None of us can know for sure how we would react in a horrific situation…
Mel wouldn’t have been out so early if she hadn’t had to drive her daughter Caroline and her friends to the airport. On the way home, she remembered they were almost out of milk. The shop, just round the corner from a public car park, would be open and she stopped to get some.
It was when she had been driving away again that it happened. She felt the impact, caught a flash of a figure in her rear view mirror. There had been no-one around; she would have sworn to it.
Instinctively she accelerated.
Ian, she thought. This is the last thing he needs with that management job in the offing.
The figure appeared to be trying to get up.
That means he’s not dead, she thought feverishly. He’ll be alright.
It was more instinct than a conscious decision to keep going. She was almost at the end of the lane when she looked in her mirror and gasped. A man, a dog by his side, had come round the corner and was staring after her.
Seconds later she had turned into the main street and was speeding away.
Had that man got her registration?
Only when she was at the bottom of her own road did she stop. Twenty years of trouble-free driving, and now this. A momentary lapse of concentration; somebody being where she hadn’t expected anyone to be.
And that man; had he been near enough to get the registration?
She let herself into the house. Ian had already left for work and she didn’t start her part-time job in an insurance office until lunchtime.
She sat for ages, staring through the window, half expecting to see a police car drawing up outside the gate. But time passed and nothing happened.
She got through the afternoon somehow, though one or two of her colleagues asked if she was alright.
“Tired,” she said.
Guilt and shame overwhelmed her
The incident was mentioned on the local radio news that evening. A hit and run, it said. There was one witness. Until then she hadn’t thought of it as a hit and run, but of course that’s what it was. She had always despised people who drove away from accidents but now she knew how easily it happened.
Guilt and shame overwhelmed her. It had been the thought of Ian’s prospects that had motivated her, mainly. She knew how it worked at that level. One hint of scandal from any of the candidate’s family and that was it.
She’d make it up to that person she’d knocked down; find out where he or she lived and when things had settled down, push some money through the door. Somehow, for Ian’s sake, she would live with the knowledge and guilt.
She was drawn back to the scene of the crime
She had always wondered if it was true, people being drawn back to the scene of a crime. Yet that’s just what she did, a few days later.
Her nerve almost failed her when she saw a patrol car parked by the entrance to the car park. She kept going, though. Driving off again was the worst thing she could do.
“Afternoon,” the officer said.
“Afternoon, officer.” Mel’s hands were cold and clammy on the steering wheel.
Act normal. Think of Ian.
“There was an accident here the other day. We’re checking cars coming in to see if anyone recalls seeing anything,” the policeman explained.
They were calling it an accident. That must be good, surely?
“I only park here occasionally.” She hesitated. “I heard about the accident on the radio, though. How is the victim?”
“Still in hospital,” the policeman responded.
“Well, good luck.” Mel made to drive into the car park. “You’ll need it. There are at least twenty blue cars here already.”
It was a mistake; she could see it from the way the policeman’s gaze sharpened.
“How did you know it was a blue car?”
Mel was flustered.
“Surely the witness –”
“He only heard it, madam. He’s blind.” He opened Mel’s door. “Would you mind stepping out of the car?”