The other side of love

I have been sharing excerpts from my e-books, and today I have an episode from ‘The Double Act’, published in 2015; the bye-line is: Don’t think ‘The Double Act’ is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love.

The blurb says: Easthope is a quiet, slightly old-fashioned seaside town; nothing ever seems to happen, and Genet McCauley and her friends lead lives almost unchanged since they left school. Genet, married to mercurial Lance and running their small hotel, sometimes feels trapped and often feels bored, but she loves Lance and in most ways is content. Their friends call them the great double act; Genet without Lance? Lance without Genet? Impossible!

Here is an extract from the third part of the story, entitled ‘Joost’. Joost has escaped police surveillance and is trying to find somewhere safe to hide from them while he considers what to do next:

Joost considered where he could go; he couldn’t live rough, although able to, he wanted to be clean and fed and rested. He wanted time to work out what was going on, because he was sure he had all the answers if only he could put them together.

He followed the line of the hedge downhill until he reached the bottom of the field. He wasn’t familiar with the geography but had a rough idea of the direction he should go. Colin had confused him as well as his pursuers but he guessed he should be heading northwest to reach Easthope.

He followed the boundary away from the lane, found a break in the fence and entered a small copse. He moved through the undergrowth using the sun to guide him until he came across a damp watercourse. He sat for a while in the cool shade, then followed the line of the brook downhill. He came to a stream, a sluggish trickle of water which he tracked until it met a ditch by a field full of cows. A man was wandering among them with a clipboard.

Keeping low and among the trees Joost followed the ditch until it ran into a culvert under a narrow lane. He sunk down and waited, listening for vehicles or voices. When he was sure he was safe he climbed over the wire fence, forcing his way between the brambles and blackthorn and into the lane. There was no way he could get through the other side to continue following the water, the hedge was too thick.

He ran up the lane looking for a way in, then retraced his steps. He stopped as he heard the sound of a tractor coming along the road. He ran back to the stream and looked over the low wall along the edge of the culvert; there was a drop of about eight foot. The tractor was coming closer, he couldn’t wait and vaulted the wall and dropped into the stream and crouched in the dark tunnel entrance. More water flowed now, the stream must have been joined by others. The tractor rumbled overhead followed by a couple of cars.

When the only sound was the water and birds singing in the brambles, Joost stood and waded downstream. He hadn’t replaced his smashed watch and had no idea of the time or how long he wandered through the countryside, following the meanders, climbing through culverts when he could, dashing across lanes and roads when he couldn’t.

The sun was sinking in the sky and his priority was to find somewhere to shelter for the night; he had to rest and sleep. He found a round concrete structure facing north; Joost didn’t recognise it as an old World War 2 pillbox. It reeked of urine and another unidentifiable stench but it was dry and safe.

The night seemed unending as he dozed and roused and slept and started awake. He was roused by the sound of outrage, and when he crept from his hide he found himself on the banks of a river where two swans were attacking each other.

It must be the River Hope. He walked along the banks where he could, scratched by briars, stung by nettles, and back into the water when there was no choice There were houses and for a while the river ran beside a main road but Joost cautiously pressed on along the bank, hungry and thirsty and tired, his head-ache pounding. He was joined by a dog for a while, cars passed him, but no-one on foot, no faces at windows, no fishermen.

The river narrowed, the banks steep, a wall atop one, a rackety fence along the other and Joost realised where he was. On the other side of the wall was the night club he and Genet had visited in search of Lance and her birthday guests. He rounded the bend, swimming in the waist-deep water, and there was the old watermill. Ahead was the bridge over the river where he’d leant several nights ago, the same night he ended up in Genet’s bed, the same night Monique Sands was attacked.

There were voices and music from the old watermill, tables with parasols set up outside for lunch. He walked back to where he could get out of the water and scrambled up the rubbish strewn bank. He shook the fence to see if it was safe to climb but as he grasped the panel, the rotten wood gave way and he fell backwards, dropping back into the river. For a second he let the water push and carry him but then he got to his feet and waded back to the bank. Despite the noise of splintering wood, no-one had come rushing to see what had happened.

Wearily he climbed up the bank into the narrow alley. The back walls and fences were anonymous and Joost struggled to remember which gate he wanted. It wasn’t locked and he went into the back yard, the troughs of summer plants brilliant in the midday sun. Suddenly exhausted he sat on a dustbin; now he was here he was suddenly nervous of his reception.

Something flew through the air and landed at his feet. A cork. He looked round; there were others lying about the yard.

© Lois Elsden

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