Five Fights – Belle Brooks

I sit watching the hands on the clock rotate slowly, so slowly it appears they don’t move at all. 3:40 a.m., and still no word. Not a whisper. Nothing. Shaky breaths part my lips. My jaw clenches tight at the same time as my hands. My stomach rolls like a tidal wave, then knots into a tight ball. Why haven’t we heard anything? Is no news good news? He places his hands on the breakfast bar. His platinum wedding ring flashes past my vision, catching my attention. I can see the grazes on his knuckles and hear every unsteady breath he takes, but I don’t look up and meet Cruise’s gaze. Instead, I turn my eyes back to those slowly rotating hands barely circling the clock. He clears his throat, but says nothing. I know he wants me to look at him, but I won’t.

I can’t. Since Cruise’s return three hours ago, we’ve kept distance between each other. I’m mad, in pain, and on the verge of an internal death, one that will obliviate any chance of me coming out of this the same person I once was. I have no fight left. I’m not even sure what is left to fight for. I know my brother didn’t take Morgan—the police have cleared him—but I hadn’t realised how much I needed Cruise to be here by my side in the most difficult moment of my life. He wasn’t here. Now that he is, I want him to leave. It remains quiet in the house, apart from each breath Cruise takes and the ticking sound from the clock. The storm whipped, beat, and thrashed the earth until just after midnight.

It was loud, violent, and powerful, worse than the weather the night Morgan disappeared, and I can’t help thinking that if she was out there in that, I doubt she’d have survived. What shelter did she have, if any? I thought the storm would never stop, even though I pleaded for it to, for Morgan’s sake, for ours, for the officers who were out searching for her. Eventually, it did, just as abruptly as it arrived. An eerie calm has since replaced those furious howls of wind, and no matter how hard I try to shake an overwhelming sense of doom, I can’t. “Reid,” Cruise whispers. “Everyone’s asleep.” I don’t give him my attention or answer. Instead, I keep my eyes fixated on the clock. “I’m so sorry, brother. If I had known, I would have been here in a heartbeat.

” It’s too late for apologies. “Talk to me. Please.” I close my eyes and try to pretend he’s not even standing there. I just want Cruise to disappear and go back to his mate’s place, far, far away from me. “Talk to me.” “Nothing to say,” I murmur. “But there is. I’m here.” He pauses.

“I’m here for you. Let me help you.” “Find Morgan. Bring her home,” I punch out. “That’s the only help I want.” “I will. Tell me how, and I’ll bring her home.” Mechanically, I rotate my head. “If I knew, wouldn’t you think I’d have taken care of it myself already.” He blinks.

His lips part. His Adam’s apple bobs in his throat, forcing his mouth to close. “I’d never hurt Morgan. You know that, right?” Cruise speaks softly. His eyes are pleading when they connect with mine. I nod. “Together, you and me, we can work this puzzle out. I know we can.” “You stink really bad.” He does, like a mix of stale ale, rotten eggs, and the unique, pungent odour of papaya.

I want to dry heave with each inhale. “Yeah. I fucked up, okay? I need to pull my head in and get my shit together.” “You need a shower first.” He grins. “That bad, hey?” “Worse than having my head stuffed inside a horse’s arse.” I pinch my nose. “Can I borrow some of your clothes?” I nod. “Mum, Dad, Natalie, and Max are asleep in the lounge room. Ronald and Kylee are upstairs in the kid’s rooms.

John’s gone home, and Linda left, too.” I’d not been paying attention to what had been happening around me. I had little clue as to the movements of others, and I really didn’t care to know now. “I’ll use your bathroom then, so I don’t wake anyone?” I nod. “Give me ten minutes and I’ll be back.” “Coffee?” I’m not sure why I offer him social niceties, but I do. Maybe it’s because I know he won’t leave, and if shit hits the fan today, I’ll need Cruise to comfort Mum and Dad when I won’t be able to. “Please.” He reaches out his hand and taps my arm just like he’s done in moments of comfort throughout my youth. “We’ll find her.

Me and you, brother.” My lip quivers. Cruise means what he says. The determination laced in his tone is strong, but I know we won’t find Morgan. Too much time has passed. A massive storm punished most of Queensland, and Max hasn’t been able to contact Detective West or Gleaton for hours. The game is over. And now I sit here and watch the hands on this clock take away every dream I’d thought possible for my future. I wait for the call to tell me my wife has not been found alive. The Wolf There’s nothing like the sound of rain pelting against a tin roof, and as I lie in bed listening to it lighten, I think about Morgan burnt beyond recognition.

