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Chapter Three


“Why would he kill Shaun?”

            “Why would he have a gun in the first place?”

            “It’s not his style.  He’s quite reliable.  Fun to be around, but certainly not dramatic.”

            “Maybe he just snapped.”

            “Too easy.  Ryan doesn’t just snap.”

            “But Shaun is inoffensive.”

            “Was inoffensive.”

            “I didn’t want to hear that.”

            “I don’t think people do ‘just snap’ full stop, you know.”

            “No, they just shoot their mates.”

            The stilted conversation had bounced between Ripley and Barry as they stormed down the motorway, paying less attention to road rules than Denise and Rachel were, exchanging rhetoric and confusion.  Both were asking meaningless questions, oblivious to any semblance of truth.  When two friends fell out it was often difficult to take a side, but when one killed another it was hard to know how to react, let alone who to pledge allegiance to.  They talked to paper over the silences, and hoped that talking would somehow allow for a fragment of understanding to sneak through.  At some point one of them would talk a bit of sense.

            “They were in the pub together on Thursday,” Barry pointed out.

            “I’m trying to recall tension.”

            “This is a bit more than tension.”

            “I know that, you moron,” Ripley said.  “I’m just trying to sort this out.  Of all the things I could possibly have written about, even I couldn’t have created this.”

            “There really is no way that this could be a joke is there?”

            Ripley didn’t even bother replying.  He was compiling memories of Shaun, trying to work how he would remember him in the future.  The papers would earmark him as tragic and that would be how the rest of the world saw him, but Ripley wanted to eulogise about the first friend he had lost.  Although not brave enough to admit it, he had a sense of existing that he hadn’t felt in some time.  This was something real – it was living.  It wasn’t day-to-day, nor was it an enviable position to be in right now, but there was a sense of importance attached to being involved with something that usually happened to other people.

            Even further away from his soon to be public sense of grief (once the shock had subsided and reflection gave him time to grieve), it crossed Ripley’s mind that tonight could have an immense effect on his life aspirations.  The media was involved already, and no doubt they’d be wanting to talk to him at some point, and Ripley knew that this could lead to contacts.  Ripley thought all of the things that he wasn’t allowed to express.  When tragedy struck, you weren’t allowed to be openly selfish, admonishing any personal consideration and trying to apply yourself to the situation at hand.  Right now, he wasn’t allowed to think that all this would make breaking up with Faye seem less important.  He also wasn’t allowed to think that being part of this would actually be really interesting.  And he certainly wasn’t allowed to ponder which one of his friends he would rather have been shot tonight - Lucinda, incidentally.  All of this you kept to yourself for eternity – there were social norms in place and death was not the place to breach them.  Tact and diplomacy were everything.

            “He’s dead,” Barry murmured.  It was stating the obvious, but it came to everyone at some point.  The snap of realisation once the shock had subsided.  They had lost a friend tonight.  “He’s fucking dead.  Shaun.  Fucking Shaun.  What the fuck is going on?  Why the fuck would Ryan shoot Shaun?”

            “I presume by now that you’re not expecting answers from me.”

            “Priceless as you think you are, Ripley, even you couldn’t come up with an articulate explanation right now.”

            “Then maybe you could stop asking inane propositions.”

            “I’m just trying to make things work in my head, okay?  I’m not very good at this.  I took two days off work when my dog died.”

            “Sorry.  I’m pretty shit at this as well.”

            “It just ain’t right.  It’s like a dream or something.”

            I could have articulated something better than that, Ripley thought, but kept that with his other banned musings.  He would have to try and recapture them all on paper soon.  Once the hollow feeling had departed, and when he could respond properly to what was going on ahead of him.  He couldn’t envision Shaun as anything but alive, so vivid was the memory of him.  And Barry was right - it was like they were dreaming.  There was no other way to put it.

            “Then I’d really like to wake up.”

            There was a ten minute pause as both were lost for words.  Ripley desperately wanted to know what to do, despising the feeling of having no control. Barry hoped that his pragmatic side would not fail him on this occasion.  The world didn’t seem to exist outside of Ripley’s car and beyond this situation.  Hours ago, Ripley had been preparing to break Faye’s heart – now she paled into insignificance, possibly her biggest fear.  They both wished for something else to think about, but there was nothing.  Surprisingly for both of them, it was Barry who started to rationalise first.

            “We’re going to have to split up when we get down there.”


            “Well two of our friends are there and they’re both in different places.”

            “Good point,” it sounded so clinical.

            “But whichever one we go to, doesn’t mean we’ve taken a side,” Barry affirmed and Ripley nodded his agreement. 

            “We just have to wait and see what we find.”

            “Do you think Shaun will still be at the Central Academy?”

            “I dunno.  I mean, what do they do with bodies?”

            “Take them to hospital.”

            “Hospital?  Why?  They’re already dead.”

            “The morgue, you idiot.”

            “Oh.”  It was another of those moments where it all hit home.