So I have taken on a lot of constructive criticism for my first book, Above The Limit, and I am hoping that I am on the right track with the 2nd. Below is the first chapter, in full, and I am looking for honest opinions. Please don’t hold back, I want to hear what people think. Just please bear in mind that this is the unedited first draft and spelling mistakes etc will be rectified before publication!
Carrie’s heart was pumping in her chest, her adrenaline running wild. She was so sick of this every day, running for her life just so she could deliver food. Christ where had they gone? She looked about frantically knowing that they hadn’t given up yet. Not seeing them was often more dangerous than being right in front of them. At least that way you knew where they were.
She hooked a left and ran down a deserted alleyway. Gloomy shadows fell everywhere casting long fingers of blackness that reached out to her, trying to grab her and swallow her. Carrie embraced these dark and terrifying recesses of the abandoned city, they were her friends, her saviours. They offered hiding places in the dark hours of desperation; they offered shelter when the gangs attacked.
Like right now. Right now she was in desperate need of these dark shadows. She couldn’t out run the gang but she could hide from them. One on one she stood a chance against them but it was never just one on one. It was always six or more on one and that never ended well. The gangs were well known for their violence and they were also known to be partial to a gang rape or two.
With this knowledge at the front of her mind she crouched in a damp doorway which smelt like piss. Her nostrils flared against the offensive odour and her limbs trembled from the physical exertion of the hunt. She hugged the precious food parcel to her chest and squeezed her eyes shut as she heard the sound of a motorbike drawing closer. She heard the footsteps that echoed off the cold uninhabited buildings of the forsaken city. She smelt her own fear in the air.
Making herself as small as was humanly possible she pushed herself back against the door and prayed that it would hold. The sound of a splintering door would give her away for sure. The drone of the bike was almost on top of her now and she opened her eyes. She watched nervously through the mountain of rubbish that blocked the view of the doorway from the open street and held her breath as the gang thundered past. Three large, rugged looking men on bikes, three running behind and a feral looking woman holding a baseball bat bringing up the rear.
They disappeared into the distance and she finally allowed herself to breathe again. She slipped out of the doorway and brushed the dust off of her jeans and black sweatshirt. Keeping to the shadows she headed back the way she had come. Ducking in and out of doorways and walking in circles to ensure that she wasn’t being followed she headed to a familiar house. Once upon a time it had been a beautiful house, solid brick with neatly painted windowsills and perfectly manicured gardens. It had always had a cute quaintness to it, like a house from a movie. Now however it was a depressing sight, run down and dilapidated just like every other building in the city. It never ceased to amaze her how fast a building could fall into a state of disrepair.
She quickly located the key, hidden under a brick in the now empty woodshed. Without even knocking she walked in through the back door and called out,
“Hello? Violet? I’ve got another package for you.” Setting the parcel down on the kitchen table she made her way through the gloomy house. All the curtains were pulled and a thick layer of dust covered all the visible surfaces. The TV had been used to block the front door and heavy locks adorned the doors and windows. This was no way to live, she thought to herself.
“Thanks Aunty Carrie.” The voice startled her.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you jump.” The voice said, tinged with a hint of sadness.
“It’s ok Charlotte. I was off in my own little world.” She replied. “Is your mum about?” Carrie knew the answer to this but asked any way. Violet hadn’t left the house since it had happened. It had been more than twelve weeks now and things just got worse. It saddened Carrie to see her best friend so afraid and lonely. The part that really upset her was that the old feisty Violet seemed to have disappeared. It wasn’t like her to just sit and stare like this, day after day. She was a fighter and always had been. Somehow Carrie had to pull the old Violet back and she thought she might just know how to do this.
Carrie and Violet had known each other for coming on ten years. They had met at the hospital where they both worked, Carrie in admin and Violet as a nurse. Violet had taken a young 20 year old Carrie under her wing. She had taught her how to manage her money, how to manage a house, how to manage her life. This was something Carrie had desperately needed. She had lost her mother when she was six and her father hadn’t been able to care for her. He had served in the Navy and had been away a lot so Carrie had been sent to various different foster homes. None of her replacement families had been bad, there were no story book horror tales that one expected from foster care, they had all been normal caring people with just one small problem. They weren’t her family. This had caused her to act up and cause trouble.
Once she had turned fourteen her father had had a sudden change of heart and had taken early retirement in order to care for his troubled teenage daughter. During their short time together they had rebuild the bridges that had crumbled between them and developed a strong bond. Tragically her father had died of a sudden heart attack when she was just sixteen. She had been fending for herself ever since.
