|The Gentleman of the Road
Author: Sylvie Orp PM
Happy New Year to you all. I think we're in the mood for curling up with a mystery story. EnjoyRated: Fiction K - English - Mystery - Words: 2,004 - Reviews: 4 - Published: 01-01-13 - Status: Complete - id: 8860802
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Bodie and Doyle had been sent on an out of town excursion to help out the local police to bring in a gang they and other forces had been trailing for some time. However, the gang weren't going to surrender easily and it had ended up in a shoot-out. The police were greatly relieved that they'd brought CI5 in on this one. They had a copper in hospital with a shoulder wound, but the casualty list could have been a lot longer if Cowley's boys hadn't been there to return expert fire. Doyle had attended the casualty at the scene, despite the tail end of the shoot out still going on. He'd dragged him out of the line of fire and packed the wound quickly and efficiently before going on to help his colleagues round up the gang - or those still left standing. The Commander had insisted that Bodie and Doyle go to the hospital for a check up before going home. He intended to give Cowley a glowing testimony of their work today. The pair were cold and hungry but Bodie said that at least they could get a hot meal at the hospital and their B&B wasn't too far away - an inn half way between this town and the next. However, once they'd been given the all clear by a very charming nurse, whose uniform strained in all the right places, they found the canteen out of bounds due to a burst water main. Just when they thought things couldn't get worse, they discovered that the fog was coming down thick and fast as they made their way across the hospital car park.
"Now what?" Bodie said despairingly as he put the key in the ignition.
"Slow and steady as she goes," was Doyle's only advice.
Bodie sighed but followed instructions. They soon left town and were heading very slowly into open country where the fog was like a thick blanket. Doyle had the map on his lap and had worked out to the nearest quarter mile where the inn was meant to be. They could easily sail past it without noticing. While he was engrossed in his map-reading, Bodie yelled and their car suddenly swerved off the road. Bodie's swearing was cut short by a hefty bump as their car careered into a ditch. The windscreen shattered on impact with a boulder and the men suddenly found themselves underwater. They gasped and struggled out of the passenger window, thoroughly drenched and coughing up the sludge of dirty ditch water. Once they'd crawled to safety on the verge, they were able to assess a little more calmly.
"What the hell happened?" asked Doyle, rubbing his shoulder. It hurt like hell, and he was shaking with cold and shock.
"A car suddenly came for me. It was going like a bat out of hell. Didn't you see it?"
It had all happened so fast that Doyle hadn't had time to raise his head from his map and work out what was going on. Not that he could have done anything anyway. However, his mind was not on the recent past but on the very real present. His mate's head was bleeding. Even in the gloom he could see a lot of red and also panting as Bodie tried to get his emotions under control.
"Here, let's look at that," Doyle said leaning towards his partner.
"I'm ok. Nothing you can do about it anyway." Diverting his friend's attention, he asked, "Where are we anyway? You're the one with the map, Kimo Sabe."
"About a mile that way," Doyle said confidently, pointing in the direction they'd been heading for.
"Let's go then," Bodie said getting to his feet. Doyle had to steady him before they could set off. He was anxious to get his partner to a doctor.
They hadn't gone very far when Doyle quietly slipped his arm around Bodie's waist. He was reeling like a Scotsman on Burns Night. Bodie didn't resist and leaned his weight on Doyle's shoulder. Although he was sure his collar bone wasn't broken, Bodie's weight on it sent an agony across Doyle's back. He said nothing and marched determinedly onwards in silence. They'd covered about half a mile when Bodie collapsed altogether. Doyle eased him to the ground and took his pulse. It was a lot slower than it should be and he was getting very cold. Shock and hyperthermia where close bed fellows. Doyle himself was exhausted but there was no way he was going to leave his friend here. He knelt next to him and closed his eyes to dredge up the last scraps of energy he had left and prepared a fireman's lift. Something made him look up as he got Bodie into the right position to lift him. A man loomed over them with a storm lamp in his hand, casting an eerie glow on the pair. He was a tall, broad individual with a thick beard and moustache. The odd bonnet he was wearing hid most of the rest of his face too, so only the eyes were clear - deep, penetrating eyes. He was wearing layers of shapeless garments and Doyle classed him as a gentleman of the road.
"The Coach & Horses can't be far?" Doyle queried, getting to his feet and hoping he was right.
The man said nothing for a while, as though assessing whether Doyle was dangerous or not. "You are tired," he said. "You must leave him here and travel the road alone."
"No way," said Doyle defensively, his whole body stiffening at the thought.
The man seemed to smile - it was difficult to tell for sure. "He is a burden to you," he persisted.
