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Chapter 8 – Gabriel

‘The Seekers’? ‘I never heard of them’. Ajay Durrani, was an honest man, very gentle and enthusiastic about his work. He was the chief editor of ‘Crime Speaks’, and he was always very supportive of all the work Kay did. He took over from his father and expanded the newspaper into one of the most respected journals in Chicago. ‘Ajay, I just need you to get a couple of guys from the office to find out what they can on these people’. There was a short silence on the phone before Mr Durrani spoke again, in a cautious tone,

‘Kay, I need you back in the office. I got many assignments for you’. Kay was thinking about going back once again, but then Gabriel came back into her mind, ‘Well Ajay, my work is not done here’.

‘Why not? Kay, you have a great story, now you know why those people were killed and why the police covered up what happened. This whole cult thing and the cops involvement with drugs, makes a great article’. Kay looked around her room for a moment, knowing that Ajay was right, she had the answers to her questions, the people didn’t disappear in custody, they were killed and the cops did it to protect their drug racket. However there was something in her mind, this nagging bit of doubt, a feeling of something being missing, ‘Ajay, how about Gabriel? They say he wasn’t killed’.

Ajay Durrani laughed mockingly on the other end, ’so what happened to him, he was ‘gone with the wind’, come on Kay, this is small town talk, typical fables and old wives tales. Hope you don’t believe in that cult thing? Kay, you got to come back, your turning into one of them’. Ajay laughed again as Kay frowned, seeing the funny side to it but she hated being made to look stupid. ‘Just give me a couple of days, plus I …… I got a date’. Kay laughed herself as she said it.

‘What, who’?

‘His name is Michael, he’s a nice guy. He’s Gabriel’s brother, I’m meeting him on Saturday for dinner’.

’Well, Kay good luck on that one, promise me you aren’t gonna end up settling down in hillbilly valley and raising loads of kids with this ‘nice guy’’.

’Ajay, no, come on, I’ve tried that ‘settling down’ thing, it wasn’t for me’.

Kay promised Ajay Durrani she would return in a week’s time and then disconnected. She began thinking about this town knowing that her days here were numbered, it was time to move on. She had gone to many places on assignments over the years, she had met so many people, heard their stories and wrote about them. The key is as her boss once said, ’Never get attached, you are like a physician who deals with people, many of them are suffering and you do your best. When your job is done, you have to let go.

Kay thought about Michael, he reminded her of herself, even though she knew very little about him. Kay was nothing like the man she had married, his name was Richard and they had met at University. He was a rich kid from the big city while she had been raised in a small town. She had different values to him and this lead to differences, ultimately causing them to grow apart. Even before he cheated on her, she had lost interest in their marriage but she loved their only son very much. Kay despised her ex-husband not because he cheated but because he took their son away. Richard has slowly been poisoning Cameron against Kay and that’s why she has very little contact with him now. During the divorce proceedings and custody battle, Richard made life very difficult for her with obscene late night calls and vandalising her car. This showed who he really was, the person that dwells within, underneath all the fancy talk and sophisticated demeanor. He was different to the man that Kay thought she had married. Kay had learnt that love never really existed, this was just part of a larger deception that two people enter into, keeping them together. The deal for this deception to continue, is that both parties must agree to keep lying to themselves for as long as it takes. As soon as they start being honest, everything comes crashing down.

Mike walked downstairs and saw his Ma, wearing her coat and getting ready to go out. She had taken temporarily leave from her job to take care of Becky, ‘Ma, where you going? I thought you were off work’? Ethel looked at Mike as he stood in the hallway, ‘I’m going to the store. Someone has to, you no longer want to go, so I might as well open up while we still have a business’. Mike looked at Ethel, remembering about the store and realizing he hadn’t even opened up in weeks. It seemed like the store and his trade had just disappeared from his life, just like a part of your life is erased from a database somewhere. ‘Ma, you don’t have to do that’.

‘Well, someone does! Michael, we have bills to pay, including medical bills, have you wondered how those bills are being paid’.

Mike looked down, she was right, he had lost interest in the household and in the store since the shooting. It was almost like when he had turned to the bottle, the world had come to an end for him. ‘Okay Ma, I’ll go and see what’s happening with the work’. Ethel glared at Michael, ‘That’s right, we need money coming in. Maybe working again will focus your mind and stop you from going around threatening to shoot people’. Mike looked up.

