Around The Bend

‘Any luck?’

Gethin glanced over at Bridge, who was peering at him over a large book. Gethin shook his head and put the phone down.

‘Won’t even go to voice mail, just cuts off after dialling for ages.’

Bridge nodded grimly and returned his attention to the book in front of him. It was a large blue covered volume with a large illustrated dream catcher on the front of it. Stacked in a neat pile on the table next to him were an assortment of titles. Gethin titled his head to one side and studied some of the lettering. One was entitled ‘Shamanism and connection with the spirits’ and another ‘Witchcraft for beginners’.

‘Found anything useful?’

Bridge drummed his fingers on the binding of the book in his hands and pondered his new found knowledge.

‘Well from what I have read so far, it seems that they are of Native American origin and their main purpose is to catch bad spirits and dreams.’

‘Like a filter that gets rid of the negative ones.’

‘Yeah sort of.’ Bridge replied with an awkward tilt of the head.

Recently Gethin had been surprising him with his quick deductions. Since the fiasco with his brothers, Gethin had put his head down and cracked on with his work. Bridge should have been pleased by this notion, as this meant they were reading off the same page. Yet at the same time, he couldn’t help but feel Gethin was stealing some of the limelight. Bridge was intently egocentric. Curse of being an only child.

‘So do you think these dream catchers are linked at all? Maybe it is part of the ritual…you know to cleanse the victim’s of their negative energy.’ Gethin asked, gesticulating wildly with his hands.

Bridge looked doubtful.

‘To be honest I wouldn’t connect those two. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting idea but I think it’s rather a hobby or obsession of hers.’

Gethin’s eyes flickered to the book in Bridge’s hands and noticed his fingers tighten ever so slightly at its edges. He knew Bridge was lying through his teeth. He felt the urge to say as much but he refrained. Probably best not to provoke his superior. Besides Bridge could have his petty victory shot. Gethin knew he was on to something.

Sensing the bitter tension between the, Gethin rose to his feet and clapped his hands together briskly.

‘Fancy a cuppa?’

Bridge gave a mumbled no and returned his attention to the book. Gethin rolled his eyes and slumped off to the lobby. Exiting out into the foyer, he breathed a sigh of relief and stretched out his arms and legs, omitting a loud moan.

Desk Sergeant Paul, who was dozing under his daily Sudoku, didn’t stir and continued to snore in the most attractive of ways.

Feeling mischievous, Gethin crept up stealthily until he was stood in front of the desk. Then suddenly he brought down his hands on the desk with a terrific bang.

Desk Sergeant Paul choked on a snore and woke in alarm. Due to the tilt of his chair and slumped position, he jumped and fell backwards, the newspaper flying up into the air in his wake. Quick as a flash, Gethin was through the doors to the break room before Desk Sergeant Paul had time to recover himself. As Gethin pottered around the break room, grinning to himself, he could hear Desk Sergeant Paul cursing profusely.

He took his time, not wanting to reappear too early with such a big grin still plastered to his face. Eventually, when he did remerge, he was surprised at what was waiting for him in the lobby. A grim faced Bridge was stood at the desk. Gethin’s hand shook ever so slightly and some coffee splattered the linoleum floor, to join the other dubious stains collected there. His loss of confidence lay in the fact that he presumed his joke had gone horribly wrong.

‘Gonna have to put that on hold.’ Bridge instructed, gesturing at Gethin’s coffee mug.

Gethin placed the mug carefully down on the counter, for fear of more spillage and took a moment of respite. He caught sight of Desk Sergeant Paul. He was on the phone and stern faced.

‘What’s going on?’

Bridge and Desk Sergeant Paul glanced at one another apprehensively.

‘You may want to sit down for this’. Bridge advised, taking Gethin by the arm and leading him over to a chair.

Gethin now looked ashen faced, as his concern at a practical joke gone wrong had quickly developed into something apparently far more serious.

‘I’d rather stand’. Gethin said with a brave smile.

‘Very well.’ Bridge said and slipped his hands awkwardly into his pockets.

‘There was an incident out by the Esso garage.’

Gethin nodded mutely, unable to offer any more input.

‘Your brothers were involved.’

Despite his reservations to sit down, Gethin did in fact perch on the edge of the plastic chair.

‘Now don’t worry, there fine, just a little shook up is all.’

