“How did I get into this mess?”
I banged a fist on the steering wheel, perhaps in some vain hope that an answer would jump out at me, but apart from a slight tinge of fear that I might set off the airbag, no thoughts came to mind. I had been having a quiet drink in the Bull, relaxing by the fireside after a stressful day in the office and now .... where the hell was I? Well I was driving down a dark country lane in the pouring rain and heading for trouble without a doubt.
Billie had texted me with some crazy story imploring me to “get your ass over here double quick” and I had rung her back to find out what was going on. She was practically incoherent because she was so hyper and probably a little pissed but after calming her down a little she had given me directions and pleaded with me to go and help her.
We went back a long way and we were good friends, the best of friends. Lately though she had been a friend in need just a little too much. It seemed like she was always in some scrape and needed bailing out, with me being the ‘chosen one’. There was no way I could let her down though. Fact was, as she knew, I could always be depended on and I would always help her out, if I was available.
I saw the lights of a house in the distance and from Billie’s directions that seemed to be the place she had described. I called her again on the mobile but her phone just rang to voicemail. I didn’t bother with a message, I’d be there soon enough. As I reached the place I saw it was a farmhouse with a large yard at the front which was lit up as I drove in.
I grabbed a torch out of the glove compartment as the yard floodlight had gone out and the place now seemed in darkness apart from an eerie flickering upstairs. I locked the car, even though the nearest people were about five miles away, and the car’s answering beeps scared the shit out of me. The quiet blackness of the countryside settled on my shoulders and I pulled my collar up as the rain darted at my neck.
The silence was deafening and it was with trepidation that I picked my way to what appeared to be the front door. My eyes were darting around trying to cope with the weird shapes that loomed up and I decided there and then that I was going to have words with Billie after I got her out of this mess, whatever it was. I stood at the door and knocked. The sound reverberated around the valley and would, I was sure, wake the dead and their uncles and their grannies and bring them all rushing at me like a scene from Night of the Living Dead. Nothing to be worried about, I told myself unconvincingly.
I called out, “Billie .... Billie ... it’s me Frank.” I tried the door and as it opened with a ghostly creak I realised my heart rate was going up. “Billie, are you there?”
I shone my torch around and hovered in the doorway. Why the hell was I here? What was I thinking off? All she had to do was snap her fingers and she knew I’d be there, I must be mad! I heard a screech from above. Like a chair moving on bare floorboards. My mind was working overtime. Why wasn’t she answering? I moved forward flashing the torch to look for a light switch, which I found and clicked on. Nothing! I called out again and finally I heard Billie’s voice, “Up here Frank, I’m in the bedroom.” She sounded distressed, as if she was crying almost. I moved quickly to the stairs and tried the switches there. No power.
“I’m coming Billie, are you ok?” There was no reply, just a shuffling and a gasp. I had a bad feeling about this. I took the stairs in twos and saw a light under one of the doors and I kept calling, “Billie, Billie ...” I took a deep breath and put my shoulder to the door. I turned the handle slowly, not knowing what to expect as the door opened. The landing was lit up and as I squinted for second, getting used to the light, I saw Billie, sat on a bed sobbing with a faraway look in her eyes.
I was so relieved. For a moment I had been really spooked, but there she was. My face broke into a smile and I quickly moved towards her, “ Another fine mess. What on earth have you been up to this time?”
Something was troubling her ... and me. She didn’t look glad to see me at all and she wasn’t talking. As I reached her she glanced over my shoulder and suddenly I heard a voice. A man’s voice. A voice I had only heard in nightmares for the last seven years, “Hello Frank.”
I felt the old anger creeping back as I turned. There he was. The man who’d devastated Billie’s life, and mine all those years ago. My mind went back to the night I had grappled him away from her bruised and battered body. Her beautiful life almost extinguished by his hands throttling her tender neck. A seven year sentence hadn’t seemed long enough!
The subsequent restraining order against him obviously wasn’t working. It meant nothing to this sadistic brute because here he was, as large as life and looking every inch the madman.
I looked with disgust and fury at this monster. “ I thought you were ...”
He interrupted me sharply with a maniacal cackle.