Chapter 19 – The Cellar
All night Ethel heard noises, faint noises from Michael’s room. She couldn’t sleep, and nor could her son. Early in the morning she went quietly to check up on him. Opening the door carefully as not to wake him. Normally that was never an issue, Rebecca would say that there could be a nuclear explosion and Michael would sleep through the whole thing. Now it was different, Michael couldn’t sleep and that’s why he had spent the night tossing and turning. She wanted to get up and go to her son but felt scared to do that, she had seen something in him earlier in the evening, something distant. Ethel peered in, but he wasn’t there. Michael’s bed still had the covers on like he hadn’t even slept in it. Ethel put on her gown and went downstairs, everything was quiet, too quiet. Everything has a soul, not just people, everything in this world has an essence of being. The houses, the streets, the shops, something gives them life and makes them whatever they are. This house had lost its soul. Ethel walked through the hallway, just before the kitchen on the right hand side was the cellar door. The lock had been removed and she noticed it was open slightly. ‘Michael, Michael are you in there’? Ethel knocked the door, once, twice.
Michael are you in there? That’s a good question. I didn’t know where I was, this place was dark and cold, I don’t even remember how I got here. It was a bad dream, like being in the belly of a monster, yet it was still safer than being out there. I wasn’t here out of my own choice, I was brought down here and leaving wasn’t my choice either.
Ethel walked down the stairs slowly, ‘Michael, what are you doing down here? It’s so early, and you are not well. Michael looked at his Ma’, ‘I’m sorry, I…’. She took his arm, ‘come on honey, come upstairs. Your hands are cold, how long have you been down here’?
‘I don’t know’.
Ethel watched Michael eat, he looked weaker, he had lost alot of weight. ‘Is Kay alright’? His question was sudden, it surprised his Ma. ‘Yes, she is fine. I was with her yesterday, we went to see Uncle Jake’.
‘The same reason that you went, to meet him’. Michael looked at Ethel, ‘How did you know that I went’.
‘I know. I know you very well, you are my son’.
‘Do you know Gabriel’?
‘Yes I did’.
‘Do you believe he saved me’? Ethel looked at Michael again, remembering what Dr Rogers had said to her that Michael may be suffering from post-traumatic stress. If she told him the truth, he may get upset and she was scared of that. There was a loud knock on the door, Ethel got up quickly to answer it, relieved that she had a break from this conversation. Ethel opened the door, ‘Morning Mr Mansell’. ‘Morning Mrs Martyn’. Hans stood there, wearing a long overcoat and he had a satchel in his hand. ‘I am sorry to disturb you, is Michael at home’?
‘Yes he is, is everything ok’?
‘Oh yes. I just wanted to ask him some questions. I have begun to write again, along with Miss Winters’.
‘Mr Mansell, he is not that well. It’s probably not a good time’.
‘I know Mrs Mansell, I don’t want to be any trouble. I need to know what happened at the barn, it seems like a big cover up by the sheriff’s department…….again’.
‘Ok, come in’.
Hans made his way behind Ethel as Mike stood up, ‘Hello Michael. Is it ok if I speak to you’. Michael nodded, ‘Yes, come inside’. Michael took Hans into the lounge, as Ethel followed. Michael sat down facing Hans, Ethel sat on a chair by the door. ‘Michael, I don’t want to trouble you, but I need to know. I have begun to write again, I just couldn’t watch what was going on and do nothing. So I am a freelance journalist now, write what I want’. Michael nodded, ‘That’s good’.
‘Michael, look whatever happened to you at the barn, you need to tell me clearly. Hugh your friend was also killed, and the sheriff is saying that he shot you, maybe you shot him. It’s a cover up’. Michael looked at Ethel then at Hans, ‘Hugh shot me’.
There was a silence, a damning silence in the room as though someone had turned the power off, everywhere and everything was left in the dark. ‘Michael, the first statement you gave to the department was that you were chased by police officers in the forest. The rest you don’t remember but they were chasing you. That statement was never accepted by Vincent Cunningham, but that’s the first thing you said’.
