Chapter 20 – Dark Places
He walked through the people on ‘the strip’, his eyes fixed on the places he was going to visit. It had been a long time and many of these people no longer knew him. The town was haunted by many more crimes, ghosts of new victims telling their own story and every victim has a story. Whether the story is the truth or a fabrication, it’s their own and they tell it like it’s the gospel, even the perps justify their immoral actions and their heinous crimes. The ‘East Side’ was used to tasting blood, it had bred generations of killers, producing them in a factory where every product leaving had inherent qualities of disorder without conscience. Mike was not part of that world, he never had been and even being a victim of crime had never led him to inflicting those who had wronged him. Even tonight he was no more than an ‘accomplice’, a companion whether by consent or not, he had come along for the ride. Places like ‘Live by Nite’, which was a club that Mike knew well, harbored many men who had reputations which either preceded them or flattered them. Either way, their secrets were safe and their whereabouts secure. Questions were asked and very little answers given, nothing achieved except the growing notoriety of this mysterious stranger.
Ethel had dropped in to see Dr Rogers, on her way back from visiting Becky at the clinic. Dr Rogers was concerned about Michael still wanting to talk about Gabriel and hearing about his spending so much time in the cellar. ‘I can get someone to look at Michael’. ‘Who’? ‘I have a friend, a psychologist who can assess whether Michael is suffering from post-traumatic stress and maybe imagining certain things’. Ethel contemplated this for a moment, ‘I don’t want him to think that I believe he’s crazy’. ‘I think that’s a strong word Mrs Martyn. Just as he was treated for his physical injuries he may have mental scars also’. ‘Well, doctor he has many of those’.
Ethel called Emily when she arrived back home, she had already left to visit her late mother’s family. She missed Emily and wanted her to be there with her. Emily said very little on the phone, not even when she was going to come back.
Emily had faced many battles in her life and her latest one was with her sleeping tablets, thinking of a reason not to take them all.
She sat at the grave of her mother, as strangers watched her from afar. Strangers who only knew her because she was the daughter of someone they loved. She was attached to them because of the one who was sleeping six feet under the ground.
‘Emily, your mother talked about you alot. She missed you and it’s a shame you never came to see her’. Kenrick was a pleasant man, he had met Emily’s mother while working at the hospital where her husband was slowly dying. He supported her before their companionship had become something deeper and they got married. Emily never knew him and never forgave her mother for choosing someone in place of her father. Emily stood in the kitchen, realizing she had forgiven her mother a long time ago and all those phone calls where she never spoke were proof of that. ‘I wished I had’.
‘Well you have now, and I’m glad. I know your mother is up there watching and she is so happy that you came’. Emily shed some tears as she looked at this kitchen, her mother would have stood here and touched the things around. She could feel her within this place. ‘Mr Lombard, I found it hard to understand what she did’.
‘Marrying me, am I that bad’? Emily smiled at Kenrick, ‘No you’re not. I mean…’. Kenrick smiled too, ‘I know what you mean but Emily we all need an excuse to carry on. To grieve for someone who is no longer with us, is an injustice to ourselves and their memory. It’s like you are cheating life’! Kenrick put his hand on Emily’s arm, ‘We need to go on and we have every right to be happy’. Emily smiled realizing that her mother had a wonderful family, which she could have been part of. ‘It’s not too late for you to be part of this family. You are like my daughter but that doesn’t mean I am your father. Just your friend’. Emily hugged Kenrick and felt a relief, she was part of this family and she wanted to live.
Michael parked outside Hugh’s house, which was now a deserted building. A structure which was merely a reminder of the family who once occupied it. He waited and expected someone to put the lights on at any moment but some places are consigned to darkness forever. Dark places exist behind all the bright lights and illuminated faces, just waiting to extinguish all signs of life. Michael walked closer to the house, standing in the doorway, it was locked. Michael forced the door open, all the furniture was there, but there was no electric and the place was a mess. It was as though no-one had been here for a long time. Michael walked around the house, trying to find a piece of the family he loved so much. ‘No, I didn’t do this to them’. Michael dropped to his knees, ‘It wasn’t me, I never killed them’! Michael got up, he felt weak in this place and had to leave. After the funerals of Hugh and Jen, their children moved in permanently with Jen’s parents. Michael travelled to the house where Hugh and Jen’s children now lived. Michael knew what he was doing and his companion was no longer there to stop him.
