For the sports fans, tonight is the last night before the start of the World Cup in Brazil. For a month, it will be wall to wall Football (or Soccer, depending on your persuasion). For the non-sports fans, the television will be shit, and you’ll probably get quite a lot of reading done! So, why not start here, with the June instalment of my Short Story series?
Things are bad enough when you’re on the run from the Police. But when you’re innocent of any wrongdoing, and just happen to have a passing resemblance to someone else that seems to be quite high on the Most Wanted list, things are just slightly worse. That’s the exact predicament that Dominic McDonald found himself in.
He was sat in his local pub in rural Shropshire, enjoying a drink with his friends after a tough week at work, when he noticed a few people staring at him and whispering. He asked his mates if they could see the same thing, just to prove he wasn’t paranoid or something. Tom strained his hearing, and made out the whispering, John was less subtle and span round on his stool and shouted across the room.
“Are you whispering about my mate?” This was met with embarrassed shakes of heads and averted gazes. John was over six feet tall, well built, and looked generally mean, despite being a teddy bear at heart. Dominic thanked him for his help and finished his pint very self-consciously. He only had the one drink and went to the toilet before he left for home. As he walked past the payphone by the bar, he didn’t notice the man with his back to him, making a call. Dominic, or Dom for short, came back to say one last farewell to his mates who were going away for the weekend on a Stag weekend for a mutual University buddy and left the pub to go to his car. As he drove slowly home to his one bedroom flat, he pondered the weekend ahead with no mates around. His reverie was shattered by the noise of sirens and screeching brakes behind him. He glanced in his rear view mirror and could see a growing number of blue flashing lights congregating in the pub car park. Dom thought this was odd, perhaps something had kicked off since he had left, but carried on home – he had promised himself a takeaway curry for tea, and he was starving. No sooner had he got home, than his phone rang. He answered it hastily.
“Yes?” It was Tom.
“Mate, you might want to lie low,” he hesitated. “That whispering was about you after all. Just after you left, the old Bill turned up all lights flashing and with guns.”
“What? Why?” Dom exclaimed, kicking his shoes off and chucking them on the shoe rack by the door.
“Not entirely sure, to be honest. But there was a lot of pointing at where we were sat down.” There was a brief silence, then John’s voice took over.
“Right, I’ve just had a butchers at the news, and there was a bank robbery up in Glasgow last week, and they think you did it.”
“What the fuck?!” Dom shouted, still stood in his hallway.
“Yeah, it’s mental, I know,” John admitted. “You need to keep a low profile anyway mate.”
“How do I do that exactly?” Dom pleaded. “I’m fairly well known around here, thanks to my dad, the politician.”
“I don’t know,” John replied, a little arsey in his tone. “Just stay at home, don’t go out anywhere.” Dom could hear some muffled conversation in the background before Tom came back.
“Get out. They’re coming for you. The cops are coming your way. See you mate, good luck.” The line went dead as the call ended. Dom stood in his hallway, stunned. After a brief pause, the panic set in. He rushed to his bedroom, grabbed his sports holdall, emptied the tennis rackets and kit onto his bed and proceeded to stuff some clothes in higgledy-piggledy, then ran to the bathroom, snatched up his toothbrush and razor and back into the hallway for his trainers and a coat. He quickly surveyed his flat, praying it wasn’t for the last time, and went out to his car, down in the underground car park. He hurriedly got in and started the engine, and when he turned the lights on, lighting up the area around him, he saw two beat coppers stood just a few yards away on the left. They turned to see where the noise came from, and seeing Dom, both reached for their radios. Dom rammed his foot down on the accelerator and shot out of the space, heading for the exit. He could see the coppers in his rear view mirror, running after him, probably taking notes of his car registration and everything. He got to the exit and drove out onto the street at such a rate, his front wheels left the ground for a moment before crashing back down to the road surface. ‘That’s fucked the suspension up,’ Dom thought to himself as he guided his little Renault Clio through the one-way system and towards the outskirts of town. He tried to gather his thoughts as to where he could go. He could go to his dad for help, to smooth things out and make them realise he had done nothing wrong. Shit, no. His mum and dad were on a fact-finding mission in Amsterdam, or so they’d told him. At the time he’d guessed it was more like they were going on a seedy trip to get stoned and do weird shit to each other out of the gaze of the British press.