‘That wasn’t me’. Hans looked at Ethel, ‘You never gave that statement’?
’It wasn’t me, who gave that statement’. Hans looked down for a moment. Ethel spoke ‘so why did you say that then’? Mike looked at Ethel, his look was firm, ‘I never said that. I was shot by Hugh’.
‘I betrayed him, he knew that. That night, I went to the barn and he showed me pictures of me visiting Jen. He knew that I visited Jen’.
‘So you knew where she was all that time while Hugh searched for her like crazy’?
‘Not all the time, but at the end I found her. But my friend thought that I was seeing Jen all along and we had planned everything together’. Ethel looked horrified, Hans looked at Ethel and knew that she had lost faith in the only male ‘Martyn’ left in the family.
‘Well, did you’?
‘Did you plan what happened with Jennifer’?
‘I don’t know, do we plan our own destruction’?
‘How could you do this, cheat on your friend’?
‘When I use to go to church, I remembered some of the stories. Joseph and how he was betrayed by his brothers. Well Ma, who are we today? Which ones of us are Joseph and who are the brothers? We’re all mixed in together, and we don’t even know the difference’.
‘You should know the difference, I taught you everything and you forgot’. ‘NO, YOU FORGOT’! Mike shouted as he stood up, Hans stands up in a flash too. ‘You all forgot about him but he’s ….’. Mike left the room and opened the door of the cellar, slamming it behind him.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with him, what he says doesn’t make sense’. Hans is busy writing something down, looking up out of courtesy to acknowledge what Ethel was saying. ‘Michael, he says confusing things. He talks about Gabriel as though he really believes he is alive’. Hans stands up, ‘Mrs Martyn, don’t provoke him or deny what he says or ….. believes’.
‘But if we don’t then his belief will become a conviction’.
‘Maybe he needs professional help. I will talk to Dr Rogers’.
Hans begins to leave the room, ‘what is he doing in there’?
‘I don’t know, since he has come back he has been going into the cellar alot. I think he may have even slept in there last night’. ‘In the cellar’?
‘Yes, Mr Mansell, he never use to go in the cellar. We don’t use it anymore. Since he has been young, he has been scared of it, his father locked him in there once by mistake and he was terrified. Never went in there since, or hardly ever’.
‘But now, since he’s returned home he goes in there’?
‘Yes, it’s so strange’. Hans begins walking towards the door, he turns around to Ethel, ‘just one question ….. about the cellar? Did Gabriel go in the cellar, alot’? ‘Yes he did’.
Ethel sat in the lounge as the night covered the house, Michael never came out of the cellar. She could have called him but she didn’t. It wasn’t him, he felt different, in the past when he had difficult moments in his life, he would lash out and at times become aggressive. Yet it was him, Ethel knew it was Michael, he always had that sensitivity and the warmth, which was so uncommon in young men today. After all, he still lives at home when so many men of his age decide to move on leaving their family behind, not considering for a moment how their elderly parents will survive. That wasn’t Michael, he was always different, troubled yet sensitive. But since returning home, Michael was distant, his every action and words seemed cold and maybe that damp and morbid cellar was the right place for him. The door opened and closed, he had left the house. Ethel walked to the front window, peering out seeing Michael drive away in his wagon. She always knew when he was about, but today she never heard him come out of the cellar and leave the house. He hasn’t even eaten properly and he’s still recovering from the shooting. Ethel felt a concern for him as she walked out into the hallway, the cellar door was still slightly open. She entered this forgotten part of the house, it wasn’t used since Shane died. The stairs were made of stone, hard and firm and there was a strange smell which came from it. Ethel walked down the stairs, just to have a look around and maybe see the reason why Michael has made this place his new bedroom. It was largely empty, the stairs were on the left hand side, and on the right hand side was the large open space. There were a few boxes on the far side, wooden boxes stacked up with discarded items belonging to Shane. Facing the stairs was Shane’s wooden workbench, there were still a few pieces of wood on top. Ethel had never really noticed them before. She walked slowly and deliberately to the worn looking armchairs which had been moved down here due to lack of space upstairs. Shane never let anything go, he would hate throwing anything out, when it had no use or simply had been worn out, it would be moved down here into his recreational room. Ethel felt a shiver, as she turned around and began walking back up the stairs. This place was part of a world that had long since been discarded from the memories of this house. A place where men existed who had since moved on to another abode, never to come back. It felt to Ethel just for a moment as though she had opened a door, for them to come back into her life again. This could never happen, it was just her, Michael and Rebecca, no-one else could enter this house or her life again.
