One of ‘those’ conversations looms…
Even though Koponen had shut him back inside the boot Smith convulsed with laughter. He had said ‘Boo!’ and the man with two chins had actually jumped out of his shoes. Nothing could be funnier.
He calmed down and listened to the continuing conversation outside the car. To his amazement one of the voices was Tim Wassiter’s. Tim was in trouble, big trouble. These people were the RBGs – the Really Bad Guys. They kidnapped people, locked them in car boots and dressed smartly. As such, they would also have speedboats, helicopters, miniature submarines and henchmen dressed all in black and armed with sub-machine guns.
His heart beat faster as he imagined a bullet-riddled Imperial rolling down a slipway into the sea. Would that really be his own fate? This was now far more exciting than he had ever wanted an adventure to be. For a moment he wished he was back at home watching television with his parents. Smith hugged himself and hoped the voices would go away soon.
After a few minutes they did. Smith listened intently. A lone seagull cried, a ship’s horn sounded far in the distance. All was quiet.
Although he had just blurted out the first thing he’d thought of when the boot was opened, Smith really did need to go to the toilet. As he lay in the dark with nothing else to think off the uncomfortable urge grew and grew. He clutched his bottle in one hand and torch on the other and considered Koponen’s suggestion. Apart from the practical difficulties of peeing into a bottle while lying locked in the boot of a car in the dark, what if the bottle filled up and he couldn’t stop? And what if he got stuck? His mind recoiled from the imagery but he could feel the humiliation, the utter embarrassment of walking into a hospital with a plastic bottle sticking out of his trousers.
Mild discomfort slowly turned into actual pain. Smith rolled and shuffled then flicked the torch on. There on the inside of the boot lid was the lock and lever, down on the body was the strike-plate and catch. He had to get out and soon, or there would be some seriously Bad Peeing.
A few minutes later the boot lock clunked and the lid swung up. Smith swung his legs over the sill and hobbled urgently into a shadowed recess and guiltily relieved himself.
He’d learned something even Clive Barnett would have found more interesting than a ride in the luggage compartment of his favourite car. Getting free of the boot had been easy. The lock was designed to keep people out, not in.
He looked around the alcove. A few old overalls hung on nails, there was nothing else of interest. He peered out and saw the coast was clear. Overhead a few early stars were out, the span of the sky shading from pale blue to dusty violet-grey. An offshore breeze freshened, Smith zipped up his fleece. Apart from the fact he was by the sea at some docks he had absolutely no idea where he was.
The drive had taken a few hours, but at what speed, and which direction? There were no navy ships in sight, so it probably wasn’t Portsmouth. Commercial ports were scattered all along the English south coast and this could be any of them: Dover, Southampton, even Falmouth. Smith knew the names from his train timetables, each one was an important terminus. He had never been to any of them. He had never before been out of Brighton.
He looked out across the choppy, restless harbour water, and back to the silent cranes and warehouses of the docks. The air tasted different here, the play of light, the movement of the air, all were more vivid, more filled with hidden promise than the evening skies of Brighton. It was the furthest from home he had ever been.
Wherever he was Smith knew he was not meant to be here. He should head inland, get to the town and find a police station.
A wavering light appeared at the far end of the quay. Smith stepped back into the shadows. The light resolved into two separate beams. Night watchmen on patrol.
The lights disappeared. Smith let out a sigh of relief, stepped out onto the quay only to leap back into cover as they reappeared closer.
Unbidden, the Hand reared up. ‘Quick, back into the boot.’
‘They’ll see me.’
‘Wait until they check another door.’
He could see them now, and hear their quiet conversation. As soon as they turned aside he ran to the car, clambered inside the boot and pulled down the lid. Safe, he glared at the Hand. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I thought you could do with some help.’
‘I told you to go away.’
The Hand, as much as a hand held into the shape of a mouth could, shrugged.
‘Well, thanks, anyway,’ Smith said.
They lay quietly. Two pairs of footsteps walked by.
‘Um…’ the Hand said.
‘What?’ Smith whispered.
‘We should talk.’
To be continued…