Chapter 7- The Seekers
Kay raced across the bridge, as she continually tried to phone Hans, there was no reply. ‘Fuck’, she threw the phone onto the seat next to her. Kay wondered about each and every word that man had said, it didn’t make sense, none of it. He was being deliberately vague, and it seemed like he was trying to confuse her intentionally. The phone rang, Kay picked it up, it was Hans, ‘Hi, Miss Winters, you ok’? ‘I’m fine, can I see you’. ‘Yes, just come round to the library in the morning’. Kay sighed, ‘I need to see you now, please’. Hans told her to come at the side entrance of the library, climb up a flight of stairs, and knock on the door.
‘It’s open’, Kay opened the door and walked in. This was a small apartment, neat with very little furniture inside. Hans was sitting down, with a burnt piece of toast and a mug of coffee in front of him. Kay walked in slowly, ‘sorry for disturbing you, I really need to speak to you’. Hans stood up, ‘Its ok, sit down’. Kay sat down facing Hans, as he offered her some coffee. Kay shook her head, ‘I’m fine, thanks’. Hans sat back down as he began to sip his coffee.
‘I met your friend, but he didn’t tell me anything, really’. Hans listened, slowly sipping his drink, ‘Well Miss Winters, he can only tell you what is safe for you to know’. Kay looked away, ‘Safe for me’? ‘No, for him’.
Kay and Hans exchanged glances, ’He was talking about, ‘a war’, ‘executions’, ‘the devil’…., it didn’t make sense’. Hans laughed, a sarcastic type of a laugh. ‘He doesn’t always make sense, he is quite paranoid, so not easy to talk to’. ’I guessed that, but you make sense, so please tell me about this ‘war’’. Hans stood up as he walked to the stove, and poured himself some more coffee. ‘It was drug related, there was alot of blood spilled on all sides. The cops had to protect their interest, which they did’. Kay stood up and walked towards Hans, ‘How? By killing rival gang members, eliminating the competition’. Hans replied, ’There was no competition, the cops on the ‘East’ and ‘West’ controlled the system, they were on the same side and transported drugs all over the county’. Kay went quiet as she thought about what Hans was telling her, she was trying to piece it together with what that mysterious man had told her earlier in the night. ’So who were the cops at war with? Surely, you could have told me all this when we first met. Why did you send me to your assistant? The men who died in police custody, were they all drug runners? They were ‘hits’, right’?
Kay looked at Hans waiting for the answers. She walked back and sat down, trying to complete the puzzle but something was missing. ‘How about what your assistant said, about the devil’?
Hans came over and sat down, ‘It’s all about our belief, isn’t it’?
‘Whether there is God, and if there is God then there is the devil, right’?
Kay sighed again as she rolled up her eyes, ‘Please tell me what you are talking about’?
‘I don’t have evidence of a lot of things, that’s why I sent you to my assistant, he has evidence and he was there’.
Kay looked at Hans, he seemed nervous, almost rattled by his own words, ‘He was where’?
Hans looked down, ‘Whatever I tell you, or say to you, it won’t make a difference because you can’t write it’.
Kay sat forward, closer to Hans, ‘I want to know’.
‘No one believes it, not even me sometimes and neither will you’.
‘Even if I don’t write it, I want to know’.
Hans looked down again towards the floor. ’Those killings were not just the cops, they were a group of vigilantes who followed this cult. A man in this town preached a belief that blood atonement cannot exist until you shed the blood of the sinners, the traitors of God, they must perish for us to gain salvation. Kay looked at Hans, she was dumbfounded, ‘what the …….’
Hans continued, ignoring Kay’s expression of dis-belief, ’So men began to follow him, calling themselves ‘The Seekers’. They broke away from the orthodox beliefs, they took up arms and began to kill. A criminal who discovers a conscience and sense of religious duty, is a dangerous son of a bitch. So this cult began to kill drug runners, pimps and dirty cops, believing they were doing God’s work’.
Kay interrupted, ‘so these murders were like ritual killings, and the cops…………’
‘The cops were on the opposite side to the cult. They had to protect their own interest, so they got rid of most of these cult members. The cops had a large piece of the drug trade and all the other illegal activities on the East and West side, so these vigilantes were costing them money’.
Kay held her head in her hands, she brushed her hair back, ‘Fuck, I don’t understand’.
Hans placed his mug down, his face had taken the same expression as the man’s had earlier that night. ‘There’s more to this, than what you think. The man you met tonight, he was in the forest when Gabriel disappeared’.
‘He was killed’, said Kay with a definite and uncompromising tone.
