Speak & Listen

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TRASON

TREASON

Because Jeremiah’s parents returned that weekend, I had to leave. Guess who I was living with?

“Son, welcome to your new home.” David smiled at me as I was more than flabbergasted by the exquisiteness of the entire house. From the diamond chandeliers to the melodramatically lengthy and curled stairs, the marble carpeting, the aluminium windows that displayed a Utopian view of a fading sunset, green from the trees and distant buildings that showed the town’s CBD.

He was obsessed as I was with music, but also had a passion for painting, so on the walls were portraits of baroque art, some of the French antiques, vinyls from his band Black Alaska, the Cranberries, Elvis Presley, Tracy Chapman, Michael Learns, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong and many more.

“Is that why you didn’t tell me you moved in? You wanted to settle?” I laughed with a wide smile as I touched a Lana Del Rey artwork on the walls. He was a huge fan of her music too.

“Yep. Oh, and honestly, I never liked that Benjamin boy anyway.” He left me there as the valet, Alejandro, took my bags as he, David, disappeared into the lounge.

“Thank you,” I said to Alejandro. He nodded.

I walked into the lounge. He knew before I told him about Niall’s death and who was actually responsible. It was impossible to be opaque with him, he saw right through the dark shadows of what is hidden. I didn’t even bother to ask how and how much he knew. I suspected that dad wasn’t just a multimillionaire who just chose not to be flamboyant and explore his riches but...something made me think of him otherwise...the day he taught me how to use a gun in order to, and I quote, ‘defend myself one day’.

Flashback:

“Dad?” I froze at the door. It was a few days before he took me in. The weekend. I was still at Jeremiah’s apartment.

“Son.” He opened his arms. I snuggled myself into his huge arms.

He kissed my head as he caressed my hair. “Heard that asshole kicked you out.”

“That’s right, Mr Spector.” Jeremiah descended from upstairs.

“My! My! You have grown!” David exclaimed with his arms widened.

Jeremiah, because he loved the intimacy, particularly hugs, went ahead to hug David. “Nice to see you again, David.” Jeremiah flashed a grin.

David played with his hair. “Where’s the lounge, your old man needs to sit down.”

“This way.” I guided him and in silence, we got into the lounge and he, just like he said he ‘needed’ to sit down, literally threw himself on the futon. He just didn’t know the time and place to play a clown.

“Thank you, sons.” He sighed. “I came to take you back home, son.”

“Last time you said that you disappeared for weeks and I was homeless.”

“I was busy, son. Plus you never called. I was helping your mother. She was in Alex in a rehabilitation centre again when she had a relapse, which caused her a stroke.”

“What?!” I screamed.

“Doctors say physiotherapy and minerals may help recover her from the stroke and of course, abstinence from any drug. But enough about Cynthia, the body y’all disposed at Lake Mouth was found by the cops. And why the fuck did you run to Nahoo, Jeremiah? To attract attention?”

My eyes had widened. As much as I suspected that he knew how Niall Johnson died, well it was all over the news, but little did I know he knew who was actually responsible. Furthermore, I didn’t know he knew about Jeremiah’s hibernation and why.

“I was scared, sir.” Jeremiah fiddled nervously. “After I killed the five kids, four of them responsible for the gang-rape, I thought I would be the prime suspect. When I was called by the police and asked why I had gone to Nahoo, I told them that I had to visit a sick relative. I didn’t know what to do.”

“It’s all water under the bridge. Niall Johnson is dead, so are his puppies. Anyway...”

The doorbell rang. “I’ll get it.” Jeremiah, like a buck, sprung to the door.

Dad looked at me in silence. He smiled at me afterwards, which I had no idea what it meant. Jeremiah came in, followed by an officer. “Greetings, both Mr and Mr Spector. I’m Detective James. Adrian, I had no idea you live here now.”

“Yes, I do.” I frowned, giving him a look that wanted him to get straight to the fucking point. My palms were sweating already.

“I heard. Anyway, I came to inform you regarding Daniel’s death, the death of Josh, Calvin, Jerrod, Jasper and Aubrey and eventually the death of Niall Johnson, I assume you already heard.”

“WHAT!? No, I haven’t officer!” I lied. “He died? How?” I pointed with my hand for him to sit. He sat at least a distance from the three of us.