His options severely narrowed, he racked his brain as he drove out into the countryside. Before he knew it, he had arrived in a little backwater hamlet some ten miles out of town. How he’d got so far without the cops getting on his tail, he didn’t know, or care to be blunt. It was half past eight, and he was bloody hungry. Just then, to make matters a whole lot worse, a loud grinding noise emitted from somewhere on the car, and then a jolt, and the car jerked out of control, across the road and through a hedge into a field. Unhurt, Dom got out of the car and surveyed the scene. The front driver side wheel was no longer attached to the rest of the vehicle, the front grille was twisted and bent out of shape, and there was a very real possibility that the front wing was about to fall off. He stood there in shock, and didn’t notice the large collie dog sniffing around his feet for a good few moments. It was only when he heard a female voice in the distance calling out for someone called ‘Benji,’ that his focus was brought back into the moment. He looked around, and saw a fairly tall-ish, slim blonde girl coming towards him. Obviously she couldn’t help but see the state of the car, and broke into a trot, arriving by his side slightly out of breath.
“Oh my God, is this your car?” She panted. Dom nodded his head, and brushed the dog’s muzzle from his crotch at the same time. “What happened? Are you okay?” She looked at him quite concerned.
“I was driving along, then I lost control and ended up here,” he summarised. The dog was still trying to sniff his crotch.
“Benji, stop that!” the girl snapped. She reached out and tugged the dog’s collar. Benji stepped back and sat down, allowing the girl to clip a lead to his collar. “Do you need anything?” She continued.
“Er, probably. I’m in a bit of a tight spot.” Dom murmured.
“You look like you’ve had a fright. Do you want to come back to mine for a bit?” Dom looked at her and nodded gratefully, wondering if he was going to have to tell her about his tight spot. He looked around one last time, then fell into step with the girl as they walked back through the field, close to the hedge.
“Thanks, really,” Dom said. “I don’t even know your name.” The girl tilted her head to face him as they walked.
“Well, Helen, thank you.” He said, offering his hand. They stopped, and Helen took his hand and gave it a shake.
“And what is your name? Man-that crashed-through-my-hedge?” Helen smiled.
“Well, Dominic McDonald, let’s get you inside and get you something for the shock.” Dom nodded his agreement and they continued on.
“Where is your place then?” Dom asked, politely.
“Just round the corner,” she pointed and Dom could see a fairly large looking house coming into view over the top of the hedge. He was quite impressed as they got closer, and it looked to be a good-sized farmhouse. “Technically, it’s not my place. It’s my dad’s really.” Dom glanced at Helen and hazarded a guess at her age and availability. He plumped for mid- twenties and single but desperate. They arrived at the house and Helen took them round to the back door. Benji bounded past them, causing Dom to almost topple into Helen, before he managed to steady himself against the door frame. He found himself in an old-fashioned country style kitchen with oak work tops and a Belfast sink under the big window that looked out over the fields. Helen gestured him to sit down at the kitchen table before going through another door, and he did so thankfully – the speed at which events of the last hour had unfolded was finally catching up with him.
He heard raised voices somewhere in the house, then a slamming door and footsteps towards the door through which Helen had left. Dom primed himself to face whoever was coming, only to relax when Helen popped her head round the door.
“You want to come through and meet my dad?” She smiled.
