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Chapter 4 – End of our world

Kay had spent the entire day in her room, working on her article. She had gone over every word of the journals she had brought from the library, reading them again and again, trying her best to extract any information that she could. There wasn’t much in the articles of any real weight, they were all similar, almost as though they were written in collaboration. So many words but very little information. However Kay’s mind was forcing her eyes to the same place in Han’s article ‘TRAGEDY HITS FAMILY AGAIN’!!!

Kay kept reading about ‘Michael Martyn’, just eleven years old watching his father end his own life, she thought long about that boy, trying to understand or simply imagine what he must have gone through. She thought about her own son; ‘Cameron’. He was eleven years old when she lost custody of him, losing a long and costly court case to her ex-husband. She watched her son be led away by her husband and his mistress whom he later married. She looked into his eyes as he walked out of that court room, and saw a sense of grief, the dawn of reality, one of separation. Kay would think of her son nearly every minute of the day, searching for him in every child she passed, and in every young boy who would smile at her. She forgave her husband for his betrayal but not for the crime of taking her son away. She would call every Sunday, as they had moved to Quebec, Canada but she hadn’t met him for one and half years. Kay lost the battle for her son because she was a single mother with a full time job, whereas her husband was an affluent attorney in a large law firm. He was also in a relationship and therefore had stability. Kay would often wonder why she believes in a system that failed her, how she has been defending law and justice when she suffered a travesty of justice. Maybe that’s why deep down, she lives a life of hypocrisy like so many, believing in a theory, or having faith in something, for which there is no evidence. Kay thought about Ethel Martyn, and how she had dismissed her belief in God but the truth was Ethel Martyn’s faith in religion is not much different to her own faith in this system, it was about believing in a reality that may be larger than our life’s experiences, and may at the end manifest itself as the truth. Kay read the final words of another journal about the manhunt in the dense forest of the town, the words of a young officer ‘Derek Lomas’, who gave this statement, ‘for hours we searched for him, sometimes we would see him and he would then get away, it was getting dark and it was getting harder in there. Then it just seemed he disappeared, just like that he was gone ……’

Two police cars pulled up outside the ‘Martyn’ house and people came over to have a look, as the officers handcuffed Mike’s hands behind his back and sat him down at the back of the police vehicle. Ethel stood on the stairs of the house watching her son be taken away as Emily put her comforting arm around Ethel. Mike sat expressionless at the back of the patrol car as it moved away, heading towards the station. The officers acted like they were almost unaware of him seated in the back seat, as they continued talking and answering their radio. Mike’s mind wondered back towards the ‘Strip’, and how he had dreaded being arrested by that officer outside the club. Now, twenty hours later as he headed towards an uncertain fate, he did not care about what happened to him, some hours ago he had so much to lose but now sitting in this damp and dark vehicle, he had lost it all. The night was falling at the station, as Mike’s fingerprints were taken and the paperwork was being completed. Mike looked around for Vincent, but he was no-where to be seen. Mike was led down the steel stairway, where the holding cells were, not the first time he had been here. Mike had been picked up on a couple of occasions for disorderly conduct, but now was different. As Mike was left in a holding cell, he sensed a finality of these events. He was told that Kevin Cunningham had been arrested at the scene of the shooting and was already being held in one of these cells. Mike sat on the springy bed, just wishing he would be allowed to have two minutes with Kevin Cunningham, he would happily accept the electric chair, lethal injection or any other form of capital punishment for the privilege of breaking every breakable bone in Kevin Cunningham’s body before cracking his skull under his boot. The eyes were awake, the mind was numb and body exhausted. Mike lay in the cell for most of the night trying to work out whether this was part of a reality, or simply another version of the ‘ghosts in the bushes’ or the ‘wooden coffin’. There seemed to be a blurred reality, as Mike sat up listening to the faint voices from above. ‘Jen’, he thought of Jenny, where was she’? Damn, what had happened to her?

‘Hope you understand, Mr Martyn you are being released without charge but must remain within the parameters of this town. We have taken your statement but may need you to come in again. If for any reason, you are to leave this town longer than a day, we must be informed. There is a pending criminal investigation, in which we will require further assistance’. The deputy sheriff spoke to Mike as he finalized the release forms, Mike signed the documents and stood up. He picked up his jacket, taking his items from the box that was handed to him, and as he walked towards reception, towards the bright light of the morning, he noticed Vincent Cunningham. He was on the phone, Mike looked at Vincent, and their eyes met. Vincent’s eyes were locked onto Mike and there was a message in that stare, it said that ‘this is not over, not by a long shot’.

