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    Mawgrim
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Hidden Secrets - 19. Seven of Swords

Someone is getting away with murder

We hugged each other for a long while. I hadn’t realised I was so tense until then. ‘Poor Maurice,’ I said.

Dan wiped away a tear. ‘I’m partly to blame. I told him to go home. If he’d stopped for a cup of tea, it might not have happened.’

‘You don’t know that. If those people were waiting for him, they’d have stayed until he did come out, no matter how long it took.’

‘Then that text you got…’ he shook his head. ‘Aren’t you scared?’

‘I’ll be extra careful crossing the road tonight.’ Actually, I was concerned, but I didn’t want him worrying about me on top of everything else.

‘You won’t be crossing the road tonight. I’ll come and pick you up.’

‘You’re off soon, aren’t you?’

‘After I’ve done an incident report and emailed it to head office. They’ll want to fend off the press, so best to give them early warning. I expect I’ll have to come in tomorrow morning to answer all their questions, especially as he was a former employee.’ Dan sat heavily in the comfy chair. ‘I don’t want to be alone tonight.’

I didn’t much, either. ‘That’s okay. I’ll come back home with you.’

‘I was wondering… maybe it’s silly.’

‘What?’

‘If I could go to Cynthia’s for the evening? I want to talk with someone I trust and apart from you, she’s the only other person I feel that way about in this town.’

‘I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. I’ll give her a call. She’s probably just watching TV with Nipper.’

‘Then I’ll drive back and get you at the end of the evening. Don’t go outside alone. Lock the box doors.’

‘Sure.’ I thought he was being slightly over-cautious, but then, I’d had the whole weekend to get accustomed to the anxiety the initial text had instilled.

As expected, Cynthia had no objection to Dan going round. I didn’t tell her exactly what had happened, just that there had been an incident and he was feeling shaken.

‘Thanks, Terry,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you later. And please, be careful.’

We kissed and hugged some more, then he went back to the office. I knew he’d be safe. Don’t ask me how. The earlier sense of foreboding had dissipated. Whoever had done the deed this afternoon would be miles away; the car dumped and burned out somewhere. The investigation was in the hands of the police, as it needed to be.

Now the cinema had settled down to something resembling a normal evening, there was plenty of time for me to mull over earlier events. If I hadn’t been ‘poking my nose’ and talking about the well, then Maurice might still be alive. Dan had blamed himself earlier. It’s human nature to go through ‘what if’ scenarios whenever something bad happens. But if I hadn’t asked Maurice all those questions, dredging up memories, he might not have drawn the attention of those who wanted the past buried. After Cliff had died, I’d gone through the same pattern of guilt, even though common sense said that even if I’d told him about my presentiments, he’d have ignored them.

As I made my way from one box to the next, I kept playing the events of the afternoon over and over in my mind. The screech of tyres, Maurice tossed aside. Broken glasses on the road, together with blood. They merged with other images I hadn’t actually seen; Cliff’s crumpled car, one among many in the pile-up. The wail of sirens and blue lights flashing. I’d never found out if he died instantly or whether he’d been trapped in the car, in pain, while the emergency services tried to free him. No one had bothered to tell me. All of those painful emotions began to filter through, like water finding its way past underground obstructions.

For distraction, I stared through the porthole, with the monitor turned up. Watching a film was a good way to lose yourself for a while. But while I laced up, or waited for a feature change, my thoughts always turned the same way.

It wasn’t a busy evening, so the staff must have had plenty of time to gossip. On my way through the foyer as they were closing the kiosk, Robert called me over. ‘Guess what? Brenda and Sylvia are gonna be arrested.’

I doubted that somehow. ‘Where did you hear that?’

‘It’s obvious, innit? Brenda wanted him done in for the insurance money, so it wouldn’t get eaten up in care home fees. Sylvia must have been in on it too, the way she went off.’

‘Sylvia and Brenda were old friends. She was fond of Maurice. I don’t think we should speculate when we don’t know all the facts.’

He shrugged. ‘Bet I’m right.’

I didn’t want to talk about it any more. I went back up to the box, made another mug of tea and considered how Maurice had been alive and with no inkling of his approaching doom last evening. The same images haunted me over and over again. The same thoughts of how I could have acted differently.

Eventually it was closing time. I hadn’t been looking forward to walking through the stalls area to switch off the plenum, but just as this morning, it was quiet. No ghostly figure and only the faintest whiff of a smell. I turned off the power in all the boxes, then went out to the foyer switch room to shut off the main lights before we all left together. Dan’s car was parked just outside.

