Although the truck slowed down Anthony hit the tar hard, rolling into the long grass by the roadside. As soon as he stopped moving he got up, slowly, his body stiff and bruised . . . luckily no broken bones. During his spell in the army, this had been a regular kind of drill. Now his body was out of practise. By the time he got to his feet, the car had turned onto the road and was heading in his direction.
Anthony hastily scrambled through a barbed-wire fence, and ran towards a cluster of wattle trees about a hundred metres away, hoping the tall grass would conceal him. The pounding of his running feet and the pounding of his heart blocked out all other sound. He wasn't sure whether they'd seen him, and wasn’t going to waste any time looking back.
He reached the trees, took a moment to check, saw no sign of a pursuer. Yet that did not mean much; he had to keep going. At least the trees gave some cover, shielding him from detection. He entered the dense brush, was forced to slow down by it, but he kept going. On the other side of the brush he burst out into the open, into bright sunshine. He ducked back under cover, surveying the territory for any movement. There was none. Ahead of him was a clearing with no protection. On the far side of it, another clump of trees.
To reach those trees, he estimated he had to cross almost three hundred metres, with no cover. Once there I should have a good view and be able to see whether someone is following me. Taking a few minutes to catch his breath, he dashed across the clearing. When he reached the trees, Anthony paused to check the ground he’d covered, he didn’t see anything move. He found himself a vantage point from where he could rest without easily being spotted. At the same time he had a good view of a potential pursuer. He made himself as comfortable as possible, and settled down to watch and wait. If they are on my trail, I should notice them well in advance and I hope I will be rested enough to slip away undetected. I only saw one car, and dogs would have tracked me down by now.
The nightmare of witnessing Jenny’s brutal murder flashed through his mind, and he suffered an intense burst of emotion. What happened to Jane? What did the evil monsters do to her? The events of the past twelve hours were suddenly too much and his body started shaking uncontrollably, tears flowing down his cheeks. Surely they would not kill her too, surely Mervyn would protect her. He treated her almost like his own daughter. And why? None of this made any sense . . .
Anthony stifled a cry of pain when he jerked up his head and hit it hard on a branch. It took a while to register where he was; I must've dozed off. His heart was beating in his throat. Something woke me, what was it? Keeping dead still, he inspected his surroundings: he listened intently, all was quiet. Again he heard it! The sound of a snapping twig . . . Someone creeping up on me? He turned his head in the direction of the sound, but the brush was too thick for him to see anything. Then a shuffle and a vaguely familiar sound, a chomping, familiar from somewhere in his memory bank though not quite identifiable. He froze as he detected movement through an opening between the leaves . . . holding his breath . . . With a sigh he saw a cow’s head through the gap. A herd of cattle grazing a few metres away had disturbed him. There must be a herder somewhere nearby. He looked at his watch, almost noon. I must've slept for four or five hours.
It had been a restless sleep. He’d dreamt of Jane, in danger, and his attempts to rescue her. In the dream . . . he was back in his army days and she . . . held captive by terrorists . . .
Not risking detection, he lay still. What should I do next, where should I go? In his army days he was a member of a special unit tasked to infiltrate enemy lines and neutralise key positions, a different life which he thought he had left behind and buried forever. Now it seemed to have returned; he felt as if he were in that space again. It was so unreal, so impossible. Is this my fate? He had managed to block that part of life from his mind, now it was coming back to haunt him. In those days I was the hunter, now I am the hunted.
He forced his thoughts to the present, to his predicament. He peered through the low branches across the grassland: the cattle had moved further away, grazing peacefully in the distance. He still saw no sign of human life, nor discerned any immediate danger. He lay completely still, staring at nothing. He knew he needed to decide on a strategy, but it was too difficult. He had no interest, had become apathetic.
His mind was awash with confused thoughts: nothing seems to matter anymore. For the moment, this is as good a place to be as any. I may as well just lie here and wait for the inevitable. He felt dead tired. I wish I could just fall asleep and never wake up.
He must have dozed off again. When he woke it was to a strange peace and calm. Everything was quiet: no discernible movement, no sound other than the chirping of the birds in the trees. He looked at the time, it was five past three in the afternoon. The day was almost over and he was still no nearer to finding Jane. He had to get moving, he had to get home . . . once he was there he could decide what to do next. Carefully, making sure there was no one else around, he headed back to the road. He had to find his way back while avoiding the main routes.
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