Author: Sylvie Orp PM
Where would us scribblers be without an isolated farmhouse in the depth of winter! Happy New Year to you allRated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Words: 3,870 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-01-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7697179
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Bodie and Doyle were charging around the farmstead on a snowy afternoon in fading light. They'd already taken out one of the gunmen, but there were a couple around there somewhere. The pair had split up and were searching the outbuildings methodically. In the tractor shed Bodie was tiptoeing through the detritus of farm life when he heard a movement very close by. He whirled round, gun at the ready. Having exhausted his weapon the gunman had another ace in his hand - a plank. He had deliberately scuffed a shoe to cause Bodie to turn. The villain took his chance and whacked Bodie as hard as he could across the head. Bodie went down like a sack of wheat. The thug took Bodie's gun and went to join his gang. As he was relieving Bodie of his weapon he heard an exchange of fire and headed that way. He was sure that there were just the two operatives. One down; one to go.
Meanwhile, Doyle was threading his way around hay bales in the barn. An avalanche of hay fell on top of him as one of the gang made an escape route. As he extracted himself, he heard receding footsteps and knew his quarry had fled. He eventually made it to the barn door and heard the screech of tyres and further shots. His blood went cold – Bodie! Doyle set off at a run in the direction of the fleeing car, scanning this way and that for his partner. He sent out a howl of "Bodie" but got no reply. He reached the farm gate but there was no sign of his partner out there either. The light was quickly fading.
Doyle systematically checked each building on the way back, his heart thudding in his chest. In the third building he saw the body of his friend. It didn't take a second for him to be at Bodie's side and turning him over gently to get a better look. Bodie's face was smeared in blood and grime. He groaned as Doyle moved him onto his back. He searched for a pulse and was relieved to find one – strong and regular. Bodie began to regain consciousness as Doyle unzipped his friend's padded jacket and looked for bullet holes. Feeling along limbs and torso, his hands coming away clean of blood (if not dung!), Bodie asked he'd enjoyed that frisking as much as he had! Doyle sat back on his heels and swore roundly while being unable to keep a broad grin from his face. The relief was almost tangible. Bodie struggled to a sitting position with a groan. "Headache? How bad?" asked his partner anxiously. Bodie had to concede that it was one pounding hangover. Doyle helped him to his feet and they made their way to the car. First thing's first, he got the medical kit out of the boot and attended to Bodie's head wound. "Your head's already swelling," quipped Doyle with a smile as he applied a dressing to a gash across Bodie's forehead. His response was colourful! Doyle left him taking deep breathing exercises while he examined the car for damage.
Then Doyle saw what the gang had been firing at as they left – the car itself. The door had bullet holes but, more significantly, so did the front tyre. Doyle got in, switched the engine on and turned the heat up as high as it would go and told Bodie to get in. They couldn't both change the tyre. Bodie couldn't argue with that, and didn't try too hard to look for an excuse. The gradual warmth of the car sent Bodie into a doze and away from his headache. It was the scream that drew him back to the here and now in an instant. He automatically looked for his weapon but couldn't find it. He rolled out of the car, which was now some inches from the ground since Doyle had jacked it up. He couldn't see anything immediately and the wave of dizziness didn't help. He had no choice but to crouch in the snow till his world stopped spinning. He then made his way to the front of the car on the other side and saw his partner on his knees by the wheel with his head bowed hugging himself and rocking gently, for all the world as though in prayer. Bodie was there in a moment.
"What's wrong, Ace?" Bodie asked anxiously. There was no reply just the jagged breathing of his partner. Then he saw the broken shaft of the jack by his knee. There was blood around the edge and in the snow. Bodie picked it up. "Hand injured?" he asked. Doyle stirred, nodded and unfurled himself. They both looked at his hand. It was a bloody mess. "Stay there. I'll get the kit again." Bodie had learned that he couldn't move quickly without fainting, so had to check his anxiety. He pushed several dressings over the wound and bound tightly. "Can you move your fingers?"
"Not now!" returned his patient at an attempt at humour. Bodie helped him to his feet. "Fortunately I was moving the car down not up when the jack gave way. I've changed the tyre. I don't know if you can get the jack out." It took a bit of doing and Bodie had to stop every so often to ride out the pain in his head and the dizziness, but he managed it while his partner took his turn in the car with the heater. It was by tacit agreement that Doyle did the driving. He at least was almost guaranteed to remain conscious.
