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Chapter 2 – Across the Bridge

The time ’01:31’, Kay looks across at her clock. She sits cross legged on her springy bed in the small motel room, with her laptop placed delicately in her lap. She was trying to type the beginning of the introduction for her story. The story was titled ‘Small town Murder’. Kay had the title but not much else, as she sat thinking about Ethel Martyn and the Church. It was funny how that church and this small town was stuck in her mind, there was something eerie about this place. Kay was wearing her light grey t-shirt and her dark grey tracksuit bottoms. She seemed to be staring at the clock more than normal, her own clock that tells digital time. Kay hated those big hand, small hand clocks, she could never get used to telling the time that way. This is why she would take her own clock wherever she went. Kay had to know what time it was, even when it’s the middle of the night, sometimes in strange places she would lie awake just watching the time go by. Kay had achieved a lot in journalism, she began as a freelance writer before joining a small time press magazine called ‘Crime Speaks’. The reason why she joined was simple, she writes what she likes without having to edit the truth or be forced to accept any form of censorship.

Kay places her laptop down on the bed, an uncomfortable bed which creaks every time you move on it. She walks across to the window, peering through the blinds at a dim light outside. There was nothing to see, but Kay was trying to inspire herself as she struggles to write something about this sleepy town. Kay opens the door looking outside in the dingy hallway, she begins walking towards the small flight of stairs that leads to the reception area. A movie comes to mind ‘Psycho’. Kay wanders downstairs allowing herself a brief smile, thinking about meeting ‘Mr Bates’, but really she was hoping to ask someone to make her a cup of coffee. Or just point her in the right direction of where she could help herself. She had stayed in many places in her life, different cities and covered many stories but still hated hotels and small stuffy motel rooms. She travelled alone most of the time and that’s why she would have to phone head office every day to make sure they knew she was ok. This was part of her agreement with her immediate boss, Mr Durani.

Kay looked across at the front desk, it wasn’t ‘Norman Bates’, but another middle aged man sitting on the other side looking like he is either dosing off or trying his hardest to. He wasn’t the man who was there when she checked in, two days ago. Kay walked upto the front desk and cleared her throat, hoping to get his attention, he looked up. He seemed to stare at Kay longer than what was necessary, although she was an attractive woman who was probably more daring than women he was used to seeing. Maybe he fancies his chances with a city girl?

‘Excuse me, Sir, just wondering if you guys serve coffee at this time’.

The man looked at his watch then back at Kay, ‘No ma’am, way past that time’.

Kay frowned as she glanced outside, ‘What do you guys do here after hours’?

The man looked up at Kay with heavy eyes ‘Sleep’!

Kay grinned, she appreciated humour or was it just him being honest. ‘Well, I can’t sleep’.

The man whose expression stayed pretty much the same replied ‘Ma’am if you are here on business, then maybe you should try’.

Kay leaned on the counter, ‘I’m used to being awake, only sleep for a couple of hours anyway’. The man seemed to be friendly and was no longer staring at Kay, maybe he wasn’t fully awake when he first looked at her,

‘Like me then, that’s why my father got me sitting here doing nights’. Kay was looking around the small reception area, she was a sharp lady who would always be alert to her surroundings. This was important when you investigate and try to uncover facts, which are not apparent. This trait becomes second nature to a writer, almost like an animal who smells blood because that is their instinct. Kay’s husband learnt this the hard way, when she discovered he was cheating and ended their marriage.

‘Sir, do you work here at nights and do other work during the day’?

‘My name’s Al, no need to call me sir’. Kay smiled at Al, who was very rough in his appearance or maybe that had something to do with it being almost 02.00 am.

‘I work at the local grocery store, just help out there in the daytime’. Kay was starting to feel abit tired now but was happy she had finally got to know someone from this suspicious town, Al wasn’t so bad.

‘That’s good Al, I think I should be off to bed’.

Al suddenly spoke again ‘I use to work in the mines, when they were open but it ruined me you know. I hurt my back down there, can’t lift shit now’. Kay stopped as she looked around ‘This was a mining town’?

‘Yes ma’am, many men worked down there until the inspectors shut us down. It was deemed unsafe down there. I was one of the best workers, me and Gabe’.

Kay was all of a sudden wide awake, as she quickly asked ‘Who’s Gabe’? Al scratched his overgrown stubble awkwardly, ‘He was the Martyn kid’. Kay once again leaned on the counter ‘Do you mean Gabriel’? Al looked up at Kay, ‘yes, did you know him’? Kay shook her head as her heart was definitely beating louder than before, she was onto something maybe. She was turning on her charm as she gave Al abit of a smile and softened her voice, ‘No, don’t forget I’m not from around here, but I have heard his name from the locals’. Did he move out’?

Al seemed momentarily unsettled, even though Kay was charming him,

‘I don’t know what happened to him, the police got him’.

‘Well, he’s in jail then’?

Kay needed to know more, anything that may lead her to what happened to Gabriel Martyn and the other men.

‘No ma’am, he got into some trouble, got killed by the police. I don’t know much about that, but that’s what they say’. Al definitely seemed more agitated than before, he wasn’t going to say much else about Gabriel, even if he knew. Kay understood this and backed off, ‘Well Al nice talking to you’.

Kay began walking towards the stairs, as she heard Al’s voice from behind ’I aint met many strong kids in my life, except a couple, there was this army kid I once knew, his name was ‘Marks’. That’s when I was in the marine core, that son of a bitch lifted an army vehicle up from one side on his own, yes ma’am and there was ‘Gabe’. He could break rocks with one hit and he was still in his teens, man his eyes were dark, they were as black as those motherfuckin’ coals down in the mines’.

Kay stared at Al, he wasn’t as interesting as ‘Norman Bates’, but there was a lot more to him than meets the eye. She walked back up the stairs, re-energized as finally she met someone who knew Gabriel Martyn. As she opened the door of her room and locked it behind her, all she could think about were those eyes, black as coal.

The phone was ringing and Mike was standing in the hallway watching it, Ethel was gathering her things quickly ignoring the phone as though she couldn’t even hear it. Mike asked ‘you not gonna get that’? Ethel stopped and looked at Mike for a second, ‘No, you know it’s him, no need to answer it’. Mike just stared at the phone knowing it rings like this at least once a month, it was Uncle J trying to call.

