CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED AND TWO: AN EYE FOR AN EYE

 

Abandoning the sea, Redmond walked back to the Triumph, opening the boot, and then the wicker picnic basket.  She paused, looking down at the basket’s contents:  the melamine plates, the stainless-steel cutlery, the linen serviettes, two bottles of rose lemonade, two packets of crisps, and a box of seaside rock.  Lifting the box of rock from the basket, she closed the basket’s lid, then the boot, climbing into the car, and setting the box down on the passenger seat beside her, taking note of the picture on the lid: a stack of the rainbow-coated confectionary on the sand.  As gingerly as she could, she slipped one of the sticks of rock from the box and peeled back its Cellophane wrapping halfway, ready for her journey, propping the candy, opened-end up, against the box so it wouldn’t mess up the Triumph’s upholstery.

There was one more thing to do before she set out for the Heath.

Pulling her main mobile from her pocket, she turned it on, and texted Sergeant Withers.

Contact Owens, she typed.  Have him meet me in the cemetery grounds of Rosegate in 2 hrs – 4:00 a.m. – to follow up on lead to Holloway case.  Emergency.  I’ll be driving.  Best you alert him for me.  Pls. confirm.

Tapping ‘send’ and pressing the mobile into the holder on the dashboard, Redmond started the engine, checking her mirrors before she pulled out onto the road, glancing at the sergeant’s ‘will do’ which lit up on the screen within moments of her departure.  By the time she was on the motorway, ‘he’ll be there’ had come through, prompting Redmond to mutter, “Not for long, he won’t be.”

And then, like magic, it started to rain, proving to Redmond yet again that Mother Nature was her biggest accomplice, this time, erasing footprints from the green, adding to the water around her latest victim, the boyfriend who had said too much for his own good, but given her the information that she needed.

To the drumming of the rain and the rhythm of the windshield wipers, Redmond visualised the hours to come.  Aware she was ninety minutes away from the Heath, she’d allowed herself half an hour to let herself into Foxglove with the key which Adrian had given her.  Once in, she’d access all that information hidden in the beams for ‘god-knows-what’ advantage:  different angles, future conquests, missing pieces of the story.  With the documents and journals safely in her clutches, she’d make her way to Cemetery Grove at 3:55 a.m. exactly where she’d lay in waiting for that bumbling oaf of a constable who housed her murderer of yore.  What a prankster life was, was it not, to syphon Sidney Winterbourne into a ho-hummer like Owens, a man oblivious to his own meaning.  And then, of course, as soon as Owens came shuffling into place, she’d grab him from behind and shoot him in the temple where he’d shot himself, then press the gun into his open hand, staging yet another suicide.  The poor sod wouldn’t know what hit him in the end, and even if he figured it out, he’d be like Douglas Adams’ whale, lighting up with the epiphany the second before he hit the ground.

And then what?

And then she’d summon the police for help.

She’d say she’d found the constable with a gun to his own head, and that the shot had splattered blood onto her clothing.  And was it any surprise at all, for everybody knew – especially that flickering green imbecile Vic Cummings – that Philip Owens had been freefalling toward a nervous breakdown or a midlife crisis, call it what you will.  For days, his own demise had been written on his face.  For days, people had heard him saying that he wasn’t himself.  Of course, he bloody wasn’t, Redmond thought.  He wasn’t himself because he was Sidney Winterbourne morphed into a pudgy creature who galumphed from here to there, lacklustre and out-of-kilter.

Grabbing the unwrapped stick of rock from the seat beside her, Redmond ran her tongue around the tip, relishing the sugary hit before she bit into the minty centre, thinking deeply as she chewed or chewing as she deeply thought, depending on how one saw it.  This small act of indulging her girlhood sweet tooth had been the best piece of advice F.Y.I had ever given her.  He’d said (and she thought-quoted), ‘Sweets are a smashing way to centre the self or become self-centred’, which, clearly for F.Y.I. hadn’t been a problem. ‘If you focus on the beautiful taste of nostalgia,’ F.Y.I. continued in her memory, ‘you’ll forget the clutter of the mind and be able to concentrate on that which truly matters.  What’s your favourite childhood sweet, Gemma?’

‘Broadstairs rock.  And yours?’

‘Sherbet Lemons.’

‘And why doesn’t that surprise me?’

The more Redmond whittled away at the candy, the more the bygone conversation with her Therapist-with-Benefits faded, taking with it her recent moments at the stacks with Adrian Kettering.  She had to redirect her thinking now: to her former self, her inner Ada.  From thereon in, she had to be the woman that she’d been – traumatised, betrayed, and cut-short halfway through a breath by the man who’d bed, or floored, or benched, his very own brother – her very own husband.  She had to draw from that deep well of fury to carry out the last leg of her vengeful journey.  Justine and George had gone with Aubrey.  Only Sidney was remaining in the body of Phil Owens who’d be coming to the grove to meet her in a matter of an hour and twenty minutes.  Finally, the time would come to end what she had started one dark night a century and a half ago when the church bells wouldn’t stop ringing.

