The Black Cadillac
A train whizzed past, a car horn sounded and then someone, a male from the depth of the voice, screamed.
‘What are you doing, Susan? Trying to get us killed?’
What sounded like a scuffled ensued. My heart pounded, should I interfere or close the window and pretend nothing was happening? I was a pacifist and usually chose to stay out of any confrontation, but this was different, someone’s life could be at stake. I had to do something.
It was a dark night; clouds covered the moon. My senses were heightened by the prospect of having to intervene in something out of my control, but I was somewhat re-assured by the familiar smell of forest pines and the smell of rain wafting in on a now strong wind.
I could see two figures, a male and female, down near the level crossing, standing next to a car. To begin with I stepped cautiously towards them. As I got closer to them, I could see that the car was a black Cadillac.
‘Help! Help! Leave me alone Stan! Aaaagh. You’re hurting me!’
The male knocked the woman to the ground and began dragging her along the road by one leg all the time threatening her with more violence if she didn’t ‘shut up’.
I quickened my steps. ‘Stop now,’ I yelled, ‘leave her alone.’
The man took a quick look in my direction and then let her go, kicking her in the side as he did so. She doubled up but somehow managed to get one hand free and grab his leg. He overbalanced and fell onto the ground beside her.
It’s funny how images come into your head at the most inappropriate times, but I was a train spotter and spent many hours waiting for the trains, both passenger and goods trains, to pull into the station some ten yards further on from the level crossing that had just been resurfaced. I knew that the workers had left their tools in a culvert. No one had been back to collect them. Tonight this was going to work in my favour. I dropped down into the culvert and grabbed a spade, ran towards the man who was just beginning to extricate himself from the woman. She was putting up a pretty impressive fight I had to say.
I ran up behind the man and smashed the spade over his head. I must have hit a sweet spot because he fell straight back down onto the ground. He made one loud groan and then stopped dead. An ever - increasing pool of blood oozed onto the road. I pushed him onto his back, shuddered at the sight of his large eyes, lit up by an overhead streetlight, staring up at me. He was dead all right. A mouthful of vomit threatened to spew down my front. I spat out the acrid fluid and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. The smell tore at my nostrils.
I stopped to catch my breath, all the time wondering how I’d found the strength to do what I had
S I looked around for the woman; she was crawling towards a black Cadillac. I made a mental note of the licence plate number. She somehow got herself up and into the car.
I heard the eleven-thirty train to Burlington in the distance. It was soon upon us, sounding its horn as it raced past. It was going too fast for anyone inside to see what was happening. I checked that the woman was safely into the car and then ran back to the man, Stan. The coward had got what he deserved.
By now a strong wind had blown up. An owl hooted. I looked at Stan and wondered how I had the strength to do what I had done. Now I had to dispose of his body. My best bet was to roll it into the culvert. I used all the strength my one hundred and eight pound body could muster and slowly pushed him from the middle of the road and into the culvert on the opposite side to where the worker’s tools were. I jumped again when a large gush of air emptied from his now defunct lungs. The body was taken care of but the dark bloodstain remained in the middle of the road. Rain was forecast for the early morning and again I was aware of the fresh dewy smell the wind was bringing with it. With a bit of luck the bloodstain would be gone before anyone came across it. I didn’t throw the spade back in with the other tools instead I used it to dig a small grave for Stan.
I climbed up from the culvert and onto the road; the Cadillac was gone. I couldn’t imagine how the woman who was hurt so badly could have driven off. But gone it was. I instinctively took off along the road for a bit in case she’d had an accident.
Another loud scream stopped me in my tracks, but then I realised it was coming from me. Again, I vomited. My head swirled as if caught in a vortex. The wind strengthened, I had a vision of Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz spiralling up into the sky. How I wished I could join her.
And then there was daylight. I came out of that vortex. I was awake; I shook my head to clear the images.
‘Stan, your breakfast’s ready, up you get’ my wife Susan called from the kitchen. All through breakfast, the dream kept playing out in my mind. I could barely say a word.
‘Come on Stan, it’s our fortieth wedding anniversary and I’ve bought you something special. Eat up and I’ll show you.’
We finished breakfast and I went in and changed into trousers and jacket. My surprise for Susan was lunch at Oscars, her favourite restaurant. I’d arranged for flowers and champagne to be waiting for her there. It was typical of Susan not to ask where her present was. She was selfless. I went back to the kitchen, Susan looked me up and down.
‘Well you do look nice,’ she remarked.
‘I’ve my own special treat for you. We’re going to Oscars for lunch. I’ve booked for midday.’
‘That’s lovely but wait until you see your gift from the kids and me; it’s perfect for you. Right, now close your eyes and I’ll take you outside.’ She helped me down the three back steps and into the yard. We turned towards the garage. Her excitement was infectious. ‘Open,’ she said.
I was speechless. There it was. The black Cadillac I’d always wanted. I pushed an image of the last night's woman away, I wouldn't let it spoil my delight at what was in front of me.
'We'll go to Oscar's in it,' I told Susan.
It was time to tell her about my dream.
‘Well, I’m glad it was just that, a dream I mean.’ I stifled her laughter with a kiss.
Susan got dressed and we left the house in my sparkling black Cadillac.
I drove slowly towards the crossing. A man was getting out of his car. He walked across to something on the road. I wound the window of my Cadillac down. I took a deep breath – there was a pool of blood towards the side of the road. I got out of the car and went across to the man.
‘Probably just an animal,’ he said, ‘but we should have a look I guess.’ He walked across the road. I didn’t follow. He stopped and looked hard into the culvert. I don’t know why but I swallowed deeply. He turned back to me.
‘We need to call the cops,’ he said, ‘there’s a body down there.’
It couldn’t possibly be. It was just a dream. He took a cell phone from a pocket in his jacket and called 911. ‘The cops will be here shortly,’ he said.
I was relieved when another car, with a man in the driver’s seat pulled up. He got out and joined us. It was a perfect chanced for me to make my excuse to leave. ‘I’m afraid I can’t stay, my wife and I have a crucial meeting to attend.’ I turned and went back to the car.
‘You’re shaking Stan.’
‘There’s a body in the culvert, the police are on their way. No point in us waiting around. Let’s not spoil out anniversary.’
Susan leant across me, took my hand. ‘Was he knocked on the crossing?’
‘I don’t know, but most likely. He must have dragged himself along the road. There’s blood nearby. Better you don’t look, Susan.’ I turned on the ignition and the car came to life. I gave the two men a cautious wave as we went past. I sped up and set off towards Oscars. I needed a stiff drink.
We were on the outskirts of Burlington when I saw a cop car and two officers on the side of the road. They were looking at something off into the forest. I eased towards them. And that is when I saw it. A battered black Cadillac was being winched onto the road. One of the policemen came towards us.
‘I’m afraid there’s been a tragedy.’ I looked towards a hump on the ground covered by a canvas. No, I thought, that’s too much of a co-incidence. ‘I have to ask you to turn around and detour along Hartford Drive,’ the cop said. I gladly did as he asked.
‘This is all a bit strange, Stan, it’s just like your dream,’ Susan said quizzically in a slow, controlled, voice.
‘Don’t be silly, Susan, your minds playing games with you. Let's put this all behind us. The sooner we get to Oscar's the better. After that, I'd like to take the car for a drive in the country.
Susan took time to reply, and when she did it wasn't what I expected. 'You got up during the night. What were you doing?’
I couldn’t answer her. It was a dream, nothing more.