Evergreen (a suspenseful murder mystery) (9 page)

BOOK: Evergreen (a suspenseful murder mystery)
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He slunk into the back room of the pub. He hadn’t seen Seamus at the bar and assumed he was amongst the blood thirsty rabble, but he didn’t figure the bartender would mind.

 

The noise from the main room faded as he walked further in, around the crates of soft drink cans and boxes of crisps and nuts, into a small living room area with a portable television and a sofa. The room was for Seamus to relax, but the bartender preferred to be amongst his customers at whatever time, he didn’t really have a closing time and treated the pub more like an open house where everyone was welcome at any time.

 

The noise was softer in the living room, he sank back onto the couch -- lifting a veil of dust -- and closed his eyes. It had been a hard few weeks and he doubted the community would ever recover, but there was a good chance the authorities would get involved, whether he wanted them to or not. The police would tear Evergreen apart and rip out every member, accusing them of murder and of interfering with a crime scene. They would all then point their fingers at Patrick and he would be locked away for a long time.

 

He groaned, rubbed his eyes. Then he saw the killer.

 

He knew it was him as soon as he saw him. He was wearing dark, tight clothing. His face was clad in a thick black balaclava. He walked past the living room doorway, heading out into the pub. He didn’t turn towards the living room so he didn’t see Patrick there, but Patrick saw everything of him.

 

His heart stopped, froze and then jumped anxiously inside his chest. His body spasmed into rigidity. He had finally seen him, finally had the chance to exact his revenge, but he couldn’t move from the couch.

 

The figure walked back across the doorway, a phone pressed to his ear. He heard him talking; a gruff, fake voice. He couldn’t hear what he was saying but he could tell he didn’t want to give up his identity to the person on the other end of the line.

 

He closed his eyes, tried to control his breath, to beg his mind to give him back control of his body. He strained every muscle, every nerve in his body to stand up but when he did, he nearly fell down again. His legs shook, his knees trembled.

 

He tried another tact as he listened to the grumbled voice of the killer, overlapped by the shouts of bloodlust that boomed from the main room. He thought about little Siobhan Haynes, butchered outside her own front door. He thought about innocent Susie Flanagan, a mischievous little girl, but still just a little girl.

 

He felt a rush of adrenaline, a surge of anger; he began to regain control.

 

He thought about the Brady twins. The outspoken Aileen and the timid Mary murdered together. One of them had probably witnessed the death of the other before being killed herself. He thought of Matty McCleary and Edward Byrne, two young lads in the prime of their lives, the same age he was when he lost his father and his mother left him. He thought of Edward’s grandmother, of Janet Patterson, and then, with his body his own again, he was prepared to kill their killer.

 

***

 

Someone brought a noose; someone else tied it to the rafters; someone else prepared the chair. Aidan watched Eddie’s face all the while, revelling in the horror as he studied the preparations for his own death.

 

“You’re going to suffer for this,” Eddie warned, struggling to hold back a tear; a tear spilled through pain more than sorrow.

 

Aidan shook his head slowly, “No,” he said confidently. “You’re the one who’ll suffer.”

 

The chants rocked the foundations. Everyone was ready to watch Eddie’s life end, to witness retribution. Eddie tried to say something else but Aidan silenced him by rolling the gag up and stuffing it in his mouth -- jamming it in with so much force that he almost choked. He tied tape around his cheeks, stood back to admire his handiwork; Eddie looked like a plum-cheeked roasted pig.

 

Aidan grinned at Eddie as the chants continued, “You ready?”

 

***

 

Patrick watched the blackened figure head through a rusted door that stayed open behind him. He saw him descend a solid metal staircase into a black basement. The Andersons were right, the killer was short and slim, but there was a certain litheness to them, a strength and grace. Their father thought it was Eddie, currently suffering under the chanting, thirsty and accusing crowd in the main room, but this certainly wasn’t Eddie and didn’t look like any Ahern Patrick knew.

 

It wasn’t Seamus either. The bartender kept himself to himself and knew everyone in the community. He had enough access to everyone’s dark sides to gather the deepest and most resentful of grudges, but he was rounder and taller than the figure in black.

 

He followed them down into the basement, descending with as much stealth as he could manage.

 

***

 

When the noose was around Eddie’s neck he stopped squirming; he stopped trying to shout and scream above the noise. He looked ahead, at Aidan’s grinning face and his bright, promising eyes.

 

Aidan turned to the crowd, raised a hand to silence them and then turned back to Eddie. “Any last words?”

 

Eddie, incapable of words, sneered at him. Then, from the back of the room, someone piped up with the only words he could have dreamed of hearing.

 

“The Aherns are here!”

 

The headlights from a handful of cars screamed through the pub windows. They heard the screeching of car tyres, the noise of hastily slammed car doors.

 

Aidan lost his smile; Eddie found his.

 

“Lock the doors!” he yelled.

 

***

 

Patrick froze when he heard the stair creak under him. He closed his eyes; breathed a cursed breath. He listened in the silence; he didn’t hear anything. He moved on, three more steps to the bottom of the staircase. He couldn’t see much in the dark, the light from the open door at the top screamed at him like a dimmed spotlight, but didn’t illuminate much.

