The small pick-up bumped along the track away from the Dawson house's main gateway, going the long way around toward the lakeside road. The skies grew darker and the rain continued, looking like it had set in for the night.
'You think we can make it away safely, Harry,' Nadia asked, peering out through the twin arcs of windscreen that were clear of rain.
'I think that we're in with a good chance now,' Harry assured her, driving with his nose close to the windscreen, peering along the bonnet to see ahead through the rain and the gloom. 'I just don't know what will happen then. We've definitely been rumbled now, and it seems that they're quite prepared to play hard-ball.'
Nadia bit her lip nervously, considering the situation. 'When we get back to my place, can you stay there through the night with me, please?'
Harry looked round at her, his face eerily lit by the light from the dashboard. 'Of course, hon. I was hoping that you'd want that, but I thought that it might seem too forward if I asked you. I just don't want to leave you alone after all that's happened tonight. I would never forgive myself if anything happened and I wasn't there with you.'
'Good. That's settled then. I just never thought that the first time I had a guy staying the night would be under these circumstances.' She grinned, briefly. 'Well, you wouldn't would you?'
Harry smiled. 'No, this sort of thing doesn't happen very often. At least not to ordinary people. Is there anything else that you feel you need to speak to me about before we get back to yours? Do you have any other special talents that you think I ought to know about?'
'Well...,' Nadia began, hesitantly. 'I suppose there is one thing I ought to mention. You know I told you that my kitten Tomas had been brain-damaged...?'
'Yes. What about that,' Harry replied, looking ahead up the road worriedly, seeming to have seen something in the distance. 'What has that got to do with your paranormal abilities? Are you gonna be telling me that you brought it back from the dead, or something,' he laughed.
'Well...,' Nadia replied. 'It's not quite how I would have brought it up, but...'
'Wait,' Harry interrupted. 'What's that up ahead? It looks like...
Baron Samedi was standing in the middle of the road, waiting for them.
'Don't stop, Harry,' Nadia urged. 'He gives me the creeps. If we hit him, it'll be no big loss. Just drive right through him...'
Harry nodded and pressed down harder onto the accelerator pedal.
Samedi didn't seem unduly disturbed by the prospect of being hit by Harry's pick-up and defiantly remained exactly where he was. It was only at the last second that he suddenly leapt aside, allowing the pick-ups' headlights to shine past him onto the large boulder that was inexplicably blocking the track beyond.
'Oh my God,' Harry shouted. 'There's a helluva large rock blocking the way. Hang on, Nadia! This is gonna get rough.' Harry spun the steering wheel violently to the right then the left, slewing the small pickup sideways within the width of the track. He then floored the accelerator and they burst through the closed gateway, catching the side of the vehicle on the end of the wall beside it as they ran off the track and into the field, precipitating a shower of loose stones as the wall's end disintegrated behind them.
'That was close,' Nadia breathed thankfully.
Harry shook his head. 'Close nothing,' he said. 'We're not home and free yet. We've got to get back to the track without causing too much more damage to the truck. Look,' he said, pointing to the field ahead of them, 'we've lost a headlight and who knows what other damage we've picked up?' He risked a quick look behind then asked, 'did you see where Samedi went?'
Nadia shook her head. 'I lost track of him during all the excitement.' She pointed ahead through the rain. 'Look,' she said. 'I think I can see another gate coming up. Do you want me to get out and open this one? We'll probably be okay. I think we've put Samedi far enough behind us.'
Harry nodded. 'Okay. But be quick!'
When they reached the gateway, Nadia was opening the side door even before the little truck stopped, jumping out and hurrying behind and around to open the gate. She was almost up to the gate before she tried to stop, but suddenly found that stopping wasn't going to be so easy when her feet shot out from beneath her, sending her sliding along on her back through a thick layer of mud.
'Are you okay out there,' Harry shouted anxiously. 'Do you need a hand?
Nadia pulled herself to her feet, shedding mud as she stood. 'I think I'm okay,' she said, shaking her hands and feet to free them of the gloop sticking to most of her body. She looked round quickly then moved up to the gateway, sliding the bolt aside and pulling the gate open. 'You're okay to go now, Harry,' she shouted, waving both her arms and then hurrying back to jump back inside the pick-up with a grin on her face.
Harry laughed. 'You do look such a sight, you know!'
Nadia scowled back at him and then stuck her tongue out. 'You can laugh all you like, but I'll not be cleaning the seat covers tomorrow, bucko!'
Harry pulled a sad face back at her. 'Has anyone ever told you that you can be very immature sometimes?'
Nadia giggled. 'Well, yes! Of course. But I am only 16 years old, mister 'in his twenties'. So bite me!'
They both laughed together.
'Come on, now,' Harry continued, pulling the pick-up back out onto the track. 'Fun-time over. We gotta get away from here before Samedi catches up to us.'
The rest of the trip back to Nadia's home passed without event and forty minutes later they pulled up outside the industrial unit.
Surprisingly, once they were standing outside the door, there was an awkward moment while they both thought about what had happened earlier and about what could potentially happen over the course of the night.
Nadia smiled nervously. 'Can I invite you in for a cup of coffee, by any chance?'
They both laughed and then pulled each other close, offering mutual reassurance to one another.
Nadia unlocked the heavy sliding door and Harry slid it aside for her. 'Let's get that kettle on,' he said. 'I could murder a cup of tea.'
After turning on the lights, they both hesitated before carrying on into the building, carefully looking around to confirm that there was no-one waiting in there to welcome them in a most unwelcoming way. The many, many racks of hangered clothing never looked so forbidding or so threatening as they did this night, and it took quite some time to systematically search through them all so that they could both be sure that they weren't concealing someone or something that might wish to do them harm.
Finally, the kettle was filled and was about to boil. Harry was spooning Chinese green tea into the small cast-iron tea pot that had been pre-warmed ready to be filled and Nadia had brought out the wafer-thin fine bone-china tea cups that she always saved for special occasions, not that she'd had many opportunities to use them.
'I'm flattered,' Harry said, motioning to the 'best' china cups. 'You've never brought these out before.'
Nadia gave him a thin smile in reply; one without her usual full force of humour. 'I figured that it was a waste to have them and never use them,' she said, not wanting to explore the unspoken reasoning behind her decision. 'It's the first time we've spent the night together,' she continued, wanting to disperse the gloom that was threatening to spoil the mood. 'I thought that that was more than reason enough to bring it out. It's a very special night for us both, don't you agree?'
Harry nodded sagely. 'That it is. It's the first chance I've ever had to enjoy your company into the wee small hours and beyond.' He smiled. 'However, I'd recommend that you get a bath and then some shut-eye right after we've finished with this tea. I can stay awake and keep an eye open while you rest and then, maybe, we can swap over later and you can keep watch over me for a while while I catch some Z's.'