“And you expect us to believe that crap, do you?” Eminem snapped, turning towards me and his eyes ablaze with anger but a caution and a weariness to his demeanour also. And for the first time I realised that behind all the boy’s aggression and the tattoo’s and the bleached white hair, he was just a confused teenager like the rest of us in here.
“It’s true,” I said, lifting my face towards the winter sun briefly and allowing the warmth to soak against my skin. I opened my mouth and drew in a lungful of air and gulped it down and allowed it to swill around my lungs and pool against the insides of my gut. “That’s honestly what happened to her. To Taylor. She was running from something in the cemetery. She was scared out of her wits.”
“Bullshit!” Eminem replied, turning to the others who were pacing here and there anxiously about the courtyard. Eminem seeking out eye contact with one of them but not a single one offering it to him it seemed. Each of them lost within their own private world of madness. Bieber and Ariana and Zayne.
So, Eminem shook his head sharply from left to right and peered once more towards the corner of the courtyard where I had remained leaning against the wall for the last ten minutes or so. Occasionally I lowered my gaze to my ankle and scuffed at the stone paving slabs with my sneaker as I kicked tufts of dried moss from between the cracks. The chains rattling against my ankles as I kicked my leg out. And an image of Barry and Taylors faces that danced across my mind. A weary sadness that had settled against my bones.
“First Barry and now Elsa.” Eminem snapped, his words that seemed to crackle against the walls that enclosed us. “And the one link between the two of them is Mandy.” Eminem said, turning his anger from me and lifting his face towards Bieber who had ceased his rocking movements for a moment and had lifted his face from the crook of his arm to peer towards the sound of Eminem’s voice. Eminem speaking to an audience now.
“Mandy, who, by the way, we all know is a kid killer. Chained up in here because she killed a bunch of her mates in the woods.” He cried out with growing anger. And Ariana turning herself from the corner of the courtyard where she had been hiding and peering in my direction and then back to Eminem. The fear that was etched against her face. Her pig tails that whipped out from side to side.
I shook my head from left to right and gently lowered myself upon a wooden bench nearby so that my spine pressed between the loose timbers and my face that was lifted to the winter sun above. The sky almost violet in colour. Fluffy white clouds that silently blew on by so that the pale sun was hidden now and then behind. The world transformed to shadows and something cold and cruel. The scent of pine needles that blew in upon a cool breeze across the walls that enclosed us. The rattle of branches against the outside wall. The trees of Deadwood.
“It wasn’t in the woods.” I said, recalling the night of the sleepover and the room upstairs and Lucy’s necklace I had discovered in there. “It was the Gamekeeper’s lodge.”
But the word meaning nothing to Eminem it seemed and so he turned to me with growing rage and kind of spat the words towards me as though he were firing bullets.
“That’s not the fucking point Mandy is it!” He said, and the sound of Zayne whimpering a little in the corner of the courtyard where he had placed himself as far from me as possible. “You killed your friends and that’s why you’re banged up in here. You killed them in the woods and it was all over the news and they were looking for them for days and I remember you being interviewed and you looking all innocent like you look now and saying that you couldn’t remember a god damned thing. And so, the police sent in the dogs to look for bodies but all that they found were rags and blood. And that’s why you’re in here isn’t it Mandy! You killed your friends out there and now you’re killing them in here!”
I shook my head. Squeezed my eyes tightly shut.
The goblin’s face that was revealed on the other sides of my eyelids and the knowledge that I would not be strong enough to hold him back for ever.
Let me out. Let me kill him. The boy’s a dick!
“No.” I said, and I wasn’t sure which of them I was responding too.
Our little group fell silent for a moment so that all that could be heard was the rattling of tree branches against the wall. And I wondered how far the Gamekeepers lodge might be from here. And so, I imagined myself lifting from this spot as though I were a crow and peering down upon the lands below. The courtyard and our block and the sprawling grounds of Deadwood Hospital. The red brick wall that enclosed the crumbling collection of bungalows and annexes. The maze of paths that snaked out from each of the buildings and around the perimeter. The endless lawn at the centre of the grounds. The crumbling tower of Deadwood Manor at the centre. The chapel to one side and its cemetery of weeds. And the red brick wall that enclosed all within. Two great iron gates that opened out on to the endless bank of trees beyond.
The hospital appearing like an island in the middle of a broiling ocean.
The trees that swept out and away from the hospital in all directions.
And the light that barely reached the spaces that remained between the trees.
“What did you do to her Mandy?” Ariana asked, and her voice that was tiny and as delicate as a little jenny-wrens. “What did you do to my friend Taylor?” She asked. The tears that were rolling against her cheeks as I turned my face towards the youngest of our group and fixed my gaze upon her. I studied her sweet pixie features. The girl’s eyes that were as wide as tea plates so that she appeared to me like one of those Anime characters. I shook my head and when I spoke, I noticed that my words broke a little as I recalled the image of Taylor’s ruined body that remained imprinted in my mind. The guards pulling and tugging at Taylors body where she had tangled herself between the loops of razor wire. The fountain of blood that sprung up from her neck as they tried to pull her back.
“I didn’t do anything to Taylor.” I said.
Ariana’s eyes that were wide and flickering with tears as she studied me and my inquisition. The memory of Sister Dixon and her silver cross and her tricksy words that I could never begin to understand. But I knew right enough that sister Dixon had figured me for a cold-hearted killer like the rest of these loonies in here.
And to hell with them I thought. To hell with me trying to protect them from the madness of this place and the evil that resided here. Because if there was one thing in this world that I remained sure about, it was that a killer did reside within these walls.
But that killer wasn’t me.
The killer wasn’t me.
Eminem kicked a stone in my direction and barked his instructions for the others to hear.
“Come on.” He said, motioning to the others with his hand and peering towards Bieber first and then Zayne and lastly Ariana. “Let’s get away from this psycho bitch.” He said, turning once more towards me and fixing me with his most fearsome glare. And something about the way he looked at me all wrong somehow. The corner of his lip that appeared to have been snagged by the fisherman’s hook and a fire that flickered behind his eye. And I wondered to myself once more if maybe Eminem was behind all of this somehow. And that maybe it had been him that I had spied back there at the cemetery and hiding beneath the cover of the old yew tree.
The sound of gravel crunching beneath feet as Eminem strode past me and turned to me and spat a great gob of white phlegm against the side of the bench where I continued to rest. Which I dint think was very nice, I didn’t think was very nice one bit.
I lifted my face once more towards the violet sky. The sound of shuffling feet as the others followed their leader away from the courtyard and away from me it seemed.
The fluffy white clouds that passed by overhead.
The violet sky.
The cool kiss of a winter breeze against my skin and the scent of pine needles on the air.
And the strangest thing.
A tear that ran out from the corner of my eye and began to trace a weary course against the side of my cheek and down towards my lips so that I could taste the sharp scent of salt against my tongue. And once that first tear had started, it was as though a storm had blown in as the tears began to fall from either corner of my eyes. The sky above that was smudged away so that all that remained were shades of white and grey. And that was when the sun’s remaining light was blocked away, and a shadow fell across me. The temperature that dropped in an instant and the hairs that lifted across the whole of my skin as I begin to shiver. The face that was revealed above.
“I believe you Mandy.” The voice said. Bieber’s handsome face staring down at me. And I could have thrown myself towards him and wrapped my arms around the sweet boy’s neck right there and then and never let go.
“I believe you Mandy.” Bieber said.