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The Garret Room by Barry W Litherland

© Barry W Litherland

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7th Feb '17. With some modest revisions. Thank you to all reviewers for your comments.

Chapter 1- Prologue

The boy slipped out of the darkness of the alleyway and onto the dimly lit Glasgow street. There were a small number of people about, probably heading home after a night in the clubs and bars in the city centre. A solitary car passed him, its headlights momentarily illuminating windows and doors while streetlights cast a reflected glow in pools of recently fallen rain. A heavy sky glowered overhead and a breeze blew. It was after two.

The boy remembered his instructions. He pulled his hood over his eyes and kept his head down. He looked like any other thin, inconspicuous youth after a night out with the boys – blue jeans, a dark hooded coat, a small, dark rucksack slung over his shoulder. He had a furtive, hunched look about him like he belonged on those streets, a creature of the night hurrying to his burrow.
‘There are three cameras on the road but they won’t identify you if you don’t look for them. Keep your head down and your hood up. Turn down the second street on your right. There’s another camera on the corner and another outside the club. That’s the one to avoid. It’s monitored from inside.’

He crossed the junction and walked quickly towards the second. It was silent at that time of night and full of shadows. The buildings were all in darkness, their doorways drawing back into even deeper darkness as if hiding secrets. Half way along the narrow street dull lights emerged from one building. As he crept towards it he could hear music from within. He slipped into a dark doorway on the left some distance short of the entrance. Now he had to wait.

He knew what happened within those doors, inside that club. The man who hired him had told him. Now he knew the sort of people who frequented it, rich people who could do what they wanted because they had money and power and friends. He had none of those things. The man knew that and he was going to help him. This was his way out, his way up.

His eyes narrowed and his hunched shoulder tightened as he removed the rucksack from his shoulder and drew from it a dark, metallic object which shone dully in his hand. He held the leather-strapped gun grip and pushed it tightly within the pocket of his coat. He glanced at his watch – two twenty five. ‘Two thirty,’ the pale man told him, the man he met, the man who hired him. ‘He’ll come out at two thirty and he’ll turn to walk to the main road. He’ll be alone.’

Well, you don’t advertise those sorts of habits do you, especially when you’re in his sort of position, especially when you come from where he came from. He wouldn’t last long if they knew. No wonder the people who were paying wanted him dead; they weren’t fit to live, his sort. The pale man told him everything. He said he trusted him.

‘He deserves to die,’ he told himself now. He said it again and again. The boy knew all about people like him. Even without the other crimes the pale man told him about, he deserved to die.

Nonetheless, as the moment came closer, his hands were trembling and he was sweating. Fear gnawed his stomach. For a moment he wanted to turn away and run and forget the whole thing. For a moment he wondered what the hell he was doing out there in the early hours of the morning, with a gun in his pocket, waiting to pull the trigger and kill a man. Christ, he was seventeen – what was he thinking?

Then he remembered he was being paid and he remembered the man who was paying and he knew he had no alternative. He had made his choice. His life would be worth nothing if he failed. He gripped the gun tightly and shrugged away his doubts.

A door opened down the street and light and sound belched momentarily from inside. There were some hurried words; he heard a deep, foreign voice. Then the door closed and someone turned to walk towards him. The boy drew himself into the darkness and slipped the gun from his pocket.

His heart was beating faster now and his breath came in quick bursts. He was no longer trembling, his whole body shook and the strength had gone from his arms and legs.

‘I can’t do it,’ he told himself. ‘I don’t want to be here. I want to go home.’

Then he remembered how the pale man became suddenly very fucking scary and how he described the fate that awaited him if he failed and he remembered that home wasn’t worth going to and he saw the target pass him, a swarthy, corpulent figure, swaggering towards the main road, oozing self importance, indifference and power. Hate surged like phlegm to his throat and he no longer thought about the consequences. He stepped out of the darkness. He took steady aim and he fired.

