The town was busy as usual with everyone’s hands to the pumps, working themselves to the bone. The rusty gate which bordered the town was open. Someone from the outside had clearly come in. It was Digby. His suspicions of Mr Walsh had grown too large and his absence from the Grand Palace last night spooked him into action. He had made his way into the town by foot, as he too, didn’t want his presence to be broadcast. He knew it had to be a woman Mr Walsh was seeing. They were the slime that ruined a man’s career he thought. Money was supposed to be the happy drug, not women. Digby never saw a woman’s presence as necessary after spending an hour with them. He never wanted kids. This was his life; he didn’t want to be looking after anyone else’s.
He looked around the town for anyone remotely interesting enough to have caught Mr Walsh’s attention. He scoffed at the idea that anyone down here could have even made an impact. He scanned the area until he saw a rather young, brunette haired, short woman. He thought she must be the one, she was the only one of slight interest. He went up to her house and noticed she was cooking breakfast. Definitely enough for two, he thought. One of the windows of the house was open and he could hear the conversation brewing inside. “Here you go William”, a womanly voice said.
Immediately, he didn’t think this was the right house because no one called Mr Walsh by that name except his late mother and father. That was until he heard the reply, “thank you darling”.
Mr Walsh, he thought.
William woke with a resounding headache as his eyes felt glued shut and his whole body felt heavy. He slowly arched his body around until he was perched on the edge of his bed. He gradually got to his feet and went to the mirror. He managed to open his eyes enough to see his reflection and was met with a nasty scar. It enveloped most of the space above his right eye and forehead. He thought to himself, how the hell am I alive? There was a knock on the door, and it was Summer, she had a cup of tea and some breakfast on a tray.
“Quite the knock you got there, you’re lucky it wasn’t worse. I’ve seen many a man die from that. You’re lucky the horse didn’t strike you cleaner”. She smiled at him as she said it and he smiled back. She was grateful that he remembered her, she thought the blow might have shut down a few brain cells.
“What time is it?” William asked.
“Just gone 930 my dear”.
He panicked thinking they must be asking where he was up in the Grand Palace, so he quickly gathered his things and rushed to the door. He turned to kiss Summer and said, “give me an hour, I’ll come back, and we’ll go, I’ll meet you by our bridge”. She didn’t doubt the words that came out of his mouth this time and hugged him goodbye.
After hearing the conversation between the two of them, Digby couldn’t believe that Mr Walsh was going to leave and probably take a large pot of the money they’d earned with him. In his haze of anger he pulled a notepad from his blazer pocket and scrawled, I forgot to say meet me at the Grand Palace, William x. Summer was in the shower so he thought she’d believe that Mr Walsh wrote the letter because he didn’t want to disturb her. He thought to himself, I bet she doesn’t know who he really is. He took note of the paintings on the wall and laughed to himself. He watched as Mr Walsh made his way back up the hill and waited until he was gone to go on his way also.
“Shocking how Digby followed behind and left that note, seems like a jealous man”. Marty said as he stared blankly at the spirit selection behind the bar. “He must have really liked her then”.
“I’ve never heard a man speak about a girl in the way he did. He rambled on about her incessantly whenever I met him. He said that on the trips he took down the hill to see her he saw no boundary line between the rich and the poor”.
After his throat ran dry, he took another sip of his drink and asked for another. He continued on afterwards saying, “he said that there was something warm about being down in the town. Although it held none of the prestige as the top of the hill did, something about it felt different. The amount of times he’d been down there and not felt a single emotion for anyone who he took money from, was countless. But the warmth she showed him was something different, something you only ever read about.” He inhaled sharply. “He’d left his family ages ago and lived with money ever since, the feeling of love hadn’t once seeped into his life since he was young. But now, she gave him that, he said he was a damaged man, and the first time anyone showed an interest in him, it broke him”.
“Are you okay?” Marty asked Billy.
What looked like he was on the verge of tears, Billy put it down to his difficult day and how it reminded him of a girl in his younger years. As well as the alcohol of course.
“How could a girl make an impression like that so quickly though?” Marty asked in bemusement.
“You see, he said he never really knew the answer to that. It was just something that she offered him that nothing else could. A sense of real happiness. The happiness that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. Happiness that makes you question whether what you’re doing is right or wrong.”