Gethin nodded, holding back the nausea. It was more his mum he was worried about than anything else. Gethin was use to his brothers getting in trouble, as was his mum. Difference was, she still couldn’t cope very well with it.

‘Now don’t go off the handle or anything but I don’t think Darren Rhion took too kindly that they grassed him up.’

Gethin shot him a sudden look, which was a combination of anger and disbelief.

‘What do you mean grassed him up?’

Bridge felt hot behind the ears all of a sudden and he grasped for a response hurriedly but his brain failed him woefully.

‘Bridge.’ Gethin growled, clenching the underside of his chair, the plastic tightening under his grip.

‘…didn’t…Fran tell you?’

Gethin shot him a look that said plain as day, ‘no’.

‘What did Darren do?’

Bridge shuffled his feet awkwardly.

‘It’s not important what he did.’

‘Tell me Bridge.’

Bridge swallowed rather hard.

‘He may have tied them to a tree and set the surrounding field on fire.’

Before Bridge had time to go on, Gethin was already on his feet and heading for the door. Bridge promptly followed and disappeared out the door behind him. Desk Sergeant Paul, who was massaging his back from the fall looked up and announced rather grumpily.

‘Oh, I’m fine by the way.’

 

Gethin and Bridge were mostly silent on the car journey out of town. Gethin was a pale shade of grey, his knuckles whitened from his tight grip on the steering wheel. Bridge was deep in thought about Darren Rhion. Part of it lay with the annoyance of possibly missing him by being just a fraction too late. Strangely though Bridge had grown prone to pangs of guilt of late. Despite being certain that he held no conscience, Bridge apparently was more sympathetic then he gave himself credit for.

There was a part of him, that was only a slither mind, which felt somewhat relieved. If Fran had turned up any earlier she would have encountered a volatile Darren Rhion. He was not of the mind that Fran was incapable of defending herself. More that their chances would have faired a lot better with three people instead of one.

The prolonged silence was suddenly broken by a loud, harsh siren. Gethin pulled over into a nearby layby, as a bright red fire engine zipped past., making Gethin’s small car wobble in it’s wake. Gethin and Bridge exchanged looks.

‘I’m sure they are fine.’ Bridge reassured but his eyes said otherwise.

Gethin said nothing and pulled out of the layby and continued down the road.

 

After a series of twists and turns, that usually would have thrown Bridge around in his seat, they began to see red and blue flashing lights over in the next valley. Under any other circumstance, Bridge would have been relieved for the more gentle drive. However, he had too much on his mind to relax. The reason for Gethin’s careful driving was because he was incredibly anxious.

Granted, when he found his brothers and made sure they were alright, those feelings of nausea would be replaced by anger. Cop or no cop, Gethin would be paying a visit to Rhion. For the meantime however, he was more concerned with making sure his brothers were safe.

As they neared the light beacons, smoke began to creep up to them from the road ahead. It wasn’t nearly as thick or dense as when Fran had arrived but it was a big fire and had spread quickly. Rounding the corner, the smoke ahead of them took on a distinctly red hue, with a tint of blue. Bridge was reminded heavily of that scene from ‘The Silence of The Lambs’ where Agent Starling had descended into Hannibal Lector’s cell.

Due to the narrow shape of the road ahead and the queue of police cars and fire engines, Gethin was forced to stop. There were firemen stood between the vehicles further ahead, their luminous jackets glowing in the night. Gethin and Bridge made their way up the road, sidling between the vehicles. A police cordon had been set up and a shivering policeman was stood in front of it. He stiffened upon seeing Bridge, not noting any sign of police dress code.

He went to raise his hand but noticed Gethin all of a sudden and relaxed as they approached, the officer lifted up the tape, gesturing them under. Gethin did so without hesitation but Bridge paused for a moment.

‘What’s your name son?’

The officer looked round at him slightly startled. His nose and cheeks were a bright red and he looked even more of a baby then Gethin.

‘Officer Cope.’

‘And can you explain to me why you didn’t check to see our identification?’

A slightly taken aback Cope looked to Gethin, unsure how to respond.

Gethin sighed.

‘Come on Bridge, do we really have to do this now. There are more important things.’

Bridge huffed loudly.

‘I don’t think either of you realize how essential this most basic of training is. What could stop the perpetrator from donning a convincing police disguise and walking straight past?’

Gethin rolled his eyes.

‘That’s a bit bloody elaborate , don’t you think?’

