“Poor old thing. Did you get any details?” They were driving away from Ramstone. They passed the bungalows on the outskirts of the village and then it was all dry stone walls and fields dotted with shaggy sheep and low, wind formed trees. As soon as he had closed the car door Simon had blurted out the news about his ‘client’.
“No, not really. There’s no real reason to do it but I’ve been arguing with myself back and forth, trying to keep things in perspective, not jumping to conclusions, but I just keep thinking it’s bloody odd.”
“Do you know where it happened?”
“Yes, I looked at the local news on line. It’s not all that far from where Melanie was killed, and I’m trying not to read anything into that. It’s not the most direct route but it is the nicer one, going over the tops as it does but…”
“Did you make a note of whereabouts?”
“Yes, can we go and look, can we do that first?” She nodded.
“I know these roads can be dangerous but it’s a heck of a coincidence isn’t it? Or am I just a bit freaked out and overreacting?”
What had promised to be very little more than an excuse for a winter picnic had become something else and the atmosphere in the little car was sharp with tension.
It was easy to see where the accident had happened. The grass beside the road was torn and muddied. Great clods of soil had been thrown up the bank which was scarred with huge gouges where the big four wheeled drive had plunged down the embankment. Yellow paint on the road, marking the start of the skid and swerve evidenced the police investigation. Simon and Gloria walked back and forth. A wet wind began to blow and grey clouds scudded low across the sky.
Gloria pulled her collar closer. “Not much to see really is there? He’s lucky someone came along, it’s not that busy.”
“It was a young woman, been taking her daughter to school apparently and just coming back a different route from normal.”
“I wonder if we can find out who that was?”
“Perhaps. I think I’ll go to the hospital as soon as they say he’s well enough to have visitors and maybe Charlie will be able to tell us more.”
“Well, I wouldn’t bank on it. If he was knocked out he might well not remember anything.”
“No, but – well, I can ask.” She nodded and climbed back into the warm car.
“So, the other accident, the first one. Can we work out from the plan exactly where that was? As we’re here we might just as well carry on.”
“Yes. Down here, there should be a narrow turn off and it was just before that.”
“It’s an odd place for a young girl to be walking about on her own isn’t it?”
“Yes, I’ve puzzled about that myself but her friends said that she often walked this way. Did it because she enjoyed the buzz of being on the hills alone. I can sort of understand that because I love it myself but it’s not that usual for women, girls, is it, even these days? Plus, it was winter, latish in the day, all just a little bit of an odd choice to make.”
“Well, I guess she must have been pretty self-confident. Didn’t do her any favours though in the end. Here we are. Is this the turn?”
“Looks like it. It’s very isolated.”
“Yes, but once you get over the dip there are houses, not quite as lonely as you would think. I wonder where that turn off leads to?”
“High Hill Farm according to the OS map.”
Clouds had gathered in grey heaps on the tops of the moors and they lowered now over the peaks and flowed into the valleys. Sheep huddled at the foot of low walls and in minutes they could see only a couple of hundred yards in any direction.
“God, the weather’s turned now. Come on Gloria, get back in the car. Did you bring something hot to drink?”
“I did but I don’t think this is going to clear do you?”
“Let’s give it a little while it might blow over. Anyway I rather like it when it’s like this. As long as you’re not out in it with the wrong clothes on it can be fun and it certainly makes you appreciate a hot shower after.”
She poured soup into mugs and gave him a packet of cheese and ham sandwiches and they ate quietly, watching through the streaming windows as the moors, the road and the walls vanished in swirls of mist.
The roads ran with water and fine rain whispered against the windows. But every now and again a glimpse of blue peeked through and as suddenly as it had begun the drear weather cleared. Beams of light speared through the remaining clouds and the pools and puddles shone in wintery sunshine. Grass and leaves twinkled with moisture and as a hawk spiralled up into the rapidly clearing sky Simon sighed and leaned forward to wipe with a cloth at the condensation on the inside of the windscreen. “This is what it’s about for me you know. This is the closest thing to magic that I can imagine. I know it’s lovely in the summer but this, this wildness is what I love.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty special, I used to enjoy it back in the day, with Dave you know.” She sighed. Anyway, we need to get back, if you’ve seen all you want to.”
“I think so, to be honest I’m not sure I’ve learned anything much but it’s been good to come here, it all helps to make it real.”
Gloria pulled out onto the narrow highway and gave a little squeal as a horn blared loud into the quiet. She wrenched the wheel over as a Land Rover, its headlights flashing, streaked past them down the gleaming tarmac.
“Bloody hell. That’s a bit quick for the conditions isn’t it? I’m beginning to think this road is jinxed.” She puffed out a sharp breath and then slipped the stalled car into neutral. She turned the key, Indicated and turned to look back through the window, no longer trusting what she saw in the mirror, she pulled slowly onto the road.
Simon reached over and touched her leg, “Are you okay, you’ve gone pale?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine, it just made me jump that’s all. It came out of nowhere.”