This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 777 words.
As expected, the car park was empty at that time of night. Keith put Johnny over his shoulder, like a fireman’s lift, and I held the torch in the almost complete darkness. We had to be careful as we got close to the edge, so Keith put him down a good foot or more away from the drop.
The waves could be heard a long way below, but I had no idea if the tide was in or out. The old torch wasn’t powerful enough to illuminate the view down there, and only just about gave us enough light to see where we were walking.
Keith was ready with his instructions.
“You take his arms, and I’ll get the legs. We need to give him a good swing before we let go, make sure he is clear of the cliff. Put the torch down over there, so we can see what we’re doing. Then I will say one, two, three, and we let him go on three”
With the torch propped up on the grass, it cast an eerie light over the top of Johnny’s head. I held his wrists carefully, watching as Keith grabbed his ankles. When he was sure we both had a firm grip, he muttered “Ready?”
Without waiting for a reply he swung Johnny backwards, and I went with the swing. I heard Keith counting. “One, two”, but before he said three, I glanced down at Johnny’s face.
His eyes were open.
But it was too late. Before I could say anything, Keith said three, and we both let go automatically on the forward swing.
I imagined there would be a noise when Johnny landed at the bottom. But it was a long way down, the sea was loud, and we heard nothing. Both standing by the edge, I decided to tell Keith that Johnny’s eyes had opened before we let go. He just shrugged.
“Too late now. He won’t survive that fall. That’s why so many depressives choose this place to commit suicide. They know they won’t just be injured. Anyway, it was you and Terry who both said he wasn’t breathing. So if he was just unconscious, that’s down to you two. Come on, pick up the torch and let’s get back”.
That short journey back to the caravan site seemed to take forever. I couldn’t get the look on Johnny’s face out of my mind, and me and Keith both agreed that there was no way we were going to mention that to Terry. Keith was still so calm, you would never have imagined what he had juts been a party to. “We don’t want Terry to get any funny ideas. As far as he knows, Johnny died in the caravan. That way, Terry was there, and is implicated. As long as he worries about that, he will keep his stupid mouth shut”.
When we got back, Terry was fully dressed, and had his stuff packed. He didn’t ask us what had happened on Beachy Head, but he seemed intense. “I want you to know that I have to go home as soon as the trains start. If you won’t take me to the station, I’ll get a taxi”. Keith was ruthless. “You will do no such thing. You will stick with us, see it through. You act worried about Johnny, you give the agreed story to the police, and we will get you home as and when it is convenient. Don’t give us any trouble now, Terry”.
Although far from happy, Terry knew it was two against one, and he sat down again.
That meant me and Keith had to go to the shop the next morning. Terry could not be relied upon to stand firm out in public, so we wandered over casually just after nine. Both very tired, we looked suitably shabby and hung-over when we spoke to the site manager. He said he hadn’t seen anyone fitting Johnnny’s description. Then suggested Johnny might have hooked up with a girl, and could be in another caravan. He wasn’t that helpful, and didn’t seem to think it was out of the ordinary.
So Keith went into the phone box and rang the police. At first, they just told him that he had to wait for twenty-four hours to report a missing person. But when Keith mentioned that Johnny had suggested the trip to Beachy Head, and had been acting very low and depressed for months, they said they would send someone to talk to us. They asked us not to leave the site, and they would be there within the hour.
We sat in the caravan in silence, waiting.