‘Greyhound four to trap six; Greyhound four to trap six’
There was an air of desperation in the voice now, mixed in with the sound of a throat too dry from talking. Brannigan adjusted the dial on the radio again and leant into the small microphone as if this would make any difference, ‘Greyhound four to trap six’ he repeated, ‘Come in please’
From his place on the mattress Templar opened his eyes and gave up trying to sleep for the moment, ‘You’d better turn that thing off’ he said, sounding wearier than he had when he’d put his head down on the pillow two hours previously, ‘The battery will be running low…besides, in this weather there’s little chance of a signal.’
Somewhat reluctantly Brannigan turned off the radio and briefly opened the flap of the tent to look outside. The flash of cold air into the reasonably warm environment made Templar shiver and scowl, but for the moment he said nothing; knowing that any rebuke he could offer would only serve to unnerve the younger man even more.
Brannigan slammed a fist against the radio, causing it to rock slightly, ‘Bloody useless thing,’ he muttered, before pausing and shooting Templar a hopeful look, ‘I thought I heard a voice not that long ago…’ he trailed off. Templar nodded in agreement, ‘You could be right’ he said, not adding what they were both thinking – that the voice might have been Fisher, or one of his men. Unless the bad weather had turned them back, and that was extremely unlikely considering the lengths they had gone to so far, they were still out there somewhere.
Templar sat up, watching his head on the narrow roof as he did so. He scratched his beard for a while and wished for a razor. When none appeared he pulled on some boots over his socks, ‘Is she still working at it?’ he asked, gesturing towards the plane
‘Who?’ Brannigan asked sarcastically, ‘The bitch queen from hell?’
Templar shook his head, ‘Now now,’ he said soothingly, ‘I know Claire can be a pain in the arse…’ he paused whilst Brannigan muttered a quick ‘You can say that again’ and continued, ‘But she’s had to put up with a lot in her time.’ Now it was Templar’s turn to open the flap and let in the cold wind. From the doorway he could just about see the dim light from the plane through the dark night and the blustering snow, ‘Still…’ he added, ‘She really should be getting back inside the tent before much longer’ He pulled himself towards the doorway, pulling his jacket back on over his clothes and made to move outside.
‘Will they be looking for us yet?’ Brannigan’s voice made him pause and look back into a pair of almost childlike eyes, ‘Base camp, I mean’
Templar regarded the man for a long moment, his mind running through the options. Three days without contact, bad weather almost all the way: yes they would be looking for them…assuming there was still anyone there to look. Finally Templar laid a reassuring hand on Brannigan’s arm and offered a smile before heading back out into the cold.
McKenzie barely looked up as the snow-clad figure burst into the cold interior of the plane, ‘Come to drag me back into the warmth have you?’ she muttered
‘If I have to’ Templar nodded, ‘If you stay out here much longer even your blood will freeze…and then who will pay me?’
McKenzie laughed at this and stood up, throwing a small object into his hands, ‘Take a look at this’
Templar regarded the small crucifix, turning it over thoughtfully and letting his fingers caress the delicate chain. It was gold, or gold plated – he was no expert, and engraved with a set of initials, ‘O.P.’ he muttered, exchanging a look with McKenzie, who was beaming with success, ‘We’re on the right lines Charles’ she said, ‘Oliver Postgate was here’
Templar nodded, ‘Aye, thirty or forty years ago he was here’ he shook his head, ‘but that doesn’t mean the artefacts are still here…or that we’ll ever find them if they’re not’
‘No’ McKenzie replied, her smile fading back into her familiar frown, ‘but it’s a start…’ She trailed off and waved at the crucifix, as if expecting some further action, ‘Well then Father, aren’t you going to put that on? Your background is, after all, the main reason I selected you’
Templar regarded the small cross ruefully and allowed the chain to slip over his neck. When he looked up again it was as if the small item were the weight of a tombstone, ‘It’s a long time since anyone called me Father’ he said quietly.
There was an uncomfortable pause. Uncomfortable, that is, apart from McKenzie who seemed not to notice that she had overstepped the mark, ‘So then’ she continued, pressing her luck, ‘why did you leave the church?’
Templar’s eyes turned a colder shade of grey and for a moment she thought he was simply going to ignore the question. He clutched the cross in his hands and sat down wearily, ‘I always knew, even as a kid, that the Bible was little more than words and paper’ he spoke slowly, as if trying to find the right words – or as if he was unsure that what he was saying was really what he felt, ‘Don’t get me wrong – the meaning behind the words still meant a lot to me; but the words themselves’ he shook his head and looked hard at her, making her shiver, ‘Are you religious?’ he asked
McKenzie shook her head, ‘My parents were both Catholics, but I’m strictly agnostic’
Templar grinned, ‘Aye, those four hour sermons can really make you question your commitment to anything…’ he laughed bitterly, ‘Anyway: whether you believe that the bible is the word of God or not, you have to accept that it was written down by the hand of man – and we all know how much man likes to twist words to his own meaning’
‘So you had a crisis of faith?’ McKenzie asked, uncertain where this was leading
Templar shook his head, ‘Just the opposite, Claire’ he paused, ‘God said that he refused to prove that he existed because faith defies proof and without faith he was nothing…But what if a man had seen proof that God, Satan…all the rest of it was true.’ He paused and shook his head ‘That would be a terrible thing Claire’ he said, ‘a terrible thing indeed.’
McKenzie frowned, still confused and wanting to question him further – however, she never got the chance as Brannigan came crashing through the doorway, almost out of breath, ‘Snowmobiles’ he gasped, ‘At least four of them…coming our way quickly’
The three of them moved as one towards the doorway and watched as the pinpricks of light grew steadily into full-beam floodlights that made it impossible to see anything other than silhouettes. As the vehicles came closer the noise of the engines rose: competing with the noise of the wind for attention.
Finally the vehicles pulled to a stop about fifteen feet away from the plane. With engines still roaring and lights still turning night into a shadowy day one of the riders dismounted and stepped towards them.
‘Well well’ Fisher said grimly, cocking the shotgun and pointing its nozzle in their direction, ‘And here it is way past all your bedtimes’
To be continued…
Author’s note: I’ve actually been thinking about passages in this section for a few days before I had the nerve to write them down – almost like I could hear the characters speaking to me.
Actually I was also thinking about a recent posting by Honour (The Art Of Practice: http://honourartofpractice.blogspot.com/2008/12/blogging.html) – her poem about how characters may spring from you and your beliefs, but are not actually you…although I recognise parts of myself in all of them – particularly in the passages about religion (although I have yet to see any proof either way and wouldn’t want to!)
Additionally boring facts: the call-sign Greyhound/Trap is not original to this author and owes its origins to a popular British Sci-Fi series – it is included here for my personal amusement
The character of a priest who is something more/less than a priest is one that I’ve been toying with for a while and something I may well come back to in the future. If you ever read a novel in the future where one of the main characters is a priest, or preacher, called Lomax then you’ll know it was by me…(unless one of you nicks the name!)
Finally the character of Oliver Postgate (who was mentioned fleetingly as having been on the plane when it crashed) is so named for the Children’s TV creator who brought the children of the UK such classics as Noggin The Nog, Ivor The Engine, Bagpuss and The Clangers. Oliver died on Wednesday – but his creative genius lives on.