‘Had a good evening,’ he asked.

I didn’t tell him how I’d been feeling. ’Quiet. Not many customers and nothing untoward. How about you?’

‘Cynthia’s amazing. She’s got a real knack for listening and saying the right things to make you feel better. I wish my mum was more like her.’

‘When people come to see her for a reading, a lot of the time they want to confide their problems, too. You soon learn to be a good listener.’ I paused for a moment. ‘Rumours are flying on the cinema grapevine, you know. I was told earlier Brenda was about to be arrested. Sylvia too.’

‘You can’t stop rumours, unless you’ve got facts to replace them. And I doubt the police will be sharing those with any of us, unless they want to ask more questions.’

We pulled up on the drive. Nipper ran to the front door to greet me. Cynthia had made fresh tea ready for us. ‘Was everything all right this evening?’ she asked.

‘Fine.’ I still felt subdued. ‘No breakdowns.’ Unless you counted the one fermenting inside the chief’s mind.

‘I didn’t mean that.’

‘I know.’ I should tell her; tell them both. A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say. ‘I can’t stop thinking about it all.’

She nodded sympathetically. Dan sat close, a steadying presence beside me.

‘If I hadn’t started asking questions, he’d still be alive.’

‘You can’t be certain about that,’ Dan said. ‘Maurice was reliving the past more and more. You didn’t make him say those things.’

‘Dan’s right,’ Cynthia said. ‘Don’t blame yourself. The one to blame is the person who was driving that car, or whoever sent them to do such a terrible thing.’

I wished I could believe that. The weight of guilt was still there. Now that I was at home, with people who cared for me, I felt it pressing down. ‘Why couldn’t I even have noticed the bloody registration number?’

‘It was probably a stolen car. I don’t think it would have made much difference.’ Dan tried to reassure me.

‘We just have to hope the police can find out who was responsible. It’s out of your hands now.’ Cynthia was being sensible, of course.

‘I might have put you in danger as well,’ I said to Dan. ‘If they find out we’re involved…’

Dan sighed. ‘This isn’t a film, Terry. We’re not dealing with master criminals.’

‘We don’t know what - or who - we’re dealing with. Remember Jack’s warning? They did away with him.’

‘That was a long time ago.’

I knew Dan was just trying to calm me down. Maybe I was jumping to conclusions, but someone had arranged for that car to wait outside the cinema. It had been organised and professional. ‘And what about this afternoon? What about those texts?’

‘Perhaps the police could provide protection?’ Cynthia suggested.

‘I don’t think they have the manpower to do that. Maybe if someone had tried to shoot me, or something, but just on the strength of a text message… No, we’ll both have to be very careful, until they’re caught.’ If they’re caught, I added silently.

Dan turned to Cynthia. ’I’ve been thinking that it might not be such a good idea for your ladies to come into the cinema on Wednesday, after all. Not when there’s a police investigation going on.’

She nodded. ‘You’re probably right. It can wait a few weeks. It’s waited all this time.’ She finished her tea and went to feed Nipper in the kitchen.

Dan leaned closer. ‘Sure you’re all right?’

‘Better for being with you.’ Better for having talked about my fears, too.

‘A good night’s sleep will help. Maybe there’ll be more news tomorrow?’

‘Let’s hope so.’

Cynthia returned. ‘You’d better stay here tonight, both of you. All this talk of murder has frightened me and I’d feel happier knowing I’m not alone in the house.’

She was giving us a good reason not to turn out into the cold again. Dan looked as relieved as I felt. Not that I didn’t want to spend the night at his house, but Cynthia’s place felt somehow safer.

‘I can’t promise another cooked breakfast, of course…’

‘I wouldn’t expect you to,’ Dan said. ‘Most mornings, I only have cereal or some toast. I’ll need to get in to the cinema early, too. Head office will want to fend off any bad publicity.’

‘Well, I’m off to bed now. Don’t forget to turn off the lights on your way up.’

We sat for a while and finished our tea. Nipper came back from the kitchen and curled at my feet, as if he could sense my fears. ‘It’s been a hell of a day,’ I said.

‘Tell me about it. When I was promoted, I didn’t think it would involve all this. The MBA course never taught me how to deal with murders.’ He turned to me. ‘Do you… do you think it’s all over now the police have got involved?’

