Chapter 26 - Dawn
Michael’s wagon was pulled out of the river, just hours after Reginald Cunningham’s car was found deserted outside the town. The hunt was officially on for a crazed killer who was now a suspect in the murders of ‘Kevin Cunningham’ and ‘Ray Del Toro’. He was also accused of kidnapping ‘Emily Cunningham’ and now, ‘Reginald Cunningham’. The press had gathered from neighbouring towns as the news broke of a man hunt across the county. Vincent’s town was under siege, and even the FBI were poised to get involved. Vincent walked out of his station, Kay and Hans waited with a large number of reporters and television crew. This sullen figure stood on the stairs gathering himself to give the official statement from his office. He was a man, who remained cold and impassive, hiding the turmoil in his own mind, while his town and life fell apart. Kay knew him well, she saw no reason to pity him, he would not allow anyone to pity him, his frame was carved out of defiance and intent to bring devastation.
‘We have a killer on the run, he is from this town. His name is Michael Martyn, and he is accused of at least four murders. We have reason to believe he is hiding in the forest, and all exits from this town have now been blocked’. Questions rained in from the reporters, as an officer put up his hand, ‘One at a time’. He pointed to an elderly man standing in the front row, ‘Why do you believe he is up in the forest’? ‘Because he has not left this town, we found his wagon in the river and we have other reasons to believe that he can only be up in the forest. However we are conducting searches across neighbouring towns also’. Kay spoke at once, ‘Mr Cunningham is it true that both your wife and father are missing, that they may have been kidnapped’. Vincent glared at Kay, as the officer answered ‘That’s speculation, nothing more’. ‘Was Mr Cunningham’s vehicle found abandoned’? Vincent walked back inside the police station, as the reporters tried to follow him but were stopped by the officers.
Ethel stood as she held the phone in her hand, ‘Mrs Martyn, Mrs Martyn. Are you there’? Ethel found her voice again, ‘Yes …. I am. Thank you for informing me’. Jake Martyn died today, at 04.46 hrs in the state penitentiary. He had never made it out of prison, the system had beaten him finally.
Ethel sat down in the hallway looking at the walls of her abandoned house. She thought of Becky and herself, the only survivors of a clan hounded by blood and crime. The fallen soldiers belonging to a war which had no name and no purpose. Hans opened the door, rushing to pick Ethel up, ‘Are you okay, Mrs Martyn? I just came to check up on you and noticed the door open’. ‘I was leaving and the phone rang, so I … I came back. It was the state prison. Jake died this morning’. Hans took off his hat, a mark of respect for someone he once knew. ‘I’m sorry Mrs Martyn, I really am sorry’. ‘Don’t be sorry. I feel that all my family has been lost, they are disappearing like shadows, and the end is coming’. ‘Mrs Martyn, I believe Michael will be okay. He is out there and maybe his brother too. The FBI will be coming in’. Ethel looked at Hans, reading the look in his eyes, seeing the truth hidden between his kind words. ‘Mr Mansell, you know as well as me. Vincent Cunningham only wants blood, nothing else. Just blood, the same as what Michael wants or Gabriel wants. This town has only one legacy, and that’s it, right there’. Hans took Ethel to the store, she opened it up, going through whatever post had arrived. The Michael who once worked here, has gone, he could never have had a normal life. Ethel had tidied up the office since she took over. She looked at the photo of Michael and Hugh, she had found it and put it in a frame. Every place in this town has memories of pain. The people who lived here left only hurtful memories. Then a time comes when that’s all these places become known for, the unfortunate people who worked here, or used to visit or eat here. These places become memorials of tragedy.
Amy was waiting in her car as Ethel locked up. ‘Amy what are you doing here’? ‘I just came to see you, I haven’t been anywhere since those murders. Can I talk to you’? Amy had changed a lot, Ethel could see it in her face, her innocence had been lost, she was a girl who was once full of life but now she too had endured the tortures of this brutal town. This town changed everyone eventually, taking away whatever hope they possessed and turning it into a cold resolve to keep going despite the pain of broken dreams and morbid memories. ‘Amy, I do feel sorry for what happened to Kevin. I know whatever he did to my daughter was unforgivable, but I still never wished this for him’. Amy turned to face Ethel as she drove, ‘I know Mrs Martyn. Kevin was my friend, maybe more than that but I loved Becky too. I miss her’. ‘Then let’s go and see her tomorrow’. ‘I would like that alot’.
Amy stopped outside the house, there were men waiting outside. ‘Who are they’? Amy looked scared for a moment, ‘It’s okay, they have been sent to watch over me’. Ethel laughed slightly, ‘I am not scared to be in this home alone. I am scared for my kids, that’s it. For my Becky and Michael and ..’. Amy turned around ‘I was taken by men once after I had come to meet Mike, but they brought me back. They wanted to scare Mike’. Ethel looked surprised, ‘Who were they’? ‘I don’t know. Mrs Martyn….Mike is a good man and he didn’t kill Kevin’. Ethel looked down, ’Thank you for believing in him. But my son did kill Kevin, my son did kill him’. Amy shed tears, ‘I want everything to go back to how it was before. Becky is in re-hab, Kevin’s dead and Mike is missing. I don’t want to be around anymore either. What’s the point’? Ethel stroked Amy’s face gently, like a mother. ‘Sweetheart, don’t remember those bad things. You have your whole life in front of you, just leave this town and make a new life without these memories. Remembrance of blood, of suffering and sorrow, it kills you moment by moment, poisons your mind until nothing remains except contempt and bitterness. That happened to my son, and it hasn’t ended…not yet’. As Ethel got out of the car, she smiled at Amy who looked scared. ‘Mrs Martyn, I’m ……. I’m carrying Kevin’s baby’. Ethel looked at Amy, ‘What’! ‘I’m scared’. Ethel sat back in the car as Amy hugged her tightly, ’Don’t worry darling. You need to move away from here, this child will come into the world already hating, wanting to find his father’s killer. He will be another Michael, another Gabriel born and this town will see another fifty years of blood and hate.