‘We are talking about a person who is methodical, precise and highly intelligent. So yes it is the definition of elaborate.’ Finishing his preach of a speech, he turned his attention to Cope once more.

‘So I ask you again. Why didn’t you ask for credentials?’

‘Well…me and Gethin both did police training together.’

Bridge felt the wind slacken from his prideful sails. He looked to Gethin for clarification, who nodded. Bridge cleared his throat.

‘Very well then.’ And went to duck under the tape.

Cope dropped it, barring Bridge’s way.

‘Having said that sir, I know Gethin but I don’t know you.’ He straightened up professionally. ‘Can I see some credentials sir?’

Bridge flushed red and searched his pockets for his I.D. Gethin smiled to himself, as Bridge fumbled for his badge. When he finally produced it, Cope inspected it carefully before letting Bridge under the cordon. He walked straight past Gethin’s smug face.

The fire had nearly extinguished but there were still a few firemen hosing down some of the smaller flame points. They found Fran at the top of the field, her hands deep in her pockets. She stood with her back to them, watching the dwindling fires slowly being put out. Dylan and Rhys were sat in the back of a nearby ambulance, swatting away the hovering medics.

Gethin and Bridge parted ways. Gethin towards the back of the ambulance, whilst Bridge moved over to talk to Fran.

 

‘Get off me mun, I’m fine.’ Dylan shrugged off a medic, who was attempting to inspect the rope welts on his wrists. She glanced at Gethin, who gestured for her to lay off for the moment. She relented and went off to busy herself with another task. When she was out of earshot, Dylan gave Gethin a wink.

‘I think I’m well in there bro.’

Gethin refused to crack a smile. Instead he moved forwards and carried out a rather rough and thorough examination of his brothers. Usually, he would have refrained from grappling with the terrible twins. But today he was not going to be dismissed. Eventually, when he had established they were okay, he stood back and folded his arms. Apart from a few scratches and the rope marks, they appeared unhurt.

Dylan look unconcerned and seemed more interested in the medic, who was fastidiously ignoring him. Rhys was quiet and huddled in one corner, his head bowed in his lap.

‘So…you guys going to tell me what happened?’

Rhys said nothing and Dylan shrugged non commitmently.

‘Right…so you just happened to end up tied to a tree in a burning field.’

Dylan got up and brushed past Gethin, slapping him heartily on the shoulder.

‘No worries Geth, we both just got a little toasty is all.’

Gethin shoved him hard in the chest and said in a serious tone.

‘Tell me, who did this?’

For the first time in many years, Gethin looked like a force to be reckoned with. Rhys retreated further inside the safety of the ambulance, whilst Dylan glanced every direction but Gethin. However, enough had been said and demonstrated in their evasive behaviour.

‘It was Rhion, wasn’t it?’

Dylan met his stare and the looked spelled it out clear as a day.

‘Right.’ Gethin said decisively and went to turn on the spot.

‘Don’t do anything stupid, you don’t want to go sticking your nose in the wrong places.’ Dylan said, catching him by the arm and shooting with a warning stare.

Gethin studied him closely and the grim expression startled him somewhat. He nodded and squeezed his brother’s arm before moving away.

 

Bridge cursed, as he took his first step into the field and his nice, shiny shoes were sucked down into the mud. Fran didn’t even look around at his exclamation. She was staring blankly at the blackened tree. Bridge drew his tobacco tin out of his pocket and pulled out two pre rolled smokes. He offered one to Fran, who took it without hesitation.

Fran initially flinched at the flame of Gethin’s lighter before relaxing once more. She took a deep intake of the rollup and breathed out slow and deeply. Her hands were steady and despite appearing a little shaky, she seemed more exhausted then anything.

‘I think I could actually fall asleep standing up.’

Bridge smiled to himself and took a puff on his own rollup.

‘If I was just here a little bit sooner.’ Fran berated herself.

Bridge glanced sideways at her.

‘You mustn’t think like that. Just be grateful that you got here in time to rescue Dylan and Rhys.’

Fran shrugged and threw away the remaining half of her rollup. She had inhaled enough smoke for one day.

‘Doesn’t it annoy you though? To have something in the palm of your hand, for it to only slip away at the last moment.’

Bridge shook his head with a knowing smile.

‘What?’ Fran said hotly.