"Go to hell," Doyle snarled, heaving Bodie across his shoulders defiantly. He staggered under the weight and couldn't stifle a yelp as Bodie pressed again on his damaged bones. He shifted the weight as evenly as he could and pushed past the stranger, marching onwards angrily.
"You won't get far," the stranger called, staying where he was.
Doyle saved his strength and didn't reply. After some while, and Bodie getting heavier and heavier across his aching shoulders, the man appeared ahead again with his lamp. He must have been stalking them on a parallel path.
"You are your brother's keeper," the man said enigmatically.
"I'm no-one's keeper. Look, who the hell are you?"
"I am your guide, Evangelist."
Doyle's heart sank. Of all the places to find a 'born again', it had to be here.
"It's very kind of you," Doyle snarled, "but I can find my own way if I stay on the road. It's not far now."
"No, not far at all. You have the goodness of your heart to warm you, the purity of soul to uplift you. Your burden is a lightness to you."
Doyle didn't reply, but plodded steadily onwards. His burden certainly didn't feel light. In fact, Bodie had been getting heavier by the minute. He wished this crazed individual would just leave him alone. However, there was something comforting in his presence though. Doyle could just about admit to himself that having this 'God botherer' at his side was at least some sort of company and that he wasn't alone and lost in this endless fog-bound world. They trudged on in silence for a while, the man appearing and disappearing seemingly at will. Doyle put it down to the patchy fog and his own exhaustion.
"We are arrived," the man announced. He made Doyle jump as he'd been in his own little world for a while just putting one leaden foot in front of the other like an automaton, and had forgotten about his strange companion.
"Well thanks for your company." It wasn't altogether sarcasm. His odd presence had helped. Doyle could see the vague outline of a building for himself now. A man and a woman met him in the gloom.
"We knew someone was out here," the man said anxiously. "Do you want me to take him?"
"No thanks. I can manage this last bit."
The couple's normality had given Doyle a boost and he strode on with more spring in his step, the woman leading the way and the man at his side. Of his strange companion there was no sign. He began to wonder if he'd been there at all.
Once in the warmth of the inn, Doyle was led to a back room where finally he could lay down his burden onto the large kitchen table. The pair helped him, and Doyle gasped in pain as he gently lifted Bodie from his shoulders.
"Let me look at you," the woman, Eve, said.
"No, Bodie's more in need than me."
Doyle himself examined his friend and Eve helped him wash and dress Bodie's head wound. Doyle looked for any further injuries and was relieved not to find any. As the stairs were old, narrow and rickety it was decided that Bodie would have to stay downstairs. They stripped him of his wet clothes and wrapped him up with blankets to try to make him as warm and comfortable as possible. The aga was pumping out a welcome wave of heat. There was a homely smell of food and laundry. Doyle was grateful for a shower, a change into dry clothes, a hot meal and some aspirin. Despite his exhaustion, Doyle insisted on guard duty. He didn't leave Bodie's side, and he and his hosts gathered round the casualty as though at a wake. Warm and well fed, he was now ready to ask about the gentleman of the road. Doyle described him in detail and his audience exchanged glances.
Eve, explained, "Yes, that's Evangelist alright. We can't explain him, but he arrives from nowhere when he sees someone in trouble and disappears when he's shown them the way here."
"He seems to weigh a man's soul," her husband George added. He seemed embarrassed.
"What do you mean?"
Husband and wife exchanged glances again. George took up the tale. "Well, a couple of years ago we - or rather a lorry driver - found a body at the side of the road. Fog again. A man had crashed his car into a telegraph pole not far from here and was flung clear. Evangelist could have come to us and told us about him and we'd have got help for him. Anyway he didn't and the bloke died out there. I still feel guilty even though we couldn't have done anything because we didn't know."
"Why didn't Evangelist tell you about him then?"
"He'd weighed the man's soul, he said, and found him wanting. He simply didn't deem him worthy of salvation. We read in the local paper later that week that the bloke was wanted for a series of rapes and was on the run. How Evangelist knew that I just don't know."
"He gives me the creeps," added Eve, shivering.
"I know what you mean," Doyle empathised. "But who is he? Where does he live?"
"No-one knows. Some say he's a ghost," George said.
"Some say he's more than that," Eve murmured quietly.
They looked at each other and said no more. They sat silently around the kitchen table watching and waiting for Bodie to join them and, just after dawn, as the fog cleared and a blue sky showed itself shyly to the world, Bodie woke, stretched and said he felt as though he'd had a very deep and restorative sleep - and was starving. Doyle grinned with relief. Yes, Bodie was certainly back in the normal world of men!