The crazy falls, a red rosette opening at his neck. I see everything, hear everything, take in every minute detail. The spray of blood, the sudden looseness of the body. The scream cut short with a gurgle. Pain shoots through my arm: the gun has kicked so violently that my fingers feel bruised. The sound of the shot has faded already, but I can hear it clear enough in my head. I'm sure I'll be hearing it for a while.
I wait, frozen, not moving a muscle. The crazy stays down on the ground. A minute passes, then two, then three. Most of the body is hidden from me by the car, but I can see the curled fingers of an outflung hand. I stare at them, waiting for them to twitch, to show some sign of life. I'm not sure whether that twitch is something I'm waiting for or something I'm dreading.
But there's no movement. I drop the gun, turn my back and walk away. Quick, furious strides. After a minute I start to run. I feel like there's something pursuing me, right on my heels, and that if I don't run as fast as I can it'll catch me, drag me down, swallow me whole.
You killed him. You killed another human being.
I see the face of the crazy again, frozen in shock at the sight of the gun. I run faster, harder, feet pounding into the road so hard it sends sharp bolts of pain through my knees.
There's a sour taste in my mouth. I stop running. No good anymore. Crouching with my hands on my knees at the side of the road I spit.
Killer. You coward, David. Clumsy, frightened, useless, coward.
I start to walk again, but more steadily this time. After a few minutes the shaking stops and my breathing levels out. The sour taste is still there in my mouth, and the memory of the crazy's dying cry is still fresh in my head. But...
I had to. This isn't the world that used to be. I had to do it. I had to survive.
I had to survive for Lisa.
In the end it's that thought which centres me, which reins in the panic. What would have happened to Lisa if that crazy killed me out in the middle of nowhere? What would have happened to the baby?
I had to.
Quite suddenly I recognise the stretch of road along which I'm walking. I'm back. The farmhouse is just a few hundred metres away through the trees. And waiting there for me is Lisa, and the baby. And I have the news of Holme to give her. The best news I could possibly give. I should feel happy, but somehow it's all messed up. It's not an hour since I murdered another human being. How can I just march back to Lisa and pretend that everything's normal.
But you have to, says my brain. You can't tell her. You can't let her know. Not now. Not yet. Maybe one day, when you get to Holme. Maybe one day when this is all over. But not yet. You've got to protect her.
I move from the road into the cover of the trees, and sit down. Leaning back against a trunk I shut my eyes and take a long deep breath. I think of Lisa, and nothing else.
In an hour, I feel as close to normal as I'm going to get. I stand, and start to make my way up to the house, hoping that Lisa won't notice that I've been crying.