A Good Way To Go Part Two
By: Peter Astle

Kanya wasted no time getting out of her car. "What is happened?" she cried, running towards the three of us. "Is she okay?"

I assumed she was referring to Bella, who really didn't look as though she should be out tonight.

"We're taking her to the hospital," Marjorie said. "She's fainted. You couldn't open the back door of the car, could you?"

Kanya stared at Bella. "She does not look too well."

"She just needs some fresh air," I said, "but we'll run her by the hospital, just in case. If you could just get the door … "

Kanya opened the back door of the Astra as wide as it could go and Marjorie and I rolled Bella into the back seat. She ended up lying on her back with her right knee jammed between the two front seats and her left foot still hanging out of the door.

"You should keep feet raised," Kanya instructed. "I help you."

"There's no need," I said, panicking slightly as I tried to lift and bend Bella's left foot into the car. It felt rather cold and clammy. "It's only twenty minutes to the hospital."

Kanya shoved me out of the way. "I know about fainting. My mother fainted. She fainted a lot. We need to raise her feet."

Kanya, slim and wiry and tiny as she was leant into the back of the Astra and somehow twisted Bella's ankles over the front seats, but there still wasn't enough room. "It's no good," she said. "You need to open front windows."

All things considered, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Bella was lying flat on her back and there was no room for her feet other than out of the front windows.

I slipped into the driver's seat, wound both front windows down halfway and Kanya and Marjorie arranged Bella's ankles on top of the glass.

"She will be more comfortable now," Kanya declared with some satisfaction. She closed her palms and gave a little bow.

"It's probably nothing," I said, stepping out of the car, leaning on the roof and smiling. "Quick ride around the block and she'll be as right as rain."

"She look better now," Kanya said. "But she not look good."

"I'll follow you in my car." Marjorie said. She hurried to her white Mini without saying goodbye to either of us.

I gave Kanya a wave and slipped back into the Astra. When I closed the door, Bella's cold right ankle brushed again my earlobe. I did my best to ignore it.

I pulled away, caught Marjorie's left indication light on the Mini in my rear-view mirror and headed for the Crag Top. Kanya waved from the driveway.

Marjorie followed close behind. I took the corners especially slow, to prevent contact with Bella's ankle and kept my speed just under the limit. The last thing I wanted was to be pulled over by the police.

And that was when I saw the patrol car in the lay-by.

* * *

The cop was around fifty, fifty-five maybe. Pretty old for a police officer. He had that world-weary look about him that said he'd seen it all before, but when he looked into the back of the Astra at my wife's dead body, something told me he hadn't quite seen everything yet.

"Is this your car, sir?" he said.

Bella's big toe was just inches from his cheek.

"Yes. I've got all the documentation in the glove box. Look, I'm in a bit of a rush. I'm trying to get my wife to the hospital in Derby."

"I see." He looked at Bella's right foot, took a bit of a sniff, turned away and then looked at the rest of her. "Unusual way to travel, sir."

"She need's fresh air," I said. "Especially on the soles of her feet. I do this sort of thing most evenings, when she has one of her turns. Surprised you've not seen us around here before."

"You said you were going to the hospital?"

"Tonight, yes. It's a pretty bad one. Better to be safe than sorry. Look, if you want to see my documentation––"

"She doesn't look all too well," the cop interrupted. He poked Bella's foot with finger. Bella didn't flinch.

The cop reached for the walkie-talkie attached to his belt. "I'm going to have to call this in."

"Look, is this really necessary, officer?"

The cop frowned at the walkie-talkie. He prodded a few buttons, stared at the screen, shook his head and raised the bulky device above his head, taking a few paces away from my car. "No signal," he muttered. "I don't suppose you've got a phone I can use, sir?"

"As it so happens, I do not," I said, astonished at his nerve. "I need to get my wife to hospital."

Then, out of nowhere, Marjorie appeared. She'd parked the Mini somewhere on the grass verge behind my Astra.

"What's going on?" Marjorie said, slightly out of breath. "Oh my goodness, it's you."

She wasn't addressing me, she was talking to the cop.