‘I wish I could be certain, but my gut feeling tells me not. I don’t think they’ll catch the driver of that car, or his boss.’ How could you do it; just drive straight at an elderly man like that? Whether or not the intent had been to kill, anyone with a lick of sense must realise the possibility was there when a car hit a pedestrian.

‘So, what now?’

‘Bed time, I reckon.’ All of a sudden, I felt drained. The day’s events had taken their toll.

We crept up the stairs, trying not to wake Cynthia. Passing her bedroom door, I heard her softly snoring. Upstairs in the house was always chilly, so neither of us took much time getting under the duvet. I wouldn’t have thought I’d have been in the mood, but once we snuggled together, my body decided differently.

‘I’m not tired now,’ I whispered to Dan.

‘I can tell.’

‘Would it be wrong if we…?’

‘Why should it be?’

‘Well, Maurice is dead.’

Dan kissed me gently. ‘And we aren’t.’

He caressed me tenderly. We took it slowly. I felt his strong muscles beneath my touch as I slid my hands down his body. It wasn’t long before we were both hard, rubbing against each other with the merest touch to direct the friction exactly where I - and he - wanted. The building excitement finally put to rest all of the day’s turmoil. After we’d both come and cleaned up, we still clung together. I felt as if, with Dan, I could survive anything. Because I knew Maurice’s death wasn’t the end of all this.

The next morning when we arrived, the cinema felt quiescent, as if it too was waiting for the next move. Once inside the office, Dan locked the door, something he didn’t usually bother with unless he was handling cash. ‘Make sure you keep all the box doors locked, too, even before the public are in the building,’ he told me.

I got on with my routine jobs, stopping to chat for a while with Harold, who was repairing some broken seats.

‘Bad business about poor old Maurice,’ he said.

‘Terrible.’

‘Heard any more from the police?’

‘Not yet.’ I didn’t want to give too much away. Although Harold had always seemed friendly, anyone at the cinema might be passing information on.

‘So, what’s this about Sylvia being arrested?’

‘I’ve no idea. I think it’s just gossip. All I know is she was upset and went home.’ Sometimes, the cinema rumour mill could be annoying.

Harold finished screwing on a new seat arm. ‘I didn’t think she’d get involved in anything dodgy,’ he said, ‘But you never can tell.’

‘No,’ I agreed. ‘Best get on.’

I was lacing up in box one when I heard someone on the stairs. Dan appeared a few seconds later. ‘Glad that’s all done. I’ve been fully briefed by HR on what to say if the press calls. Now I’ve just a few more bits and pieces to sort out before I go home.’

‘Be careful,’ I said, shutting the projector gate and checking the top loop.

‘I was about to say the same to you. Keep your walkie talkie and mobile with you, just in case. If anyone asks to see you, make sure you know who it is.’

His concern moved me. ‘Of course I will.’

‘If the police get in touch, I’ll let you know.’

‘Thanks.’ I felt relatively safe inside the projection box, but of course I’d have to travel through public areas during the day. ‘If I see anything suspicious, I’ll call you.’

Dan gave me a quick kiss. ‘Take care. See you tonight.’

‘You don’t have to pick me up.’

‘I do. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you.’

The afternoon passed slowly. I took my trailer list down to Karen, wondering if she’d ask any questions, but she didn’t. Darkness fell early on a gloomy November afternoon. I was just heating up a portion of the Lancashire not pot in the microwave when my phone rang.

I stared at the display for a few seconds, not recognising the number. My heart began to beat faster in classic fight or flight response. I realised I couldn’t avoid answering it. Better to know than not.

‘Hello,’ I said, tentatively.

‘Is that you, Terry?’

I recognised Sylvia’s voice immediately and felt a wash of relief. I could deal with this. ‘Yes. How are you feeling?’

‘Still shaken, but not as bad as yesterday. I hope you don’t mind me calling. I got your number from Brenda.’

‘No, it’s fine.’ The microwave dinged and I opened the door to check if the food was hot all the way through. Deciding it needed another few minutes, I set the timer again.

‘I’m not disturbing your tea?’

‘No, it’s still heating.’

‘You see…’ she hesitated for a second or two, then carried on with a lowered voice. ‘I had to call. You need to know you’re in danger.’

I wasn’t quite sure what to say. How did she know that? Could I trust her? Was she being forced to call. My imagination visualised someone threatening her with a knife. ‘Are you all right?’ I asked. ‘I mean, is there anyone with you?’