Ethel and Mike walk out the door leaving the phone ringing behind them. As they drive through the busy town, Ethel looks at Mike, his eyes still tired and his face looking worn. ‘Mikey, you came home really late last night, everything ok’? Mike answered with a short few words ‘Yes it’s fine, I was at Hugh’s’. Ethel knew Hugh very well and also understood that Mike had only one real friend in Hugh. He was the one who helped Mike recover when he became an alcoholic, driving him across the bridge to the rehabilitation clinic for sessions and therapy. Hugh was a good man, who probably is the only reason Mike still has a business. Ethel looked at Mike as he stopped outside the laundry, ‘I really want you kids to be close, and Becky needs you more than she needs me’. Mike glanced at his Ma, ‘She doesn’t need anyone, she has grown up now makes her own decisions’. Ethel looks at Mike ‘No Mike, she needs you, I have always said to you that in her life she needs a father figure. That can only be you. She no longer comes with us in the mornings, she leaves early without even meeting me sometimes. She use to talk to me before but now she is quiet, keeps herself to herself’. Mike looks at his watch as he is getting late and he has had these conversations many times before, about being the ‘father figure’ for his kid sister. Rebecca has never been close to Mike, maybe because Mike has never looked beyond his own pain and troubles to support anyone else emotionally. ‘Ma, she’s ok, don’t worry’.

Ethel does look worried and concerned, which is rare for a lady who has always been so self-assured. ‘I AM worried, I got a call from the college, Rebecca has not been going. She misses more days then she attends. Mike she should be at college every day, so where does she go’?

Mike stares at Ethel, her expression and tone made this question even more haunting, ‘where does she go’?

Mike sits in his office at the back of the warehouse, he was looking down at the invoices in front of him but was really staring at something else, he was still looking at his Ma’s face. The look of fear that she had, ’Where does she go’? Mike was more disturbed by that look on his Ma’s face, than the fact that Becky has not been going to college. He thought about Kevin, the Cunningham kid. He worked at the steel mill, and had become friendly with Rebecca over the past six months. Mike only knew him by what he heard about him, he had seen him on occasion have too much to drink in the ‘Shelter’ and get into fist fights. He had the same bad genes as his cousin, had he been sleeping with Becky, is that how far they had gone?

Mike’s head dropped, he was becoming anxious as Ma was saying ‘Mike she should be at college every day, so where does she go’? Mike thought about Kevin taking Rebecca somewhere every day maybe across the bridge to one of those seedy motels, where many of the kids go to get a cheap room. Mike was filling up with hatred as he imagined Kevin that low life, who was known for partying, going across the bridge to meet up with hookers, actually being on top of his sister, that cock-sucker, motherfucker. There was a whirlpool swimming around in Mike’s head, Hugh holding the hammer and the look on Jen’s face her bruises and tears, little Kim walking in ‘Mama’.

Hugh opened the door and came into the office ‘Mike you busy’? Mike looked up, he didn’t look busy although he had about hundred papers on the desk. Mike shook his head ‘Nah, just catching up with all the paperwork’. Hugh came and sat down, ‘Sorry about last night, I don’t like you having to come out and see all that’. Mike looked up, this wasn’t normal, Hugh would never talk about his home life at work. Even after one of these episodes at his home, he would come into work the following day and never mention it. Almost like it never happened, Hugh would see that part of his life as an alien world when he came to work. Mike pretended as though he was looking at the invoices, ‘it’s ok Hugh, don’t worry about me it’s the kids who shouldn’t see that stuff’.

Hugh sighed for a moment, ‘Mike I got to ask you for a favour. I only got you, you know that’. Mike looked up at Hugh, this was worrying because Hugh never asks anyone for anything normally. Mike sat back on the chair, ‘What favour’?

Hugh came forward, closer to Mike, ‘She’s seeing someone, I know that. Every time she goes out, sometimes it’s to meet her mum or take her sister some place. Always some excuse but I know she lies to me’. Mike looked away as Hugh was talking, he felt burdened and didn’t want to hear about this ‘Hugh man, don’t think like that, you don’t know that she’s lying to you. Just do it for the kids’ man’.

Hugh’s expression changed into one of anger, similar to the one that Mike was seeing a night earlier, ‘I can’t Mike, can’t just let her do this to me. I love my kids but I can’t even take this for my kids’. Mike understood Hugh and knew that it is hard to get rid of something that torments you, like a knife in your back, it’s a pain that never goes away.

‘Hugh, you gonna leave her’?

Hugh shook his head, he was sad, Mike had never seen that look in his eyes before, ‘No, I want to find the man she’s with’.

Mike looked away for a moment not understanding what Hugh wanted to say, he loved Hugh, Jen and the kids. But he knew this was not going to end well. ‘Hugh what is that gonna do, let’s say if there is someone you find him so what then’? Hugh’s expression changed ‘I’m gonna kill him’.

Mike looked at Hugh, knowing that Hugh was dead serious, this was not anger or hatred, this was serious and something Hugh had thought about. He had planned this and he was going to do it. Mike looked at Hugh, lost for words for a moment ‘What are you saying, you are gonna kill a man’. Hugh nodded his head with belief ‘Yes, I will and I have to. He’s not a man, that animal who is fucking my wife is gonna be lying in a street in his own blood’.

‘Than what Hugh, what’s that gonna do’? Mike stood up and walked towards the small glass window to check no-one had come into the warehouse while they were talking. ’Look man, I will talk to her ok, if there is someone she will never see him again’. Hugh looked at Mike as he snapped

‘Come on Mike, you think she’s just gonna stop meeting him because you talk to her, it aint gonna happen. One day I am gonna come home and she will be gone with my kids. I won’t have a fuckin’ clue where they are. It aint gonna happen, either I kill him or I put a bullet in Jen’.

Mike looked towards the space outside thinking about his sister and Kevin once more. Hugh walked up to Mike ‘Mikey, I got no family, just got you. All I need is for you to find him for me, that’s it’.

‘How am I gonna do that’?

