What Gerard Debonfort loved most about a Mercedes was the odour of treated cow-hide and the cool solidity of the seats. He’d not driven anything else since he was 21, and although the right-hand-side driving of this particular rental dulled the experience, he still felt at home in this king of cars. The fluorescent instruments, the silent running, the clunk of the doors; like a beast perfectly adapted to its niche. It was red in tooth and claw and he sat in the driving seat at the top of the automobile food chain. He insisted on a Mercedes and he was never disappointed – they wouldn’t dare.
Turning into the driveway of the Manchester premises of Mendel Pharmaceuticals at 9:47 am, Debonfort slid the car past the noses of the protesters. They already seemed subdued and less vocal than when he’d arrived three days before. Most of them huddled around a brazier of burning cardboard, their banners and hoardings discarded hopelessly against the iron fence.
The arched iron gates swept closed behind the car, and he waited at the security post for the guard to check credentials. He’d been given this assignment because a few misguided activists had chained themselves outside Mendel’s premier research labs. Millions had gone into branding and customer relationships – a worldwide effort putting the benefits of Mendel patented genome treatments in front of GPs, hospitals and the public. To have it damaged by a few scaly hippies with cardboard placards was careless.
He parked the car and climbed the steps to reception. He paced through the sliding doors, crossed the white-tiled lobby and stood before the semi-circular desk waiting for the receptionist.
She looked up and recognised him immediately.
“Good morning Mr Debonfort. Your office is ready on the top floor. I’ll get someone to show you up,” she said.
“I’ll find my own way, if you could just buzz me through, please.”
He took the stairs through a security door to the left of the reception desk and enjoyed the click of his leather soles on the polished concrete steps. He loved Mendel’s 1930’s Art Deco building in Manchester. Light flooded the stairwells through clear-glass bricks, and each floor was circled by steel-framed windows that were opened by metal push-rods punched with holes. So different from the modern box of his Geneva office that had been killed by eco-planning, carpets and climate control.
A man emerges from the sodden undergrowth, lost, lonely and starving he is mown down by a speeding car on the edge of a remote forest.
Rumours of ghostly apparitions haunt a rural Northumberland community.
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Genre – Crime, Thriller, Horror
Rating – R-16
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