Chapter 17 Rubbish Mouser
The student called Maxine sat leaning against the tree holding the face in her hand. To her touch it felt strangely real, so much so at first it had repulsed her yet now she just marvelled at the quality of the workmanship, the sheer beauty of the detail. It was so complete covering the man’s head in its entirety , only being released from the back via an almost invisible seam. The hair appeared to be human.
“No shortage of human hair.” said the stranger clearly trying to sound casual as if removing his
face was an everyday event.
“Don’t you sweat like a pig in it?” she asked incredulous.
“I was born in a desert so can limit water loss.” that was all he offered as an explanation.
“Some kind of theatrical company.?” she asked not looking at him whilst turning the mask gently in her hand.
“True” he said with a weariness that reflected the day’s heat and languor. As a diversion he pointed at the longer grass to their right, “What is that?”
Two eyes studied them intently from behind a bulky body of fur.
“Oh, that. ” that is Kramer one of our cats.” the girl spoke with some affection, ” a rubbish Mouser who gets by on the farm by stealing the kill of the other cats.”
“What he has to live by what he kills?” the stranger asked.
“Oh no, it is just my uncle says all farm animals must prove their worth. Earn their keep.”
“Even you?” he asked in a little mischievous tone.
“Well, I am not afraid of hard work and for that I am grateful.”
The man suddenly sounded reflective, philosophical, ” Not many wild animals hunt for fun.”
The young woman said nothing.
“I thought I was setting a trap and it did not go well, as you can see.” he reflected pointing at his
“Which to be honest I had expected.” he continued.
The young woman said nothing.
“Like your cat there I thought I would lay in wait for my quarry only I lay in wait in the open.”
The young woman took a large intake of breath but said nothing.
“You see” he appeared resigned to his fate and hence wanted someone to know the truth.
“you see ” he continued, “I am valuable to some beings , not in any financial sense that you would understand but valuable enough to risk a great deal of effort.
The young woman said “I see”
“I don’t think you do young lady” he commented then proceeded.
“I had arranged to meet a woman of interest, shall we say, nothing romantic at a railway station.”
“Oh do make it a romantic story.” she half pleaded “brief encounter?”
He looked at her puzzled.
“It is a very old silly film” she explained. He looked a little annoyed, “Ok, no more out of me. please Continue” she apologised.
“This station was unusual in that tracks were at different levels , a kind of junction of tracks. I was there as a vendor machine repairman come stockist. What was unusual about this station was that it was a bit of a labyrinth with numerous exits and walkways. Ideal I thought for losing a pursuer .
It was mid afternoon yesterday, few people on the platform. I had one associate called Faye. I had this with me but did not use it.” He lifted the metal tube she had seen earlier.” It has a kill range of about 10 metres.”
The girl studied it closely and for the first time noticed how strange the design was for it was tube with a bulbous end and spirals of metal along the outer surface.
The stranger took a deep breath , exhaled in a conclusive manner then started again.
“It all happened so fast but let me fill you in a little. The female in question has a particular smell.
We had made contact through the internet so to speak. She left a package for me on a park bench with an unmarried mother, who I have never met and who was a contact of my associate, duly retrieved for me. This package contained a photograph of myself , many years ago with my mother and this.”
He search in the battered old bag and produced a small sheet of cardboard only it was not cardboard for it glowed a deep yellow amber colour as soon as he touched it.
“This ..” he resumed, ” I think did come from my mother for it lays out the way for me to get back
to my roots, my homeland.”
Her storyteller stopped again as if reflecting on sad events long ago then coughed repeatedly as if in pain or at least some discomfort.
” It told us how to find a special equipment that had been , shall I say, highly modified.” he gave a laugh as if this was the mother of all understatements.
“And your wound?” prompted the young woman, anxious to keep her companion on message.
“That,” he said, “as I said, happened so quickly I don’t, even now, fully understand what really happened. I opened the drinks vending machine while all the time watching either end of the platform for the female I was there to meet. Some would be passengers were milling around , no more than 6 or at most 8. The vast space of the platform was mainly deserted. I had a clear view of the platform so it was impossible for anyone to surprise me.
I remember the platform announcement of the next train not stopping and to stand well away from the edge of the platform. Perhaps that is why there were so few people on the platform.
