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Chapter 16 – Survivor

When a man appears from beneath the surface, the first thing he sees is a glimmer of light. That break in the dark world in which he roamed is the first sign that he is still alive. A survivor accepts that he is dead, but survival is just something he holds onto, to get him through those remaining moments. I swam from beneath and saw a light, it was a sign to me that I was still breathing, it had been a long time since I felt that. My breathing got louder and I could hear my heart beating loudly, it was thumping like a huge drum, it felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. Open .. Eyes .. Open, am I still here? …….. Where am I? ……..Who am I?

‘Mr Martyn’, the nurse came close to Michael, his face was swollen and his body limp, even his eyes were still closed but he moved. Michael felt himself move, he then heard his name, ‘Mr Martyn’. He heard faint noises, mainly the nurse as she left the room, he couldn’t open his eyes. ‘Open ….’ He spoke to his eyes, like he was telling them what to do, they listened to him. Michael opened his eyes and saw that faint ray of light all around him, filling the room and he knew that he was alive. A man came in with the nurse, ‘Mr Martyn, welcome back’!

Hans Mansell, arrived at the motel as Kay came down to meet him. Hans had not seen Kay since their last conversation at the library when Kay was preparing to go back. Kay walked up to Mansell as he smiled awkwardly, ‘Miss Winters, I wanted to come and see you before … but I wasn’t sure if you wanted to see me’. Kay smiled, ‘Why wouldn’t I want to see you’? ‘I said some harsh things about you and I had no right to’. Kay looked down as Hans sounded human, subdued and humble in the way he spoke. Kay knew that Hans judged her because he was an investigator, and sometimes when you believe in the truth and the good work that you do, it becomes easy to judge others. ‘Mr Mansell, I have heard alot worse than that, and maybe you were right’.

Hans and Kay sat outside the motel, talking quietly and every once in a while Kay looked around to check no-one was watching them. ‘Miss Winters, Michael Martyn is conscious. He’ll be okay’. Kay looked at Hans and she felt happiness from deep inside her, like a burden had been lifted from her shoulders. She had felt his weight on her from the time she had dragged him to her car on that bloody night. ‘Miss Winters, you are free to go home. The police have your statement and there is no law to keep you here. I understand why you stayed but now, you can go’. Kay smiled, ‘You want me to go’? Hans smiled back, ‘No Miss Winters, I don’t. I wish if I had a daughter, she be like you’. Kay smiled ‘So you don’t think I’m gutless’? Hans shook his head, ’No, No. Miss Winters I am gutless, the one who spent years wiping dust off old bookshelves. Hiding away in an abandoned library, so I don’t have to face the crimes outside it’. Kay had realized her mistake, judging Hans for not doing more to speak out against the crimes of this town. Kay had hardly left her room since Michael’s shooting, she had stayed in her motel room typing her story and even after submitting it, still never went out. It wasn’t fear of what happened, it was shock, she kept feeling the blood on her body and Michael’s breath which seemed to stop and start like the engine of a machine which kept cutting out. ‘Mr Mansell, I am sorry for saying those things, it’s harder to see people you care about in trouble than people you don’t know. I have covered many cases and believed that I can deal with this. But when it happens to someone you know, you touch his blood, see him dying, it scares the shit out of you. I’m a wreck’. Kay felt tears in her eyes, ‘Fuck, I didn’t want to cry in front of anyone’. Kay wiped her tears, as Hans handed her a tissue, ‘Miss Winters, I’m going back. I’m starting to write again, my first story will be the killing of Hugh Charles and attempted murder of Michael Martyn’. Kay smiled, ‘That’s great, so who will you write for’? ‘I’m freelance, write for myself and sell my stories. Maybe you get me a column in your paper’. Hans winked at Kay, ‘Oh, no Mr Mansell, so you want my job’? Kay laughed like a child, as Hans smiled ‘You better believe it’.

Survival is not about chance, it’s about choice. A man does not die until he has given up all hope of living. Every fear must be conquered when a man wants to survive, and the greatest fear is one of dying. When the survivor no longer fears death, then he chooses not to die.

The nurse walked in quietly and placed her hand on Ethel’s shoulder, ‘Mrs Martyn, Mrs Martyn’. Ethel looked up, ‘He’s asleep, I think it’s best to leave, give him some rest’. Ethel looked back at her son, he was asleep. He was sleeping but not peacefully, he was beaten, bruised and in pain. Ethel stood up and walked slowly towards the door, looking back at her son again. Ethel left the room thinking about what she will tell Becky the following morning. Becky had been moved to a clinic on the ‘Eastside’, Ethel’s insurance was finally paying out for her therapy. Becky still didn’t know what happened to Michael. Ethel heard loud noises as she saw Martha arguing with the doctor, ‘We need a funeral for him’.

‘I understand but this is a police case, and we are not authorized to release the body until the police have their report’.

Martha looked away, cursing as she grabbed the hands of two little children and stormed off. They were Hugh’s kids, Ethel looked at them, they looked distraught and confused. It reminded Ethel of young Michael, that’s how he looked when his father died. He never recovered, and he never will. His father‘s blood followed him all his life. Ethel walked over to the doctor, ‘Mr Rogers, why won’t you release Hugh’s body. His family need to have the funeral’.

‘Well Mrs Martyn, he has had a post mortem but the police have not allowed us to release the body’.

‘Why not’?

‘He was killed the same night as when your son was shot, Mr Charles’s murder is unsolved’.

‘Well the same people who killed Hugh, shot my son’.