“Um, yeah, okay.” Dom shrugged his shoulders. Helen took him by the hand and guided him down a passageway. They came to a closed door. Helen opened the door, and they stepped into a large living room. As Dom stood in the doorway, his attention was drawn to a huge inglenook fireplace directly opposite the door. A warm fire was blazing away, heating the room. Either side of the fireplace there were shelves and shelves of books and DVDs – the older generation being slowly overtaken by the new. A low growly cough from Dom’s left brought his attention to a large sofa on which sat a grizzly looking man wearing a checkered shirt and brown jeans. If looks could kill, Dom would have been maimed there and then. Helen introduced Dom to her dad, Jim. Dom stepped forward and offered his hand. Jim looked at Helen, then with a grumble leaned forward and accepted the handshake. Dom waited to be offered a seat, the pause making him feel a little awkward. Wordlessly, Jim nodded slightly, indicating a chair by the window. Dom nodded his thanks and sat down. Helen took a seat in the chair next to him, distanced by a low coffee table set between the two chairs. Jim said nothing but returned to watching the rather impressive forty two inch flat screen television. Dom felt it was quite big, but with such a large room, he could get away with it. His attention was suddenly drawn to the television in front of him, as a remarkably familiar face stared back at him. The voice on the television was accompanying the photo.
“William Doyle escaped police pursuit from the scene of the robbery at the Bank of Scotland branch in Glasgow and the last sighting was in rural Shropshire. Members of the public are advised not to approach Doyle as he may be dangerous. You can see more of this story on BBC’s Crimewatch programme which follows this News broadcast.”
Dom could feel the eyes of Jim and Helen burning through the top of his head as he concentrated his stare on the pattern of the carpet.
“You said his name was Dominic McDonald.” Jim addressed Helen.
“That’s what he said, dad. Honest.” Dom looked up and steeled himself for an explanation.
“My name is Dominic. I’m a Stationary Store Supervisor and I live in Shrewsbury. I have no idea who that Doyle bloke is, other than he seems to look very much like me.” Helen and her dad remained fixed on him. “In fact, until I saw that, I had no idea why the police were after me.”
Jim stood up and loomed over Dom menacingly.
“You mean to tell me the police are actually chasing after you now, as you sit here in my house?!”
“I suppose so, yes.” Dom tried to make it sound as commonplace as going to the dentist.
“Well, I don’t need them round here upsetting the livestock. Helen,” he pointed at Dom. “Get this man, whatever his name is, out of my house and off my land.”
“If he goes, I go,” Helen announced. Both Dom and Jim looked at her in shock.
“What?” both men said in unison.
“I actually believe him. He doesn’t have a Scottish accent for a start.” Dom had to concede she had a bloody good point there. “The police have obviously already decided Dom is this William Doyle whether he is or not.”
“And I’m really not,” Dom pleaded. Jim grunted again, and sat back on the sofa, his gaze shifting back to the television, which was now giving the weather forecast.
“Whatever. Just get him out of here.”
Less than half an hour later, having retrieved his bag from his wrecked car, Dom was sat next to Helen in her VW Golf, speeding down the motorway towards Birmingham. Helen seemed to be getting carried away with the whole danger thing, to Dom’s discomfort.
“This is so exciting, and dangerous,” Helen squealed from the driver’s seat next to him. “We’re like a modern day Bonnie and Clyde.”
“Except Bonnie and Clyde were actual criminals. I just look like one, and you-“ he tailed off, not quite sure what she was in this whole crazy scenario.
Helen laughed and turned the car stereo on, and Dom was momentarily deafened by Adele blasting out ‘Someone Like You’, before Helen apologetically lowered the volume.
“Sorry, I love that song,” she explained. “I always have a good old sing along to it in the car.”
Dom nodded understandingly, he regularly had his car stereo on loud with his music.
“So, where are we actually going?” Dom asked her.
“Well, we want to go somewhere quiet, somewhere nobody will know us or disturb us.”
“Right,” Dom agreed.
“Somewhere nobody will even think to look for us,” she continued. Dom wondered if he’d got himself into more than he’d bargained for here. As she drove with one hand on the wheel, Helen reached to the back seat and pulled a road atlas through the gap. She plonked it on her lap, leafed through the pages, and then when she had found what she was clearly looking for, pushed it across into Dom’s lap and pointed her finger at the place.
