Celebrations, Explanations and Accusations
“Angela?” a voice called out in the dark.
Stopping suddenly, Angela glanced around; a smile emerging on her tired face. It was impossible to say where the voice had come from. All she knew was that it was a voice she knew, oh so well.
Staying close to the sturdy oak, a young man almost rolled out from behind the trunk to stand smiling at the now lightly blushing young woman. He was dressed in simple and clearly worn, but smart clothes, his mop of unruly tight curls tied back with a dark cotton ribbon. In his hand he held out a single wild flower; the long stem giving way to the delicate blue petals.
“For you, my lady,” he said stepping forward. Even in the dark, she could see his eyes glistening with delight as he gazed lovingly at her. “You look beautiful.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, blushing even more. “I must be beautiful with my tired eyes and my dress covered in wine!”
Ray laughed sympathetically. Throughout their relationship of more than two years, Ray had never known a day when Angela didn’t get cross with herself over some perceived slip. She had the highest expectations of herself and it was a long time before Ray realised that those expected high standards didn’t extend to those around her. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and when he did or said the wrong thing, she was always there with a sympathetic word and a loving embrace. He wished she would extend some of that kindness and forgiveness to herself. Now it seemed that she had spilled some wine and it would be, in her eyes, inexcusable.
“Had a mishap?”
Angela lost her smile and lowered her eyes as she remembered the incident.
“Did he hurt you?” Ray asked with anger and concern in equal measures.
“I dropped the bottle,” she replied fighting to hold back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.
It wasn’t the first time Mikey had forced himself on her and, whilst she knew it would most likely happen again, she was unwilling to discuss it with Ray. Mikey scared her and she feared deeply for what he would do if Ray confronted him. Mikey Way was believed to have a number of men in his employ, ready and willing to do his dirty work, for a price and Ray was too precious to her to risk anything happening to him for the sake of something she knew neither of them could prevent.
Ray fought the urge to press the matter. He knew something was wrong, but he had asked a dozen or more times before and she had held back. What mattered now was lifting her spirits. Lifting her chin with his finger, he smiled with laughing eyes and moved closer pressing his lips tenderly to hers.
“I’m only a farmer,” he said as he broke the kiss, “and I don’t have much to offer you, but…”
Ray paused as he looked on her face, gently lit by the full moon. He was desperately trying to gauge her expression, but her placid features gave nothing away.
“Angela, my angel, will you marry me?”
Angela’s eyes widened with a mixture of surprise and joy as she flung her arms around him kissing and hugging him tightly.
“Oh, yes! Yes of course!” she cried in reply.
Ray’s reply was merely to gather her as close as he could. This was his dream come true.
“Excuse me,” a dark haired man in a smart suit pushed his glasses back up his nose as he looked down at the café table. “May I join you?”
Bob eyed him with a puzzled expression.
“If you’re the press, no, we’re tired. Tomorrow.”
The man reached into his pocket and produced a wallet containing a police badge and identification card.
All three sighed. It didn’t actually matter who he was, they were still tired. Ray reached over to the seat next to him and pushed it out.
“How can we help you?”
Baxter took the seat next to Ray and pulled out a notebook.
“I just want to ask you a few questions.”
“What do you want to know?” Gerard asked, curious as to how the police were involved.
“What made you choose that particular location for a video shoot?”
Gerard shrugged. “We needed a wood, one that had clearly been there for hundreds of years. You know, kind of neglected, abandoned, scary looking. Our director’s research team found it.”
“And you had no idea about the dangers?”
“Well, of course not!” Ray fielded that particular question. “Do you really believe I’d have gone in there if I’d known there were potentially fatal traps?”
“You tell me?” the detective asked. “From what I gather, that’s exactly what…” he paused to look at his notes, “Bob Bryar and Frank Iero did.”
“They were going to check it had all been cleared,” Ray explained. Now, of course, with hindsight, the idea seemed ludicrous.
“But they hadn’t, had they?”
“Frank went beyond the checked area, it was an accident,” Bob explained.
