapter Two. He read a page then realised that he hadn’t taken any of it in so started again. The roar of the motorbike returned.
“This is useless.” He threw the book across the room.
He eased himself off the bed and padded through the sitting room and into the kitchen where he poured himself a glass of water. He sipped it whilst staring into the blackness out of the window.
He returned to the sitting room, sat on the sofa and looked at the wall. Not really looking, just sitting there facing it, trying to ignore the noises outside. Trying to ignore the noises inside his head. It had been over a year now but there wasn’t a day went by when he didn’t think of what he could have done differently. But here he was, he couldn’t change anything now no matter how much he thought about it.
He made a decision.
Shaun put on some jeans, a t shirt and his trainers and grabbed his car keys. The countryside was only twenty minutes away, maybe a drive out would clear his mind. He heard the motorbike in the distance again, this time accompanied by the sirens of a police car. He headed in the opposite direction.
He worked his way through the estate, passing the odd taxi, the occasional drunk returning from a night out, gardens full of sitting room furniture, discarded lager cans and abandoned barbecues. Painful reminders everywhere.
Broken glass and abandoned wheelie bins littered the roads until he hit the dual carriageway. The road, both well lit and eerily deserted. He accelerated until the speedometer was touching 110mph.
He took the turn off and before long he was on a country lane, just him, the car and the darkness. He put the lights on full beam and put his foot to the floor, braking sharply before each turn, leaving it a little bit later each time. Ignoring the thoughts in his head about what would happen if he didn’t press the brakes at all.
He finally came to a lay-by and pulled in. Whilst there were no street lights, the moon illuminated him and the car and he stepped out to get a closer look at the stars. He used to enjoy sitting in the back garden at night with a whisky, just staring at the stars, alone in his own little world. That wouldn’t be happening again.
He climbed onto the bonnet and lay back watching the nighttime sky. He drifted off, sleep at last.
He woke with a start. It was still dark but the merest glimpse of sunlight appeared through the trees. Rubbing his eyes, he clambered off the bonnet and got back into the car. He swung it around and headed back home. Whilst he wouldn’t describe himself as refreshed, Shaun certainly felt better than he had a couple of hours ago.
Still not light enough to do without headlights, he negotiated the corners with a bit more care on the return journey. He hit a straight bit of road and was going to accelerate when a shape in the road was caught in his headlights. It looked like a dog. Just lying there, in the middle of the road. He slowed the car as he approached it. It looked too big to be a dog. Of course, what would a dog be doing out on a country road at this time? It must be some form of wildlife, a small deer maybe. He hadn’t noticed it on the way out but he had to admit that he hadn’t been concentrating.
Then he noticed the blue. And the yellow. And the red, the red of the blood. The blood that was seeping out of a blue and yellow dress.
“Shit!” He slammed on the brakes and leapt out of the car.
He ran over to the body, a young girl, in her twenties maybe, with long blonde hair. She was still breathing. Just.
He looked around, not sure what he was looking for.
No cars had passed him in either direction since he got on the country lane. He hadn’t passed her earlier; where had she come from?
He knelt down beside her, felling for a pulse. Not sure why, he could see she was breathing, he just felt like he should.
“Are you okay?” What a stupid question, of course she wasn’t okay. She couldn’t hear him anyway, whilst she was breathing, she was out cold.
He stood up and looked round again. He should phone for an ambulance but he didn’t have a phone, didn’t own one.
He could put her in the car and have her at the hospital in fifteen minutes. He had to make a decision.
He got back in the car, drove round the girl in the lane and sped off down the road.
After five minutes he screeched to a halt and started punching the steering wheel. “Shit, shit, shit!”
He negotiated a three point turn in the narrow lane and returned to the body. He open the back door and lifted her in. Whilst she looked light, it wasn’t as easy as he thought but he eventually shoved her into the back seat, folding her legs up so he could close the door. This time he really did put his foot down.
He arrived at the bright lights of the A&E entrance and dragged her from the car whilst shouting for help. Nurses appeared from all directions, one with a trolley and another started firing questions at him whilst checking on the young girl.
“I don’t know anything about her, I just found her in the road.”
“Had she been knocked over? Were there signs of an accident?”
“I don’t know, it was dark, she was just lying there.”