Everything’s finally gone to plan. The fire spread quickly, much quicker than I’d anticipated, but the storm eventually prevented it from blazing out of control. I couldn’t get close enough to find Morgan’s body before the sun went down, so now I’m left to wait until the sun rises to claim my latest prize. My thirteenth victim. My Red. My excitement is so palpable that I can’t sleep. The glare from the television catches my attention. I reach across the quilt, retrieve the remote from beside my head and turn up the volume. Even though Morgan’s gone, I’ll always have my memories of the game we played, and those videos of her looking lost, defeated, and pained whilst imprisoned inside my Red Room. I smile as on the screen, she writes in the notepad.

I didn’t think she’d write the letters, scrawl her final messages. I haven’t read them, and I won’t. Anything Morgan had to say is of no interest to me. She’s a ghost. A tortured hellion. A dead bitch. As her hands shake, my lips stretch wider. I really can’t wait to deliver her final thoughts to Reid and those brat kids. My word is my bond. I’ll give him the fucking letters along with a handshake.

I rewind the film. I relax my head back into the pillow and take a long inhale. Photographs shoot across the projection screen. Morgan’s filthy, covered in mud with blood dried on her skin. She stares at the screen as picture upon picture layer on top of each other. The panic and terror in her eyes, the way her chest rises and falls rapidly—it’s everything I’d hoped it would be. The pulse in her neck thumps, but she doesn’t turn her head away. Her eyes remain glued to the life she once had playing out before her. The screen goes black. Morgan’s legs buckle when she stands, causing her to launch out her arms.

She stumbles forward until her body hangs off the edge of the table. Morgan wobbles, stretched up on her tiptoes, until she manages to push her heels down and finally balances. She rummages with desperation through the mess I left on the table for her, snarling, and it pleases me. Whack. A notebook and pen fall to the concrete flooring. Morgan’s big brown eyes grow wide. Her chin quivers. A moment of realisation fills her expression, one I’ll have the pleasure of watching over and over on repeat. “They’re blank, aren’t they, Red?” I snicker, and affect a feminine voice. “Oh, what does this mean? Why are all the pages absent of writing? Why did he do this?” I laugh.

Slowly, her body lowers until she sits slumped on the concrete. Her head hangs low. She’s disappointed. “Oh, poor Red.” I continue to laugh. Beep. Beep. Beep. On the video, the timer sounds, the one I hung to the wall in my Red Room. Even now, my heart gallops with glee.

Morgan gasps. Once again, panic stretches her eyes open excessively. This moment is one I’ll treasure long after I bury her in my graveyard. Her head turns in a whip, and she stares, spotting the red numbers of the timer. I lift my arms above my head and stretch, only to wince at the sting radiating through my shoulder where that dumb bitch stabbed me. How the fuck did she get those scissors? It had to have been after I stitched her leg wounds. I kick off the blankets and rock until I’m in a seated position. I need that footage. Ring, ring, ring. Reaching out my arm, I grab my mobile phone from the pillow beside me.

“Yeah?” I say in answer. “Is it done?” “Yep.” There’s silence. “Are you happy?” he says. “Very. Very fucking happy.” “Good.” “What are you doing with Morgan’s body?” “I’ll have to see what condition she’s in, and then I’ll decide.” “What?” His voice is hushed, but strained. “You’ve collected her, haven’t you?” “Couldn’t get close enough, that fire took off like a wild bitch.

The storm only just calmed down now. I went out again a few hours ago, but couldn’t see shit. I’ll go get her in the morning. Well, if there’s anything left of her, that is.” I can’t stop the grin that follows. “The coppers are searching. I have no doubt they’re out your way.” “I’m not worried.” “Well, I am.” There’s a nervous tone laced in his words.

“Calm down. I’ve got it sorted.” “Once you find her body, get your shit out of the fucking cabin and burn it to the ground. I don’t want this coming back—” “It won’t. Calm ya tits. What? Does she know?” “No. She has no clue.” “Reid?” “No.” “Nothing to worry about.” “Burn the fucking cabin down or I will.

It can’t come back to me.” “But I’ve done so much work out here to get my game—” “You got what you wanted. I supported you. Now it’s done. No more hunting. No more killing. Your revenge is complete. The game is over.” I laugh. “Oh, this is just the beginning.

I’ll head home for a little while. I’ll get out of Queensland, for your sake, but I’ll be back.” “That wasn’t the deal.” I scoff. “We don’t have a deal, and I suggest you get on board or I’ll take someone’s life away from you.” “Listen here—” I hang up. Screw him. Screw everybody. I have a pang of hunger that needs quenching. I’m not about to give up the chase, the hunt, for anyone.

Not even him. Morgan Crackle, pop. Although the sound is distant, I’m aware that the fire still burns in spots. I try to tip my chin forward in an attempt to lift my head from the ground. I must work out how close the flames are, but I can’t. I have nothing left in the tank. Rain beats down heavily against my skin, and as I scrunch my eyes closed, I cry. Everything hurts. Breathing, moving, thinking … it all hurts so much. I want nothing more than to sleep.

