Coins for Charon by Lee Hughes

Inimitable Lee crosses genres seamlessly with this beaut from the archives of TKnC.

Coins for Charon

She looked over the counter at the boy and opened her mouth to speak. The boy raised the shotgun and mouthed the word “Sorry.” He pulled the trigger giving the woman’s co-workers an interactive tour of the inside of her head. The boy, no more than ten set the gun down, lowered himself to the floor and began to rock. His shoulder burned from the kick of the gun.

***

Detective Carter stared across the table. Detective Morris watched from the corner. There wouldn’t be a need for good cop, bad cop with a ten-year old. The kid had a goon from social services presiding over the interview, looking out for the boy’s best interests. The lawyer was tooling about with his phone. There was no other kin.

Carter sniffed. This was the new world. Its morals had been beaten up with a bat and were now just a contused mess. Carter could no longer accept that old staple excuse of, It’s a kid, there must be an underlying problem. There were no underlying problems, some kids were just nut-jobs and no different from adults who went about decapitating heads to fuck neck-holes.

“So, Bobby, you wanna tell me why you murdered your mother?” Carter asked, sipping his coffee.

“I had to.”

“You had to?”

Bobby nodded.

“Why’d you have to? Your mum stop you from playing on your Playstation? Something unforgivable like that?”

“No. Nothing like that, she had to die, it was the only way.”

Carter leaned forward, meeting the boy’s eyes. He couldn’t see much in the manner of remorse. “I think you need to explain yourself, don’t you?”

Bobby nodded. “He wasn’t my dad.”

“Who wasn’t?”

“The man that she said was.”

“That’s grounds for a little rebellion, maybe even running away for a few nights. That’s not an excuse for turning up at your mother’s place of employment and turning her head inside out.”

The man from social services cut in with, “Hey, hey, hey, now!” The lawyer still tooled with his phone.

Carter shrugged. He’d only said it to see what reaction he could muster. He didn’t get much; the boy’s thoughts were elsewhere. “So who did she tell you your father was?”

Bobby drew invisible designs on the table with a finger. “Simon Sinclair.”

“And how did you find out he wasn’t your dad?”

“When I dug him up.”

The room went silent, no one even bothered to breath. Carter raised an eyebrow. “You dug him up?”

Bobby nodded as though it wasn’t the worst thing he’d ever done. “I had to see, after I saw those other people visiting his grave.”

“Other people?”

“I asked them what they wanted.”

“And what did they want, Bobby?”

“Same thing I did, spend a little time with their dad.”

“So, your father had some other kids by another woman, still no reason to do what you did.” Carter was careful with his phrasing to keep the do-gooder from complaining.

Bobby drew some more designs with his fingertip and muttered something.

Carter leaned in closer. “What did you say, Bobby?”

“They were black.”

Carter blew out some air and settled back in his chair, it wasn’t something incomprehensible. A woman not sure who the father of her child is decides to take the easy option and blame a headstone in a cemetery on the day the god-awful, but anticipated question came from the kid. How was she to know the colour and creed of the deceased? “So you decided to do a bit of digging?”

“I wanted to know.”

Carter picked up the phone. “Do me a favour, send someone out to…” He cupped the phone. “Bobby, is it Fairfield’s Cemetery?”

Bobby nodded.

Carter uncovered the handset. “Send someone over to Fairfield Cemetery and check on the grave of a Simon Sinclair.” He paused while something was said on the other end. “Yeah, it’s important, get someone on it now.” He hung up and stared at Bobby. “It’s understandable why you did it Bobby,” Carter said. “Want to talk about it?” He just wanted to keep him talking.

“Nothing much to say,” Bobby said. “I had to know. So, I went and dug him up. He’d been dead eight years but you could tell there was no way he was my dad.”

“Then what?” Carter kept pushing.

“He spoke to me.”

“The corpse?”

“Yeah. Told me I had to do some things.”

“What things?” Carter decided to humour him; it might help in getting to the meat of the whole mess.

“I had to kill my mum.”

“Why?”

“So I’d be brought here.”

“You didn’t have to listen to the corpse.”

Bobby looked up, his eyes wide. “I did. I told him things over the years, secret things. He said he was going to tell everyone my secrets if I didn’t do as he said.”

Carter was beginning to wonder how screwed up the kid was. “So, why’d you have to come here, Bobby? You could have just pitched up at the door and spoken to us without doing what you did to your mum.”

“That’s not what he wanted. He said shooting mum would strengthen the message. That it would show the fat fuck that things don’t stay forgotten for long.”

“Who’s the fat-fuck, Bobby?” Carter asked.

“A man called Morris.”

Carter looked to the corner. Morris had gone pale and was licking his lips. Carter looked back to Bobby. “What was the message?”

