“Where’ve you been?” Eminem snapped as I was led through the steel door and back to the dormitory where I had been removed earlier that night. The chains that rattled against my ankles and biting against my wrists as I shuffled back towards the dormitory. The white overalls that whipped against my arms.
The spotlights had been dimmed so that the large room where we slept was barely illuminated with an amber hue. Overhead the stars flickered and sparkled beyond the wire framed glazing. Rough-hewn beams of timber that spanned the roof so that it felt as though we were all entombed within a tomb. Running beneath the timber eaves I could spy a line of delicately sculptured figures that were peering down upon the floor below. And it was funny, I thought, that I’d never noticed those little sculpted figures perched all the way up there before now. Because I reckoned, I’d have remembered their gargoyle faces and how some of them were lifting their wings so that the folds of webbing could be seen beneath their arms.
The gorilla nurse who had led me here removed a set of keys from his belt and I watched as he cautiously leaned in towards me with them.
“Don’t move!” He said as he unbuckled one end of my shackles as he leaned towards the end of my bed to fasten the other end against a loop of iron that was hanging from one corner of my bed. The keys jangling beside the side of my ears as he struggled with the lock. And for the briefest of moments I reckoned I could leap forwards and overpower the guard and pull myself away from him before he was able to fasten me firm against the iron loop. But I didn’t.
The guard studied me cautiously as he backed away towards the steel door and out of the dormitory.
“Bunch of loonies.” He said, studying each of us in turn and the fear and trepidation that could be seen flickering against his eyes until finally he disappeared towards the shadows and the door was closed firmly behind him. A sharp jolt of metal that echoed about our dormitory and the stars sparkling down from above.
“What you on about?” I replied, turning my face to Eminem who remained propped upon the mattress of his bed across from mine. The thick vein that throbbed against his neck so that it appeared as thought the skeleton tattoo was laughing.
“I said where the hell have you been?” he repeated, the menace to his words and his eyes that were narrowed like a snake.
“Nowhere.” I replied, and I was kind of right with that I thought, as all I could recall was a dark well where I had fallen towards within my mind.
“Like fuck nowhere!” Eminem said, the sweat now beading against his forehead and the folds of skin against his brow that were all scrunched up and angry looking. And I almost burst out laughing there and then at the sight of him and his pointless rage. “Sister Dixon has been interrogating you hasn’t she!” He exclaimed, turning his ruddy face from me and casting his accusing gaze towards the other loonies who were propped up jauntily against their pillows. Each of them studying me as though I were a pile of dog poo they had stepped in. And I didn’t much care for that one bit. “You were telling Dixon why those crazy-ass voices in your head told you to kill Barry.”
“I didn’t kill Barry! What nonsense are you talking about?” I said, and I was angry then at the accusation, what with all the other loonies looking at me like dog poo and all. Ariana still hidden beneath her bed sheets and sobbing now and then and making a kind of whimpering sound that reminded me of the noise that Rocky made that night we had found Adam swinging upon the noose beneath the old oak tree.
And death that had sought me out once more it seemed.
Death that had sought me out.
“Like fuck you didn’t kill him!” Eminem barked in response and I was getting tired of his voice now and looking forwards to the day that Eminem finally met his own grizzly end in here. But I didn’t say anything to him about that of course. So instead I shook my head and turned to Ariana beside me and leaned a little from my bed as I reached my hand towards her. And for a moment, the girls’ eyes went wide like Bambi’s and her bottom lip began to wobble. So, I pulled my hand back from her and she seemed to calm a little then at least. So that was good.
“Why did you do it Mandy? Why’d you kill Barry?” A girl’s voice called out nearby, and the tears that were heard against her voice.
I turned my face away from Ariana and all the way around towards Rag ‘n’ Bone’s empty bed. I could see that the covers were all crumpled and scrunched up to one side and a half-eaten packet of jammy dodgers that were laying discarded on the floor. And that made me real sad. I lifted my face from the jammy dodgers and towards the bed on the opposite side of Rag ‘n’ Bone’s bed. And I reckoned I was going to stop thinking of him as Rag ‘n’ Bone now and call him Barry like all the others in here did. My gaze that fell upon Taylor. And even though it was the middle of the night and her blonde hair was all matted and sprouting in all directions it was striking how beautiful the girl still appeared. And I hated her for that. I really did. I shook my head. My tummy that was beginning to gurgle and snap crackle and pop.
“I didn’t do a thing to Barry.” I snapped in reply and lifting my hands a little to either side of me and the chains that rattled their accusations against my wrist. “How could I have done with these on?”
Taylor shaking her head from left to right and a thick frown that crumpled against her perfect skin. Her accusing glare.
“What did Barry ever do to you?” Taylor asked, and her accusations were beyond words, they really were. And the sooner I got myself the heck out of here the better I reckoned because I was tired of this bunch of loonies. And they could all die in here for all I cared. They could all die a grizzly death like Barry and be done with the lot of them I thought. Be done with the lot of them and their madness.
Taylor’s gaze still fixed firm upon me, but her hand that had slipped down to the side of her ankle that was showing beneath the covers. Her fingernails that were scratching against the electronic tag. The skin there that was red and raw and a puddle of blood that was beginning to patch against the white cotton sheets.
