The Recreation of Meaning

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CHAPTER NINE

On Tuesday morning I awoke in the back of an abandoned car, huddled up under a blanket with Thomas. A serious wedge was now jammed in between what should’ve been happening and what was happening. I tried to think of ways that we could pick up where we left off yesterday evening, but this was a futile idea. Too much had happened.

My body was stiff and sore, and the periphery of my body was still very aware at how cold it was outside. At least the sun was shining and it was bright out.

Thomas was asleep beside me, his head rising and falling on my chest. “Thomas?” I shook him. “Thomas, wake up.”

He lifted his head and then sat up with the blanket. He looked confused, and after a few seconds of deliberation “Oh,” was the only thing he said.

I sat up, too, wincing. “We have to get back to the hotel, even if it takes us all day,” I said. My burgeoning plan was simple. Get our stuff, get our passports, get back to England.

Thomas stole a glance at me and then climbed into the front seat, dropping the blanket behind him.

“What are you doing?” I asked, re-wrapping the blanket around my body.

Thomas ran his fingers through the door pockets and checked behind the blinds. “Let’s see what we can find before we leave the car,” he replied, reaching into the glove box.

I nodded, “Good idea.”

“Box of cigarettes with a lighter inside,” listed Thomas, pocketing the box. “An Adam Lambert CD,” he continued, and tucked it inside his jacket.

“Why are you taking that?” I asked.

“I like him,” said Thomas. “After what these bastards have put us through, I’m having it.”

“Yeah, that’ll teach ’em. Mess with us, we’ll take your driving music.” I glanced over the seat. “I don’t suppose the key is in the ignition?”

“No, I checked,” said Thomas. “Not much else, I’m afraid. Although, I did find a packet of peanuts in the passenger door.”

I rubbed my arms underneath the blanket. “Oh good, breakfast.”

“Let’s get going,” said Thomas. He opened the door and slid out of the car. I followed suit, and opened the right back passenger door.

We were in a dense wooded area on the edge of a large ice patch. It was hard to tell if we’d slid across a pond or just a really large puddle. The ground was covered in snow, and to the side of the huge ice patch, mud and sticks.

“I thought something was digging into my back in here yesterday.”

I got to my feet and shuffled around to the boot of the car. Thomas was holding up a red petrol can. “That was in here? Is there any in it?”

He shook the can and we heard it splash.

“Lucky we didn’t get covered in it yesterday.” I looked out over the ice and saw what had to be the dirt road we’d been on the evening before. “Look, Thomas,” I said, pointing. “I think we just have to get over there and follow the road. That has to take us back to the main road. From there, hopefully some kind individual will take us to a police station and we can get this mess sorted out.”

Thomas didn’t answer. I looked behind me. “Thomas!”

He was dousing the entire car in petrol.

“What are you doing? Are you insane? Just leave it. We need to go!”

“I know,” he said, shaking out of the last few drops. “Just imagine the look on their faces when they come back and find their car covered in petrol. They’ll be so mad,” he grinned.

I shifted towards him keeping my heels on the ground. I grabbed his arm. “Let’s go. Now.”

“Okay,” he grumbled and followed me across the ice. After a few steps I heard the click click of a lighter. I spun around to see Thomas lighting up a cigarette.

“Oh, good,” I said, relieved. “I thought you were trying to light the car on fire.”

He dragged on the cigarette and I watched the embers pull in towards his red cracked lips. It made me feel like one, too, just for the warmth. Thomas looked up at me, and I saw that mischievous sparkle in his eyes. He took the cigarette between his fingers. “I am,” he smiled, and flicked his cigarette onto the car.

I watched in sheer horror as the white stick arced through the air and came down on the roof of the car. It sat there, burning on its own for a second, and then blue flames rode over the paintwork and engulfed the entire car, which was quickly followed by red and orange flames exploding up into the air. The sudden intense heat knocked us both backwards and we fell onto the ice, kicking with our feet to put some distance between us and the car.

A hard crack sounded underneath us and a fracture line splintered across the surface of the white and blue ice. Thomas and I both jumped to our feet and ran, slipping and sliding towards the edge of the ice patch. I could no longer feel the heat from the car, but I did not want to end up soaked in ice cold water or stuck under a sheet of ice, drowning.

The edge of the ice patch neared and I could hear Thomas laughing to himself like a demented little demon. I leapt up onto a mound of mud and stopped immediately for there was a large empty hole surrounded by broken concrete with short bent iron rods poking out. I stopped abruptly and held my arms out for balance, although it didn’t matter because Thomas ploughed straight into me and we both fell inside and were swallowed up by the ground.

We slid and tumbled down a long dark passageway, which was facilitated by the ice covering the bottom of the tunnel. Thomas and I were wrapped around each other like a giant human ball, slamming into walls and falling ever deeper into the earth. Finally, I felt the floor of the tunnel give out beneath us, and we sailed through the air into a large puddle of water.

The wind was knocked clean out of me. I groaned and stood up. “Are we dead yet?” I said. “Because, I’m ready.”

Thomas pulled himself up. “We’re in a sewer,” he said. “This is unreal. At least it’s not pitch black.”

