Progeny Of A Killer: Chapter Two, Part 2

As promised, here’s Chapter Two Part 2. You can catch up on Part 1 here.

“Jesus, man, let him up, he needs to talk,” I tell him. “So this Irishman. He’s taken over from Ray Lamond?” He nods but perfunctorily. “The tapes in your basement. Is this where you store the perverted stuff to sell on the Internet’s forbidden sites?”

Cartright has trouble speaking, so that his words issue with a lisp. Blood continues to drizzle through what remains of his teeth. “He’s from the North. Northern Ireland.”

“So do we have a name? Where can he be found?” I remonstrate.

“I don’t know, honest. I told you I don’t get to see him. Neither does Louis.”

“So, Martin, tell me how many children you and your pal Platt have tortured and burnt?” Although my tone remains in the selfsame congenial timbre, I cannot fail to avoid the rise of anger that gnaws and burns at my insides. The sensation is so predominant, that it practically makes my head spin. The only thing helping me to sustain the pretence of a cool, calculating demeanour is the savouring of Martin Cartright’s punishment.

“I ain’t admitting to any of that.”

“How fuckin’ many?” This time the inherent anger is allowed to pervade and I rasp, “how many?”

“Ten, twelve,” he offers the information so nonchalently, that Mitchell and I can’t avoid a sickly exchange of disbelieving glances. “There’s a lot of likeminded people out there that like to watch kiddies being touched. The boss knows that. I can’t expect people like you to understand.”

“Understand? Is he having a fuckin’ laugh?” growls Mitchell. ” Let ‘s get him out of here before I throw up. Hood him so we can take ours off. My fuckin’ face is beginning to itch.”

“Where are you taking me?” Cartright sounds anxious again. “I thought you wanted to ask me more questions.” He directs his attention to me, the guy that maybe he views as the good cop. The guy with the softly-spoken Irish accent. The proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove. One he fails to realise may yet come up with the metaphorical knife blade.

“Sure now, you’re not going to tell us anything more are you, man?” I say I’m conscious that he’s stalling for time, aware that we’re going to kill him and it’s obvious that his intention is to buy that time.

“I ain’t lying when I said I don’t know the boss’ s name, but Louis Platt, he lives alone in the house. He used to live with his old lady, his mother, but she died. Like I said,  it’s out Camden way. I ain’t ever been there, so I don’t know whereabouts. And the Paddy, the Irishman, all Irish accents sound pretty much the same to me. but you gotta softer way of speaking. He’s a fuckin’ abrupt bastard.”

“Jesus, mate, he’s either making a pass, or he’s trying to get onto your good books,” Mitchell quips.

“It’s called gentle persuasion, my friend. It’s surprising what you can get out of someone with a wee bit of that.”

“So where you from then?” Cartright dares to enquire.

“Och me? Dublin. So if there’s nothing more you can tell us…”

I’ve heard enough already. Besides, the place is beginning to give me the creeps. The small box-like lounge, the TV resting on a glass shelf in the corner, all so comparitively innocent. Nevertheless I have cause to wonder how many children have been lured to Cartright’s Brixton home. The stench of freshly painted dark blue on the walls, in all likelihood, attests to its own depraved story.

Mitchell wraps tape around Cartright’s mouth before slipping a black hood over his head. There is both an absence of either mouth or eye slits in the hood. Mitchell tightens the hood at Cartright’s neck unceremoniously, enough to close off his breathing if he so desired.

I manage to suppress an involuntary shudder when Mitchell deigns to enquire about the woman. An unmistakeable sound of whimpering, reminiscent of a wounded animal, issues from behind the hood.

“What about her?” I ask

Mitchell gestures upstairs. “I called the boss.”

“And?”

He merely shrugs and purses his lips.

“I told you, she stays where she is. I won’t be a party to that. And when this is over…”

“You’ll what?”

It’s my turn to shrug. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You always was a fuckin’ moody paddy.” Mitchell pulls the Glock from his jacket. Aware of his intention, I lay a restraining hand on his arm.

“You don’t have to do this, man.”

“It’s okay, you won’t be implicated, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“That’s not what I meant. She’s a….”

“A woman. Just get him into the fuckin’ van.” He gestures to the hooded figure.

I allow him to go upstairs reluctantly. The woman is probably innocent, plus I can hardly believe that Treveleyan would sanction such an action.

