Estimated reading time: 3 minutes —
When they got back to the café, after burying William Andrews, the mood was somber. Carver didn’t cook. He opened a few tins of fruit, placed it on two plates and poured the syrup over it.
“Sarah, we must stick together.” He shifted in the chair, the fruit on his plate untouched. “You do understand how serious this whole thing is, don’t you?”
“Now is no time to play secrets here, Sarah.”
She nodded again, scrapping the tip of her boot on the floor.
“I think you should stay with me tonight. It’s not safe out there. We never know what freaking Palmer might do…” His eyes wandered outside the window, past the beach, the trash and the dock. He clutched his hand over his gun.
“I’ll be fine.”
“No, Sarah. You’ll stay with me.”
“Mr. Carver, I apologize but I’d rather stay in my hut.”
“It’s too dangerous.”
Yes, she knew that. She was definitely not going to stay with the cook. She wouldn’t be able to sleep at all. The café had a big window and an entrance whose door had long been destroyed by the winds and replaced by a beaded curtain. That offered little protection too, thought Sarah.
The night went by fast, too fast. The sandstorm left a fog of dust that struggled to settle down. She walked through the main street. The town was eerily quiet. Sarah wondered where Carver hid for the night. She sat at the counter. The stove was off.
“Morning,” he looked beat as he entered the café. “I don’t have good news, Sarah. I found Palmer.”
Apparently someone had been busy during the night and not hiding after all.
“I couldn’t sleep and went back to Palmer’s little temple. He was there, in a pool of blood. His stupid finger with the ring on cut off and placed on that cloth…” He seemed distraught. “I don’t like Palmer, you know that, but there’s something out there killing us. Poor Palmer is gone and it looked like he went through a rough time…”
Sarah nodded. She didn’t like Palmer either.
“We are going to die, Sarah…”
“We are going to die,” he repeated. He pulled out his gun and started disassembling it. Slowly, he slid a cloth over all the pieces. Then he reassembled it. Long minutes went by. “But I won’t go without a fight, I tell you, I won’t go without a fight. You should get ready too.”
Sarah knew that. She had been cleaning her guns ever since the first death.
“Did you do it, Sarah,” he asked looking at her.
“I was going to ask you the same.”
“Why would I kill that loser?” He put the gun back in its holster. Sarah watched the cook closely.
“Mr. Carver, why would anyone kill anyone? Everyone had a reason to kill everyone else. Old grudges, growing envies, pathetic rivalries. Six middle-aged men left in a lost town struggling to lead a normal life, fighting for their survival. There is nothing more pitiful than that.”
The cook started squashing the canned fruit on the plate, splashing syrup on the table.
“One after the other, wasn’t it? Was it fun? Did you enjoy it? It was impossible to stop, wasn’t it, Mr. Carver?”
There was a tense moment of gelid silence. The cook looked at her.
“Good luck, Sarah.”
She stared at him for a few seconds and walked out of the café.
It would be a long day and a longer night. She decided to stay in the crevice of her hut and pack her stuff. She had had enough of this town. She would miss nothing about it. At daybreak, a backpack over her shoulder and some food, and she would cross the tunnel in the mine to escape this nightmare for good.
The next morning, before leaving, she dropped by the café. Carver was stooping over one of the tables. She grabbed his hair and pulled the head back. His throat was slit. Yes, very dead. Sarah walked around the chair and turned the record-player on. Charlie Parker was playing “Summertime”.
“One of these mornings…” Sarah hummed the song softly. “…you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky.”
She grabbed an old newspaper from her backpack and threw it on the cook’s table.
The news on the front page uncovered the horrid rape of a young engineer, a single mother who had just settled in a promising town by the seashore. Six men were arrested, but acquitted during the trial. Mathilda Fairchild’s testimony was not enough to convict them and she had to endure their presence and unvoiced mockery for years. These were six men of completely different walks of life who in a night of partying and drinking together sealed their destinies irremediably.
It was done, Sarah thought.
“Good luck to you. Oh, wait… What a pity. Too late now for luck. Isn’t it, Ethan Carver?”