‘Phil’s watching the TV in the living room. I’m in the kitchen.’

‘No one’s making you do this, are they?’

She let out a nervous laugh. ‘Bless you, no. They don’t know anything about this. They wouldn’t be happy if they did.’

I longed to ask who ‘they’ were, but didn’t expect she’d tell me. She sounded scared. ‘Don’t put yourself at risk.’

‘No one’s going to hurt me, or Phil. Not that he knows anything about what happened back then…’

‘In nineteen seventy-five?’

‘Yes. But I can’t talk about that. It’s best you don’t say too much, either. I told… them… you only knew what you’d found out on the Internet. Not like Maurice, poor soul. He was there.’

‘Look, Sylvia. Shouldn’t you go to the police if you’ve got information?’

‘No!’ Her voice went up in volume. ‘I can’t. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good.’ She paused. ‘You should probably get away from here.’

‘I can’t. It’s my job. I like it. And… I have other reasons to stay, as well.’ Jack had tried that and they’d got him anyway. Running wasn’t the answer.

‘Then just be careful. That’s why I called you. You’re a good lad and I wouldn’t want to see anything bad happen to you or him.’

‘It’s nothing to do with Dan,’ I said sharply.

‘Look love, these people won’t care about whether he knows anything or not. They’re ruthless. Please take what I’m saying seriously.’

I did. I was going to take it to the police, although I wouldn’t mention her name. I could say I’d had an anonymous call and delete her number from my phone’s memory. ‘Don’t worry. I appreciate this.’

The microwave dinged a second time.

‘You get your tea, while it’s nice and hot. I’d best get back, or he’ll wonder why I’m taking so long.’

‘Okay. Take care.’

‘Bye.’ She hung up.

I ate the food mechanically, barely tasting it. So, Sylvia must be involved, although perhaps she wasn’t in quite so deeply as some of the others. Was her warning intended, like the texts, to frighten me off? I didn’t think so. Sylvia had always seemed like a decent person and I couldn’t see her willingly consorting with criminals. She had never seemed frightened to talk about the past in the same way Maurice or Brenda were. Whatever had happened back then - and I was no closer to solving the mystery - she must have been out on the periphery. However, she was friends with Brenda. Could it have been Brenda who suggested Sylvia scare me? But Brenda had just lost her husband. I doubted she’d be in any fit state to suggest anything of the sort. No, if Sylvia had good reason to believe I was in danger, she must have got it from some other source. Someone out there wanted to get me, believing I knew something. They hadn’t hesitated to hurt a defenceless old man, so they obviously had no scruples. I should take her warning seriously.

After getting the early evening shows under way, I dug out the card from my wallet and called the number. It went through to voicemail - PC Branksome might be off duty or busy - but I left a message and my number so he could call me back. Having done that, I felt slightly happier, although on my way to and from the mini boxes later, I couldn’t help but keep checking to see if anyone was looking, or might be following me. I felt safest up in the top box; there were more doors keeping the public away from me. Had Jack felt the same way in those weeks before he finally left the cinema? It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. I wasn’t cut out for danger, like some of the action heroes on screen, that was certain.

Dan picked me up. He was chatting with Karen in the foyer as customers left screen three. Screen one had finished first, so I’d brought my bag and coat back down with me. It didn’t take long to shut down the remaining two screens.

Once we were in the car, I told him about Sylvia’s call and that I’d informed the police.

‘That doesn’t sound good. How deep is she in it, do you think?’

‘No more than anyone else who was working here at the time, I shouldn’t imagine.’

‘So, do you think she’s the one who’s been passing information to the bad guys?’

He was making it sound like a thriller now. ‘I don’t think so. Although she may have inadvertently let slip to someone who did.’ That figured. If Sylvia thought anything she’d said had led to Maurice’s death, no wonder she was so upset.

‘She’s taking some time off work, so by the time she comes back, maybe this whole thing will be over.’

‘Let’s hope so. I don’t like to think there’s someone out there who wants to hurt me. Or you, for that matter.’

‘They wouldn’t go that far. We’re in Stowbrough, not some crime-ridden inner city.’

‘You didn’t say that earlier. You were worried.’

‘I still am. But you can’t live your life being scared all the time. Sure, I’d feel safer if the police caught someone, but that’s not going to happen right away. After what happened to Maurice, they’d be sensible to lay low for a while.’

He was probably right. ‘Hmm,’ I agreed, wishing I could be so certain.