A car pulled up outside the motel and a man emerged from it. His movements were jaded and slow, signs of a man who had been driving for a long distance. He reached inside the car and took his coat, pressing the alarm remote as he walked into the motel. He had his coat back on, as he walked to reception, ‘Long Night Motel’? ‘That’s right’, Al looked up. ‘I’m looking for Miss Kay Winters. I understand she is staying here’. ‘Yes she is, you are’? ‘Please call her and tell her Ajay Durrani is here’. ‘Who’?
Kay walked into reception, Ajay was sitting on an old sofa placed in the reception area, ‘Ajay, what a surprise’. Kay smiled as she hugged Ajay,
‘I had to come and see you’. Ajay looked at Kay, it was a long look as though he was checking whether Kay was the same or had she changed. Ajay booked himself a room before going upstairs with Kay. He looked at her room, smiling ‘So Kay, you’re living five star, huh’? Kay laughed, ‘Not exactly but I’m kind of used to it now’. Ajay sat down on a chair next to the bathroom, as Kay sat on the bed. ‘Ajay, so why you here’? ‘I had to come and get my star reporter’. ‘I resigned, remember’. Ajay leaned forward as he faced Kay, looking into her eyes, ‘I refused your resignation’. Ajay was a middle aged man, he was smart looking and very intelligent. He liked Kay alot even though their relationship was nothing more than professional, and he always recognized that. ‘Crime Speaks’ had been built by himself and by Kay.
‘I will wait for you, however long it takes. I hope he’s okay now’.
‘I don’t know, I haven’t met him since that night’.
‘What, he didn’t come to see you? The person who saved his life’. Kay nodded, maybe reflecting herself in the truth of that statement. Although she tried not to give herself credit for what she did. Kay smiled as she said nothing. ‘How did you find this place’? Ajay rested back in his chair, ‘Not easy. I never realized this town was as far as it is, and when I got here, suddenly I realized I had no clue as to where you might be staying’. ‘So you just stumbled onto this place’? ‘No, I went into town, spotted a guy and asked him where the local motel was. He told me about this place and here I am’. Kay smiled as she tapped Ajay’s knee lightly, ‘I’m glad you are here’. ‘I’m glad too. I will stay for a couple of days and then maybe you will come back with me’. Kay said nothing but she nodded slowly. She had no reason to stay, not anymore but she wanted to meet Hans and then decide whether he needs her help. She also wanted to meet Michael, just one more time even if it means going to see him herself. ‘Kay, let’s go and eat something, you show us the way. You are practically a local now’. Kay and Ajay laughed as they left the room.
Kay took Ajay to the ‘shelter’, which seemed more empty than usual. Kay thought about her meeting with Michael in this same place, when she had asked him out. Kay looked at the door occasionally as Ajay ate while adding humorous comments as was his habit. Kay sub-consciously searched for Michael in this place, this is what people often do, associating people with the place in which they met them. ‘You’re thinking about him, aren’t you’? Kay looked at Ajay suddenly as though he had woken her up. ‘Who’? ‘Michael, the guy you saved’.
‘No, I’m not’.