I grab Cartright unceremoniously by the arm, reminding him that if he makes any escape attempts that I won’t hesitate to shoot him. I bundle him into the back of the van. One Mitchell had stolen earlier and consequently changed the number plates. I slam the door hard. I snatch off the hood and drop it into my jacket. Jumping into the driving seat, I swiftly imbibe a swallow from the hip flask before igniting a smoke.

“You’ll fuckin’ set fire to yourself one day, McRaney,” Mitchell complains with his familiar growl.

“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?”

“The whisky. I know what it is ‘cos I can smell it, and then lighting up a fag. So you going to let me have some?”

I reluctantly pass the flask.

“Fuck, McRaney, how long you been drinking?”

Clambering into the seat next to me he snatches off the hood. Cartright lies recumbently in the back of the Trafic. His hands are bound behind him. His feet strapped together. I had checked the tape and re-tied the hood.

“It’s got nothing to do with you,” I retort. “So I suppose you’re going to grass on me to Treveleyan, ‘that Aidan McRaney’s an alcoholic.’ Sure it’s the only way I can get through this shit, man. So where we headed? I thought maybe out Epping Way. It’s pretty isolated. So what about the woman?” I ask as I swing the van out into the street.

“You don’t have to worry about her. If you ain’t got the stomach for it.”

“I didn’t say that. It’s just that I don ‘t believe in killing innocent people, that’s all. Nothing fazes you does it, Mitchell?”

“Oh it does, believe me. If you must know, I didn’t kill the woman.”

“You didn’t?” I favour him with an unaccustomed smile. The first probably since we had taken on this business. “I’m glad to hear it.”

“We didn’t know the bird was going to be there, or how involved she is in this.”

“Surely if the cops sanction this they’d draw the line at killing innocent people?”

“Innocent, law-abiding people yes, but that Rosie, she knew what he was doing. She must have.”

“So what happens to her?”

“It’s not our problem anymore. That is, however…” He gestures to the rear of the van. “So you think you’ll be pissed by the time you do this? I knew you was drinking, mate. That’s why I asked if you were okay. Look, there’s gotta be better ways of handling this than getting fuckin’ pissed, and maybe getting picked up on a drink driving charge. We’re toting shooters, mate. That’ll take some explaining, even if they are licensed.”

My breath issues hard and ragged, while a cigarette remains an omnipresent fixture. I refrain from glancing at the other man as we head towards Epping Forest.

Progeny Of A Killer: Chapter Two, Part 1

I thought I’d put up bit more of a taster for my current work in progress, my new novel Progeny Of A Killer. If you want, you can go to Chapter One Parts 1 and 2.

It’s probably best to add a little warning that there’s some violent content and strong language.

Cartwright’s Confession

“Who… who are you?” Cartright asks, now displaying an initial sense of fear. Particularily as Mitchell has yanked his arms so far behind him, the limbs are in danger of being snapped.

“Guns? I thought you were just going to beat me up. That’s what usually happens. I thought you were them kid’s dads or something.”

“Shut the fuck up! You talk too much.” The gloved fist I slam into Cartright’s  mouth takes him by surprise. He jerks his head back as blood drizzles from a lacerated lip. “The only talking we want you to do is to answer some questions.” I return the Browning to my holster. I warn him that just because I’ve put my gun away it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to kill him.

“Is Rosie okay?” Perspiration beads his forehead, dripping from his hair into his eyes. He blinks it back swiftly.

“We ask the fuckin’ questions.” Mitchell binds rope around Cartright’s hands, tightly interlacing the hemp to the back of the chair. While he does, Cartright emits an agonising ‘ouch’ of pain.

“Now, you fuckin’ perverted bastard, you’re going to tell us who that little girl is on the tape. The poor kid. You fuckin’ set fire to her. She tried to scream, but you gagged her, you bastard.” The blow Mitchell delivers resounds like a thundercrack as it connects against Cartright’s jaw, causing the tears to spring into his eyes. His pleas for mercy go unheeded when another blow almost sends him reeling from his chair. Mitchell is a powerfully built guy. “I asked who was she?”

Our faces remain concealed. Cartright attempts to penetrate the masks, while his eyes are narrowed as if with recognition.

“You heard him, bastard!” My anger is a formidable living, breathing force.

“Why should I tell you? You’re going to kill me anyway ain’t you?”  The words issue almost like a challenge, an open defiance. It’s as if he’s sure of himself, even when Mitchell, pulling the weapon from his jacket,unceremoniously whips him across the jaw. He wraps a muscular arm about Cartright’s windpipe, practically shutting off his breath.