The detective nodded.
“No one’s in trouble here, I’m just establishing what happened for my investigation.”
“What investigation?” Gerard asked confused by the comment.
“We found a body in one of the old mansion outbuildings.”
“A body?” Ray asked.
The detective nodded again as he checked his notes.
“The locals say there was a guy living there a few years back, something of a hermit, pretty anti-social by all accounts.” Baxter took a deep breath as he considered his next statement. “Maybe even a little crazy. We think it’s possible that he may have dug the pits and left the traps in the wood to keep people away. From the looks of things, he’s been dead about six months. So far it looks like natural causes, but I’m just checking things out.”
“I see,” Mikey replied. “I’m not sure there’s much else we can tell you.”
“Except, there was a body in the pit I fell in,” Ray added.
“Yep,” Baxter replied, “got that. Once we confirm that there was no foul play, we’re pretty much done and there’s really nothing to suggest it was anything other than natural.”
Gerard stared at him wide-eyed; the detective seemed so offhand and disinterested about the whole thing.
“Okay,” Baxter sighed as he rose once more and added before turning to leave: “I’ll keep you informed. I hope your friends make a full recovery.”
“Thanks,” Mikey replied in the same half-hearted tone as the detective had used.
Watching Baxter leave the four friends felt almost sorry for him. Death and suffering was clearly a little too typical for him.
“My dear brother, you should take to the boards!” A sly voice commented from the doorway. “You are, without doubt, a fine actor.”
Gerard’s shoulders sagged at the arrogance in his tone. Frank had gone home some hours ago, leaving Gerard alone in the mansion. Depressed and tired, he had headed down to the wine cellar and brought back with him three bottles of wine. They weren’t particularly fine wines, but he didn’t want to savour their taste – he didn’t even care if he enjoyed them, he just wanted to get drunk. He had already finished one bottle and was approaching the end of the second when Mikey returned from wherever his earlier tantrum had taken him.
“What are you talking about?” Gerard replied, slurring his words slightly.
“You, earlier – ‘I’m trapped. I’m being blackmailed by my own brother. Everything he has is total fabrication, but what can I do?’” Mikey repeated Gerard’s words in a pitiful whining tone. “Oh, Frank! What can I do?”
“Shut up, Mikey!”
“And you know what, he’s so stupid, he fell for it!”
“Shut up!” Gerard screamed throwing the glass into the fire and pushing himself out of the chair to face him.
Mikey laughed mockingly as Gerard swayed lightly, his fists clenched more out of anger and frustration than any threat of physical violence.
“I almost laughed when you told him that I’d paid a man to say he’d been with you,” Mikey stretched his arms out as he walked into the room. “That was sheer genius! You’re not as stupid as you look; maybe I should remember that, or maybe you should!”
“I’m not going to discuss this with you,” Gerard growled.
“Good!” Mikey grinned. “That means I can say what I like without you interrupting me!”
Mikey stepped forward, closer and closer to his brother until they were almost touching.
“You shouldn’t get so drunk, Gerard, that’s how silly little details and secrets slip out.”
Gerard was frozen to the spot but managed to turn his eyes away.
“I know you want Frank,” Mikey whispered, his hot breath on Gerard’s cheek. “It’s written all over you, but he’s so blind he can’t see.”
Gerard’s body remained frozen trying desperately not to react as Mikey inched closer still. Gripping Gerard’s chin, Mikey turned his head to face him, grazing Gerard’s cheek with his lips as he did so.
“Tell me, Gerard,” Mikey whispered, “is it only him you want?”
Mikey lowered his gaze.
“It would seem not,” he laughed at Gerard’s discomfort.
Pushing Mikey aside with all his strength, Gerard emitted a scream that was clearly a mixture of defiance and defeat and half ran, half staggered drunkenly from the room. Despite losing his balance and crashing to the floor at the unexpected and violent shove, Mikey’s spiteful and mocking laughter rang in Gerard’s ears as he ran from the room, no longer able to suffer his brother’s cruel taunts.