I had been gazing out of the window when the car screeched to a halt.
“What now?” My mother complained; my sense of urgency seemed to have passed onto her, and several times even excited Emily worriedly had to tell her to slow down.
Huh? Was it me or did the figure in the middle of the road look familiar? And had it stepped into the road to deliberately stop just us?
My mother impatiently got out of the car and called to the figure, “Are you blind? Are you trying to get yourself killed? Listen, we have to get somewhere in a hurry, so we don’t have time for…well, whatever it is you want…”
“Wait, mum,” I said softly, getting out of the car as she stepped back in, “Carrie?”
Caroline looked awful: perfect hair messed up, streams of black mascara running down her cheeks, shoeless feet completely black, she was anything but the sassy, smart-talking blonde I had first met.
“Carrie…what happened?” I asked her after recovering from the shock of seeing this pristine lady in such a state.
Caroline burst into tears.
“They think I did it! Just because I’ve…had trouble in relationships before; they think I would murder the only man I truly loved…”
I was speechless. She was distraught.
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a travel bag in her hand.
“You’re running away?” I stuttered, “but the police, they can’t convict you, can they? I-I mean, they’ve got no evidence…have they?”
“They’ve got enough!” She wailed.
I paused, leant up to put my hands firmly on her shoulders and gazed into her intense brown eyes.
My voice clear, I said, “Did you kill Josh?”
Caroline pulled away from my gaze and wept onto my shoulder. Being more than 15cm taller than me, I felt like she was pouring out all her burdens into me. Into my life. Suddenly the question I had never considered came back:
‘Why on Earth did I ever get embroiled in this scandal?’
“I could never- would never- ever do something like that…”
And, as she lifted her eyes level with mine, I could see there was nothing but pure truth in them.
“I know,” I said calmly, “I was just going to tell the Detective… But I never thought…”
I paused, as I realised this situation was worse than I first thought.
“But you could be considered as an accessory… Caroline, leave the country! Anyway you can! Those silly police won’t believe a word of your story. I’m so sorry, it’s the only way…” It may have seemed radical, but I knew it was the only was to make sure my friend was completely safe.
“Go wherever you can; I suggest far away.
“Oh and one more thing: what did Mr. Smith- Andy do when Lizzie went missing?”
This last surprised Carrie more than the distressing news that she would have to leave her home.
“Andy? He wasn’t too bad. Like I said beforehand, he wasn’t upset, just angry for a while. It was weird actually, Josh and I stayed away for a while…well we all kind of split for a year, then met back when we’d had some time to ‘chill’. That wasn’t the last time we broke up either, my relationship with Josh has never been smooth… I should have cared more...”
I nodded to encourage her words; it was all that I had thought before. But there was still one thing troubling me.
“Did you know of anything Josh and Andy did together, any place they went together?” I tried.
Carrie frowned as she considered the question, then rubbed the palm of her hand into the space between her eyebrows.
“I don’t remember anything, no. I’m sorry…I just-”
A police siren cut through the thick atmosphere; Carrie jumped and the holdall she was carrying clattered to the floor, breaking open to reveal its contents like jewels in a treasure chest. Out bounced the album, silk surfaces rubbing against the rough gravel road.
Panic rushed through Caroline as she tried to pack all her items back into the small box. Sympathetically, I bent to help and noticed the book open at a page I had not yet observed, even through our two searches. I think next time some important ‘clue’ pops up, I should really hunt through it completely, thoroughly.
The picture consisted of the two doomed friends outside a large metal-frame building, wearing identical T-shirts displaying the words ‘The Broken Vinyls’.
“Where is this?” I showed the photo to Carrie.
“Oh, my ex-best friend Amy had a band called ‘The Broken Vinyls’, they played at a warehouse venue near here, and we all got backstage passes. Josh went out with Amy for a while- we argued and argued, and I eventually decided she wasn’t worth my companionship. When the band split up nobody went to the warehouse again. It’s probably just abandoned now…”
“Did Andy and Josh go there often?” I asked, an idea forming in my mind.
“I-” Caroline started but was interrupted as the sirens rang again, this time a lot closer.
“Carrie, please! I need to know!”
She nodded shakily and continued, “All the time. It’s where they met. Andy always mentioned it as a symbol of their ‘everlasting friendship’”
“Okay, brilliant! Thank you, Carrie,” the siren wails were reaching even closer, “now, quickly, get in the car, tell my mum to take you to the airport, just go anywhere out of the country. And tell her I am sorry, but I have something more important to sort out.”
I checked the things off on my fingers. Carrie just looked astonished.
“But, now I need one last thing from you: Can you direct me to this warehouse?”