“Upstairs.” Carrie was pulled from her reminiscing by the sound of Charlotte’s voice and looked up just in time to see her nod her head in the direction of the stairs, her platinum blonde hair flicking as she did so. Charlotte was sixteen, drop dead gorgeous and the spitting image of her mother. She had the most piercing blue eyes that complimented her almost white hair beautifully. She was clad in tight jeans and gorgeous pink gypsy top which hugged her figure neatly. She had the lean body of a dancer and a mind that could have gone far in the old world. The old world was little more than a lost dream now though, replaced with disorder and chaos.
“Thanks Hun.” Carrie patted the girl on the shoulder lightly and bounded up the creaky stairs. “Hey Violet I need to talk to you.” She found Violet sitting on her bed hugging her knees. This was how she found Violet every day now. Her blonde hair had lost its sheen and taken on a dull lifeless look, her skin was pale and her eyes glazed. Even the clothes she wore had changed; she had gone from a smart and elegant look to wearing jog pants and baggy sweaters. Taking all this into account though Carrie had to admit that even at thirty nine and under the worst possible circumstances Violet Anderson was a stunner.
“Hey. Thanks for bringing the food over,” whispered Violet, her bright blue eyes peering out from the mop of blonde hair that hung in front of her face.
“No problems now listen; we both know this can’t continue. What this new world is doing to you is, well I just can’t watch it anymore. I want the old Violet back so I’ve been thinking. I’ve talked to this guy, Frank. He was in the Navy with my dad and he is a sound guy. I’ve known him since I was a baby and I trust him.
We both agree that it is too dangerous to stay here. There are a couple of options but we reckon the safest one is the sea. Now Frank has a boat. You with me so far?” When this elicited no response Carrie felt a familiar frustration begin to wash over. She crossed her arms and made a loud sighing noise.
“Don’t worry I’m listening. Just not sure what you are getting at. Are you suggesting we all live on some little boat?”
“It’s not a little boat but yes that is exactly what I am suggesting Violet. Things need to change but nothing is going to change around here. The only way things can change for us is if we do something to make it happen. Moving on is the only option. “
“Violet!” shouted a loud male voice up the stair way. Carrie instantly jumped into a defensive position behind the doorway her adrenaline starting to pulse once again. Adrenaline was surely the only thing keeping her alive at the moment.
“It’s only Peter.” Violet said calmly, staring at Carrie with a blank expression. Carrie instantly relaxed although not completely. There was certainly no love loss between her and Peter. She felt that he was an arrogant, opinionated prat and he felt that she was a conceited loud mouthed bitch. It was fair to say that they clashed quite often.
“Violet? Come on get dressed please. Enough moping around. How is this helpful to Charlotte?” the strong voice said from down the hallway. Carrie stepped out from behind the door and squared up her shoulders as Peter came into view, his short brown hair, and tanned skin and light brown eyes looking as sexy as usual. In fact it annoyed the hell out of Carrie that he looked so damn hot in his navy blue shirt and dark jeans.
“Oh. You’re here,” he muttered.
“Yes I bloody well am here so you can pack in the eye rolling,” she fired back.
“Stop it! It’s bad enough that everyone else is fighting, I don’t need you two fighting too!” Violet suddenly seemed to develop some strength and Carrie felt a wave of hope wash over her as she glimpsed the old Violet. Violet rose from the bed and turned to look Carrie straight in the eye.
“I’ll do it. But only if Peter comes too.”
“Of course he can.” Carrie answered stiffly. She wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of spending that much time, cooped up in a confined space with Peter, but she knew she needed to get Charlotte and Violet on that boat. There was no other way round it. It was simple. Peter was the husband of Violet’s late sister. Her sister who had been killed when the virus hit. She had been one of the first to fall and Violet hadn’t really dealt with it properly. Now she clung to Peter in the vain hope that she could keep a slim part of her sister, Ivy, alive.
The virus had hit hard and fast. Over two thirds of the world’s population had been wiped out in a matter of days. In fact over two thirds of the entire animal kingdom had been wiped out. It was a horrible thing to watch, first the sickness came, then the dizziness. This was followed quickly by bleeding from every conceivable orifice which was coupled with intense muscle cramps, often muscles you didn’t even realise you had. Eventually the internal organs began to rupture and the skin began to disintegrate and just started to fall from the body. Death was rapid, if not instantaneous, from this point on and the few who did survive a day or two past always fell prey to septicaemia as it took over and finished the job.
Bodies had littered the streets and a vile stench had begun to seep into every corner of the crippled towns and cities. Governments had collapsed and everyday living became a fight for survival as the gangs started to form and quickly took over, looting and pillaging where ever they could. Nobody really knew why some had survived when so many others had fallen. It was assumed that the lucky few carried some sort of immunity but nobody really knew and the result was terrifying. Everybody was scared senseless by the fact that they could be next. This fear didn’t help in this lawless environment and just gave those who fuelled it a further sense of justification.