“Dartmoor?” Dom queried, not sure if he was impressed or perturbed by her choice of hideaway.
“Yeah, it’ll be perfect.” With that, the decision was made, and when they hit Birmingham, Helen took them off down the M5 towards the West Country. Just after they passed Bristol, Dom’s mobile started ringing. He went to answer it, only for Helen to snatch it out of his hand and throw it on the back seat. Dom looked at her in shock.
“If you answer it, the police will be able to trace you from your call records.” Helen explained. The initial confusion was replaced by appreciation and relief at a near miss. At Taunton, Dom felt the need to pee and told Helen as much. She admitted she needed to go too, so pulled off the motorway and parked up in the shadows out of the car park lighting.
“Have you got a hat or something you can wear to disguise yourself?” Helen asked him as they stood by her car in the darkness. Dom shook his head forlornly. Helen tutted and took his hand, leading him across the car park. When they reached the building, Dom rushed towards the toilets, as he was by now quite desperate. Helen wasn’t far behind him, and she disappeared into the ladies. Neither of them saw the newsflash on the large screens.
Dom slipped into a cubicle and bolted the door. The relief passed through him, not just with peeing, but also the tension of the last three hours or so. He wondered how the hell he was going to get out of this pickle he was in. For a moment he thought that if he were to hand himself in, the police would soon realise he wasn’t this Scottish nutcase. Then he thought about Helen, and how she seemed to be thriving in the situation. Which, on reflection, he was quite glad about, because it was taking the pressure off him to think about everything. He finished and let himself out of the cubicle. He hesitated when he saw another bloke at the basin washing their hand, their back to him. Dom toyed with not washing his hands, but his hygiene standards got the better of him and he stepped over to the basin furthest away. He quickly washed his hands and scouted around for the hand-dryers. He saw they had those Dyson ones, and the technical geek inside him jumped for joy. He stuck his hands in and watched as the air made the skin on the back of his hand ripple. Having dried his hands, Dom went out into the concourse looking for Helen. Unsurprisingly, she was nowhere to be seen. He looked around him, there weren’t many people around at this time, which made him a bit nervous – the fewer people there were, perhaps he would stand out more and people would take more notice. The nerves and anxiousness were starting to mount when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Dom span round in a flash, and was about to make a run for it when he saw Helen stood there, a mischievous grin on her face.
“Fucking hell! What are you playing at woman?!” He hissed.
“Easy tiger,” she smiled. “You hungry?”
“I could eat a horse,” Dom admitted. “What you got in mind?”
“There’s a Burger King over there,” she pointed back over her shoulder. “I’ll get them and meet you back at the car.” She fished out her car keys and handed them to Dom.
“I’ll have a Whopper or something, then.”
“Okay then.” Helen turned and headed towards the glowing neon Burger King sign. Dom had another look around him, then calmly – or as calmly as someone who has just had the fright of their life can do – made his way out through the door and across the car park to Helen’s Golf.
Dom was sat in the car waiting for Helen to come back with the food, and he decided to have a bit of a nose around in the glovebox. He found the usual boring stuff – manuals, service history, CDs and half-empty packets of gum. Dom glanced at the CD cases, looking for something worth listening to, but drew a blank. He turned the radio on instead, hoping for an update on the police manhunt for, well, him it seemed. He found the BBC Five Live station but was disappointed to hear the news had just finished, and coverage of some Golf tournament was about to start. Thankfully, at this moment, Helen returned with the food. As Dom tore open the wrapper on his burger, Helen turned to him and winked.
“I like a man with a whopper.” She smirked at him as Dom almost dropped the burger in his lap. He wasn’t sure if it was an innocent joke, or a sexual come on, but he knew this wasn’t really the time. He forced a laugh, to keep the atmosphere relaxed, and thankfully Helen didn’t notice because she was already working her way through her nuggets. Once the food was gone, Dom walked the few yards to put the rubbish in a bin, and Helen started the engine. Moments later they were back on the motorway and heading further south.