Hugh thought for a moment before answering in a quiet tone ‘Every Saturday, she leaves in the evening to go to pick up her sister or sometimes meet her mum. I just want you to follow her, tell me where she goes. Just do this, even if it takes one time or more than that, just follow her and tell me where he is’. Mike couldn’t say no to Hugh, it wasn’t possible even though he didn’t know how he was going to do this.

Kay put on her jacket and picked up her bag, she walked towards the door of her room and saw a piece of paper pushed under the door. Kay picked it up, it was folded once and she opened it. It read ‘LIBRARY’. Kay opened the door and looked in the hallway, there was no-one there. Someone must have pushed this under the door while she was having a shower, maybe it was Al. Kay put the bit of paper into her jacket and left. She drove through the town, it was a busy place at this time in the morning, Kay had noticed there seemed to be more and more people in this town than what she first thought. She stopped outside the main building of the Police Headquarters. Kay stepped out of her car and looked at this large building, it was light brown and had a big sign which read ‘POLICE HEADQUARTERS’. The ‘stars and stripes’ flag was hanging outside, waving in the breeze. Kay walked up the stairs, towards the two brown doors, she knew that if there was any place where she would find no answers, it was here. However she still needed to make them aware of her presence. Her boss had called the department and told them that she was coming, just to make sure the police in this town were aware and took responsibility for her. This was so she couldn’t just disappear.

Kay had taken this assignment after she had read an article about this town written by a former FBI officer. He had written that out of the most mystifying cases he had covered involving corrupt law men, this was the most disturbing because it remained unsolved. In describing his investigation about this town, his words were ’this was a sinister town, where the meaning of law and order had been replaced with the feeling of fear. The inhabitants stayed quiet as men disappeared amongst them …….

Kay walked upto the front desk and saw two officers standing behind the desk, ‘I have come to meet the sheriff’ the officers looked at the register, ‘your name’? I am Kay Winters, from ‘Crime Speaks’. I have an appointment to see Mr Cunningham’. The officer who looked quite young looked through the register and then looked up ‘Yes Ma’am, we had a call and an officer will speak to you. Mr Cunningham is not here and he does not meet reporters. Take a seat’. Kay looked back at the chairs and walked over and sat down. She looked at the reception area and noticed that it was very quiet, definitely not like a big city station. It was a long wait, Kay kept looking at the clock. She was used to waiting and definitely expected no favours when it comes to Mr Cunningham or his men. The door opened from behind the front desk and a man walked out, handsomely dressed, he walked upto Kay and held out his hand ‘Kay Winters, I am officer Knowles. I have been assigned to assist you with your enquiries’. Kay looked up and shook the officer’s hand. He was very professional and seemed well educated. This was not what Kay was expecting, in her head she imagined coming to the station and meeting a bunch of Hillbilly officers who hadn’t washed in months. Kay smiled as the officer walked in front of her and led her through the door from where he had come out from. There was a large office at the back with many officers sitting on different desks, quite busy and no-one seemed to notice her walk in. Officer Knowles walked to his desk right at the back of the office and sat down, gesturing at Kay to take a seat. Kay looked around at the officers working then focused on the handsome officer seated across the desk to her. ‘I was hoping to meet the sheriff’. Officer Knowles smiled as Kay enquired politely as to why Vincent was not available. ‘Miss Winters, that isn’t possible. Mr Cunningham does not see visitors unless they are on official duty, however I have been ordered to assist you not only today but during your stay in our town’. Kay knew that this officer was smart, definitely not a local small town simpleton with a badge,

‘Officer, I am investigating the disappearance of thirteen men in this town. The occurrences are between 1995 and 1997’.Officer Knowles sat back in his chair as Kay leaned into her bag and took out a notebook and pen. The officer replied ‘It’s a long time ago and people disappear, I’m sure where you come from it happens all the time’. Kay detected sarcasm in his voice, a non-serious answer to a serious allegation, Kay knew that she had to be taken serious otherwise her visit to this station would prove a waste of time. ‘Officer, people disappear but I’m sure your department would have investigated these incidents. Let’s be honest, in a town like this crime wouldn’t be as high as where I come from’. Officer Knowles smirked and was proving himself to be as unhelpful as possible ‘Who said anything about crime? Men disappeared who knows what their reasons were. I don’t quite understand why you have come to ask me about people who may have left our town for any number of reasons’. Kay felt herself getting angry as whoever she spoke to seemed to be oblivious to the obvious facts or ignorant to them, ‘Shall I spell it out for you, four men between March 1997, and October 1997 went missing and they were all in police custody at the time. They were in your custody’.

Officer Knowles lost his smile and abit of his colour, ‘Miss Winters, we had a number of detainees escape at that time, never found them’. Kay scribbled down what this officer was saying, then she looked up ‘Officer, four convicts escape from your custody in the space of seven months. Does this not seem a little strange, and what’s even stranger is that they were never re-captured’. The officer shrugged his shoulders as though he couldn’t care less ‘There was a manhunt, but never got them’. Kay just looked at the officer trying to read him, his expressions and his mannerisms would tell Kay a lot about what actually happened. ‘I would like to see your records from that time’?

‘There’s no chance of that’, a voice bellowed from behind as Kay turned around and saw a tall well-built man walk up past her towards where officer Knowles was sitting. Officer Knowles stood up as this man sat down in his chair. Kay knew this had to be the sheriff, this was Vincent Cunningham. ‘Me or my men don’t have much time for the press, I welcome you as a guest in this town but don’t ask for anything you have no right to’.

Kay looked at this man, she felt a current of electricity shoot down her legs. She almost gulped at the presence of this man, he was intimidating and spoke with a cold and almost deadly tone. Kay had written features on criminals, she had interviewed convicts in prison, men who had killed, raped and maimed others. She could smell danger in people, people who killed and were genuinely violent, they lost humanity, and you could tell from their eyes, their voice and even in their face. Kay knew when she was speaking to a killer even though her sixth sense could never be used to convict someone in a court of law. Kay knew how to hide her emotions and this is what she had to do as the sheriff dressed in his black shirt and trousers, stared her down.

‘Are you Mr Cunningham’?

Vincent slowly nodded his head, ‘I am the sheriff of this town. The investigations in the period you mentioned are closed’.

Kay gathers herself for a moment as she sensed that her time in this station was coming to an end, ‘Mr Cunningham, the FBI investigated your department and the crimes for which this department were being investigated, remain open to this day’.