Chapter 2

He didn’t run when he left the body. He walked quickly down to the main street and he didn’t look up. Even when he heard the club door open behind him and a blare of music burst out he didn’t alter his course or his pace. People were running down the street but he was around the corner and across the street before anyone reached the body. He turned right and then left and then right again, keeping to darker streets now and narrow alleyways between high, terraced buildings. As he approached an open piece of waste ground, littered with the rubble of demolished homes, a car slowed beside him, a black car with darkened windows. The front window slipped silently down. They boy glanced at the driver and then slipped quickly into the back seat.

‘Is it done?’

The boy nodded. He could hardly breathe but whether fear or exhilaration had gained supremacy he couldn’t tell. He tried to speak, to brag of his prowess, to describe the murder but his companion remained silent and eventually the boy, feeling foolish now to have exposed his immaturity in such a manner, fell back on the seat and looked out on the night time streets.

‘Where are we going?’

The driver didn’t answer. The boy tried to catch his attention in the rear view mirror but to no avail. Two cold, emotionless eyes, stared at the road ahead.

‘Can’t you tell me?’

The driver lazily turned on the radio. ‘Somewhere you’ll be safe,’ he said at last, ‘don’t worry. It’s all been taken care of.’ He turned the music louder.

After half an hour the boy saw the Clyde to his right widen towards the estuary and the car slowed and turned down a steep road towards a small harbour. The driver pulled up beside a deserted warehouse and turned off the engine. He climbed out and opened the rear door for the boy. By the time he had clambered out the driver was already walking quickly along the harbour wall. Without hesitation or even breaking his stride he swung onto an iron ladder and dropped down onto the deck of a small leisure craft. The boy clambered after him. A moment later the engine spluttered into life and the boat moved slowly out of the harbour.
The boy stood in the wheelhouse behind his new companion.

‘What happens now?’

‘There’s a merchant ship three miles out. You’ll be on board in an hour or so. You’ll be picked up in Hamburg and taken somewhere safe. Someone will be waiting for you.’

‘Is there anything to drink?’

‘Only water but there’s some cocaine in the drawer. He thought you might need it.’

The man thought of everything. ‘You want a line?’ the boy asked.

A flicker of a smile broke momentarily across the man’s lips but it was quickly suppressed. ‘I don’t feel the need,’ he said dryly.

The boy disappeared down steps into the low cabin. The man in the wheelhouse didn’t move. He kept his eyes on the distant horizon and headed out beyond the land and into the open sea. Even when he heard a cry from below decks and then a gurgling scream he didn’t move. He listened. The noises continued for a moment, a table fell, crockery smashed, he heard an unearthly scream, a groan, a thud as of a body falling heavily on a wooden floor. Eventually he checked his watch and cut the engines, waited a moment more, listening intently, and then stepped away from the wheelhouse and opened the door to the cabin. He stood for a moment looking down at the boy. The body lay contorted and twisted, the head turned upwards and the eyes staring blankly.

‘Jesus, what a mess,’ the man muttered.

Blood trickled silently from the corners of the boy’s eyes and from his mouth. A single red line trailed from his ear and gathered in a pool on the floor. His yellow face was twisted and his mouth lay open in a grotesque smile.

The man sighed and stepped down into the cabin. He grabbed the boy heavily by the feet and dragged him, step by step until he lay flat on the deck. He stood up and, in a business-like manner, walked past the wheelhouse to the prow where he raised a piece of tarpaulin and removed a heavy circular weight. He carried it back and put it down beside the body. He returned to the tarpaulin where he gathered up a second, circular weight. Finally he returned with a length of rope.

Despite his exertions he breathed easily with the assurance of a man in peak condition. He quickly secured the weight to the boy’s arms and legs and then rolled him to the side of the boat. A moment later the body vanished with little sound and sank into the abyss. The man leaned over the side and watched for a moment then he drew himself up and gathered a mop and bucket from the wheelhouse. He checked his watch.

‘Plenty of time,’ he murmured.

An hour and a half later the boat slipped unobserved back into the silent harbour. Efficiently, but without haste, he secured it to the jetty and clambered up the iron ladder. Five minutes later his car turned quietly up the narrow slope to the road. Half an hour later it turned into a scrap yard and five minutes after that a motor bike emerged and sped towards the motorway and the east. The next morning the car would be crushed and nothing would remain.

‘Easy,’ he said to himself as he left Glasgow behind. The boss would be pleased.

