Story: The Killing Fields
The 1974 Triumph Stag V8 prowled the country roads, oiled black angles flickering against the night like a mirage. Regan gripped the leather steering wheel and glanced behind her. Curled up on the back seat under a worn blanket, the kid slept, her head awkwardly positioned on the makeshift pillow of an AK-47 assault rifle. She was snoring.
They hadn’t hit a road block for the last fifty miles. Just as well, since they’d run out of currency as far back as Birmingham, Regan mused, downshifting the gears and easing off the accelerator to coast into a hairpin bend. But while she doubted any self-respecting road hog would bed down in such a desolate spot, it never paid to be complacent. Not when thy neighbour would sooner sell your ass to the highest bidder as help you out, particularly if it guaranteed a dozen extra food stamps or a tankful of bioethanol. Not when the 2020 civil war had seen every major city in England shorn back to its seedy underbelly, like stains on an otherwise green and pleasant land. Not when they were navigating a land of single-track roads, tangled hedgerows and night-shrouded middle distance, and Regan’s foremost thought was too quiet by far.
“Are we there yet?”
Regan stared at the melancholy girl reflected in the rear-view mirror. “We’re definitely somewhere.”
All raisin eyes and bed-head, the kid slung the gun aside and poured herself over the handbrake into the front seat. “Got anything to eat?”
Reaching sideways, Regan punched the glove box. She located a scrunched up brown paper bag and handed it over. “Couple of boiled eggs you filched off that farmer’s wife this morning.”
The kid grabbed the bag. Rooting around inside, she retrieved an egg, tapped it on the dash and started prising off the shell. “Nice lady,” she said a minute later, her voice thickened by a mouthful of egg.
“Who?” shot Regan. She reined in the Stag as they approached a signpost.
“Mrs Jacobs. She pinched my cheeks.” The kid rubbed at her face as if shining up the memory.
Another half a mile. Regan kept the vehicle at a sedate pace as the road turned into a dirt track. “Guess she thought you were just a kid.”
“I am just a kid.”
“Might look like one, but you’ve as much in common with the average eleven year old as I have with a nun,” said Regan flatly. “Pinched your cheeks.” She shook her head, bemused by the kid’s idealised version of events and keeping stum about the truth, which was that while Mrs Jacobs had acted mother hen, her husband had followed Regan to the tithe barn where the Stag was garaged.
Bolting the door, Mr Jacobs had fixed her with rheumy, thread-veined eyes. “Wife says sorry but we can’t let you leave without some dispensation.”
Regan raised the bonnet of the Stag, leant into the engine and drew out the dipstick. She swiped the rod with a rag. “We traded a day’s labour for provisions,” she reminded him without emotion. “It was your wife who suggested we kip in the hayloft. I’ll just load up the goods we rightfully purchased then me and the kid’ll hit the road.”