The Standalones

Chapter Eighteen

Ken Preston

15 June 2024

Silhouette of a rock band against a spotlight and the words The Standalones

With a cough and a wheeze, Max Switchblade sputtered to a halt. A car raced past in the darkness, horn blaring. Rain drummed against the dark windows.

“Great, just great!” Chris shouted, kicking the inside of the van.

“Hey, leave Max alone!” Scarlett yelled from the driver’s seat.

An articulated lorry sped past, spraying them with rainwater and leaving the van rocking in its wake.

“We’ve got to get off this dual carriageway before somebody smashes into us,” Matt said.

Chloe peered through the front windscreen, blurred with raindrops and smears of dirt. “I think there’s a lay-by just ahead. Maybe we can push the van into it?”

“We’ll get drenched out there!” Chris wailed.

“That’s better than getting rammed by a lorry,” Matt said.

Chloe and Matt jumped out of the van, with Chris begrudgingly following them. He was right about how wet they would get, the rain was falling in sheets of water. Scarlett stayed in the van to steer.

With the three of them pushing, they managed to get Max Switchblade moving, and Scarlett steered them into the lay-by. When Chloe, Matt and Chris climbed back into the van, they were dripping wet.

“Now what?” Chris said, pulling his jacket off and wringing water out of it.

“We might as well sleep here and take a look at the problem in the morning,” Matt suggested. “We were planning on sleeping in the van, anyway.”

Chris huffed, but didn’t say anything. Chloe was starting to like Chris less and less. Whenever a problem cropped up, Chris just moaned about it. But Matt, nothing seemed to faze him. He took everything in his stride and seemed sure that there was a solution just around the corner.

At least she had her bag back. Chloe unzipped it and pulled out a towel. She rubbed at her wet hair.

Scarlett climbed into the back with the rest of them. In their hurry to escape The Dog and Whistle, they had haphazardly thrown their equipment in the van, and now there was hardly room to move.

“If we sort some of this stuff out, we might almost have room to swing a very small kitten,” Scarlett said.

They spent the next few minutes moving equipment around until they had given themselves a little more room to stretch out in. Scarlett produced a set of blankets from a hidden cupboard, and some pillows from a disguised recess.

She grinned at Chloe. “Max has secrets in hidden places.”

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