Vincent remained poised and unaffected at Kay’s statements ‘Those cases are closed’.

Kay closed her note book and opened her bag to put it back. There were a few scribbled notes on the paper and she felt rattled by Vincent’s entry. She knew that the only way to make an impression on the sheriff was to try to rattle him in return, ‘Mr Cunningham, your father who was the sheriff at the time was arrested on suspicion of murder’. Vincent glared at Kay, as he raised his voice ‘Check your records lady, Mr Reginald Cunningham was released without charge. The FBI wasted their own and our time, just like you are doing now’.

Kay stood up as she felt not fear but contempt for Vincent, ‘Mr Cunningham, I hoped you would assist me, but I face the same wall that the investigators faced years ago. I will find out what happened’. Vincent stood up towering over Kay as she picked up her bag,

‘I hope you are finished with this town, it’s a quiet place but there are a few nasty people lurking around. Not safe for out of towners to be here too long’. Kay looked back at Vincent, challenging him as she spoke ‘Are you threatening me, Mr Cunningham’?

Vincent’s face never changed expression as he walked away from the desk. Kay walked out of the office, through the brown doors and towards her car. She never even realized how quickly she got outside, her heart was missing a beat as she sat in her car for a few moments. Kay drove through the town but something caught her eye, a small building. She quickly pulled over and grabbed her bag as she opened the door of her car. She looked back at this small building, which had a white sign on it, ‘CENTRAL LIBRARY’.

Emily searched the house for her tablets, forgetting where she had put them. She rummaged through the draws until she found them. As she took them with a glass of water, she held the tap for a moment. She could feel her muscles tensing up that same sense of anxiety and despair. She was still in her nightie, it was ‘14.45’ in the afternoon. This is the life of someone who is being treated for severe depression. She was on anti-depressants, on a dose of eight tablets as well as relaxants. Emily walked through the house, knowing that eventually she would go back to bed. Emily went to the main cabinet in the lounge area, she opened the top drawer and pulled out the gun. It belonged to her husband, Vincent. It was a nice shiny revolver, it was loaded. Emily picked up the gun just holding it, thinking for many long moments of ending someone’s life. Maybe her own, or maybe that of her husband. Would killing him actually be worse than the life she has now, living with a violent man who killed the one she cared so much about. Then he married her and spent most of their years together, sleeping with other women. Emily sat on the sofa, with her legs tucked underneath her as she had the phone in her hand. She wanted to call her mother and she often did but would never speak. Her mother lived in a different state, with a new husband and they had two kids. Emily would just listen to her voice as she said ‘Hello, Hello, who’s there’? Emily would disconnect the phone, that voice belonged to someone she loved, someone she had known once. Emily waited in this town, even kept her friend the revolver away from her. She waited for that one moment, as she looked at the cabinet across the room, it was the moment when a promise someone had made her would be kept. Gabe looked in her eyes that night ‘Babe no-one will ever hurt you, no-one’. Emily smiled as she held back her tears sitting on the sofa, whispering ‘Hey Gabe, he hurt me ……….so many times’.

Mike came home after his last delivery, the house was empty. He walked past the phone and saw a message flashing, he stared at the number flashing and pressed the answer machine button. ‘Hey Ethel, it’s me Jake. I would like to speak to you guys, to the kids. Please call me, they’ll put you through’. Mike made a note of the number Uncle J had left then deleted his message, this is exactly what Ma’ had done with any link Uncle J had with this family. Uncle J was Pa’s younger brother, he is now in the State Penitentiary. He is serving a sentence for drug trafficking and conspiracy to murder’. Shortly after Pa died, he was apprehended as part of a major investigation, which began across the bridge. The ‘Martyn’ family were definitely making headlines in those years. Ma kept us away from him, we couldn’t even mention his name because he was a criminal. Yet I felt like he was at least a man. He committed crimes and is doing his time like a man. Yet his brother, my father did the crime and we are doing the time. Does it make sense?

Mike called the number he had taken down from his mobile and spoke to someone at the state prison. He left his details and left his mobile number as a contact. When asked who he was, Mike responded by saying ‘nephew’. This seemed a little strange, calling himself someone’s nephew, there was practically no family left for Mike, his sister and Ma. As Mike stood there in the hallway, he wondered why he had even called the State Penitentiary, there was some reason why he wanted to speak to Uncle J after all these years but the problem was he didn’t know what the reason was. Maybe as Ma said about Becky wanting a father figure, it wasn’t Becky but Mike who needed that father figure. Rebecca opened the door and was startled as she saw Mikey standing in the hallway. Mike was standing there still holding his mobile, reflecting on why he was trying to call Uncle J. Rebecca looked sheepish, as she even forgot to say hello and just ran upstairs. Ma’s words from the morning echoed in Mike’s ears, that Becky needed him and he is the only one who can be that ‘father figure’ for his sister. Mike took a few steps towards the staircase, he should go and speak to Becky, ask her why she hasn’t been going to college. Mike stopped as he was about to take the first step, he knew what would happen. He would lose his cool and end up fighting with his sister. She was polite most of the time but had this venomous streak where her every word would have the effect of a poisonous arrow. Those arrows hurt and Mike could not take the pain of them. He understood why Becky resented him and maybe even resented Ma. She was a baby when Pa’ killed himself, only two years old. She never saw a normal family, there was nothing normal about her childhood, seeing Ma’ devoted to the church and never even explaining the reasons why there were two absentees in the family. Becky just pieced everything together herself and by the time she had, it meant very little to her. Mikey could never be a role model or someone his sister could depend on because she had seen him lying in a gutter at a very young age, her first memories of Mike was that of an alcoholic. Mike sat down on the sofa as he remembered Becky’s expression of horror, it was the morning when Mike had spent his whole night out of the house. He was so drunk that he didn’t even make it home and ended up passing out in front of the house. Next morning as Ma’ was calling him to come downstairs she thought he had simply crashed out at a friend’s place. Becky was only thirteen years old and as she got ready for school, opened the door wearing her uniform and her rucksack, there he was. She stared as Mike was laid out on the steps of their house, he had puked up next to where he had passed out. As Mike regained his senses, he looked up at his kid sister and saw the look in her eyes. Mike never forgot that look, he didn’t even understand it, was it more shock or simple disgust. It was that look, which got Mike through the re-hab sessions, all those days of cold turkey and medication. Becky’s look of hate for him was the reason why Mikey never went back to the bottle.