“He said to give you this. I had to do it this way as you’d check my pockets.” Bobby opened his mouth and pushed his forefinger and middle finger into it. He pushed past the point where he gagged. He threw up on the table, mainly bits of the Mars Bar he’d been given as a snack. He picked out a coin. Through the gunk, it looked golden. Bobby stood up. Everyone was caught in a moment of shock and didn’t stop him as he went over to Detective Morris. Morris didn’t know what to do other than accept the coin. He was sweating and his hand shook at he took it. Bobby wiped his sticky fingers on his jeans. “Simon says you fucked him over and that now he’s back and it’s your turn to be fucked.”

Morris looked at the coin in his hand, then at Carter before heading for the door. Carter leaned near to the recorder. “Interview suspended at…” He looked at the clock. “Two-Thirty.” Carter stood and said to Bobby, “Sit back down.”

***

Carter collared Morris storming down the corridor. Morris looked like he wanted to throw up. Carter made sure there was no one in earshot. “Wanna tell me what the fuck just happened?”

“Nothing… Look… I don’t fucking know.” Morris made to move off again. Carter put a hand to his shoulder. “Something stinks, it might just be the kids sick, but I’m thinking its more. Where’s the coin?”

Morris looked in two minds. He dug into his pocket and pulled out the coin. Carter got his handkerchief out and nodded for Morris to drop it in. “That’s evidence.”

“Look, Jack, you don’t think there’s anything in this do you?”

“Nope, of course not, a corpse talking to a kid who’s just killed his own mother, but we still have to do things by the book.” He motioned back in the direction of the interview room. “I’ll go get a bag for this. You go sit in there and listen to whatever they’re talking about.”

Morris looked relieved that he had Carter still on side, he said, “Right.” He headed back towards the door.

Carter watched him until he disappeared back inside. He looked at the coin in the handkerchief, he couldn’t be sure when but there had been a robbery involving gold coins. Morris had been a part of the investigation, it was years ago. Carter looked at his watch, he had time enough to get an evidence bag and spend a few minutes on one of the computers before returning to the interview.

***

It was hard when you found out that one amongst the ranks was rotten. Carter pushed himself away from the screen and rubbed at his chin. Eight years ago there’d been a burglary of one of the rich houses up on the hill. A gold coin collection swiped. Morris had been the one investigating it. They’d never caught the culprit, and never retrieved the coins. He’d done a quick check on Simon Sinclair. He’d died a week after the robbery. A small time weed-dealing wanna be Rastafarian. Stabbed and left to bleed out in the gutter. Carter’s phone rang. “What?”

-Tried ringing the interview room but no one answered. We’re at the cemetery now, how can people do this?

“What do you mean, there’s no answer in the interview room?”

-No answer, as in no one picked up the phone.

Carter started to run. “So the grave was disturbed?”

-Disturbed? It’s bloody empty.

“Shit.” He hung up the phone and sprinted through the corridors.

***

Carter flung open the door to the interview room. He was perspiring, the sweat turned icy. The kid was sat in front of his sick. The lawyer was in the corner like a kicked dog, the goon from social services was sat where he had been but now had a puddle of piss about his feet, and Morris was sprawled in the corner with a wide-eyed stare. Blood had made a half-Rorschach design on his white shirt from the wound.

Carter could only stand there and breathe heavily for a long time. He started to get himself back together. “Bobby?” he asked.

Bobby swiveled in his seat. “Yeah?”

“What happened?”

“Simon said the fat fuck got just what was coming to his double-dealing ass.”

Carter spoke to the goon. “What happened?”

The goon filled the room with a little more pitter-patter of piss as he remembered it, but didn’t speak.

Carter looked to the lawyer and decided to not even bother. He went to make sure Morris was dead. He opened Morris’s mouth and two sinful gold coins spilled out, shiny with spit.

Carter had never had something like that to explain. Before, there had always been answers. There was no way to explain the debacle, no rational way. As a WPC led the boy away a question came to Carter that he couldn’t help but ask, “What secrets were so bad Bobby that you did what you did to keep them so?”

Bobby smiled. “Simon says we’re quits, so I’m not telling.”

***
BIO:
Lee Hughes is the horror co-editor at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers. His short fiction has appeared on or in, numerous ezines and anthologies, including: Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9, TKnC, Microhorror, A Twist of Noir, Every Day Fiction, New Flesh Magazine, The Daily Tourniquet, Powder Burn Flash, Blink-Ink and FlashShots. Find out more at www.LeeHughes.net

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5 Responses to Coins for Charon by Lee Hughes

  1. Awesome story, Lee, and enough intrigue to be a novella to itself. You’ve got a knack of wrapping the reader up in an intricate and exciting mythos, but in such a casual manner, it’s not noticeable until you’re hopelessly sucked into the story.

    Top job.

  2. loutreleaven says:

    Phew! Another rollercoaster ride! I love the boy, there’s a kind of innocent to him despite his terrible deeds. Vividly written as ever.

  3. So good … man, I loved that! Fantastic stuff!

  4. You see, that is the writing that you pay for and don’t nick from Woolies!

  5. Lee does this in a way no one else can. The guy knows how to hit the nerve. Lee, may the big guy upstairs be watching over you, mate. You’re a great friend. We all miss you.

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