Murphy barked before slamming the car door in Potter’s face.
Miserable old fart, I thought to myself as Murphy walked away from the car with Kiera.
The old guy was getting crankier by the day. But Murphy was the least of my problems, we had always bitched at one another. It was my relationship with Kiera I was most worried about.
How would I ever convince her it was just her I wanted – the person I loved most? I had fucked up a lot in my life, but this was the mother of all fuck-ups. If you could win the gold at the Olympics for the biggest screw-up, I’d be up there on the podium, clutching the gold, silver, and bronze medals.
How would I ever get her to listen to me?
If only Kayla were here. She might be able to convince Kiera for me. But I had to tell Kiera; that was the whole point, wasn’t it? How? I’d tried telling her, hadn’t I? I even told her how hot she looked in the police uniform. All women want to hear that kinda shit, didn’t they? I must be missing something – but what? Fuck if I knew what it was, I thought, scratching my head.
I took a cigarette from the crinkled packet in my pocket. There was only one left. Bollocks! I peered through the window and out into the night.
There wasn’t going to be a shop for freaking miles. Then, through the darkness and slow falling snow, I saw what looked like a small kiosk, the kind of place visitors to the campsite could buy maps of the local area, throwaway raincoats, and that sorta shit. Pushing open the car door, I climbed out. I looked back over my shoulder to see Kiera and Murphy talking to a thickset-looking guy standing in the open doorway of the cottage.
“Sorry, but we’re closed for the winter,” I heard the guy at the door say. “You’re out of season by about three months.”
“We only want to stay a night,” Murphy said, fishing a roll of bank notes from his pocket.
I didn’t doubt for a minute that Murphy would convince the campsite owner to let us use one of his caravans for the night. Murphy had his own unique way of convincing people to give him what he ultimately wanted. I looked away and headed through the wind and the snow to the small kiosk. It was locked up and the lights were out.
Just like the guy said, we were out of season.
Leaning against the wall of the kiosk was a Coke dispenser, and next to that was a cigarette machine.
“A tenner for a pack of smokes!” I breathed, reading the price printed on the front of the machine. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I knew I didn’t have any money on me, and I wasn’t going to go begging from Murphy.
I peered around the side of the kiosk and could see the others still talking outside the cottage. Turning back to the machine and extending my claws, I punched a hole in the front and grabbed for a pack of the cigarettes. Before I’d even had a chance to snatch a packet, a hideous alarm started to screech. It was ear-splitting.
“What’s going on?” I heard the campsite owner boom.
I glanced around the edge of the kiosk again to see the guy step away from Murphy and Kiera and come rushing over to the kiosk.
“Shut the fuck-up!” I hissed at the machine, pounding the top of it with my fist. The alarm continued to scream its high-pitched wail into the night.
Knowing that I would never be able to silence the damn thing before the owner got to me, I reached inside and grabbed as many packs of smokes I could hold and began to stuff them into my coat pockets.
“What’s going on here?” a voice suddenly boomed from behind me.
“Your freaking machine’s throwing a fit, that’s what’s going on,” I snapped. “It swallowed up my money quick enough and then wouldn’t pay out.”
“The front of it is smashed!” the man hollered, looking down at the machine.
“Probably the reason it’s broken,” I said, looking at him. “Kids these days! I don’t know – bloody vandals the lot of them. Prison – that’s what they need.”
“What kids?” the man asked, reaching behind the machine and switching off the alarm.
“The kids who vandalised your machine,” I told him. “Christ knows how kids are being raised these days. They were probably stealing the smokes for their parents...”
“Who are you?” the campsite owner suddenly cut in.
“He’s with us,” Murphy said, suddenly appearing around the side of the kiosk. Then, glaring at me, Murphy quickly added, “I thought I told you to wait in the car?”
“I’m not a freaking pet dog,” I shot back.
“What’s going on here?” the man cut in again, looking ever more confused with each passing moment.
“You’ll have to forgive my nephew,”
Murphy said, looking back at the man. “He is a little bit simple – you know, has learning difficulties.”
“Retarded, you mean?” the man asked, eyeing me, now with some pity in his eyes.
“I’m not a freaking re...” I started.