 

He took another step forwards, then felt the cold harsh touch of a baseball bat on the back of his skull. He toppled forwards, saw a million blue stars dance in front of his eyes. The last thing he heard before he hit the floor was a surprised and horrified gasp.

 

***

 

“Get the fuck out here now!” Mickey Ahern screamed, kicking the ground beneath his feet for added effect. “Or else we’ll burn you out.”

 

Aidan saw dozens of them. The whole clan and a great number more by the looks of it. Their cars and trucks were stacked in lines outside the pub; angry and armed men and women formed a thick wall in front of them.

 

The pub had quietened down, no one was thirsty for blood anymore, everyone was scared for their own safety.

 

“What’re we going to do?” Elliot Thompson asked. “We can’t take them on. There’s too many of them.”

 

Aidan gave him a blank stare, decided against answering. He looked at the sea of petrified faces, all of them looking at him for an answer. He couldn’t see Patrick and in that moment he hated his friend more than ever.

 

He heard a muffled sound, turned to Eddie to see that the beaten man was enjoying himself. His tortured face a picture of delight as he mocked Aidan with a wide grin and a muffled laugh.

 

He scowled at him, strode forward and looked up. “You think this is fucking funny?” he bellowed.

 

Eddie nodded.

 

Aidan kicked the chair out from under him. He saw Eddie’s eyes spring open in that split second when he realised what was happening -- when he felt the solid ground beneath him disappear. Everyone inside the pub heard the crack as Eddie’s neck snapped.

 

“Not laughing now, eh?
You prick
.”

 

 

17

 

“They’ll come in eventually,” someone said. “We can’t stay inside for ever.”

 

Aidan had other ideas. They
could
stay inside forever, anything was preferable to going outside and facing the Aherns. He was confident he could take them on, he knew he could beat Mickey and Shaun in a fight, but they had weapons and they outnumbered him by more than two to one.

 

He turned as a rock hit the window, shattering the glass, billowing the curtain and bouncing off a table before stopping at his feet. He stared at it, casually kicked it away.

 

“You come out or we’ll come in!” Mickey Ahern shouted, as if he’d been listening to their conversation. “You have two minutes before we burn this shit hole to the ground!”

 

Everyone directed their shocked expressions at Aidan. He ignored them, peeled back the curtain and peeked outside. They had already trashed a few of the nearby homes from the inside out. He watched as tables, chairs and appliances were thrown out of windows and doors; he watched as they splashed cans of petrol onto the trashed homes.

 

“They’re destroying our homes! We have to stop them.”

 

Aidan ignored the shouts. Their homes were already gone; Evergreen was gone.

 

***

 

Patrick pried his eyes open, felt a stabbing pain shoot through his head. His attacker, the figure in black, was hovering over him, looming over his sleeping face like in his dream. They took a quick and cautious step back when he opened his eyes, as if scared of him.

 

He quickly looked around for a weapon but couldn’t find one. He pushed himself off the ground, scuttled over to the nearest wall and pressed himself up against it. He wanted to stand, to run or fight, but his head was still spinning.

 

His attacker approached him with slow and cautious steps, his hands held out in front of him as if preparing to strangle him. He pushed himself further against the wall, feeling the cold concrete pressing unforgivingly against his spine. He turned his head just as they approached. Then they grabbed him.

 

***

 

Elliot Thompson shoved Aidan out of the way. Aidan watched, disinterested, as the desperate man stuck his face to the glass and witnessed his home, and the homes of others, being destroyed.

 

Mickey Ahern saw him and shouted again. “Send my son out and your homes will be safe!”

 

Elliot turned to Aidan who gave him an apathetic shrug.

 

“This is your fault,” Elliot told him.

 

Aidan shook his head.

 

Elliot turned back to the window and aimed a shout through the hole in the glass. “Please, don’t do this!”

 

“Give me my son and we’ll all leave,” Mickey shouted back. “You have my word.”

 

Elliot hesitated, turned to look at Eddie’s dangling corpse and then back at the window. “He’s dead,” he shouted. “We’re sorry, it was an accident--”

 

Aidan dragged him away before he could say anything else. He threw him across the room with one swipe of his arm. He closed the curtain tightly and prayed that the Aherns hadn't heard his outburst.

 

His prayers went unanswered; he saw the flames, the blinding light, through the thin curtain as Evergreen was set on fire.

 

***

 

Patrick squirmed in the killer’s grasp, sensing that his end was nigh. He kicked out, swiped the attacker’s legs from underneath him. He released his grip, yelped, and then crashed to the floor, narrowly avoiding a collision with Patrick who quickly scrambled to his feet.

 

He heard the commotion outside and above him; he felt the ceiling shake as a stampede of worried feet scuttled around. He headed for the stairs, took them two at a time and then stopped midway, slowly turning around.

 

He needed to see who the killer was; he needed to know who had destroyed the community. Evergreen wasn't just a part of his life, it
was
his life, and their actions had taken that away from him. He descended hastily, watching the figure slowly climb to its feet.

 

When the killer saw that Patrick was upon him he quickened his movements and tried to wriggle away, but Patrick grabbed him roughly. He felt slender and fragile in Patrick’s hands, nothing like what he’d been expecting. He grabbed at the balaclava and ripped it off.

BOOK: Evergreen (a suspenseful murder mystery)
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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