‘You have been hanging around me too much. OCD doesn’t suit you Sergeant Thomas.’

Fran acknowledged the remark but she failed to see the funny side of it. It was all very well and good for Bridge to laugh at. To him it was just another case. An interesting puzzle not yet completed at the corners. But to Fran it meant a great deal. These victims, witnesses and suspects were all people she knew.

‘Maybe we are going about this the wrong way.’

Fran looked round at Bridge, who was stroking his chin. It looked almost comical with the lack of facial hair he had.

‘What do you mean?’

‘It just doesn’t make sense to me. The first murder we saw was cold and calculated. Heavily planned and precisely executed. Whereas this…’ He trailed off. ‘Well, it just fails to correlate.’

Fran frowned. She was finding it hard to concentrate. The scenario she had just witnessed kept fighting to take over her thoughts entirely.

‘But Rhys confirmed to seeing Rhion in that field and to the discrepancy of his whereabouts on the night in question.’

Bridge went to interrupt but Fran powered on. Plus, it would make sense that Rhion would do this. Surely, it’s a revenge attack for blabbing to us.’

Bridge nodded but didn’t look particularly happy about it.

‘I know, you’re probably right. I’ve just got this feeling.’

Fran was taken aback.

‘It’s unlike you to go on hunches. I thought you were all about the evidence ?’

Bridge grinned in acknowledgement.

‘What can I say. Must be this country air getting to me.’

A series of loud shouts made the pair of them look around. There was a screech of tyres and a small car zipped off down the lane. Bridge and Fran trudged their way back to the road, where they encountered a seething Dylan and a worried Rhys.

‘What’s going on boys?’ Fran queried.

‘Geth’s go rogue. I think he has gone to find Darren Rhion. We’ve got to stop him.’ Rhys explained desperately.

‘Come on, we will take my car.’

Fran and Bridge hurried off to her car.

‘What do you two think your doing?’ Bridge snapped at the twins, who were following close behind.

‘We’re coming with you.’

‘Out of the question.’

Seeing the standoff which was about to ensue, Fran interjected.

‘Fine, get in the back and stay there.’

‘Fran, I must protest.’

‘Just get in the car Bridge, we don’t have time for this.’

So forceful was her tone that Bridge obeyed and the four of them climbed in, keen to catch up with Gethin.

 

Gethin sped around the winding Welsh roads, his previous slow and measured driving having gone promptly out the window. The only thing that stopped him from losing control was the sheer determination to reach his destination. Rhys and Dylan were correct in their assumption. Gethin was out for blood. Darren Rhion’s blood to be precise. He swerved round a corner and had to scrape his car along the hedge to the left, in order to avoid a car coming the other way. The driver gave a sharp blast of his horn but it soon faded out of earshot, as Gethin zipped off once again.

So many different thoughts competed for space in his head, the latter of which throbbed painfully with the effort. Most of his mind was set on pursing, capturing and dishing out the necessary punishment to Darren Rhion. However, a small portion, although not enough to dissuade him entirely, did fret upon the repercussions of what he was about to do. Then there was the most difficult issue of them all, Gethin’s mum. If he didn’t do anything she would still blame him. Unfortunately, he was too driven by revenge and so putting his foot to the floor, Gethin zoomed away into the night.

 

Fran drove as fast as she could, which surprised Bridge somewhat. He was used to her painstakingly slow journeys but tonight she was zipping around the corners like a bat out of hell. However, unlike Gethin’s reckless driving, Fran was highly controlled and skilled in her manoeuvring. Bridge was continually surprised by Fran’s hidden talents, this being yet another string to her bow. Despite being slightly excited by the more thrilling journey to their destination, Bridge couldn’t help feeling apprehensive. He had seen how Gethin had reacted back at the office, not to mention his occasional tendency to lose control of his temper. Bridge glanced sideways at Fran to gauge her state of mind. If she was concerned at all, Fran was concealing it well. The truth was she was equally as anxious but at this moment she needed to focus all her attention on driving to the best of her ability. It felt weird to be driving in this manner, having been many years without a cause to execute her police trained manoeuvring. Apprehension had been tantamount before she had entered the car. However, she had remembered it surprisingly well.

