Routen Wheel (coming soon)

Excerpt from The Routen Wheel: 

1

Jane, Belfast

Right at that moment Harry Boyle wished that he was dead. He smeared tears across his face with a shaking hand and thought of reasons to stay alive. He had one and tried to focus on that yet he was barely able to concentrate on the road, his eyes stinging and emotions raw and red. His car careered along narrow twisting roads in the West of Ireland towards Belfast in the North as if their speed would dispel the sorrow betrayal and death that completely overwhelmed them. That was never going to happen, the terrible events that forced them to flee Ballharr so urgently would come to define what little remained of their lives. He knew too that chance of escape was slim, so he checked the mirror regularly for a chasing vehicle. 

Why didn’t he just give in and die? he asked himself again. Erin was his answer, he couldn’t leave Erin as an orphan with nobody and nothing. The fear of his child’s pain at losing everything, and the danger that she would be in if they died, kept his survival instinct sharp despite the agony.

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 and pain for Jane, his tiny daughter, now a cold and bloodied corpse in his wife’s lap, motivated and emboldened his recklessness. He again thought of his other daughter Erin. He glanced at his wife’s tear-stained, terrified face and felt suffocated with guilt because it had been his side of the family that brought so much pain to them. In anger he accelerated hard out of the bend, the engine whined and he was rewarded with another skid into a 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 city 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 Belfast city. Boyle 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, like it had done a thousand times on that journey, 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 than 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 leg. 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 again. 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 was alone and he screamed her name.