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Going On (extract)

Terry should never have been on Cumuto Road. He should have stuck with the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway as far as Eastern Main Road, turned left before Valencia and so to Sangre Grande. The Cumuto Road wound up into the bush. It narrowed and its metalled surface crumbled with each passing yard and Terry's rented Nissan bumped unhappily, splashing vivid orange mud from rocky potholes. The sign for Sangre Grande never came. He checked the time. He checked the miles. He didn't know. He stopped.

The importance of the meeting was acknowledged by all parties. The time was set — two p.m. in the conference room at the terminal in Guayaguayere. Terry had avoided coming down with Leofric from St Anne's, anxious not to seem allied with any faction — except Campbell's obviously. Campbell had said that Terry had carte blanche to bribe or threaten, terminate — the whole repertoire. He said that Terry was bullet-proof. And Terry believed him.

A shack stood at the Y-junction up ahead. Two skeletal curs cringed and whipped their tails in welcome. An old Trini in a baseball cap gazed from the stoop, curious but unmoved, as Terry climbed out of the car. The midday heat was heavy as a slab. Terry reached up to loosen his tie but thought better of it.

‘Hello,’ he said.

The old man looked at Terry — didn't smile.

‘Sangre Grande?’ Terry asked.

‘Sang' Grande.’

‘Is this the way?’

‘No. Dis ain't de way. Bhoyy, you lost.’

‘Yes,’ Terry said, smiling. He had been taught to smile. When negotiating — sometimes — smile! ‘Is there a turning? Did I miss something?’

‘You miss somet'ing, bhoyy.’

‘Which way? Please.’

The old man pointed back down the road and cocked his hand right at the wrist. The dogs were sniffing at Terry's shoes. A damp stain seeped through the back of his white cotton shirt.

‘How far?’

‘Bou' three mile.’

‘Thanks.’

The man said nothing. He watched as Terry turned the car. He didn't move.

There wasn't a turn at three miles: it was nearly four. A steep narrow trace climbed up to the right between banks of tall grass, the tarmac clinging to the slope but failing at the brow of the hill, and beyond contracting to a mangy spine in the centre of the track. Terry passed through a hamlet where no one stirred — then the jungle began. He stopped the car a hundred yards beyond the village. The road pushed on into the gloom like a trusting child venturing home in twilight. The trees were so close he could not turn. The wheels were locked, snug in the ruts, on either side of the hog's back. It was one p.m. There was no signal on his cellphone. Terry loosened his tie.

He restarted the engine and went on.

John Bolland

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