Mike walked past the reception desk, as an officer spoke from behind, ‘There was a young lady asking about you. She’s in the car outside’. Mike walked outside towards the busy road, looking around at a ‘normal day’. Everyone was busy doing something, either at work or trying to get to work, the ladies rushing around with their groceries, young kids being dragged around the town by their mums, it was all the same. The world was still here! Mike approached a shiny looking car, as a lady got out of it. She was very elegant, very pretty, Mike thought that she may be an attorney or a private investigator.

‘Hi, I’m Kay Winters’. She held out her hand as Mike shook her hand reluctantly,

‘Do you know me’?

‘Yes I guessed you are Mr Martyn’. ’I work for a newspaper called ‘Crime Speaks’, I am a journalist and know you and your family quite well’.

Mike stood by the car as he looked away for a moment, his mind was focusing on what he needed to do, ‘Ma’, ‘Becky’, everything was coming into his mind, an urgency was taking over as Mike needed to know how his sister was. ‘I have to go, sorry’. Kay changed her tone to a serious one, ‘I know about your sister, I went over to your work place and a gentleman across the road told me what happened. I have been waiting here for an hour. The least I can do is take you home’. Mike looked at the bus stand, and knew this was the better option, maybe because this lady was so pretty much like Emily. There was a similar type of confidence and elegance about her so Mike shook his head and got in.

Kay would glance at Mike occasionally as she spoke, ‘I have heard what happened, and have already drafted my article, I am just trying to get the facts and will have this published within 48 hours’. Mike looked straight ahead, ‘Makes no difference, you get it published in a big city miles away, where no-one knows my sister and never even heard of this town’. Mike directed Kay towards his house as she remained quiet but as she drove up, Kay knew she had to say something to make sure she sees Mike again. ’Mr Martyn, you don’t know me or what I do. I care, I really do and will bring out the truth. Please call me when you are free so we can talk. Kay handed a card to Mike, he took the card and put in his front pocket. He thanked Kay and got out of the car. As Kay left she smiled at him and Mike smiled back. He noticed how Kay’s face glowed, it was like a bright light, something sweet and pure. Mike felt his belief in humanity was restored with that smile but then he remembered Becky’s blood and her terrified face, his world crumbled again.

I could hear the house breathing, it was heavy and strained as though it had been remembering something and weeping. I could feel its loneliness through the walls, the dark and deserted hallway and heartbroken floor that asked many questions. I entered the kitchen and looked around trying to find the plates and mugs showing signs that Ma’ had breakfast and left for work. Becky wasn’t here, she must have gone to college and Ma was at work, right, but where the fuck had I been?

Hugh entered and walked up to the kitchen where Mike was standing in the middle like a statue, trying to piece together the reality of what had happened. It wasn’t so long ago when Ma’ had been waking him up as he slept on the table and now he stood in the same kitchen hoping that he could rewind what happened in the past twenty four hours. Just start again from the same place, the kitchen where Gabriel’s chair sat, watching Mike and saying ‘I should have been there instead of you, you useless fuck’!!

‘When d’you get home’? Mike was standing still but wasn’t there, Hugh placed his large palm on Mike’s shoulder ‘Hey Mikey, you ok’? Mike turned around and looked at Hugh, ‘Yes, I’m fine’. Hugh looked at Mike, looking into his eyes like a doctor who checks a patient for signs of life, ‘I went to the station, they told me you got released’. Mike nodded, ‘Yes they let me go’.

Mike sat down slowly, as Hugh sat next to him, ‘We gotta go to the hospital, they’re saying that they might have to move Becky to a different center’. Mike was looking at the table, not reacting to what Hugh was saying,

‘I can’t do this, I can’t see her like this’.

‘Mike, you gotta be there, Ma needs you down there. They need to talk to the family’.

Mike looked at Hugh, ‘she’s alive then’?