The overwhelming burning sensation that ripped through my upper right thigh, has all but disappeared. There’s pain, but the intensity is gone. Maybe I didn’t get burnt after all. I try to shift my hand from the top of my stomach to my leg, so I can touch and explore the area where the most agonising pain I’ve ever felt existed, but it, too, is as heavy as lead and won’t budge. I can’t move. So, I cry. All I can do is cry. I shiver. I take laboured breaths. I cough.

I cry even more. It’s a vicious cycle I fear will never end, not until I take my last breath. I will die here, in these ruins, alone. Detective West The automatic doors part and, as Detective Gleaton steps in front of me, I take a final drag from my cigarette and flick it behind me as I enter the police station. “Coffee?” Roland says, passing me the disposable cup. “It’s hot.” He warns before I have a chance to knock it back. “Is everyone in place? Has Lynette been in contact?” I ask, reaching his side. “Yes. And yes, Lynette has.

The two SERT teams from Brisbane that were on the ground searching throughout the night have retrieved nothing, and have now resumed their instructed positions for our search. That storm has made seeing anything hard, Lynette said.” “Warrant?” “I’ve got the warrant.” Roland pats at his jeans pocket. “Good. Let’s get this show on the road. We need to drive out there before daylight. Morgan must be located this morning.” As I enter the project room, each officer’s eyes turn to me. The chatter I could hear from the hallway ceases.

Eric hands me an A4 photograph when I reach him. “Morning.” He stands at attention. I don’t respond as I sidestep him, then pass, heading to the podium. Holding the picture up by my ear, I swivel until my shoulders are squared to the many bodies of the officers filling the room. “This is our target. Winston Sampson, also known as Vactrim Blight. He’s using an alias for his employment. However, all his DMV records, deeds, and insurance are under his birth name of Winston Sampson.” I stop speaking as Roland comes to stand beside me.

“Departure in twenty-five minutes,” he whispers for my ears only. I nod. “Winston’s brother, Falcon Sampson, deceased, is the motive for Morgan’s kidnapping. Our evidence is clear and precise. His death, nearly six years ago, relates to this abduction.” “Winston is currently out of town hunting, as per his employer’s statement. We are yet to locate his whereabouts. What we do know is he’s due to resume his job this coming Thursday,” Roland says, reaching for a folder on the lectern beside him. “Winston was once a part of the Melbourne mafia. We believe he no longer has any ties with the organisation and his alias is for protection from this underground crime syndicate.

He’s also exmilitary, so he’s considered dangerous.” I look to Roland as his lips part. “We have a warrant to search land and property belonging to Winston at Corbet’s Landing, along with any vehicles that may be on-site. Two teams are in position and currently surround the cabin. We’ve had eyes on the ground since yesterday. There’s no movement at his home from our intel, but if Winston is on-site, you are to negotiate a surrender without a kill, unless you’re in immediate danger,” Roland instructs, turning his eyes to mine. “Our main priority here is locating Morgan Banks alive.” “And this is what we’ve learnt from Morgan and the GPS PING in place. She’s in bushland, land at Corbet’s Landing. The GPS has narrowed this vast landscape down to a radius of one hundred hectares.

We’re looking specifically for a large rock wall that has a huge boulder on at least one side. During the last contact I made with Morgan, she informed me this was where she was hiding. However, that was more than eighteen hours ago now, and due to the weather, she most likely repositioned. We’ll have four teams in total moving through this scrub. Two that are already in position, and the two teams we’ll form here this morning.” I scan my eyes over the many stern faces. “Your mission: to tackle each direction of this land mass, and continue inwards until we’ve covered all ground.” Gleaton steps forward. “You all know the team you’re assigned to. Let’s gear up and meet out back.

” “Let’s get this done. Four teams. Blue and red are our two teams. Yellow and green are the two teams squatting in wait. You’ll respond to these colour codes only for radio contact. Turn your radio station off the main dispatch channel and switch to station ninety-one.” I pause, looking at the many nodding heads. “Move out.” Eager feet march down the ramp and towards the police vehicles. “You all know where you need to go.

Remember, team blue, you’ll be searching the house, vehicles, and the other two teams, currently lying in wait, searching the surrounding property. Team red, you’ll stop on the way out and come in through the bush, make sure to approach with caution. After this task is complete, we’ll break into our four teams and cover the PING location from the GPS. No stone, rock, or fucking blade of grass gets left unchecked. We find Morgan. This ends today,” I shout. “Yes, sir,” they reply in unison. I slide into my car just as Roland does, and without a minute to fasten my seatbelt, I shift the car into gear and pull out in front of all other vehicles. Roland leans forward, flicking the switch that controls the siren, and as the noise wails into the dead of the night, I press my foot flat on the accelerator. I will find Morgan.

I will bring her home. She will be alive.

.

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