Author: Sylvie Orp PM
An adventure in the Highlands from Bodie's POVRated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Adventure - Words: 3,023 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 2 - Published: 03-01-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7885158
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The villains were going like a bat out of hell up the narrow, icy road to nowhere. Ray was doing well not only to keep up but also to keep on the road at all. The snow was dazzling. Suddenly the guys ahead lost the road and spun out of control. Ray slammed on the brakes and doing all the right things at once for an emergency stop in those conditions while trying not to throw us down the canyon looming ominously on our starboard side. I braced myself against the dashboard and knew I had no time to think about seatbelts now. Ray wasn't wearing his either. With a deafening crash and scream of metal we slammed into them. I heard Ray yell. I think I was yelling too. Time seemed to speed up and then stop suddenly. From crash, bang, wallop, there was a sudden and deafening silence. Our car was on its side – Ray's side. I was lying on top of him. The windscreen was smashed in. I looked forward but was too stunned to move. I saw the chassis of the other car, also on its side; the wheels still in motion. I wasn't sure we were still alive. Then I heard Ray moan and try to stir. I heard a crunch of glass. The opposition was on the move. I reached for my gun and crawled onto the bonnet. There was no other direction to go. Two of the snipers headed off into the hinterland, one took a pot shot. We didn't know how many were in the car to start with. I ducked down when the bullet flew over my head and pinged off the roof. He didn't try again. His main purpose was to put some distance between them and us. Doyle stirred himself and we pushed their car upright and peered inside. We saw that the driver had his head on the wrong way despite a seatbelt. We found no-one else either in the car or thrown clear. Ray managed to get the boot open while I peered into the back seat and on the floor. The attaché case we were trying to extract from these gentlemen was nowhere to be seen. We guessed the fleeing bandits had taken it with them. Cowley had ordered us to get the thing "at all costs". Well not on my life and certainly not on Ray's but we had to look as though we were trying. We didn't have a lot of time for battle plans and it was about time I found out if Ray was hurt. I was certainly aching, bruised and shaken but nothing broken. No point in asking Doyle outright. He'd say he was ok even if his arm was falling off. "Let's look at you," I said. "I'm ok," he replied. I told you, didn't I? He was bleeding from a head wound and the right side of his face looked battered but he seemed otherwise ok. He was walking in a fairly straight line and seemed able to focus. "What now?" he said. We knew that we had a bit of daylight, so I pointed up the mountain where the gunmen had fled. Doyle rolled his eyes but we both knew that we had to make a try of it. Look at it this way – the gunmen were as lost as we were.
Neither of us are mountaineers. I can't be doing with all that faffing around with ropes and pulleys and, literally, hanging about until your climbing partner does more faffing. But there was a path of sorts that the snipers must have taken so we took a brisk trot at it – onwards and upwards. More upwards than onwards. The snow pulled at our legs till they felt like lead. We must have caught up with them, or they were waiting in ambush, because after about half an hour (and just when I thought my legs wouldn't take me any further) all hell broke loose. Our reflexes are good and we threw ourselves to the ground but I wasn't quick enough. An agony exploded in my guts. I cried out. Ray kept firing then crept ahead when the opposition stopped firing back. I heard the odd shot here and there in the distance as Doyle tried to get the better of them, but I had to wait until he came back with some report – or not as the case may be. I certainly wasn't going anywhere. My world had condensed down to an unending sea of pain.
There seemed an eternity of silence before Ray came back. I can't tell you how relieved I was to see him breasting the ridge back to where I was still laid out. I was beginning to give Doyle up for dead, and myself too. It had started to snow again and I could feel the wetness and cold seeping into my anorak. My shoes and trousers were already drenched. Ray was breathing hard. The blood from his head wound had frozen onto his face. He seemed unaware of it. Fortunately I couldn't see any new damage to him.
"Where are you hurt, Bodie?"
"Gut shot. Did you get either of them?"
"One," he replied, kneeling down and pushing me gently onto my back, "but there's another two."
"I thought there was only the pair of them. Are they breeding?"
Doyle chuckled and said that we needed either glasses or a basic maths course. He had my jacket open now and was assessing the state of me. I've every faith in his medical skills but without a first aid kit there's a limit to what even he can do. I could see the cogs whirring away in that keen mind of his. He took off his jacket and cardigan. He bundled up the jumper and, with my belt, strapped it tight round the wound. He put his jacket back on thoughtfully.
