A night when the rain never stopped
|The man walked quickly, rain beating down on his uncovered head, the wind relentless, whipping the words from his mouth as he shouted to his four-legged companion. “Oscar, get away from there!” |
The dog looked up at his master’s voice, then away again, ignoring him, busily sniffing out the rabbits which abounded in this neck of the woods. “Oscar! Come on, we’re going home.”The black Labrador reluctantly lifted his nose from the sodden ground and bounded over to Jim, perhaps remembering home, his warm basket, and dinner.
They entered the sanctuary of home, a cottage on the edge of town. “Come here, let me dry you off.” Jim rubbed Oscar with a towel, before the dog could shake the rain from his coat.
“You took your time.” Jim’s wife Alison called out from the kitchen.
The smell of a lamb roast filled the air, reminding Jim how hungry he was.“Oscar wanted to bring you back a rabbit, I couldn’t get him to leave,” he laughed, his face flushed from the cold wind as he kissed Alison.
“Dinner’s nearly ready, go and get out of those wet things before you get pneumonia.”
The weather worsened as the evening approached, the windows rattled, rain beat a rhythm on the glass.
“What time does Jen need picking up from basketball?” Jim asked glancing at the clock. Maybe I should set off now. it’ll be terrible on the roads, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s flooded at the rail crossing,” he stood, picking up his car keys.“
“They finish their game about eight. It’s a shocking night to be out driving, take care won’t you?” Alison called as he left the house.
Jim backed the car out of the garage into the wretched weather. As he drove carefully along the familiar road, the wind buffeted the car, forcing him to grip the steering wheel to avoid being blown into oncoming traffic. He could barely see out of the windscreen despite the wipers whipping back and forth, but still not fast enough to clear the amount of rain now falling in sheets. In the headlight’s beams, he saw trees on either side of the road bending against an invisible hand which seemed intent on winning a game of force. The journey to pick up his seventeen-year-old daughter normally took little time, but tonight the distance seemed to have doubled.
Jim reached the crossroads. The water on the road was several inches deep, causing him to slow his speed even more. He drove on slowly, his body leaned forward in his seat as he approached the bridge over the normally quiet river. The river had broken its banks, within inches of washing over the bridge. He drove slowly, crossing the boiling, raging torrent.
Relieved to get to the other side, he pulled into the community centre car park. Jim looked over to where the crowd of teenagers waited under cover for their lifts. He couldn’t immediately spot Jen, and didn’t fancy getting out of the warmth of the car to go and find her.
Suddenly, the passenger door flung open and his daughter threw herself and her school bag onto the front seat. “Yuk! I’m wet through. Come on, let’s go!” She said impatiently.
“Hello to you too,” Jim said. The drive home was no easier, the rain had not abated, in fact, it seemed to Jim, even heavier, if that were possible. When they reached the bridge, the water lapped over the old wooden structure. Some cars were waiting, their drivers obviously undecided whether it was safe enough to cross.
“Come on Dad, I’m wet. Let’s go.”
“I’m not sure Jen, look at the river, it’s huge.”
“We can’t wait here. I’m starving and I’ve got homework!” His daughter coaxed, “It’ll be fine, that bridge has been there forever!”
Deciding to take the risk, Jim slowly drove the car onto the bridge and could feel the water beneath his wheels as he crawled along. He could see torch lights waving on the other side and wondered who could be out on such a night. It may be a warning to him to stop, the road could have collapsed, he thought.
As he proceeded, he could see what appeared to be a police car, its blue light flashing. He reached the end and as his wheels drove on to solid ground, breathed a sigh of relief.
“What’s up Officer?” He called out to the policeman, waiting to speak to him.
“We’re looking for an escaped prisoner, sir. We were waiting to cross the bridge when he leapt out of the car. He can’t have got far, not in this weather.” The police officer was wearing wet weather gear but still looked soaked to the skin.“Keep your car doors locked, sir, he’s a desperate character.”
Jim nodded, winding up his window, he began the drive towards home.
During the night, he heard breaking glass above a crash of thunder, the bedroom lit by a flash of lightning. He flicked the switch on the bedside lamp, but found the power out.
“Shit, what now?” He whispered. The rain pelted down as heavy as ever. The bridge will be under water.
He reached for the torch in the drawer. Walking quietly so as not to waken Alison, he crept from the room, closing the door behind him. Another flash of lightning, followed by a long rumble of thunder, lit his way down the stairs. Standing silently, he listened. The rain hit the roof and gurgled down the drain pipes, but beneath all that noise he heard a clatter in the kitchen. It sounded to Jim as if someone had opened the knife drawer.
He shone the torch into the kitchen, the beam shone its light upon a man dressed in dark clothing, head shaved, his thick neck covered in tattoos, barefoot.
“Are you the guy the police are looking for?” Jim said quietly.
The intruder locked eyes with Jim. He held the carving knife that had been used to carve the lamb earlier that evening.“Do nothing stupid mate, I’ve killed me Missus tonight, one more won’t make any difference to me,”
Jim heard the patter of paws on the tiles and a low, menacing growl.
“Call that fucking dog off, mate, or he’ll be mincemeat.”
“Stay Oscar,” Jim instructed. Jim took a step closer to the fugitive.
“Stay where you are.” The man warned. “I need food, dry clothes and money, then I’ll be on my way.”
Jim stood unmoving until the next flash of lightning lit up the room, then switched off his torch. In the utter darkness that followed, he shouted. “Get him Oscar!”
The dog launched himself at the man whilst Jim disarmed him in one easy move. Oscar had him pinned on the ground, the man grasped the dog around the neck to get him off but Jim dragged the fugitive up onto his feet, put him in a choke hold until he’d rendered the man unconscious.
When the intruder came to, he was tied to a kitchen chair. “What happened?” he gasped.
“You chose the wrong house to break into, mate.” Jim scoffed. “Cops will be here in a few minutes.”
“Who the bloody hell are you?” The man’s eyes were glazed.
“Police Sergeant Cameron.” He nodded to where Oscar sat eying his captive, “and Dog Squad.”
The killer hung his wet head. The rain stopped.