Novels‎ > ‎Shot Down‎ > ‎

Chapter One



            “Why would he have a gun?” Rachel asked incredulously.  She had been caught unawares by the breaking news whilst channel surfing for Saturday night entertainment.  She had known that Ryan had been in London at a gig, and she was sure that it was at the one that was on the news.  He had mentioned something about Bright Eyes a couple of weeks before, and that was when she had called Denise.

            “I don’t know,” Denise snapped.  She was agitated to say the least.  The horror of seeing her son (and it was her son, there was no mistaking that – even with a coat on his head) being led out of the venue as a murder suspect was not easy to recover from.  Rolling news was fascinating because it didn’t actually hurt her – that must have been part of the joy.  But now…

            Well, it was different now.  She wondered what the papers would say.  They would blame the parents.  Everyone blamed the parents.  But what had she and Trevor done to their son that led him to unleash his murderous tendencies?  Denise had sat down and acquainted herself with the confused fiction that the early news reports were dishing out like historical fact.  It had seemed that there was a rock concert going on in the London that had been cut short because someone had opened fire.  There were varying reports of one to several shots, but only one confirmed victim.  And that was still debatable.  But where did Ryan get involved?  And what the fuck was he doing in London?

            She had called Rachel back, demanding that she come and pick her up straight away.  “I need to get down there!” she had screeched down the phone and Rachel had dutifully turned up ten minutes later, despite being a little over the limit.  Rachel and Denise had worked together for years in the book-keeping office of a catalogue firm and become firm friends.  They had both been promoted to senior account managers, neither more superior than the other, and the camaraderie had carried with them.  Recently, Rachel had been a shoulder to cry on for Denise as her marriage to Trevor had collapsed – an event she was now thinking could have pushed her son over the edge.  But couples fall out of love all the time, she reminded herself.  Men don’t go around shooting people because their parents split up.  Ryan was twenty-two – it was hardly a difficult age.  But there had to be a reason.

            Or was she condemning her son too soon?

            Rachel had driven with a sense of urgency through the intricate avenues of Manchester’s suburbia, one minute turning into a respectable neighbourhood, the next careering into the world of the undesirable.  Denise lived in a mid-ground – not too nice, but not particularly sinister.  She could walk to the shops fearlessly, which was more than half of Manchester could boast.  She looked out of the window as road after road glided past, each with its own personality, its own history and its own shame.  To get to the motorway, they had to drive through Salford, and she wondered whether it was there that Ryan got his gun.  She’d heard bad things about Salford on the news and always steered clear, believing that if she avoided it, it would avoid her.  She liked the quiet life and liked to keep news at a distance.  To be newsworthy often meant you were disreputable.

            “Something must have been really wrong,” Rachel was trying to help with kind words.  She was as stunned as Denise that Ryan would be involved in something of this ilk.  “It must be mistaken identity.”  Rachel wasn’t helping so Denise turned the radio news up, enabling her to be fed information of her own son’s actions.

            It was another eyewitness.

            “He seemed uncomfortable, yeah, uncomfortable.  I think he was there on his own.  He looked like he was looking for someone, for sure,” the anonymous young man rattled on.  “He didn’t move a lot.  Looked at the show, but then looked around.  I caught his eye once – he looked a bit demented.”

            Belinda Ryner sounded sympathetic as she urged him to continue.  She had lucked out with a relatively calm, non-hysterical eyewitness, and she intended to milk him of all his information before the police diluted it.

            “It was during ‘Lua’ that I noticed he became very distracted.  I was enjoying the show, so I didn’t pay too much attention – I mean, Bright Eyes do attract some weirdoes, you know.”  Rachel grimaced – the press would love that.  They were demonising Ryan already, no doubt hoping there would be a Marilyn Manson obsession at the bottom of all of this.

            “Was that when he opened fire?” Belinda quizzed.

            “Yeah, just the once.  I assume he got his man.”

            “What happened next?”

            “Well, everyone panicked, as you can imagine.  I grabbed my girlfriend, just wanted to get her out of there.”

            “Christ, the papers will be calling him brave tomorrow,” Rachel snorted, “like they do with most people that act out of fear.  Still, it will make a change from the latest celebrity with a cancer scare.”  Denise didn’t reply – she wasn’t in the mood for one Rachel’s sardonic remarks.  She continued to stare out of the window, noticing for the first time that the Victorian houses had morphed into purpose built bed-sits for rich single people with too much money and not enough love in their lives.  The motorway was imminent and in hours she would be in London, not knowing what to expect, nor what she should believe. 

            “People were getting trampled,” the brave witness continued.  “I stopped to help a couple of people, but I was in fear of being trampled myself.  Everyone had the same idea – just to get to the door.  You want to be a hero, but the guy had just fired a bullet.  Any of us could be next.”

            “But you think the target was intentional?”

            “The way he was looking around, yeah – he definitely wanted to shoot someone in particular.  Otherwise he would have fired more shots, don’t you think?”

            “Some people say he did.”     

            “I was next stood next to him – it was just the one shot,” he asserted, ensuring that his truth would be in print come dawn.

            “Do you have any idea what would have driven him to do such a thing?” Belinda persisted.

            “How the fuck would he know something like that?  He was only stood next to him!  It’s not like he fucking knew him!” Denise yelled and switched the radio off.  Rachel stared ahead as the tarmac disappeared beneath their feet at knots, bringing them closer to the carnage that both of them wished they would never reach.