She approached from the south, my pulse quickened and it was not from anticipation for I could smell her. To counteract her effect on me I had numbed my sense of smell but even so I knew it was her. As she got closer I recognised her, especially since as we requested she wear a nurses uniform for she is a nurse and I , have no doubt, a very good one.. Her walk slow but steady while her face looked familiar as indeed it should be, for we, or I had seen a premonition of her when younger.”
“Are you sure this is not a romance, gone hideously wrong?” stepped in the girl.
Ignoring the question he went on,
“When she was some 30 paces from me, I stepped away from the Vending machine and raised a clip board, a pre arranged signal. It was then she gave out a scream of ‘No’ and produced a gun.
Two reports issued from that gun. The first one resulted in what you see here but the result of the second was far more interesting.”
His audience raised herself on her knees and leaned in towards her companion,
“Go on” she prompted him when he had fallen silent. It was if he was trying to describe the events for the first time.
“After some time..” he resumed “The bullet turned me , as well as trying to flee, so that I now faced the other way, a 180 degree turn you might say. There was a sight I shall never forget for I had been told about such a person in my childhood. A ‘nickra’ or warrior woman to you, a slim almost unisex being was racing down the platform towards me at incredible speed. She, for nearly all my countrymen are female, ” he paused and gave a little laugh at his own joke. “Nearly all are female, yet this was a warrior class assassin. The second bullet struck her. Amazingly it had little effect except a blue light shimmied, glowed about her body. It certainly did not impede her speed in anyway. I watched in horror , clutching my wound, as she closed, her eyes fixed intently on me. Then , bang.” he paused, his audience hanging on every word.
“Bang ” said the girl prompting him but he appeared far away.
“Yes, ” he said slowly, “bang, a debt was repaid. The nickra was within 15 paces of me when bang, one of those metal cages on wheels that hold mail bags or something hurtled out of a side passage hitting her side on with a great crash sending her flying onto the track. I was staring down at this creature sent to kill me when my friend, my lovely street fighter of a friend grabbed me. Just then the express train to Birmingham came hurtling through the station.”
“Did the train get her?” asked the girl.
“I do not think so for there was no mention of it on the news, only a disturbance , gang related they said at a railway station or terrorist. Take your pick.”
“And the nurse?”
“arrh the nurse.” he appeared again to be in thought.” I do not know if she shot me on purpose or is just a rubbish shot, like your mouser.” he smiled at his audience.
“When I turned to face her she was waving for us to leave while at the same time turning to face
behind her. There I could just make out two humans, one male, one female approaching. I am not sure but they must have had firearms. Two cracks of whip split the air and our nurse shimmied blue just like the assassin on the track. A single shot was , I guess her response by which time my rescuer had dragged me from the platform.”
“And how did you end up here, under an oak tree, in the middle of nowhere, facing my uncles empty wheatfield, staring at stubble.?” the girl almost begged for an answer thinking all the time what an incredible story and was any of it true.
The man gave a guttural laugh then winced with pain, “By bus, my dear ,by bus.”
“Now” she said starting to giggle, “that is the part I cannot believe, a bus, public transport out here?”
He looked at her quite puzzled, adding only “It is true.”
“There are only two buses a day. The one I was on and the one going out at 8.30 in the morning.
My God have you been here since this morning?”
“Indeed I have.”
“What, bleeding all this time?” she sounded astounded.
“It became too painful to drive and my associate was suppose to find me. Things went awry I guess. We got separated and I changed to avoid face recognition” he paused and pointed at the mask.
“I told her to hide if things got difficult, the locator,” he now pointed to the device she had carried aloft, “was to notify her my position, so you can imagine my utter dismay when there was no signal under this tree. It piggy backs on the mobile network, you see.”
“Well, said the girl having made a decision, “Fantastic as your story is I must be practical and get some help.”
“NO!” shouted the man, “have you not been listening. I am not of your world and the people after me will squat you as you would a fly. You are in danger just being here if the wrong people turn up.”
“Nonsense ” said the girl, “Look around , a peaceful English country scene on a summer day. ”
She was kneeling close to him so he had no difficulty in reaching out and grabbing her by the wrist.
“Maxine, ” he said in strange forceful but earnest voice, “I do not want anything bad to happen here but if things go wrong it could be a blood bath in that corn field. ”
“It is a wheat field and let go of my arm.”
They sat in silence, perfectly still.
“You,.. if you want to help me” he started , “climb the tree and look out for a van with writing along its side.”
“and what is that?”
“Help” he said then added, “and my way home.”