‘I know Michael what happened last night. I had a call from Amy’s place’. Ethel raised her voice as she would often do without prior warning, ‘what were you thinking of, pulling a gun on someone we have known all our lives, good people who are friends of ours’.

‘They’re not good people, just because they’re not like the Cunninghams, doesn’t make’em good’. Mike snapped at Ethel, as she walked closer to Mike, he was expecting a slap from her because she had the right to raise her hand and she often used that right.

’We can’t judge who is good, but pointing a gun at people is the way of the ‘Cunninghams’. Aren’t we in enough trouble? I want you to get rid of that gun, I hate them. Never had a gun in my house since your father died, it brings evil and mis-fortune’.

Mike dropped Ethel to the hospital, as she got out of the wagon, Ethel looked back at Michael, ‘I will expect you to get rid of that gun today’.

Mike said nothing as he drove towards the store. He drove up outside the store, pausing for a moment before pulling the shutters up. Mike unlocked the front gate and walked inside, picking up a pile of post as he walked in. He remembered the last day he and Hughes had been here, so much had happened since that day. As Mike walked up to the office and unlocked the glass door, his mind was wondering about a man’s belief in certainty. This was as close as a man gets to religion who doesn’t believe in God. The certainty of being alive in the morning, of being at work every day, of going back home in the evening. This certainty is normality and we can’t live without it. Mike thought about Jenny, Becky and Hugh as he sat behind his desk, his head began to drop, he didn’t really want to be here. It reminded him of too much, of that normality and it was too painful to think about. Mike suddenly remembered about Uncle J, and the message for ‘Ant man’. It was something he had to do, and couldn’t put it off much longer. Mike began to look at his pending orders and started phoning the customers whose orders had been missed. Suddenly Mike was back in it, he was talking to customers and getting his mind back in the mode of who he was. Like a rusty car, whose engine is tuned and slowly starts to rev up all cylinders. Some people were genuine in asking about what had happened to Becky, some didn’t give a shit and others just asked for the sake of it, even though they knew the full story. This was just part of the bullshit of socializing with folk, like a role play where you gotta ask certain questions to keep face. The answers are also pre-rehearsed and become monotonous and standard with each conversation. Mike began loading up his wagon with the orders that still remained, as he was loading the wood, he looked across the street and saw little Kim. She was holding the hand of her grandma; Jenny’s mother. Mike looked at Kim, she was so sweet but looked so lonely. Mike walked across the street, ‘Hey Kim, sweetie how you doing’? Mike knelt beside Kim and kissed her on the cheek. Kim smiled at Mike, ‘Fine Uncle Mike, can I ask you a question’? ‘When’s mom coming home’?

Mike looked up at Martha then back at Kim, ‘Wish I knew sweetheart’. ‘Uncle Mike, daddy says that I should ask you and you will know’. Mike looked at Kim then looked up at Martha again, he stood up as Martha smiled at Kim, she looked at Mike, ‘Do you know about Hugh’? Mike shook his head, ‘I aint spoken to him in a while’.

‘He no longer comes to see the kids, just stays at home drinking himself to death, sound familiar’?

Mike felt the sharp blaze from Martha, Jenny had that mean streak from her mother but she also had the soft nature of her father. Martha was a merciless woman, she also had a dislike for Hugh, which was only matched by her disdain for Michael. ‘Talk to that worthless son of a bitch. He needs to come and see his children, they’re his children’. Mike nodded his head and stroked Kim’s face, as she smiled back at him.

