Red Bicycle 15-16
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He sat in the empty apartment. He’d bought food from a local shop but now found that his appetite had deserted him. One minute he was hungry, the next minute he was not. Perhaps it had something to do with the noxious atmosphere of Molloch’s home; or the twisting anger he felt at Natalya and Lukas’s desire to remain with the elderly man. Whatever it was, he felt at peace in his old home. He had been right to insist they keep it.
After a while he took the lift and made his way to the small wooden storage unit in the cellar. He unlocked the door. The red bicycle was in the corner, exactly where Alexander had placed it before they moved. It looked neglected, forlorn. He touched the metal frame, half expecting it to be warm. Instead, it was cold, as if Katya’s bike had finally given up the ghost. Lukas had outgrown it. It was nothing but a small heap of scrap metal. There would be no more sudden bursts of speed, no more strange instances of the frame overheating. Whatever force had once inhabited it was now gone.
Alexander began to pick away the rubber from the handlebars. When the grips had started to melt after the bike crashed of its own accord against the farm gate the rubber bubbled and dripped, leaving spindly black stalactites that eventually cooled. Some broke off easily; others were more resistant. Alexander took out his penknife, started cutting and shaving until the metal was exposed. Soon a small pile of hardened rubber lay on the floor and the bike looked comically shorn. Alexander buffed the handlebars with his coat sleeve until the metal gleamed beneath the harsh basement room light. For some reason he placed his finger in the handlebar’s newly exposed tube. It was rusting, of course, yet Alexander felt something wedged inside. He pulled it out. It was a business card, the coarse paper dampened over time. The print was faint, but Alexander was able to read it. It was the same card that Molloch had given him. On it was written the address of the garden centre and Molloch’s name. But why had it been secreted inside the handlebars ? It didn’t make any sense. Had Katya placed it there ? And if so, for what reason ? Had she visited the garden centre ? Was that where his sister had been the day she died ?
Alexander slumped to the floor. No one had ever told him where Katya was found. Perhaps the police had offered the details to his mother and father, but there was no reason to tell nine-year-old Alexander. He had always imagined that she was killed near her school. But if a car had hit her in the busy city centre, surely someone – a witness, an onlooker - would have given the police a description of the vehicle or its registration. Was that why the driver had never been caught ? Because his sister had been killed on a lonely road, miles from her home ? And now another thought crossed Alexander’s mind. The bike had run away of its own volition - crashed into Molloch’s garden, as if it purposely wanted to inflict damage on the elderly man’s treasured plants. Then it had crashed again - driven itself into the farm gate near the garden centre. Could it really be that the bike – that Katya’s spirit – was trying to tell him something ?
Alexander locked the storage space and made his way to the car park. His mind was racing with different theories. An unlikely link was beginning to take shape between his sister and Molloch. Even the time Alexander had taken Lukas to the market and the boy had discovered Katya’s bike seemed more than a coincidence, as if a greater force was at play, pushing him blindly towards an unknown truth. He turned the ignition of the delivery van and drove out of the car park onto the road. Everything seemed to be pointing in one direction: Molloch knew something about Katya’s death.
The cul-de-sac was dark when Alexander arrived. It was close to midnight, the night sky bright and clear. Molloch’s curtains were closed, the roses and fuchsias in his front garden sparkling in moonglow. The other bungalows looked devoid of all life. Alexander felt a shiver run through him. He hurried to his front door and turned the key, looking quickly over his shoulder before he opened the door.
Natalya was sleeping. The mink coat that Mollach had gifted her was draped over her make up chair. Alexander picked it up, took it outside and threw it in the rubbish bin. Then he did the same with Lukas’s toy lorry and the picture book his son had been reading – more unwanted gifts from the elderly man who was blighting their lives.
Sitting on the bed he leaned over, stroked Natalya’s hair. ‘Dear wife’ he whispered ‘you must wake up!’
She began to stir, stretching and rubbing her eyes. She looked at Alexander in a way that was affectionate but lacking in understanding.
‘Alexander ? Where have you been ? How long have I been sleeping ?’
‘Not long’ he said. ‘Three, four hours.’
Natalya lifted herself and took hold of his hand. ‘I felt so strange, Alexander. My head was swirling. We were at Mr Molloch’s house. He invited us for dinner.’
Alexander said: ‘Molloch is not what he seems, Natalya. That is why you and Lukas must leave.’
He expected her to protest but she seemed resigned to leaving. ‘Will you come too ?’
Alexander shook his head. ‘Not right away. I need to stay here awhile. Why don’t you pack a bag for you and Lukas then take the car. Go to the old apartment. Make sure you lock the door. Don’t let anyone in until you hear from me.’
She kissed him and said: ‘Have I made a fool of myself, Alexander ?’
Alexander shook his head. ‘No. But we would both be foolish if we stayed here a moment longer.’
While Natalya was packing, Alexander went into Lukas’s room. The boy was sound asleep. He stirred a little when Alexander tried to wake him but, in an act of sleep-induced defiance, turned angrily onto his side, covering his head with his duvet. Alexander waited until Natalya had finished, then carried his sleeping son to their car, placing him on the rear seat. He kissed Natalya again and watched as she drove away. Now, alone in the cul-de-sac, Alexander went to work. He took a pair of gardening gloves and shears from his van and began chopping the plants in Molloch’s front garden, the same plants that he’d replaced after the ‘mishap’ with Lukas’s bike. After twenty or so minutes, he stopped and took in the scene. Rose heads, stems, leaves, soil were scattered across the garden and beyond. Content, Alexander placed the shears and gloves in the van. He then collected three empty bottles from his kitchen and three pieces of old cloth. It was no use him going into Molloch’s house; the elderly man would not be there. Alexander knew where he must go. He got into the van and drove to the garden centre.
Next instalment: Red Bicycle 17-18 | ABCtales
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This story keeps getting
This story keeps getting better and better. Perhaps I'm naive, but I have no idea where the story's going.
Brilliant writing as always. Can't wait to read more.
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ooh - this is very intriguing
ooh - this is very intriguing! I have no idea either!
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