It was a mystery as to where the virus had originated from. One popular conspiracy theory was that it had been genetically engineered in a lab somewhere as a biological weapon and then somehow leaked out into the general population, perhaps it had been stolen or perhaps someone from inside the lab had been exposed and had unwittingly carried it out into the big wide world. The other popular theory was that after years of immunisations our immune systems had just become too weak and the dreaded superbugs had finally become smarter and strong than us. This of course didn’t explain why the whole animal kingdom had fallen so badly but nevertheless the theory was out there. Where ever it had come from it had left a trail of devastation and despair in its path.
“Come where? Anyone want to let me in on this plan?”
“We’re leaving. A friend of mine has a large yacht and we are heading out to sea. It’s not safe here. If anything happened to Charlotte…” Carries voice trailed off as she considered the terrifying possibility of the gangs getting their hands on Charlotte.
“Right.” Said Peter slowly. He was clearly not thrilled about spending that much time with Carrie either but he could definitely see the need to get away. Really when he thought about it, it was a no brainer. “Let’s go.”
“Ok.” Carrie stripped off her sweatshirt and tied it around her waist as she jumped into action and her authoritive side took over. “Violet, pack a small bag. Peter, see if there is anything useful around the house. Charlotte!” Charlotte responded with a loud shout and Carrie barked instructions at her. Charlotte hurried off to pack a small bag, fear and excitement taking over before she had a chance to process what was happening. Peter, although he didn’t like to be bossed around, particularly by Carrie, did as he was told and emptied out the medication cabinet, the food cupboards and a few other places looking everywhere he could think of. The end result was a handy backpack filled with a first aid kit, food, water and medicines.
Carrie took the chance to catch her breath in the toilet. Splashing cold water on her face she dug deep within herself for the strength she knew she was going to need for this journey. Catching sight of herself in the mirror she was a little taken aback. Her fiery auburn ringlets were little more than waves of frizz now after weeks of not being conditioned and her green eyes were lined by heavy bags as the sleepless nights took their toll. Her baby blue tee shirt was stained and grubby and her jeans could definitely do with a wash. She didn’t have time to hand wash, she was too busy hunting for food and other essentials needed for everyday living, and not just for her but for Violet and Charlotte as well.
Carrie Thompson had always been a proud woman but now she was always on her guard, always ready for the gangs to attack. She didn’t have time for concern over her looks. She had never considered herself pretty but what she saw now reminded her of some down and out junkie. A lack of food and sleep were starting to affect her physically as well as mentally and she was nowhere near as sharp and fit as she had been. At least half of her food went to Violet and what Carrie managed to collect was meagre in the first place. No wonder she was feeling so tired and on edge.
She also allowed her mind to drift to her father. God if only he were here now. He would know what to do and how to protect her. Frank was the next best thing. He had received the same training as her father and, as a result, thought the same way. If this was his suggestion then it was the right way to go. She had a few niggling doubts herself but she knew that staying here wasn’t an option. No, she had known Frank and his wife for a long time, in fact she had called them uncle and aunty as a child even in the years that her father wasn’t really about, and she trusted him and his judgment one hundred per cent. When it came to getting away from this hell hole it was now or never. No room for doubts.
Snapping herself out of her self-contemplation she hurried back out to help the others with the preparations.
Half hour later and they were gathered in the living room, bags in hand, ready to go. Anticipation hung heavy in the air and an eerie silence fell upon the group as the reality of the situation sunk in and they said a last good bye to the place they had all called home at some point or another.
Violet and Charlotte had lived in that very house since Violet’s husband had left ten years ago, Charlotte had grown up there and the house, no matter how run down and gloomy it was now, was filled with memories of happier times. Peter had lived there for six months with Ivy after he had been forced into bankruptcy when his business folded some four years ago. And Carrie, well Carrie had spent many a night there after painful break ups with boyfriends, every year on the anniversary of her father’s death and on the more cheerful occasions when she and Violet had decided to let of steam and open a bottle of wine. Yes there were certainly many happy memories in that house. But now it was time to say goodbye and they all did so silently in their own special way.
A solitary tear rolled silently down Violet’s cheek and Charlotte stood with her eyes squeezed shut, trying not to let the emotions overwhelm her, trying to pretend that everything was normal.
“Right let’s get this show on the road,” said Carrie quietly. She started to head for the back door; the others traipsed solemnly behind her looking down cast and anxious. A certain electricity sparked in the atmosphere around them as they began the journey to their new lives.
