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Unfinished Business by Stuart Hughes

Posted on December 13, 2010 at 6:51 PM

Unfinished Business

by

Stuart Hughes

The rain was starting now. It had been fine all morning but just when it looked as though she would make it through the day without crying, it seemed as though someone up there was sending out a message that it was all right to grieve publicly.

 

Jane’s eyes filled up and slowly the tears cascaded down both cheeks and dripped almost apologetically on to the midnight blue outfit which he liked so much. If she couldn’t do it, she who had lost everything that was dear to her, then no-one else had the right to.

 

She had been Gary’s only close support through years of pain and suffering and was the last but one to see him alive if the condition into which he had descended and subsequently recovered from could actually be called a life.

 

The rest of the group were beginning to drift away back to their normal routines. It had been a gathering of friends, he had no living relatives, and those friends were few in number now. There had not been many others apart from herself who had stuck with him through the past few years, and it had been hard work.

 

The group had talked to her along the lines of “the nicest man I ever knew,” “never heard him raise his voice to anyone,” “he’d go out of his way to help someone in trouble.”

 

They talked as if Gary was already dead.

 

And the sad thing was, she supposed, Gary would probably be better off if he was dead.

 

# # #

 

That night Jane had the dream.

 

She was walking along the riverside path through the Pleasure Grounds, on her way to Darwin Place car park, when a man stepped out of the bushes in front of her. He had short, black hair and a hairy growth on his right cheek.

 

“Hello my lovely,” the man she would come to know as Eddie Harker said in a gravely voice. “Where do you think you’re going?”

 

There was more to the dream, much more, but when she woke, covered in sweat and screaming, that was all she could remember.

 

# # #

 

 

Gary was holed up in ICU. Jane sat down next to his bed, lowered the safety rail, and took hold of his hand.

 

Nurse Vale had told her that a friendly voice may help so Jane visited as often as she could, staying as long as she could, telling him about her day.

 

“Hello Gary,” Jane said, folding her fingers around his.

 

He had been in a coma since the fight. Two IV tubes had been inserted into veins in his forearm, monitoring equipment was taped to his chest, a ventilation mask covered his nose and mouth.

 

“You should prepare yourself,” Nurse Vale had told her yesterday after the automatic breathing machine had been wheeled in. The nurse probably confided too much, since Jane was not a relative, but who else could she inform about Gary’s condition?

 

Jane sat there, listening to the horrible mechanical breathing and electronic bleeping, and talked to him. She never ran out of things to say.

 

# # #

 

 

That night she had the dream again.

 

“Hello my lovely,” Eddie Harker said in that gravely voice. “Where do you think you’re going?”

 

Scared, Jane weighed up her options. Although Eddie was intimidating, she thought she could take him by surprise. If she could dodge past him, it was only about thirty yards to Meadow Road, and then the car park.

 

Just as she was about to make a run for it, another man stepped out of the bushes. This man, who she would come to know as Jimmy Turner, had spiky, ginger hair.

 

Fear gripped her as she realised it would be difficult to dodge past both of them.

 

“Hey Jimbo,” Eddie said. “Look at this lovely.”

 

“Very nice,” Jimbo said, opening his mouth and running a long tongue over his bottom lip.

 

Jane woke, sweating and screaming. There was more to the dream, but that was all she remembered.

 

# # #

 

Jane saw him again at the university.

 

She had waited behind after the lecture because there was something she needed to ask Professor Joyce about the assignment.

 

When she was leaving, he was standing by the piano in the narrow corridor outside the Heap Lecture Theatre. The growth on his cheek was unmistakeable.

 

“We have unfinished business my lovely,” Eddie Harker said.

 

Jane pushed him aside and ran.

 

# # #

 

Later that night, sitting in ICU, listening to the sucking and wheezing of the machine, she told Gary that Eddie Harker had returned.

 

“I saw him, Gary. I know how crazy that seems but I saw him. It was definitely him … and what’s more, he recognised me. He said we had unfinished business.”

 

Gary did not respond.