"That's all I can do for now, Bodie. Base will have got our co-ordinates when we left Ashwick. There's no other road we could have taken. The smash may already have been reported to the local bobbies by now anyway." He rezipped my jacket. He was still thinking hard. I gave him a clue.
"Leave me here, Ray."
He said nothing and then wandered off somewhere behind me. God knows what he had in mind. I was trying to be brave and say the right thing but I didn't know he was going to abandon me so quickly, and without a word of farewell either! However, he came back after not too long and said there was a hollow which would do to keep me out of the weather for a bit while he ran for help. Run where? I thought. It was a heck of a way back to Ashwick, unless he thought he could thumb a lift. But the road may expose him too much from that pair of uglies who could have the same idea. As he leaned over me I saw a movement behind him. I yelled. He threw himself on top of me and a hail of bullets flew overhead. I thought I was going to pass out with the pain and tried to stifle a scream. He rolled off me, firing as he did so, though I don't think he knew exactly where his target was. There was no reply from them. Our nerves were on high alert.
"Ok?" he asked after a while of tense waiting. I could see the concern in his face.
My pain levels were going through the roof but I didn't want to worry him any further. You know what he's like. "Just so cold, Ray." The snow was already trying to suck the life out of me. Doyle shouldered his gun and slid his hands under my legs and across my shoulders. He's a strong lad but even he was grunting a bit as he fought with gravity to get me off the ground. I wished I could help him, but every movement was an agony.
"You'll have to ration those Swiss rolls," he joked. I think he was laying on the gasping and staggering a bit too much in my view as he lumbered with me to this hollow of his and laid me down as gentle as a mother. Then, to my surprise, he took his jacket off and stuffed my hands into the sleeves. The warmth – his warmth – was a welcome relief but I knew he couldn't survive too long without as much clothing as possible. He was down to his shirt and vest. I tried to give the coat back but was too weak to fight him.
"I won't be long, Sunshine" he said. He squeezed my shoulder and was gone before I could say anything. I wanted to shout after him but he'd only ignore me and, anyway, it may attract the gunmen. So there I was bleeding to death and nothing I could do about it. As I thought of Ray, a quote kept coming into my mind: 'greater love hath no man that he lays down his life for his friends'. Well Ray has done a lot of that over the years. I guess I have for him too, but I couldn't help worrying about where he was and whether he'd met up with the uglies again on the road. I didn't want us both to die alone. I was so, so cold.
Light was fading. It must have been around 4pm. I'd been lying here bleeding – ok, dying – for the best part of an hour, drifting in and out of sleep or worse. I heard a crunch of footsteps on icy snow. My heart leapt. The cavalry had arrived. I kept still just in case. Not that I could move much anyway. Ray's jacket had been keeping my hands from frostbite but not much else. More comfort than warmth. However, the cautious creeping from these guys told me that menace had returned. They were armed and expecting danger. I figured that perhaps they'd tried to move higher up the mountain and had been cut off, so had retreated back down. Rather than getting into a fire fight that I knew I'd end up on the wrong side of, I slid Ray's jacket ever so slowly up over my face. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, but I did want to give a good impression of a corpse. Their footsteps came closer. They'd seen me. I tried to relax (amazing though that seems under the cir-cumstances) and kept my eyes closed under the jacket. I tried to keep my breathing as shallow as possible. One of them snatched the coat away. I held my breath. I heard the metal click of a gun being cocked. I think my heart stopped of its own accord. Then there was an angry exchange of views between the gunmen. Fortunately the argument swung in my favour and the coat was thrown back at me. I got a kick in the legs as a parting gift (and thanked my stars that it wasn't my guts they were aiming for) and the footsteps receded. It's a long time since I've been that scared. I slowly started to breathe again and opened my eyes. I saw the backs of them – there were two – heading back down the path we had taken up earlier. I hoped fervently Doyle wasn't on the same road.
Odd that Doyle and I should have assumed that these people were English. I didn't understand a word they'd said. Didn't sound Russian. Perhaps some neighbouring country, but that's as far as I could say. I was so tired. I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes for a bit – but I knew that the 'bit' would last into eternity.
