1. The partial or total absence of light
2. Wickedness or evil
Joshua reckons I’m a nerd. I can’t help it that I’ve read the dictionary a hundred times over. Words are fascinating. And I like to write. Today’s Word of the Day…darkness. I don’t think I ever thought too hard about what that meant until I met Pips. He’s an intriguing personality. Argumentative, yet tender-hearted; loud, brash with a mouth that’s probably been washed with soap countless times, but willing to lend a hand at all times. Contemplative, melancholic but exhibiting a sense of joy that I haven’t seen in another person since.
I know, I know…I shouldn’t tell you all this straight away. Should feed you description piecemeal. But, I think it’s important to acknowledge what kind of person he was from the beginning.
I guess this is kind of an obituary of sorts. Tough to write, cathartic though. Necessary. It’s taken me a while to process what happened in our shared pasts.
You see, being the ‘kid’ of the operation was exhausting, especially when I felt I had a lot more to contribute. I like to believe that Pips gave me that out. He recognised the kindred spirit within me and gave me free reign to make my own decisions, and face the consequences of my actions. Of which there were many. Not all bad, but not all good.
The first time meeting him was an awkward experience. It wasn’t even something I’d expected. I was out the front of the house, mowing the lawn when I heard raised voices from the neighbours and loud barking. Mum told me later on that Elliott’s new puppy was the biggest mongrel going…not that I ever came to agree with that sentiment. But, that’s not really important.
The dog died at any rate. Lachlan ended up having to shoot it to save us…but that’s a story for another time.
I went to investigate, God alone knows why. I’m not given to being nosy at the best of times. Elliott was out the front with a man that I think everyone would recognise. The face of a criminal was always made well known in the City.
Phillip Preston. His face was plastered all over the city; wanted posters mainly. His most striking feature those luminous eyes. The darkness in their depths commanded attention, and received it. Whenever I rode passed them on my bike, I couldn’t help but be drawn to his gaze. Forever trying to decipher the emotions with them. Something I tend to do with everyone, to be honest…
However, I hadn’t known that he was related to my neighbour, not until the reports on the news said that he’d been paroled. Who could even imagine someone such as Pips McGee – I’ll come back to that name later by the way…he is a Preston after all – would be the brother of someone as strait laced as Elliott Preston. Though, even Elliott ended up surprising me.
Elliott looked over, catching my eye as Pips, who was the one doing the yelling, ranted at him. Something about how the guards at The Astor were a bunch of “mothereffing bastards” who wouldn’t know how to shoot anyone even if they had targets painted on their foreheads. Awkward.
Elliott lifted a hand in my direction, I nodding in return because that was the polite thing to do. Elliott came over, leaving his brother to keep going.
I smiled, glancing over at Pips. “I didn’t realise…”
“The City Bomber is my brother?” Elliott shook his head. “He’s always unexpected. Came into this world a surprise. Probably leave it that way, too.” That was definitely the truth…
Leaning against the fence, I observed him for a moment. Pips tugged a bag from the back of Elliott’s truck, propping it against the side of the vehicle, still muttering to himself. In person, he didn’t seem as intimidating as the media portrayed him, but it wasn’t as if I’d ever met him. Not sure how that could be since Elliott had lived next to us since I was really little.
“He’s never lived with me.” Well, that would explain that…
I looked at Elliott.
He sighed. “Pips spent most of his time in trouble. He’s that square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Doesn’t fit.” Elliott grimaced. “I’m just glad he didn’t go the way others are…have gone.” I noticed his correction and knew why, grimacing myself.
“We don’t talk about Lachlan.”
“Figures. I’m sorry, kid.”
There was a pause then.
I’m not sure what it was, but there was something that Elliott wasn’t saying. The fact that he was even bringing up my cousin was odd in itself. I was aware they were long-time friends, but Elliott was as sentimental as a brick.
“I don’t let it get to me. Got my own life to think about.” Though that didn’t stop me from thinking things that I knew I shouldn’t. Lachlan’s impending execution…the fact that he even got arrested. Not something I would admit to spending my thoughts on.
Elliott chuckled and said, “We all do. But, having a criminal in the family makes you see society a little differently.” He slapped a hand against the railing then turned to head back to his brother.
I thought about his parting words and that word ‘darkness’ came to my mind again. Society was a lot darker these days. And I don’t even know what it was that made it feel that way. It hadn’t directly affected me, and even with Lachlan’s incarceration it still wasn’t something that made any difference to my life.
Until Elliott turned around and came back to the fence and asked me if I wanted to come over for a drink.
Now, when Elliott asks you in for a drink the one thing you don’t do is refuse. The thing is, his invitation is never about the actual act of drinking. It’s a pretext to something a lot more important. I found that out that fateful day…
Ha. Fateful day. It’s still difficult to get my head around why I even walked through the door, accepting his invitation. Perhaps my mind was still in turmoil over my cousin’s predicament. Subconsciously speaking. Perhaps it was just mere curiosity; or sheer bloody mindedness. Who knows? I walked through that door…into…well, into a neat, uncluttered space that was confronting in its tidiness. Even more so when you consider that the abode looked like the home of a little old granny, and not two thirty-something year old men. One a bounty hunter and the other a criminal.
Flower-printed pottery lined the bench and the fresh aroma of…
“Is that bread I smell?” I asked, stupidly.
Elliott’s lips twitched in a semblance of a smile. “Baked it this morning. Pips eats it.”
I nodded, casting my eyes around the room. A small round table took up the central area with three chairs spaced around it. The glass top reflected the light of a row of globes that hung from the ceiling. The most notable objects in the room though were upon that table. Weapons. Firearms of assorted variety. Small, large, some quite clunky and old-fashioned others sleek and glinting metallically in their modernity.
Blinking several times, I tried to come up with something to say as Elliott walked over and lifted what I recognised to be a shorn-off shotgun. Words escaped me for the first time in my life. Good thing he decided to explain.
“We’ve got a plan, kid.” He picked up a rag and started to rub it along the length of the barrel.
I lifted an eyebrow. “Plan to do what?”
Elliott sighed, glancing over at Pips who was busy making some toast. His brother’s eyes flickered to the side then refocused on the task at hand.
“Your cousin. You close?”
I wasn’t sure where he was going with this line of questioning but I decided honesty was the best policy here.
“We used to be. But, then he started going a little strange…” If you could call breaking all contact with the family and subversively trying to break the law going a little strange.
“Right,” Elliott rolled his eyes. “Anyway, the plan is this…”
After he outlined his thoughts, I wasn’t quite sure whether I was hearing clearly, or not. Breaking Lachlan out of the Astor didn’t sound like the genius plan that he made it out to sound. It was definitely preferable to the only other outcome, though.
You never wanted to lose family…