Chapter 3

Cyrus Vance was sitting in a bare room with a single table at its centre. Two men sat facing him and a third, in uniform, stood behind him beside the door, as if to intercept any attempt at escape. One of the men, his arms folded casually across his chest, yawned; but even as he yawned his narrow, dark eyes didn’t move from Cyrus. The other man leaned on the table in a business-like manner thumbing through a number of papers on the table before him.

Cyrus stared back, his blue eyes resentful and sharp despite the signs of recent distress in their dark shadows. He wouldn’t be intimidated. He knew the truth even if they didn’t.

‘Are you sure you don’t want a solicitor?’ The tidy officer looked up from his papers. ‘Just say so for the record.’ He nodded towards the digital recorder beside them.

‘I don’t need a solicitor. I haven’t done anything.’ He clenched his fists together, long, artistic fingers curled, knuckles white. He was fighting back feelings that threatened to overwhelm him. He wouldn’t let those emotions show, he couldn’t, not in front of these people who didn’t know him and didn’t know Leah and didn’t know how he was hurting.

The yawning, narrow eyed officer leaned suddenly forward. His chair clattered heavily on the wooden floor.

‘You’ve been saying that for the last three hours. I still don’t believe you.’

‘That’s your problem.’

The other officer looked up. He smiled; white teeth, neatly cut brown hair, tidy nails on tidy hands. He was about thirty five; his suit was fashionable and new. He had a business like watch fixed to his wrist. Even the watch looked as if it wanted to be looked at. D.I. Burton was on his way up the professional ladder.

‘On the contrary, Cyrus; I think it is most certainly your problem.’

D.S. Slattery laughed and then coughed. He looked as if he had been left on the ladder at some time in the past and forgotten about.
‘It’s your problem,’ he repeated.

‘Then why don’t you charge me?’

A dry, professional smile broke from one; a narrow lipped smirk from the other.

‘We intend to.’

Cyrus stared moodily. Ninety six hours, ninety six long hours had passed, with each minute burnt painfully into his mind – a mere four days – and the spiral of investigation had curled inwards and now span only around him. They barely gave him time to grieve. He was cold now, as cold as stone, sustained by an icy fury, a cold anger, a chilling resentment. But one day soon he would grieve.
‘We have two witnesses who can place you at the scene just before Leah died.’

‘They’re lying.’

‘They described you in some detail. There’s no doubt it was you they saw.’

‘They’re still lying. You should be asking why.’

D.I. Burton picked up a printed statement and read it closely.

‘You say here that you left Leah at ten o’clock outside her house. You walked back to the city centre and then, rather than taking a bus or taxi, you walked the rest of the way home. You were home by twelve thirty.’

Cyrus nodded. ‘I’ve told you all this. Why are you going over the same ground time and time again? There’s a murderer out there.’

‘We think we have the murderer in here,’ Slattery muttered.

‘Then you’re obviously pretty poor detectives.’

Slattery leaned forward. His narrow, bloodshot eyes indicated a narrow, bloodshot mind not far beneath. ‘We’re good enough to catch you.’

‘I guess that confirms my point.’

Burton smiled and put the paper back on the table top.

‘Why did you walk? It’s a long way.’

‘It was a nice night and I didn’t want it to end.’

‘It’s strange that no-one saw you. There must have been other people about.’

‘Perhaps I don’t have a particularly memorable face. How hard have you tried to find someone?’

‘Your account just doesn’t make sense, you see. There are too many problems with it. Let’s look at it in detail.’


‘Yes, again,’ Slattery pressed his pugilist face closer, ‘and again and again and again until we hear the truth.’

‘You wouldn’t recognise the truth if it wore a funny hat and waved a flag.’

Burton was unruffled and calm. ‘You left Leah at her front gate and you saw her walk towards the door. She was found an hour later half a mile away. How do you explain that?’

‘I can’t.’

‘Humour me. Speculate.’

‘She must have gone out again. Perhaps she got a phone call.’

‘Her parents say she didn’t enter the house that night. Her phone doesn’t indicate any call received after ten o’clock.’

‘Perhaps someone was waiting for her.’

‘Did you see anyone?’

He shook his head.

