Evergreen (a suspenseful murder mystery) (2 page)

BOOK: Evergreen (a suspenseful murder mystery)
12.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

Her parents thought she was a virgin. They tried to set her up with a number of boys from the local communities, she wasn’t interested. They thought she might be gay -- what they didn’t know was that she already had a number of boyfriends and countless more sexual partners.

 

She had been visiting one of these -- a twenty-something man she’d met outside a rave, acting drunk and flirty and looking irresistible -- on the night she died. She’d stayed out a little later than she’d hoped, the night had dwindled away and the morning was quickly approaching, in a few hours her parents would rise and would expect her to be in bed, ready to look after the house and the soon-to-be-crying siblings.

 

She walked with a kick in her step, her high heeled shoes in her hand. Evergreen was accessed through a long gate, big enough for the caravans to fit through, but Patrick Ryan’s caravan was right next to it. He hadn’t been sleeping for the last couple of days, not since Siobhan had been murdered -- he would be awake, alert to the sound of an opening gate.

 

She went around the back, the route she always took. The park was bordered by thick rows of trees, their leaves intertwined to form a bushy perimeter. The ground was wet; it had been raining earlier, not heavy but enough to soften the mud. It squashed between her toes as she walked, cringing with every step.

 

She stood on something sharp, gave a gentle hiss of anguish and snapped back her foot. It was too dark to see what she had stepped on, or to see the resultant puncture wound in her foot. She cursed under her breath, imagined a torrent of blood seeping out of her foot.

 

She dug around in her pockets, momentarily alarmed when she couldn't find the phone, the last thing she needed was to have left it at the stranger’s house. He was drunk and seemed like an idiot, if he woke to find her gone and noticed her phone he might be dumb enough to dial the number listed as ‘home’. She swallowed thickly, scrunched her eyes shut until that thought disappeared.

 


Ohthankgod
,” she muttered in a single breath when she felt the outline of the phone in her jacket pocket.

 

She heard something around her, felt something closing in on her. She always felt a little spooked out in the darkness, whenever she woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom she usually left the hallway light on, fearful that if she turned her back on the darkness something would step out and grab her. It was stupid, childish even, but she couldn't help but feel that there was something in the blackness, waiting for her.

 

The darkness was unbearably thick but she knew her way around. She had walked this path many times. For most of the year it was okay, the trees were bare, allowing light from distant streetlights or the moon to light her path, but in the summer the leaves on the tees thickened, blocking out the moonlight and leaving her in blackness.

 

She instinctively edged sideways; sure that someone was standing by her side, preparing to lead her into the black.

 


Jesus Christ Susie, calm down
,” she told herself, trying to brush off her stupidity.

 

She pulled out her phone, stared at it as she fiddled with it. She tweaked the brightness to the maximum, edged further left and then threw the beam of light to her right, to where she had sensed movement.

 

She held her breath as the light picked through the blackness. There was no one there. She sighed; only just realising she had been holding her breath. Her heart, sedated by a night of light alcohol, was still beating rapidly. She closed her eyes, held a palm to her chest and told herself to calm down.

 

She looked at her foot, the wound was barely a pinprick, she couldn’t see any sign of blood through the blackened soles of her feet. She moved forward, moved the glowing phone to the ground ahead of her.

 

She saw the feet first, clad in black boots that were splattered with mud from toe to heel. She stopped, her breath caught in her throat. She tried to scream. Then she saw the knife.

 

 

4

 

Little Andrew Wilkes was usually the first to rise, up early for a session of cartoons, sugary cereal and hyperactive assaults on the family home. His parents kicked him out of the house at seven in the morning, told him to play on his bike or to go and find his friends for a kick-about.

 

Instead of his friends he found
Susie Flanagan’s body. Andrew was only seven and had never seen a naked girl before, not fully naked anyway. He’d seen pictures, caught a few glimpses the time he found his dad’s collection of dirty magazines, but nothing like what he saw that morning. Susie had been stripped bare and stuck on top of the entrance gate to Evergreen like a human wreath.

 

The gate had two long poles that met in the centre when it was closed; it was what they used to fasten on the chain and the padlock when they wanted to keep people out, when paranoia about the Aherns or other rivals was high. The chain hadn’t been put on for a while, but Susie’s body had taken its place. The poles were impaled through her anus, pushed up through her insides to hold her in place. She looked like the crude plastic troll ornaments that Andrew put on the end of his pencils.

 

He remained still, watching and gently weeping, until the others began to appear. By then Andrew had already been staring at her for fifteen minutes, had taken in every inch of her pale, battered, bruised and sliced flesh; every drop of the congealed blood that clung to her flesh, seeped out of her backside, out of her vagina -- the first he had ever seen.

 

The adults took him away, but they would never remove those images from his nightmares.

 

***

 

Patrick knocked back three glasses of whiskey in quick succession. It had been a long time since he had drank so much so early, but his mind needed numbing. The community was in shock and he felt that he was on the verge of losing its support.

 

He sat in the Dog and Bull -- an onsite pub run by one of the community, who had bought it from a local, non-traveller, a few years ago -- slumped over the bar, the empty tumbler in his hand.

 

“I’m behind you,” Seamus, the bartender and owner, said confidently, giving Patrick an appreciative nod.

 

Patrick smiled, pointed to his glass to gesture for a refill. It was good he had some support, but he needed more than that.

