The door thrummed to a pneumatic clatter. Raindrops on the windowpane streaked upwards. Beyond, she could make out a clutch of ambulances, motorbikes and hatchbacks parked in canted angles at the head of the ditch. The landscape pulsed in eerie strobes. Above, torchlight danced behind the railings. It seemed the crash had attracted an audience.
The clatter stopped. The door peeled from its frame via severed hinges. The female paramedic came instantly to Nancy’s aid. ‘No need for bravery, now,’ she cooed. ‘You could be in shock. Assistance is on its way.’
Behind her, two paramedics raced down with a stretcher. Nancy shook her head and planted one foot in the mud to prove she could walk.
The paramedic, a ruddy blonde, placed a blanket over Nancy’s shoulders and took Nancy firmly by the elbow. Nancy clutched at Vince’s overcoat and allowed the paramedic to lead her up a slope towards an adjacent ambulance. The woman gestured to the stretcher-bearers. They nodded and carried on past her.
A croak forced its way up Nancy’s throat. ‘I did it wrong, didn’t I?’
The paramedic gave Nancy a confused look before assisting her into the back of the van. Soft clapping issued from somewhere above. Nancy took a seat upon a bed within. She pinned her sights upon the crash site. The limo was a contorted, lurid exhibit that resembled a huge black bin-liner. A cycloptic headlight cast a jaundiced beam against a stone wall. Paramedics bustled around Vince’s side of the wreck.
The woman was talking to her but Nancy wasn’t listening. Why wasn’t anyone coming out of the limo? What are they doing?
A soft cadence finally permeated Nancy’s fug. ‘Come on, now,’ the woman tried to assure, ‘there is nothing more you can do. We are doing all we can to save your friend.’
The obvious hit her. No one knew the identities of the occupants. No one knew one Vincent Jonas was trapped in the wreck and that his PA Leon was dead. And no one knew who Nancy was.
Two paramedics moved in unison around the back of the limo. They shifted into view. Between them, Vince lay unconscious on a stretcher. His head had been ensnared within a neckbrace. She could still make out her breathing tube jutting from his throat. In saving his life, he had become hers. He belonged to her. But now they were taking him away. He was no longer hers.
The paramedics raced up the slope, but they could see what she had done. She could sense their collective verdict. She’s done it wrong. The puncture is too high, too low; she’s taken away his voice. He can no longer articulate. He can no longer read or speak or think or walk.
He would be better off dead.
The tabloids would demand to know. They would get hold of the story and her past would swallow her whole.
No one must ever speak to her mother.
Nancy turned to the woman in the van as she was placing a strap on her wrist.
‘I think I’m going to be sick,’ Nancy uttered. With that, she jerked from her seat. The valcro tore open; castors ricocheted against the base of the bed. On darting out, Nancy cast the blanket aside. Vince’s overcoat was black. It would conceal her in the dark. The woman called out but Nancy hadn’t given her name.
Mud swaddled Nancy’s heels as she veered round the back of the van and made a beeline for the culvert ahead. Trees bordered the view. Nancy took a left and was instantly enclosed within inky fronds.