Bevan turned the car into his driveway and its sweeping high-beams momentarily spot-lit her. She appeared relaxed, sheltering from the evening’s blustery weather in front of one of the columns that framed his open wrought-iron gate. Her attention was focussed on his turning vehicle, and in that same moment of illumination a gust lifted and danced her long fair hair about her head causing its wafting tracery to highlight her face. His stomach knotted in a shock of recognition; she was waiting for him. In an unwelcome flood of memories, his past returned.
Her image seared onto his retinas, he swung in without pause and hastened down the long and winding driveway. The sanctuary of his familiar and comforting home drew him, beacon-like: a place where he could salve his mind and gather his frazzled wits. In his headlights the overgrown garden’s trees and shrubbery thrashed wildly, bending to the wind in an eerie dance before receding into the ruddied darkness beyond his tail lights. His sense of foreboding deepened.
Why her? Why here? Why now? How the . . . ?
Her appearance raised so many questions. It hadn’t escaped his notice either, that although dressed simply – some sort of business suit – she still cut a compellingly beautiful figure.
Her posture, her clothes! He shook his head, reflecting. She still oozed that same old confidence and power.
When they’d first met, her power had been evinced by her sensuality. But she wasn’t here to seduce him this time – that, he knew with certainty. And there’d been some sort of briefcase at her feet. He shuddered. Neither she, nor her associates, belonged in his world now.
Couldn’t they all just let it lie? Surely I’m not a threat to them anymore. And how the hell did they find me?
He’d built such an impeccable and, as he’d thought, impenetrable new identity that even he was beginning to doubt whether Bevan Owens had ever existed. Agitated by all the unanswerable questions, he brought the car to a surging halt on the gravel outside his front door, slammed its door shut and hurriedly let himself into the house.
He didn’t want this confrontation, hadn’t prepared for it. He knew its implications: he knew far too much. He imagined her, at that very moment confidently picking her way down the driveway in the darkness, homing in on the house lights. He contemplated turning them off – perhaps she would lose her nerve and go away. But no, not her: she would faithfully carry out the orders of her masters. Hadn’t she done just that when she’d ensnared him at the Tanto Gusto restaurant in Barcelona?
Perhaps I should have just backed out and driven away.
He was pacing the floor, his mind racing.
Should I go out and meet her coming down the driveway . . .
He peered out the salon window into the darkness. A flash of lightning revealed the trees still thrashing in the wind – he imagined her long, wafting hair. An intense crackle of thunder made him start. As it echoed off the surrounding villas he felt his courage ebb. Even as the minutes dragged by he knew his new life was unravelling. Thinking a hot drink might soothe his nerves and un-knot his stomach, he filled the kettle and set it to boil on the gas hob.
Aah, but first a stiff drink: his new-found vulnerability had shaken him. He withdrew a bottle of triple malt whisky from the cabinet and hastily poured three fingers into a tumbler.
Ten minutes: she should have reached the door by now. Is she circling the house, peering in at me through the windows?
He sipped and fought down the urge to hurriedly close all the curtains, willing himself not to be spooked. He would deal with this once and for all, this past intruding upon his present. The doorbell rang and he tensed; a chill rippled down his back. Tossing the rest of the scotch down his throat he carelessly slid the empty glass across the dining table where it teetered momentarily on the edge before falling off and shattering noisily on the parquet floor.
The sound sharpened his wits. Determined now, he strode into the kitchen and over to the knife-holder. Choosing the razor-sharp paring knife, he palmed it and made his way to the door. The now-forgotten kettle chattered noisily away on the hob.
Copyright © J Cedric Watkins 2009