“That depends on you, you bastard. You want to live? Then talk. That little girl. You still haven’t told us who she was. What did you do to her afterward? And her family, how do you think they feel? I bet it didn’t occur to you to think what they might be going through.”

Cartright’s nose is bleeding profusely. Blood continues to ooze from a split lip, seeping between a couple of shattered teeth. He spits out the blood, narrowly missing our boots. He regards Mitchell and I with an open defiance once more.

“She’s fuckin’ dead ain’t she? We fuckin ‘ buried her. Go on, fuckin’ shoot me if that’s what you’ve come for. He wanted us to do it. We didn’t want to burn the kid. It was his idea…” He ceases his talk immediately, as if he’s said too much.

“Who wanted you to do it? Who is behind all this? Because I don’t think  for a minute, that you’d have the brains. Not that what you did needs brains.” I listen to the impassioned anger present in my voice. It would be so effortless to simply plug the bastard where he sits, bound and helpless to the chair.

Cartright hesitates. I bring my face up close to his. Martin Cartright’s bloodied lips remain firmly closed.

“I… I don’t  know his name. He ordered us to abduct the kids, film ’em.”

“So was it his idea, whoever he is, to set fire to that  wee girl after you’d finished with her? She was hooded. Still alive…” I allow my words to trail. All this sickens me to the stomach. I never imagined how evil people can be even while I was in prison.

“You okay?” Mitchell enquires, concern in his voice.

I barely glance his way. My attention is centred on my attempt to discover more information from this monster. His bloodied lips negotiate a grotesque twisted line. He hisses, “if you kill me you’ll know nothing.”

“You only have to move your head, Cartright, and my pal will snap your neck. You said ‘us’. Is Louis Platt the other guy in the film?”

Aware of his hesitation, I repeat my question angrily.

“What film?”

“The fuckin’ home movie. Is that how you want to die, Cartright?” I mock contemptuously.

“What?” Perspiration breaks out along his brow again. There’s an unmistakeable stench of urine pervading the room.

“You filthy bastard! Come on, we ain’t got all night.” Mitchell hisses impatiently. “Now tell us about Louis, where he lives, and about the bastard whose pulling your strings. We know it used to be Lamond, but he’s brown bread. So who is it?” Mitchell wraps a gloved hand around a handful of Cartright’s hair and yanks it hard.

“Okay, okay, I… I’ll tell you. And if I do you’ll let me go?”

Let him go? To inform the guy whose pulling his strings? Our orders are to obtain answers from Martin Cartright. It’s the way Sir George Treveleyan works and this underground agency of his. Discover as much information we can from the mark, then terminate his life. Like I said it’s shit.I t’s no wonder that I drink, as I find no other outlet from this heinous occupation.

“So, Mr Cartright, who are you working for?” I adopt a more conciliatory tone, conscious of Mitchell’s eyes narrowed my way in the slits of his mask, warily. “Your pal Louis, you think he’s going to care? Or the guy you’re working for? They aren’t going to shed any tears at your demise are they? You want to take this rap alone? We kill you, and your pal Louis and the boss man whose behind all this are probably laughing. They’ll think you gave your life away to keep them in the clear. Ray Lamond’s dead. We know you worked for him. So whose taken over?”

“He’ll kill me if I talk.”

“And we’ll fuckin’ kill you if you don’t.”

“He’s like you. I mean he talks the way you do,” Cartright stammers. I observe there ‘s more urine leaking through his tracksuit pants.

“Filthy bastard, you fuckin’ stink. You’ve fuckin’ peed yourself again, ” hisses Mitchell.

I bring my face up close to Cartright’s. “So your pal Louis. His surname, is it Platt?”

“Yeah, his name’s Platt. Louis Platt.”

“Where does he live?” I insist.

“In Camden. He lives in Camden.”

“And the boss man. Tell us about him.”

Cartright is practically crying now, as evidenced by the drizzle of wetness that stains his cheeks. Tears intermingle with perspiration. As he’s bound to the chair, he’s compelled to allow both of them to fall unchecked. “I… I don’t know his name, but he’s a paddy. That’s all I know. A voice on the end of the phone and a package in the mail when he wants a job.”

“A paddy? You mean he’s Irish, this boss?” I cup a forefinger beneath his chin. “He talks like me?”

“Yeah, but harder,” his words are allowed to trail because Mitchell has wrapped both hands about Cartright’s head, as if it’s his intention to twist it right off. A singular twist in the correct place is capable of splintering the bones in the neck, enough to render him paralysed for the rest of his life, or to kill him.