‘Yes, she is but she lost a lot of blood and there may be other complications as the bullet may have damaged her spine. We can’t sit around here, we gotta go’. Hugh stood up as Mike remained seated, he was searching for his legs, not knowing whether they would stand him up. Mike stood up and walked behind Hugh as the phone rang, they both stopped as Mike remembered what day it was, almost like the phone was giving him back the sense of normality. Mike picked up the phone ‘Hello’, there was a voice bellowing down from the other end after a short pause, ‘Hello, hello is that the Martyn house’? Mike replied as he looked at Hugh, ‘Yes it is, who is this’? ‘I’m Jake, you Michael’? Mike remembered it was Uncle J, he even remembered he left his number for Uncle J to call. ‘Yes, you Uncle J’? The voice at the other end sounded full of life, elated ‘Yes man, I can’t believe this. I tried calling your number but it’s switched off, How are you kid, how’s your Ma, and little sister’? Mike said nothing, a spike had ripped into his heart and he was bleeding on the floor in the hallway. Hugh was looking at Mike impatiently, ‘We’re ok’. Uncle J’s voice was cutting out and seemed to get fainter, ‘Mike I wanna see you, we have visitors every Wednesday. Can you get here for 8.00am’? Mike wanted to see Uncle J, he didn’t know why ‘Yes I will come’. Mike put the phone down without even saying goodbye, he didn’t even understand why he told Uncle J he would come and visit, even though he didn’t know him. Maybe because there was something about ‘Jake Martyn’, this name would often be mentioned at the ‘Shelter’, some unsavory people have even asked Mike whether he was related to ‘Big Jake’ after hearing his family name ‘Martyn’. Jake was everything his Pa wasn’t and what he would love to have been on this day. Hugh said nothing to Mike not even asking him, who had called, they hardly spoke as Hugh drove Mike in his car to the town’s ‘General Hospital’.

Mike followed Hugh into the ‘Injury Trauma’ unit, their boots made a particular noise in the shiny corridors, a thumping noise as though condemned men were being taken to the electric chair to be sentenced to death. Mike saw his Ma, sitting on the bench outside a glass room. He walked up to his Ma, she turned around and hugged his waist. Mike had his back to Becky’s room. Hugh sat next to Ma, as Mike was trying so hard to resist seeing his sister. The smell of the hospital hit his senses at that time, there was this distinctive smell in these places, it wasn’t the medication, or the bed sheets. It was something else, it was the pain of people, their blood, their anguish and dreams lying in a heap of bandages and plasters, being injected by needles and inserted with tubes. This was another world, not the one outside, that world had ended. Mike walked closer to the glass, and his heart missed a beat, maybe several beats as he saw a young girl. She was covered with snakes, those snakes looked like tubes and pipes, her delicate body had been ravaged with needles and she was kept prisoner by this humming machine, which made this silent but constant sound. The girl looked a lot like Becky, she may have been Becky some time ago. Mike placed his hands on the pane of glass. ‘Mike, you ok’? Hugh was looking down at Mike as Ma was clutching at his arm, ‘Doctor, doctor’.

Mike was sitting on the dirty floor, looking up at his mother and at Hugh.

The doctor spoke with an authoritative tone, the tone that all doctors seemed to have even if they didn’t know what they were talking about. Doctor Jacobs, a smartly dressed man displayed the ‘X-ray’ reports, which meant very little to Mike and Ethel as they sat in the small confined office. This was even more painful, seeing Becky in intensive care as well as trying to make sense of what the consultant was saying. ‘Miss Martyn is still in a serious condition, the bullet seemed to hit her at a downward angle, entering her chest and leaving her body from below the spine, here’, the doctor pointed at the spot on the ‘X-ray’ sheet. ‘Unfortunately, it seems from early assessment that there is damage to the lower spine’. Ethel looked towards the doctor in despair, ‘What damage’? The doctor sat down, ‘well, it’s hard to say, we need to stabilize Miss Martyn, then move her to another unit across the bridge’. Mike looked up at the doctor, asking for a break, hoping to hear something positive to lift the dark cloud that had permanently made a home above him, ‘Will she be ok’? The doctor glanced at Mike, as he said in a quietened tone, ‘It’s unlikely that she will ever walk again’. Mike looked at the doctor as Ethel held her breathe, she began to weep quietly as Mike tried to reason with the doctor, ‘what do you mean, how can you say that’? The doctor sat back in his chair, ‘I can only give you a professional assessment’. Mike didn’t believe it, he heard it but refused to take it in, believing that his sister would walk again. In his mind he had dismissed the doctor, ‘what does he know’? He ain’t God, she will walk again, Becky will be fine, I know she will.

Mike left the hospital with his arm around his mother, the night had settled in, as Mike held his Ma tightly as though if he loosened his grip, she would fall to pieces. Hugh was already waiting for them in his car. Mike looked at this dark night, and spotted the stranger again. Someone was standing there, far from them, just watching. Mike looked closely, trying to recognize who it was, even though he knew this stranger would appear in the shadows and would never show himself. Mike stopped and looked closely, as Ma looked at him, ‘Why are you looking over there’? Mike answered without blinking, ‘thought I saw someone I know’.

