Chapter 24 – A Killing on the East side
Destiny waits for every man. It may be in a bar, or on the street corner and maybe it is in a parking lot. But destiny will be there, as though you had arranged a meeting, and destiny is never late.
Kevin Cunningham stumbled out of the bar, one of many he had frequented since his graceless exit from the ‘West side’. The night was still in full swing on ‘the strip’, this was a place where some came to find pleasure and others to lose themselves in lust and indulgence. On this night, one man who had neither satisfied himself fully with pleasure nor failed to lose himself, found himself being followed. A shadow stayed close to him, Kevin intoxicated and almost incoherently walked a street away towards his apartment. He had left his Uncle’s town but failed to reach his mother, instead choosing to stay on ‘the strip’, renting a low paid apartment on top of a late night fast food joint. He was known as being an out of control playboy, who had found a reason to indulge in cheap sex and expensive liquor. The reason not like he ever needed one, was ‘guilt’. Kevin walked up the stairs to his flat, the last one in the damp hallway lit up only by a small bulb which seemed on its way out much like the residents here. The night wasn’t peaceful, it was loud and brutal, noises of loud sex and profanities. The stink of urine filled the hallway but most of the residents here, are not sober enough to notice. Kevin was lying on his front as his door was forced open. The use of a screwdriver in the lock was enough to force the opening. Kevin was sleeping on the edge of his bed as the intruder felt for his gun but then realized that a shot to the head would end too quickly, it would be too sudden and would fail to satisfy the very meaning of retribution. Retribution was ecstasy, a pure wine that needs to be consumed and tasted by the one whose patience has been rewarded with justice. To rush this most noble act, would in itself be an indignant gesture not befitting the whole meaning behind the act. He withdrew the screwdriver from his pocket knowing that its second use tonight would be brutal and its effects loud. However in this God forsaken set of apartments, any noises of pain and suffering would bring as much attention as screaming lambs in a slaughter house. Kevin woke up, he was screaming but without knowledge of what had happened. His leg had been ripped open with a dirty screwdriver, Kevin leapt up hurrying off the bed as he reached for his gun. He had no time as he was beaten down to the ground, pistol whipped by the intruder who wasn’t after anything other than his painful end. He pistol whipped Kevin repeatedly, as Kevin still tried in vain to get to the door. Kevin’s face was a bloody mess, and the screw driver was still stuck in his leg, it didn’t matter because Kevin knew he had to get out. The hallway was echoing with the grunting of Kevin’s head being slammed against the floor, blood was coming out like a spray, a thick spray of colour which was adding to the macabre this night had brought. It was the last dance of death, for a man who had partied his life away. He lay sprawled on the floor, looking up from one eye, the left one had been closed shut. The man he saw, was the Grim Reaper, a fierce demon who’s every blow had been delivered to exact pain and suffering, he spoke no words to his victim and now stood over him, with a revolver pointing down. The shot was heard and Kevin Cunningham’s face exploded with the force only death possessed.
The longest night had passed as the light of early dawn broke through, Ethel had sent Michael to throw his clothes away with the gun she had found in his hand. She told him to throw it in the river. Ethel sat up most of the night, she couldn’t call Emily the person she trusted most, because of Vincent. She had spent agonizing hours thinking over and over again as to what could have happened. Whose blood was it on Michael’s clothes and was Michael the killer or not? Early morning had dawned on the town, and Michael never returned. Ethel called his number, it was ringing but no-one answered. She left her house and walked towards the town knowing that Hans may be the only person who could find out what had happened the night before. She reached the library, sweating and out of breathe, pure fear had brought her here. Michael hadn’t come back and she had this feeling that he wasn’t going to. Maybe history was about to repeat itself and now Michael was going to be hunted down by the police. She knocked Hans Mansell’s door, he opened it, ‘Mrs Martyn, are you okay’? He looked concerned seeing Ethel at his door so early, he had never seen her like this, so ruffled and dis-orientated. ‘Mr Mansell, I have to talk to you’. Ethel shed tears, they were tears of fear and anxiety, she suddenly felt petrified thinking about what had happened the night before and what might happen now. Michael was in danger, she felt it.
