A Devil’s Bend and a Bunch of Flowers

The blue car screeched around the bend, flew past the cyclist and disappeared up the road at more than enough speed. Dust kicked up off the country road. Dried mud from all those tractors. It pooled in the air in a long stream and followed in a trail blanketing the distance in a kind of haze. The road was narrow. The car passing close made the cyclist wobble, stop and get off his bike. He looked along the road following the passage of the car. It disappeared over a slight rise in the long straight section just before the sharp bend that was out of sight but he knew was there. He heard a loud screeching of brakes, a rolling bashing noise ending in a very loud crash. Silence except for a stuttering half-hearted horn that struggled to continuously sound.

Holding his bike in one hand the cyclist just stared at the small cloud of dust that was appearing above the hump in the road. Gave a kind of that was inevitable shrug, mounted his bike and continued his journey. Turned left after a short distance the sign saying “to the village.” 

Terence Pemberton was in his early sixties. A bit shaky due to the onset of arthritis which was why he cycled when he could to keep his limbs moving. Apart from that he was fit for his age. Young looking. Going grey but everyone in their sixties goes grey so no surprises there. He was wearing cycle clips to hold his trousers tight at the bottoms. An old habit that went back years. His jacket was rolled up and held under the sprung catch on the rear carrying rack. Tatty very old straw hat with a red band up top shading from the slowly weakening sun. Returning from working the tills in the supermarket. Used to be a Bank Manager but since being made redundant eight years ago had struggled to find work. But then he liked the work, the interaction with all those people even though many considered it mundane and demeaning for an ex bank manager.

He lived in the village with his wife Mary. Been married for forty years. Two children Clare and Toby. Both left home. Clare the youngest twenty nine and single. Toby thirty four and married. Three children already. Toby lived a bit away so Grand parenting was difficult although they helped where they could. Mostly they lived a quiet life now that he had a much less stressful job. Got back about five. The usual time.
“Want a cup of tea? Dinner is not until about seven. Clare is coming over. Phoned this morning. Said she would be here about five thirty.”
“Well in that case yes please. Looking forward to seeing her. She’s not been for a while has she. Three months ago?”
“Yes that would be about right. She’s so busy these days. Hard to find time to do anything.”

They talk. He tells her about his day and all the antics that customers get up to. Had pointed out to a lady that if she bought two 250g packs of pasta instead of one 500g pack she would save a pound. “Do I look like I need to save a pound” was her only reply. She tells him about her art classes. Shows him the progress on the large oil painting she is creating. It gets to six thirty and there is no sign of Clare.
“I wonder where Clare is. Not like her to be late. Hope she’s ok.”
“I forgot to mention. There was a crash on the way home. Speeding car went past me just before the village turn. Did not see what happened. It was at Devil’s bend beyond the brow of the hill. Not sure if anyone else was involved. It was a blue car. Clare’s is red isn’t it?”
“Yes it’s red but she comes round that bend doesn’t she? From the other direction that blue car was going?”
“That’s the only way for her to come that avoids the long drive around the estuary. She would come that way. Devil’s bend, down the straight and turn right into village lane.”
“I’m getting worried Terry. Phone the police. See what happened. Who was involved. You know sergeant Morgan don’t you? From darts. He will tell you. I’ll call her mobile.”

“Hallo Pete it’s Terry.”
“Hi Terry what can I do for you.”
“The crash today at Devil’s corner do you know anything about it?”
“Yes we were called out just after five. The two constables went. The traffic ones. Not heard a great deal though. Why do you ask?”
“Clare’s late arriving and she comes that way. I saw, well I didn’t actually see but heard the crash as I turned down to the village. A blue car whizzed by me going ever so fast.”
“All I know is that a blue car was involved. Went round the corner rolled a few times hitting a red car that crashed head on into a tree.”
“Anyone hurt?”
“Not sure and don’t know who was involved. How many. Man or women. I can try and find out if you want.”
“Can you please. It’s gone seven now and Clare is never late. At least not this late and she drives a red car.”

“What did he say? Just voicemail on her mobile.”
“Said there were two cars involved. Blue and red. Doesn’t know if any casualties but is going to find out and call us back. As soon as he can.”


“I’m going to try her mobile again. Same. Just voicemail.”
“Well we can’t do anything we have to just wait for Pete to get back to us.”
“I’m really worried now Terry. What if she’s involved.”
“No point worrying until we know something. We can’t do anything. Pete will phone as quick as he can. I know he will.” Terry is trying to calm Mary but he knows it won’t work. He needs calming as well. Now feeling very fraught.

The phone rings twenty minutes later.
“Terry it’s Pete. Right. What I’ve found out. The blue car came over the brow in the road going much too fast for the corner. Probably did not know it was there. Could not take the bend at that speed. Rolled about three times and hit the red car what seems to be a glancing blow that threw it into a tree. The red car might have been trying to swerve. There was one young man in the blue car who is in hospital with minor injuries. Should be released soon. Some questions to answer there I think. There was a young lady in the red car. Her handbag and mobile were on the front passenger seat. I am very sorry Terry but they are Clare’s. Her driving licence and cards in her purse. Your number on her mobile called this morning. Also the car is registered to her. The good news is she is in hospital unconscious but alive. I have not seen her but one of the constable’s said she was going to be all right.”
“Thank goodness for that. Thanks Pete. Thanks so very much. We will go to the hospital now.”

They arrive and are directed to the main women’s ward. They wait at the ward desk to see a nurse or someone.
“Mr and Mrs Pemberton we understand our daughter is here.”
“Yes on the left hand side. You can go in if you want to I will be there in a moment.”
“There she is Terry. There she is. She looks all right. Doesn’t she. She’s all right isn’t she. Her eyes are closed.”
“Probably just asleep. If there was a problem the nurse would have said. I am sure.”
There are two chairs next to the bed and they sit down. The nurse arrives a moment later.
“That’s your daughter there isn’t it?”
“No this is her. Definitely.”
“But that lady came in with your daughter’s handbag and phone. The phone is turned off now. Is out of danger but heavily sedated. Just for now. A precaution. This lady is recovering from a bump on the head. Found outside the newsagents on the road to the village just before Devil’s bend. Had bought some flowers. We don’t know who she is. She is only just waking up. She’s all right though.”
“Well that’s as maybe but this is Clare. Don’t know that lady.”

At that moment Clare wakes up.
“Hallo Mum, Dad. How did you know I was here? Someone stole my car. I just went into the shop to buy flowers left my handbag only took in cash from the change I keep in the car for parking. There was a lot there. Some needed spending. When I came out I unlocked the car. Got a thump on the head. Knocked me out. Only just woken up. Got a right headache.”

“I’ve been so worried you not turning up. And that crash. I wonder who that lady is.”

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