Marty thought to himself that he had never felt these feelings Mr Walsh was felt, it made him sit up to hear the end of the story.
Mr Walsh made his way back up the hill with a palpable anxiety over what the next stage of his life might hold and where it could take him. The sun decided to make its reappearance on his way up the hill, drying out his clothes which were still wet from yesterday. The walk up the hill felt like it took seconds and he was at the Grand Palace before he knew it. The smile on his face soon subsided as he saw Charlie waiting for him by the water fountain. Charlie immediately took note of the scar above Mr Walsh’s right eye, “what the bloody hell happened to you?” Charlie enquired. He looked intensely at it.
Mr Walsh looked at Charlie as if to say don’t be like Digby. In the need to not rouse anymore suspicion, he told him that he fell over a stray log on the side of the road and thus fell onto a rock. Charlie didn’t think to take it any further although he could tell it was much more to it than that. Why should he question him, it’s Mr Walsh? Digby slithered from behind a tree that was nestled next to the top of the hill and blurted out “we were gonna go hunting in a minute do you wanna come with?” He said it with gritted teeth.
Mr Walsh glanced at his watch and saw that it read 10am, giving him only about twenty minutes to get ready and leave. He saw Commissioner Terrence was waiting in the house in his hunting gear. A good old friend he’d be sad to leave. Irritation consumed him, Digby inviting Commissioner Terrence over again felt like the last straw for their friendship. Mr Walsh knew he didn’t care anymore what they did, but he took great offence to Digby’s blatant disrespect. He knew he had Summer waiting for him so he should just decline. But he just couldn’t let it go. The years of reputation he had built and the years he had allowed Digby to be his right-hand man. The betrayal cut so deep inside of him he couldn’t just go running off yet. What he’d achieved paralysed him from doing anything different. He had to go hunting one last time and then he could be free. He had to prove he was the man of the Grand Palace and it was all his show. One last act of greed. He didn’t want those two to garner any more suspicion and agreed to go to the fields out back to shoot whatever they could lay their eyes on. He didn’t want their last memory of him to be a weak one.
Digby passed a rifle to Mr Walsh aggressively, and then Charlie, and then they went through the garden out back. They traipsed through the small woodland until they got out to the field. This was the field Mr Walsh looked so fondly on from up on the deck by the pool. Mr Walsh and Digby didn’t even look at each other the whole way. Mr Walsh looked back and could see the Grand Palace. He looked in awe at what he built, a small tear formed in his eye and a degree of sadness trickled down his spine. This was his life he was leaving behind. He was grateful to. There wasn’t a shred of real happiness in the walls of the Grand Palace. It was only Grand in stature. Digby disrupted his moment with a fire of the gun towards a wild deer.
The time ticked past ten fifteen and Summer grew anxious over William’s lateness. She knew he wouldn’t be late, he seemed so excited earlier. Through her own anxiety, she looked up at the hill and saw where he lived. It was so spectacular one could only imagine what it was like to live there. She opened the door to have a better look and a gust of wind attached a piece of paper to her leg. She picked it up and read it. It was Digby’s note. She smiled and thought William must have wanted her to come up there for one fleeting look at the Grand Palace. Proving to her that he chose her over that. Love over money. She decided to make her way up the hill.
Charlie took aim at a fox running about a mile to the west and took it out with a consummate ease. Mr Walsh couldn’t help but nervously check his watch and see the time nearing on twenty past ten.
“Waiting for something?” Digby asked.
“No, just checking to see how many minutes it’s taken you lot to kill something”, Mr Walsh hit back immediately.
Summer reached the top of the hill and saw this amazing structure that seemed to be something out of a fairy-tale. The beauty of it stunned her and the fact that it was a short walk from the town amazed her. She couldn’t believe the contrast. She thought to herself, this is what the people must strive to earn. This whole collection business was so they could live like this. She saw the main door was slightly ajar and she tentatively pushed it open, not wanting to look like she was breaking and entering. Her jaw dropped with some regularity as she made her way around the house, she called for William around every corner. She noticed the vast amount of riches strung up on the walls and the reflection she could see of herself through the cleanliness of the marbled floor.
“What are you doing here ma’am?”. Summer turned around quickly and saw a very well-dressed man standing there.