I shook my head in exasperation and turned my face from Taylor to where Bieber was rocking against his bed to the side of Eminem. The mattress springs that were crying out for him to stop. I noticed that his lips were moving and could hear a sibilant whisper that cascaded across his lips and I wondered if the stupid boy was possessed by a demon or something lame like that. And that maybe it was Bieber that had shuffled beneath the cover of darkness and stuffed that packet of jammy dodgers down Barry’s throat while the rest of us were sleeping.
“Maybe he just fancied a mid-night feast and choked?” I said, turning my face from Bieber and his secret words and fixing my attention on Zayne who I reckoned was the sanest one of all of us in here. And at least he’d have something sensible to say. Zayne lifted his face towards me and made a kind of sad-smile thing against his lips and when he spoke, I could hear the fear against his voice and that made me a little sad too.
“No way.” Zayne said, “I watched them pull that packet of Jammy Dodgers out of his throat.” Zayne said, and his eyes blinking repeatedly as he remembered the image. “It took two of them to pull the packet out, it was lodged down so deeply.” He said, and his eyes that turned away from me and cast their suspicions over the rest of the group in there. I turned from Zayne and studied Eminem where he remained settled upon his bed and the cuts and the bruises that were showing against his face.
“What time did you get back anyway?” I asked and my most fearsome face that was fixed upon Eminem and hoping that he might break beneath my accusing Poirot gaze. But instead, Eminem just kind of chuckled. And it was then that I noticed that his eyes were swollen and beginning to bruise. “How do we know Eminem didn’t stick it to him when he got back, and we were sleeping? We know he didn’t exactly get on with Barry.” I said.
“Brilliant!” Eminem said, lifting his arms and shaking his fists at me and looking all brooding, but not in a cool Ryan Gosling way. “She’s accusing me now of doing Barry in?” He said, casting his dark gaze upon the others and then returning it to fix upon me. “Well I’m not the one that’s locked up in here with chains about my ankles and my wrists, am I?” He said. And then he lowered his voice so that it sounded all dark and creepy as he studied me as though I were some strange beast. “She’s evil – I’m telling you.” He said, glancing briefly towards the others and then back to me. “I saw it on YouTube before I got banged up. She’s a kid killer.” He said, turning to the others and pulling his best Ryan Gosling face but looking more like Ant from Ant and Dec. And I’ve gone right off Ant since he started crashing those cars and getting drunk all the time and leaving Dec alone in that jungle with Holly, who I thought was really pretty and all, but still felt sorry for Dec having to be the only funny one out there in the jungle.
And that was when Bieber started to call out. And his words all mixed up somehow and jumbled together. And for a moment I was sure that he was talking tongues, but I didn’t mention that to any of the others. So instead I lifted my hands and rattled my chains to silence him. I leaned in all serious like and narrowed my eyes and when I spoke I hissed the words and hoped that the little CCTV camera that was filming us the whole time wouldn’t be able to hear my words all the way up there from the corners of the eaves.
“Look. I’m telling you. I know it wasn’t me!” I hissed, turning to Eminem and noticing his eyes were swollen, the skin beginning to bruise. “And Eminem’s pretty sure it isn’t him either.” I said and wondering to myself that the boy took one hell of a beating wherever it had been they had dragged him off to. And part of me was still a little suspicious about Eminem suddenly making an appearance here while the rest of us were sleeping. And it suddenly felt as though I’d landed smack bang in the middle of a Scooby Doo cartoon and it would be down to our band of loonies to figure out what had really happened to Barry.
I studied Eminem and he studied me right back. The other loonies that were propped against their beds and leaning in to listen as I whispered as quietly as a mouse so that the CCTV wouldn’t hear.
“What time did you get back here?” I asked Eminem, turning from him briefly and noticing that Taylor had stopped the scratching of her ankle for a moment as she turned her attention from me and back to Eminem.
“I dunno,” Eminem replied, his voice hushed. “It was after midnight.” He said, bringing a hand to his face and rubbing the palm of his hand against the bruising of his eyes.
“And was Barry sleeping then?” I asked, turning to the others and starting to feel like Elma and wondering which of the loonies in here would be my scrappy doo. “Was he still alive then? Was he sleeping?”
Eminem nodded his head and leaned in a little closer.
“Yeah.” He said, his eyes glazing over a little as he recalled the evenings events. “Snoring like a baboon when Dixon brought me back and gave me medicine and all that and told me to sleep. And I felt real tired suddenly, real tired but I couldn’t get to sleep because Barry was snoring real loud. You know how he does.”
“And what happened next? What did Sister Dixon do?” I asked, but I already knew the answer before Eminem had even managed to grasp the memory from his mind. And a look of fear that suddenly wrought against his features as he turned his face from me and fixed his gaze upon Barry’s empty bed clothes and the sheets that were knotted and hanging from the floor. His eyes that were wide as he pulled the memory from the corners of his mind.
“She went to Barry’s bed.” He said, and his words barely heard, so that the four of us leaned in from the beds where we were shackled.
Eminem turned to us bunch of loonies and peered at each of us in turn and the fear that flickered against his eyes.
“She went to Barry’s bed.”