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Hopscotch
December 20th, 2013, 01:23 AM
Chapter 2 - The Commune

A full moon burned the cityscape with an unearthly glow. Marion drove them deeper into the night. The child lay on the backseat between Mr Rook and Anna. Mr Rook leant forward, “Marion, take us to the Commune.”

“Yes sir,” Marion hauled the fat Bentley into oncoming traffic. It cut a wide swathe through the automated cars, and slid out the city. Confused faces stared out of rain-streaked windows, as their vehicles took evasive action. Mr Rook marvelled at the patterns, a wake of trajectory corrections. The Bentley was off the grid, an anomaly within the system. Just the way I like it thought Mr Rook.

Mr Rook turned to Anna. “Why do they think can get away with it Anna? It is too, too obvious.” He patted the baby like a parcel. “Eating habits, days off, the weight gain, even the products they buy.” She nodded along. “Do we not watch? Even when we don’t the patterns are there, irregularities in the data.” He held up one finger, waggling it slowly. “The data never lies Anna.”

“Yes Mr Rook sir, you do make a fine point,” replied Anna.

“Oh and Anna,” he clasped his hands together and settled them in his lap. “Considering we couldn’t converse with mum and dad, a letter box scheme will have to be setup. I shall leave that with you.” She began to scribble furiously. “Remind them that they will have to name it… I think one letter will do, then cut them off.” Mr Rook Karate chopped the air, satisfied, he cocked his head back, shut his eyes and fell asleep. The rest of the journey was in silence. The baby made no sound its eyes fixed.

Large ivy covered walls loomed, dominating the roadside, a high hedge the other. The car glided up to skeletal gates. The engine idled silently as they waited. A woman’s voice crackled into the car’s telephonics, booming in their ears. “Good” Marion twisted a knob dipping the volume, “evening ladies and gentleman. To what do we owe the pleasure of you company this fine evening? And an Inquisitor no less. We are lucky.”

“Beth, we’re not here to go through your books. We have a child, and it is in need of your care,” said Mr Rook.

The voice laughed “Ah the dulcet tones of Mr Rook I hear. Come, come. It must be important.” The gates opened inwards and the car slipped in. Hidden behind high walls, high fences curved back over themselves hunched like old men.

The driveway’s gravel crunched under the car wheels. Headlights picked out high arches sunk deep with shadow. The building of stone was weathered by time, lichen and moss. As the car approached it was bathed in high wattage daylight.

A broad woman stood on the steps, a beige mac, heavy hung from her shoulders. On her feet, meticulously painted red clogs. The car halted at her side, she was flanked by two slim young men in red shorts, ‘and just out of puberty’ thought Mr Rook. “Welcome, my most honoured guests.” The broad woman beamed, arms held wide as the car doors opened.

“Ah Beth my love, you are as big as I remember.” Mr Rook smiled as he got out the car.

“Well thank you Mr Rook” Beth pulled her mac tight over her shoulders. “I hope you have had a nice journey. Come in, keep warm, we can talk inside. Where is the child?”


“In the back” he replied, as he jogged up the steps “Come Anna. Beth, get one of your boys to bring the child. He is in the back.”

“How old is he?” Beth said.

He stopped and looked at his watch. “About three hours and forty six minutes. See you in your office. Same place I hope.” He entered the building not looking back. Anna followed a heartbeat behind.

“Peter, go get the new arrival. Paul, go show Mr Rook to my office, and have him wait outside. Go now, run child.”

Paul took off, taking the steps two at a time, she appraised his nubile legs, tendons like slim ropes, pulling and pushing.

She turned and watched as Peter leant into the car, his small buttocks in those red shorts and those shiny brass buttons. Peter brought the child out delicately, cradling it in his stick thin arms. “Miss, Miss, he’s really, really small.”

She slapped him hard, the baby began to cry. “I know it’s a new-born. I do not need you, to point that out. Now go to Miss Splinter. Wake her. Tell her to care for this child. Toot sweet boy. Toot sweet.” Peter ran, legs a blur, baby in tow and a red welt rising on his cheek. Beth followed him, a slow step at a time.

Through the decaying oak corridors Beth hobbled. The building awash with stone faces deep in the walls, they gazed out like bodies in a grave. Ribbons of rock festooned the spaces in-between. It was old, and it smelled old.

The tap, tap of her foot-march echoed through the hallways. She reached her office, no-one was waiting. The boy Paul was nowhere to be seen. She noted a light from under her door. As she approached voices came, dulled by thick carpets and old wood. She put her hand to the brass handle and twisted, the cool metal felt good, she closed her eyes shuddering, tension building inside her.

Beth opened her eyes, she was in the doorway. She let go of the handle and the door swung shut. Beth’s lamp was switched above its usual dull setting. Rook leant back in his chair, precarious on two feet. The black boots on her desk reflected his face. He watched her in the mirror of his shoes. He turned his head and smiled, “ah the lady of the moment. Welcome.”

She coolly limped to her chair behind the desk. She lowered herself into the seat and said, "So how can we help you today Mr Rook? And may I say how good it is to see you." She smiled her most convincing smile.

"Here we have the poacher turned gamekeeper, come, come Beth, you can leave the civility at the door, we are amongst friends." He lazily gestured to the rest of the room.

Beth saw Anna, hugged by darkness in one corner. Arms crossed over a clipboard, head down, as if she were switched off. Peter stood pressed against a wall, eyes wide. She glanced in his direction, he winced.