‘Oh, and I had some good news today. Karen told me she had a call from marketing department. There’s a local company interested in hiring out screen one for their annual conference.’

We’d been showing an advert in every screen to promote the use of cinema auditoria for corporate events. It was an effort by Crest to try and bring in alternative usage for cinemas at a time of day when they weren’t traditionally busy. ‘That sounds great.’

‘A representative is coming in to see me at ten-thirty tomorrow. Let’s hope I can sell it to them.’

‘I’ll put the heating on as soon as I get in.’ Screen one didn’t feel very welcoming first thing in the morning at this time of year. ‘And the decorative lighting, too. It looks better that way.’

‘Good thinking.’ He smiled. ‘“Harry Potter” in a week’s time, then, if I can convince them, this booking after Christmas. We’re definitely going to exceed expectations at head office.

Copyright © 2022 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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This story will update every Monday

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Story Discussion Topic

It is with great sadness I must announce the death of Mawgrim, Promising Author on GA. He had been in declining health for some time and passed away on Christmas Day. Mawgrim worked for decades as a cinema projectionist before his retirement and was able to use this breadth of knowledge to his stories set in cinemas. He also gave us stories with his take on the World of Pern with its dragon riders. He will be greatly missed and our condolences go out to his friends, family, and his husband.
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Chapter Comments

50 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

Yikes, this warning from Sylvia of all people really shook both Terry and myself.  I doubt that she actually was involved in anything but obviously knows more than she is telling.  And of course, covering up a crime is a crime in and of itself.  

I wonder if with Maurice's death will Brenda open up to either the police or Terry; or will she simply bury the past deeper still.  

I am becoming more convinced that the construction issues are the key to all of this.  I have talked to a couple of people that are in that trade and they say unless those involved in the issue with the well were in on it; you would never have been able to just toss a body down there and not had anyone find it.

More More More; and what do you think about twice a week postings....

Hungry Please Sir May I Have Some More GIF - Hungry Please Sir May I Have Some More Oliver GIFs

 

 

Edited by drsawzall
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2 hours ago, CincyKris said:

My current best guesses on who "they" is :  Trevor, Jenny, and/or Bob the builder.  I don't know if it's a sign or a weird coincidence, but when I typed the colon in the last sentence on my kindle, one of the word suggestions (the only suggestion that was not an article) was Trevor!  It didn't even give me Trevor as a choice just now until I typed trevo!  I know what Cynthia would say!  

How spooky. 

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2 hours ago, Thomas Haworth said:

What is the local company interested in renting screen 1?

Find out next week😉

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1 hour ago, drsawzall said:

Both Brenda and Sylvia appear to be conduits, that Sylvia made the call speaks volumes...I think the whole issue of the cinema deaths and the possibility of there being solved, points to someone who has much more to lose. It is clear that Sylvia knows they are...we've gotten to the point that the apple cart has bee tipped over and there isn't any putting them back the same way.

Having said that, keeping quiet isn't going to 'buy' anyone protection against further harm. More than likely, things may quiet down for a time and then all bets are off. 

What does cranky old Colin know, can Bob the Builder stand close scrutiny, and are Brenda and Sylvia safe...or guilty as sin???

Lots of good speculation here. 

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1 hour ago, centexhairysub said:

Yikes, this warning from Sylvia of all people really shook both Terry and myself.  I doubt that she actually was involved in anything but obviously knows more than she is telling.  And of course, covering up a crime is a crime in and of itself.  

I wonder if with Maurice's death will Brenda open up to either the police or Terry; or will she simply bury the past deeper still.  

I am becoming more convinced that the construction issues are the key to all of this.  I have talked to a couple of people that are in that trade and they say unless those involved in the issue with the well were in on it; you would never have been able to just toss a body down there and not had anyone find it.

More More More; and what do you think about twice a week postings....

 

Hopefully you didn't go up to those builders and say, 'Look, if I wanted to bury a body on a construction site, what's the best way to go about it without anyone finding out.'

Only a few chapters left now 🥲

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1 minute ago, Mawgrim said:

How spooky. 

I just stared at the screen in confusion for a few moments, then decided it was meant to be.  Keep in mind that I'm not a superstitious person, or prone to "big brother" conspiracy theories, anymore than the average person.  Perhaps you figured out how to get Jack's ghost to communicate through my kindle! 😱

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You are really building up the suspense very well...I can't wait to find out who is behind all the shenanigans 

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