The day had passed quickly, as Kay was going through the old journals and newspapers at the library. The library was old but quite spacious, it was kept fairly clean by the old librarian. Kay had spent hours looking through the archive section, unfortunately there was nothing scanned, it was all paper. Kay kept looking up the clock as she knew the library closed at 5.00pm. Kay had worked tirelessly and had not been disturbed except for the occasional whistling of the old librarian or the noise of the kids who seemed to come and go. Kay looked outside the window and noticed the evening coming, a shadow being cast over the library, similar to the one the sheriff had cast over her as he spoke. The night seemed to come a lot quicker in this town. Suddenly Kay’s eyes fell upon an article ‘TRAGEDY HITS FAMILY AGAIN’!!! Kay began reading quickly as it mentioned Gabriel Martyn and his disappearance, it read ’After the tragic circumstances in which Gabriel Martyn disappeared, escaping from police custody and later being presumed dead, it was now the turn of his father, Shane Martyn to suffer an unfortunate fate. A respected former miner of this town, overtaken by grief he decided to end his suffering by taking his own life late on Tuesday night. He had disappeared from the family home but when his family realized he had gone to the old barn, their young son, Michael Martyn just eleven years old witnessed his father’s tragic end….. ‘I wrote that column’, Kay turned around and saw the old librarian standing there. ‘My name is Hans Mansell, these journals you have been reading are here because I kept them for years. That story Ma’am, is one I covered myself’. Kay smiled at this older man, he was quite frail and his voice delicate but slightly coarse. Kay looked back at the journal and saw the name of the writer ‘Hans Mansell’. Kay shook Mr Mansell’s hand ‘Do you still write Mr Mansell’? He sat down slowly like a man whose legs were stiff from doing a lot of work and abit of old age, ‘No, those days are far behind me. The journal I use to write for was only a local one, it was quite popular but we lost our funding and I lost my job. I had a book shop for a while then gave that up and retired. Now I just work in this library and spend all my time around these nice books’. Mr Mansell smiled, he had large gaps in his teeth but Kay noticed wisdom in his words and in his expressions. She thought about the word on the piece of paper pushed under her door ‘LIBRARY’. Whoever that person was who was guiding her to come to this place, it may have been more about meeting Hans Mansell, rather than discovering these old journals. Kay looked down at the article she was reading, glancing through it quickly ‘Can I take this Mr Mansell, just going to borrow it for a few days’. Mr Mansell smiled at Kay ‘Yes, lady you can take it, no-one else has much interest in those old papers anyway’. As Mr Mansell was about to stand up, Kay turned to him ‘What happened to this family’? Mr Mansell looked down at the journal in Kay’s hands ‘A lot of bad luck, just bad luck’. He sighed as he spoke like someone who knew them personally and had seen everything with his own eyes, ‘He was a good man, Shane Martyn, a strong man but you know losing your child is difficult’. Kay looked down realizing that beyond the mystery of what happened there was also a sense of tragedy, ‘Mr Mansell, this young boy who is mentioned it was Gabriel’s brother, right’? Mr Mansell looked right at Kay, with a sense of grief ’Yes that young kid, poor kid. He saw it all, he was there when his father blew himself away, the cops got there soon after and some of the locals were already in that barn. When I covered this story, I talked to a few of them, they said that kid, ‘Michael’, never blinked while he was there, he stared at his father’s body even when they were trying to take him away. I shiver when I think about what that did to that poor boy. That family suffered more than most’. Kay studied Hans Mansell’s face, he cared and even today there was a sense of grief in his voice for what happened. Writers investigate stories but in essence they are people’s lives, their grief and their experiences which may be tragic or frightening. Sometimes those ‘stories’ stay with you. Kay understood what this meant and what effect it had. She thought about that little boy and how he would have been staring at his father’s body, what would he have been thinking? ‘Does this boy still live here’? Mr Mansell shook his head ‘Oh yes, nice guy very quiet, but he is doing ok now. He has a hardware store down town, not far from here’. Kay thought about when Ethel Martyn mentioned her son was sleeping at home. Hans stood up and picked up the old broom, Kay also stood up ‘Mr Mansell, will you help me? I am trying to find out about what happened here seventeen years ago. Gabriel Martyn disappeared while in police custody but he wasn’t the only one’. Hans turned around ‘Na, my writing days are over’. Kay walked closer to Hans Mansell ‘Why is everyone in this town protecting the criminals’? Hans laughed slightly, his brow had wrinkles as he laughed ‘We are all criminals in this town, lady’. Kay looked up for a moment as she noticed Hans was talking in riddles just as Ethel Martyn had, and those officers at the station. Kay felt frustration once again at the lack of answers ‘Maybe but people in this town who are assigned to protect you are the ones who murder you, and you think that’s ok’. Hans walked closer to Kay ‘How are you going to prove that lady? Murder is a strong word to use, how do you know what happened to Gabriel Martyn or the rest’? Kay raised her voice ‘Well I have read accounts of the FBI who investigated this town and they know that this Police department are hiding many secrets and those men didn’t just disappear…..’ Hans interrupted ‘Lady, you got no chance in hell of proving anything that you say, no chance’. Kay smiled ‘Mr Mansell, I have made a career of proving people wrong and this case is personal for me now. The sheriff of this town has you by the balls but I will bring him down’. Hans softened his expression, as he placed his hand lovingly on Kay’s shoulder ‘Lady, you are old enough to be my daughter, I want to give you some advice. Don’t fuck with that sheriff, don’t’. Kay thought of the sheriff remembering the shadow he cast when she was at the police station. ‘Wherever you are from, they will never know what happened to you, they won’t even know where to look’!