‘Come in Mrs Martyn’. Ethel walked in, she could feel herself trembling as she sat down. ‘I will get you some coffee’.
‘Mr Mansell, something terrible has happened’. Hans sat down next to Ethel, ‘Mrs Martyn, slow down. Be calm, what happened’? Ethel looked at Hans, holding back her tears as she spoke. ‘Mr Mansell, last night Michael came home. I don’t know when but his clothes were covered …….. in someone else’s blood’. Hans looked at Ethel, ‘Whose blood’? ‘I don’t know, but something happened. I’m …… I’m scared that Michael has killed someone but he says it was Gabriel’. Hans stood up as he went to make some coffee for Ethel, ‘Gabriel’?
‘Yes, he says that Gabriel gave him the gun’.
Hans brought over a mug and gave it to Ethel, she took it and her hands were still shaking. ‘What do you believe, Mrs Martyn’?
’I don’t know. How can Gabriel be alive?
‘Mrs Martyn, do you think Michael killed someone’? Ethel began to cry, ‘I don’t know but he doesn’t believe it. He says it is Gabriel’. Hans went silent. ’Mrs Martyn, last night there was a murder in the ‘East side’. Ethel looked at Hans. ‘It was Kevin Cunningham who was murdered. From what you have told me, I think it was Michael who did it’. Ethel knew that her fears had been realized and the worst had happened. It wasn’t just murder, it was an assassination of someone who belonged to an ‘untouchable’ family, people who were beyond the law, beyond reproach and above the pain and suffering they inflicted on others. Now one of them had been taken, and they would surely bring a fate worse than anything that had befallen this town before.
The ‘East side’ was on lock down as residents were waking up to a chill in the air and morning breakfast. The police had already begun their operation rounding up the know cons around the town, anyone with a track record that mildly resembled this crime. Including anyone who had ever given as much as a passing look of dislike Kevin Cunningham’s way, was dragged out of his bed and brought to the station. The bridge joining these two towns was also subject to a police blockade.
Hans went inside the police station, it had been deserted. One officer came out, ‘I’m on duty here. How can I help you’? ‘I wanted to ask if officer Knowles is here’?
‘No he’s not. He’s gone across the bridge’. The officer was young, he looked like an outsider. ‘Any leads on who could have done it’?
‘Why you ask’? ‘I’m a reporter’. The young man looked up and down, ‘No, I’m sure the sheriff will give a statement when he’s ready’. Hans left the building, walking up to his car. Ethel was sitting inside, ‘Any news’? ‘He didn’t say much but Mrs Martyn, I think you should come to my place for a while. I’m sure Michael’s a suspect and the cops will come to your place, that’s if they’re not there right now’.
The phone was ringing, as Emily woke up. She had taken tranquilizers the night before, she couldn’t sleep. She slowly got out of bed and the phone was still ringing as she walked down the stairs. The front door was slightly open, ‘Vincent is that you’? There was no answer, and she slowly made her way to the lounge. Instinct is the strongest sense, a trait of human nature which is unexplained and largely unknown. It has a way of telling you something has happened or will happen. Emily couldn’t remember much of what had gone on around her in the early morning. Vincent had paraded in the room swearing and cursing, trying to wake her up. Emily couldn’t wake up when she’s taken those pills, she becomes a zombie, enters the world of the undead. Emily entered the lounge, no-one was there except an air of unrest lurking in the shadows. Someone came out and grabbed her from behind, putting a knife to her throat.
‘Miss Winters, I think you better come over when you can’. Kay put the phone down. Kevin Cunningham murdered, Kevin Cunningham murdered! Kay had that statement engraved into her mind as she drove towards the library, this reality had imprinted itself on her every thought. She ignored the calls on her phone, they were Ajay’s. Kay wasn’t thinking about Ajay, or Chicago, not even the consequences of Kevin Cunningham’s murder. She thought of Michael, the man who had maybe peered too long into that abyss, consuming the darkness of it, inside him. The monster she told him about, warned him about, was now reality, hiding in the darkest corners of the places most of us fear to go, one of those monsters now calls himself ‘Michael Martyn’. Kay shook herself, reprimanding herself for what she was thinking. Michael was no monster, he was a victim of injustice, he was that little boy standing in the barn watching his father put himself down. Kay thought one thing and one thing only as she made her way to Hans door, she would save Michael, no matter what happens.
