Part three, Ruby.
Arresting her husband was the hardest thing Ruby had ever had to do.
“Why you?” he’d asked as he’d meekly let her handcuff him. “There’s a hundred boys at the station. Why you?”
“Because you would have fought anyone else Chic.” She was right, he would. She didn’t know what hurt more, that he hadn’t told her, or that she hadn’t known the man she’d married. The man in front of her, this Bulldog, was a stranger, a violent psychopath. Sure her Chic was a bit of a tough guy, but this? She thought about the eighteen year old boy that they’d scraped of a toilet floor the day before. Could Chic have done that?
When he started gabbling on about superpowers and magic belts, she realised: he’d lost his mind. Her heart broke for the third time that day. Poor Chic. It wasn’t really his fault then, was it? Poor Chic. How had she not seen it? Still, he could plead DR, they’d get him help and she’d look after him, make him better.
New Girl had never seen a dead body.
“Do they all die like that?” she asked, horror-struck. She meant the expression of terror frozen on Chic’s face. Halle ignored her, covered him back up, her bladder turning to ice as she put the pieces together.
“Look, someone’s been through his stuff,” she nodded towards the wardrobe.
“How do you know?”
“It’s all messed up, look, Chic was meticulous.”
“Is anything missing?” asked New Girl. Halle’s eyes scanned what Chic had called his locker.
“No, I don’t think so, no.”
“Maybe he was looking for something before he, you know.” offered New Girl.
“Yeah, maybe.” ‘Chic would never leave his stuff like that’ she thought, ‘Even if he was dying he fold his shirts.’ The thought brought a smile to her face, followed by a tear.
It was a cold night, Ruby’s lungs puffed little clouds into the dark of the alley. Why had he wanted to meet here, and why did he want her to bring the case?
Before she had left him in that cold, black cell, Chic had begged her to do one thing. It had seemed harmless and she couldn’t stand him thinking she had betrayed him any longer. So she took the little disc of metal with the star map from the evidence bag and hid it, exactly as he’d asked. It was just a bauble, a stage prop to his madness, it meant nothing but he might start to trust her again, and let her help him.
Why was Gourko so furious that it wasn’t there? How did he even know about it? And why was he screwing a silencer onto his pistol? She was suddenly very scared; he was pulling on gloves.
“Where is it?” he screamed into her face covering her in hot spit, digging the pistol hard into her ribs. She feigned ignorance. It was how she’d found it, she swore. It was convincing enough to send him back to the case to check.
Had they both gone mad? She looked around desperately for an escape route.
They had told Halle to go home, said that she was not well, that Chic’s death had affected her more than she realised. They hadn’t believed her. She was told to take a few days off, see how she felt, maybe go see her GP.
They hadn’t believed her but he had spoken to her. As she’d left his room. Three terrifying, croaky words, her address. Why? Then she’d frozen on the spot realising, and he’d added
“You know what I want you little bitch.” She’d turned round, trembling, he was just lying there, covered in bandages, like he had been all along, staring into space. She’d run, tumbling into the office, and told them. Of course they hadn’t believed her. He’d known they wouldn’t.
She went to see Chic in the funeral parlour and told him what had happened. They had managed to remove the mask of terror from his face somehow, although not completely, he still looked a little worried. She held his hand as though he really were feeling that way and patted it.
She told him her plan, to get the old devil Gourko, how she would be recording with her phone the next time he spoke, she would make him talk, she wasn’t scared, not any more. Chic would be proud of her, but he still looked worried.
Then she sat and let the tears fall, silently, not trying to stop them and when she was done she sat in a bookshop drinking cappuccinos.
A large spider crawled onto her table. She cupped her hand over it and felt it wriggle. Then she brought her hand down, very gently, until she had it pinned. It wriggled harder, tickling her palm like raindrops. She continued to press down, as slowly as she could, shuddering as the little creature burst and spilled against her palm. Bits of her tingled. She turned over her hand staring closely at its contents, a little leg waved at her from a pile of goo. She wiped it clean with a napkin. Outside it was getting dark. ‘Soon,’ she thought.
Gourko shot Ruby in the throat, and he watched her die in silence. She had tried to say something, but all that came from her mouth was a plume of thick red bubbles. When it was over, he tore off a piece of the Bulldog’s, easily recognisable, costume, and put it in her hand, jamming her nails into it, breaking them. ‘She would’ve put up a good fight’, he thought.
Then he found a phone, called the station and told them to release Champion.
Getting into the home was easy. They never locked anything. Halle crept silently down a half lit corridor. The would be three members of staff on duty, probably only one awake. She knew him, Kyle, he would be in the TV lounge.
He sat in a big armchair, tugging at himself frantically in front of the big plasma TV. He was easy to sneak past. Halle watched him for a moment, disgusted, fascinated.
She imagined she was a giantess, crushing him slowly, like the spiders. She tried to picture him all squished and twitching in her powerful hand. To think that, at school, she had fancied him. Yuk!
But then an urgent beeping made her start. One of the residents had pulled their chord. Down the corridor a red light blinked over a darkened doorway, Pearl’s. Kyle was getting up, walking her way. It was dark though and she was in shadow, She pushed back into the wall until it hurt.
He stopped, she thought he’d seen her but he was just adjusting something inside his trousers. He sniffed at his hand, and disappeared into Pearl’s room, his flies still gaping. She breathed again and made her way to the door where she’d stood shaking in fear that morning.
A wanted cop killer and hated by the press that had so adored him, Chic Champion ran. From the law and from Gourko. Country after country, never stopping, always looking over his shoulder, sleeping with one eye open, for nearly forty years.
Until one day, in bar in Bandung, he’d been ignoring a documentary about DNA or something when he’d heard the presenter mention his name. He’d made everyone in the bar shut up. He’d been cleared of his wife’s murder, apparently.
They showed old black and white footage of his shiny precious Ruby and he’d gone out and got blind drunk, staggered out in front of a tram and never walked again.
He came back to England and moved into Chestnut lodge. He had four peaceful, almost happy, years before the devil found him, but he’d always known he would.