One word, curt, cut through the cold night air.

We both looked up and out. We were not startled. But my blood ran cold and her eyes told me she felt the same. Everything had been so meticulously planned, no detail had not been examined and re-examined and combed through to cover all possible eventualities. But there will always be unknown unknowns, here in Cambridge just as much as in Rumsfeldt’s Iraq.

“I said dance”.

Shots rang out and echoed in the night air.

There was someone as meant business – and who also had some sadistic sense of melodrama. I took that as my cue:
“Waltz or Polka?” I sardonically questioned, attempting to sound both cool and collected.

Further shots spat out in response. Shards and splinters bounced about close to me. Far from dancing, I stood stock still. I whispered: “Tess, are you OK?”, then “Keep ever so still”.

There was no response. “Tess” I repeated, at slightly louder a volume. Whoever was behind the shots knew where we were, anyway, but a low profile seemed the wisest choice. Perhaps there was some uncertainty.

All that planning now wasted. Our mission seemed lost. If we survived, there was no way we’d now achieve our goal. If there was one, our future now looked bleak indeed. “Damn” I thought, then “Damn you, who are you? Why, how, and where are you?” I blurted, stumbling slightly as I struggled to make myself calm, pretend to be calm. Convince my unseen opponent, at least.

You see, I knew that I was still alive and uninjured. This unknown unknown, this Rumsfeldted individual had not wanted to eliminate me or, I was pretty confident, Tessa. But sure as Hell, there was intent to scare us, silence us and keep us frozen.

So, what the Hell, there was just one thing to do.

“Tess” I said, with a certain maybe insane enthusiasm, “would you care for this next……”

And more shots hit the floor and the wall behind me.

“See, they’re playing our most favourite tune.”

Another salvo. Out of the darkness more splinters scattered around my person. I felt an impact on my thigh and a sharp pain from the back of my neck and drew a deep breath as I stifled a cry of agony. I needed to summon up some of my emergency reserve tanks of inner strength and resilience.

How did it go? Oh yes:

“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain

What a glorious feeling

I’m happy again, I’m laughing at clouds

So dark up above, the sun’s in my heart,

And I’m ready for love, let the stormy clouds chase

Everyone from the place, come on with the rain

I’ve gotta smile on my face, I’ll walk down the lane

With a happy refrain, Just singin’

Singin in the rain”


Dancing in the rain, I’m happy again

I’m dancin’ and singin’ in the rain”.

I’d first seen the film as such a young child and, well, by now, it was part of my psyche, deep in my soul. I realised it was a driver of my being, I realised that I was Gene Kelly and, most importantly, I realised the gunfire had stopped.

Somewhat abashed but with my pulse racing and so many conflicting emotions streamin through my brain (“…Streamin’ thro’ my brain…” I actually sang to myself) I put my hand to the intense pain I still felt on my neck and found a steady trickle of blood as I sank slowly to my knees and passed out.


Chris Hemmings

April 14th, 2016


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