Perkins’ Ghost – Chapter Thirty Two

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CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

GARY HAD no way of knowing that, just that day, the policemen were at their wits ends in solving the mystery. It had rained in the afternoon, creating much relief after too long a hot summer. The changing colours of fall added brightness to the landscape. There was mention of it possibly changing to snow down in the Cape. It was much too early in the season for snow. But the weather patterns were changing everywhere, another change in the world order that Gary disliked. He was the type of person who liked things to be kept the same. Since the murder, nothing to him seemed to be the same. He sat on the patio overlooking the river and he could see the tiny rocky island that lay in the middle of the harbour. The rain glistened from the brass on the mock-ship’s sails. In the fading light it appeared as if it was snow that had covered the moss and rocks. He checked and double checked the tide tables to confirm that he had the day right. The moon would soon be at its fullest. The moon’s gravitational pull would make the tide flood the island and the parking lot, again! Those numerous, extreme tides were but another shift in the ever-changing world. He thought about how much warmer the ocean was, and how much the peninsula of Nova Scotia moved each year, ever closer to the continents across the sea. Perhaps, one day, North America and Africa would join again. He knew that he would be long-gone by then.

With those thoughts he clutched the rope tightly in his hands. Its coarseness reminded him of how he had felt on that Saturday afternoon when he had sneaked in the back door of the theatre and hung up the mannequin of Perkins, with a similar rope, in the narrow corridor. It was much too heavy for him to have moved it any further. After it had been hung he had loosened the light bulb to keep that area dark, knowing that there was no way of calling in maintenance and having it checked before the play opened. He doubted that anyone would even mention that there was not any light in that area. They would simply open the rear curtain and use the light that came in from the back of the stage. And he was right, for the show had gone on and no one had spotted the mannequin hanging in the dark above their heads.

 

David and Gary often teased one another and did silly pranks, so it was easy, even in adulthood, for Gary to convince David to climb into the coffin during the second intermission, and lie there, with his eyes closed, as if he was playing the dead Perkins. Just moments before that, David had found the button for Samson’s jacket on the floor and he had it in his hand when he climbed into the coffin, with intentions of giving it to Katy to repair Samson’s costume.

Gary’s hand shook as he took the old knife out from under the coffin where he had placed it earlier. It was the same knife that his Grandfather had given him for his tenth birthday. He plunged it into David’s heart. David looked at him, surprised at first, until he realized that Gary was saving him from the agony of the cancer that was eating away at his body. He relaxed, glad that it was all over and he died with a tiny smile on his face. For just a second he knew how hard it must have been for Gary. Neither had forgotten their promise to each other of so many years ago, though it had never been spoken of again.

Gary slid his hand over David’s eyes to close them in death before he hid the knife between the slats in the bottom of the coffin. He then hurried down the stairs, at stage right, unnoticed, just as Darren rounded the corner from Perkins’ counting room to move the coffin to the center of the stage. Gary hastened to the men’s room. At that moment he brushed past Ella who was on her way from the ladies’ room. Unbeknown to either of them Gary had left a smear of blood on her skirt. He later arrived in the green-room and with so many actors moving about he had not been missed.

While they were still in the green room and before the first act he had slipped the costume room key into Juba’s pocket, not with the intention of framing him but just to get rid of it. He could have thrown it into the river, where so many useless other things had ended up, but he felt that it would have been a waste of a good key and lock. He decided that it would be better that it was found by Katy. It was hers anyway.

On any other day, anyone who knew Gary would have seen the grief that he was already feeling even before he entered the stage at the beginning of the third act, and sat with Alexis, grieving. His tears of sorrow were very real.

~ ~ ~

Gary folded the paper four times, before fitting it into a tiny envelope, scrawled a name onto it and slipped it into his wallet. He had spent the best part of the day penning the words, trying to get them right before signing his name. He knew that it, along with the others, would be safe in his wallet, safe from being lost. As he wrote he did not will the day to speed along, nor did he want it to slow. When done, he calmly waited for the sun to set. After the sun had fully slipped over the horizon, and when it was fully dark, he left his house. He was wearing a back-pack, as he usually did. On that day it held but one item. A length of rope. Just the day before, he had driven an hour along the South Shore, to buy it in Shelburne.

 

Now, on that evening he walked away from the town, towards the village of Milton. He stopped and turned, well before reaching the boundary between Milton and Liverpool, onto the Trestle Trail and walked onto the old railway bridge. When he got to its center he stopped and placed his back-pack on the bench, opened it, and took out the coil of rope. He tied one end to the railing and swung the other end back and forth like a lasso. He paused and looked over the railing at the night-black river. Even in the darkness he knew that the water was rising as he watched the moonlight reflecting, silvery over it. He liked being alone, under the light of the moon, and feeling totally connected with the world. Not for the first time, he wondered what his place in this universe really was. What had been the purpose of his life…other than that of saving David from months of pain and agony? Even at that distance he could see that the water had already risen over the bank and was creeping towards the Visitors Center. The parking lot was empty due to the barricades that had been set-up in preparation for the flooding. Events like that often drew a crowd. He saw a few vehicles going back and forth across the blue bridge, their lights flickering and shining between the struts.

He began making a fisherman’s loop at the end of the rope. Due to the rope’s thickness he allowed for an extra-long length of rope to make the first wrap and carefully made five neat rows before bringing the end back through the main circle. The fisherman’s loop was a well-known knot to Gary and he could tie it blindfolded. He listened to the water lapping against itself where the river met that of the sea, and against the pillars of the bridge. He thought of the many hours that he and David had spent on that river. It made the sounds of a babbling brook. He wondered how many stories that the Mersey River could tell. There must be thousands of tales beginning when the Mi’kmaq migrated up and down the peninsula and even more from when the early settlers came. There were even his and David’s own stories. He listened and for a moment thought that he could hear the murmur of voices then realized that the sounds were those of the babbling water.

He turned and stood with his back to the town and looked up-river. The water appeared like a wide ribbon of molten mercury. Cars periodically moved along the road on either side but he was alone on the bridge. Suddenly feeling exhausted he dropped onto the bench. He slid the loop from the top of his back-pack and slipped it over his head. The rope was coarse and resisted when he tugged on it to tighten the knot against his neckline. Barbs from the rough rope abraded his skin, breaking it. The darkness concealed the blood.

Gary thought about that time, long ago now, when David bravely jumped from this bridge and landed twenty feet below before he swam back to the shore, laughing at his own dare-devil stunt. Brave as David had been he never did it again because he also had realized that it was a bit stupid. Gary hadn’t jumped that day but had often thought and wished that he had done so, for it was the only thing that they had not done together…and that was only due to his own fears.

He feared no more as he climbed onto the railing, held his arms wide at each side and launched himself towards the river.

 

It was an early morning jogger who had found Gary the following morning. At first she thought maybe a group of kids were pulling a prank and that it was a mascot or a dummy that hung there. It was only when she was directly above it, standing on the old railway bridge that she recognized Gary hanging there.

She took her cell phone from her pocket and dialed the police station.

Hill took her call.

END OF CHAPTER THIRTY TWO 

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