The night was still as Mike was leaning out of his bedroom window, smoking a cigarette, blowing the smoke out into the cold night. Mike found the comfort of smokes after he had given up the bottle. It was something that gave his addiction a focus, something he befriended in his loneliness. He would open his bedroom window, which faced the street outside his door, he would lean halfway out, enjoying a smoke and feeling the cool breeze against his face. The locals were used to seeing Mike in his window in the late hours, this also kept Ma’ happy as she hated smelling his cigarettes in the house. Mike spent a lot of time in his room while he was at home, the room was small with little furniture. The house had three rooms, one for each member of the family. Mike was thinking about Hugh and the conversation they had, when suddenly he heard his mobile ring. He looked down at his desk and saw the phone ringing, as Mike picked it up he saw the name on the display screen ‘Jenny’. He thought about Hugh for a moment ‘Oh no, what’s happened’? Mike pressed answer ‘Hi Jen, you ok’? He heard Jenny’s soft voice, she was calm ‘Hi Mikey, yes I’m fine’. Mike felt a relief, a sense of calm ran though his body, calls so late always frightened him. There is never good news when you get a call so late, it’s always bad. Mike smiled as he walked across to his bed and sat down ‘Thank God, I always worry about you guys, kids ok’? ‘Kids are fine, just sleeping now and he’s gone out. Just thought I would thank you for coming over the other night’. Mike was relaxing as he leaned against the wall, ‘It’s ok Jen, just be cool. I know Hugh loses it but he does love you’. Jenny paused before she answered ‘He doesn’t, he’s just sticking it out just like I am’. Mike looked up for a moment, that hopelessness in Jenny’s voice was something that came over a period of time, hopelessness is a disease like cancer and it comes undetected. Just settles down underneath your skin, begins running in your blood and mixes itself in the oxygen you breathe. Once it makes a home inside you, it stays and there’s nothing you can do to get it out. ’Mikey what hurts more than when he hits me, is when he calls me a ‘whore’, even in front of the kids. I don’t care if he doesn’t trust me, but my kids don’t need to hear that’. Mike closed his eyes for a moment and opened them again, he thought about what Hugh wants him to do. Hugh isn’t the only person who trusts him but Jenny trusts him too. ‘Jen, he’s not an easy person to talk to. He gets mad, and you know when he does then he says all kinds of shit’. Jenny sounded angry ‘I don’t care about him, whether he trusts me or not. There is no-one else, you believe me’? Mike stayed silent, he knew that she had lied to Hugh about being some place she never went, ‘Jen, it doesn’t matter what I believe’. Jen interrupted Mike ‘It does to me Mikey, it was only you, just you, that’s it’.

Yes, and then there is the truth. The truth cuts through all the bullshit like a red hot knife cuts through butter. I had buried the truth about Jen deep down in my conscience, layers deep but I would still hear it. When all them people say that the truth hurts, what they don’t mention is the truth kills a man like a baseball bat across the skull. Hugh had left home a while back, a year ago. He had skipped town and was staying at a friend’s place across the county, Jen and the kids were on their own. Hugh had called me and told me to take care of things especially the kids. So I would go over in the evening just to ask Jen if she needed anything, but what she needed was a shoulder. People in the town didn’t really like her too much because her family weren’t upto much good, so aside from having her ill mum call from time to time, there was really no-one else. Her brother was a junkie, who worked across the bridge and her sister worked two jobs and practically had no time to even brush her teeth. I owed Hugh big time, he kept me going when I stopped, when I was in that shithole hooked on the bottle with my business going down the drain. Hugh kept it together so I owed him and could never say ‘no’ to him. I would go and see Jen, even though at first she told me everything was fine, in reality she hated people feeling sorry for her. Jen always held it together, but I would go over in the evenings and the kids would enjoy it. They would ask me to help them with their homework and I would even watch some TV with them. I never had a family like that, so I just took on that role for a short space of time. After Jen would take the kids to bed, she would come and make me something to eat. It felt awkward but she was so polite and felt like she should pay me back because I was giving up my time to come over. I quite enjoyed it, sitting there talking to Jenny and as the days went on she would slowly show her feelings. She was scared and she was alone, much like me. So she would talk to me, sit on the couch and discuss a lot of things about Hugh, herself and her family. I was a good listener, not a good talker and that’s why I never confided in anyone but yes I could listen. Jen was different to how I imagined her to be, she was funny and had a positive frame of mind even though she didn’t know if Hugh was coming back. She would tell me how she would get a job and her mum would look after the kids and so on. I liked her and she liked me too. The moment I realized how much I liked her was when I would go home and think about her, all the things she would say, the nice things and the way she would smile at me. After work I would call her to see if she needed anything, she would always refuse being a proud lady who could look after herself and all that. Then after a few weeks, she actually agreed that I could bring things for her and the kids. I felt happy, don’t know why but it was like she was allowing me to enter her life and I liked it. I remember the first time we kissed, it was unexpected and just something that happened. This happened often and at the time we never though much of it. Even though I never slept with her but we became close and it felt like this was my family. Then out of the blue, I got a call from Hugh that he was coming back. Jen’s mum had been speaking to him and he missed the kids like crazy. When I went over to the house and saw Hugh with his wife and kids, I felt something has been ripped from inside me. I had borrowed some moments from a man’s life and now I had to give it back. Jen was happy but she looked at me as Hugh was going crazy just spoiling the kids, picking them up, hugging them and whatever. Jen’s eyes met mine and I just walked out of there. It wasn’t love but it was the companionship that she gave me, but I would ask myself every night what I had expected to happen. Did I really want to marry a woman who was my best friend’s wife after having an affair with her? This affair happened at a time when my friend had given me a responsibility to look after his wife and kids. I had betrayed him and I had fallen below any acceptable level of decency, the gutter in which I found myself when my sister saw me outside lying in my own puke was a place much higher than where I was now. I was ashamed and burdened by what happened and found myself indebted even more to my friend.

‘Mikey, you there’? Mike replied with a heavy voice ‘Yes I am Jen. I think you better go to sleep’. Jen sounded upset ‘Mikey, there was no-one else apart from you. Do you believe me’? Mike stayed silent, as Jen was further pushing the knife into his chest ‘I believe you, Jen’. Jenny sobbed quietly as Mike’s heart began to sink ‘Mikey I don’t want you to think I am some whore’. ‘Don’t use that word Jen, I know you aren’t but you got to talk to Hugh’. Mike disconnected the phone and then switched it off. He didn’t know if Jen needed him or what else she had to say but he knew something was wrong. After Hugh had returned home to the kids and his wife, Mikey never met Jenny again unless Hugh was there. So where does she go now and what can be the reason she is lying to Hugh? Hugh knew there had to be someone else and he had given his best friend Mikey the job of finding him, yes the same Mikey who was no better than the man Hugh wants to kill.