Mike spent his day doing deliveries, and explaining to customers why he hasn’t been around. As he drove, the innocent face of Kim stayed in his mind, fixed in front of his eyes. He loved that little girl, even though he didn’t know why. Mike had never thought about having kids, or about settling down but he knew in his heart that if he did, then he wished to have a little girl like Kim. Mike had seen pain in her young eyes and that was something difficult to forget, he wondered about life’s injustices and how the good are punished so often whereas the wicked seem invincible. This is why Mike found it hard to go to Church, to believe in a book that teaches all good will prevail when in this town there was no evidence of that. It was half way through the afternoon, as the sun was setting across the bridge and Mike stopped his wagon and just sat quietly with the engine off. Mike was thinking about Hugh and what had happened to him, had he reached such a low point that he couldn’t even see his kids no more? Mike thought of little Kim, as he put his head on the steering of the car, if someone walked past they would probably think he was having some kind of seizure. He sat back in the seat and closed his eyes, his heart felt heavy like it was sinking, going towards his gut, he was finding it hard to breathe. He loved that little girl, why was she sad? Why did God let her be sad? He felt himself go ………… He was crying as he sat in the wagon, watching Becky lying in the hospital, Amy in the back of the van, little Kim. Mike just cried like a child, letting go on the side of the road, far from home where no-one could see him.

Mike was banging the door hard, but there was no reply from inside. He walked over to the window but the curtains were drawn. Hugh’s car was outside so where was he? Mike looked around and suddenly he saw a figure inside, walking slowly towards the door. The door opened and Mike looked at Hugh, he looked a mess, his hair was all over the place, his beard was untidy and his eyes had this red look in them, a furious look but an empty one. His shirt was open and he looked like he hadn’t slept or washed in days. ‘Mike, you ok’? Hugh grumbled as he left the door open and walked back inside. Mike thought of that morning and how Becky had found him in the same downtrodden, exhausted and pathetic state as the one Hugh was in. The house was in a state of disarray much like Hugh. There were clothes and cans of food all over the floor, not to mention empty beer cans. Hugh had been sleeping on the couch, where he was sitting now. ‘What brings you here man’? Hugh spoke without looking at Mike, there was a change in his voice,

‘Man, just came to see how you were’?

Hugh looked up, smiling as he spread his arms, ‘Well, this is how I am’. ‘Hugh, you gotta get yourself together, I met Kim today and her Grandma says you ain’t been to see the kids in days. Come on man, they need their father’.

Hugh said nothing for a few moments, as he wiped his shirt ‘They need their mother’.

‘Yes but she ain’t here, and you are. So man, you gotta be there for them’.

‘I will find her and then I will see my kids again. I hired a private detective and I am paying him everything I got, he will find her and even if that means I will be broke by the end of it, I will keep paying him until he does’. Hugh said that as he looked into Mike’s eyes, he had this single minded obsession in his voice, a dangerous obsession because this is what Hugh is. Mike saw that same expression at the store when he told him about his plan to follow Jenny and find out who she is seeing. Hugh had left home at a young age, and travelled across many different states before arriving in this town. He worked for a loan shark across the bridge and met Mike through an associate. Mike did some building work for Hugh, and made the mistake of borrowing some money of Hugh’s employers. This proved a costly mistake as Mike was unable to pay the debt on time. There was something about Hugh as he stood by Mike, there was no way those fuckers were gonna get Mike, Hugh was crazy and threatened to kill any man who comes within a mile off Mike’s house. Even his employers knew they couldn’t fuck with Hugh so they came to an arrangement. ‘Man, just go and see the kids’. Mike sat down and spoke softly to Hugh, trying to soften him and get him out of this trance.

‘So what shall I tell’em, when they ask me where their mom is’? Hugh stood up, ‘Tell me Mike, you know right, so tell me the answer’? Mike looked up at Hugh, he was saying exactly what Kim had said that she should ask Uncle Michael where her Mum is. ‘Hugh, what do you mean, man? Kim said to me that you told her to ask me where Jen is? How do I know? Just because I followed her the night she disappeared’, Hugh began to interrupt, ‘No Mike, tell me….’, Mike stood up, ‘Yeah tell you what, I was following her because of you, it was your fuckin’ idea and I know as much as you about what happened to Jen’.

‘Mike, you were the last person to see her, right’? Mike looked away as he stood with his hands on his hips, ‘I don’t need this Hugh’. Mike began to walk towards the door as Hugh spoke in a quieter voice, ‘answer me this Mike, when was the last time you spoke to Jen’? Mike stopped and looked at Hugh, ‘I don’t remember, probably when I came to the house that night when you were fighting’. Hugh stood up, ‘you sure Mike, she never spoke to you after that, never told you nothing’? Mike looked at Hugh, there was a conviction in his voice like a cop who interrogates a perp about a crime, when he already has taped evidence of him committing it.