“We’re coming to that, Mr Spector. The death of the five victims, including the footage of Daniel being coerced to kill himself...the serial killer, also believed to be responsible for the multiple disappearances around the town was confirmed to be none other than Niall Johnson, who was found last night in Lake Mouth dead. In the scene, Mr Johnson had a pistol, a letter and the majority of his clothes were off which was assumed to be, in conclusion, an act of consensual suicide.

He left a letter confessing to his crimes and both being responsible for the disappearances, although he never told us what he did to them, coercing Daniel to kill himself and apologizing to the people he hurt during the process. It’s a typed letter, so it’s hard to tell if he composed it or there is a third party involved.”

I paced up and down. “But what could he have possibly had against Daniel?”

“Niall Johnson was also found to be in ownership and participation in a child pornography video of a girl named Kelly Fernandez, who is the younger sibling of who I believe is your friend, Craig and Alicia, who is the younger sister of your then-friend Mason. Because Niall Johnson is dead...there’s no case. But to answer your question, Mr Spector, I have no idea.” The officer shrugged.

“Thank you for the update, sir.” David shook the officer’s hand. The officer double-pat my shoulder, with absolutely nothing to say. I had absolutely nothing to say to him either. Kelly was also raped? Did Craig know about this?

David escorted the officer as Jeremiah approached me, not even sure if my reaction would be normal. I wasn’t sure either. “It’s all over, Adrian.” He whispered as he took my head to his chest. I was just speechless.

But above all, I asked myself: who covered Niall? Okay, maybe that would be Craig, but what about Ben and the other bodies Gabriel killed, were they found too? And didn’t Craig say he took the body, Niall’s body, to New Heights? I may have been inebriated at that moment, but that part I remembered.

Cain, Ben and Sam? What was Gabriel’s plan to ever amend or compensate for what he did?

Was I mad at him? Not anymore. I didn’t have the strength to stay mad, nor the motive. His father is what you would call ‘the devil in an angel’s skin’...that’s also a phrase only I use, but it’s definitive and accurate. He would accept you in his house as his own child, but you’d never know what happens behind the curtains. Some who don’t know him may call him ‘earnest’ and ‘kind’, but even I knew that behind Mr Greene’s smile was a burning desire to do evil, which, unfortunately, his son caught the smoke as well.

Flashback:

“I don’t want you to go. Ask your mom if you can stay for the night.” Gabriel begged as we were in his room upstairs.

It was back in fifth-seventh grade when he and I were just friends when I was never ever touched by a man before. Of course, David over Cynthia’s opinion allowed me to at least ‘visit’ Gabriel. Surely, we all know it was impossible for me to sleep over. Cynthia would have had my head on a platter.

“Dad was the one who snuck me out after mom blatantly said no. So I have to be back home by 8. Besides, you have a test to study for.” He was writing Math the following day.

“Yeah yeah, I understand, man.” The ‘man’ came from the fact that back then, I considered myself as ‘straight’.

But I saw his eyes glisten, which slowly ended up in a silent weep. My eyes widened as I saw this. Not only because I was concerned about what happened, but the mere fact that he was crying. It looked strange on him.

Gabriel was always the ‘cool’ popular kid, some would call him self-told and narcissistic, but being friends with him for the longest time proved me wrong. Not only he spoke for me against bullies, but he advocated, in most of our oral presentations, against racial, sexual orientation stereotypes. He was really smart.

At some point, we went to the Oral Presentation Competition in Alex and him being two grades apart from me made it difficult working together, as we were the only selected top three students from our school, including Mia, who is now a junior. He was pig-headed, always knew what to say which made it hard for us to co-operate. But eventually, we reached common ground and by winning first place in the competition, he and I grew closer together as friends.

But I never thought I’d witness the day...seeing him crying. “Gabriel...are you okay? Why are you crying?”

“I am?” He quickly wiped his tears. “Sorry about that.”

“A melancholic facial expression with tears streaming down one’s eyes is considered to be signs of crying. Are you okay?”

“It’s just...dad. He...”

The door swung open, Gabriel quickly looked away. Mr Greene, with his exaggeratedly long grin, looked at me graciously. “Son, your father is here to pick you up.”