“Wait!” Violet’s voice trembled a little as she spoke. “What about Carolina? We can’t just leave her.” Carrie shut her eyes and cursed Violet silently. Carolina was a friend of Violet’s, someone she knew through work. She was seven and a half months pregnant and her husband was, well to put it frankly, he was a bastard. Carrie knew for well that Michael beat Carolina on a regular basis, she also knew that the child that Carolina now bore had been the result of a violent rape. She knew that Carolina lived in constant fear and she knew she couldn’t just leave her here. She was also painfully aware though that Michael was the last person on earth that she wanted on the boat with them but there was no way his wife would ever agree to leave him. Her loyalty to him was her greatest downfall and now maybe the downfall of Carrie and the others.
“Shit.” Carrie mumbled under her breath.
“Who’s Carolina?” asked Peter with curiosity. His eyes fixed on Carrie and she noted how they looked like pools of liquid chocolate. Suddenly she felt naked under his gaze. It was as if he was reading her mind, stripping away the protective layers that she had built and looking right into her soul. She could feel him judging her for her lack of compassion. She wrapped her arms around her chest self-consciously as if it might stop him from peering into her hardened heart.
“Carrie, she’s pregnant. We can’t leave her.” Violet’s voice was firmer now. She had made up her mind.
“I know that Violet, by God don’t you think I don’t know that, but what about Michael?” Carrie turned her attention to Violet and ignored Peter.
“Who the hell is Michael?” demanded Peter. Still no one acknowledged him.
“We can handle him. We can. It’s him or the gangs but we are not leaving without her. Think of the baby Carrie!’ Carrie felt herself relent. She knew Violet was right, there was no way she could live with herself if she knew she had left someone as vulnerable as Carolina behind in this hell hole. At least if they were all on a boat together they might be able to control the violence she lived with every day.
“Come on then let’s go get her.” There was more than a hint of defeat in her voice. Peter stepped forward and his muscular frame filled the doorway.
“Who is Michael and why do we need to handle him? Don’t make me ask again!” his voice was quiet but it was laced with poison.
“He’s Carolina’s husband and he is a violent asshole. There, happy now?” Carrie spat back. She didn’t like being intimidated by anyone and Peter was the last person she was going to tolerate it from. “Now we don’t have time for this so get out my fucking way and let’s go.” She slung a bag over her shoulder and pushed past him, her shoulder catching his chest dead centre and knocking him off balance.
“Charming friends you’ve got.” He muttered to Violet as he turned to follow Carrie.
The small party made their way through the overgrown garden towards the alley that ran along the back of the section. Great thistles clawed at their legs and the dry grass tickled as they walked. They jumped the little creaky gate that had been claimed by the sticky weed that know bound it in place.
Carrie nodded her head towards the East and placed a finger on her lips. She knew only too well of the dangers out here and she knew that with Violet and Charlotte in tow they became all the more vulnerable. Charlotte was the sort of easy prey that the gangs loved. Pretty, young and not overly streetwise. In a twisted sort of way Carrie was glad that Peter was with them. At least this way if they ran into trouble Carrie had some back up.
They headed down the dark alleyway and into the open street. This was where things got dicey. They were exposed and for a change the sky was against them. The clouds had momentarily thinned and the sun strained to break through. Recently, since the virus, the skies had remained forever overcast and gloomy. How a virus could create this effect Carrie didn’t know but it did seem to have impacted on the weather. Either that or the weather was mimicking her emotions.
She turned and headed north through the abandoned streets, rats sprinted across the road in front of them. A crashing sound echoed off the walls in a building to the left of them and she dived into an open garage where she pressed herself up against the cold walls, hidden by the shadows. The others followed suit. Silently they watched and waited. Finally the culprit of the sound emerged. It was just a stray cat. All cats were strays now. Well all the ones that had survived.
They collectively let out a sigh of relief and continued on their treacherous journey. Two blocks down they turned into a section with a long driveway. The houses on either side were long since abandoned and the red crosses that symbolised death could be plainly seen on all the surrounding buildings. The driveway was cracked and uneven and Charlotte stumbled as she jogged up it. Peter caught her elbow and steadied her.
“Thanks,” she whispered with a weak smile as the reality of the situation had begun to sink in.
At the end of the driveway sat a little old house. It had been fairly run down before the virus but now it was close to a wreck. The guttering hung loose and the paint had chipped off the wooden panelling a long time ago. The garden was a dry desolate patch of brown and several rusty old cars sat in one corner. Peter gave Carrie a dubious look as if he suddenly understood her previous trepidation. She returned his look with a smile and a roll of the eyes that said ‘yeah tell me about it’.
Violet rushed forward and banged on the shaky old door.