Doyle's route home started out well, but the snow had got deeper and worse. Bodie had drifted off to sleep and Doyle was becoming concerned that it was more than shock. The car slithered once or twice and it took all of Doyle's concentration to keep it on the road. Trying to drive one-handed didn't help. He called in his position to Base and it took three attempts before his message was completely received at the other end. After half an hour, he radioed in again to say that the road was becoming impassable and he'd seen the lights of a farmhouse. They were going to take refuge there. He wasn't sure how much of his message Base had heard. Doyle turned in and immediately got stuck in a drift not far from the house. He sat there for a bit. No-one poked their nose round the door or windows to see who their visitor was. He sounded the car horn. No reaction from the house, but it woke Bodie up. Doyle swore at the lack of activity and Bodie, in one of his more sentient moments, said that the household probably couldn't hear him from there. Doyle told his partner to stay put and he'd go and rouse them.
It took a few strong pushes of the car door to open it against the wall of snow. He strode knee-deep in the stuff. The front yard didn't seem to have been cleared. If there was no-one home (unlikely on a farm), why were the lights on? Bodie watched his partner from the warmth and comfort of the car. He wound down the window a fraction in case Doyle shouted for him. What he did hear wasn't a human voice, but the snarl of a dog. Doyle heard it at the same time. He drew his weapon and scanned the darkness. The animal seemed to come from nowhere. It was suddenly on him. Doyle instinctively raised his arm defensively as the jaws closed in. A shot was fired but it was of an uncontrolled action rather than anything useful. Bodie had seen the fight against the light from the farmhouse and was struggling with the car door as Doyle struggled with the dog. From the house a huge giant of a man appeared and dragged the dog off with a garbled command. Even as the dog was obeying, the man lashed out with his fist sending the dog, big and powerful as it was, high into the air and into a snowdrift with a yelp. Doyle was struggling to his knees retrieving his gun from under the snow. He was trying to utter a shaky thanks as his partner made it to his side. The man said something else and turned back to the house. He seemed to be in a high temper. Doyle looked at his partner in confusion. Bodie looked equally perplexed. He dragged Doyle to his feet.
"About as bad as you, I reckon." Doyle whimpered, nursing his arm.
Having little option, they headed to the farmhouse quickly before the dog regained its senses. The door was unlocked and they entered, knocking on the door as they did so. Still no-one came. They were drawn to the heat of the front room where they found the man and, they assumed, his wife huddled round the fire as though nothing had happened. Both men found the situation very surreal.
"Er, was that your dog?" Doyle asked.
The man said something they couldn't understand and Bodie asked if they were English. This seemed to rile the man, who rose to his feet – all six foot plus of him – and loomed at them ominously. To deflect a bloodbath, Doyle asked if they had any bandages and offered his bloody arm as the reason to ask. The farmer barked something to his wife who cringed and scurried out at his command.
The men stared at each other uncertainly. Presently a woman of about 30 entered the room with a towel and a bowl of water with what smelt like antiseptic in it. She presented it to Doyle as though it was some kind of votive offering and placed it delicately on a small table. She was plain to the point of ugliness and seemed to have the same taciturnity as the man – her father? The wife followed in with bandages and lint and retired to the fire. Doyle took off his jacket and rolled up his tattered sleeve. Fortunately his clothing had taken most of the dog's anger, but the fangs had penetrated deeply into the flesh.
"May as well clean your hand as well," Bodie said practically as he unrolled the bloody bandage from the initial injury.
It was clear that the family had decided to have nothing more to do with their enforced guests. Their indifference was as unreal as it was unsettling. Bodie went out to the kitchen to clean his hands before helping his partner. It was tempting to have a root around while he had the chance but Doyle's need was more pressing. Bodie came back quickly and helped with washing and dressing Doyle's wounds.
"Well, at least the injuries are on the same side and you haven't broken anything," Bodie offered helpfully.
He got a withering look from his friend. As Bodie was finishing up, Doyle put into words what both of them had been reluctantly thinking."We're going to have to ask to stay here at least overnight till we can get back on the road," he whispered.