As Mike walked towards their house, Hugh called him from behind, ‘Mikey, I will come later tonight. We gotta go across the bridge to that house’. Mike looked at Hugh remembering Jen, and the bridge. Mike saw Hugh and understood that Hugh didn’t want to ask this of him, but he was in pieces. Just as Becky was a victim, so was Jenny. Just as his world had ended outside a fast food joint, in the middle of the town so did Hugh’s, except his world disappeared across the bridge.

The lights went on, as Emily was blinded for a moment. She didn’t realize how long she had been sitting in the dark. Vincent stood there in the doorway, ‘What you got the lights off for’? Emily looked at Vincent but didn’t reply. Vincent walked in and sat down in front of Emily, ‘pretty fucked up situation we got here’. ‘So you were there, saw the whole thing’? Emily looked away from Vincent, ‘yes I did, saw it all’. Vincent looked at Emily, ‘I have been talking to a few people, we can get around this. There were lots of people but they just saw Kev with a rifle and a shot go off. It don’t mean he shot her’. Emily looked at Vincent with disdain, with a look of disbelief, ‘What are you saying’? Vincent stood up and walked across the room, ‘We can prove that there aint no conclusive evidence that the bullet came from that rifle. I can fix that. Yes, he had a gun, someone in the crowd fired the shot and the girl goes down…..’, ‘The girl, yes the girl, her name is Becky’ Emily snapped as she stood up, ‘I know what I saw and I will make sure that Kevin gets what he deserves’. Vincent walked up to Emily, ‘I gotta save my cousin, and I am working damn hard to make sure he walks. Whose side you on, your ONE OF US’!!! Vincent pointed his finger in Emily’s face, as Emily’s face remained stone cold, her eyes were teary but defiant, ‘I’m not one of you, I have never been one of you, a killer, a liar, a …..’ Vincent grabbed Emily’s arms, she felt like she was locked into a vice, ‘If you say a word to anyone about this until I tell you, I will beat you so bad that you will wish I had killed you instead’. Emily felt the pain of his monstrous grip but she showed nothing, stayed still as she spoke ‘You think that you can fix everything, silence everyone, defeat people, but it won’t happen for ever. I’m not talking about the law, I have no faith in that after seeing you wear that badge. I am talking about something else, I wait for a time when you and your family gets retribution for what you have done, to see you suffer is the only reason I live’. Vincent was speechless, he sensed an intense hatred in Emily’s voice, venom was running through her veins and he felt it as his grip began to loosen. Vincent’s eyes dipped for a moment, Emily felt a victory in her heart, hating him was the only way she could ever get him back for his crimes, but all these years it had no effect on him. However today was different, Emily had hurt him, maybe for the first time. So the monster does bleed!!

The streets were dark, and largely deserted as I tried to remember those apartments. I was doing my best, hoping to remember, but it was a little hazy. Looking at Hugh was scary, he said very little and just stared ahead with an unflinching sense of purpose. Hugh was in the same place that I was, his life was not like what it had been, it had ended, and a sense of normality was gone. It didn’t matter if others were happy and were going through their normal day, waking up in the morning, going to work, meeting each other. Their world remained but ours was gone.

‘That’s the place, the one with them gates’. Hugh looked ahead, as Mike pointed to the house where Jen had parked her car. Not surprisingly her car was no longer there. ‘That’s the apartments, we got no idea in which one of these she went in’. Hugh looked at Mike, enquiring like Mike should have followed her in that night. Mike felt as though Hugh blamed him for something, maybe because he should have stayed with her that night. Hugh got out of the car and walked towards the apartments with Mike sitting in the car. Mike then got out and walked behind Hugh. Hugh buzzed at the gates but there was no response, until a voice came though ‘Yes, who do you want’? Hugh shouted down the speaker ‘Jennifer, I’m looking for someone called Jennifer, Jenny’!! There was a short silence, ‘Which apartment you need’? Hugh glanced at Mike, not having a clue what to say. Hugh whispered towards Mike ‘Describe who she was with’? Mike replied ‘Some foreign guy, young girl, it was hard to see them in the dark’. Hugh shouted down the speaker ‘Don’t know the apartment, some guy and girl, foreign kid’. The reply from the speaker was a more agitated one, ‘No, no-one like that here sorry’. Hugh began to buzz again, as Mike began to look around sensing that something was going to happen in this eerier place. ‘Look, a lady was here Saturday night, her name was Jenny, ok’. There was an abrupt reply ‘Fuck off’!!!

