The silence was complete. Time had frozen inside the car while outside the world rolled onwards. The flicker of the beacon on the police car bathed the surrounding trees with its cobalt orbit, night sounds of creatures unrelated to happenings on the road rustled and screeched.
The officer bent a little from the waist to peer into the rear window of the car, he watched the driver, immobile, facing forward. There was no indication the man was aware of the presence of the police. A moment of nervousness swept through the constable, unlooked for and unlikely but his gut clenched and his heart jumped. There was something wrong. More than the usual on a dark night with a drunk or angry driver, this was something else. He was committed now though, there was no retreat. He risked a glance back towards the vehicle where his mate peered narrow eyed through the windscreen. Many years of experience had taught him to take care, that to expect the unexpected was usually the wisest course and he slowed, and bent again. He shone a torch beam through the rear window, the driver still didn’t turn.
For his part Peter was lost, he had by now completely forfeited reality, the knife in his hand was the only tangible thing. The rest of it, the wind rolling through the treetops, the flicker of sapphire light and the occasional whoosh of a passing car touched him not at all. His decision had been made and now there was no more need to think. That he would act was predetermined, when he would act was dependent on the progress of the man walking alongside the car.
The crackle of the personal radio broke the bubble of silence around the car but didn’t penetrate the interior, “Bob, I don’t like this, there’s something odd here, call for backup.” The officer had paused again; still unsure of the situation and unwilling to go further, but in truth, unable to decide why. He raised his voice, “Police sir, will you open the car and step out, keep your hands where I can see them.” There was no reaction to his shout. He bent again. The driver remained motionless facing forward, the engine still burbled gently into the quiet.
“Sir, can you hear me? Open the door slowly and step out, keep your hands visible.” Still no movement. The policeman gulped, the dryness of his mouth surprised him as did the sheen of moisture on the palms of his hands. Again he glanced back at his own car and his mate. Should he go back? Make a retreat? Of course he wouldn’t, that wasn’t even an option, but he was unnerved by his own reaction to the situation. He straightened his spine, steeling himself, this must end now, he must take charge, sort it. “Sir, come out now, I won’t ask you again. You’re not helping yourself, just making things worse.”
Peter couldn’t hear the words. He knew that the man was nearly at the driver’s door. In his peripheral vision he could make out the gleam of the torch and the hint of movement closing in, ever nearer bringing the conclusion to him. Not long now, the seconds ticked by each one immeasurable, floating, drifting unreality. For a brief moment he thought of his mother, of the nights of fear in his little room, of the day that Gran had rescued him and of the time that he had lied and sent Mum away to her death.
He catalogued the girls that he had helped, six of them, all resting peacefully due to his work. Each one had been snatched from a life of misery and degradation and had become an angel just because of him. He smiled quietly and moved his hand to ensure he had the correct grip on the knife. He didn’t think that they would understand about the girls, he didn’t believe that he would be able to explain how he had done it all in kindness. Yes he had been paid, but the money had been for Gran to keep her warm, to take care of her the way that she had taken care of him. He had only ever spent enough on himself to stay alive, and to do his work. Would they understand, he couldn’t risk that they would not.
The officer stood alongside the driver’s door now, he wouldn’t touch the car. He shone the beam of yellow light in through the shatterproof glass. “Sir, come on out, open the door slowly and step out.”
Peter turned his head; squinting in the glare of torchlight. He was blinded, his night vision destroyed, it didn’t matter. Turning his head again to the front he raised his hand and with a great sweep he sliced the knife left to right across his neck. A fierce spurt of blood drenched the windscreen and the car roof, the steering wheel dripped with it, crimson tears falling onto his lap. For a moment he felt nothing but he knew it wasn’t over, not yet. He had paused, knew that it would be too hard to cut all the way across in one sweep. His studies had taught him much and he twisted his hand flicking the angle of the knife so that he could pull it downwards now and take out the artery on the other side of his neck. It must be quick, before he lost his strength and so he made it quick. Now the world had flared into action, he could hear the policeman hammering on the car door, could hear him yelling and briefly he was afraid. But then she was there, holding out her hand the way that she had all those years ago. “Come on Peter, come with Gran, I’m going to look after you.” He knew then that it was all going to be all right, he knew that Gran would understand, he took her hand