The darkness of the cave disappeared after many hours, or maybe days. He stood there holding a torch of blazing fire. It was time to move. Emily blinked repeatedly as her fears were confirmed, there was someone else in the cave. She had driven herself crazy thinking who it was, fearing it was Vincent. She knew what was going to happen, he had brought her here for the sole purpose of ending her life and the life of the other captive. She couldn’t bear to see Vincent killed in front of her eyes, even after all he had done to her. If someone was to kill him, she had to be the one to do it and no-one else. Emily looked at the fallen man, he was tied like a sack of vegetables, his legs bound together and his arms tied behind his back. It was Reginald Cunningham, his mouth was gagged and his face bled. He was in terrible pain, excruciating pain, he was a man who had been subjected to a terrible merciless beating, but still kept alive. Reginald looked at Emily, his nose was smashed and his left eye had been slashed open. His blood was dark and even the stone floor had been painted with it. His eyes met hers, and she saw anguish in them. His tears had mixed in with his own blood to stain his face. As he was pulled up, he screamed in pain. ‘Michael’! Emily yelled as she saw a bone sticking out of Reginald’s left arm. ‘Michael is not here. He was no good so I told him to leave. Michael is a good boy but he can’t do what it takes, what needs to be done’.
Reginald’s clothes were stained by his own blood and he turned his eyes away from Emily, so that she wouldn’t see his pain or his humiliation. He was a leader who was being subjected to dis-honour by an invading army, as his own people watched. They were led through the tunnels, Emily hadn’t walked in days, her legs were stiff as they went through the dark and narrow tunnels. Reginald grunted and groaned as he was being pulled violently, his head would often hit the shorter rocks and there was no stopping. Emily followed behind, she reached out to touch Reginald, a man she hardly knew but had despised. He was the harshest and cruellest of men, yet now that his time had come, he looked a pitiful figure, a once savage animal being led to his own slaughter. ‘I broke his arm, so he’s screaming. Let him scream, only we can hear him down here’.
‘Have you thought about what will happen to you after you kill us’?
’Kill us? You think I will kill you? Maybe I should for forgetting me. For sleeping with my enemy and today you put yourself with this motherfucker, as ‘us’. He turned around, ‘I should kill you because if I don’t, then you will go back to that sheriff fucker. But he is living on borrowed time’. He leaned down, looking into Reginald’s eyes. ‘I will kill your son, soon after I have killed you. I will chop his fuckin’ head off and take it to my father’.
The journey through the tunnels was a treacherous one, cold air filled their lungs but there was a strange feeling of suffocation. The man who led them, had become a monster who was now destroying the ones who created him, the abyss had vanished inside the one who stared into it far too long. ‘Where are we going’? There was no answer. They carried on walking through the dark tunnels.
The troops were ready to descend into the forest, the orders were that they would go in as teams covering different areas of the vast land, they were armed with bloodhounds and guns. A media circus had formed around the town, reminiscent of the time of the killings seventeen years ago. This time the great sheriff, who had been implicated in those same murders had been taken hostage and the orders given by Vincent Cunningham were to apprehend Michael Martyn with extreme prejudice. The ‘West side’ watched the early dawn knowing that a bloody feud years in the making was reaching its climax. Vincent would lead the second team, and as dawn broke, police vans filled with officers from both the East and West side drove towards the forest. Vincent loaded his rifle, his hand guns were already in their holsters, and the cartons of bullets already in his jeep. He stood alone in his large house, like a General abandoned in his fortress, ready to advance against his greatest adversary. This was his moment, his time to open a chapter in the ‘Cunningham’ book of law enforcement, just as his father had once done, ruthlessly and methodically eliminated his enemies and becoming a feared legend in this part of the land. Today it was his son who must step up to achieving something at least as great as that. Never had a man taken down the Cunningham clan, killing them as Martyn had done. To find him and kill him would be his greatest moment. Vincent didn’t have his father with him today, he didn’t even know if his father was alive or his wife. But it didn’t even matter because this moment was about one man, and one man only; his name is ‘Vincent Cunningham’.
Emily’s hands were tied by a long rope, which were fastened to Reginald Cunningham’s waist, and that rope was held by their captor. He pulled them along without saying anything to his prisoners. They reached an abandoned shaft with a wooden broken ladder attached to the side wall. He pulled Reginald up the shaft and Emily dragged herself slowly trying to find a rung which wasn’t already broken. Reginald once again began to howl in distress with the piece of cloth tied around his mouth almost coming off as he cried in pain. It didn’t matter, nothing did as they managed to reach the top. Finally seeing daylight, their eyes stung as the first rays of light hit them, the smell of the forest filled their senses as they heard nothing but the serene singing of birds. He led them in the same manner as when they were in the tunnels, a rifle hanging on his shoulder, he walked without showing any signs of fatigue or remorse. Reginald fell down out of sheer exhaustion bringing Emily to her knees. ‘Not long left sheriff. Not long left. On your feet because I can’t kill you yet, not here’.
‘Why’? Emily looked up at him, ‘Just do it here’! Emily spoke with a venomous tongue, as her grief turned to fury.
‘In ancient times, the prisoners of war were led in the same way by their conquerors to be sacrificed. Because pure killing is about tradition, ceremony has to be followed. Executions are done by following royal ceremony because only then it is accepted as being righteous’. He sounded like someone else.