Rickmansworth School was at a busy junction on Scott’s Hill. Situated opposite a public house called The Sportsman with a traditional small, seated bus-stop close, by a side road. The roundabout on the junction was busy with lunchtime traffic.
Sarah sat in the pub watching the drivers dash across it. Originally she’d parked at the back of the pub. With plenty of time she’d also stopped by the window of the jewellery store opposite the school and had a browse. She watched as the children hurriedly left through the school gates, gathering on the pavements and roads outside.
At the end of January, it had been cold. Sarah had felt pangs of guilt as she ate in the warmth of the pub; watching the children huddle together on the pavement, sharing chips out of newspaper. After her lunch she’d walked down the hill into Rickmansworth village and posted off some letters for work, including Simon’s appointment letter.
Walking back, returning to the pub, she’d ordered a barcadi and coke before settling down at the window seat, watching the parents driving into the tiny car park to collect their precious ones at the end of the school day.
Now, a month later and bitterly cold she turned the engine on to get the heater going. The car was lovely. The windscreen steamed up. When she’d picked up the silver GT86 from south London earlier in the day, it had felt special. Delighted by it’s handling, and being a new driver, she’d taken hours to get to know it.
Sarah loved being a driver. She’d done a ten-day course at a residential driving school and entered for her driving test the next week. Having a car wasn’t really an option when you lived in the city and her flat didn’t come with a parking space.
Telling the hiring store that the car was for a treat for herself for graduation and passing her test, had been the absolute truth. The store owner tried not to look too worried as he watched the newly qualified driver confidently pull the car out of the garage.
The drive across London bridge inspired her. She glanced down the Thames as she drove over the ancient roads and saw the shimmery water bend away continuing its journey across London and out to sea. Driving up through London wasn’t a fast drive but today it had been enjoyable. She’d avoided the rush hour, taken her time and felt familiar with the car.
As she got close to her destination Sarah pulled over and synced the car with her phone. She entered Kevin Hargreaves details and Jane Dunwoody’s from her notes but changed the numbers by one digit. Sarah checked the numbers by calling, both were saying the number was unavailable.
Sarah set the clock and date on the new cheap pay-as-you-go phone. Putting Kevin’s correct number in the burner she gave it a quick call, waited for him to answer and then hung up. She took a moment to input data into the car’s digital screen and store some radio channels.
As it approached 2pm Sarah moved the car into the school carpark. At 2 O’clock the school bell rang, and children started coming out of the school from every side, spilling through the old wooden school gates.
Searching through the bobbing heads coming towards her, she soon spotted Simon’s blond hair, his face turned downwards, reading something on his phone. She got out of the car and walked over to him. Mindful not to look up, CCTV being on, keeping her scarf wrapped around her face she grabbed his arm.
Simon, shocked at sudden the contact, jumped up and withdrew his arm, pulling back he looked at her face intensely before recognizing her and saying,
“Doctor!! Oh man, what you are doing here?”
Sarah, expecting exactly this question, threw her head back and laughed loudly, showing all her teeth. She was hoping her open-mouthed display would lead him to believe she’d nothing to hide. Gesturing towards the hired Toyota GT86, she firmly took his arm again, saying,
“Your Dad sent me, it’s your last follow up appointment and you’re due a TB vaccine, I think. There is a copy of the letter in the car. Anyhow, he tells me that he’s busy, it’s at 2.45pm and he asked for you to be collected to and from your appointment. How is the leg holding up?” Sarah smiled before continuing with, “You sure jump well on it.”
Sarah winked, as she led him by his arm around to the passenger side and opened the door. Simon hesitated briefly before throwing his bag into the footwell and getting in himself. A letter from the hospital was on the dashboard. If he looked, it would confirm his appointment today.
Simon had not seen Dr Cacroft since last year when he’d been discharged from hospital. No one had told him she was picking him up. This was Jane’s car. What was his father thinking? Yeah, he was in Dr Cacroft’s brotherhood and she’d helped him out often, but they hadn’t spoken. They weren’t friends.
