Part One of this story can be found here.
I don't know how far I'd run, but I guessed at a mile or so. There'd been no one on Main Street when I'd fled Johnson's place. It had been deserted, eerie, quiet. I hadn't taken time to look about for long, my legs pumping in time to the pounding of my heart. Even when I felt the burn in my muscles I kept on running, wanting to get away from the dead body, wanting to escape what I'd found, even though the letter was still clamped in my fist. It was the words that were haunting me.
It can't be forgotten, even now that Carter's dead. That boy is out there somewhere and I think he's hunting us down. Come on Johnson, admit it and we can all move on.
Admit it, man; do us all a favour and let's finish it once and for all.
Spilling around my head, dancing through my mind; the words said so much yet so little.
I was leaning over being sick into some bushes when I heard the gentle thrum of the engine, idling on the highway. I knew it was him, my lift. He'd found me. I wiped the string of vomit that dangled from my lower lip with the back of my hand, spitting acid taste and bile on to the grassy verge. Then I turned around, stuffing the letter into my back pocket, not wanting it to become a topic of discussion.
He was sitting in the car, staring straight ahead, waiting patiently.
I'd not given the driver any further thought for some hours, dealing with Johnson had consumed me, but now I came to consider what motive he had for driving me about, what was in it for him. It can't simply have been a coincidence he was 'going my way' and it wasn't fate that brought us together. Something wasn't quite right, was off-kilter and it nagged as I scrunched the gravel beneath my feet and started off towards the car still wiping my hand across my lips, trying to remove all trace of the bile flavour from my mouth. But, I needed to get to Foley's and with my best estimate putting the drive at four hours, I didn't have a choice.
Someone had something to admit to. I wanted to be there when they spilled their guts.
The landscape changed as we approached Fellingdale, a small community left isolated when the railroad had been usurped by the six-lane highway that encirlced the capital, fed by arterial roads that spread out through the rest of the country. A sense of urbanisation was creeping in: small, local shops began to appear; litter blew in the light breeze caused by the cars whizzing past or trucks clattering along; dogs ran loose, frayed string cutting into their necks leaving me wondering what they'd been running from in the first place. The sign greeting visitors might as well have said
"You're now entering a poor neighbourhood. Please drive away quickly, do not leave your possessions for one single minute. Trust no one. Now, fuck off. Consider yourself told".
Kids hung about on the street corners, dressed in shorts and dirty t-shirts, some barefoot. I didn't think that this could exist in today's society, such a forgotten community, a desperate and unloved neighbourhood breeding crime, hatred and disillusionment. Once, this had been a thriving enterprise, actually making the local maps in upper case: FELLINGDALE, a stop-off for salesmen, a centre for commerce, a growth town. Everything changed with the building of the ring road. It had occurred almost twenty years ago; Fellingdale had never recovered from that decision to construct the road and the downward slide didn't appear to be halting – despite the few shops, there was no evidence of chainstores removing the 'To Let' signs that adorned every third store.
Snobbily, I thought that this might well be the neighbourhood that my 'chauffeur' – that's what I'd laughingly started to address him as, yet there was not one peep out of him – would have grown up in, perhaps even aspired to live in. I guessed he wasn't fussy about those kinda things; just one look at him and you wanted to give him some change. Although he didn't smell of rotting cabbage, and he drove a car, every other part of him screamed homeless. Tattered shirt, ripped jeans, unruly hair in sharp curls that spattered off in different directions, as if Pollock had styled it. I didn't like how he made me feel about him, the sense of being better.
And, he was so damn quiet it was beginning to unnerve me again, a proper chill down my spine. I started to grind my teeth, look out the window at the pre-fab buildings, the bright shop fronts and the small groups of locals milling about in the midday sun.
I was pulled back to reality when we turned off. Within a few miles things changed. Suburban sprawl, but decidedly richer. Houses getting bigger; lawns neatly trimmed, set off with flowerbeds and sprinklers; "SLOW! CHILDREN PLAYING" signs announcing each new tree-lined avenue. And then we began to slow. Foley had done good, I thought.
But then I saw the sign: Welcome to The Fellingdale Home for Senior Citizens.
Gripping the letter in my clenched fist, I got out of the car, wanting to get away from this man who didn't speak, but at the same time apprehensive of what I might find and of what Foley might tell me.
I hoped that this time I wasn't too late.
This story is continued here