Hugh looked at Mike and hurried back towards the car. ‘Not surprised these fuckers were not gonna give us an answer, let’s go to the strip’. Mike looked at Hugh, ‘the strip, Hugh you know we never gonna find her there’. Hugh grabbed Mike ‘look man, my wife is gone and I don’t have a fuckin’ clue where she is. My kids look at me every time I go over to see’em and they ask me where their mum is. What shall I tell’ em? I’m a man, got it ‘a man’, that’s what I am, and I need to know what happened to my wife’!! Mike felt a sharp pain in his chest, a realization of what hurt him most. Ever since that day when Becky got shot, something was eating at Mike, like an insect living deep inside his body just gnawing away at his heart and lungs, it wasn’t Becky being in hospital, not even being told she will never walk again. It was something deeper than that, what Hugh had just said, ‘I’m a man’!! Mike was no longer a man, he let his baby sister take the bullet, it was his bullet. Becky was protecting him.

They drove through the Strip, watching the groups of youngsters standing on the corners, the flashing lights, the cloud of smoke and noise all over the street. Mike wondered as he saw the young girls, standing in their skimpy dresses, who were they? They’re probably like Becky and Amy, looking for fun, or maybe like Jenny, but what are they looking for in this creep joint? It felt like this was a scene from an apocalyptic world, where evil reigned after all had been banished and discarded. Hugh and Mike stopped outside the club, sitting in the parking lot, looking at the blue neon lights and the people outside, who were not youngsters. They looked like dealers and gangsters, not the kind of place Jenny should be going to. Hugh reached under his seat and pulled out a revolver. He put it in his jacket, as he looked at Mike ‘let’s go’. Hugh stepped outside the car as Mike once again was left sitting there not knowing what the plan was. He didn’t even know if there was a plan? Mike walked towards the main doors where Hugh was talking with the door man, the man was huge, and had a mean look as he sized up Hugh and Mike, ‘unless you got our pass, or know someone in here, you can’t come in, I never seen you guys before’. Hugh reached inside his pocket, ‘you seen this woman’? Hugh was showing him a picture of Jenny, the man didn’t even look at the picture properly, ‘Nah, you a cop’? Hugh looked straight back at him, ‘have a good look, her name is Jennifer, she calls herself Jenny’. The man took the photo and gave it back straight away, ’many bitches come in here every day, can’t remember ‘em all’! Mike pulled Hugh away, ‘look he ain’t gonna remember her and even if he does, he won’t tell us. This place don’t look right to me’. Hugh frowned at Mike and then looked back at the monster standing at the door. Hugh walked back towards the car, ‘someone knows something, she can’t just disappear’. Hugh stood by the door as he kicked it hard, ‘Where is she’?

Kay walked past the reception desk, ‘Ma’am, there was a note left for you on the counter’. Kay stopped and looked at Al, she picked up the envelope ‘Who left this’? ‘I don’t know, someone did early morning’. Kay opened the envelope, and took out a piece of paper ‘SEE ME AT THE LIBRARY, WRIP THIS UP AFTER READING’. Kay screwed the paper up and left the motel quickly.

As she entered the library, she looked around knowing that it was Hans who must have left the note.

Hans was there standing behind the desk,

‘Miss Winters, good morning’.

Kay walked up to the desk, ‘Morning, you left this note for me’?

‘Yes I did, I read your article on the net about the shooting down town. It was a good article’.

Kay smiled ‘Thank you, I spoke to a few of my contacts who told me that the D.A office has taken an interest in this case’. Hans grinned from the side of his mouth, ‘So that’s why he never got bail’. Kay nodded her head,

‘Miss Winters you can do a lot of good’.

Hans slid a white card across the desk towards Kay, ‘Take this’. Kay looked down and picked up the card, ‘This has a name and number on it’.

‘Whose number is it’?

‘This man was my assistant back in the days I was writing, he has a lot of information’. Kay looked at the card and put it in her pocket,

‘What kind of information’?

Hans replied as he began clearing items from the desk, ‘Information that I could never have printed. The answers to some of your questions’.

‘So why didn’t you mention this to me when I was here before’?

Hans looked thoughtful as he spoke, ‘that’s because people are like books. The cover doesn’t always tell you what’s inside’.

Kay smiled, ‘I like that, so you believe in me now’?

Hans’s eyes met Kay’s, ‘I do, and I also know that you may have what I never had back then. I had too much to lose, it made me weak but today I see you and I see someone who believes in that age old concept’.

Kay looked curious as she asked ‘What concept’?

‘Justice, Miss Winters, Justice. It’s like believing in God, if we have faith in it then we will accept its reality but if we don’t then it’s just an empty idea’. Kay’s mind began to open as she was discovering something deep within this veteran writer. ‘I didn’t know you were a religious man’.

Hans replied ‘We all believe in something, it keeps us alive. I believe there is good in people, and that’s how I keep my belief in God’.

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