 

# # #

 

She had the dream again that night and remembered even more of it.

 

Fear gripped her as the two men walked down the narrow path towards her.

 

If she couldn’t dodge past them, then at least she could beat a hasty retreat. Jane turned around and saw a third man walking towards her. He had long, straggly black hair and a goatee beard.

 

The man, whose name she couldn’t remember, shook his head.

 

Hands grabbed her from behind.

 

Jane was screaming and covered in sweat when she woke. She sensed there was more to the dream, but she couldn’t remember it.

 

# # #

 

 

Jane went to Starbucks, taking a seat by the window to think. She still had Roger’s number. She flipped open her mobile and rang him.

 

“DCI Kirby.”

 

“Hi Roger,” she said. “It’s Jane.” They had been on first name terms by the end of it … but that seemed like a long time ago now. “Jane. Jane Bishop.”

 

“Right.” And then after a pause that seemed a tad too long to Jane, he added, “Miss Bishop. Jane. Of course.”

 

“You know my case … the three suspects?”

 

“Yes, I remember.”

 

“What happened to them?”

 

“You know what happened.”

 

“I know, but I need to hear someone else say it. Please.”

 

“Sure. A few months after your court case was –”

 

“Thrown out,” Jane interrupted.

 

“I’m sorry we … Well, they were speeding through the city centre and one of our patrol cars gave chase down the A52, onto the M1. They lost control, crashed into the central reservation, flipped the car. Eddie Harker and Jimmy Turner were dead at the scene.”

 

“And the other one?”

 

“Dennis Waites,” he said and Jane immediately knew that was right. “Dennis survived; he was the only one wearing a seat belt.”

 

“Where is he now?”

 

“He got sent down for attempted murder about six months ago.”

 

“Thank you.” She disconnected.

 

Standing right in front of her, spiky, ginger hair unmistakable, his nose and finger tips pressed against the glass, was Jimmy Turner. He opened his mouth and licked the glass with his long tongue.

 

Jane screamed.

 

# # #

 

“I saw Jimmy Turner,” she told Gary in ICU. “He was standing against the window of Starbucks, taunting me.

 

“That’s two of them now, Eddie Harker and Jimmy Turner. How can that be?

 

“It sounds crazy … but I saw them. I definitely saw them. I’m not crazy, so how can that be?”

Gary did not respond.

 

# # #

 

That night she had the dream again.

 

The three men manhandled her towards the bench. Jane kicked and screamed but they were too strong for her. They bent her over the bench, hands groped her breasts, fingers unbuttoned her jeans.

 

She screamed.

 

“Let’s do her,” Jimbo said.

 

“Then let’s kill her,” Eddie said.

 

“And then let’s do her again.”

 

They laughed at that.

 

She screamed again.

 

“Shut her up,” Eddie said.

 

A hand covered her mouth. She bit down hard, tasted blood.

 

Jimbo screamed. Jane screamed louder.

 

“Let her go,” a strong, male voice said. Jane tried to see who it was but the three men blocked her view.

 

“I don’t think so,” Eddie said. “Why don’t you just walk on by. This is none of your business.”

And for a long, dreadful moment, Jane thought her potential rescuer was going to do just that and walk on by.

 

“I think I’ll make it my business.”

 

“That would be a mistake,” Eddie said. “Get him.”

 

Hands left Jane. Jimbo took a knife from his pocket and moved towards her rescuer.

 

She swung her arms, kicked her legs, broke free.

 

“Run,” her rescuer said. He raised his fists and started to fight.

 

Jane ran. She did not look back.

 

# # #

 

“It isn’t fair that saving my life put you in this coma,” Jane told Gary in ICU.

 

She held his hand.

 

“And now, I’m really sorry, I really, really am … but I need to ask you to help me one more time.”

 

She kissed his forehead.

 

“Will you help me, Gary? Please.”

 

Gary did not respond.

 

# # #

 

Jane needed a drink and found herself in the Barracuda. Her drink of choice was Bacardi and coke, lots of Bacardi, very little coke. Whether she was drowning her sorrows, or gaining Dutch courage, she wasn’t sure.