‘No Mrs Martyn, the sheriff has confirmed that Hugh Charles shot your son but they don’t know who shot Mr Charles, maybe your son did’. Ethel looked at the Doctor, in disbelief. It was a conspiracy to cover up the truth, the police always covered up what happened, that’s what they did with Gabriel and Becky.

Ethel sat in her kitchen as the sun went down slowly on her house. She looked at the empty chairs, the vacated seats where her loved ones had once sat. She stared at the card in her hand, and walked over to the phone dialing the number slowly. ‘Hello, Miss Kay Winters’? ‘Yes, speaking’. ‘I am Ethel Martyn and I would like to see you, tonight’.

Kay arrived at the house, she had never been here before but it was draped in a cloak of darkness. There were not even any lights on as Kay slowly knocked the door wondering whether she was at the right house. The door opened and Ethel greeted Kay, ‘Miss Winters, thank you for coming’. She held out her hand as Kay smiled and shook it gently. Kay remembered that meeting in the church and how Ethel had refused to shake her hand. Things had changed since then, people and their lives had been altered. Kay had nothing with her, there was no notepad or Dictaphone.

‘Mrs Martyn, I won’t take any notes and there will be no recording either as you requested’.

‘That’s fine, Miss Winters thank you for saving my son’s life’.

‘I just did what I had to, he’s a survivor’.

‘Miss Winters, I called you here not to discuss my husband, or Gabriel, or even Rebecca. But I want to ask you for a favour’.

‘Sure, Mrs Martyn, I have finished my work on Gabriel Martyn, but I do have a few questions of my own’.

‘I will answer them, after you have heard what I want to say’.

Kay smiled, ‘Sure’.

’My husband was not a good man, he didn’t believe in God and after Gabriel died, he had no belief in anything. My husband didn’t kill himself, he was punished …… by his own hands.

Gabriel, I loved him but he never listened to me. He was trained by his father, to grow up and be like him and he lost himself in between a violent father and criminal Uncle.

Becky was innocent, who paid the price maybe for her mother grieving too long for her son and husband.

But what happened to Michael, that was wrong and it hurts the most. I can’t bear it’. Ethel stopped as she collected herself once more.

‘Mrs Martyn, has he said anything about what happened that night, who shot him’? Ethel was quiet as she looked around for a moment, in her lounge which was engulfed by a dark presence of misery. ‘He doesn’t say anything ….. to me. He just looks at me, sometimes like he doesn’t know who I am. Then he smiles, maybe because he sees the fear in my eyes’.

‘Mrs Martyn I want to help but you need to tell me what you believe happened that night’?

‘Hugh didn’t shoot my son. He loved Michael, he would die for him. This is a big cover up, to protect the people who did this’.

‘Which people’?

Ethel looked up at Kay, her eyes asked the same questions. Then they softened. ‘I want you to find out, Miss Winters. I called you here to ask you to find the people who did this to my son’.

‘Do you believe it was Vincent Cunningham’?

Ethel looked away, ‘No, but he knows the truth’.

Kay felt she was locked into another maze of questions and riddles, similar to when she met Han’s assistant and when Hans talked about Gabriel disappearing. The truth behind these riddles lay here in this town but the people didn’t want to see it, don’t want to acknowledge it, yet they continue searching for it. ‘Mrs Martyn, how about if we wait for Michael to get better, he will tell us what happened’.

‘He won’t, because he doesn’t remember and even if he does then he won’t speak of it. Michael never speaks of his pain, he just learns to live with it’.

Kay sensed another dead end, even if she wanted to tell Ethel she will find out who shot Michael, in her heart she knew that this was another secret which was being kept very safe by faceless men.

‘Miss Winters, do you know Jake Martyn’?

‘I don’t’.

‘He is my husband’s brother, he’s in prison and I haven’t talked to him for thirteen years. He knows everything about what happened to my family and I also know that my son went to meet him’.

‘Can I meet him, speak to him’?

‘I’m sure you could’.

‘Why do you think he knows about this, if he is in prison’? Ethel smiled at Kay, ‘I know my family, you must talk to him. If you come to my house on Monday morning, he always calls and you can speak to him then’.

Kay walked to the door as Ethel also stood up, ‘I will be off now Mrs Martyn, thank you for seeing me’. Ethel smiled, ‘No, Miss Winters, thank you for coming’.

‘Mrs Martyn, can I ask you a question. It’s off the record and what you tell me will never be printed anywhere’? Ethel nodded, ‘Yes’. Kay looked down for a moment as she cleared her head, ‘Who are the seekers, do you know them’? Ethel looked at Kay, her expression never changed ‘Jake Martyn will tell you’.

’Do you know them Mrs Martyn’? Ethel looked down as she sighed, ‘They don’t exist. I don’t know them’. Kay said nothing else as she opened the front door and walked out, Ethel closed the door and Kay looked at the house one more time as she sat in her car. The lights were still off, she wondered how Ethel even sits in that house which was so dark and sad. The walls of the house were covered by this strange sense of dread and the air inside it, was stale and lifeless. It reminded her of this whole town, and the people who live in it. It was like the library where Hans spent all his time and ofcourse that damn motel. Every corner of this place, held secrets and the people who lived in between its walls, the streets and every place within this town, tiptoed their way around these secrets, hoping to avoid becoming one of them.

Everyone knew that I survived something, there was sympathy in the eyes of some and admiration in the eyes of others. I was the talk of everyone, because surviving death was a victory for every living man. They call it human spirit, our ‘will’ to live. But that’s how we deceive ourselves, believing that we got one over the Grim Reaper. He laughs at us, hiding in the shadows and saying ‘O Man who survived, I let you go so you can suffer abit longer ………… until I come again’.

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