“And I’m his social worker,” Kiera cut over me, taking me gently by the arm. Then, looking at me, she smiled sweetly and added, “Come on back to the car, Gabriel. You’ll be safe and warm there. Let Uncle Murphy pay for the damage you’ve caused.”
“This is un-fucking-believable...!” I started.
“Shhh now,” Kiera hushed gently, easing me away by the arm. “Don’t get yourself upset, Gabriel. We’ll find some other place to stay tonight. Then tomorrow you’ll be safe and sound back in your secure unit.”
As Kiera led me around the side of the kiosk and back towards the car, I heard the campsite owner speak to Murphy and say, “Jeez, I didn’t realise you had...a...”
“It’s okay,” Murphy cut in. “It’s been a long drive and my poor nephew has become rather upset and confused.”
“Look, I’ve got a couple of spare caravans you can use for the night. They’re not much, they haven’t been cleaned since last summer, but they’re warm, and I’ll switch on the hot water at the pump so you can all freshen up,” the owner said, sounding apologetic.
“Please don’t put yourself to any bother on our account,” Murphy started.
“No bother at all,” I heard the owner say.
It looks like you’ve got enough to deal with. And besides, I wouldn’t be able to rest knowing that I had turned you and your troubled nephew away.”
“Troubled!” I hissed at Kiera, yanking my arm free. “I ain’t troubled.”
“Just be quiet,” Kiera hissed at me. “You want somewhere warm to sleep tonight, don’t you?”
“I’d rather sleep standing up in the freaking snow!” I spat.
“That can be arranged!” Kiera shot back.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” I whispered at her, as Murphy and the man headed back towards the cottage.
“Enjoying what?” she said, from the corner of her mouth.
“Watching me being humiliated like this,” I said back. “You’re not my freaking social worker!”
“So what am I?” Kiera snapped, looking at me. “What exactly do I mean to you?”
Everything, I wanted to say, but before I’d had a chance, Murphy was jangling two sets of keys in my face.
“Cheer up, Gabriel – we’ve got ourselves a place to sleep tonight.”
“Awesome,” I growled, watching Murphy and Kiera turn and head towards a row of desolate-looking caravans in the distance.
We reached a row of static caravans.
They stretched away to the right and left, into the darkness. Murphy held the keys up and checked the door numbers, which were printed on little plastic tags.
“Twenty-four and twenty-five,” he muttered to himself.
“Over here,” Kiera said, heading towards two caravans that stood apart from the rest.
These were bigger than the others and looked more like mobile homes. This must be where the more discerning camper stayed, I thought to myself as I followed her.
“You take twenty-five,” Murphy said, handing Kiera the key to the mobile home.
Kiera took it, heading up a short set of concrete steps which led to the door. She opened it, switched on the light, then stepped inside.
“See you later, alligator,” I said.
Kiera closed the door without saying anything. Perhaps she hadn’t heard me, I thought.
“See you later, alligator?” Murphy grunted.
“What’s that s’posed to mean?”
“Forget it,” I said, heading up the short set of steps to our mobile home.
Murphy followed, slipped the key into the lock, and pushed open the door. He flicked on the light, closing the door behind us. The mobile home was long and narrow. There was a sofa running down the length of the far wall, and I guessed it opened out to form a bed. There was a small T.V.
set mounted on the wall with an iron bracket. On the other side of the room was a kitchenette with a cooker and fridge. To the right of Murphy, were two narrow doors set into a dividing wall. Murphy pushed one of them open.
“That’s the crapper,” he said. He peered behind the second door and added, “The bedroom.”
“I’ll take the sofa,” I said crossing the room and flopping down onto it. The cushions were soft and spongy. I lay back, placed my fingers behind my head, and crossed my feet at the ankles.
“What’s got into you?” Murphy mumbled.
“You’re about as much fun as the plague.”
“You told that guy I had issues,” I scowled.
“You do,” Murphy said, turning on the hot tap over the sink. A stream of steaming water tumbled out. “The hot water’s on so at least we can shower.”
“You think it’s all just a big laugh, don’t you?” I said, looking at Murphy.
“What’s that?” he said, turning off the tap and taking his pipe from his pocket.