There came a day when the papers were ready to submit to the websites. For maximum anonymity they hired a car, drove to a big public library in the city, and used the computers there. They were well-prepared and the computers were fast, so it only took them an hour and a half, though it felt much longer. Beverley emerged from the library high on adrenalin, her nerves shrieking at her to run, but forced herself to take deep breaths and walk slowly to the car. Vince drove home with care, keeping below the speed limit and constantly checking the rear view mirror, while Beverley sipped Rescue Remedy all the way.
Once they’d returned the hire car and were back at the Porters’, Vince took Bertie for a short walk while Beverley got the wood in and the fire going.
Then it started to rain. Heavily.
And when I say heavily, I don’t mean your usual sort of heavy rain. It was heavier than any rain Beverley could remember – more concentrated, more dense. As if all the raindrops had decided to join forces and form a sky waterfall.
Vince and Bertie were soaked by the time they got back. ‘It’s a deluge out there,’ he reported, rubbing his hair with a towel and steaming by the fire. ‘The water’s running down the road. The drains can’t cope.’
By the time they sat down to eat, the water had overflowed the road and was pouring through the Porters’ garden.
‘Just as well we’ve got that drop behind the house,’ said Beverley. ‘The water can drain away really quickly. So it shouldn’t get deep enough to come over the front doorstep.’
‘Hmm,’ said Vince.
After supper he put on Wellingtons and waterproofs and went outside to ‘check on things,’ as he put it. He came back wet and worried.
‘I don’t understand,’ said Beverley. ‘What’s the problem? We’re not in danger of flooding, are we?’
‘The problem is, I’m not too sure about the stability of the bank itself.’
‘Should I come and have a look?’
‘I’d rather you didn’t, to be honest. You might get swept over the edge.’
‘In fact, I’d feel a whole lot happier if you and Bertie stayed over at my place tonight.’
‘Is it really that bad, Vince?’
‘Well, I could be worrying about nothing, but I’d rather you did, if you don’t mind. I’ve got a spare room.’
They waited for a lull in the rain, but it never came. So they put everything they needed in polythene bags which went into back packs, then donned Wellington boots and set out across the road. They had to wade through fast-moving water, so Vince carried Bertie, and Beverley held onto his belt. And once his guests were inside the house Vince fetched sandbags from the workshop and piled them against the back door.
They’d just got the fire going and turned on the telly to find out how widespread the flooding was and how long the rain was expected to last, when the power went off. So they gave up on the day, and went up to bed by torchlight.
Beverley didn’t get to sleep for hours, what with the excitement of the day and the hammering of the rain. She finally dropped off towards dawn, and woke late to find the rain over and the power back on.
After breakfast they went over to check on the Porters’ house, and a terrible sight met their eyes. A landslide had taken away most of the back garden, including the boundary hedge and the rowan tree. The back of the house was now right on the edge of the drop, and beginning to sag alarmingly.
Bev stood in shock, hardly believing what she was seeing. Vince was less surprised.
‘Derek always had doubts about that bank,’ he said. ‘Look, I’d better get the rest of your stuff out of the house before it’s declared unsafe.’
‘Oh no, Vince. It’s not worth risking your life for.’
‘Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.’
So he roped himself up and ventured into the house to collect her things. It didn’t take long.
‘Thank you so much, Vince,’ said Beverley. ‘I wonder, do you think we ought to rescue any of the Porter’s stuff? Only if it’s safe, though.’
‘Absolutely not. If we move it without their permission they’ll probably sue us for any damage.’
‘Sorry Bev, I know you like to think the best of people, but I’ve had dealings with them before, and I’m not going to risk my life just to end up being sued. But certainly you should get word to them as soon as possible. And notify their Insurance Company and so on.’
‘Of course I’ll do that. Oh, the poor things!’
‘Don’t worry, Bev,’ smiled Vince. ‘They’ll be well insured.’
‘Vince, you’re looking really happy about this!’
‘I am, but it’s nothing to do with the Porters. I’m just relieved that all the evidence has been washed away. There’s nothing to show that anyone dug into that bank, if anyone should came looking.’
‘Why? Do you think they might?’
‘Well, they’ll see the Blaster on the Internet, and if they compare it to Derek’s patent application, they’ll see that the two machines are identical. Not only that – the diagrams and the wording are exactly the same, too. So they’ll know it’s Derek’s.’
‘I never thought of that!’
‘Didn’t you?’ said Vince, grinning.
‘Well, you obviously did, but you never said! My God, Vince. They could have turned up here at any time… They could still turn up here! We took a greater risk than I’d realised.’
‘But it was my risk, not yours. I knew there was a chance they’d find out that Derek and I collaborated, and I was prepared to take it.’
‘But I’m the one in the house! Well, I was…’
‘But you’re just the house-sitter, Bev. They wouldn’t expect you to know anything.’
‘But the fact is, I do know everything, Vince. And they could easily have got it out of me, too.’
‘You think you might have been in danger?’
‘But why would they suspect you?’