‘She never did, I spoke to her here in this house’. Hugh walked closer to Mike, ‘Mikey, you know me, I’m a paranoid fuck, right? I got you to follow my wife, find out who she was seeing, so if I can get you to do this, you don’t think I use to check her phone, check who she’s been calling’?

Mike looked at Hugh, confused not knowing whether Hugh was living in another reality, a detached reality where everything is a conspiracy and everyone is conspiring against him. It is a type of insanity, all these conspiracy theories and it seemed like Hugh had created his own version of one. ‘She called you Mike, couple of days before that night. The call lasted about eight minutes’. Mike’s mind was racing at hundred miles an hour as he was trying to remember Jen calling him, suddenly he remembered he was in his room, or was that Amy? No, fuck it wasn’t Amy that was a few days ago, yes it was Jen when she was freaking out. Hugh saw Mike’s eyes, looking deep inside them trying to read what was in them, Hugh could see Mike trying to remember and the art of surprise is such that when it comes, the look on the other person’s face brings out the truth.

‘I don’t remember Hugh, maybe she did, I don’t know. She never told me nothing’. Mike walked towards the door, and looked back at Hugh.

Did Hugh suspect me of having an affair with Jen? If he does, then Hugh will be the prime candidate to put a bullet in me rather that Vincent Cunningham. He can’t believe that, can he? Well, at this point he could believe anything, and I think he needs to believe he knows something to make him feel like he is still a man.

Mike opened the door and looked round at Hugh, he was standing in the same place. Mike walked out of the house as he walked towards his wagon, expecting a bullet to hit him in the back at any time.

Kay had almost finished her article, which was her age old habit. She loved writing her story, ‘in the moment’ as she called it. Whenever she was away on assignment, she would more or less finish her story at the location she had gone to before applying the finishing touches back home in the office. It was more effective this way as the story would capture the atmosphere of the place and the surroundings would make the article more real. It’s always harder to go back to Chicago and have the same feelings of being in a strange place where a heinous crime has taken place or where a mystery had been unraveled. Kay would compare this to how famous writers would travel to certain locations sometimes remote ones, in order to find the right surroundings for a certain novel. Kay was still trying to call that mystery man she had met across the bridge, however his number seemed to be disconnected, she needed to ask him more about the forest. The people in this cult had been killed but why did he claim that something else happened to Gabriel, something no-one can explain? Kay then called Mr Durrani, ‘Ajay, have you found out anything about these guys’?

’Not much Kay, ‘the seekers’ have no website, nothing. They have no face or real identity, I got Lindsey to look into it, she only came back with some stuff from the forums, not much’.

Kay sighed, ‘so these people don’t even exist’?

’They do exist, it’s a cult like thousands of others across the country, what I am saying is it’s had no real coverage at all. I sent you some stuff on your e-mail, there’s this guy like a Reverend, his name is ‘Jacob Turner’. He is based in Texas, he seems like the pioneer of all this ‘Seekers’ movement, he has been banned from public speaking because of the ‘incitement’ laws. I sent you some of his quotes, which Lindsey got from the internet, not much else’. Ajay seemed vague as he requested Kay to come home as soon as possible. Kay logged into her e-mail, and checked the mail that Ajay Durrani had sent her. She began reading what people were saying about the ‘Seekers’, it was gibberish a lot of it, and it seemed blood atonement and blood sacrifice were the main discussions. It was compared to bloody rituals and human sacrifices but it seemed many people were just voicing their opinions or hatred towards the group. Kay began reading Reverend Turner’s quotes from a website that Lindsey had found a link to. Kay was skimming through much of it, ‘What a load of crap’, Kay said to herself as she was skimming through pages and pages. Suddenly Kay stopped on one excerpt of a speech Jacob Turner had delivered in Ohio, she began reading his words, which chilled her ’The Lord will accept your offering, as you shed the blood of those who wage war against His Kingdom. He will choose a spirit from amongst you who will rise, he will be the strongest from amongst you, the best of you, the most fearless of you, he will be the culmination of your prayers and will be unleashed on the devil. Take heed to the Lord’s warning for the fallen ones ‘He will blow with the fire of His Wrath, and will give you into the hands of brutal men, skilled in destruction ……..’ Kay held her breathe, as she whispered ‘Gabriel’.

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