"You always did defeat me Rook, even when we were kids. Are you happy now, are you satisfied?" She glowered at him over the table.

"Ha" he smiled, "darling, the old fight is still in you, I remember it so well." He grinned bearing his teeth and leaned forward. "I could crush you, so you best remember your place. I think, I preferred it when you were being nice."

"I don't have to do anything for you Rook," she spat.

"Oh on the contrary my sweet precious Beth. You do what I want, when I want and how I want. You do anything… But I only ask, one, small, thing. Take this child into your care. No papers, no ID and not remembered."

"And where, exactly, do I say it came from?"

"Left on your doorstep, what do I care, make something up. You always were good at stories."

"Or what, what will the great Rook do to me, in my home."

"We know you fool."

"Know what?" Her voice was ice.

"Know eevvveerryytthhiinngg." His head rolled, chewing the word. He looked levelly, back into her eyes. She stared back the silence thickened.

He waded in, “we know you love your boys. I mean really, really love your boys.” He pushed on, “we know you don’t like competition, hmm?” The air hung heavy. Someone stifled a cough. “You, you don’t like that do you? Boy, leave the room.” Peter scurried out of the room. “No you don’t like it at all. You spoil the looks of the ones you feel competing for the affections of these pint-sized Casanovas.” He leant further forward, “but your jealousy doesn’t end there, does it?”

He began rapidly before she could answer. “What lies to the North? You can answer that.”

“Sports fields, get to the point. Some of the girls had accidents… so what.” She fidgeted, uncomfortable.

“What lies to the East?”

“The dormitories and…”

“South?”

“You know this Rook, the wall, the high wall.”

“And the West, what lays there my sweet Bethany.”

“You know.”

“I know. I Know. But I want you to tell me.”

“… The Bog.” She said quietly.

“The what? I didn’t quite hear you there, again please.”

“The Bog.”

“Ahhh, THE. BOG. Have you ever heard of a Bog Mummy? You see, I have hobbies. I know. Rook has hobbies. What could they be? Well mine, is Anthropology.” He picked up a paper clip and began to twist it as he talked. The thing was probably an antique he thought. “Do you know what Anthropology is? It’s the study of human-kind past and present. Bog Mummies are things of the past… come back to haunt us, or inform us.” He smiled, she didn’t give anything away, but then again she wasn’t giving anything back. “You see Bethany decaying plants create a very acidic mud, this in turn prevents bacteria from growing. It also acts as a highly effective preservative. So when a mammal happens to fall into the mud… a perfectly preserved mummy is formed, a bog mummy if you will.” He sat back. “Did you know they found a body of a man that dated back to 300 B.C. The corpse still had hair, skin, and internal organs.”

“And your point?”

“You are not that stupid Bethany.” His face blank. “There have been 13 young women that have left your stewardship. How many do you think I would find Bethany? If I looked Beth, if I really looked, I am an Inquisitor after all, where is it that my gaze cannot wander?” he opened his hand like a flower.

“…”

“Well I did look, and I looked, and I looked and lo what did I find? Miss Jane Priestly, a rather plane looking girl. But of the other 12 you ask? These girls have just disappeared… Poof, like that… not a whiff… not a hair. So where are they? I believe I can hazard a guess, can you? I believe you can Bethany.” Her face drained of colour, he waited letting the words do their damage, savouring the moment.

“Shall I name them?”

“No fuck you.”

“Ok let’s start.”

“No rook”

“Latvia Ahmed”

“Rook.”

“Daniela Pieri.”

“Rook don’t.”

“Lisa knoble.”

“Rook… ok stop.”

“Tracey Williams - she wanted to be an archaeologist, did you know that?” he smiled.

“Rook, please.” She fell from her chair.

“Mary Wordsworth.”

“Oh god.” Face upturned eyes streaming.

“Billy Trude.”

“ROOK PLEASE.” She retched and crawled on the floor like a dog.

“Beverly and Amy Trunk.”

“O...h… G…o...d.” She breathed sharp, shallow breaths, gasps of pain.

“Florence Goode… Francisca Tasso… and last, but not least Jo Dean.”

She sat bewildered a mess of the woman she had been, she stared eyes fixed on the floor.

“You see Beth you have owed me this favour for a very, very, long time. It’s now time to pay and pay you will. I own you Beth. I’m not asking much, so take the child, shut your mouth and do what I say. You can even run this place as you like, you see Beth I don’t actually care”

She looked up, confusion in her face “Yes, yes, of course… So you are not going to arrest me? I just take the child>”

“Yes as it was, I don’t even want the child given preferential treatment, just like any other waif in this god forsaken hole. And you, you depraved bitch can get back to whatever it is that gets you of. Goodbye Beth, I’m sure we’ll meet again.”

Mr Rook spirited out of his chair and out the door, Anna followed.

They walked down the hall watched by hollow eyes. “Forgive me sir, but are you sure the child should be offered no protection whist here?” Anna said.

Rook stopped, turned on the spot. Anna flinched. He looked at Anna strangely, light played across his eyes. “I grew up here Anna, in these walls. It did me no harm. We need a hot fire to work a forge. Besides the bitch that ran this place before makes Bethany Crick look like Mother fucking Teresa.” He turned and walked on into the night.

Hopscotch
December 20th, 2013, 01:25 AM
Ok its a little rough - well allot rough in places - any tips, advice or plain old what you didnt like - if its the whole piece thats fine, if you know why thats better! Cheers!