‘They wouldn’t need to – I’m the person on the spot. They’d interrogate me anyway, and they wouldn’t do it gently. They’re totally ruthless and they believe they’re untouchable, so they’ll do anything to anyone if it suits their purposes.’
‘Maybe you’re right, then. I’m sorry, Bev – I should have mentioned it. I wouldn’t knowingly have put you at risk. I’d never do that – honestly.’
‘Alright, I believe you… And anyway, they might not bother. It’s too late to stop the technology getting out, and hopefully they no longer have the resources to go around killing people purely out of revenge.
‘There’s something else too,’ she continued. ‘That landslide happened immediately after we open-sourced the Blaster. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence, Vince. It’s Synchronicity at work. I think we’re being looked after. Protected.’
‘I do. So I shall stop being cross with you straight away, and be grateful instead… However, I’m still in a state of shock, and in serious need of a cup of tea.’
‘In that case, I’m your man. Come on.’
While Beverley drank tea, Vince rang around the village and checked up on everyone he knew. Everyone he spoke to was okay, and nobody knew of any flooded houses or landslips apart from the one at the Porters’ house.
‘Isn’t that amazing?’ said Beverley. ‘Almost as if it was singled out.’
Vince was just about to take issue with her about that, when there was a loud rap on the door and they both jumped.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said, getting up. ‘It’s probably Sharon. She often pops in around this time.’
From where she sat Beverley could hear the front door open, and the exchange that followed.
‘Good morning, Vince. Is it convenient? I just wanted to check you hadn’t been washed away!’
‘Hi Sharon. Glad you made it through the deluge. Come on in – I’ve got the coffee brewing. Beverley’s here. She’s staying with me at the moment. You’ve met Beverley, haven’t you?’
Sharon didn’t have time to adjust her face before they reached the kitchen, and dismay was written all over it.
Oh no! Thought Beverley. Maybe it isn’t Josh that Sharon is sweet on. Maybe it’s Vince! Why didn’t I think of that before? And now she thinks I’m a rival. I must try to reassure her.
‘Hi Sharon, it’s good to see you again,’ she said with her warmest smile, while Vince busied himself with the coffee. ‘How’s Melanie?’
‘She’s at Play School,’ replied Sharon, distractedly. ‘I just dropped her off.’
‘She’s gorgeous. You must be very proud of her.’
‘Yes.’ And that was it. No more information about Melanie was forthcoming.
‘Have you lived in the village long?’ Beverley tried.
‘All my life,’ said Sharon.
‘I expect you’ve seen a few changes.’
Gosh, this was hard work.
‘How’s the job, Sharon?’ asked Vince, stepping into the breech. ‘Made any sales this week?’
Sharon turned her big brown eyes on him and shook out her shiny hair.
‘A few. But nobody’s got any money, Vince,’ she said, tilting her pretty head. ‘You know how it is.’
‘Yes. Tough on you, though.’
‘Yeah. I’ve sent off three more applications for part-time work. But there isn’t much about right now, and…’
And Beverley was horrified to realise that Sharon was on the verge of tears. Was it because of the job shortage or because she thought Beverley and Vince were lovers? At this point Vince handed round coffee, and as soon as she’d drunk hers, Sharon made her excuses and left.
‘Poor Sharon,’ said Vince. ‘She really struggles, you know. She works part-time at a call centre down in Billip, but the pay hardly covers the bus fare.’
‘I’m afraid so, yes.’
‘It is. But she has to take what she can get. It’s pure survival. Her husband abandoned her, you know.’
‘Alice told me.’
‘And he doesn’t keep up with the payments.’
Beverley took a deep breath.
‘You know, Vince, I think Sharon’s sweet on you.’
‘Oh yes?’ said Vince, clearing away the mugs.
‘She’s a beautiful girl.’
‘You think so?’ he said, with his back to her.
‘Yes, I do. You do know she likes you, don’t you?’
He turned around, taking a deep breath of his own.
‘Look Bev, I know Sharon’s interested in me. She’s made it very clear, even to a dimwit like me. But the problem is, I don’t think it’s me that she’s after. Not for myself, anyway. She just wants a father for Melanie, and some financial security. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t blame her. Everyone’s got to survive. But we have absolutely nothing in common. And I’m not under the illusion that she fancies me or anything. I mean, why should she? Look at me! I’m a scruffy old codger, Bev.’
‘Vince, listen to me. You are a very nice man. And an intelligent one. And let’s face it, men age better than women do. Underneath all the hair and stubble and tatty clothes, you are a very – listen to me – a very good-looking man. Scrubbed up, you’d be a dish. And Sharon’s not stupid. She can see that. She’d have you scrubbed up in no time.’
‘So you think I’m good-looking, do you?’
‘Very much so.’
‘And nice, and intelligent and all that?’
‘Okay Bev, if you think I’m so good-looking, and attractive, and nice and all the rest of it, how come you’re trying to get me off with Sharon?’
Final part soon
© Sue J Davis 2016
Please see Copyright Notice on the ‘About’ page.