Chapter 9 – Beauty and the Beast
Emily looked up as Becky moved slightly, she had fallen asleep while resting her head on the side of the bed. ‘Sweetheart you ok’? Emily held Becky’s hand gently. Becky opened her eyes and smiled at Emily, ‘where’s Ma’? ‘She had to go home but she will be back soon. I’m here’. Becky started to close her eyes again, she was heavily sedated alot of the time as the doctors wanted to keep her stable. She was due to have further surgery before beginning the long process of rehabilitation. As Emily watched Becky sleep, she thought of her own father. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the intestine and spent much of the last months either heavily sedated or being in agonising pain. It was what broke Emily, took away much of the life from within, like a machine sucking the life out of an organism. This is what the coming of death does to a family, de-stabilizes their lives forever. Emily’s mother never coped with losing her husband, it wasn’t his death as much as the suffering she had to bear for over a year. Emily would sit at the bedside of her father till late at night, slowly watching his life drain away, watching him become a shell of himself. The hardest part was to hold his hand and tell him that ‘everything will be okay’, when there was no hope of that at all. Emily had seen death so close, she knew it and recognized it, it didn’t just come but it came and played with them first before claiming him, ensuring they suffered as long as possible. Emily was always the strong one, who wanted to be there for her mother through the ordeal, even after her mother eventually recovered and found someone else to spend her life with, Emily was left with an indelible mark on her life and on her personality.
A nurse came into the room, ‘We have to change the sheets’. Emily left the room, closing the door behind her. Sitting outside was a young lady.
‘Hi, can I help you’?
The lady looked up, ‘Hi, my name is Kay Winters, I came to meet Ethel Martyn’.
‘Do you know her’?
Kay stood up, ‘I met her once, I am a journalist, just needed to ask her a few questions’. Emily went quiet as she remembered reading an article about the shooting on the internet.
‘Did you write that article about what happened to Rebecca’?
Kay smiled, ‘I did, I work for a newspaper in Chicago’.
‘That article was very good, it made you very popular in my house’. Kay detected a hint of sarcasm in Emily’s voice, ‘Can I ask your name’?
‘I’m Emily Cunningham’. Kay looked surprised, almost startled, ‘Cunningham’?
‘Yes, I’m Vincent Cunningham’s wife’.
Kay’s mouth opened slightly as Emily smiled, ‘I don’t understand, you are here’. Emily sat down as Kay sat with her, ‘I know this family very well, since I was a young girl’. Kay looked at Emily, knowing that Emily was nothing like the other people in this town who had the name ‘Cunningham’. ‘So you must have known Gabriel Martyn’?
Emily looked at Kay, ‘I grew up with him’.
‘Mrs Cunningham, if you don’t mind I would like to talk to you about him. I have been investigating his disappearance and the other men who were killed in police custody. I would really like to speak to you about him’. Emily’s face changed to a serious expression, ‘I don’t know much about those disappearances’.
‘It’s ok Mrs Cunningham, I know enough about what happened to those men. I just want to ask you about the Martyns. Could we meet somewhere’? Emily thought about it for a moment, ’Ok, we can meet in the coffee shop this evening. It’s downtown called ‘Al’s’. Say about 7.30’. Kay smiled, ‘Thank you Mrs Cunningham’.
‘Call me Emily please, I don’t like to be called by that name’.
Kay waited anxiously in the coffee shop, she was looking at her watch repeatedly like a young teen waiting for her date to arrive. She looked around at the people sitting on the tables around her, there were a few older men and couples. They were talking quietly, no-one really noticing her. Kay looked towards the door, then at her watch ‘7:45’, she closed her eyes for a moment realizing that this was another dead end.
Emily walked in, and looked around, Kay smiled as she put up her hand and waived. Emily came over and sat across the table to Kay, ‘sorry, I’m late, just had a couple of things to do in town’. ‘It’s ok, let’s order’. Emily called an elderly man over, he walked up slowly holding a small note pad in his hands, ‘Mrs Sheriff, what can I do you for’? Emily placed the order for her and Kay. ‘It’s funny hearing that, Mrs Sheriff, sounds like an old western’. Emily laughed with Kay, ‘It’s not much different to one of the old western movies in this town’.
‘I gathered that much. Emily I won’t ask anything about your husband or his father, don’t want to put you in an awkward position’.
Emily looked down, then looked up at Kay, ‘I wouldn’t be able to answer much about them anyway. I don’t have much to do with him or his family’. Kay sensed contempt in her voice for Vincent and Reginald, this wasn’t surprising as Kay could see that Emily was an intelligent woman, very bright and sincere. Kay looked at Emily, as their coffees and muffins arrived, wondering how she ended up marrying a despicable man like Vincent. There must have been a reason, it couldn’t have been love or compatibility, or maybe he was once a different man but has become more and more like his father with time. Kay looked at Emily realizing that all matches are not made in heaven, her and Vincent was a ‘beauty and the beast’ story.
‘So what brings you here, Miss Winters? What could be your interest in this town’? ’Kay sipped her coffee, ‘I came across this story, while I was researching something else. Just stumbled upon it, then I used my contacts in the Bureau to find out what I could. People involved in the investigation, said it was one of the most mystifying cases they had ever come across. People just disappearing without a trace, and the police department having no accountability whatsoever. I guess, stranger things happen but the more I have dug, it just gets stranger’. Emily was quiet, as she said looked around the diner like she was making sure no-one was listening or maybe just to check her husband isn’t sitting in the corner somewhere. ‘Like I said, Miss Winters’, ‘please call me Kay’. Emily smiled briefly at Kay, ‘well Kay, I really don’t know much more than anyone else. I remember there was this investigation, which was a big deal at the time but after it all blew over, everything just went back to normal’.