Hans sat facing Kay, Ethel was distraught as she was told about her house being raided by police. ‘They have no evidence Michael did this’. Hans looked at Kay, a look of surprise asking her why she was being so naive. ‘They have motive, and we all know what that is. Aside from that, Michael is gone. He’s a fugitive and the sheriff’s department have issued a warrant for his arrest’. Ethel looked at Kay then at Hans, ‘I’m going back home’. ‘Mrs Martyn if you do that then the police may arrest you, believing you have information of where Michael is’.
‘She’s right’. Hans sat closer to Ethel, ‘Mrs Martyn, they won’t come here’. ‘I WILL not hide from them! I have spent my life walking these streets with my head held high, even after what my husband did and what my older son was accused of. I’m not a criminal, and I won’t hide like one’. Hans looked across at Kay, ‘Okay Mrs Martyn, I will take you home but you will talk to me and tell me if anything happens’.
‘I’m not scared of being in my house alone, if my son wants to run away then that’s his choice’.
‘Mrs Martyn, I don’t think Michael has gone out of choice, if they find him they will kill him’.
‘They will still kill him’, Ethel looks at Kay. ‘Running away has made him guilty, even if he gets a trial it will go against him. If Gabriel did this, then why doesn’t Michael tell the law about Gabriel being alive’?
‘No-one believes fairytales Mrs Martyn, especially when a Cunningham has been killed’.
‘He’s always run away, Mr Mansell. In that damn forest, he would just go and hide, forgetting his mother and sister even existed’. Hans looked at Kay, she looked back at him as though they had found a miraculous cure to cancer or had worked out the solution to why the world is constantly at war. ‘In the forest, that’s where he’s gone’.
Ethel looked at Hans, ‘That forest is a jungle that belongs in hell. People could lose themselves in there and never find their way out. Michael knows it like he was born in there, every dirt path and the sequence of the trees, opening of the caves and where they go. Only Gabriel and their father knew the forest that well. Michael can stay there now, just like he has since he was a child, hiding away’. ‘Michael isn’t hiding, he’s sick’.
The West side was under constant surveillance, Vincent had additional police men brought in from across the bridge to patrol the area. Plain clothes officers were watching Michael’s home and store even though there was no chance of him coming to either. The bridge had been closed down with a police blockade and exits from the East and West side were also closely watched. This was a local crisis and the scale of the police operation would have befitted the search for a political assassin, it seemed over the top and theatrical considering it was Kevin Cunningham who had been slain. A low life, violent and obnoxious man who had done little or no good in his twenty seven years. However this wasn’t even about the loss of the younger Cunningham, Reginald had shed tears but not for his nephew, it was for his widowed sister. The greater shock reverberating in the Cunningham household was that their name had been challenged, that one of their own had been slayed, in war it is not the casualties that are remembered as much as their victory or defeat. Vincent followed his father’s orders, and did that bit more to remind the town that he was the sheriff and his cousin’s murder would be avenged. The guilty would be hung and the innocent too, because this was Vincent Cunningham’s town.
He arrived home, removing his hat as he entered his house, the door lock had been smashed. Vincent walked in, ‘Emily, EMILY’!! He looked in the rooms, and then went upstairs but she wasn’t there, Emily was no-where to be seen. Vincent stood in the hallway, looking in the mirror, he looked at himself. He stood as a man, tall and defiant looking in the mirror at himself. He watched his tears fall, remembering his mother’s death which was the last time he had cried. Now he cried for his cousin, for his wife and the loss of who he once was. Vincent’s eyes grew dark again as his tears fell evaporating with the heat of his rage. ‘Martyn, wherever you are, wherever you are. I will find you, I .. will .. find .. you! I will bury you, and everyone you ever loved’!