 

Gethin slowed as he entered Llangaerthan. Rhion was a slippery fish, never in one place too long. Now that he didn’t live at home, there were a multitude of places he could be bunkered down at. Gethin knew that he only had one shot of finding Rhion in time. If it wasn’t the first place he looked, then Gethin wouldn’t have time to chase other hotspots around town. By that time Fran and Bridge would have caught him up and any chance of personal revenge would soon be scrapped. Turning left, he took an estimated guess and headed to the other end of town, where the large Co-Op was located.

Bridge and Fran were encountering their own set of issues. Mainly that of being stuck behind a country bus. Fran drummed her fingertips on the wheel agitatedly, whilst Bridge tried to crane his neck to see a gap past. Rhys stuck his head out of the passenger window and bellowed at the back of the bus.

‘Move out the way you fat arsed pillock.’

‘Get inside.’ Bridge barked at him.

Dylan pulled Rhys back into the car but couldn’t help omitting a grin. Bridge sighed and leant back his head. A small frown rippled across his forehead.

‘Fran?’

‘Hmm.’ Fran said distractedly.

Her attention was fixed raptly on the bus in front of her.

‘How are you we going to find Darren Rhion?’

Fran looked round at him puzzled.

‘Well we just…’ She trailed off, realizing the problem.

How on earth were they meant to find him if they had no idea where he was staying? Bridge twisted round in his seat.

‘Don’t suppose you guys know where your mate could be?’

Rhys and Dylan discussed the matter between them. After low murmurings and a series of hand gestures, Dylan turned to Bridge.

‘There are several places he could be in all honesty.’

‘Bollocks.’ Bridge exclaimed.

Both Rhys and Dylan were surprised by Bridge’s outburst. Even Fran was taken aback. Bridge paid it no heed and sat back in his chair, trying to figure out how best to solve their current predicament.

‘Why don’t you pop your siren on Fran. It is official police business.’ Rhys suggested.

Fran glanced at the dormant piece of police equipment, that was stuffed in the side door compartment. It had been so long since its last use, that it had actually gathered a thin layer of dust. Fran was unsure it still even worked.

‘No point. Even if I did, this lane is still narrow to allow me past.’

Dylan slapped the back of Bridge’s headrest in frustration. Eventually, a gap did appear and Fran was able to squeeze past the bus and shoot off into the night.

By the time they reached Llangaerthan, they were well behind schedule. The bus had set them back quite considerably. Fran pulled up near the fountain and kept the engine ticking over, as the three men jumped out the car. To any normal bystander, it probably looked like they were planning to pull off a bank heist. The reality was that they were really planning to execute a four man manhunt. They had previously made an agreement that they should split up, in a better effort to collar the elusive Rhion. Each person had their own location to inspect. Dylan had been assigned the playground, Rhys: the chippy and Bridge: Darren’s mother’s house. Fran on the other hand had decided to go down to the Co Op. The house sat opposite the store was the lad’s chillout zone and the prime location Rhion was likely to be.

There was only a handful of cars parked in the co op parking lot. It was a late Sunday evening and the store had closed several hours ago. It didn’t take Fran long to find Gethin’s car. Not only was it parked diagonally across two bays but the driver’s door had been flung open and the engine was still running.

Fran parked up quickly, doing a slightly better then a slapdash Gethin but also keen to reach the house as soon as possible. As she approached the main road that led out of town, Fran could see that the front door to the house opposite was ajar. She hopped from foot to foot pensively, glancing desperately up and down the road, looking for a gap to sprint across.

Finally the traffic faltered and she made her move. A wall of sounds hit her as she reached the foot of the front garden. Loud bassy dubstep pounded out of an upstairs window but it wasn’t the music disturbance Fran was worried about. High pitched screams and deep shouts could be heard from inside. A couple of houses down, a neighbour’s dog had joined in with the commotion.

Slipping her car keys into her hand, Fran cautiously approached the open door. There was a sound of something being smashed and a moment later, a spotty looking kid with baggy trakkies and a white baseball cap tore out of the house. Fran tensed herself, fearing he might try and jump her but instead the kid came to a sudden halt, a look of pure fear in his eyes.

‘He’s going to kill him. You have to do something.’ He implored, his hands shaking uncontrollably.

Fran took a deep breath, trying to still her own nerves.

‘Wait here.’ She ordered with such authority, that the kid wouldn’t dare so no, for fear of her reckoning.

She knew this should be the point where she called backup but by the time that happened it could be too late. Readying herself she stepped over the doorstep and into the dank corridor.

© [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales], [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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