‘Emily, I wanted to know about Gabriel Martyn, allegedly he escaped and was pursued up in those woods. It’s strange because some people here believe he wasn’t killed’. Emily looked at Kay, it was a hard stare, one of concentration. ’So …… what happened?
‘I don’t know. Was Gabriel a religious man’?
Emily smiled, ‘No, no, definitely not. He was different, very independent and no real sense of God, or anything’.
‘How was he different? I mean, how was he like’?
Emily seemed uncomfortable suddenly as she began to fidget, before drinking her coffee again. ‘He was a regular guy, into the same stuff as any youngster, really’.
‘Emily, was he involved in any dangerous or unusual activity’?
Emily looked away for a moment, ‘Yes he was but I don’t feel the need to tread on a person’s grave’.
Kay gave Emily a nervous smile, ’I’m sorry, I don’t mean to upset you but alot of things are said about his disappearance, like it was linked to some sort of religious activity. Have you heard of ‘the seekers’?
Emily looked up, ‘No, what are they’?
‘Emily, did you know his father, Shane Martyn’?
‘I knew him abit, met him when I would go to Gabe’s house. I was abit scared of him, to be honest’.
Kay scribbled something in her notepad, ‘why were you scared of him’?
‘I don’t know, he was a very serious man, difficult to talk to, you know’. Kay sipped her coffee, which wasn’t very nice but she didn’t care about the coffee or the muffins, she needed to know more about the Martyns. Kay watched Emily as she was checking her phone, ‘I have to go now, sorry’. ‘Wait, I’m coming too’.
Kay opened her wallet but Emily already walked up to the counter and paid. ‘Thank you’, Kay said as she smiled. Emily smiled back and walked out of the diner. Kay glanced at the elderly man who had served them, he was looking at her closely, she felt uncomfortable as he was staring through her. As Kay began to walk out, she noticed him watching her, ‘Can I help you, sir’? Kay said as she looked back at him, but he remained quiet.
‘I’m sorry if I couldn’t help you’.
Kay smiled, ‘No, you did help me. One last question, was Shane Martyn close to Gabriel? I mean how did he handle his son’s death’?
Emily seemed to look away towards the open space, ‘He loved Gabe more than anything. In fact he probably suffocated his childhood, taking him wherever he went, even got him to work in those mines when he was only twelve years old. Mr Martyn was a strange man, he would even take Gabe down to the mines at night, and sometimes I was scared that Gabe was being abused’. Emily seemed to shiver for a moment as she spoke.
‘He couldn’t handle what happened to Gabriel, right’?
Emily opened the door of her car, ‘No, he couldn’t. I heard from my neighbours who went to the funeral, he didn’t want a funeral for Gabe because his body was never recovered. Mr Martyn never accepted that Gabe was dead. He was hysterical and said that he would kill anyone who claimed that ……… he never even let his wife cry for her own son’.
Kay took down the notes but her attention remained focused on Emily, ‘Sorry, I have to go’. Kay handed Emily her card and thanked her before walking away towards her own car. She then heard Emily say something from behind, ‘Do you know, this is the exact point where Rebecca was shot. I would rather you find a way to make sure the person who shot her gets locked away. I would rather you do that’. Emily drove past Kay after saying that with a tremble in her voice.
‘Michael, I got a call from the sheriff’s office yesterday’. Mike was eating his breakfast slowly as Ethel spoke to him in a quiet and subdued tone. Mike carried on eating, ‘It’s unlikely there will be a trial, there is inconclusive evidence against Kevin Cunningham’. Mike looked up finally as Ethel looked into Mike’s eyes. ‘Yes, they say that the bullet found from the scene doesn’t match the one from his rifle’. Ethel sighed, ‘that could be the end of it, just like that’. Mike swallowed slowly focusing on Ethel before looking down at his plate. He sensed a detachment from what his Ma’ was saying, a cold sense of indifference like a man who has been to war and seen so much mayhem that watching blood no longer made any difference. Hugh would call it becoming ‘de-humanised’, that’s exactly how Mike felt at that moment. He wanted to feel angry, feel aggrieved, damn just feel something, but he didn’t. Ethel began to gather the plates and take them to the sink, Mike stood up and walked out of the kitchen as his phone began to ring. ‘Hello, Mike, it’s Uncle J’. Mike remembered suddenly about the message he had to give, something he had remembered but never got around to it. ‘Mike, I can’t talk for long, you and your Ma and sister, ok’?
‘Yes, we’re ok’.
Ethel walked behind Mike as he tried to talk in a quiet voice, ‘Mike you done what I asked you to? It’s urgent man’.
‘Yes, yes, I will. Sorry, just been held up’.
‘Mike, man, I need you to. Ok, tonight’.
Mike hung up as Ethel stood behind him, ‘Mike, who was that’?
‘Just a …… friend’,
‘No, not him’. Ethel looked at Mike, like she knew he was being vague on purpose. ‘Mike, I hope you still meet Hugh when you can. He needs you, with Jenny missing. He’s always been there for you’. Mike felt like Ma was being intentionally cruel by mentioning Hugh. He was the last person whose name Mike wanted to hear. Hugh would never trust him, even though he didn’t know anything really, but there was a doubt and that was enough to ruin what they had.
As Mike dropped Ethel to the hospital, he realized that he didn’t want to go to the store at all, instead he drove towards the place he knew best, where he felt most comfortable; ‘the forest’.