"And if it continues snowing and we're stuck here for a week?" Bodie asked softly.
"Let's tackle that nightmare when and if we need to," Doyle whispered back.
Doyle turned to the family and asked if they could stay the night. Bodie felt bold enough to ask for food. Silently the women left the room taking the soiled dressings and bowl with them. Was that a yes or a no? The man continued staring into the fire. "I'm Bodie," said the operative breezily, offering his hand in friendship. The man reluctantly dragged his gaze from the interesting fire to the very much less interesting human in front of him. The man grunted something. Bodie's forced smile faded. He glanced at his partner whose shrug said: well, you tried.
They sought out the kitchen where they hoped they would find food and solace. The wife had prepared dry sandwiches and tepid tea. They were laid out on the table as though she had expected them to come at some point. The men thanked her and asked her name. She glanced nervously at the door and decided that talking out of turn was not a risk worth taking, so left them to their food and returned, they assumed, to the parlour. Doyle shook his head and looked after her.
"Your copper's nose is twitching, Doyle," Bodie admonished with his mouth full.
"If ever there's a battered wife – or daughter for that matter – it's them."
"Not our problem, Ray. You can report it when we get back to civilisation, but I for one don't feel up to tackling Man Mountain tonight." Doyle sighed. It was as far as he was going to concede that his partner was right.
After tea they washed up and, by unspoken agreement, had a quick poke about the cupboards. That told them little, and then they went upstairs to bed. No-one seemed to bother where they went which, in Doyle's book, meant that they probably had little to hide. To their surprise the daughter was waiting for them at the head of the stairs. They wondered if she'd been there all the time and, if so, why. She turned when she saw them and opened one of the upstairs doors. This was clearly going to be their room for the night. She told them that the bathroom was at the end of the corridor and then left. It was only after she began to retreat that the men realised that they'd actually understood her. Doyle grabbed her elbow. She turned with frightened eyes. Doyle backed off immediately.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. It's just that we can't seem to understand what your parents are saying. We're having a bit of difficulty with their accents. Can you tell me whether you have a phone and we can call for help?"
She told them that there wasn't a phone (no surprise there) and her father may take them out in the tractor tomorrow if the roads were passable. The men couldn't think of anything immediately to ask her, just that they wanted to detain her as their only form of contact. However, she quickly made her way downstairs in case she was missed.
Their bedroom was an icebox with draughts coming in from all angles and a double bed in the middle of it. There was a worn rug on the wooden floor and a rickety empty wardrobe. The bed had been made up and Doyle tentatively turned back the covers. "I was expecting chickens to be nesting in the middle of it," he confessed.
Bodie chuckled and said that little would surprise him in this place. He padded off to the bathroom and on return announced that the loo didn't flush and there was no hot water.
"Great," said Doyle sarcastically. "I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted," he added.
"I think it's called 'delayed reaction', Doyle."
"So you were awake at first aid class then!"
When Doyle came back from the bathroom he saw Bodie coming out of another door. Back in their room Doyle rebuked his partner for snooping but was quick to ask if he'd found anything interesting there. Bodie said that he hadn't found any dead bodies or evidence of voodoo practice, but he'd keep looking. He added, more seriously, that the two bedrooms he'd looked in were sparse to say the least and the clothes old and moth-ridden. "Nothing unexpected there then," Doyle concluded. His contribution was inspecting the bathroom. There weren't any dubious poisons or potions in the cupboard or anything frivolous either such as make-up, perfume or bath oils. Now those would have been surprising.
Doyle laid his battered jacket on the bed for added warmth, joining Bodie's, and began to take off his shoes and trousers. Bodie asked him what the hell he was doing. He couldn't keep a grain of panic out of his voice. Bodie was rather body-shy and it was bad enough to have to share a bed with his partner, but if he had to endure it he'd prefer that his partner kept all his clothes on! Doyle grinned at his friend's discomfort. It was one of the known areas where he could wind Bodie up.
"My trousers are soaked – as are yours by the way – so if you want to cuddle up to wet clothing, be my guest."
"I don't intend to 'cuddle up' to anything – or anyone – in this mausoleum thank you very much," Bodie replied hotly. He grabbed one of the two pillows and flung it to the foot of the bed. He'd sleep at that end.