’Miss Winters, the men I talked to and whatever statements they gave were that he ‘disappeared’, nothing they did that night could hurt him, he was as fast as lightening, then he was gone. It was like he was some kind of angel or ……. a demon’. Kay looked at Hans, pausing for a moment, ‘Gabriel was what’?
‘He was special not like the others, he had that link’. Kay looked at Hans, ‘What link’?
‘The man who led this cult, who had spiritual authority like it was a gift, that man was Shane Martyn, Gabriel’s father’.
Kay parked her car outside the ‘Shelter’. She read her notes one more time, trying to write down quickly whatever she had left out from what Hans had told her. ‘Fuck, I thought Hans was the only rational person in this town but even he is a crackpot’. Kay muttered this as she went over her notes, trying to match what the man in the apartments had told her compared to what Hans had been saying. Surprisingly Hans made even less sense than his assistant, which is a minor miracle in itself. Great team they would have made back in the day!! Kay allowed herself a smile, looking at the club in front of her, she would allow herself a drink tonight. It was difficult being cooped up in the old motel room every night, with only flees for company. Kay walked inside this club/pool hall, glancing at the locals, it seemed like no-one had noticed her. She ordered a juice from the bar and then looked around for somewhere to sit. It was a quiet town and the locals kept themselves to themselves. They wouldn’t stare at the out of towners, in fact the men walked past her, lowering their gaze. They were decent men run by killers, cult members and who knows what else. Kay spotted Mike sitting in the corner on his own, she walked upto him, ‘Can I sit down’?
Mike looked up, ‘Sure’.
Kay sat across the table to Mike, he looked lonely and was staring at a glass of beer. Kay smiled, ‘you’re gonna drink that or just stare at it’. Mike looked at Kay, keeping the same expression, ‘I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for five years, not since I was in re-hab’. Kay looked surprised, ‘You were in re-hab? So you were an alcoholic’? Mike slowly nodded, ‘yes, ain’t touched this for five years. Never missed it either but tonight, I want to let go’.
Kay slowly moved the glass of beer away from Mike and pushed her own orange juice towards him. ‘I gotta admit, it’s been one of those nights, but you shouldn’t give up. Have my orange juice instead’. Mike looked at Kay, ‘I can’t have yours’. ‘It’s okay, I’ll get another one. Just think I saved you from an evil deed, no need to repent afterwards’. Kay laughed, she had heard more about sins and atonement on this night than she had in her entire life. Mike took a sip, ‘thanks, you been in re-hab too’?
Kay smiled, ‘No, I hate alcohol, I watched my father drink every night, he was a strong man, so loving but after he had a drink, he would cry and become so weak. He missed my mother but drinking would make him weaker and weaker, so I learnt watching him every night that this stuff turns you into a coward’. Mike looked up at Kay, surprised at her words, ‘strong words to use about your father’.
Kay looked at Mike, a steely look, ‘I am not talking just about my father, but about anyone who turns to alcohol as a way out’.
‘Life itself makes a man into a coward, we live by a moral code, handed down to us by our folks but this world has no place for that’. Mike looked down as he spoke, almost mumbling, ‘Sometimes there is no way out for us, so we wanna kill ourselves be it with alcohol or something else’.
Kay studied Mike, remembering the young boy in the article and how he had watched his father take his own life. Kay understood the pattern of how your experiences of life establishes who you become, she had studied cases and written journals on ‘nature vs nurture’. Victims of abuse will go onto abuse others, similarly victims of tragic circumstances will succumb to tragedy themselves.
‘Do you ever wonder whether death is really the end’?
Mike looked at Kay, she was sounding like his mother. ‘Do you believe there is something beyond that’?
Kay smiled, ‘Well, I don’t know but we will have to make the most of what we have, either way’.
‘They let him go, Kevin Cunningham’.
Kay looked surprised, ‘well, that is the reason you should continue to fight’. Mike said nothing, he was dejected and very quiet. Kay watched him and saw he was on the brink, he had lost something and she could see it in his face, even his eyes had this emptiness. Life slipping from within him, like a man who had been hanging on to the edge for a long time but he could no longer hold on.
‘So what do you guys do for fun, is this the only place around’? Mike looked up, ‘Yes’.
‘Come on, how about if you want to go to a nice place to eat’?
Mike smiled, ‘across the bridge, there are some nice places’.
‘Well I am kind of bored, let’s face it, this isn’t the most exciting place and not much good company around either’. Mike was smiling now as he looked at Kay’s bright smile, the glow on her face, he liked her even though he hardly knew her.