There was some light in the tunnel. Although my eyes needed time to adjust. “Unreal?” I said. “Why the fuck did you have to set that car on fire!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. “You keep doing things that land us in trouble. Why do you do that?”

“We already spent the night in the car and took the Adam Lambert CD, the cigarettes, and the peanuts,” he said, casual. “What else was there to do?”

“Oh, I don’t know. How about leave it alone!” I bawled. My throat felt like it was going to split open.

“Well there’s no need to shout,” he replied, irritated.

We stood in silence in the dark tunnel for a good couple of minutes, collecting our breath. There was a damp musty smell all around us, and the sound of water splashing in the distance. I honestly felt like I had to have died and gone to Hell.

A smooth and pleasant warm feeling slid over my shoulders. Thomas wrapped his coat over me. “I don’t need it,” he said. “I’m also wearing a wooly jumper.”

“Thanks, mate,” I said, losing all hostility.

“I don’t think we can go back the way we came,” said Thomas.

“Why not?”

“Look.”

I turned and saw that the ledge we had fallen over was about ten feet above us, and five feet above that was the ceiling. The walls all around were made of brick, and looked eerily green in the dimmed light. Behind us was a solid wall and the only way was forward.

Thomas put his arm around my shoulders. “Let’s head down the tunnel and see where we come out. I think there’s a walkway to the left, that should keep us out of the water.”

We shuffled over to the wall and moved towards the sound of the splashing. “Here,” said Thomas, handing me the peanuts. “Have some breakfast.”

I pulled open the bag and poured some peanuts into my mouth. They were so salty and good. I handed the bag back to Thomas and he did the same.

“Okay,” I said, crunching. “We get out of here, get back to the hotel, get our passports, and leave. If we can get out of here soon, I’m sure we could even catch a plane tonight.”

Thomas handed back the peanuts. “Don’t you want to speak to the police?”

“I’m sure they’re already onto it,” I said. “I mean, they were chasing our kidnappers. They must know something.” The truth was I didn’t want to contact the police, in case they wanted us to stick around, or worse, put us in holding cells in between questioning.

“Why do you reckon Myers’ was murdered?” Thomas asked. He took his arm from my shoulder and slid his hands into his pockets. We rounded a bend in the tunnel and small weak beams of sunlight shone through cracks in the roof.

“Oh, bledy hell he was murdered, wasn’t he?” I whined. As fast as I tried to put up walls to protect myself from reality, the faster they came crashing down. “I don’t know,” I continued. “Maybe he just got in with a bad crowd? Owed them money or something.”

“Maybe Julie was his estranged ex-wife and Myers was trying to cut her out of his will. When she found out, he tried to murder her but she got away and trained to become an assassin so that she could one day return in a blazing act of vengeance. And of course to obtain some much needed closure.”

“Thomas? Are you feeling alright? You didn’t lose any blood did you?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Then who the bledy hell is Julie?”

“Blondy.”

I shook my head. “Let’s not lose track of reality,” I said, feeling mildly hypocritical. “We might need the facts if we are ever questioned.”

Thomas kicked a large stone from the walkway into the shallow stream. “I suppose,” he mumbled, disappointed. “Do you reckon the hit had anything to do with the fact that he worked for a drug company?”

“It’s possible,” I considered. “But who would want to knock-off a sales rep?”

More light entered the tunnel from up ahead. Thomas raised his arm to shield his eyes. “I would want to kill anyone involved in trying to make an inhaler containing an antipsychotic. The idea is absolutely preposterous to shove that in somebody’s mouth and spray it down their throats.”

“Thomas,” I squinted. “You do know that we are involved in making this inhaler, right? I mean, I share your sympathy, but as long as it’s used responsibly, I can’t see a problem.”

“I’m not involved in making this stupid inhaler,” Thomas sniffed. “I only came here to accompany you.”

I stopped walking. “What? You only came to accompany me? You had no interest in the business deal?”

“None whatsoever.”

Laughter erupted from deep within my soul and I laughed the laugh of the Damned. It hurt my bruised and battered body, but it felt so good. Thomas grinned, curious, putting his hand on my shoulder as I keeled over. “What’s so funny?” he chuckled.

I placed my hands on my knees for balance. “It’s just, you came on a business trip that you have no interest in and are even opposed to, just to accompany me. Yet in the last twelve hours you’ve nunchucked somebody in the head, got into a fight with multiple guys, and blown up a car.”

I laughed even harder and buckled to my knees. “Oh, mate,” I wiped my eyes. “You’re off the fucking chain!”

Thomas clasped onto my elbow with both hands and hoisted me to my feet. “Come on,” he grinned. “Our stomachs aren’t going to fill themselves.”

Thomas and I continued to walk and stumble through the sewer tunnel hoping that an opening would present itself. We passed over a small footbridge and the splashing turned out to be a large pipe that fed into the stream that ran under the bridge. After a few more minutes we came across a shiny steel ladder mounted on the wall. It led straight up to a manhole cover that Thomas lifted aside, and we both climbed out onto the snow-covered ground, bruised and battered, and ready to get back to civilization.

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