Sinful Nights(6)

By: Penny Jordan

The BMW started first time, its powerful lights picking out the faint wisps of mist drifting down from the hills. Living in London insulated one from the elements, Sapphire thought, shivering as she drove out of the car park, and switched the car heater on to boost. She had to concentrate carefully on the road so that she didn’t miss the turning which would take her on to the ‘top road’ and she exhaled faintly with relief when she found it. The mist had grown thicker, condensation making it necessary for her to switch on the windscreen wipers, the BMW’s engine started to whine slightly as the road climbed. She had forgotten how quickly this road rose; the Cheviots were gentle hills compared with some, but they still rose to quite a height. It was an eerie sensation being completely alone on this empty stretch of road, her lights the only ones to illuminate the darkness of the bare hills. Here and there her headlights picked out patches of snow and then visibility would be obscured by the mist that seemed to waft nebulously around her.

Despite the heater she felt quite cold. Nerves, she told herself staunchly, automatically checking her speed as the mist started to thicken. Now she noticed with dismay the patches of mist were longer, and much, much, denser. In fact they weren’t mist at all, but honest-to-God fog. It was freezing as well. She had thought it might be several miles back when she felt so cold, but now she felt the BMW’s front wheels slide slightly, and tried not to panic. The BMW had automatic transmission, but there was a lower gear and she dropped into it, biting her lip as she crawled down a steep hill.

Nine o’clock! Her father would be wondering where on earth she was. Why hadn’t she rung him from the pub and told him she was likely to be late? It was useless now chastising herself for not anticipating adverse weather conditions. One of the first things she had learned as a child was not to trust the Border weather, but she had lived in London for so long that she had forgotten. She tensed as the BMW slid sickeningly round a sharp bend, blessing the fact that she had the road to herself. She ought never to have come this way. The traffic jams in Hawick would have been much preferable to this.

How many miles had she come? It felt like hundreds, but it was probably barely ten, and it was at least thirty to Flaws valley. She hadn’t reached the highest part of the road yet either.

Trying not to panic Sapphire concentrated on the road, watching the thick grey film in front of her until her eyes ached. The road had no central markings; no cat’s eyes, and on several occasions she felt the change in camber, warning her that she was veering too much to one side or the other.

It was a terrible, nightmare drive, and when the road finally peaked, and she was out above the fog, she trembled with relief. Snow still lined the road, this high up, and the tarmac surface shone dull grey with frost. She was over halfway there now.

Gradually the road started to drop down until she was back into the fog. In her relief to be over the top she had forgotten the sharpness of the bends on the downward road. Several times she felt the BMW slide as she cornered, and each time she prayed she wouldn’t panic, refusing to give in to the temptation to brake, trying to steer the car into and then out of the skid.

When she eventually saw the sign for Flaws Valley she could hardly believe her own eyes! Elation made her weak with relief as her senses relayed to her the familiarity of the straight road through the village. Everything was in darkness. People in Flaws village kept early hours. Most of them worked on the land and there was nothing in the village to keep them out late at night. And yet as she remembered it she had never suffered from boredom as a teenager; there had always been plenty to do. Harvest Festivals; Christmas parties and pantomime; summer haymaking; barbecues. Lost in her thoughts she turned instinctively into the road that ran past Blake’s farm and then on to her father’s. A wall loomed up in front of her with shocking suddenness, emerging from the mist, making her brake instinctively. She felt the car skid almost immediately, wrenching the wheel round in a desperate effort to avoid the wall. She felt the sudden lurch as the car left the road and came to rest with its front wheels in the ditch. Her head hit the windscreen, the pull of her seatbelt winding her. The shock of her accident robbed her of the ability to do anything but grasp the wheel and shiver. The front of the car had hit the wall. She had heard the dull screech of metal against stone.

She must get out of the car. Shakily she switched off the ignition and freed herself from her seatbelt. Her forehead felt cold and damp. She touched it, staring foolishly at the sticky red blood staining her fingers as she pulled them away. She had cut herself, but she could move, albeit very shakily. The car door opened easily and she stepped out on to the road, shuddering with shock and cold as the freezing air hit her. What next? She was approximately five miles from home and two from the village. Blake’s house was half a mile up the road, but she couldn’t go there. The village was her best bet. Shakily she started out, only to tense as she heard the sound of another vehicle travelling down the road. From the sound of it, it was being driven with far more assurance than she had possessed. Its driver seemed to know no fear of the fog or the ice. Instinctively Sapphire stepped back off the road, wincing slightly as she realised she must have twisted her ankle against the pedals. Bright headlights pierced the fog, and she recognised the unmistakeable shape of a Land Rover. It stopped abruptly by the BMW and the engine was cut. The driver’s door jerked open and a man jumped out. Tall and lean, his long legs were encased in worn jeans, a thick navy jumper covering the top half of his body. He walked towards the BMW and then stopped, lifting his head, listening as though he sensed something.