 

It was clear that Siobhan’s murder wasn’t random, but less clear that she had been murdered by someone within the fifty-strong community. Patrick had his suspicions about Susie, he knew what she got up to on the occasion when the restraint and simple life of Evergreen bored her, he spent a good deal of time away from the area, had worked on a nearby building site for many months and had drunk at one of the clubs that she liked to visit on a night-time. There was no way of telling that she was murdered by someone within Evergreen, but whoever killed her clearly wanted to send the community a message.

 

Seamus filled the glass and Patrick drained it again.

 

He was having a hard time getting those images out of his head. She hadn’t just been killed, she had been brutalised -- viciously slaughtered and then impaled, stuck on show like some grisly totem. It had taken all morning to scrub the last remnants of her from the fence and the ground, some of it wouldn’t budge; they would have to repaint. He had picked up parts of her from the ground, a piece of innards that lay festering in the mud below the fence, a swatch of skin torn from her breast, left a few feet away from the gate.

 

What made it worse was that it had been done under his nose. His caravan was just a few feet from that fence. He had struggled to sleep, had tossed and turned all night and had probably been awake when the killer impaled her. He felt sick to his stomach, the whiskey wasn’t settling well and neither were his nerves.

 

“Don’t blame yourself,” Seamus said with a warm, compassionate smile. “It wasn’t your fault.”

 

Patrick shook his head. It wasn’t his fault but he should have heard. Susie may have already been dead by then but at least he could have caught the killer in the act, stopped him from doing it again, because two girls were dead now and there was a good chance he would strike again.

 

He drained his glass, felt the whiskey kick back in his stomach, lurch into his throat. He made it to the bathroom before the torrent of amber alcohol wretched out of his mouth. Some of it made it into the toilet, most decorated the floor.

 

He flopped to his knees, arms cradling the toilet bowl like a favourite childhood teddybear. He waited until his stomach had expelled every last drop of alcohol, every last slither of sickly yellow bile, then he finally managed to drift off to sleep.

 

***

 

He sobered up, slept off a throbbing headache and an unbearable sickness at home. He lived alone, had done since his teens. He felt better that way. A few people questioned why he was still alone at his age, why he hadn’t settled down, but he didn’t care for their careless gossip.

 

He’d had girlfriends, all of them outsiders, and he’d had the opportunity to marry one of those and bring her into the community. She was pretty, a few years younger than him but well out of his league. He’d met her on the job, working on refitting her kitchen. She was a single parent, looking for someone, anyone, to sweep her off her feet. He’d been the first virile, competent man she’d seen. He hadn’t cared though, he needed her as much as she needed him. They spend a few months together, she became clingy, wanted to be part of Evergreen, practically begged him to let her move into his home. He rejected her, as much as she wanted to be a part of their culture, she would have never fitted in. That wasn’t the only reason he refused, but he wasn’t so sure of the other reasons; lack of self-confidence, an inability to settle down, it didn’t matter, what was done was done. He finished her and moved on, back to nobody.

 

He washed the sick out of his clothes, cleaned the blotches from his shoes and then sat naked on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands.

 

Aidan came around, saw the door was unhinged and entered without knocking. He frowned when he saw his desolate friend sitting naked and looking glum. He stood in the doorway, folded his hands across his chest. “Can I get you a drink?” he asked, thinking of the one way he knew how to comfort people.

 

Patrick bolted at the sound, looked up startled and then sunk his head glumly again. “No, I’m good.”

 

Aidan was twice his age, but they had been friends since the beginning. Aidan had known his mother and father, had been with them when they set up the community. They were close, always had been. Aidan was the one who looked after him; dragged him from his despair after his father died and his mother left.

 

“You need to call a meeting,” Aidan said with a firm nod. “Get everyone together again, see if we can’t figure this out.”

 

Patrick groaned. Meetings, that was how they tried to solve everything. It worked for everything else, the minor disputes, the rare cases of theft and other petty crimes, but then everyone was in agreement of what the right thing to do was, the majority usually ruled, that wasn’t the case now. Some said he should contact the police, others wanted them to strike at the Aherns. He wanted neither but he felt he was losing his vote.

 

After Susie’s murder the dissent would only intensify. She had clearly been displayed as a message to the community, a blatant link to the Aherns that others would want vengeance for, but Patrick wasn’t convinced. They were a group of rotten thugs, there was no denying that, but this was beyond them. They weren’t capable of such calculated, brutal murder. Even the younger Ahern, Eddie -- the reckless, drunken twenty-one year old who had jumped Patrick a few months ago and had been making obscene phone calls to some of the women -- wasn’t capable of such atrocities.

 

“Then what?” Patrick asked, looking up with a strained expression on his face. “What the hell are we gonna say?”

 

Aidan shrugged, still looked confident that his approach was the best one.

 

Patrick shook his head. “Gather them then,” he said sullenly. “Tonight, at the Dog and Bull. I want everyone there.” He looked up, a serious flare behind his eyes. “
Everyone
.”

 

6

 

Patrick’s head still throbbed. He had taken a few painkillers but they had little effect. His pain, his tiredness and the lingering threat of a hangover set his blood on fire with an inextinguishable irritability. He felt jumpy, on edge; ready to bite the head off anyone who spoke or looked at him out of turn.

BOOK: Evergreen (a suspenseful murder mystery)
12.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Doctor Mirabilis by James Blish
Hellenic Immortal by Gene Doucette
Behind Our Walls by Chad A. Clark
The Third Claw of God by Adam-Troy Castro
Love's a Witch by Roxy Mews