The news blared through the speakers of a small transistor radio, which Johnny threw at the wall as soon as he heard the words, “Chief of Police.” He was a sorry sight today. His long curly brown hair was unruly and unkempt. On a good day, Johnny was very handsome; he had clear hazel brown eyes that perfectly complimented the slight tan on his light brown complexion. He was tall and muscular too. On his right arm, he had a tattoo of a dragon, a reminder of his Rugby Union days.
Today, however, he was hopelessly drunk.
His eyes were blood shot and he was dangerously sleep deprived. He had spent half the night looking at Bella’s case file, and the other half trying to drown himself in a bottle. The more he thought about Bella, the more he remembered what had been snatched from him, and the more the memories he’d pushed far away, resurrected.
The day Bella was kidnapped was the day his wife and son Kevin were murdered in cold blood.
Johnny took an emptying swig from his hip flask and staggered to his feet. He swayed uncertainly, and then grabbed the back of his chair to steady himself and cast his eyes to the clock on the wall. It was already 7.19pm; night had long fallen. Johnny’s eyes trailed to the calendar next to the clock and realised with a jolt it was the 13th of May. A year since his world crumbled. He tried to take a step forward and fell to the floor, sobbing desperately, as memories flooded his mind.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and it was odd to have the whole family together. Bella was on vacation from college, and was lounging on the couch, her long legs dangling over the arm of the chair. Alice was wearing a blue cotton dress that perfectly complimented her beautiful dark skin. Her deep brown eyes flashed with laughter as she played with Kevin on the floor. Even then, Johnny knew it was a memory that would have stood a lifetime.
Simple but beautiful. The sun-streaming through the open window, reflecting off Alice’s kinky hair.
Even before they reached the door, Johnny heard footsteps crunching on the gravel outside. Bella looked at Johnny, confused. They rarely received guests. Johnny reached for his pistol surreptitiously and waited. The doorbell rang, seemingly ominous, mockingly, cheerful. The sun disappeared behind a cloud and the warm room was suddenly icily cold.
“I’ll get it!” Alice said.
No sooner had she opened the door than the shot sounded. She barely had time to scream.
Two thugs stormed the house, each of them having a stocky build and wearing masks. Johnny jumped up and stood in the middle of the room, in front of his son and sister. He loaded a magazine into the gun and screamed, “Bella, grab Kevin and run!” Bella scrambled to her feet, grabbed the toddler and headed for the veranda. Thug number one beat her to it and blocked the doorway; they knew the house.
“Johnny!” Bella screamed.
Kevin was screaming too, at the top of his lungs, struggling to break free. He pointed behind Johnny. Johnny spun around and dodged a punch from thug two. He circled him, and locked his jaw. The thug stumbled backwards a bit, but came charging back at Johnny, who shot him. The man barely flinched. His accomplice said, “Kill the kid, I’ll grab the girl.” So saying, he grabbed Bella and covered her face with a towel, obviously dusted with chloroform. Kevin squealed in pain as his aunt’s limp hands dropped him to the floor, but he was silenced in a shot.
“Take care of the clown too,” the thug said, and Johnny’s world went black.
Johnny forced himself to his feet, and ran straight to the bathroom, where he emptied his stomach of the meagre food he’d eaten in the last 48 hours. He washed his face and decided he needed to take a walk. He grabbed his keys and headed for the door, pausing only to fill his hip flask which he filled as an afterthought.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[Photo by Ann Wuyts]