Routen Wheel (coming soon)

Excerpt from The Routen Wheel:

Image for the Routen Wheel

1

Jane, Belfast

Driving with fury and fear, they left Ballharr Island. The car careered along the narrow twisting roads of the West of Ireland towards Belfast in the North. The driver drove as if speed would dispel the cloak of betrayal and death that clung to them. He knew however, that its tentacles would never let go, the cloak was forever embedded within them and, if given the chance, would come to define their lives. He knew that chance of survival was slim, so he checked the mirror regularly for a chasing vehicle even though he felt that they had a sufficient head start from the island to stay ahead of any pursuers.

He had cut the boat loose before dashing for the hire car parked in the village of Clavity on the mainland. There was no ferry at night and anyone following would have to find an alternative method to cross the dangerous current of the narrows between Ballharr Island and Clavity. That, in itself, would take a while. Nevertheless he knew that they would be hunted down and every second of a lead could be the difference between safety and sorrow.

Rain lashed down. Like them, it hadn’t let up since they left. The wipers barely cleared the window, the noise of hard rain on the roof, like rivets in a steel tank. Twice the car skidded. Neither time did the driver slow. Any option but reckless haste would kill them all.

Justice for Jane, his tiny daughter, now a cold and bloodied corpse in his wife’s lap, motivated and emboldened the driver’s recklessness. He glanced at his wife’s tear-stained, terrified face and felt the suffocation of guilt, that his side of the family had brought so much pain to them. In anger he accelerated hard out of the bend and was rewarded with another skid into the verge. Somehow he regained control of the car and continued his onslaught north without loss of focus or momentum.

The lights of Belfast City gave little relief from the hours of impulsive driving, although they sparked a fickle hope of sanctuary or escape. They passed estates and abandoned industrial sites, but as they closed in on the centre their progress slowed with roundabouts and traffic signals. Green light ahead, changed to red. He rechecked his mirror before braking towards the pedestrian crossing. Two am, dark and wet, an odd time, he thought, for people to be out walking in this area of the city. The driver eased his speed and considered jumping the lights.

A girl stood at the crossing. ‘Bollocks’ he yelled. He braked hard, almost stopping. The girl didn’t begin to move, she just stood there making a phone call. He swore again, shoved the car into first gear. The engine screamed in complaint, the car lurched, he changed gear, revved the engine hard, accelerating, fifty, sixty…..

Belfast lights drew nearer. Again he checked his rearview mirror. No one had followed. He was certain of that. Now that it looked as if they could make it to safety he took his foot off the accelerator and began to slow close to legal limits. A vague plan formed in his head, he would go to the police in Belfast rather then head directly for the ferry to Scotland. The main road stretched straight ahead into town. There were no other cars. His mind drifted, his own brother, his own fucking brother, the one who got everything, the eldest, the rebel, the spoilt child. He thumped the wheel in anger. His wife jumped at the sudden bang.

‘Sorry.’ he said and placed a hand on his wife’s leg which was sticky from drying blood that had seeped from their daughter’s wounds. The image was stark and terrible; the white of Jane’s nighty contrasting grotesquely against the darkness of blood. Lifeless limbs hanging over his wife’s embrace. He touched his daughter’s legs. It felt icy and he jerked his hand away like he had received an electric shock. His eyes met his wife’s terrified and mournful gaze for the first time since they escaped. The shocking scene took his mind off the danger. Adrenaline and fear eased from his body to be replaced with pain and deep despair. He began to cry. A single drip from one eye was followed by an open unhindered stream of tears down his face, his body began to convulse uncontrollably, distracting him enough to miss the fast approaching lights from his left.

Suddenly bang! They were hit hard from the side, a deafening roar of engines and tearing of metal and the car topped and tailed across the road towards an industrial gas tank. The last thing he thought before the car and tank exploded was Erin! She now had no one. He screamed her name.