‘I am a big city girl, so even though it’s not a lady like thing to do, I will have to ask you out’?
‘On a date’?
Kay smiled at Mike, his face looked brighter now, ‘If you wanna call it that, but don’t get any ideas, okay’. Mike smiled at Kay, ‘It would be nice to go, let’s say on Saturday night’. Kay agreed and said ‘I gotta go, I am kind of tired’. She touched Mike’s hand slightly and said in a quiet and personal tone, ‘Don’t give up’!!!
Mike left the ‘Shelter’ soon after, putting on his jacket he got into his wagon. He drove off towards his house and noticed the white van following him again. This van had tailed him since he left the hospital, while he went to the town to pick up some things. Mike pulled into the gas station, he then noticed the van drive past. Mike knew that van had been tailing him, it had to be connected with the ‘Cunninghams’, he also thought about ‘Uncle J’. Those words, ‘I got your back’. He remembered about the job he had to do for his Uncle, to give that encoded message to ‘Ant Man’. Mike drove upto the house, in his headlights he saw a young girl sitting on his stairs. It was Amy. He hadn’t seen her for a while, in fact not since the day of the shooting.
Victims become outcasts, it’s almost like when something bad happens, people start avoiding you like the plague. Like someone paints a big red cross on your door to tell others that people have the ‘black death’ here, so they need to stay away. When Pa’ died, I noticed how people would never come around, even close friends of Pa stopped coming. It’s the way of the world, when the ship begins to sink, the rats are gone.
Mike stepped out, ‘Hi Amy’. Amy stood up, she was wearing a large cardigan, jeans and trainers, she looked like a young girl, someone who had done something wrong and had that sheepish expression on her face. ‘Hi Mike, you ok’? Amy came and stood in front of Michael, there was this uneasy silence, ‘Not seen you for a while, you not even come to the hospital’. Amy looked down, ’I’ve been away, after what happened to Becky, my dad just went ‘psycho’, he sent me away to my friend’s place. I came back just now, came straight here’. ’All of us went abit ‘psycho’, I guess’. Amy’s voice cracked as she spoke, ‘How is Becky’? Amy came and hugged Mike, she hugged him tightly as Mike hugged her too. He felt his eyes get watery, as Amy held onto Mike like a survivor wrapping her arms around the mast of a sinking ship. ‘I wanted to be here for Becky, but you know how my dad’s like’. Mike hugged Amy sensing a feeling of relief and comfort. Amy then looked at Mike, as he slowly touched her delicate face, ‘I have always seen you like my kid sister, just like Becky’. Amy smiled as she wiped her tears away using the back of her hand, ‘I know Mikey, you guys are the only family I ever had’. Mike smiled, ‘Come to the hospital in the morning, Becky would love to see you and Ma’ would too’. Amy smiled, ‘I will’.
‘I’ll drop you home’.
Amy pointed towards her car, ‘It’s ok, I borrowed my friend’s car, didn’t want to come on train’.
Amy said ‘Bye’ to Mike and got into the car and drove off. Mike opened the door of his house, Ma’ hadn’t arrived home yet, she was probably at a friend’s and might not be back until the following morning. Mike walked towards the kitchen, where he would sit alongside Becky every morning. Those moments didn’t seem like anything at the time, you would dismiss them as they happened but when all of that is gone, then you miss that every second and hope to have another moment like that again.
Mike walked upto his room and sat on his bed, he reached under the bed and felt for the brown bag, he had that thought in his head even now, to go looking for ‘Kevin Cunningham’, but it’s never gonna make any difference. Emily was right about him needing to be there for Ma’ and Becky, he didn’t want to do what Pa’ had done all those years ago, he chose to end his own personal hell, but pushed everyone who needed him into a deeper and worse hell then his own. Mike felt his eyes closing slowly, the deep colours and waves were coming over him, he began to see faces; Becky, Emily and Jen were all floating in his mind. ‘Don’t give up’, Mike heard the words of Kay Winters. She was so pretty, her eyes and her voice, that smile and certainty in what she said and everything she knew. The phone was ringing, somewhere behind the colours and the faces, something was ringing. Mike reached into his pocket for his phone, opening his eyes, ‘Amy’. He looked at the screen, it was Amy. Mike answered it, still in a drowsy state, ‘Hi Amy’. He heard a voice ‘Come outside’. It was a deep voice, a male voice. Mike’s eyes opened in a flash, ‘Who’s this’? ‘Come outside, now’.
