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Untitled (1989)

Prologue: Detroit, America, 17 April 1969, 4.22 pm

The junkyard was the gang's territory. Marlon and his brothers were asking for trouble to even go there. And an even greater mistake, of course, was to bring five-year-old Randy along with them.

Of course, it wasn't long before a fight developed. And it wasn't long before the gang got out their secret weapon....

A gun.

They would have used it, too, but it was dropped, and kicked away from the midst of the fight, away from the reach of anyone.

Except Randy.

Randy knew that guns were bad things, just as he knew that this gang, who were hurting his brother, were bad.

He aimed the gun at Josh, the gang leader.

In the second before Randy shot, Josh knew what was going to happen to him and let out a scream so terrible that no-one who heard it would ever forget.

Then Randy shot.

 

New York, 17 April 1989, 8.00 am.

Twenty years ago today. And he hadn't forgotten. Nobody who had been there, heard that scream, could ever forget.

Oh, they'd been clever all right, hiding the body so no-one could find it, so no-one would ever know.

But they still couldn't forget.

Randy sometimes had dreams, dreams in which the spirit of the long dead boy Josh came back to haunt him.

Randy wondered what Josh would be like now, if he had lived. Married, probably, with kids. Josh's folks had been rich, Josh would be living quite comfortably in a mansion with eighteen bedrooms and a swimming pool.

But Randy had taken all that away from him.

What would his parents think if they knew that their youngest son was a murderer?

Well, not a murderer exactly. Killing the boy hadn't been intentional.

But he was still dead.

And Randy had killed him.

 

Chicago, 9.05 am.

All Jerome Leech knew about his elder brother, Josh, was that he had been killed on his gang's territory.

But there were some things which didn't add up.

Such as the gun.

A .35 Smith and Western had been found near a junkyard in Detroit. It had his dead brother's fingerprints on it...and someone else's.

The prints had been identified as those of a five-year-old child.

And five-year-olds don't go around killing people.

Joshua Leech's body had never been found, but after interviews with various witnesses it was proved that Joshua had died between 4.20 and 4.40.

The time of the fight.

 

New York, 10.12 am.

Randy looked at the morning papers and promptly fainted.

The body of Joshua Leech had been found in a river.

 

Chicago, 11.15 am.

Jerome Leech was equally surprised.

"After all these years," he whispered.

With the facts the paper gave, Jerome might just be able to find and nail Josh's killer.

 

New York, 11.52 am.

Escape.

That was the first thing on Randy's mind. Then he realised that if he was traced as the murderer a lot worse things might happen to him if he ran away.

He decided to ring his brother Marlon, who had been there, at the fight, that fatal day twenty years ago.

 

Utah, 11.56 am.

The 'phone rang. Marlon Jackson put down his magazine and got up to answer it.

"Marlon?" The voice at the other end sounded strained and distressed. Randy, Marlon thought, recognising the voice in spite of its forlornness.

Probably had another fight with his girlfriend. Why couldn't he...

"Marlon!"

"Randy?"

"Yeah. Listen, have you read the papers?"

"No, why, should I have?"

"Marlon, the police have just found Josh Leech's body!"

Silence.

"Oh my God."

"What we gonna do?"

"I...I'll call you back."

"You gonna think out a plan?"

"Uh...yeah."

"See ya then."

Marlon put the 'phone down, wishing the police were as easy to convince as his younger brother.

 

New York, 2.00 pm.

Randy glanced in the mirror. He froze. The face in the mirror was not his own.

Whose face was it?

The realisation hit him like a slap in the face.

Josh. It was Josh's face in the mirror.

Close your eyes, Randy told himself. Close your eyes and when you open them everything will be alright again.

He opened his eyes.

Josh was still there.

 

Chicago, 2.18 pm.

Jerome yawned.

In his hand was a picture of the whole of Clavmore School (1969).

Josh was in the front row, smiling an evil grin.

His gang were in the photo.

And the person who killed him.

But who?

Who was it?

The kid was five. Had to be a first-grader, then.

The kid came from the poor side of town. Had to be, to venture into the junkyard.

There were (or had been) four members of the gang, Josh included. The kid must have had at least three brothers at the school.

That left one kid. Jerome flipped the photo over and checked the kid's position on the front, and then found his name on the back.

His name was Randy Jackson.

 

New York, 5.02 pm.

For the last three hours, Randy had been trying to convince himself that he wasn't crazy.

Josh was still there.

In the mirror.

Eventually Randy called Bernadette, from next door. He showed her the mirror.

"There's just you and me in the mirror, Randy," she said. "No ghost boys, no nothing."

I AM crazy, thought Randy.

 

Chicago, 18 April 1989, 7.42 am.

Jerome had spent most of the night searching for facts about Randy Jackson.

The most important thing that he had found out was Randy's address.

It wouldn't take him long to get there if he booked a flight.

 

New York, 9.02 am.

The strident ring of the doorbell woke Randy up with a start. He looked in the mirror and was relieved to find that Josh had gone. He pulled on his dressing-gown and went downstairs to answer the door.

Outside stood an elder version of Josh.

Randy let out a violent scream and slammed the door shut.

And then Jerome knew without any doubt that this was the person who had shot Josh.

He knocked again.

Randy opened the door a crack.

"Who are you?" Randy asked, plainly terrified.

"My name is Jerome. Jerome Leech."

Jerome saw Randy flinch. "You killed my brother."

"I..." Randy tried to speak, but his throat was dry and no words would come out.

Jerome did what Randy had expected him to do; he took out a revolver.

Randy slammed the door just too late.

The shot hit him in the arm.

Jerome came into the room and shot at Randy, who dodged the bullets.

Randy sprang at Jerome, who dropped the revolver. Randy picked it up and aimed it at Jerome.

Randy had only ever held a revolver once before.

And that was when he had shot Josh.

He didn't want to shoot Jerome. Not the way that he had shot Josh.

Jerome saw his hesitation and sprang.

Randy shot.

Jerome crumpled slowly to the floor.

Randy knew that he wouldn't escape this time.

There was no way he could place Jerome's body where it would never be found.

Could you get a life sentence for shooting someone, even in self-defence?

Randy wasn't sure you couldn't.

Could you get a life sentence for shooting two people, even if you shot them twenty years apart?

Randy definitely wasn't sure you couldn't.

Randy went into the kitchen and treated his arm.

Randy had hoped that one day he would forget all about Josh Leech.

But now, looking at the dead body of Josh's younger brother lying on the floor of the lounge,

he knew that he never would.


Robin Tamblyn (author)