I make it back to the hotel room in the early afternoon. There’s no point rushing. I grab a glass from the side and take it into the bathroom. Red eyes staring back at me in the mirror, as I fill up the glass. I take a swig from the cool water and place the glass on the side. Splash water on my face, as if that will help. It doesn’t. I can’t cry any more, it’s not fair. I can’t just feel sorry for myself. Those things happened a long time ago and there’s no use wallowing about now. For a second the urge to go out and see Tim’s family, the Campbells, rises, but not for long. I don’t think I could actually see them, even if they think all is forgiven. That’s what Ryan said, I still can’t believe it I hate myself for what happened, so God knows how they feel about it, and I can’t blame them. Probably best to let that wound heal on its own. They don’t need me to reopen it.
After washing my face again, I go back to the main room and grab the phone out of the bag. Brand new and sealed. One of those crappy cheap phones that are only good for phoning and texting. It’ll do though. Probably needs charging for a full day before use as well. Casey would have a go at me if I turned it on any sooner, what a shame she isn’t here to see it. I rip the packaging apart and plug the phone in. I’ll let it charge while I fiddle around with the sim card and such. Going to need to top it up as well. OmniCryo, never heard of that network before. Sounds stupid, like they were trying to hard to sound cool. Whatever, I’m sure they take card payments.
There’s a little note in the bag, which the phone was in. I pull it out and read Jet’s number. On the other side is another string of numbers with ten pound credit written next to it and a little heart. Nice. She’s too nice. Can’t believe how she’s turned out now she’s an adult.
Finally, a battery appears on the small screen with twelve percent written inside it. I can turn it on now at least, who cares if I mess up the battery it’s not supposed to last forever anyway, nothing does.
I set my language, date and time and then go into the contacts. I forgot how fiddly the buttons are on these old pieces of crap. So small. The home screen only fits on icon at a time, with arrows on either side. I’m lucky it’s even in colour. I scroll through to the phone book icon and click in the big button at the top of the pad. The only option is top up. I dial and follow the automated commands to type in my code, wait for the confirmation and hang up. Next thing is to add the contacts in. I type Jet’s name and number in, and then grab out the crumbled piece of paper from the night before and do the same for Ryan and Casey. That’s everything sorted. Finally things are going my way. It’s been a good hour since something’s gone wrong so maybe I can get this whole crap done with and go back home. I don’t want to be here anymore. Hey there’s even time for a drink.
Got to stop thinking like that, first thing first. I call Ryan and wait.
“Come on, answer. Answer,” it goes to voicemail. “Hey, Ryan. It’s Chris. I just wanted to ask about the suicide I forgot about it last night. That’s the whole reason I was here. What’s going on with that? Get back to me whenever you can. This is my new number, the old phone died. Speak soon.”
That was easy. One step done, nearly at reward time. Next I call Casey.
“Hi?” she answers.
“Hey, Case, it’s me. I’ve got a new number. My phone died, and I left the charger in the car.”
“Hey, Chris. Good to hear from you I was starting to worry. So what’s happened down there since yesterday?”
“Absolutely nothing. I’ve spent most of the day looking for a phone and I’ve left a message for Ryan. It’s been productive.”
“Sounds it. I’m sure you will get there at some point. There’s no deadline so doesn’t worry about that. Just keep me informed.”
“Yeah I will do. Got to check in with my boss. Can’t let her think I’m just prating about here not doing much.”
“Sure, just spending my money on booze and women.”
“How did you know? You sent spies here to watch me?”
“Are they not subtle enough?”
We both laugh and there’s a comfortable silence that follows. Why don’t we hang out any more? Since University it seems like we never see each other, unless it’s for work. I don’t really see anyone from that time any more. No one I hang out with now went to University. Drinking buddies, I call them, most of them owe me money and I owe the others.
“So what’s happening there?” Case asks, breaking my thought.
“Not much. My dad died.”
“What? Are you serious. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine. It took a minute to get used to the idea, but I’m okay. It was going to happen one day and if you didn’t send me here I probably wouldn’t have ever found out.”
“Jesus. That must have been a shock.”
“It was. Not as much as he got remarried and had a kid”
“What? Seriously? That’s insane. When? Have you met them?”
“A few years back, and no I haven’t seen him. Don’t want to either.”
“You have a brother. You have to see them.”
“Half-brother. There are a lot of things I’ve done in the last day that I never wanted to do, so I’m going to draw the line at meeting my half-brother who I never knew existed before today.”
“That’s fair, but it’s still your brother.”
“Yeah and apparently he was a really good dad to him and actually cared. Good for him. People are probably only saying that because he’s dead.”
“Jesus, Chris. That’s a bit harsh. He was still your dad.”
“He sure was, and what an amazing dad he was. I’m glad that no one else had to suffer his crap and that his other child got better attention. Maybe he wasn’t drunk the entire time either. Maybe he didn’t hit the kid’s mum and the kid didn’t have to lay in bed and listen to them argue with only the quilt as protection.”
“Chris. Maybe it was wrong to send you back there. If you really don’t want to be there you can come back any time. I’ll drive up there and pick you up myself. I’m sorry, dude.”
“Don’t be. I’m just venting. It’s really annoying. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Dad says he was such a good guy and a good father. He wasn’t. I know that, they know that. The only reason they say otherwise is because he’s dead.”
“There might be some truth to that, but I don’t want you to have a breakdown. I thought it would do you some good going back there.”
“So, you admit it?”
“That this was all some kind of ploy to get me back in this hell hole.”
“No there was a story there. You know that.”
“Yeah, but anyone could have covered it.”
“No, they couldn’t. It wasn’t really a good story to send someone on. It’s all based on hunches. It sounds weird, but I have no proof. Sounds like a myth that’s been passed along one too many times. You were the only person I could send. It helps that you know the place. You can see how it’s different. No one else could do that.”
“Sure. I’ll take that as a compliment. I know you think this is doing me good, and maybe you’re right. You’re also right about the story. There is something here. I can feel it. The people here are different. The streets are quiet. The whole place gives of this uneasy vibe, and the people are way too nice and helpful. Nothing about this place reminds me of my childhood and I don’t think places like this actually exist in the real world. There is something here. Maybe they murdered my Dad and covered it up together, as a town. That would make sense at this point.”
“Umm? I hope not. That would be really messed up that I sent you there. It’s not like you’re going to get an interview like that.”
“Sure. I’m going to try and get in contact with Ryan again. I’ll speak to you soon.”
“Check in tonight and let me know what’s going on. I’ll text you if I hear about the car or anything else.”