Mike got up and looked from the window at the deserted street, he could see the white van. It was the same fuckin’ van that had followed him since the evening, Mike reached under the bed, taking the gun out of the bag and tucked it under his shirt. He ran downstairs, it seemed as though a lifetime had passed before he got outside. Motherfuckers got Amy.
Mike walked towards the driver’s side, ‘Who are you, what you doing with Amy’s phone’. There were two men sitting in the van at the front, ‘calm yourself down, don’t worry, she is ok’. The driver threw Amy’s phone towards Mike, he caught it. The man looked foreign, like a Latino, someone from across the bridge and his friend was American.
The Latino driver got out and walked towards the back of the van, ‘look I’ll show you’. He spoke with an accent, Mike walked behind him as the driver opened the large doors at the back of the van. Amy was sitting with her hands and feet tied up, her mouth was gagged and a man was sitting next to her holding a knife. Mike looked at Amy, she looked terrified, as she looked back at Mike, ‘What the fuck you guys want’? Mike said to the man standing next to him, ‘Nothing, but we have a message’. Mike looked at him, as he nodded his head signaling the man inside the van to untie Amy. ‘We can get to you anytime gringo, and we can get to everyone you care about’. The man pointed at Mike with a knife. Amy climbed out of the van and hugged Mike. The man smiled, ‘She’s beautiful girl, next time I may keep her’. He smiled and walked back to the front and drove off.
‘Amy, you ok? They didn’t touch you or harm you, right’? She shook her head, ‘No, I was driving home and they flashed me from behind, I didn’t know who they were, I stopped and they pulled me out of the car, they had a gun’. Amy was crying, she was upset and shook up. Mike could feel her trembling even now. ‘Amy don’t worry, I’ll take you home’.
Mike drove up to Amy’s house, ‘thanks Mikey, I will come to the hospital in the morning’. Mike looked at Amy, ‘don’t come on your own, ask your father to drop you or call me’. Amy smiled and walked towards her door, even before she got there, it opened. Frank Tex was standing there, as Amy walked in, he looked back at Mike and started walking towards the wagon. ‘I was worried about her, so she was with you’? Mike looked at Frank, who is normally reserved but pleasant but today he was irate and quite rude. Mike looked at Frank, ‘she came round to the house, asking about Becky’. Frank glared at Mike, his already round face looking like it was about to burst, ‘Listen, I don’t want my daughter to be involved in all this stuff, ok. That’s the reason why I sent her away’. Mike clenched his teeth as he got out of his wagon, ‘What stuff, Frank’? Do you mean, the stuff about my sister being in hospital and may never be able to walk again’, right’?
Frank’s wife came out, as Mike raised his voice, ‘Yes Frank, we were good for you and your little girl until the time that my sister got shot’.
‘I’m sorry that happened but you should never have been fighting with the Cunningham kid, it was your fault’.
Mike pulled out his gun, as Frank’s wife screamed, he held it to Frank’s head, Amy came running outside. Mike stood and saw the horror on the faces of Frank Tex and his family. The fear of death, the reality of when disaster is about to strike. Mike slowly lowered his gun, as Frank’s wife was screaming ‘Oh Jesus, what are you doing? We’ve known you since you were a young man and you are gonna kill us, today’?
Mike slowly lowered the gun towards his side, he looked at Amy and saw a young child in her, the fear of losing her father, it was the same as a young Kim. What happened to Kim, how is she living without her mother?
Mike glared at Frank, ‘Fuck you, Frank. You stand there trying to tell me you feel sorry for my sister, trying to judge me’. Mike raised his voice, ‘you no better than them’. Mike pointed his gun towards Frank again, shouting ‘Never fuckin’ talk to me like that again’!!!!! Mike shed tears, tears of fire, he felt himself blazing hot as Amy ran forward and held Mike’s arm, ‘please Mikey, you better go’. Mike looked at Amy and put his gun back towards his side. He got into his wagon and sped off.
Was it that Latino, or was it Kevin Cunningham that brought out the rage from inside me. Maybe it was just Frank Tex, and his ignorance, the way he was standing there trying to protect his family, fat fuck, he never cared about his daughter all these years and now he wants to be their saviour. When everything is going well, we can act righteous and be heroic but it’s when things fuck up that we crumble and become reduced to the shit that we really are. Today, if those motherfuckers in the van hadn’t brought Amy back, if they had raped or killed her and that Frank Tex had seen his daughter’s corpse, he would have been talking differently and acting in a way he could never imagine. When tragedy hits that’s when you look into a mirror and see yourself what you really are, and it’s scary. It’s like a man who meets someone he doesn’t recognise. I really hope that Frank Tex for as big a fucker that he is, never has to meet that stranger.