“Violet get back!” shouted Peter. Anyone who had an ounce of knowledge about how things worked in this new and scary world knew that every household had a secret knock, a signal that you were friend not foe. It was a defence mechanism against the gangs.
Violet turned and gave him a surprised look as he charged forward and rammed straight into her. They slammed into the wall where he stayed pressed against her, head down. The sound of gun fire erupted from the house and bullets began to fly past them as they all dove for cover. Carrie pulled Charlotte down hard and sheltered her with her body.
“Stop Michael its Carrie and Violet! Michael stop!” a bullet whistled past her head as she shouted. Then the gunfire ceased. The door creaked slowly open and Michael strode out, his muscular frame casting a shadow across the driveway. He stood with his thick tattooed arms folded across a black tee shirt which strained against his rippling chest muscles. His black board shorts revealed heavily defined leg muscles. Everything about him screamed intimidation and bad ass.
“What the fuck you think you’re doing? You tryin’ to get killed? What the hell you want anyway?” his dark eyes glowered at them, an inner hatred boiled deep inside. Michael was truly a hateful man; it was obvious to anyone who met him. He was model handsome, with a beautiful physique and dark hair, but the danger was evident.
“We’re…we’re getting away. We’ve got a safe place to go,” stuttered violet as peter eased off her. Her nerves were getting the better of her. She looked everywhere but at Michael.
“What the fuck that got to do with me?” demanded Michael.
“We…well we…we want you and Carolina to come with us.”
“No.” he started to shut the door. Carrie stepped forward and jammed her foot in the door.
“Don’t be a dick. Carolina needs a safe place to give birth.”
“Ain’t nothing to do with you bitch.” He fired back.
“Um yeah I think you’ll find it is. Her welfare and the welfare of that baby are my concern because she is my friend. Now if you give a damn about your unborn child you will stop being a prick and come with us.” Carrie stood her ground. Any doubt she had had before was washed away and the stubborn part of her took over. She was determined to show this asshole of a man who was boss.
“Oi Carolina!” barked Michael. “Get here you stupid cow. You got visitors.”
A scared and meek figure appeared at the door, her swollen belly leading the way. Dressed in a large flowery blue housedress, which did nothing to flatter her growing figure, she pressed close behind Michael, anxious to please her husband. Her hair fell in gorgeous honey coloured ringlets around her cubby pregnant face and her skin glowed with that marvellous pregnant shine. Her eyes gave her away though. They were distant and twitchy, jumping from one face to another in a search for answers, wordlessly begging them not to upset Michael who was looking dark and furious.
“Hi,” she whispered in a meek voice. “What are you doing here?” Her eyes jumped to Michael looking for a clue and at the same time asking for permission to speak. He gave a curt nod of the head.
“They want us to go away with them.” He answered for them. Carrie, not one to be spoken for, chipped in,
“We’ve got a safe place. A boat. Away from the gangs. Somewhere you can bring that little one into the world without the fear of the gangs getting them. Come with us?”
Carolina knew she couldn’t answer, this wasn’t her decision. It was Michael’s choice as to what they did. She would follow him where ever he went. He may be a nasty piece of work but she loved him and she knew that he was capable of great kindness and generosity. It hadn’t always been like this. No back in the beginning he had been the nicest, sweetest man she’d ever met. It had been two full years before he had lifted a finger to her. She knew this violent man he had become wasn’t the real him. It was the result of bad circumstances. It had only started after he lost his job. He had been made redundant ten years ago and that was when it had started. She knew deep down that if she tried hard enough, if she loved him hard enough then the real Michael would come back to her. He was only nasty to her when she had done wrong anyway, when she had upset him. Like when she had burnt his dinner this evening. She had deserved that slap. She should have been more careful. She should have paid more attention. She knew he only hit her for her own good. She was useless and didn’t pay enough attention and she needed to learn.
Carrie could see Michael weighing up his options. She could almost see the cogs turning. After what seemed like an eternity he let his eyes settle on Charlotte, a cruel sneer creeping across his face. Violet shivered involuntarily and felt herself start to tremble. No way was she letting that man anywhere near her daughter. Maybe Carrie had been right in the first place; maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“Alright we’re in.” he said. A small smile crept across Carolina’s face and her eyes filled with relief.
“Charlotte, go with Carolina and your mum and help pack a couple of bags.” Carrie’s gaze remained firmly fixed on Michael who now turned to face her. Charlotte and Violet scurried into the house with Carolina.
Peter stood back a little, watching Carrie, waiting for her to pounce. He had seen the way Michael looked at charlotte too and knew that Carrie was about to deliver a firm warning. He might not be her biggest fan but in this instance he most certainly had her back. For once they were fighting for the same cause.