It was close to midnight as they drove along the A38. Dom was looking at the map under the light of his mobile phone, trying to find somewhere they could lay low. On Dartmoor itself, there was only Princetown, home of Dartmoor prison, and surely it was suicide to stay right by a prison?! Dom explained as much to Helen, but this just brought a wry smile to her face.
“It’s perfect. No one would think you would be so stupid.” And so, much to Dom’s disdain, Helen turned off the main road, onto a minor little B-road that took them around the edge of Dartmoor, before cutting through and up to Princetown. Not much further on, Helen began yawning, and being a gentleman, Dom offered to take over the driving duties. She declined, saying that nobody but nobody else, drives her car.
“I’ll just pull up somewhere and we can sleep in the car,” she said, giving Dom no room to debate the point. A few miles down the road, as they passed through a bit of a wooded area, Dom spotted a gravel track that split off from the road and continued further into the woods. Helen nodded her agreement and off they went up the track, the car lights turned off. Helen brought the car to a halt and turned to Dom.
“You want the back seat?” She asked him.
“No, no. I’m okay here. You take it, please.” He replied, all gentlemanly.
“Fine by me,” Helen said, and after unbuckling her seatbelt, she turned and crawled through the gap in the seats. Dom got a face full of her bottom before she flopped through on to the back seat, flinging Dom’s bag into the front. Just as he was falling asleep, he felt breath on his neck and turned to see Helen there, her face pressed up against the head rest.
“I don’t know if it’s the whole danger thing, or what, but I’m incredibly turned on right now.” She whispered.
“Really?” Dom asked, tired and surprised.
“Oh yeah,” she said, biting her bottom lip with a sort of playful look in her eye. Dom shook his head in bemusement, and shuffled down in the passenger seat, crossed his arms and closed his eyes, hoping to bring an end to the matter. He had barely been asleep for a minute, when he felt the car rocking. Fearing capture, he opened his eyes and looked around him. He could see nothing but the blackness of night outside the windows. Behind him though, there was an eerie glow. Puzzled, he turned around and was greeted with the sight of Helen lying on the back seat, the light emitting from her mobile phone and highlighting her naked upper body. Dom rolled his eyes and a smile spread across his face.
“You don’t give up easily, do you?” He sighed. Helen peeled back the coat that had been covering her bottom half, and shone the light down.
“Oh, come on, now!” Dom exclaimed at the sight of matching nakedness below the waist. “Now really isn’t the time for seduction. We’re on the run from the police for crying out loud,” he finished. Helen was sucking her index finger on her right hand.
“Don’t you like what you see?” Helen asked, running her finger over her chin, down her neck, between her ample breasts, down her stomach to her well-kept pubic area. The red-blooded man that Dom was couldn’t help but be aroused by this, he felt the blood rushing to his own nether-regions. No matter how much his brain was screaming ‘No!’, his penis was screaming ‘what’s the harm?’.
“Look, if you really want it, then okay,” Dom reasoned. “But not if you’re going to cry ‘rape’ later on.”
“Oh no,” she giggled. “I haven’t had sex for months. Why do you think I came?” Dom chuckled.
“So, you’ve planned this all along?” He asked her.
“Not exactly. But the whole danger thing has been a huge turn on,” Helen smiled.
“But you didn’t even know me until tonight,” Dom told her. “I could have been a real psychopath, as opposed to looking like one.”
“All the better for me,” Helen replied. “Come on then.”
Dom hesitated, the conflict between his brain and his penis raging. Here he was, on the run from the police for a crime committed by someone that looked like him, in a car in the middle of a forest on the edge of Dartmoor, with a stark-naked gorgeous woman that he’d only met today that seemingly thrived on danger and exhibitionism. And this woman was effectively offering him sex to fulfil her needs.
