Harlan was behind the wheel of his car before he thought to ask himself what the fuck he was doing. He had brought the first aid box from the cupboard underneath the sink, passed on by an increasingly delirious and frightened Mary Turner, translating from Avery’s coarse, rasping whispers that made him more frightened than anything that he actually managed to say.
She had given him rough directions, taking him out of town with his heart thudding in his ears as he drove to help his brother. He had driven for the better part of thirty minutes before he saw the car on the side of the road.
The body of the man laid there, on his front with the asphalt stained underneath him.
Mary stood there, waving her arms in the headlights of his car.
His brother, stripped to the waist without his prosthetic, perspiring and breathing heavy, his chest rising and falling slowly. He looked ahead, his face taut with the effort of control as he shuddered through whatever had been done to him.
Harlan grabbed the kit and ran to his brother. He knelt in front of Avery and set the kit down by his left.
‘OK, so what the fuck do I do now?’
Avery’s teeth chattered together and his eyes swivelled in their sockets before he took a deep breath, managed to regain some measure of himself at the sight of his brother.
‘You’re. Here. That’s a start.’
Harlan snapped open the kit. Avery packed and checked it every week. It would probably allow Avery to deliver a baby or treat bullet wounds if it came down to it but it’s comprehensiveness intimidated him in that second.
‘Rehydration packages. Need you to pour them down my throat.’
Harlan tore a package open with his teeth and poured the contents into Avery’s mouth. Then he unscrewed the small canteen of water and splashed some into his mouth.
‘I thought you’d been shot or something. Jesus, what is wrong with you?’
Avery swallowed in large gulping motions as he covered his midsection with his hands and grimaced with discomfort.
‘I ate someone I shouldn’t.’
Harlan gave a laugh that was a little too hysterical, wiping his brother’s face with an impotent, but well intended care.
‘Haven’t we all? But come on, we need to get you home.’
Avery shook his head, gestured to Mary who had stood there, watching with disbelief as she hugged herself.
‘What’s wrong with him? He opened the trunk, and the man who, the man who-‘
Harlan shot her a look. He put his arms under his brother’s armpits and tried to pull him up. Avery had a good thirty pounds on his brother at the best of times, and his disorientated, fevered state made him unsteady on his feet. He called Mary’s name and between them, they managed to get him into the back of Harlan’s car. Mary got into the passenger seat and looked at him.
‘Thank you for coming Harlan, your brother saved my life, and I don’t know how on earth I can thank him.’
Harlan considered asking her to quit theatre forever but it wasn’t the right time. They drove back to the house.
Avery lapsed into an uneasy doze but he gave off a rank, teeming heat that made Harlan roll down the windows and drive a little faster.
Mary asked him if she could borrow his phone and Harlan grimaced at her.
‘We’re not calling the police until we know what’s going on.’
‘My husband is -‘
Harlan shot her a look that made her words die unsaid on her lips.
‘I know exactly who your husband is, Mary. Exactly.’
They drove on. Avery had begun to chatter, interspersed with low growls that made Mary’s stomach flutter with dread.
‘What’s wrong with him? I don’t see where he’s been -‘
Harlan looked into the rear view mirror and winced.
‘If my brother was there, he was there to help. Whoever that fat fuck is, I’m guessing he wasn’t a fan of your work.’
Mary hissed and looked away as Harlan took a corner at speed.
He did not know how long he had. He would drive as fast as he needed to, if it meant that he had a chance of helping his brother survive whatever had happened to him.