 

Sitting at a table near the bar, Jane opened the book she’d borrowed from the Central Library earlier that day – Controlling Your Dreams – and began to read.

 

Losing track of time, she suddenly found herself distracted by a babble of voices at the bar. A group of about a dozen had gathered, men and women, young and old. One guy had his arm in a sling. A man with grey hair and glasses grabbed a table and began taking some books out of his bag. A young, blond haired man carried two drinks over to him. One by one the others joined them.

 

Jane shook her head, too easily distracted by people watching. She glanced at her watch, saw it was just after nine.

 

She closed her book and left the pub. She crossed the Derwent river on Exeter Bridge, turned right, and took the riverside path through the Pleasure Gardens.

 

After the weeping willow, she forked left and Eddie Harker stepped out of the bushes a few feet ahead of her.

 

“We have unfinished business my lovely,” he said in that gravely voice of his.

 

“Leave me alone,” Jane said. “You’re dead.”

 

Eddie laughed, a maniacal laugh, and Jane found herself wondering if this had been such a good idea after all.

 

Behind her, Jane heard high-pitched laughter. She looked over her shoulder and saw Jimmy Turner.

 

“We’re not just dead, are we Jimbo?”

 

“Oh no,” Jimbo said. “We’re the Devil’s dead.”

 

They both laughed at that.

 

Jane shivered.

 

“It took three of you last time,” Jane said. “You needed your mate Dennis to get the better of me.”

 

“We don’t need wimpy boy any more,” Eddie said. “We’re much stronger now.”

 

Jane felt herself being grabbed from behind and, as if to illustrate the point, Jimbo pinned her arms by her sides so that she couldn’t put up a fight. He lifted her off the ground and carried her towards the bench.

 

She kicked out with both legs, caught Jimbo on the shins with the back of her heels, but he didn’t even pause for breath.

 

Eddie grabbed her hair and together the two men bent her over the bench.

 

“Let’s do her,” Jimbo said.

 

“Then let’s kill her,” Eddie said, clicking his switchblade open.

 

“And then let’s do her again.”

 

They both laughed at that.

 

Jane screamed.

 

“Shut her up.”

 

Jimbo put his hand across her mouth and she bit down hard. This time there was no blood and Jimbo’s hand stayed put.

 

Eddie had moved round the bench and began unbuttoning her jeans.

 

Jane closed her eyes, concentrated hard to recall what she’d read in the book, and screamed the words silently in her mind: I’m in control of what happens, but I need your help Gary. Please help me.

 

At first, as she felt her jeans being pulled down, she thought it hadn’t worked … but then she heard Gary’s voice again.

 

“Let her go.”

 

“I don’t think so,” Eddie said. “Why don’t you just walk on by. This is none of your business.”

 

“I think I’ll make it my business.”

 

“That would be a mistake. Get him.”

 

Jimbo released her. Immediately Jane struggled to get free, but Eddie held her firmly by the hair.

 

“Not this time, my lovely.”

 

She watched as Jimbo strode towards Gary. Jimbo took out his knife and plunged it into Gary’s stomach.

 

Jane gasped.

 

You are a force for good Gary.

 

Jimbo screamed as his body glowed bright and then vaporised.

 

Eddie let go of her hair. He walked purposefully towards Gary.

 

“The Devil’s dead don’t stay dead,” Eddie said and stabbed Gary with his switchblade.

 

Eddie glowed golden for a moment. He grinned, before vaporising.

 

Jane rushed towards Gary, intending to hug him, but he held up a hand and shook his head.

 

“No,” Gary said, smiling. “Goodbye.”

 

“Thank you,” Jane said as Gary faded away.

 

# # #

 

That night Jane slept soundly.

 

She did not dream.

 

# # #

 

There was no sign of Gary in ICU the next day.

 

“I’m sorry,” Nurse Vale said. “Gary passed away at about 9.20 last night.”

 

Jane nodded.

 

And then she burst into tears.

 

The End

Categories: Short Story, Horror

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