I had barely enough time to begin considering the circumstances of my predicament, before clarity presented itself before my very eyes. Glancing to the left, I noticed the conspicuous sight of an orange emergency telephone, unremarkable in its familiarity, yet striking for an altogether different reason. On the face of the structure, beneath the bold white print of the phone's identity code, a further, hand-written, motif had been added: "12PM" and the symbol of a fish.
Within a matter of seconds, the blur of an unexpected situation snapped into sharp focus. Clearly I had been intended to stop here, to make this discovery, and the implications of that fact hit me with the force of a sledgehammer. Firstly of course, it meant that Marlin had indeed been following me, but far more than that, it demonstrated a willingness on his part to intervene in a more direct and dramatic way than I had ever anticipated. The puncture was surely no accident; I had to believe it had been inflicted deliberately, and with timing accurate enough to bring me to this location. Marlin was clearly not content to simply watch from the shadows.
Somewhat overwhelmed, my mind was working overtime to account for every aspect of the situation in which I found myself. In circumstances such as these, clarity of thought and accurate recall of preceding events is no easy task, yet despite the unexpectedness of my predicament, I felt confident I could explain it. The most appealing location for anyone wishing to inflict such damage upon my car would have been back at the Foundation Street car park, yet I was able to rule out that possibility immediately. This was no slow puncture, but a forceful slashing of the tyre. Carrying such damage, I would surely have made little progress beyond Foundation Street itself. The attack had to have occurred much later. Indeed, there can have been little or no time between the act itself and my awareness of the problem. It seemed irrefutable therefore that the attack immediately preceded my arrival at the Copdock Interchange.
Naturally I sought to form a clear picture of the preceding minutes, and I am wary of the mind's capability to construct false or misleading memories. It is all too easy in circumstances such as these to imagine events which in reality did not occur, or which happened differently to the way one's mind would have one believe. Despite this, I feel confident of my hypothesis.
Travelling the short distance from the roundabout at the junction with Cottingham Road, and the larger Copdock Interchange over the A14, traffic had frequently come to a standstill, and I had achieved no more than walking pace along this entire stretch of dual carriageway. During this time, I had been aware of a motorcyclist making his way slowly between the two lanes of traffic. My car was situated in the right hand lane, causing the motorcyclist to pass on the nearside. I can recall being stopped by the lights at the pedestrian crossing on this stretch of road, and I believe the motorbike was stationary by my side at this time. I am less certain, yet am inclined to think, that the same individual was at a standstill next to my vehicle on at least one further occasion between these lights and the roundabout beyond.
I admit that I cannot be undeniably sure, since I took little notice of this individual at the time, yet it is my conviction that this motorcyclist was responsible for the damage to my car. It would have been a reasonably simple task for him to reach down momentarily and puncture my tyre with a knife concealed in his right hand. The chances of being caught in this act would be slim, with great ease of escape should one be noticed. Situated in the middle of a rush hour traffic jam, there would have been little or nothing I could have done to prevent the attack, nor to apprehend the culprit. In addition, I would be unlikely to notice the damage to my vehicle until I gathered speed at the roundabout, by which time the motorcyclist could be elsewhere, and not readily linked to the breakdown.
Not surprisingly, I have been unable to confirm this theory, yet to this day I still believe this sequence of events to be the true one. More importantly, it leads me to the inevitable conclusion that the motorcyclist in question was none other than Peter Marlin himself.
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