“I think I’ll give it a miss this time,” Dom said, his brain winning the argument. Helen sighed and pulled the coat back up over her legs, hiding her nakedness from sight. She plugged her headphones in, and turned round to face the back of the seat, taking the coat with her, and leaving her pale naked bottom for Dom to see. He coughed loudly.
“What?” Helen snapped.
“I can see your backside,” Dom informed her. She re-arranged the coat to cover up her bottom from sight.
It was light when Dom awoke the next morning. He stretched out in the seat as much as he could, banging his knee on the underside of the glove compartment as he did. Cursing, he opened the door and got out for a proper stretch. He had a look around him, and saw nothing but forest all around, and the gravel track stretching back to the main road. He had a wander around, working the kinks out of his joints, and as he passed the back of the car he happened to glance through the side window. There was Helen sprawled out on her back on the back seat, the coat that had covered her was gone – probably in a heap in the foot well – leaving everything on show. Dom stood and looked at her sleeping for a while, until the sound of cars on the main road brought him to his senses. He banged on the window to try and wake her up. Succeeding in doing so, he diverted his eyes as she got dressed – strange he should allow her privacy now when she’d shown him all there was to see already – and came out for a stretch of her own.
“We should probably keep on the move,” Dom urged.
“What? In the daylight?” Helen countered. “No, we’re better off staying out of sight.” And before Dom could argue further, she opened the driver’s side door, reached for her handbag and closed the door, locking up and throwing the keys in her bag.
“Let’s walk,” she said, and set off into the woods. Dom stood his ground and watched her go for a few moments, before feeling very alone and isolated and catching up with her at a jog.
“Do you have any idea where we’re heading?” Dom asked as they walked deeper into the forest.
“I’ve got a fair idea,” she assured him. “Soon we’ll be right on the moor.”
“You mean, right in the middle of nowhere?” Dom corrected her.
“If you like, yes. It’ll be perfect.” They carried on walking for about half an hour, telling each other tidbits of information about one another. The trees started to thin out and soon they were out into the open spaces of Dartmoor. By now it was the middle of the day, and shockingly, they came upon a couple picnicking. Helen saw them first, and grabbed Dom by the arm, pulling him towards her. She dragged him back into the shadows and they sat down on the ground beneath a huge tree and waited in silence. After about half an hour, boredom – not to mention his memory of Helen’s naked body – got the better of Dom. As they sat back to back, the trunk of the tree between them, Dom craned his neck and whispered to Helen.
“If you still fancy it, I’m up for a bit of al-fresco sexy time.” There was no immediate response, so Dom got up on his heels to see Helen had gone. Panic set in, and Dom was ready to start shouting her name. To hell with the fact he was a wanted man, he was all alone in the middle of bloody Dartmoor. He didn’t know whether to stay put, or to try and go back to the car, but he reckoned that staying where he was meant that if she did come back, she would be able to find him. Dom sat back down and just waited, trying to keep the panic levels to a minimum.
It was a good while later, when Dom had fallen asleep as the mid-afternoon sun peeked through the gaps in the tree’s foliage, that Helen returned. She nudged him awake and threw a packet of crisps and a newspaper at him. Dom forced his eyelids open and studied the crisps in his lap, but before he could satisfy the hunger, a glance at the newspaper halted everything. There on the front page was a picture of him and the headline that read ‘Man-hunt ends in bloodshed’. He frantically read on and discovered that this William Doyle had got no further south than Kilmarnock, being tracked to the golf course at Troon, and shot dead by police marksmen on the 17th green after firing at the police first.
“Helen,” Dom yelped. “Have you read this?” He waved the paper in the air.
“Yes,” she responded, a little subdued. “I suppose you’ll be wanting to go home now?”
“Too damned right I do!” He exclaimed loudly. The relief coursing through his body meant that he no longer cared about disturbing the picnicking couple, if they were even still there.
“Fine,” Helen muttered. “Let’s go then.”
“Not yet,” Dom smiled. “I owe you something. Come here.” He held his arms out and beckoned her over.