"Marjorie," said the cop.

"Leonard," said Marjorie. "I thought you'd retired."

"I thought I'd hang on a few more years," he explained. "Traffic was always my thing."

"It was where you belonged," Marjorie soothed. "Tony told me there was no one better than you with the laser gun."

"Did Sergeant Mitchell really say that?" The cop rolled back his shoulders. "Oh my Lord. I mean, I know I'm good, but it's nice to hear it from someone else."

"You got all those convictions, never let anyone go, even if they were travelling two miles over the speed limit."

"I always got my man," said the cop.

I noticed Bella's left foot was inching itself back into the car from the passenger side window.

I happened to park at a slope on the grass verge and gravity was doing its job in sending Bella's body to its lowest point. Any moment now and her left leg would come tumbling into the car. I nudged up the passenger side window with my little finger on the electronic controller and the glass shot upward, trapping Bella's big toe in the doorframe just in time.

"Leonard, this is my friend, Norris, and his wife, Bella." Marjorie placed a hand on the cop's shoulder and led him away from the car. "She's fainted and we're taking her to the hospital. She'll be fine."

Marjorie took him to one side and whispered something in his ear. To my amazement, he plodded back to the patrol car.

I finally stopped holding my breath when the cop pulled away.

Marjorie came around to the passenger side of the Astra and yanked open the front door. She almost snapped off Bella's big toe but fortunately the window wasn't wound up as tightly as I'd thought and Bella's foot popped out and flopped into the back seat.

"What did you say to him?"

"Leonard and I go back years." Marjorie said. "Leonard always had a soft spot for me in the old days. He won't say anything."

I indicated the back seat with my thumb. "Crag top?"

"Onwards and upwards," said Marjorie.

* * *

Marjorie decided to leave the Mini at the side of the road twenty yards down from where the traffic cop stopped me. I would drop her off later to pick it up, after we'd disposed of the body.

We'd just turned onto the access road leading to Crag Top when there was a stirring in the back seat.

"What was that?"

"I'm not sure," I said.

Marjorie glanced over her shoulder.

Then the most appalling smell hit us. A pungent gassy mix of onion and English mustard and ham.

Marjorie squeezed her eyes tight shut. "Oh my God, what is that?"

"Ham sandwich," I said.

Marjorie wound down her window right to the bottom.

"Sometimes, dead people, you know … release gasses."

The next wave of ham and onion hit us halfway up the hill. By the time we reached the car park I could barely breathe. I parked the car, opened the door, desperate to escape.

Marjorie gave a little yelp and touched my knee. We both glanced into the back of the car just as Bella's mustard-smeared face appeared between the seats. Her crossed legs made her look like some grotesque gargantuan contortionist.

"What's going on?" Bella grunted, eyes half-closed. "I'm not feeling too well."

"Nothing," I said. "We're just having a drive in the country."

Marjorie caught my eye. "You had a bit of a turn, Bella. We thought a little evening walk would do you a power of good."

Bella coughed and spluttered. Coughed again. Another wave of ham and onion drifted through into the front of the car. "Where am I? Why am I all squashed up like this?"

Marjorie smiled. "You fainted, so we tried to put you in the recovery position. You'll be as right as rain when we get you on your feet."

"I didn't finish my ham sandwich," Bella complained. "I'm still hungry."

"Plenty more ham at home," I said brightly. "Come on, let's get you out of the car. A brisk walk will sharpen your appetite."

Extracting Bella from the back seat was a lot easier now she had regained some sort of mobility. Marjorie and I supported her from either side as Bella stood in the darkened car park.

"It's a bit late for a walk," Bella slurred.

"The fresh air will do you good."

Bella's head lolled to one side. "Where am I?"

"Come along," Marjorie cajoled. "Quick walk up the path and then we can all go home."

We lead Bella up the hill towards the precipice, damp prickly armpits resting over our shoulders.

"Where are you taking me? I never finished my ham sandwich."

"Plenty more ham at home," I reminded her.

"Wait till you see the view from the top of the hill," said Marjorie. "It's to die for."



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