The Four Musketeers: Part Sixteen

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.

34 thoughts on “The Four Musketeers: Part Sixteen

  1. Wow! Great chapter—I didn’t see that coming. If this were a Hollywood horror film, Johnny would miraculously return and come after all of them. I’ve got to imagine if Johnny survives, he will be dishing out a healthy portion of revenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1) If the forensic pathologist can determine the time of death (which occurred after Johnny fell from Beachy Head) with a fair degree of accuracy, and if there are no witnesses to the Escort Estate being driven to Beachy Head and back, then Danny, Keith, and Terry might be able to wash their hands of this. First, it would indicate that Johnny, whose depression can be documented, likely walked to Beachy Head (the Escort Estate apparently never left the caravan; no one is going to report picking up a hitchhiker). Second, if the musketeers can come up with a credible alibi that puts them in the caravan at the same approximate time as Johnny’s death (which is actually the “truth” since it’s a “short journey” by car from Beachy Head back to the caravan), then it would seem that Danny, Keith, and Terry can be spared being implicated. Waiting until morning to ask about Johnny was a mistake, though. Danny and Keith should have made their presence at the caravan known to a witness (e.g., another caravan occupant) the moment they got back: “Johnny took off on foot half an hour ago (or however long it takes to walk to Beachy Head), and we’re getting worried about him.” Another mistake would be if the boys failed to clean Johnny’s body of DNA contamination, signs of bodily injury not attributable to a fall, etc. Yet another mistake might be taking Terry along on the trip…
    (2) Overheard:
    Site manager: “Maybe Johnny hooked up with a girl?”
    Danny: “If so, she’d be a mermaid!”
    Keith: “Nah. Johnny would never fall for a mermaid!”
    (3) “We don’t want Terry to get any funny ideas.” Isn’t he the joker? Good luck with that!
    (4) What if Johnny Simpson was inspired by Johnny Weissmuller to become an excellent diver and swimmer? Depending on the tide, he may have earned himself the equivalent of an Olympic medal…and still be alive!
    (5) A phone box is okay. But I’d rather make a phone call with Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone.

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    1. The first use of DNA in crime-solving in Britain was in 1987, David. This section of the serial is set before that, though I have not stated a date throughout. However, there has been no mention of mobile phones, computers, or the Internet. They used a public phone box to call the police, and the cars mentioned (Danny’s and Danny’s dad’s) are old Ford models. I deliberately left the time period ambiguous, and I was wondering hen any readers might mention something concerning that. The small previous injuries on Johnny (cut lip, swollen nose) would be part of any injuries consistent with a fall from height. It was important to the story that Johnny was actually still alive when thrown over the cliff. Otherwise, there would have been no bleeding associated with the fall. I think I covered any chance of forensic examination suspecting murder.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. There are some in big cities, and at railway stations. But we have none at all in most places. I haven’t used one for so long now, I cannot remember the last time I did. The phone boxes were also a sort-of clue to the time period in this story.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. They didn’t hear a sound after Johnny went over the cliff…maybe there was a shelf sticking out. He going to come back in the night and say “Boo!”

      Liked by 1 person

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