books - extract

An extract from "A Matter of Life and Death"

 

And then reality did something very strange.

It started with what sounded like a gunshot. And there was a very good reason for that: It was a gunshot. It was followed rapidly by another gunshot. And that was followed by Nick Dunne-Davis charging through the fields, screaming like a butchers boniff and headed straight towards Barry. That would probably have been enough to shock Barrys brain into disbelief; the fact that Dunne-Davis was wearing a red and white floral-patterned summer dress with splits down the sides almost pushed him over the edge.

 

Start the fucking bike! Dunne-Davis roared. For the first time in his life, Barry wished he were hallucinating.

The sight of an angry farmer aiming a shotgun out the window of a Land Rover finally kick-started his brain into action. Dunne-Davis was very athletic, there was no doubt about it, but the farmer was definitely gaining on him. Even Carl Lewis would have had his style impaired by a knee-length dress that couldnt have been more than a size 10; Barry wouldnt have sworn to it, but he reckoned Dunne-Davis was at least a 16, if not an 18. The farmer screamed something in Dutch that Barry guessed correctly, as it happened translated as Pervert! He slowed down briefly to reload and fired another volley in Dunne-Daviss direction. With a bit of luck, Barry thought, hed kill Dunne-Davis and let him go. Unfortunately, neither scenario appeared likely, so he fired up the Honda and grabbed his clothes. Dunne-Davis hurdled straight onto the saddle and shuffled backwards to make room for Barry to jump on.

 

Holy fuckin Jaysus! screamed Barry, in an octave he had previously believed to be the exclusive preserve of pre-pubescent girls.

 

Thinking back on it, Barry would remember it as the most painful experience of his life. He still woke up at night screaming when he dreamed about the tackle that had broken the two bones in his right leg and ended his career before it had started but that was a stroll in the park compared to this. The black leather saddle must have been edging towards the two-hundred-degree mark. He could have fried eggs on it. He certainly felt like his nuts had been sautéed in burning oil.

 

He vaulted up off the saddle, which proved to be his second big mistake. The delicate skin between his legs had bonded with the near-boiling leather, and it didnt respond well to the sudden attempt at extrication. Nnnnggrrrhh! he screamed through his nose.

 

When his penis eventually did come unstuck, the worst of the pain was over. Then there was just the stinging pins-and-needles sensation of first-degree burns that would last for two or three days. He somehow managed to turn the bike over and get them moving, but their hasty departure had resulted in the loss of everything but his T-shirt, which he held on to for dear life. He was totally naked, straddling the bike like a jockey. The worst bit was Dunne-Davis holding his hips for balance and tearing the skin off him with his nails. It was funny: even in all the commotion of being chased through a field by a homicidal Dutchman, he still had time to imagine the situation from Dunne-Daviss point of view. It couldnt have been a pretty sight. With a deft flick of the wrist, Barry whipped the T-shirt onto the saddle and lowered himself onto it. It was like dipping into a scalding hot bath at forty miles an hour. The motorway was only a hundred metres away, and Barry was praying that the farmer would give up once they reached it.

 

He did but even then, they felt like their problems had only just begun. Cars and trucks honked their horns wildly from all directions. A naked man riding a souped-up Honda 50 down the motorway, with a man in a summer dress on the back, was a fairly unusual sight even for Amsterdam. It was all too much for one oul one travelling in the opposite direction: Barry saw the shock frozen on her face, and then heard the crunch of metal and glass against the concrete barrier that separated the lanes. He checked his rear-view mirror and saw her car right itself. Thank fuck. He struggled to get the helmet off the handlebars. Once his head was safely inside, he wished the rest of him could follow. It was easily the most humiliating experience of his life

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David Cowzer has won more than 50 national and international awards for his advertising work to date.

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