Seeing the GT86 clean was strange, none of Jane’s make-up or fast-food rubbish was around. Sarah hadn’t mentioned knowing his Dad outside of the hospital, Simon hadn’t realised they were on personal terms. However, with his Dad anything was possible.
Simon glanced around to see if any of his friends could see him. He thought that if Jane had been there, he may have gained more attention. Jane was unmissable and being an ex-student always knew someone cool when she was picking him up.
He looked at her, all wrapped up, getting into the driver’s seat next to him, Dr Cacroft was nice but older, she could’ve have been his mum. Her clothes were more stylish than his mums.
“So, what’s his excuse?” Simon asked. Then added, sulkily, “I assume this means Dad’s not going to help with my school project?”
Sarah started the engine and pulled out of the school onto Rickmansworth Road and could see Simon looking around the car. He continued firmly,
“Dad is supposed to be here, at home, this weekend.”
Sarah looked over at the boy next to her. He’d grown but was still unmistakably Kevin’s boy. He was about to turn thirteen.
“Well, your Dad works hard Simon.” She said, watching him physically slump at what she was hoping was with the repetitive weight of her cliched words.
“He wants us to take you for your vaccine then to keep an eye on you for the afternoon and evening. There was mention of the weekend, but he hasn’t confirmed that. I’m not going to judge him. I’ll leave that to you.”
She selected Kevin Hargreaves on the car’s digital screen and tried to make the call from the steering wheel. The call couldn’t be placed, and an error message showed. Sarah shook her head and looked at Simon with wide eyes.
“It’s not working!” and then “blimey, I hate these things.”
“Jane is always making a call. Never off the phone.” He said, mumbling.
“Oh, really?” Said Sarah and then, “I did speak to your Dad before getting here. He mentioned nothing about a school project. Do you think he could have forgotten?”
She drew a deep, audible breath in and paused for effect, before continuing with,
“Your Dad thought you’d be happy to come to Brighton with me for the evening after your injection. I’m happy to keep an eye on you. He only told me this morning; I would have dropped you a message, online, yesterday or before if I’d known. He did tell me to call him if there were any problems though.”
Sarah reached behind Simon and pulled her handbag onto her lap. She searched around inside with one hand, keeping another on the steering wheel weaving dangerously through the traffic,
“I know my phone is in here somewhere.”
“It’s fine Doc. I’d rather leave it. I don’t want to make him pissed at me. Let’s get this jab over with. Will it hurt?” Simon asked. Sarah laughed.
Sarah dropped Simon in the waiting room, and told him where to find her when he was done. He found her picking up Ground Rush resources on the work computer. Offering Simon the use of the spare PC, they unplugged the phone so it could be hooked up to the internet and sat side by side playing.
Friday afternoon was the administrator’s early finishing day – to get ahead of the London traffic. With no one to disturbed them, it was thirty minutes before Sarah checked her phone and said they ought to get going. By 4pm they were back in the car and on the road to Brighton.
They stopped at a service station where Sarah filled the car and gave Simon cash to pay in the kiosk and get something for himself. When he was in the garage she went through his bag and found his phone. Taking out the sim card, Sarah used a tiny diamond file to scrape the contact and put it all back together in his bag as she found it.
Simon returned to the car with fruit pastels, chocolate, crisps and an energy drink.
“Wow – that is too much sugar Simon”. She said,
“And feel free to choose what you want on the sound system hun,” before excusing herself and visiting the bathroom.
Once secure behind the cubicle door, Sarah took out the phone she’d set up earlier. She sent a short text message to Kevin. Then she removed the battery and returned to the car.
Sarah and Simon were laughing together at the radio and chewing Haribos as they pulled away from the garage. When she joined the traffic on the M25 southbound towards the Sussex coast Sarah felt more excitement than she thought possible.
copyright 2022 sam J harris
All characters and interactions are ficitonal.
This is chapter 8 of Revenge is Best Served Cold being published on Mondays. There are thirteen chapters. Revenge is Best Served Cold is the first book in the Snap trilogy by sam J harris.