For the moment, the flat at the back of Mr Henry's store provided sanctuary. Deirdre sat upright staring through the kitchen window. Her mobile phone lay on the table; its screen still dimming from the call she'd just made. Quietly she waited and planned. Her thoughts darkly primed with a purpose that drove her far away from an identity that once defined her. All her married life she'd supported her family, putting her own needs second. This had been her upbringing. She'd seen her mother do the same for her father. She'd known nothing else and had wanted nothing else: until now.
The cost of not speaking out was evident to her in the most painful way possible. She had lost her husband. She'd allowed her dearest and only son to go out into the wilderness in search of him. And she may not see either of them again.
She had never, as far as she could remember, spoken of her deepest fear. She had never given it voice. She had never challenged her husband in the ways that he had supported and carried his brother, Colin. More times than she could remember he had bailed Colin out of one situation or another. Intuitively she had always known Colin's influence over her husband would one day bring them undone. The weight of all the years she had compromised herself through silence bore down as an unbearable load of remorse and regret.
She knew what she must do. And knowing this gave her a sense of purpose and perhaps even hope. A few minutes earlier that morning she had phoned Colin. He'd agreed he would call her back and make a time for them to meet. She recalled their brief exchange. He'd spoken in a way that she'd not heard before. It was as if after all the years of struggling to succeed, competing with his brother, disappointing his loved ones and family countless times, that he'd finally accepted himself for who he was. Deirdre did not know if this was her projection or his reality.
It was not long before her phone rang. She let it ring three times. Checking her tone she answered.
Hello, she said.
I can meet in 10 minutes, where are you? Colin asked.
In a flat at the back of the camping and disposal store, she replied.
I know the place, he said.
He hung up without a goodbye. By the way he spoke she imagined he was in the company of others. She was taking a risk but it was the only card she had to play. If he came alone she would proceed as planned. If he did not then she would play her ruse, feigning grief and ignorance.
Once he entered the room and she made the first move there would be no turning back. Her silence, complicit in her husband's demise would end: compliance would be only a memory. She made ready. And waited.
Not long afterwards, she heard a car pull into the drive and one door click shut. Deirdre wondered if others watched and waited but had to put this out of her mind. Colin entered without knocking. He stood in the doorway and surveyed the room. Deciding it was safe to enter he joined Deirdre at the table. He sat opposite her.
Thanks for coming, she said. Looking into his eyes she could see that all excuse and denial had left him. He held her gaze with a strange mix of defiance and torment.
Where's Andy? He asked abruptly.
His bluntness surprised her. She thought at least he would begin with some degree of civility or pretence. Her assumption was incorrect, whatever predicament he'd created for himself he was clearly now motivated by self-preservation: all niceties cast aside.
What were you doing in my house last night? She countered. Equally Colin was caught off guard.
I didn't want to wake you, he said.
Cut the crap Col, she said, spitting her words with venomous intent. Without warning years of pent up rage and anger erupted from her in a guttural roar. She was in an instant the revenging Boadicea.
Before he had time to reassess the situation Deidre leapt to her feet and shoved the kitchen table into Colin's chest driving him backwards. His chair began to topple as he tried to scramble from the force unleashed. Tipping backwards be reached behind him and screamed in pain. Deirdre had filled the kitchen sink full to the rim with boiling water. Colin's hand was completely scalded. He writhed on the floor screaming in pain at her.
What the fuck are you doing?
She was silent and swift as she executed her next move. Grabbing an open container of table salt she threw the contents into his face. Colin screamed again. Blinded and scalded he writhed and thrashed on the floor, as he kicked out at his adversary. With great agility she leapt across the room taking a small yet heavy cast iron fry pan from the bench – she struck him cleanly with its blunt edge, leaving a neat crease above his temple. Silence.
Colin was rendered unconscious. Deidre quickly tethered him to the chair. With great effort she got him upright. She lashed the chair to the table and placed both his feet in a tub of water. As she finished he began to groan and sob.
With dark anger and deathly resolve she began: You will tell me everything and anything that can help get my husband back. If you want to survive the next few minutes you will talk. Now! She screamed.
Get the stuff out of my eyes, he pleaded.
For an instant she felt pity, noticing the skin on is hand begin to redden and bleed. She suppressed her compassion.
Tell me where my husband is, she shouted. Tell me everything.
Colin exclaimed, I don't know where he is: Christ I would've told them if I knew.
Who's them? She asked.
Oh fuck, he said, Rocco and his crew. Who the fuck do you think?
Through disbelief and searing pain Colin was still coming to terms with what had just happened. Get me out of this Deirdre, what the f…
Before he could finish speaking Deirdre dropped the end of an exposed electrical cord into the tub. Colin's heart stopped momentarily and restarted as she threw the switch. He began to wail and whimper as he attempted to speak with a few, drool soaked words.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, he repeated. I'll tell you, I will, just please don't do that again.
He knew that if he didn't give her something she would most probably kill him, whether she intended to or not he couldn't tell.
I fucked up I know I did. I don't know where he is you have to believe me. He whimpered.
Tell me something useful Colin, she demanded.
All right, all right. Mal was bringing back a shipment when his plane went down. We'd had a huge fight because I hadn't told him about the deal I'd done with Rocco. I never thought he would do something like this, if I had I would never…
She cut him off again. A shipment of what Colin?
Drugs, amphetamines, you know? There was silence and he continued. This has all gone to shit. He started to cry. They'll kill me; they'll kill us all if they don't get their stuff back. He paused. Deirdre waited. She could see he was trying to say something.
Spit it out Col, she snapped.
They've got Mal's friend. The old man that owns this place. Rocco's guys caught him sniffing around, up at Mt Ismuss. They were going to do him but you called.
A shot of terror ran through her. She was overwhelmed as she tried to fit the pieces together. Then she flashed.
Why did they let you come here on your own?
He didn't answer.
Why? She screamed.
I told them I could get you to tell me what Andy knows and where he went. They couldn't get anything out of the old man.
Deirdre had heard enough. Without wasting a moment she took up the fry pan and hit him hard enough to knock him senseless. His body slumped over itself as she rifled through his pockets to find his car keys. She decided she would make her way out of town in the opposite direction to Mt Warner. If they followed her and didn't try to stop she would lead them in a wild goose chase. There was nothing she could do to help Mr Henry. If she wasn't followed she would find a cross-road and double back hoping to get to Andrew and Jenni. She grabbed her coat and bag without looking behind her and ran.