“Ok I’m glad you are coming with us but here are a few ground rules which will be obeyed. You never ever go within six feet of Charlotte, got it? You do not hit Carolina or anyone else, understand? These are rules which are not to be broken or I will personally throw you overboard. Do we understand each other?” her warning was issued in a quiet menacing voice, quiet enough that the others wouldn’t hear, menacing enough that he would know she was deadly serious.
Michael puffed out his chest and flexed his muscles. His evil eyes pierced deep into Carrie’s soul and sent shivered down her spine. Peter stepped forward to send the message that Carrie was not alone and these were indeed the rules.
Michael saw that he was outnumbered and relaxed his stance.
“Yeah I got it. Wouldn’t touch that little slut with a barge pole anyway.” He muttered before turning and walking back into the house to oversee the packing.
Ten minutes later and the party of six were ready. The journey was considerably slower now that Carolina was with them. Her pregnant waddle caused a massive drop in speed particularly when they reached the Northern Hill. Not so long ago it had been a great place, a steep hill lined with lively cafés and quaint shops. People from miles around had flocked here for the friendly atmosphere and novel establishments. All that was left of these good times was the rubbish strewn on the ground and the buildings themselves which now sat empty and desolate, looking sorrowful and lonely.
“We’re heading into gang territory.” Peter whispered to Carrie.
“I know but there is no way round it. The gangs have pretty much surrounded the port. Whichever way we go we have to cross through.’ Her voice was grave and her expression showed that she fully understood the gravity of the situation. The port, rather unfortunately, sat flush against the harbour wall. This meant that if the port was guarded then so was the harbour. The gangs posted lookouts every few metres around their boundaries and all of those look outs carried guns. To get through they were going to have to be smart and quick. Very quick.
Night was beginning to fall which was a blessing. The darkness would make their encroachment onto enemy territory much easier. Carrie glanced over her shoulder at Carolina and lowered her voice a little more,
“We’re going to need a distraction. I am going to lead the guards away. Trust me they will chase me. While they are after me you slip the others through and head to the harbour. Down West Port Lane and onto Harbour Road is the quickest route. I’ll meet you there in half hour.”
“Maybe I should do it?” Peter felt that he should at least offer himself as the decoy. He didn’t want to go up against the gangs in their own territory but he also wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of being responsible for a teenager girl and a pregnant woman.
“No. I know these roads like the back of my hand. And I know the gangs. You go straight to the port and look for the boat. She’s called Marybelle. She’s an eighty foot white catamaran with a blue and gold band running around her. Frank will meet you there. Knock three times on her hull and he will come get you.”
“Ok but if you aren’t there in thirty minutes then we’re going without you.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” she muttered. They slowed as they neared the border and peter ushered the small group into a disused warehouse where he explained the plan. The three women were horrified to learn of Carrie’s potential sacrifice but Michael’s eyes twinkled at the thought of her death.
“Carrie no!” shrieked Violet. “You can’t! We need you.” Peter quickly wrapped his arms around her and whispered soothing words into her hair.
“Violet I have to. It’s the only way. Trust me; you’ll see me real soon ok?” Carrie did her best to sound convincing although she wasn’t feeling all that confident about her upcoming mission. If anyone was going to survive it though it would be her. She was easily the most streetwise among them.
Violet nodded although she clearly wasn’t convinced. She held back the tears that threaten to break forth for the sake of her daughter.
Not wanting to hang around for a bunch of painful goodbyes Carrie slipped quietly back out of the door and into the dragons den.
The others waited patiently until they heard the signal. Nobody really knew what the signal would be yet but they knew there would be one. Suddenly the sound of dogs and shouting erupted outside, gunfire joined the cacophony. Every person in that warehouse held their breath as they listened. The sound of footsteps added to the discord of noise then started to move away. Within a minute the sounds were barely audible and peter knew the time had come.
“Right let’s move out,” he barked. They all ran as fast as they could towards the port, sticking to the shadows and keeping their wits about them.
Carolina lagged behind and Michael lost his temper. In a fit of rage he grabbed her by the arm and yanked it hard, she gave a small yell as pain ripped through her arm.
“Keep up you silly cow. You’re gonna get us all killed!” his voice was a low growl and the menace was clear.
“Hey knock it off. You were warned buddy,” Peter hissed from the shadows. “Keep on moving. I’ll take care of Carolina.” He dropped back and offered his arm to steady her. She smiled gratefully at him. At least from the back he could keep an eye on everyone. From the front he was blind to the actions of his comrades behind him.
