"Hello? Can you hear me?" Catherine shrieked, as she rushed to her knees and put her arms around the man. He was wearing a very large, thick woollen over coat. No wonder she didn't see him, she thought.
"Please, are you alright?" It was a stupid question, considering she had just hit him with her car, but the mind is wired towards optimism, even in the direst of circumstances. As though possessed by a person far more clear thinking and efficient than herself, she ran back to the car and flicked on her hazard lights. She grabbed a blanket from the back seat; she must have seen someone doing it on TV. She ran back and spread the blanket around him, already feeling better for being useful.
To her infinite relief, she could feel his body moving as he started to come round.
"Don't move too much, it's okay. You've been in an accident, so just take it easy," she assured him, again sounding much more in control than she felt.
Reality suddenly struck her, as she sat in the middle of a dark country road with a stranger's head on her lap. Panic almost engulfed her, but then he spoke.
"It's okay, I think I can get up now," he said in the softest voice that seemed to belie the urgency of the situation.
"Are you sure, I mean, something might be broken..." she trailed off uncertainly.
"I don't think so Miss, I must have just passed out for a second there, but I feel perfectly well now, thank you."
He sounded so formal and she might have thought it unusual if it weren't for the already traumatic circumstances. He lifted himself to a sitting position and took in his surroundings, understandably disoriented but trying his best to conceal it.
"I had better call an ambulance," she said, coming to her senses once again. She fumbled in her coat pocket for her phone.
"Oh, no need for that Miss," he said, dismissing the idea as though it was a complete over-reaction on her part. "I might just need a sit down and a hot drink, but there's certainly no call for the emergency services just yet," he smiled.
"I don't know, can you remember your name, what day it is?" she asked, returning to the clichéd questions she had seen people ask in the movies.
"I appreciate your concern Miss and if it puts your mind at ease, my name is Sergeant Andrew Montague, at your service" he said, with a slight bow of the head.
It was almost as if he was more concerned about her than himself. As he turned to face her, she could finally see his face properly. He was far younger than she had thought, although his thick moustache gave him a distinguished air. He almost looked foreign, with dark features and jet black hair that swept neatly to his temples. In fact, he looked perfectly groomed and not as you would expect a pedestrian who had just been hit by a car to look.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Catherine, Catherine Ryan" she said. "I don't know, I think I should at least call the police or something, you know insurance and all that," she persisted, trying to be sensible. Before he could begin to protest again, she decided to change tack. He might still be in shock after all.
"Listen, I'm staying in a cottage near here. Why don't we get in out of this rain and then we can decide what to do?"
"Not Hollowbrook?" he asked, while slowly getting to his feet and again refusing her help.
"Um, yes, how did you know?" she asked.
"Well, for one thing we are standing right outside it," he said, nodding his head towards the narrow gap in the hedgerow.
"Oh, so we are," she said, as they both walked slowly towards the car. It was then she realised that the rain had stopped and Corporal Montague's coat and hair were both bone dry.
YOU ARE READING
When Catherine revisits Hollowbrook cottage on a stormy October night, she crosses paths with a mysterious stranger who is not all that he seems. On a night when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, all that is real and unreal meet in a nowh...