‘But you would have seen someone on the path or by the door – if there was anyone waiting. There’s a streetlight on the road just outside.’

‘Yes, unless they were hiding. It’s the sort of thing a murderer might do, don’t you think?’

Burton ignored him. ‘There was no-one waiting for her.’

‘I saw no-one.’

‘Then you see our dilemma. She never entered her house that evening. Her body was found half a mile away. No-one saw you on the street where you say you left her. There is nothing to suggest that you walked her home at all. However, we do have two independent witnesses who place you at the exact scene of the murder in the presence of the body and they are willing to swear to it.’

‘They’re lying. I was never there. It’s wasn’t even on our route.’

Burton looked at Slattery and sighed. ‘Let’s take a break,’ he said. ‘The DNA tests will confirm what we already know.’ He looked at Cyrus. ‘You could have made it so much easier on yourself, you know.’

‘I could have made it easier on you, you mean. You don’t want to find the real murderer, not when you’ve got me.’

The police officer by the door took Cyrus back to the small cell where he had been housed since his arrest. He lay back on the hard mattress and rested his head against the wall. He tried to close his eyes but the grief that he had restrained during the long hours of interviews would not be restrained. He held his head and sobbed silently.

‘He’s guilty,’ Slattery said.

‘Of course he’s guilty. We have witnesses to prove it. But I want a motive and I want CCTV footage showing him approaching the area.’
‘We’re looking but there’s nothing so far. There were a couple of short power cuts, remember.’
The door opened and a young woman entered. She whispered something quietly to Burton and handed him a sheet of paper. He frowned momentarily and handed the paper to Slattery. He swore.

‘There are no traces of blood on his clothes and nothing incriminating.’ He swore again.

‘We can still charge him. We’ve got the two witnesses.’

‘Keep checking the cameras,’ Burton snapped, ‘and find me a motive.’

Chapter 4

‘Tell me about Leah,’ Burton said. ‘How did you meet?’

Cyrus didn’t speak. His eyes, red and deeply shadowed with lack of sleep, caught the officer in a dark stare and didn’t let go.
‘Don’t you remember?’ Slattery smirked. ‘I thought she was special to you.’

They would never know how special. They would never understand. He wouldn’t waste his words on them and he wouldn’t speak about Leah. To talk about her to the leering Slattery and the cold, officious Burton would be like a desecration. But he remembered. How could he forget? It was the most important moment in his life.

It was snowing when he emerged from the theatre. It must have been snowing for two hours or more. The road was filling slowly despite the vehicles. It was that soft snow which falls in large flakes as if buoyed and floating. The dark sky was full of it. His thoughts fled from the town to fields slowly filling with snow, to silent cattle breathing wreaths of mist, to trees, their branches outstretched, as if to show off their magnificent new clothes.

‘It’s like Christmas,’ he murmured. He disturbed the snow on the step with his foot.

A girl on the theatre steps beside him laughed softly. He looked up and she smiled. She had blue eyes, like ice. Fair hair flowed over her shoulders. She was hopelessly dressed for the snow. She wore a flimsy jacket over her theatre clothes, fashionable jeans clinging to her slender legs.

‘It’s clean,’ he said. ‘It’s like a fresh start.’

She looked up and down the road. The last taxi had moved away.

She said, ‘I think I’ll walk, I love the snow.’

‘Do you have far to go?’

‘And miles to go before I sleep,’ she quoted, ‘and miles to go before I sleep.’ She laughed again and her eyes were bright. For a moment she looked as fresh and vibrant as the snow against the dark sky.

‘Can I walk with you?’

‘You don’t know where I’m going,’ she laughed.

‘I don’t care,’ he said, quite seriously. ‘I like the snow.’

She nodded. ‘Okay.’

That was how it began. He walked with her away from the city centre towards northern suburbs. At one point he slipped his coat off and put it around her shoulders.

‘Don’t be offended,’ he said. ‘You’re cold and I’m not.’

‘I’m not offended,’ she smiled.

He left her at the end of a quiet street of semi-detached houses surrounded by tidy gardens and dwarf trees.

‘Can I see you again,’ he called, as she walked away, her feet marking soft prints on undisturbed snow.