They moved silently and steadily towards their target. The harbour was almost in sight. This was where the danger grew ever more present as Peter knew that the gangs had the ports and harbours locked down tight. They halted on the corner of the aptly named Harbour Road and crouched in the shadows, vigilantly looking for any signs of danger. Movement in an upstairs window of a nearby building caught Peter’s eye and he signalled to the others to standby. The guard moved away to check another point of the building and he waved them on. One more stretch and they were home free.
Sprinting across the road they once again headed for the safety of the shadows. Even Carolina managed a full speed sprint and reached the other side in time with the others. Here they found themselves lost in a maze of huge shipping containers and vast warehouses. Navigating their way in the general direction of the harbour they travelled in a soundless bubble, ever watching for the look outs that were stationed everywhere. They made it to the harbour without incident where they quickly located the Marybelle.
She was a beauty alright. A sleek white goddess of around eighty feet with stunning lines and grace. Peter could see even in the dark that she was a beauty of a catamaran. A light flicked from somewhere deep within her bowel. There was no gang plank that the others could see. Peter did as Carrie had instructed him to and rapped sharply on the closest hull three times in quick succession. Then there was nothing left to do but wait patiently in the shadows until they were allowed access. Five minutes later and a dark figure appeared on deck. A gang plank was quickly and efficiently deployed and Peter began to usher the others on board, woman first. He glanced nervously at his watch. Twenty eight minutes had passed since Carrie had separated from them and while he may not be her biggest fan it was her that offered them all this escape in the first place. He certainly hoped that she would not pay the ultimate price for their freedom.
Where the hell was she?
Where indeed was Carrie? After she had left the others in the warehouse she had snuck along the boundary line about 100 yards. Then she had put her plan into place. Picking up a large stone she had observed her enemies and made a judgement. This one call could either lead to her freedom or her death. She timed it beautifully and made her move.
She threw the stone as hard as she could to her right, hitting a metal trash can. The stillness of the air was instantly interrupted by the bone chilling sound of barking and shouting. She darted to her left hoping to get a head start as they searched for a non-existent foe to the right. She made it about fifty yards before she was spotted and the gunfire started. Bullets whistled through the air slamming into walls, windows shattered and doors splintered.
She weaved in and out of buildings, raced down alleyways and dodged bullets from every direction. She knew exactly where she was heading, the creek just off to the west would aid her in her attempt to lose the dogs. They were following her scent like a pack of blood hounds and unless she could lose them she was as good as dead.
Making it to the creek she slid down the slippery, muddy bank, caking herself in the clay like mud. They must surely know she was heading towards the port? That was where they kept their supplies and they would no doubt assume that that was what she was after. Taking this into consideration she headed south. They would, without question head north acting on the assumption that she was heading to the port. If she could out think them then she stood a good chance at survival.
She crept through the water for some distance until the sound of barking had become little more than a distant echo. She scrambled from the creek, struggling for grip in the slimy mud and tumbled onto the grass at the top of the bank. Then she looped round, sticking to the shadows in a familiar pattern, weaving in and out of streets, never heading in a straight line. She checked her time as she neared the port. Twenty nine minutes. Crap she was cutting it fine. She darted across the street without too much caution as the knowledge that she was almost out of time consumed her, only to find herself under fire once again as an alert sentry spotted her. She dived for the cover of the containers, scraping her elbow on the hard concrete. Picking herself up she darted towards the harbour and away from the sound of pursuing footsteps.
Finally she saw it. There in front of her, bobbing peacefully on the dark and glistening sea sat the Marybelle. Peter and Michael stood on deck and were in the process of pulling in the gang plank. A sudden bout of panic seized her at the sight and she lunged forward shouting,
“Stop! I’m here! Wait!”
Peter heard her and at once began to lower the gang plank. The sound of footsteps burst out from the maze of containers behind her and a voice yelled,
“Oi you stop! Stop them! They’re getting away!”
The sound of this gruff shout spurred Carrie on and adrenaline coursed through her veins, her blood hammering in her ears in a most deafening manner. Her heart felt as if it would burst free of her chest at any moment.
On hearing the shouts of the enemy Michael at once began to pull the gang plank back up, struggling with Peter for control. The two men shouted wildly at one another and pushed and shoved in an attempt to gain control of the precious gang plank. The sound of the yachts engines screamed to life over the already present racket as everyone yelled and screamed. The man who had allowed them access bellowed to the others to untie the tethers that held the Marybelle ashore. They followed orders and the ropes fell into the vast ocean below, instantly the great yacht began to turn seaward.
Carrie leaped at the gang plank just at the Marybelle began to move. She clung on for dear life. Michael managed to overpower Peter with an almighty shove that sent his scrawling across the deck. He pulled something from his pocket as Carrie clawed her way up the gang plank to safety. The object glinted in the light of the boats control room which was now fully lit. The shining blade edged closer to Carrie as she hung to the gang plank which was now being pulled back in.
