‘This has got to be a wind-up.’
‘You’ve said that three times now, Gary.’
He pointed to the BMW’s wing, to the metal crumpled like tissue, the blistered silver paint, the broken glass shimmering like a clumsy toddler had overturned the biggest pot of glitter on the road. He pointed to the dangling wing mirror, mouth stoppered by despair.
Sian smiled. ‘We’ve been struck by mutism now, have we? It’s a big improvement.’
She’d never liked the Roadster. The day he bought it there’d been snide comments – what a sport’s car said about his manhood. The remarks had got worse – more pointed – when she moved in, when they’d got engaged, as they planned the wedding. Eventually even his mum had said something. You can’t get a baby seat in that thing. He’d refused to trade it in. Why should he? In it he was Gary, Master of the A40. He wasn’t just another pleb driving a Vauxhall or a Ford. He was himself. He wasn’t giving that up for anyone.
Now his lovely girl had been massacred, dismembered, her shattered skeleton laid bare outside the Post Office. He could weep.
‘Ah, look at her,’ said Sian.
‘I know,’ sniffed Gary. ‘I’d only just bought those alloys.’
She punched his arm. It really hurt, though he managed to stop himself from crying out.
‘Not that thing,’ said Sian. ‘That poor lady.’
Across the road the killer sat on a stretcher, neck brace round her scrawny throat. Not tight enough, thought Gary.
‘She looks really shaken up,’ said Sian, using the voice she reserved for kittens and babies. ‘We should go and see if she’s okay.’
Gary’s chin almost hit his chest. ‘You want me to talk to that stupid old cow?’
‘Be nice. You weren’t even in the car at the time. No one was hurt.’
‘She destroyed my car.’
‘People are more important than things.’
Gary looked across at the old woman, at her drooping cardigan, the varicose veins popping from her calves like purple rope. He remembered how he felt the first day he took the Roadster out for a spin, the wind in his hair, the growl of the engine, how everyone had turned to watch. People vs Things. An easy choice.
‘Well, I’m going to see how she is.’
As Sian talked to the old lady, he knew what he was watching – the end of his old life. Now they’d buy a new car. Something practical. Something with a boot big enough to fit a pushchair and a week’s shopping in. He felt his eyes well, turned away, not wanting the ambulance crew to see him cry.
If he’d watched for a moment longer, he’d have seen Sian plant a kiss on the old lady’s cheek. If he’d been able to lip read, he would have seen his future wife mouth