"You could always sleep on the floor if you prefer, or hang upside down in the wardrobe with the rest of the household," suggested a grinning partner. Doyle was beginning to enjoy himself for the first time that day.
Bodie was starting to wind up nicely when the man came in, silently and determinedly. Doyle had to rezip his trousers quickly. It was like an English farce. The farmer looked neither left nor right. He had newspaper in his hand and went about stopping up some of the draught holes in the window frame with strips of it. Just as silently he left. "Moves very quietly for a big man, doesn't he?" noted Doyle meaningfully, removing his trousers again and bunging them under the mattress to dry. He got into bed quickly in case any of the womenfolk decided to wander in. Reluctantly Bodie removed his shoes and jeans too, to Doyle's chuckling, and slid beneath the covers head to foot. "That wasn't too bad was it," Doyle grinned. Bodie gave him a colourful retort and turned over. They didn't think they'd be able to sleep in the cold, and their injuries were still throbbing and painful, but the exertions of the day caught up with them and they were soon deeply asleep.
It was just light when Doyle woke up. It took him a few moments to remember where he was. The bed was now very comfortably warm. His frozen nose indicated that the bedroom itself hadn't warmed up any though. Central heating was obviously beyond the family's means. He turned on his back staring at the stained and crumbling ceiling and analysed what he'd learned of this strange lot so far. He got more questions than answers, particularly regarding the accent. He didn't think it was foreign – the cadence was too English for that – but he hadn't heard enough of it to place it. Odd that the girl should speak comprehensibly. Perhaps she'd been out in the world more (or at all). 'Inbreeding' was a word going round Doyle's head as his partner snored gently at the other end of the bed. Doyle's injured hand and arm were hot and throbbing and he knew he'd have to relinquish the luxury of the bed at some point. He hoped that the household had more first aid than he'd seen last night. Better still, he hoped that the tractor could get out and get them to the nearest habitation. He reluctantly slid out of bed and fished under the mattress for his damp trousers. Bodie sighed and rolled onto his back but didn't wake. His field dressing, too, would need to be freshened.
As Doyle dressed quickly, putting his coat on too, he deliberately listened to Bodie's breathing – it was deep and regular. The breathing of a sleeper, not one in a coma. He'd leave him to a bit more beauty sleep. He checked his pulse just to be sure. Content, he slipped on his shoes – they were still wet from the day's adventures and crackled with ice. Doyle looked at his watch – after 9 – he didn't often sleep so late. He glanced out of the window, after scraping off a quantity of ice. The sky was slate grey and it was still snowing. Doyle groaned. They would be here for at least another day. He wondered how far the nearest phone was. That thought lead him to the car. He couldn't see it from the window. He'd try to get out to it and radio in their position. The radio wasn't working too well yesterday and the cold wouldn't have improved its signal, or the car's battery, but he felt a duty to try. He hadn't heard the household moving about, but he had quickly learned that they were a silent family – both verbally and on the move.
After quick ablutions – the bathroom being as cold as the tap water – he made his way to the kitchen. Even that gave out little warmth. The wife was there on her own. She had heard him come down and poured him a mug of stewed tea without asking. He wondered what he'd get for breakfast. As if reading his thoughts, she put a loaf and a knife on the table for him. There seemed nothing to go with it and he had to ask. If it seemed odd to her that he'd want butter or marg, she kept it to herself. Dry bread would have to do. Like the sandwiches, it was a few days old. Bodie would be disappointed if he expected a farmhouse greasy cooked breakfast. Doyle realised that he hadn't actually heard her speak yet. He asked her if her husband could get the tractor out in this weather and that he'd noticed that the snow hadn't let up. She shook her head to the tractor idea. He asked for the nearest phone. He actually understood her first word, 'neighbour'. It wasn't clear but it was just about comprehensible amongst the jumble of other sounds. He had to ask whether the neighbours were nearby; within walking distance. He thought he saw a small smile haunt her lips and she shook her head. "Far away?" It was like trying to converse with an alien. "Miles," was the response he could understand. Doyle couldn't hide his disappointment. He said that he'd try to get to the car as there was something in it he wanted. She said nothing and continued to stare at him as though he was the alien.
After the 'meal' of dry bread and undrinkable tea, he headed out into deep snow. It was only after he was half way to the car that he remembered the dog.