Mike was watching the house, sitting in his wagon at the top of the road. He could see Hugh’s house from where he was sitting, the engine was off and he was just waiting for Jen to come out. It was Saturday evening, the sun was going down and today was the night that Mike would turn into ‘Magnum P.I’ and follow Jen to find the mystery man. It was strange and many times the thought crossed Mike’s mind just to drive back home. He could tell Hugh later that he had followed Jenny and she just went to a friend’s house and that’s it. Mike was thinking about doing this for many days even now at this moment as he was parked up waiting for Jen to leave her house. Mike’s phone rang, it was Hugh ‘Hey Mikey, you outside right’, ‘Yes I am, just up the street’. Hugh was whispering but his whispers were louder than when he talks normally ‘I’m in the toilet don’t want Jen to hear me, she’s just leaving, ok’. Mike pulled a face ‘Ok Hugh, I’m here, waiting’. Hugh was silent for a moment ‘Mikey, check under your seat, I put something there for you’, ‘What’? ‘Just check it’ insisted Hugh. Mike reached under the seat, his hand touching the lever, and other pieces of junk which had accumulated in his wagon. He then felt something hard, in a carrier bag, Mike gripped it and took it out from under his seat. He opened the brown colored bag, it was a revolver. ‘What the fuck, Hugh, why you put this gun in my car’? Hugh was trying to calm him down ‘don’t worry, Mikey it’s just in case, you know’. ‘In case of what…..? What the fuck you want me to do’? Mike was furious, he felt his blood boiling at the same time he felt anxious. This whole thing seemed bad idea from the start and now with this gun hidden in his car, a bad situation seemed even worse. ‘Hugh, I don’t need this, what you think is gonna happen there’? I’m just gonna follow her, ONCE, that’s all’. Hugh was no longer whispering ‘I know, I know, just have it for tonight, shhhhh she’s leaving. Thanks for this Mikey’. Hugh hung up, as Mike looked at the house, Jen was walking towards her car, she had a white blouse on and denim jeans. Her purse hanging from her right shoulder. Mike quickly put the gun back in the brown bag and shoved it under the seat. He started his wagon, ‘fuck, here it goes’.

Mike was following Jenny, from about two cars behind, knowing he could not be directly behind her as she would spot him. Mike thought about the gun and the conversation Hugh had with Mikey some days back. Hugh wanted to kill whoever this person was who Jenny meets, and he wanted Mikey to find this person. Now, he has a gun in his wagon, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what Hugh’s plan was. Mike was almost sweating, his hands slipping off the wheel as he steered trying to keep up with Jen’s car. Hugh always looked after the kids when Jenny went out, so if someone else pulled the trigger then Hugh would have his man dead and have the perfect alibi. So the only person who had a motive to commit the murder, could not have been there and that ‘someone’ who would pull the trigger is guess who? Mike felt drops of perspiration on his brow, the night was coming down and Mike was following Jen’s car as she drove towards the bridge. There were a few cars crossing the bridge, Mike could see Jenny’s car clearly ahead in this clear night. He crossed the bridge, and drove along a narrow windy lane, towards the next town. The next town was called the ‘East side’, and their own town was called the ‘West side’. It was just the names given by the local folks to these two neighbouring towns. Mike would often cross over and go to the ‘East side’ to pick up material and meet some of the other tradesmen. Mike was following Jen as she was driving along different roads, unfamiliar parts which made Mike abit tense. He hadn’t come to this area before and wasn’t even sure he would find his way back to the bridge. Eventually Jenny signaled and pulled over outside a block of apartments. Mike stopped his wagon a few feet behind. He quickly turned off the head lights, and ducked low in case Jen saw him. Jenny got out of her car, and walked inside the large building. Mike looked at this white building, thinking about whether he should get out and have a closer look. Mike looked around, it was a quiet area, a few young kids walking around and that was it. He sat in the wagon not knowing what he should do now. Maybe Jen is meeting someone inside, if she is then what is the point of him just waiting outside. The phone suddenly rang, it was Hugh, Mike looked at the phone not wanting to answer it. He was angry at Hugh, this was not right, following Jen and this whole gun business being hidden in the car. Mike let the phone ring on a number of occasions before switching his phone off. Mike kept looking around half expecting someone to come up and ask him why he was sitting outside these apartments without any good reason. How about if a police car pulls up and searches his car. Mike noticed a couple of Latino kids walking past and giving him a stare, this wasn’t good. The ‘East Side’ was known for being a rich town but also having trouble with gang related violence. Mike wondered whether these kids thought he was a cop. There were noises in a distance and Mike saw Jen walking out with another girl and a male. Mike ducked low, hoping she doesn’t notice his wagon. Jen got into a car parked further up with the girl and guy and they drove away. Mike started his engine and pulled out as he began following this vehicle. The male looked like he was a Latino and the other girl was quite young, Mike shook his head as he scrambled his mind thinking what Jen was doing with them. He couldn’t imagine Jenny being friends with these people especially in this part of town. Mike was following the car, driving deeper into the city.

Mike thought of turning back, after all following them isn’t going to give any answers. The car was heading towards ‘The Strip’. This was the inner-city area where the local playboys would come out to play. There are nightclubs, bars and strip joints in this part and often the lads would say that’s why this place was called ‘The Strip’. In reality the reason was, it was named after the famous Las Vegas ‘Strip’. It was a world apart from Vegas but for the local hillbillies, it was Vegas or the next best thing. Mike had come here a couple of times, it was over ridden by kids who were selling drugs on the corners and ofcourse there was prostitution. These activities kept this place going, after the fall of the big timers’ years back, it was the younger kids who took over. The car pulled into a parking lot, Mike parked outside and just watched from there. Jenny and the other two people got out and walked inside this nightclub. Mike sighed thinking this whole night had been a waste of time. She obviously knows these people, and had just come out to have a good time, big deal!!! Mike looked up the street lit up by neon lights, and the place was buzzing with loud music and even louder personalities. Mike hated this place, a place full of wannabee gangsters, kids trying to be people who they once looked up to. Yet the ‘real’ gangsters were all behind bars or six feet under but they still qualified as role models somehow. Mike watched them in disgust, college kids who wore designer labels and had their nigger music blasting, high on coke with a false confidence of being bad. Mike knew bad, it has nothing to do with listening to nigger music or saying the word ‘fuck’ two hundred times a minute, bad is being born like that with no sense of fear or regret, bad is living and dying by the sword. Mike though ‘Vincent’, ‘Gabriel’ and himself?? If only he could have qualified to be in that list.