“I’m looking for William”, she replied.
The Butler knew this was strange. But he also knew who she was. Mr Walsh’s not so well-kept secret. He told her he wasn’t in at the moment and that she should wait. He could tell she wouldn’t want to see what they were doing out the back. She seemed like a timid individual, one who wouldn’t cause harm to a fly. A dash of sunlight bounced off the remarkable back patio windows and she saw a group of men on the fields, just beyond a small wooded area. She could see it was William’s impressive figure. She ignored The Butler’s advice and, in her excitement, ran outside.
A horse made its way onto the field and it was clearly in a struggle with itself, it was hobbling around. Mr Walsh soon realised it was the horse that knocked him out yesterday. He touched the brazen scar above his right eye. He thought, what was he doing? That animal gave Summer such happiness, how could he consider taking its life. He felt the piercing glare of Commissioner Terrence, Digby and Charlie on the side of his head. He aimed the barrel of the gun at the horse out of sheer pressure.
Summer made her way down past the glassy pool. That’s when a gun fired. She was shaken and momentarily her heart fluttered. She hadn’t heard such a noise since her farm was ravaged. She looked up and saw the horse falling to the ground in a heap. Smoke from a rifle billowed out into the skyline. She looked on in horror at the horse falling to its death. Her eyes trained immediately on the back of William’s head; she could see that he was holding a gun. Her emotions battled each other as she felt sick at what she had just seen. She thought to herself that William was not the man he said he was, she thought that this life he lived was more important than anything he could achieve with her. The grandiose element to his life was clearly too important to him. She turned her back on the field and made her way back through the Grand Palace and back out the front door. She hurtled down the hill with floods of tears streaming from her face. When she reached the bottom of the hill she disappeared into the town. She hastily packed up anything of importance and left her house to wait for the number forty-nine.
The Butler was cleaning a glass as she ran back past him. He gave a valiant effort to stop her, but he couldn’t. A sadness overcame him as she had obviously felt she had walked into the wrong house.
“What the hell are you doing?!” exclaimed Mr Walsh.
He looked over to Digby who had a smoking rifle in his hand.
“What do you mean? You were shaking like a damn rabbit, so I took the shot”.
Mr Walsh was seemingly shaken by the merciless execution of the horse. He threw a punch at Digby rocking him where he stood. Digby aimed to throw one back, but Charlie soon stopped him not wanting to see the repercussions.
“You’re a bastard Digby”, Mr Walsh exclaimed as he stormed back up to the Grand Palace grabbing a bag, throwing a few bits in there, and taking the car down to the town. It was about eleven now, so he knew he was terribly late and hoped that Summer was still waiting for him. He drove to the bottom of the hill and had to wait for the number forty-nine bus to pass. He arrived at her house and noticed the door was open like the first day they met. He thought she must have left it open for him to come inside and wait. He approached the door and looked inside; he didn’t see her sitting in her normal seat. He peered in through the door shouting for Summer with no response. He then focused on the fact that the house seemed barer than usual. Books, clothes and kitchenware were all missing. He searched the house for anything that might give him hope that she was waiting for him elsewhere. Then he remembered, he told her to wait by the bridge! Before he left, he noticed a piece of paper on the kitchen side. He picked it up and it read, I forgot to say meet me at the Grand Palace, William x.
He couldn’t believe what he’d just read. He knew he didn’t leave the note there and there was probably only one person whoever would. That bastard Digby. He slumped back in his chair and with the palms of his hand rubbed his eyes. He looked to the ceiling in disbelief that Digby deliberately decided to go hunting. He knew she’d see he wasn’t a pure a soul as she thought.
He thought to himself, it couldn’t let it end like this, could it? A shallow, evil businessman was what she probably thought of him now. This hurt him a great deal. After what Digby did, he didn’t want to be seen as that. It was callous from him. That’s what hurt him the most, Summer’s last image of him was him as Mr Walsh, not William. All these thoughts raced around his brain. He knew he’d never set her right unless he found her. He looked up through the window and saw the desolate fields out back. He opened the back door and ran. He ran like lightening to the bridge. Faster than he’d ever ran before. As he ran the dark clouds closed in. The Grand Palace faded into the background.