Feel it, Ada,” she told herself.  “Feel the pain of it.”

And there it was:  the ache of that cold day when she tore the sand up on the shore, accepting every slap the cruel wind gave her cheeks – and they were burning – because she wanted George to love her body physically, not just the idea of how it looked on paper in his stories.  She longed for what she couldn’t have, sensing that there was another special someone who flailed like mad in his embrace – mouth agape, breath in heaven, angles tight and pleasure surging.  God, that hurt her tenfold, knowing at a cellular level, that she could have his intellect, but not his body.  And if she couldn’t have him, then no one could, she’d see to that with every ounce of energy she had.

Driving through the night, Ada now, not Redmond, felt her fists against the chalk stacks, beating until they left the white stone bloody.  She intuited the bridge of rock above her, the shadow of it on George as he came up behind her and she faced him.  Old pain is the worst because it’s had the time to fester and begins to blister.  How she braced that as the motorway lights flicked past the Triumph’s windows.  The same pathetic souls just running around in circles, that’s what we are, she thought as she stared through the windshield at the hallucination of George and Sidney together on the bench beneath the oak tree.

Suddenly, instinctually, Ada glanced in her sideview mirror and, to her surprise, saw a lorry coming up in the lane beside her, staying in full view until it passed her.  And that, considering the Triumph’s blind spot, was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ miracle, the impossible stripped of its prefix ‘im’.  In that moment, the car surpassed its own limitations.  And as it did, Ada took it as a sign, or better yet, her mirror image, for thanks to Adrian Kettering, she’d also lost her blind spot now, and could finally see the bigger picture.

To the rhythmic swishing of the rain, and the flashing of the motorway lights smeared on the asphalt and the car’s windows, Ada contemplated blindness.  “How could I have been so blind?’ she echoed her bygone self, wincing as she, yet again, remembered George and Sidney together beneath the oak tree.  ‘How could my vision have been so tunnelled?  How could I have not seen?’

With Botany Bay far behind her, and the Heath getting closer, Ada shook, thinking of all the things Sidney had robbed her of when he’d killed her.  But most of all, he’d robbed her of vision in every sense of the word.  He’d ended her eyesight.  After that fateful night in the grove, there’d be no more sunbursts, or woodlight or nightglow or shadows adrift on the ceilings at gloaming.  There’d be no more moonsparks on bodies of water or blue shades of corners or translucent, grey wings extended from the edges of tables and chair legs.  Over-and-done-with, she wouldn’t see a thing.  But nor would she see metaphorically. There’d be no more knowledge, nor insight, nor objectives or daydreams.  Sidney Winterbourne, as if to taunt her church-going evenings which had given him so much pleasure, had been biblical in his action.  He’d stolen her eye, in keeping with the example given in the scriptures.  And, even in this life, as Gemma Redmond, she’d carried on partially blind – until now – until Adrian.

The disappearance of the Triumph’s blind spot could only be a sign from Heaven.

For now, Ada felt her vision restored tenfold.

It was time for some Old Testament justice.

Time to rob a reincarnated Sidney of his vision.

That’s why she needed to get to Foxglove.

To get hold of the information before he did.  She needed the journals, the paintings, the music, the documents, and the stories.  She needed written proof of the history of the collective, but she needed it in her clutches.  The feeling was absolute, and therefore overwhelming.  Visions were coming from somewhere.  From where?  The collective consciousness perhaps.  But she witnessed them clearly.  Watercolours – concertos – anthologies – all proof of the soul – evidence of divinity – stolen and hoarded – eye upon eye upon eye upon eye of experience exalted when her little life, betrayed and aborted, had been so close to the ground, from the start, she’d been grave-bound too early.  Stripped raw of her own magic, to have God in the material, she’d have to steal Them. If there was information to be owned, she would own it.

As Ada exited the motorway that dawn and made her way to the Heath, then to Foxglove, she felt like a bird swooping low over a war-torn city in 1940.  Why?  She didn’t know; without rhyme or reason, she only felt it in the marrow of her bones.  But then, suddenly, it hit her.  Her 1975 Triumph was a Spitfire, named in honour of the World War Two bomber; her car, by name, was her fight-craft; she was in it to kill for her cause, revenge for the death of her most innocent victim:  her Self.

Heartrate accelerating, adrenalin surging, Ada, flew through the country roads.  As she in-and-outed through the clouds of grey mist ballooning white and grey from the landscape, she felt invincible, timeless.  She could see it all from above, from a bird’s eye view.  The centuries’ worth of work which Adrian Kettering had told her about was as good as hers, and Sidney Winterbourne, hiding in Phil Owens’ body, was as good as dead.