Mike was constantly looking at the time, he would wait thirty minutes and then head back. He had watched the minutes go by like someone holding their breath under water, where every second seemed a lifetime away. He started his car, thinking he would now drive to Hugh’s and tell him of the uneventful evening he had, there was a loud knock on the window ‘Fuck’, it made Mikey jump. Mike looked at the passenger side, there was an ugly looking man stood there, gaps in his teeth smiling at him. Mike pulled the window down ‘What you want’? The man was Hispanic, speaking in broken English ‘You look for woman, I got woman’. Mike screwed up his face ‘Hey fuck off, not looking for no woman’. Mike started his wagon, ’Hey man, I got ‘good stuff’, you want to buy’? Mike glanced around at this dealer ‘No, I aint looking for no good stuff either, just fuck off’. Suddenly there were lights flashing, it was a cop car right behind Mike’s wagon, the man sprinted faster than a thief, he was gone. A cop came out and walked towards Mike’s side, this was bad, really bad. Mike’s heart was beating loudly, he could hear his heart so clear like someone had taken it out and put it on the passenger seat next to him. The gun, that fuckin’ gun under the driver seat, I’m fucked, well and truly fucked’.

‘Hey officer, you ok’? The officer dressed in blue, with his badge shining, had a hard face that typical cop type of hard face where even his smile seemed like a scary mask. ‘Where you from and what was the dirty pimp talking to you about’? The cop wasn’t looking at Mike directly, but he was looking in the inside of the wagon. Mike tried to stay calm knowing that if he is apprehended for possible dealing or trying to hire a hooker, this would mean spending a night in the cell, his wagon would be searched and that gun for which he has no license will be found. ‘Officer I don’t even know him, he just came up to my car and was offering me stuff’. The cop shook his head slowly, ‘I was watching you from back there, it was a long conversation’. Mike knew it wasn’t but these cops were bastards and they would exaggerate, and no-one could challenge them because of their shiny badge. Mike knew that he had to be polite and just get out of there, ‘He was just talking shit, I told him that I wasn’t interested’. The officer was chewing on something as he spoke ‘So what are you interested in, and what are you doing here’? Mike thought about different excuses, which one was believable maybe he could say he was lost or something else, ‘I was just ummmm, dropping of a friend’. The officer, looked at Mike ‘So where your friend go’? Mike rolled up his eyes and felt like telling the cop that he was a pain in the ass, ‘He just went to one of them bars, and I was going home’. The cop eyes were cold, and he didn’t look like someone who was going to make this easy ‘Where you from’? Mike knew his wagon was registered at his home address so lying would not be an option, ‘I’m from across the bridge’. ‘Oh, you are from Mr Cunningham’s side, he would be interested to know that some of his locals come over looking for action, hey’. Mike knew that Vincent would be the worst person to get involved in this, ‘No sir, I am not looking for action’, ‘Look here you sorry son of a bitch, every night we get you people coming over, some of you are buyers and some of you are sellers. We caught two young bitches from your side tonight probably trying to make quick money as hookers, we let’ em go but believe me if it were upto me they would have been detained’. Mike’s eyes met this hardened and vile cop’s stare, at that moment another police car drove past and stopped in front. The officer smirked ‘Here we go, see that car that’s just pulled up, that’s the one who picked em’ up. We were told to drop em ’back on the strip because someone important knows ’em, dirty whores’. Two young girls came out of the car in front, the officer talking to Mike looked back at him ‘Ok hillbilly fuck, now you better get your sorry ass back over the bridge, you hear me.’ The officer walked away and the patrol car in front drove away followed closely by the officer who had just roasted him. Mike started his wagon, he felt his hands shaking, he was shaking his head ‘Fuck you Hugh, thanks a lot’! Mike glanced at the two young girls, as he drove past them, the headlights shining on them, their clothes were skimpy at best, and they were very young. Mike looked at them closely, what the f……it was Becky and her friend Amy. Rebecca would often go and have sleepovers at Amy’s place on a Saturday night, this would be her treat on the weekend. Mike stared at Becky and Amy, confused and dazed almost trying to work out whether his eyes or his mind was deceiving him. They looked so scared, terrified and their makeup completely smudged, it was half way down their face. Rebecca hadn’t noticed the wagon until it pulled up next to them, she saw Mike and her complexion changed, she went pale and looked even more terrified than before. Her friend Amy also saw Mike and her face dropped, Mike stared at his sister, her clothes and thought about what that fat motherfucker cop had said about her. Mike looked at his sister’s face but his anger was turning to pity, he didn’t want to kill her, he wanted to hug her. She was so scared, he thought of how scared he was when that brute in uniform had been asking him questions so imagine how scared his nineteen year old sister would be who was taken to the station.

Mike got out of the wagon slowly, not knowing what he was about to do, suddenly Rebecca was about to run but Amy grabbed her. Mike kept his distance from the two girls ‘Just get in’. Amy locked her arm in Rebecca’s and they both climbed into the wagon. Mike stared at the sidewalk for a moment, then walked back towards his wagon climbing in. As he glanced at Becky who was sitting on the far side with Amy in the middle, he thought about his sister’s face when she found him on the steps outside their house, maybe today it was all reversed so that Mike could judge who is the more humiliated, is it the one who is found in dirt or the one who finds someone they love, fallen in dirt. As Mike drove down the strip, he thought of the gun under his seat as he drove past that same cop who had insulted his sister, for a moment Mike slowed down and thought about taking the gun and blowing this lowlife motherfucker away. Mike stared at the officer who was talking to some kids on the sidewalk, as his hand reached under the seat, he stopped. I just don’t qualify!

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