‘Call me,’ she said. She ran back and wrote her number on the back of his hand. ‘Soon,’ she said.

He had his own flat in the west end in those days. It was a long, long walk from Leah’s house. Months later he tried to recall that walk. It must have been difficult. The snow was growing steadily deeper. No vehicles ventured onto the smaller roads. Even the traffic on the main routes was thinning out. It was a night to be at home unless you had no alternative. He must have trudged through snow at times shin deep. He must have been cold and wet to the skin. He couldn’t remember. When he thought of it he saw himself gliding over the surface as if he had no weight. It must have been after three a.m. when he reached home. He fell asleep with her image in his mind.

‘A fresh start,’ he murmured and he saw once again, in his imagination, her footprints in the snow, leading from the corner of her street towards her house. He knew he would follow wherever she led.

He couldn’t say that to Slattery and Burton. He could imagine how they would snort with laughter. ‘How sweet, how sentimental; that’s very Mills and Boon, Cyrus. Do you expect us to believe it?’ They were hard men from a hard world with no room for emotions like these. ‘Have you been reading your mother’s romances again, Cyrus? Shame on you!’

But it was true, every word of it, so he remained stonily silent.

Burton drummed the table impatiently. ‘Playing the strong, silent type won’t work with us, Cyrus. We’ve got all the time in the world.’
‘I think I’ll have that solicitor now,’ Cyrus said quietly.

Slattery smiled unpleasantly. ‘The first sign of a guilty man,’ he murmured, just loud enough for Cyrus to hear. ‘I think we’ve got you.’
The two men left the room and Cyrus was returned once more to the bare cell.

He should have waited a few days before he called Leah. That was how you were supposed to act. It wasn’t cool to act hastily. But he didn’t care. He called her shortly after breakfast and they met that evening. The snow was still heavy on the ground but there had been no new fall and the main roads had been cleared. They walked along the banks of the Clyde and, as the night grew colder, they sat in a quiet bar overlooking the dark water. Streetlights from the bridge stretched and flickered and broke as ripples, raised by a gentle breeze, slipped and broke on the embankment.

It was that night as he left her by the gate to her house that they kissed for the first time.

Winter gradually gave way to spring. Flowers emerged in the woodlands and hedges in the countryside and soft green leaves burst fresh from branches. They went for a few days to Loch Lomond where they walked beside the loch and strolled up hillsides and through woods. The sun shone and caught her eyes and hair and he was enchanted. When they returned home they were engaged.
Spring rolled seamlessly into an unusually warm and dry summer. The roads and cycleways were dusty and, whenever they could, Cyrus and Leah sought the comfort of rivers and the sea. They made plans. They would move in together the following spring. Until then they would save. They were both employed. Leah taught in a large secondary school. He was a computer technician for the local council. Everything was perfect. They couldn’t have been happier.

He should have known it wouldn’t last. He could see now that nothing ever did - except pain and grief and the endless nightmare of loss and grief. He knew that now. You could trust nothing, no-one.

The door of the cell opened noisily and a gruff looking uniformed officer led him back to the interview room. A solicitor was waiting, a young woman not much older than himself, maybe in her mid thirties, fair, thin hair and a businesslike, manicured smile. He didn’t trust her either.

‘We need to show there was an alternative to the scenario they’re presenting. Can you think of anyone who might have wanted to hurt Leah?’ she asked. He could hear the doubt in her voice. He shook his head. ‘Was anything worrying her?’

He shook his head. He could only recall one moment in all their time together when she had been even momentarily unhappy. It was as if the sun had slipped for a few seconds behind a cloud, but it lasted only a few moments. It was something to do with work, he recalled, something transient and inconsequential and quickly forgotten. It was an afternoon in early autumn. He finished early so he walked down the road and across the park to meet her as she left the school. He saw her standing at the top of some steps, just outside the main double doors, talking to a tall, bearded man. She seemed to be remonstrating with him. He held out his hands and made calming gestures and spoke, it seemed, slowly and patiently. After a moment she nodded. She looked resigned but reassured. As she walked towards Cyrus she still looked troubled but then he waved and she smiled and he caught her hand and they kissed and then turned to walk down the street away from the school.

