Behind the bike shedMature

I left through the window silently and closed it behind me, a slow balancing act on the stone ledge again.  The grey light was brightening slowly, and I was acutely aware that soon I'd be all too visible out here.  Thankfully all I had to do now was leave.  I sank carefully to my knees and placed my hands on the stone ledge, checking I could get a good grip.  Then one foot slipped off the ledge, and after it the other, and I lowered myself to the full stretch of my arms, and let go.

I fell maybe five feet before my fingers slapped against the next ledge and I squeezed hard, then released.  My fall slowed, but continued, and I repeated the manoeuvre with the last ledge.  I landed a little heavily, but on my feet, on a gravel path.  I paused, looking around as casually as I dared, just in case anyone was already up and nearby, but the path was empty in both directions.  The garden spread off behind me, the Hall right in front of my nose.  I shuffled a little away, knelt and smoothed the gravel back, hiding the soft depressions of my landing, then stood and strolled along the path, following it around the Hall.

A minute later I had rounded the corner of the Hall to one of its many courtyards, and was pleased to see that the carriage house was just across it.  Once used for stabling horses and looking after carriages, the Viscount-in-Residence had converted two-thirds of it into a cycle museum, open to the public on weekends only, and the remaining third was used for parking when guests were at the Hall.  It was an ancient brick building with small, leaded windows and a discreet but very modern security alarm located just under the eaves.

I crossed the courtyard and walked around the back of the carriage house, noting the careful repairs to crumbling brickwork, and the cunningly laid flagstones that made up the path: a telltale bounce, unnoticeable if you weren't looking for it, meant that there were strain gauges underneath to check for people heavier coming out than going in.  The Viscount-in-Residence clearly cared a great deal for his bikes.

Beyond the bike shed was a small overflow car-park, barely more than a gravelled lawn with some half-dead camellias round the edges and an evil looking rhododendron at the entrace.  A gravel track led away.  My bike, a black and silver behemoth of a motorcycle, was the only resident.  As I walked up to it, I slipped open a zippered pouch in the inner lining of my trouser-waistband and squeezed the tiny keyfob in there.  As I sealed the pouch again the headlights on the bike came on to half-beam and under-seat LEDs glowed blue.  I took the keys from my pocket and squeezed the fob attached to the ring, pulsing it in a quick sequence I'd committed to muscle memory.  For a moment nothing happened, and then the seat LEDs faded out and the headlights came up to full beam.  The bike was safe to mount.

She purred to life as I turned the key, and I leaned forward over the handlebars, checking I had good vision through the helmet visor.  Satisfied, I twisted the throttle, the tyres bit hard into the gravel and sprayed it up behind me like a stone fountain, and we ate up the path.

I leaned this way and that, controlling the bike with my weight.  The gravel path turned into packed mud as I slipped off the main route and into the forest on the edges of the Viscount's land, first following a casual trail into the forest, then slewing along a rabbit path for several hundred yards.  Finally I came back onto a cycle trail and increased my speed a little.  Trees and bushes flashed by on either side of me, green blurs with the occasional crackle of breaking branches.  The bike clung resolutely to the path despite the dips and humps, the twists and turns.  When I emerged from the forest, purring into the end of an apparant cul-de-sac I was faintly disappointed, but following the cul-de-sac back out to the main road I took advantage of the silence of the early morning and opened the throttle wide.  The wind howled past me as I raced away, every heart-beat putting me ever further away from the dead man.

The End

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