Day 140 – Half Hour Hitman – Part 6

I sort of tried with this one. Fortrose is meant to be a heartless policeman. Did I get that right?

 

Word count: 1243

 

Fortrose rubbed the bridge of his thick nose as he waited for the door to be answered. The bell inside was echoing up the staircase as a pair of feet came thudding down and opened the front door very carefully.

The poor woman had not changed since the last time Fortrose has seen her. Still wearing the same dressing gown, Mrs Hawkins did not look like she had left the house in weeks. She exchanged a whimpering nod and a weary smiled with Fortrose and let the door swing further open as she hobbled into the living room. Fortrose followed meekly, last night’s whisky was still drumming in his head.

The living room had not been decorated for Christmas or New Year. There was no tinsel or tree; no presents or abandoned wrapping paper. Even the cards that were received were piled on top of the hearth as if they were first in line to be thrown on the fire. It was a complete state. Dishes were stashed in corners and forgotten about. Fortrose highly doubted that his mug had been cleaned since the last time she had offered him tea.

“W-w-would you like something t-t-to drink?” Mrs Hawkins stammered.

“No, no. I’m alright now,” he was parched, but he could not bring himself to be here any longer than he needed to be.

“Oh, alright then,” she perched herself on the edge of the armchair. “Any news?”

Mrs Hawkins would always ask this, but Fortrose had not yet the answer she was waiting for.

For eight long years, Fortrose had been heading up the Missing persons department. Eight years of distancing himself from the case; from finding dead bodies were their families had hoped and prayed for more; eight years of teenager drug addict runaways; of missing girls and disappearing dads. Fortrose might have said it was a tough job on his C.V or to his superiors, but he could not say that it was so any more. He had evolved into a brick wall against emotion. Each case was now just another hurdle of paperwork to him.

“Mrs Hawkins,” the hipflask in his inner pocket hugged his chest tightly, “I’m sorry, nothing so far…”

Mrs Hawkins slid down to her feet and stalked over to the hearth, staring at the mantelpiece blankly as if she were looking just beyond it. Her shoulders sagged and in a moment she was transformed to a withering wreck of grief and into an old woman who had lost all but the breath in her body.

“Where he is, where is my son?” she babbled to herself.

Fortrose felt uneasy. Suddenly the messy midden of a room got all the more claustrophobic.

“We’re doing our best –”

“It’s not good enough…” she reached for the stack of cards, grabbed a handful and started throwing them on the fire.

“We are doing everything we can to find your son, Mrs Hawkins. Your son has disappeared without a trace. We’re working with what we have…”

“Never missed a Christmas, Andy… never missed a Christmas.”

Fortrose was at a loss as to what to say. He was never very good with this aspect of his job. He preferred dealing with the case, rather than tending to family members.

“Are you sure Andy has not tried to contact anyone?”

Mrs Hawkins turned to give him a stabbing stare, “How dare you suggest that my Andy would do this intentionally? He’s been taken, he’s been taken!”

“Mrs Hawkins, no ransom has been given, we cannot assume a kidnapping…”

“He’s been taken, he’s been taken!” she was like a siren.

“We must look into other avenues… Andy may be needing some time to himself, he may be in trouble with someone or a gang, crime or anything –”

“Out! Get out!” she was fumbling in her pockets and drew out a lighter.

“Mrs Hawkins!”

But she simply scowled at him and bent down to light the cars on fire. They crackled as they burned.

“All gone,” Mrs Hawkins cried to herself as she watched the flames, “All gone.”

Fortrose looked down pitifully at her, before realizing what he should have spotted minutes before. He dove towards the fire.

“No!” Mrs Hawkins pushed him aside, but he fought back and grabbed the charcoaled card just in time.

“Who did you get this from?” he yelled intensely, shoving the remains of the card in Mrs Hawkins’ face, ash falling from it like snow.

The card was decorated in glitter and was in the shape of a Christmas tree. Sequences had been sprinkled all over it. Generically Christmas-y though it was, there was one thing that Fortrose was absolutely certain about: this had been handmade and matched the exact same card that he had seen tucked into the briefcase of the woman at the nightclub on New Year’s Eve. How he had known it to be true, he could only put down to his own honed photographic memory skills.

“Who sent this to you?” he asked again, more forcefully than the first.

“I-I-I don’t know…”

Fortrose’s face fell for the other side of the card where the greetings message had been was completely burnt off.

“What does it matter who it’s from?” Mrs Hawkins tried to claw at the card.

“Hmm,” Fortrose thought to himself. It felt as if it were at least some connection. He examined the card with his hands – it felt handmade, it felt unique. But it was identical, surely, to the one that he had seen? Could he have been mistaken? He took the card closer to his eyes and absorbed the contours of the card. His heart almost stopped when he read it. He had already looked over the card four times before he had seen it. Just underneath one of the thick black lines that defined one of the branches of the Christmas tree, were a tiny series of words in the same black ink…

“Mrs Hawkins,” Fortrose began slowly, “I think your son is alive…”

In a blurred vision behind the card that Fortrose’s gaze was still enchanted by, Mrs Hawkins’s attention bolted into life as if powered by lightening.

“How do you know?” she said carefully, her weak frame now morphing into a strong idol of hope.

“Because whoever has him, has written you a Christmas message, ‘Andy wishes you a Happy New Year.’”

 

*             *             *             *             *

 

 

Andy was still blindfolded. His nose was being held open as spoonfuls of food were being shoveled down his throat. He was retching.

“No, no more!” he dribbled.

But his hair was pulled back further and his nose clenched even more. Five spoonfuls later and he was breathing once again. His nose was unlocked from the finger vice and his hair was released from its tight grip. Food dribbled down his chin. He had no way of wiping it up: his hands were tied behind his back.

A moment later he felt a cloth wipe his mouth.

“Happy New Year, kid,” the man said.

Andy gulped his food down further. He resented every morsel he was given.

“New Year? When did it get to New Year?” Andy asked, his voice weak and fragile.

“About two hours ago,” the man said.

“Please let me go…” Andy pleaded for yet another time. He knew the answer. The answer was always the same.

“Sleep time,” the man said, jabbing a needle into Andy’s arm.

“Please, no, not again… I-I-I can’t….I can’t…”

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~ by S.G. Mark on February 24, 2012.

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