‘Trouble?’ he asked.

She shook her head. ‘That was the principal. It’s his problem now. What are you doing here?’

‘I was working nearby. I finished early. I thought we could walk through the park.’

He directed her through a wide, wrought iron gate, a coat of arms in its centre. There was a board beside the gate – opening times. The gates were locked overnight now and the arch in which the board was hung was topped by barbed wire.

A wide path led between trees and beside a small boating lake towards an old Victorian bandstand. The kiosk from which boats were hired in the summer had broken windows. The bandstand itself had graffiti sprayed across it and obscenities scrawled on its walls. Its wooden floor was scratched and torn by the passage of bikes and boards and the steps were fractured and broken. Sign of the times. Most urban centres had areas like this.

The trees and the flower beds, however, had escaped the vandals and there were quiet places, undisturbed and tranquil, where people could sit and enjoy the quiet of the park.

The trees were gradually changing and leaves lay scattered over the ground like items discarded from a summer wardrobe. A breeze stirred them and they span in restless circles. They found a bench beneath trees which caught the late afternoon sun.

‘Let’s sit for a while. I love the calm of the park after a hectic day at work.’

‘Has it been bad today?’

‘Nothing more than usual; I get too close some days.’

‘One day you’ll be old and cynical like the rest of them.’

‘I hope not.’ She looked out over the expanse of grass towards the solitary oak in its centre and to the mottled sky beyond, pale with pollution. ‘I hope I always care. I just wish caring didn’t hurt so much.’

He slipped his arm round her shoulder and her head fell against him. She sighed.

‘You’ll learn to switch off at the end of the day. You have to. It doesn’t mean you stop caring. It’s just a way of surviving.’

‘That’s what the principal said. ‘You can’t solve all their problems. No-one can.’

‘He’s right, I think.’

‘Yes,’ she murmured distractedly, ‘but what if no-one seems able help? What then?’

‘Well, it seems to me if you’ve done everything you can...’

‘I suppose so; it’s just...well...’

‘Oh nothing; let’s forget about it and just sit here and enjoy the park.’


Burton and Slattery entered the room. They looked formal and severe.

‘I think we have enough to charge you. Go ahead, Slattery.’

The next moment Cyrus heard words familiar to him only through television drama. They echoed as if in some unreal space, some dream world, as if they related to someone else, not him. He sat in numbed and angry silence and saw suddenly how easy it was for a life which was solid and secure to shatter like glass and disintegrate. He knew the awful futility of hope. Nothing for him could ever be the same again.

By the time the rich autumn had turned to winter he was alone. Leah was dead. He had fallen into a nightmare from which he thought he would never awake. He couldn’t see her clearly any more. He could sense her, feel her next to him, close, the warmth and smoothness of her skin against his, her hair against his shoulder, her soft breath on his chest as she slept; but he couldn’t see her. He couldn’t create from the darkness a face which was distinctly hers or capture her eyes or her lips. She wouldn’t come to him when he called. The harder he tried the more firmly she refused.

Only sometimes, when he awoke from a light sleep or when memories were stirred by a particular scent or sight, would she come to him unbidden, as if she wanted to be there, as if nothing had changed.

Everything had changed though. She was dead.

Chapter 5

Ten days later an elderly man came forward. He had been returning home from the theatre that night. As his bus passed beside the precinct his attention had been caught by the sight of a young man, momentarily trapped in headlights, weaving between bollards which protected a pedestrian area. He recalled smiling to see someone evidently so happy and unconscious of the old eyes that watched him. Then he read of the murder and responded to the appeal for information.

‘You’re certain it was this young man.’ Slattery eyed him distrustfully. He slid a photograph of Cyrus across the desk.

‘Oh yes. There’s no doubt about it. I remember him most precisely.’

‘Can you be completely sure? There was a power cut, remember?’

‘He was caught quite clearly in the headlights of the bus. It was definitely him.’

‘You’re quite sure of the time.’

‘Yes. I left the theatre at ten o’clock and caught the bus at ten fifteen. It passed the end of the shopping precinct at 10.27 precisely.’

‘And you’re willing to swear to this in court?’

‘Of course.’

