In the dark gloom of the early hours, with lights extinguished, the estate car reversed slowly off the main road into a narrow side-street and then continued to creep on down to the riverside, where it finally stopped at the top of an old, disused, slipway.
A man, dressed from head to toe in black, emerged from the car and made his way stealthily to the back. There was a loud, metallic, pop as the hatch opened, followed by a hiss as it glided upwards. Shocked by the apparent loudness of the noise, he froze and held his breath.
After what seemed an eternity, he began to relax. It seemed no one had heard the noise, so he began the business of removing what appeared to be a roll of carpet from the back of the car. It was roughly six feet long and was bound with string around the middle and over each end.
Somehow it seemed to have grown heavier on the journey and it was much harder to get it out of the car than it had been to put it in. In no time, he was sweating profusely from his efforts.
He eventually gave up trying to carry the carpet and settled for dragging it from the car and down the slipway. In the darkness, he didn’t notice the string was being loosened as it caught and snagged on the rough concrete.
Finally, he reached the river’s edge and there was a faint splash as he dropped the end he was holding into the water. Then he stepped back to the other end, dropped to his knees, and launched the carpet into the river like a torpedo. In the dim, murky, glow from the distant streetlights on the far bank, he could just about see it bobbing along on the surface as it floated out into the river and the current began to carry it away.
He watched with great satisfaction as it began to gather speed and was drawn out towards the middle without sinking. He had thought carefully about this – if it sank too soon it might be visible when the tide went out, so he had taken great care to make sure it floated long enough to reach the middle before it became waterlogged and sank.
He stood watching the slowly sinking package until it was lost from sight in the darkness, then made his way back to the car. After carefully easing the hatch shut, he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine. As he crawled back along the lane, the lights of a passing car flashed past, and his confidence began to waver once more.
Not for the first time, he wondered how on earth he had been foolish enough to allow himself to be drawn into this situation. It was like the worst sort of nightmare, but, he also realised, it was too late for regrets. There could be no turning back now.
As the man turned onto the main road and switched his headlights on, the now waterlogged roll of carpet reached the middle of the river and disappeared below the surface, just as was intended.
The tide was in full flow now, and the fierce current had begun to work at the loosening string. Over the next half hour, the roll of carpet was dragged and bumped along the bottom, and in the process, the string was further loosened, and the carpet was almost unrolled.
It was quite possible that, in a day or two, the precious contents within could work loose and be carried away by the tidal current, and from there anything could happen...
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