However, I don't remember the genuine cavalry arriving. I don't remember being strapped into a gurney and bumped down the rutted track to the helicopter (as I was told later), nor the transfer from said helicopter to the hospital. Pity. I like travelling in helicopters. You can see so much country from up there. Anyway, once I'd been stabilised to some extent at the local hospital, and Doyle had had his own spot of first aid, we were pushed onto a flight to London as medical emergencies. I was completely out of it and don't remember all this shunting around like a lost parcel. From what Cowley tells me (Ray being very reticent about it all), it seems that Doyle did meet the opposition on his way down and got shot for his troubles. After the skirmish, the gunmen went back up the hill, passing me by on the way, as Ray continued on his way down. Luck decided to take pity on Doyle and he found a motorist to flag down who was heading towards our pile-up. The man wouldn't believe that he couldn't get much further along the road and I think Ray drew his gun in order to persuade the guy to turn round. Cowley tells me there was a possé of armed police waiting for him at Ashwick! Fortunately he was allowed to tell his tale, show his ID and get help. The story goes that, having carried out his mission (as far as I was concerned), Ray then fainted at the feet of the local constabulary!
I woke gradually. It was like being at the bottom of the sea. I could see the light above the water but it seemed so far away. I was so tired. I think I rose and sank a few times. I vaguely remember a figure by my bed and wondered if it was Doyle. I didn't know then if he'd survived his ordeal on the mountain but he has the luck of the devil. At some point, during one of my more sentient moments, I felt a hand burrow under my thermal blankets. I assumed that it was a member of the medical fraternity about to do something unspeakable to an unmention-able part of my anatomy. Fortunately for me it was just someone looking for my hand. Having unearthed it, he or she hung on. The hand was very cold. I tried to mumble Doyle's name; either acknowledging his presence or asking for him or about him. Either which way, I couldn't get any words out. My tongue seemed stuck to the roof of my mouth. I did some more rising and sinking and it occurred to me that each 'rising' got me closer to the light. I think I broke water at some point because someone pushed something into my mouth. I sucked and was very grateful for the ice chips placed there. You'd think that I'd had enough of snow and ice for a while, and the crackle of the thermal blankets proved that I didn't need any more freezing. However my mouth and throat were as dry as the desert and any water or ice was very much appreciated. It brought me round a bit. I seemed to draw strength from it and emerged from my watery prison, even if only for a little while. I was rewarded for my efforts by gazing into the unflinching green eyes of my friend. My lips cracked as I smiled at him. I felt ridiculously happy and relieved. Forget the water for a while, I just wanted to drink in those eyes. They looked infinitely weary. God knows how long he'd been sat there. There were dark rings under those eyes as though he'd been on the wrong end of a boxing match, and the face looked gaunt and bruised. He had a hospital blanket round his shoulders and he needed a shave and a bath.
"Come on, Bodie. It's about time you stirred yourself."
His hand had never left mine, neither did those exhausted eyes. My eyelids were still very heavy. I was starting to get scared that I was more sick than I thought. Maybe I'd be going down for the last time. I didn't want to sink again. Ray certainly looked worried. I felt panicky and I clung onto that hand as though it was a lifeline to the surface. And, bless him, he clung on to me too. I tried to say something but the words stuck in my throat. He pushed a few more ice chips into my mouth and leaned forward to hear me better.
"Don't let go, Ray," I whispered.
"I'm going nowhere, friend," he replied.
My hand was getting numb and bruised from the pressure, his nails digging into me. But it was ok. Ray was going nowhere and I'm still here. It was the following day before I past through the crisis stage and then, and only then, did Ray prise himself away from the bedside and get his own needs seen to. Cowley had been getting worried about him and had offered to take a night vigil but apparently Doyle was having none of it. I silently thanked him for that, too. Imagine waking in the middle of the night to see those hooded eyes peering at you through the gloom. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it!
Oh, and the gunmen? They were found by mountaineers some months later frozen to the pathway. And the attaché case? The cops found that under the driver's bum when they pulled him from the wreckage later that same day. So it turned out that we didn't need to go after the snipers after all. But just don't tell our colleagues that or we'll never live it down!