I jump out and cast around until I find Rat-face’s stinking pants. The card and I aren’t reunited. Thinking back hard, I’m fairly certain he’d slipped the cord around his neck.
With this insight settling coldly in my mind I leap back into the truck, decided. My need for vengeance is exchanged for a rescue mission. Steam powered hatred scalds the remaining courage I own from hiding. I make an exasperatingly difficult seven point turn to reorientate the truck. Turning the steering wheel so many times is more exercise than my torn shoulders are happy about. Once we are pointed the right way I accelerate after Mr Smelly to retrieve my belongings.
We are as lucky as he is not. We spot a trio of Creeps about one kilometre away who are carrying a screaming, struggling body. It’s definitely our man, and he does indeed have my precious card draped around his screaming neck. I’m a bit pissed off that they aren’t eating him. I was just going to hang back and wait until they finished and then snatch my card from the bloody remains they left behind.
Where are they taking him?
I slow down as we get closer and the Creeps totally ignore us. They continue toddling along at a leisurely pace that is equal to the truck’s lowest gear at idle.
I’m pondering how this situation should be approached when I see another Creep has been called in to help the trio out. A baggy-suited woman has silently vectored in to match their pace and wordlessly takes hold of the captives dangling leg.
OK, great! Now I have four of the buggers to deal with. If only Kristine could drive the truck I could have her drive along-side them while I shot them down. I’m tossing up whether to just run them over when a look in the mirror kills that option. I think we can consider ourselves under guard as other Creeps have joined this procession. They have filled the roads behind us in ones and twos. We are rapidly running out of choices.
We’re shepherded up an off-ramp, and travel the wrong lane along a cluttered motorway courtesy of an Army bulldozer’s intervention.
“Ohhhh shit, you shouldn't be on the motorway. Rule seventy-eight. You’re breaking the Rules, man.”
That old habit of talking to myself has nervously returned.
I edge closer to the Creep foursome, hunching over the wheel, thinking hard. The Creeps ignore the noisy motor but our thief hears and is inspired to redouble his struggles.
“Pleeeeese help meeeeeee. Pleeeeeeese.”
The racket makes Kristine resurface. She has tucked her knees up to her face and clamped them to her chest. She whispers fearfully at me.
“You’re not, are you? You’re not going to help him?”
I turn up the heater to reduce her shivering and sit back. She continues to shiver and pulls the parka about her closer.
“Umm, I really don’t want anything to do with him but I can’t let them take him away..”
Kristine’s gaze clears a little when shocked confusion becomes hard anger.
“Why are you trying to save him? He was going to kill us!”
“I know. And I’m going to return the favour.”
I sense the emotional storm inside her.
“You...don't have to do that. He’s dead anyway. They’re going to change him or...eat him.”
To ease into my actual reason for doing this, I lay the theory of retained memory on her.
Then I admit my real failing. The loss of the card.
Our downwardly spiralling situation dissolves Kristine’s worn out emotions. She wilts back into herself and I’m alone again. It is by pure luck that I look away from her quickly enough to react to the suddenly excited shout of encouragement from the man we follow.
“Knock em flat! Don worry bout me, I’ll be right!”
I slam on the brakes, chirping the tyres.
We’ve almost rammed the two rear end Creeps.
They perform a perfectly synchronised stop of their own and I find eight eyes turn on me in unison. Ice fills my testicles as unflinching glares drill into my brain. The truck’s chrome bar, bare centimetres away, does not intimidate them in the slightest. I am being told in no uncertain circumstances to ‘back off’.
“Fucken kill em. Kill em. I give ya anyfink ya wan.”
Hmm, let’s see. What would be a suitable exchange for helping you? How about you give me back my card, and then I get your head on a stick?
I select reverse gear without breaking eye contact and strike up a friendly banter as we back away.
“OK, sorry. A bit close was I? Look, backing up now. Don’t mind me.”
A white-knuckled grip on the gear stick is poised to select first. If they attack, I’ll slam them with a seven tonne enema.
Their dull interest in us wanes as we withdraw and they resume that perfect lock-stepped march.
I maintain a closer spacing than before because the Creeps behind have crowded up. We recommence the low speed chase where tense minutes tick away faster than the kilometres. I busy myself creating plans of attack, discarding those involving Kung Fu or accurate shooting.
With machine-like endurance, the Creeps toil on without rest.
Their burden has changed tact. His mindless howling is now broken by abuse, directed at the Creeps and us. Their grip on his dislocated kneecap must causing intense agony.
Poor guy. Pfffttttt. I rub my wrists and swollen face in memory of what he’d done to me. A tooth feels loose too.
I try Kristine’s number again, intending to put an end to this stand-off with a wild scheme.
“Hey, Kristine! I need you to steer. I’ll hang out the window and blast them as we go past. Then I’ll jump out, grab the card and we’ll go home. Yeah? OK?”
Kristine doesn’t lift the phone; not even to tell me how dangerous my idea is. She’s probably got concussion from that blow she took to her head and I am deeply worried. Sleeping is supposed to be a bad thing for people with head injuries. I reinsert the annoying CD and turn it up loud. Her eyelids flicker.
Up ahead I spy a sentinel Creep who stands centred in the road. He wears a dirty white apron and diverts our procession from the motorway like a jaded traffic cop. The dirt across his chest is most likely dried blood.