Look out for the second part of chapter two this Thursday!

Short Story: Be Home Before Dark, John

In her rounded and softly moulded features, Mother’s eyes were deeply seated and of a soft gentle grey.  The way she dressed was reminiscent of the turn of the century.  Her bodice, fashioned with small white buttons, she wore high to the neck.  On her breast she sported a porcelain brooch, a present from Father that she had worn since they were married more than forty years ago.  Her hair was pulled tightly back from her forehead and worn in a bun.  I had never seen her hair loose.  Like her relationship with my father, that was something she kept.

“Be home before dark John” she said.  And there was no mistaking the anxiety in her voice while she adjusted the scarf about my neck, the scarf she had knitted for my brother Edward the previous winter.

behomebeforedarkWhen mother’s eyes strayed towards my father seated in his high backed chair by the fire, he turned slowly, the glance exchanged, though heaven knows how for my father was totally blind.  In spite of his blindness theintonation lay between them all the same.  I suppose that’s what happens when a man and a woman have been married as long as they have or have had as many children.

I was the youngest of ten; five brothers and four sisters, or I would have been if my six year old nephew Lenny hadn’t joined us.  Lenny was my sister’s illegitimate child, not that I fully understood what had happened to bring a return of my sister Kate to our humble cottage, sporting a swollen belly and two swollen eyes to match.  Kate had once been a pretty girl before she met and married the man she called ‘the major’.  Lenny wasn’t the major’s child.  The major had taken her in but Lenny got frightened when he major hit his mother.  When Mother spoke about the major she hinted that he wasn’t really a major; that he hadn’t even fought in any war and when she said it the familiar trace of bitterness punctuated her words.  I knew it wasn’t because of my sister’s predicament.  I had three brothers, Albert, Arthur and George fighting the war in Belgium in a town calledYpres.  Arthur had left behind a wife and a six month old infant son.

Laying my bike against the hedge beside the rail tracks I sat down on the grass, opened up my lunch box and began to tuck in to cheese sandwiches made with mother’s home baked bread, to find that the bread was still warm.  The disused railway sidings were my usual Saturday afternoon haunt, the tracks abandoned now; something to do with the relocation of the railway closer to town.   The deserted old sidings brought a return of the sadness I’d experienced on waking this morning.  The sadness was so overwhelming it almost made me cry, but fifteen year old boys don’t cry.  There was no reason for the sadness but I just couldn’t help it.  I would be sixteen next April and I knew in my heart that if this war went on any longer I would be sent to the Front too.  I heard from Edward they were taking lads as young as sixteen and seventeen as soldiers.  ‘But whatever you do John, please don’t tell Mother.  It would break her heart if you went as well’ Edward had warned.  Mother wouldn’t stand in my way of course.  We were at war. We were also British and it was expected that every young man in our village should wish to fight for his country.

It was late September.  Warmed by the unaccustomed afternoon sunshine, my belly filled with hot sweet tea and my mother’s bread, I suppose I must have dozed, for coming abruptly awake I realised that it was already dark.  In the distance I heard the screech of a night owl – the only sound to penetrate the stillness.  I had no watch so I had no idea of the time.  I could only guess how late it was and Mother’s words ‘be home before dark John’ slipped into my head once more.  Dark!  It was already dark.  Jumping up, brushing off my trousers and grabbing the bike, I leaped onto the saddle and pedaled as fast as I possibly could in the direction of the village.  I knew I had to make it home before Mother discovered that her youngest son was absent from supper.

The coldness of pale moonlight, a halo of steely silver, danced amidst the hedgerow and lent the road not only a sense of eeriness, but also of loneliness and desolation.  Mother would certainly be worried by now.  Why?  I didn’t know, after all I was old enough and strong enough to take care of myself.  The depression of earlier suddenly hit me again as I approached the village and the two white walled thatched cottages huddled closely together at the side of the road.  The feeling of sadness was so strong now that the tears filling my eyes blinded me a little and I was forced to swipe an impatient hand across my face.  What did I have to cry about anyway?  I was almost a grown man and grown men don’t usually cry about missing supper.  The light from the cottage window, illuminated by the flicker of the oil lamps, was a welcoming sight.

Suddenly and without warning I saw ahead of me what appeared to be a gigantic glowing light, but no kind of light that I had ever seen before.  Hanging suspended in the air it must have been at least six feet tall and about three to four feet wide.  It was also opaque; solid so that I was unable to see either the road or the surrounding area through it.  Cylindrical in shape it appeared to shimmer like a heat haze on a hot summer day.