“I’ll be right down, Mr Greene. Thank you.” I nodded with a mild smile.

He nodded and absentmindedly, without checking on the well-being of his son, closed the door. Gabriel instantly came and hugged me. “Thank you.” He whispered.

“For what?” I whispered, as I weirdly caressed his back.

“For not telling him I was crying.” He sniffed. “It would have made things even worse.”

My eyes widened.

Present:

David, my father, tucked me in my blankets. Yes, he still did that. He wouldn’t mind reading me a bedtime story either if I allowed. It was night time and after a day of tolerating a splitting headache, I definitely needed the rest. David said I was ‘heating up’.

“Goodnight, son.” He smiled at the door.

“Dad...”

He turned to look again, now with a mild smile. “Yes?”

I patted my bed so he could sit. He so did. “How did you know about everything? The five victims, the disappearances, the truth behind Daniel’s death, Niall...”

“Son, I don’t think...”

“Dad, don’t you even dare lie to me. You never have before...don’t start now.”

Now he paused, startled by my tone. He sighed as he held my hand. “Son, I told you I would do whatever it takes to protect you and your mother, even when your mom and I separated, it doesn’t change the fact that I still care about you both. So I had someone following you, someone you know but I can’t tell you, that has been giving me information about your well-being, habits, your acquaintances...after the gang-rape incident, I couldn’t forgive myself and...” He began sobbing. “I can’t admit to myself enough that I had been nothing but a terrible parent. I replenished the pain by being away, thinking you’d be okay without me but...turns out everything fell apart.” He wiped his tears.

“It’s okay dad. None of anything and everything that has happened is your fault.” I said blankly, agreeing deep down that indeed, he was a terrible father. “Who’s the person? The informant?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“You can. You just won’t.”

His face was sterned. “You’re right. I won’t. But what I want to understand is what’s with these letters? Why did Sophia send them out, apparently with Benjamin’s assistance...” His eyes narrowed as his jaws clenched.

“Benjamin might have been an asshole, but he had been the most supportive boyfriend I’ve ever had, dad. Not even you were there when he was.” I gave him a look, that sort of apologized. “Sophia was playing a prank on me, jokingly, but the ulterior motive was to get me a boyfriend. I didn’t take it well when Sebastian dumped me so I decided to be celibate.”

“Didn’t you keep your letters in a chest?”

“How did you know about that?”

“Son, I’ve seen that brown chest before. In fact, I bought it for you to keep your barbie dolls.” He laughed.

“It was for my toy collection, dad.” My eyes rolled. “But yes, I did. But this one weekend, the weekend Nana died, we drank with Jeremiah, Sophia, Mia and my then-boyfriend Benjamin who was only then an acquaintance. The following day, she left in a sombre mood, but I didn’t ask myself beyond ‘why?’. When Nana died, I fell into a mild depression and had forgotten about the key...until I remembered that it had been missing for the past two weeks with the chest as well.

Benjamin was in it too because he thought it was a harmless, funny prank but things got weird when he found out that the latest recipient was him. The letters caused a stir at the school, leading to me being raped, beaten and involved in crime.”

“So all this...is Sophia’s fault?”

“No. It was mine. Why was I writing silly love letters to my crushes with no intent of sending them?”

“You addressed them, didn’t you? Can you just admit to yourself that you don’t want every part of your life to be just a fairytale? By addressing them, you somehow hoped that they would get out but that was supposed to be your decision and doing. Sophia on the other hand did a silly prank which got you bullied, raped and...”

“Things were going to happen that way regardless, dad. Whether it was me or her who sent them, it doesn’t change what happened and could have happened. If I were you, I’d just leave it.” My eyes rolled.

“You realize that all this...started with those letters being sent out? No one would have done anything about anything if those letters remained sealed and locked in your chest. In a way, they had to come out, I agree with that...but I think Sophia had no right whatsoever to humiliate you like that.”

“It brought me closer to people than ever before, made me free from depending on Sophia for defence and eloquence. I’ve learnt more than I ever could if those letters weren’t sent out. I’m glad they were. Now I know how small my circle is.” I smiled.

He sighed and smiled. “I wish I could say I taught and raised you well but...”

“Dad...you taught and raised me well.” I smiled.

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