The nurses and doctor were working away as he followed the trolley. They cut her dress away.
“We have a knife wound here.”
“A knife wound?” said Shaun.
“Where did you say you found her?”
“In the road, a country lane.”
The nurse looked familiar to Shaun but he couldn’t place her.
“And you don’t know anything else about her? We need as much information as we can to help her.”
“No, I was just driving by.”
“Ok, do you mind taking a seat in the waiting room, we’ll need to take some details.”
“Yeah, no problem. I’ll just move the car, it’s in the ambulance bay.”
Shaun got back in the driver’s seat and looked in the mirror. The back seat was covered in blood, as was he. He was shaking and fumbled with the keys as he turned the ignition. He fought down a little bit of sick in his throat.
He pulled out of the A&E entrance, out of the car park and away from the hospital. He wouldn’t be taking a seat in the waiting room.
When he got back to the house he packed his few belongings into a bag. He was going to have to leave but he had nowhere to go. It had taken him long enough to find this place.
He sat on his bed with the bag at his feet, trying to formulate a plan in his head. There was a knock on the door. He ignored it. Another one. Louder.
He thought about using the back door but there was no point, he answered the knock.
“Good evening sir, could we come in please?” Two policemen stood at the door. “We have a few questions about an incident at the hospital earlier.”
There was no point arguing, he was still covered in blood. “Come in.”
They headed towards the sitting room although the bedroom door was open and the bag was clearly on view.
“I’m sorry sir, we didn’t catch your name.”
“Shaun, Shaun Taylor.”
“Okay Mr Taylor, I understand you brought someone into the hospital this evening who was the victim of a serious attack. What do you know about that?”
“Attack? I found her in the road and took her straight to the hospital.”
“You didn’t phone an ambulance?”
“I don’t have a phone.”
“Don’t need one.”
“Okay, and this is the first time you have seen this girl?”
“You can see why this might look a little bit suspicious to us? You turn up covered in blood with a girl who has been seriously assaulted. You then disappear when asked to wait to answer some questions.”
“I was in shock.”
“I’m sure you were. Would you mind accompanying us down to the station, Mr Taylor?”
“Do I have to?”
“I’m sure you would agree that it would be in your best interests to come voluntarily.”
“Okay.” There was no point in prolonging it. He stood up and headed for the door. “How did you know where I lived?”
“Stroke of luck, one of the nurses lives in your street apparently. Said she recognised you.”
What’s the chances? He thought. What’s the chances of any of this?
As they arrived at the station Shaun was struck by the bright lights again. He wouldn’t be sleeping for a long while after this.
“Do you have any ID, Mr Taylor?”
“No I’m sorry I don’t?”
“No driving licence, credit cards, anything?”
“No sorry, don’t usually need it.”
They went through the booking process but he wasn’t listening, he had a hundred thoughts racing through his mind.
“Do you understand what is happening Mr Taylor?”
“Yes.” He didn’t have a clue; he’d never been in this situation before although he he always suspected that it would happen one day. He was taken to a cell.
Shaun was just getting used to his surroundings when the lock turned again and he was led to an interview room.
Two detectives entered the room and reminded him of his rights.
“Mr Taylor, what can you tell us about the murder of Lucy Gorman?”
“The girl you brought into the hospital.”
“Sorry, yes. Did nobody tell you?”
“No. I don’t know anything, I just found her in the road.”
“So you say, can you take us through that again please. Including what you were doing on a deserted country lane at that time of the evening.”
He went through the story again, sticking to the truth. The truth couldn’t hurt, he’d done nothing wrong.
Shaun knew the detectives didn’t believe him but that was their problem. He was led back to his cell.
He tried to sleep but it was pointless. He knew what was coming.
He headed back to the interview room with a feeling of dread.
“Welcome back Mr Taylor. We’ve had some early results back from your DNA swabs and they’ve thrown up some interesting results.”
“Really?” Shaun gripped the edge of the table.
“They are an exact match to a Mr Barry Hutchinson. A man we have been trying to locate for some time.”
“In fact, we’ve been looking for him ever since him and his wife disappeared shortly after we had reports of them arguing at a barbecue.”
“And we’ve been very keen to find him ever since we found the remains of his wife buried in their garden.”