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159. A Healing Song 161. Humming Little Tunes

January 8th, 2021

Knaresborough House

6. Alfie
‘Cheers, Mack.’ So. It was a different sort of instinct all together then. ‘Fuck’s sake, Alf.’ The guard grimaced, ‘You know this scum?’ ‘Scum?’ Outrage from the bloodied woman, ‘Scum? Who you calling- You hear that Mack?’ ‘For fuck’s sake, Alf!’ Mack was angry now, now he thought about it. Now he really set his broiling mind to the task at hand, that task being working out what the fuck was going on and why his little bitch of a baby sister was standing, bloody nosed, grinning like a smart goon, in the arms of two beefy ladies with eyes the size and demeanour of intensely scorched Tic Tacs. ‘You know her, then?’ ‘Yeah, I know her.’ ‘Well, who is she?’ ‘She’s a prick, that’s who.’ The woman in custody laughed and tried to wriggle free but the two who had her had her now, and after the chaotic display they had just witnessed, there was no hope in hell of them letting her go. ‘Tell us your name.’ It clearly wasn’t the first time of asking. ‘Her name’s Alfie,’ Mack grimaced, adding ‘she’s harmless.’ The ladies scoffed, giving off the sort of managerial air that only those who work in security are able to muster. Mack scowled. Having realised there was a family element to the proceedings he had been prepared to negotiate cordially but the two who stood before him on the great broad stone steps of the main hall; they were of a type he knew. They reeked of over-inflated ego, an excessive grip on their responsibilities, and a faux-intelligence learnt not through experience but from the manuals and help-guides that prioritised deescalation. Mack knew them from supermarket exits, from train station barriers, even from the library of all places. Most of all though, he knew them from the clubs, these hell-sent creatures who seemed to revel in the misfortune they had the power to dole out to others. The anger from years of being picked out for no reason, sent around the block stone-cold sober, and thrown out through double swinging doors bubbled up inside him. Someone’s go to do it, he knew. A thankless job, he was sure. These were real people, with real lives, he attested, they probably have families and a sweet dog at home. He knew, he knew, he knew it all. He sympathised and empathised and walked a mile in their shoes. And he hated them. ‘Do we have to call somebody?’ tooth-splayed one of the goons, with a condescending glint. Mack dived in, seeing the round open mouth of his sister forming bleeps and stars, offence having been considerably taken. ‘No. No, that’s alright, I think.’ Butted-out, Alfie recognised the diplomacy and scowled, hyena-like, sucking on her bleeding lip and giving Mack a look that bedevilled peace now, hellfire later. Later came fast, gunning along the busways through the city centre, turning, crossing without a crossing, turning, one striding ahead, the other half-jogging behind. Despite near-continuous protest from his foul-mouthed sister, Mack let up only when they found the Square, easing the marching orders to a more casual stroll. Not a casual stroll that you might take on a hazy, sunlight afternoon down by the river idyll, but casual whispered through gritted teeth when the blue lights flash on, casual when exiting and the cameras swivel overhead, casual when strolling past the parked car, the shadowy Lord inside both givething and takething away. Skirting around the outside to avoid the bike-menaces that clawed and roared their way through his otherwise peaceful world (not, he bitterly bemoaned), Mack paused before the corner of the next popular walkway and turned on the out-of-breath behind him. ‘What in the name of all that is good and right in this shit-storm of a world were you doing?’ ‘Talk about brotherly love.’ ‘Spare me.’ ‘Spare me, prick.’ ‘I fucking did, didn’t I?’ Pause to allow a group of passing tourists to go unsullied, then on, but she interrupted. ‘What’s that?’ ‘What?’ He looked down at where she had gestured with her chin. A package was tucked under his right arm. He stared. One corner slightly damp. He tried to remember where he’d picked it up, why it was important enough for him to have carried it all this way, for all this time. Nothing came, so he checked the label. ‘Knaresborough.’ ‘Isn’t that yours?’ ‘No. Yeah, Knaresborough, yeah.’ ‘Not yours?’ ‘No.’ They stood looking at the package, with its mould, its festering, its sickness holding their gaze like a wild animal. Mack felt his eyes glazing over, looked up at Alfie and saw hers going too. Of course, he thought, that’s where the poison came from. They didn’t hurt the concrete when they hit it, leaning and falling like the opening of a dirty man-trap flower blooming outwards, its drawbridge petals mirrored as they clanked to the ground. Grey pupils reflected pointless skies, trees swaying over their fading frames that slowly turned to dust and were buried under a mound in the Square’s centre, giving it a new name, new ghosts, new life. ‘Where are you taking it?’ Where was he taking it? Where did it want to be taken, he mused. ‘Listen, get out of here.’ ‘You kidding?’ ‘Go home, Alf.’ She stiffened at the word. Mack noticed. Something was off. ‘Not going home alone.’ ‘What? Where’s the Dane?’ It was a historical joke that their mum had made, the forever secretly disappointed intelligentsia that she was. Not Mack, nor Alf, nor the Dane himself understood it, but it had stuck for this long all the same. ‘Home alone.’ Something had been off for a long time. He tried to stop picturing the worst, though the crimes kept returning to his mind. ‘He’ll be alright,’ he reasoned, as well a thought-through argument as ever he’d given. ‘Fuck that, I’m coming with.’ The ground opened and swallowed her whole, liquid stones slipping softly around her neck so that only her head was left visible at pavement level. She cocked it. He groaned, whined, stamped his feet, pulled out his hair, and then pulled her up by hers. She grinned, the same wild eyes from the gallery. ‘Where we going then?’ ‘Murder,’ he muttered, ‘Murder most foul.’ So read the inscription carved above the door of their choice destination. A secluded underground spot, the portal opened off of an understated alley curling away from the busier road whose broad pavements were studded with shopping feet, paraphernalia feet, foreign feet, and half-sleeping bodies.

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©2007-2021 Benedict Esdale