“You nearly killed us bitch.” Seeing the evil that flashed in his eyes, Carrie’s blood ran cold. She hadn’t survived all that just to die now at the hands of this maniac. As he edged closed she took a deep breath and tried to remember everything her father had ever taught her. The blade plunged forward, aimed at her throat, but Carrie was faster and her hand shot out like lightening. Before Michael knew what had happened, he was flat on his back on the deck of the Marybelle with Carrie on top of him, the knife now pushed against this neck.
“Try that again asshole and I will kill you. Don’t ever doubt that,” she hissed through gritted teeth. “Oh and by the way, I’m keeping this,” she said as she stood up and juggled the knife from one hand to the other.
“You alright?” asked peter with genuine concern as he recovered from the series of events that had just unravelled. He was beginning to see a new side to Carrie and while he still didn’t like her he was starting to respect her. She was definitely someone he wanted on his team.
“Yeah just peachy thanks.”
Without warning Peter turned and threw all his weight into a punch that landed dead centre in Michael’s face. The sound of splintering bone could be heard clearly and blood began to gush from Michael’s nose. Michael staggered backward clutching his broken nose.
“Enough!” boomed a commanding voice behind them. “Carrie, so glad you could make it.”
“It’s good to see you too Frank. It was touch and go there for a while but I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” She grinned back as she embraced the grey haired man in a tight bear hug. “Frank this is Peter, Violet, Charlotte, Carolina and, well this sorry excuse for a human being is Michael. Carolina’s husband.”
Carolina flushed and hung her head in shame. She always felt ashamed and embarrassed when Michael caused a scene with one of his outbursts and she knew that in some way she must be to blame. She would find out soon enough what she had done. He would be sure to tell her where she had gone wrong and would punish her for it so that she may learn from her mistake and not cause him this much trouble again.
Just then a silver headed lady with cropped hair and a jolly figure and a kindly face stepped out of the control room to join them on deck.
“Nice to meet you all. I am Frank and I will be your captain for the foreseeable future. This is my wife Lynette.” His voice had a playful aspect to it as he smiled round at the little group. When his eyes reached Michael his expression changed and he at once took on a grave and serious tone, “young man there will be no more behaviour of that sort on board my ship. If we are to survive what lies ahead then we must all work together as a team and all do our bit. This is in no way, shape or form the easy way out. Sailing can be a hardship at the best of times and it will test even the most patient of us so there is no room for unnecessary aggression. It is a perilous and challenging trip that we are embarking upon and we need to know that your temper is under control. Do you understand me?”
Michael, who was still clutching his broken nose, nodded sullenly. He didn’t like being told what to do by anyone but right now he was well and truly outnumbered which left his options limited. His ego had also taken a serious battering when Carrie had showed him up in front of everyone by beating him hands down which wasn’t helping the situation. Still he knew where to find the people who had wronged him. It wasn’t like they could go anywhere now they were aboard the Marybelle. They were like fish in a barrel and he could take his time to plan his revenge. He turned away from them all and stared out over the vast ocean ahead of them. Leaning on the rail he contemplated his next move in a moody silence, still clutching his nose as the blood continued to flow. Carolina came to his aid with a rag that she had packed. She held it firmly against his face and hooked an arm around his back.
“So how’d you get here anyway Frank? Those guys didn’t seem to know there was anyone on the boat,” asked Carrie.
“Skuba gear my dear. We boarded from the other side. No way we could ever outrun them.” Frank winked at her.
“Why didn’t we think of that? Would have been a damn site easier,” muttered Peter.
“Oh yeah because we all know how to scuba dive don’t we Peter? Oh and I’m sure Carolina would have found it so easy.” Carrie didn’t even attempt to disguise the sarcasm in her voice.
“Oh get off your high horse would you. I was just saying.”
“It’s been a long day and we are all tired. Why don’t I show you around?” Lynette interrupted.
With a glowing, friendly smile she led everyone where their quarters were before taking them on a grand tour of the boat. Belonging were gathered up and Violet, Charlotte, Carolina and Peter followed their gracious hostess. Carrie hung back until Frank had retreated once again to the control room.
Creeping up behind Michael she kept her voice low and her body in a defensive position,
“I’m only going to say this once so you’d better fucking listen. The only reason you are here is because of Carolina. Nobody wants you on board this ship. Try anything like that again and I will not hesitate to throw you overboard. Now I hope we are clear because there will be no more warnings.” And with that she turned on her heel, head held high and caught up with the others on their grand tour of their new abode.