He leaned to turn the key in the ignition, as he did so the phone in his pocket vibrated, a crawling creature in there, rustling against his leg. In his state of heightened awareness the sudden flutter caused his heart to leap and sweat to pop onto the skin of his forehead. He gasped softly, taken aback for a moment. Realisation of the humdrum gentled him. He stretched his leg as straight as it would go in the confined space and wriggled bony fingers down into the tight denim.
The phone continued to tremble against his thigh. Only the nursing home had this number, it was the only phone that he kept. The ones that he used for his work were cheap “pay as you go” pieces, used once and then discarded. This one though was always topped up and the battery charged. It was the emergency number and so he knew, even before he had prised it from his pocket, that it would not be bright news.
“It’s Matron, from Oaklands.” He felt the chill already. His breathing was shallow and his mouth was dry, his tongue suddenly too large. The sound from his throat was harsh, rasping.
“Matron, what’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry to call you so late Peter but I’m afraid your Gran is very poorly. She was fine until bedtime but when the nurse checked her later she was having trouble breathing. We were going to send her to the hospital.”
“Which hospital? I’ll go there now, where is she going? I’ll meet her there.” The tears streamed across his cheeks; the lump in his throat choked him.
“No, she’s here Peter. We called doctor and he doesn’t think that she should go to the hospital. He doesn’t believe it would be for the best. Do you understand? Peter, you should come as soon as you can I think.”
“Uh.” He couldn’t form words, the world collapsed around him. He was in a place he had never been before. Life was out of control. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t summon a voice that was lodged somewhere in his throat.
“Peter, are you all right, can you come? Do you have someone who can fetch you? Maybe it would be best if you didn’t come alone. Can you hear me, Peter? Are you all right dear?”
He drew in a great gasping breath. He must function, must move now. “Yes, yes I’m all right, I’ll come now. I can come, tell her I’m coming. Matron, don’t let anything happen to her, please.”
“Oh, my dear. I am so sorry you must prepare yourself; I think that she is really very poorly. If you must drive yourself Peter take care. When you arrive you will have to ring the night bell the security man will let you in. You can’t come round the usual way do you see?”
“Yes, yes the night bell. I understand, tell her I’m coming.”
“Of course I will. We’ll see you soon.”
The mobile landed with a quiet plop on the seat beside him. A moment of silence enveloped him, his hands shook and he stared at them in disbelief. Two strange creatures quivering on the steering wheel, he was gasping now, almost sobbing. Battling through the confusion and despair here came the truth. Gran, she needed him, he must go to her, now.
He reversed at speed down the narrow alley pebbles flew from under the wheels striking the old stone walls and ricocheting to ping on the body work of the car. With a screaming turn he regained the highway and shot towards the town centre. Hurtling onwards towards the motorway he flew passed the football ground, with its narrow entrance where the local constabulary chose to spend the dark hours. They parked in the gloom in the hope of just this event, some idiot drunk driver or some race nut using the cover of darkness to indulge a passion for speed. As he flashed by they glanced once at each other, a small smile flicked between them. They had one, a chase on their hands, just the kind of thing that they needed on these long boring shifts. They drew out into the road contacted control for permission and oversight, and set off in pursuit.
They held back with the lights and siren. They would save that for when they were out of the town limits. They saw no need to disturb the honourable citizens because of this lunatic. When they hit the dual carriageway then they’d give him full bore, blues and twos as it was popularly known. Isolated in the grey metal cocoon Peter could barely see, his vision was smeared with tears, whitened knuckles gleamed like locked around the steering wheel, his foot was to the floor. Oblivious of the excessive speed and the erratic nature of his progress there was but one thought. He had to get there, had to see her, needed to be there with his gran. If he was there he could make sure that nothing happened to her, nothing must happen to her. Nothing else penetrated, there was Gran and only Gran and he must get to her now.