Briefest of Encounters

Shaun was a far cry from being a crime scene investigator but in this instance there was no need. The story that met his eyes was obvious and, in all honesty, he was surprised it had taken this long for an accident to happen. All local residents knew of the sharp turning and slowed down accordingly so it didn’t matter that the signs telling all other motorists had been removed. Of course no-one could prove it but everyone knew it was just the latest in a line of pranks courtesy of the kids from the school. Even old Pat Dawson, usually the most tolerant man on the planet, only allowed them into his shop three at a time, and never during school hours.
Shaun left his own car and walked over to the one he had come across. It had been raining heavily and this, combined with the relatively poor light of a crescent moon, had probably meant the driver never had a chance of slowing in time. Fragments of coarse stone now littered the road where the car had slammed into the stone wall. Built mostly with souvenirs of a wall which had originally been built by the Romans as a defence against potential Scottish invaders it was nothing if not durable and the car, clearly the weak link in this exchange, had rebounded and overturned as it crashed through the fence opposite.
Momentarily checking his stride at what he thought might be the sign of movement Shaun hurried on into the field snapping on the torch as he did so. He only needed a cursory glance at the car to see that it was damaged beyond repair. With the roof now mangled and both windscreens shattered, it would be well worth any survivors to take their chances on a Euromillions ticket as soon as they were physically able.
Moments later the light from Shaun’s torch passed over the source of the movement and he momentarily pursed his lips. His time in Afghanistan fighting against an enemy whose principal weapons were snipers and booby traps, or improvised explosive devices as they were more commonly known, had unfortunately also taught him certain cold realities that none of his commanding officers, no matter how well intentioned, had ever been able to prepare him for. An adrenaline dump had clearly taken hold prior to his arrival as the man had unbuckled his seatbelt before dragging himself through the broken windshield and down onto the grass. A distance of roughly three feet now lay between him and his car, no small achievement.
He looked over at Shaun and grinned, the shock of the situation had clearly taken hold, and it was doubtful that he was now in any position to experience any pain. Shaun moved over and crouched down alongside him.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Philip,” he replied, “If you’ll excuse me, I have an important date to keep”.
Philip attempted to rise only for Shaun to place a hand on his chest and as gently as possible restrain him from doing so.
“Best off staying where you are for the time being,” he said, “I’m no expert but on all the shows I’ve seen on TV people wait for the professionals to make an appearance”.
Philip resisted for a moment before letting Shaun’s hand to guide him downward, “You’re probably right,” he said, “Wouldn’t want to make things any worse”.
The light from Shaun’s torch picked out the suit that Philip was wearing. Quite expensive by the look of it, he’d clearly been on his way to something he considered important when the accident occurred.
“You really were on your way to an important date weren’t you?” said Shaun, forcing a trace of humour into his voice.
“I’m on my way to meet the girlfriend. We don’t often get the chance to eat out given the recession and all but I’ve been saving up for weeks”.
“You’re rather sprucely dressed. What gives me the idea there’s more to this than meets the eye?”
Shaun already had an idea he knew the answer to his own question and even as Philip’s hand moved to take something the top pocket of his shirt a bad taste began to manifest within his mouth. With a snap of his fingers he opened the small box to reveal a ring. Gold plated by the look of it, the diamond in its centre looked worth a bob or two.
“Cleared out a large chunk of the savings to buy this. I think it’ll be worth it though”, Philip paused as a new thought seemed to occur to him, “She’ll be getting worried”.
For the second time Shaun reached across and placed a hand on Philip’s chest with more force this time to compensate for the increase in urgency, “You don’t want to look up,” he said. Immediately cursing the slip of tongue he changed tack, “You certainly seem to think highly of this girlfriend of yours, what’s her name?”
“Diane, Diane Andrews. We’ve been dating for about three years now. When I told my friends what I was planning they wondered why I waited for so long but I wanted to be sure, does that make sense?”
“That makes perfect sense, seems you think a lot of her judging from that ring”.
“Well I’ve had other girlfriends before but then who hasn’t? She’s always been different though, I’ve thought this from day one”.
“Where did the two of you first meet?”
Philip remained silent, his head beginning to turn off to one side and Shaun reached over to snap his fingers in front of his face. Philip responded by turning his head back only now there was fresh blood upon his lips.
“It was all thanks to one of those internet dating sites. I’d never really believed in them before, always thought of them as someone else’s idea of a money making scam. Got a bit bored sitting at home by myself one afternoon and registered on a whim. I think I have a photo of her with me”.
Philip reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and removed his wallet. Flicking it open it was with unsteady hands he removed a photo which he held out, “That was taken at Cafe de la Paix restaurant in Paris. With the recession and all people often have to go without but I thought our first anniversary was deserving of something special”.
The distant sound of sirens could be heard now but Shaun didn’t let his eyes move from the photo, “Pretty girl,” he said, “You’re a lucky man”.
Philip didn’t answer and Shaun glanced up. The blood on his lips was more pronounced now but none of it bubbled as was the tell-tale sound of breath. Shaun quietly returned the photo to the wallet which he then returned to Philip’s inside pocket. Taking a deep breath as he stood he looked over at the sirens, by now the glow of the flashing lights was faintly visible, “It’s alright Philip,” he said, “You can look up now”.

Briefest of Encounters


Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

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