‘What are you doing here’? Martha seemed surprised at first but then was quick to unleash her venom at Michael. He didn’t really know the answer, he just had a vague idea. ‘I just……… just came to see the kids’.
‘Why? I don’t care if they say it was self-defense, you killed their father. As for Jen, she paid the price for marrying a worthless son of a bitch’.
‘I just want to see they are okay’. A man emerged from behind, it was Stan. ‘Honey, is that Martyn’. ‘It is’. ‘Go inside, I would like to speak to him’. Martha said nothing as she went inside, glaring at Michael as though her eyes were loaded weapons and they would shoot him down. Mike looked down as Stan stood facing him. Stan was a church going man, he was respected in this community and was known for his composure. He would often get involved in resolving disputes and was good at mediation.
‘I want to ask you Mr Martyn, man to man’. Michael looked at Stan, his face was tense yet he controlled his every expression, ‘Hugh didn’t shoot you for no reason. He was not a good man but he was no murderer. I don’t care too much about what happened that night except I lost my daughter, they found her body in the lake. I have some pictures of her, the police gave them to me’. Stan went inside and left Michael standing there looking in the hallway which seemed like a long passage of darkness. It had a similar feel to his own house. Stan returned, holding an envelope. He removed the pictures, and gave them to Michael. They were the same pictures Hugh had that night, the ones taken by his private investigator. Mike and Jen together outside her apartment, Hugh showed them to Mike before picking up his rifle. ‘I don’t believe I raised my daughter to be this. But it doesn’t matter what I believe, this town thinks that my daughter was sleeping with her husband’s best friend. Is this what happened’? Michael looked at the photos and then at Stan, ‘No. There was nothing like that between us’. A tear ran down Stan’s face, ‘I thank you for saying that. But you must never come near my family again’. Stan closed the door as Michael stood still, his heart was beating loudly, uncontrollably and he was sure everyone in Stan’s house could hear it. Stan’s words felt like Hugh’s bullets but they were worse. At least the bullets sent him into an unconscious state of near death, but these words left him standing to feel and endure every moment of pain they caused. As he walked back to the wagon, he looked back to see Hugh’s son watching him in the window.
Ethel faced Michael as they ate quietly, almost respectfully maintaining a distance in order to prevent either one of them stepping into forbidden territory. She wanted to talk to her son yet had this fear of what he would say or reveal to her. Mike suddenly looked up, ‘I went to see Hugh’s children today’. ‘Why? You shouldn’t have gone there’.
‘I wanted to’.
‘Why would you want to when the whole town is saying so many things’? ‘Whatever they say is true! I saw Hugh’s son looking at me, he knows I killed his father’.
‘No Michael you didn’t. It was self-defense’.
‘Ma, he’s dead. So is Jen and I should have been dead too. Why did he save me’?
Ethel came and sat closer to Michael, looking into his eyes, ‘Why do you say Gabriel’s alive’. Michael looks at Ethel, an expression to say ‘don’t you know’. ‘Because he is’.
‘Have you seen him’? Michael holds his mother’s hand lovingly, ‘Yes, he saved me. When I was dying in the forest, he was there and he picked me up took me to the side of the road. Then a car came and it stopped. It was Kay’. Ethel looked at the vacated chair, as though she would suddenly find Gabriel sitting in it. ’Why do you say that, he’s my son but he’s not here anymore’. Ethel sheds tears for her fallen son, feeling the pain of a person who could not be alive even if she wanted it more than anything in the world.
‘He’s your son, so why do you believe them when they tell you he’s dead’. ‘Where is he? Why doesn’t he come home’?
‘He is home’.
Ethel looks around again agonizingly.
‘But not this home. He is where he should be’.
‘Where, where is he’?
‘He’s waiting, just like the old folks use to wait for the harvest and then there would be thanksgiving. It’s the same, Ma’.