I had already dismounted.  Only the cold grip of the bike’s handlebars beneath my clutching fingers indicated that I was awake and not dreaming, although my boots seemed to be fixed as if secured by nails to the road.  My heart banged so loudly in my chest I thought I would faint.  I stood there for what seemed a lifetime, rooted to the spot while the cylinder shaped light continued to pulse as if endowed with a life of its own.  I only managed to tear my gaze away from the thing with the realisation that the hour was late and I visualised Mother regarding the clock uneasily when I had not returned.

Thinking about Mother made me realise that I could move again.  The light had given me quite a shock at first but no light, as strange as it was, was going to prevent me from getting home.  Bravado fuelling me, I guided the bike forward.  It was obvious the light had no intention of letting me pass so I thought to outwit it by steering the bike off to the left of it.  Intercepting my actions as if we were playing some odd game of chess, it moved in the same direction.  When I attempted to veer to the right, the light definitely and defiantly had a mind of its own, for it also moved in that direction.  I was beginning to grow really afraid now as my bravado of earlier evaporated.  Nonetheless, when my mother’s anxious face rose up before me in my mind’s eye I knew what I had to do.  I had no alternative but to pass straight through the light.  Closing my eyes tightly I gripped the handlebars until my knuckles were white.  Muttering a half remembered prayer I’d heard in church, I marched deliberately and with determination head on into the light.  As I did so it exploded with such a deafening ferocity it almost shattered my ear drums and thundered through my head like a hundred stampeding horses.

Not daring to glance behind at the outcome of the explosion I jumped back onto the bike and as if all the legions of hell were after me I raced toward home.  I wasn’t about to hang around to discover if anyone else had heard the noise, though of course they must have done.  An explosion of that magnitude had to have been heard for miles around.  Tomorrow I would find out.  Tonight I was much too afraid to even think about it.

When I finally reached home I found Mother, Father and my brother Edward already seated at the supper table.  “John, whatever’s the matter?” Mother exclaimed, rising from her chair and glancing at the clock anxiously.

Wiping his moustache and lips on his napkin Edward said “We were getting worried John.  It’s late, and not like you to miss your supper.”

Still panting and breathless from my wild ride, I enquired if any of them had heard the terrible explosion tonight.  Oddly all three shook their heads.  It was Edward who asked what explosion I was talking about.  But they must have heard it.  My ears were still ringing.  Guiltily I stole a glance at the old grandfather clock in the corner of the room.  It was ten minutes to ten.  No wonder they were all so concerned.

The following day I made it my mission to enquire in the village if anyone had heard the explosion, particularly at the two old cottages along the road where the light had shattered when my bicycle collided with it.  Strangely no one had.

It was a week later that Edward and I returned from working on the farm to find my mother slumped in her favourite armchair, my father’s glaucoma-ridden eyes stained with an unaccustomed wetness.  I saw that the hand he rested on mother’s shoulders was trembling badly.  Kate was there too.  She held chubby little Lenny in her arms, tears running unashamedly down her cheeks.  A black edged letter I recognised as a telegram was clutched in her other hand.  She passed it to Edward.  I had never seen such a letter before but young as I was I knew exactly what it meant.

“It’s Arthur.  He… He’s been killed in Belgium” my sister blurted out, cuddling her son to her bosom protectively.

“What happened?” I heard Edward ask, a thickness in his voice.

“There was an explosion in the trenches” Mother said.

“What time did it happen?” Edward asked and I felt his arm slip around my shoulders.

“About nine thirty, ten o’clock, last Saturday night.”  Kate’s words ended on another broken sob.   I froze.  The exact time I had seen the light and heard the explosion that no one else seemed to have heard…

Eighteen months later I was sent to the Front as a boy soldier.

In March 1918, badly wounded in the leg, I was honourably discharged from the Army.  I was almost nineteen years old.

1914-18

The image above is of my uncle, Albert Smith, and comrade who served with him in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the 1914/18 War. My uncle was one of the first to be called up, and was known as an Old Contemptible. He had spent his first Christmas behind enemy lines, just after the recent First battle of Ypres. Queen Mary had dispatched some Christmas goodies, mostly consisting of tobacco, to the troops.
My uncle spoke of a sighting of the Angel of Mons, which is now believed to have been nothing more than a peculiar cloud formation. However, as feelings ran high during that time, the soldiers believed that it was a sign from God.