They took his statement and Slattery saw him out. He swore loudly and stormed back through the door of Burton’s office and slammed it angrily. Burton sat at his desk reading the document.

‘I think we may comfortably accept that this statement constitutes reasonable doubt,’ he said. ‘He’s an unfortunately plausible and credible witness.’

‘Cyrus Vance did it; I know he did. He’s guilty.’ Slattery swore angrily and hit the wall with his fist.

‘Unhappily, knowing and proving are separate matters. We have no DNA links and most of the town centre CCTV cameras were out.’

‘Fucking power cuts.’

Despite Slattery’s private opinions, the following week it was ruled that there was no case to answer and Cyrus was released.

‘We’ll keep searching,’ Slattery muttered. He fixed Cyrus with snake like eyes, his face too close for comfort. Cyrus smelt his bitter breath. ‘We’ll keep searching until we find something to incriminate you. You haven’t got away with this.’

Cyrus stared back. He refused to flinch or to move. ‘No,’ he said, ‘but someone has. Remember that – someone has got away with murder and you have no idea who it is or why they did it.’

The police continued their enquiries but nothing new emerged. The two witnesses remained adamant that it was Cyrus Vance they had seen at the scene of the crime. The old man was adamant he was at the precinct. No new evidence was discovered. No new witnesses came forward despite repeated television and newspaper appeals. No motive was discovered. Nothing occurred that shed light on the events of the night. Gradually the case slipped down the list of police priorities. Unless something new emerged there was little they could do.

It soon became clear that Burton and Slattery were no longer looking for anyone else in connection with the murder.

These were long, dark, painful days for Cyrus. Freed from suspicion he began the long process of grieving. In the early days he barely knew how he passed from one day to another. Each was a torment and his anguish brought with it a deep, inconsolable pain. The future stretched ahead of him, a long desolate road which he hardly dared contemplate. He could not bear to think about it. It was enough to reach each day’s end and to sleep.

His family, of course, gathered round him and Leah’s mother and father, who had distanced themselves during the investigation, now recognised in his pain the image of their own. Only slowly did the sharpness of that pain diminish and become a dull, inconsolable ache which accompanied him everywhere.

His anger, however, remained the same. His was not a nature that could easily forget the injustice which had destroyed a life and left him alone to contemplate its cruelty and to face the awful consequences. His resentment grew. Eventually he knew he had no choice but to act. The police had all but given up. It was up to him now.

He packed a bag, gave notice on his flat and handed in his notice at work. His mother remonstrated but he was adamant.
‘Where will you go? The police have no ideas even with all their resources. What makes you think you’ll find anything?'

‘The police think I did it. They’re not looking – not properly anyway. They’re just waiting to see if anything turns up that will incriminate me and prove their case.’

‘You don’t know where to start. What will you do?’

‘Those two witnesses were lying. They said they saw me by Leah’s body. They even described me, right down to the coat I was wearing that night. I want to know why they were lying.’

‘Perhaps they made an honest mistake?’

‘No, definitely no; they described me as clearly as if they’d seen me right there, just as they said. But I wasn’t there. I was nowhere near.’

‘How will you live? You’re giving up your job and everything. What will you do for money?’

‘I have a little put by. It’ll last me a few weeks. There’s always bar work and casual jobs. I’ll find something.’

‘Where will you live? You can’t afford to keep your flat if you’ve no money coming in. Oh Cyrus, I wish you’d reconsider. Nothing will come of it. If the police can’t....’

‘It’s not that the police can’t, mum – they won’t. They don’t even answer my phone calls and they’re usually too busy to see me when I call at the station. If I ever manage to see one of them it’s always the same – ‘There have been no new developments; we’ll let you know if we discover anything of importance.’ But they never do and they never will. Their minds are closed.’

His father listened patiently.

‘He’ll do what he has to do,’ he said. ‘He’s stubborn, you know that. He’s always been the same. He’ll not move on until he’s tried to find justice for Leah. He won’t let it go; not yet.’

‘You think we should just let him give up his flat and his job?’

‘I don’t think we’ve an alternative. He’ll do it with our support or without.’

That night Cyrus made his plans. He would find those witnesses and he would get the truth out of them, no matter what it took.

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