SLOWING, easing the big car up the exit ramp of the M55 motorway, I frowned, wondering again at the absence of traffic on the normally busy stretch of motorway.
Granted, it was almost the end of November, give or take a week. The resort's tourist season was all but over. And, it was a weekday afternoon; too soon for what passed for rush hour in these parts. But still, I would have expected to see more than the half dozen or so cars, and one large lorry heading into town. Admittedly, it made a pleasant change, from the usual barely controlled mayhem, but it was still weird. Nor did the other side, the side leading away from town, look any busier, from what I could see.
'Something's not right.' I muttered, signaling into the roundabout, 'it should be busier than this. It's weird.' I turned towards the Preston road. It was as deserted as the motorway had been. 'Not right at all.' I repeated.
'Alistair; what is yonder strange machine?'
Tanith's voice cut across my thoughts. 'Hmm?' I looked up, in the direction her pointing finger indicated.
Across from us, parked in the center of a scrap of derelict land that separated the roundabout from an industrial estate, was an army personnel carrier, complete with drab paintwork, and mounted machine gun. The gun atop the cabin was unmanned, but the cab wasn't. Two pairs of hard, suspicious eyes followed our progress around the roundabout, and onto Preston road.
'Well; that's not something you see every day.' I said. 'I wonder what the army's doing here.' I told Tanith what the vehicle was, and the basics regarding our armed forces.
Things didn't get any better as I turned off, heading towards Stanley Park, and the hospital. It fact, it got spookier. At this time of day, I would have expected to see people - children on the way home from school; dog walkers on the park; the odd tourist or two, heading for the zoo or the model village. And traffic; always plenty of traffic at this time of day, especially in this area. God only knew, I'd tried hard enough to park around here, when visiting Rebecca. So; where was everybody?
Maybe, I told myself, there was some big event going on in the town center, and everybody was down that way. I didn't even believe that myself.
Despite the silent roads, there was no urge to drive fast. We crept along East Park drive at a cautious twenty-five miles an hour. Even Tanith was edgy now; beginning to pick up on my tension. We peered through the windows, searching left and right, for any sign of life. Smoke drifted aimlessly into the mild air from the odd chimney, but that was just about the only sign of visible life we saw, until we reached the zoo.
Just beyond the sturdy mesh fence that separated Blackpool's small zoo from the road, a couple of deer-like animals could be glimpsed pacing restlessly back and forth.
'Yon beasts seem to sense things are amiss, mayhap.' Tanith commented. I grunted.
'They're not the only ones.' I pointed through the windscreen towards the zoo turnoff.