‘Why do you hide it, you like him so’.
‘Nothing wrong with that, you’ve not liked anyone since your marriage’. Kay looked at her food as she looked back at Ajay, ‘I care about him, that’s it’. ‘Maybe that’s how it starts’. Kay looked towards the bar, and there he was sitting quietly looking at her. Kay blinked and looked again, Michael was there staring at her. She looked at him as Ajay had his back to the man he was talking about. She couldn’t believe it was him, she knew he survived and he was discharged from the hospital but she hadn’t seen him since he was in ICU. Kay had never gone to see the man who owed her his life, the man she had dragged off the road out of a pool of blood, his own blood. Kay felt his blood on her body even now, as though it had become fused into her body and he had become a part of her. Michael was living in her skin, every inch of her flesh had traces of Michael’s blood. She didn’t see him because of a strange fear, it didn’t make sense to her even now. Her eyes became watery, like a fog had descended on her and everything around her. Michael never moved but he looked at Kay from a distance, maybe Ajay being there was stopping him from coming over. Kay knew whatever happened in her life from that point onwards, she knew that she loved him. She got up from her seat, ‘I’ll just be a moment’, Ajay nodded. Kay walked over to Mike slowly, this was the second time that she had made the first move towards him. Yet she had no interest in relationships since her disastrous marriage came to an end but this stranger had this magnetic field around him which pulled her in. Kay didn’t understand even now, what she was doing on the side of the forest that night, when only half an hour before that she was asleep in her bed, it was that same magnetic attraction which took her to Michael again and again.
Michael allowed himself a smile, ‘Hi Kay’.
‘How are you feeling’? Kay looked at Michael trying to see if there was any visible difference in him since the shooting.
‘You scared me that night, I didn’t think you were going to make it’. Mike looked away as though he was reflecting on something or simply trying to remember the events of that bloody night. ‘Well, I made it but Hugh didn’t’. Kay didn’t know what to say, it was true that for every person who survives, another one dies. That’s probably what hospital staff go through all the time, the taking and giving of life. It’s probably difficult to assess in such a situation whether you have actually made a difference.
‘Thank you for bringing me to the hospital, that night’. Michael showed his first sign of emotion as he said that, looking at Kay and then looking back down again. ‘Whatever I did, anyone would have done the same’. Ajay walked up behind Kay, ‘Hi, how are you’? Michael looked at Ajay then at Kay, ‘He’s my boss, Ajay’. Michael glanced at Ajay, acknowledging him for a moment before standing up slowly. ‘I’ll be going’.
‘Where are you heading’.
‘Across the bridge’.
‘Just to hang out, or going to eat something’?
‘I ate here, I am just going there to meet someone’. ‘Who’? As soon as Kay asked that question, she cursed herself, it was that reporter coming out of her again! ‘Just someone, I will tell you later, he’s waiting for me’. Michael dropped some money onto the counter and walked out of the door. Kay looked at Ajay, ‘That was Michael’. Ajay stood there looking abit puzzled, ‘I guessed that’.
‘What’s the matter’?
Ajay walked back to the table as Kay followed. He said very little as they finished their dinner. Kay saw Ajay’s mind ticking over, he was troubled ever since she had introduced him to Michael, and it wasn’t a great introduction. They arrived back at the motel, Kay looked across at Ajay who was obviously tired and needed a good rest. ‘Ajay, just get a good night sleep, you have been quiet ever since we finished our dinner’. ‘Kay, it’s bugging me’. ‘What is’?
‘Your friend Michael, he was the same man who I met in the town. But in the diner he didn’t recognize me’.
’Michael was the man you asked directions from?
‘Yes but he didn’t know who I was in the diner’. Kay thought for a moment, ‘He’s been through alot, and it probably didn’t click it was you’.
‘Well, I spoke to him in the town centre, even asked him whether he knew you. He said he didn’t’. Kay said nothing as Ajay walked into his room.