Friday, 7 January 2011

Ch 24: In the Arms of an Angel

It seemed like he had been away an awful long time and not just 24 hours. Gene wandered along the streets, tracing steps he had done numerous times over the past few short weeks. Reaching the Black Cat Club he let himself in.
“Daniel...?”
No answer.
“Oh Danny Boy...the Gene Genie is back!”
Still no answer.
No doubt Father Daniel was out at the Refuge feeding the masses. Thinking about the word...Gene realised he was ravenous. He could murder a bacon butty. He nipped to the bathroom for a quick slash before sneaking a peak in the bedroom, where he took of his coat and threw it on the bed along with the tatty toy womble . Then he searched the cupboards of the now familiar kitchen and found a couple of barmcakes. Taking a couple of rashers of bacon out the fridge, along with an egg, he set about making some breakfast. He was quite the domestic Goddess these days.
He wondered if Daniel had missed him yesterday. Surely he must have wondered where he had been, especially when he hadn’t come home. He needed to talk to him. About Maggie. Gene had been trying to forget about her since he had left Piccadilly. Yet he couldn’t. That damn Womble was a permanent reminder. Where the hell had she gone? And moreover...who was she? His heart wrenched when he thought about her, her cute little face, those appealing eyes. Jesus. Another bloody female breaking his heart...that did not happen to Gene Hunt. Ever. Only it had.
There were so many questions he needed answers to but he had no idea where he would obtain them from.
He busied himself with the food preparation. He needed to keep busy, take his mind of all this crap that was going on, filling his head. And this place was like the morgue, so silent! He switched on the radio and sang along to the tune that was playing.
“The lights shine down the valley, the wind blows up the alley, oh
How I wish I was lying in the arms of Mary...!”
Christ. Fancy that song being on he thought. A bit of a coincidence.
It didn’t take him long to eat the two bacon and egg muffins. In fact he could have eaten two more he was so hungery. He looked at the clock. 11.15. That was another thing, he reflected, where the hell did the time go in this place? It was like it just flew by, and hours seemed to go missing, let alone the years with all the bloody time travel. No wonder he was always so bleeding tired. Maybe he would have a little nap, then go and pay the Refuge a visit, give Danny a surprise.
Continuing with domesticity, he cleared the breakfast things away, and it was as he was running the hot water into the bowl he heard something. What was it? A door slamming? He turned the tap off and listened again. There it was again. And it was close. Pretty damn close. Like the flat door, or even the door to the bedroom.
“Dan..is that you?”
Nobody answered.
He glanced around , he needed his shooter , just as a precaution, and realised it was in his coat pocket, in the bedroom. Billy Bollocks Bastard. He hoped it wasn’t some random intruder. He had had enough beatings lately. He glanced around the room for another suitable weapon. Grabbing the mop he slowly made his way towards the living room door, pushing it slowly shut so that the landing was visible just via the crack in the door. His breathing became rapid and it seemed to echo through his ears. He could hear somebody moving around in the bedroom, a kind of shuffling. Were they being robbed? He didn’t even know if there was anything of value lying around.
Jesus. His coat. The things in his pocket. Please God, no. They couldn’t take that. It was all he had, the only connection to Alex and the others, and his past. They would be of no use to anybody, well maybe the ring that was Skeltons, and the jewellery, yes that could be pawned or sold on. And his bleeding gun. Christ, they could use it on him!
Sweat beads appeared on his brow as the mad thoughts raced through his head. He realised he felt vulnerable and nothing like the Gene Genie at all.
He jumped out of his skin when the shrill sound of the telephone rang. Christ Almighty! It was enough to give him a heart attack.
Should he answer? Or not? Who was it? If he did, would the intruder burst in, when he was occupied, and helpless. If he didn’t answer, they would perhaps think there was nobody in, and just leave quietly. He turned and glared at the phone on the sideboard, willing it to stop. It seemed to go on forever before the ringing ceased.
It was then, when the silence resumed that he heard shuffling again on the landing, and as he peered through the safe gap in the door, he saw a hooded figure, dressed head to toe in black, quickly walking towards the flat door. It was difficult to tell whether it was male or female, yet as they opened the main door, a gust of wind blew, blowing the hood off. The figure quickly pulled it back up, and scurried out of the door, but not before Gene had caught a glimpse of the hair...the long titian like curls...
“Mary! Mary! Come back, it’s Gene, please come back to me....”
He dashed out of the door, running down the stairs but when he got out onto the street she had vanished! Disappeared into thin air. Deja vu . Christ this had to stop happening. He would go insane.
He deliberated going in search, then decided what was the point? She obviously didn’t want to communicate with him. He would ask Daniel. He would know. Surely.
Feeling confused, and a little tired, Gene walked wearily back up the stairs. He would grab a kip before going down to the Refuge. It was all becoming way too much and he needed to just calm down and relax. Lying down, fully dressed on the bed, it wasn’t very long before he started snoring.

“Gene.”
He stirred in his slumber.
“mmm”.
“Hey, baby. I am back.”
“mmm” He turned over on to his side. He threw an arm out. It landed on another body. A soft warm pliable form.
He slowly opened his eyes, breathing in the scent of a woman.
“Make love to me , Gene. Now. I want you. I need you.”,
Gene Hunt did not need asking twice. A naked nubile woman, willing and waiting next to him. Wanting. No sane straight man would, or could refuse. Fumbling with his buttons and zips he quickly shredded his own clothes before taking her in his arms. God this felt bloody good. He ran his fingers along her, her skin silk like under his touch. He wound his fingers through her luxourious thick mane of hair, taking in the fragrance of shampoo. He needed this. How long had it been? Too bloody long.
No words were spoken. No words were needed. A million kisses, caresses, whispers in the darkness. A touch here, a probe there. Skin on skin. Sensuous. This was nothing like Gene had ever experienced. This was certainly no quick bang with a slag from the local boozer. This was something different. This was IT. The real Mccoy, the bloody real thing. The full monty.
And she wanted more.His wild sex kitten. Everything a man could want, and more. They took each other on a journey to the depths of the earth, and then up beyond into the Universe.
“Let me show you Heaven ,Gene”. She whispered, blowing seductively in his ear.
And so it came to pass, on and on they went sharing and satisfying.
And he felt safe. And secure. Lying there in the arms of Mary.
Afterwards they slept.
Gene opened his eyes, and , staring at the white ceiling, observing the peeling plaster he asked the infamous question.
“Well, Babes, did the Gene Genie make the earth move for you? They don’t call me the Manc Lion for nothing!”
There was no answer.
He turned to find an empty bed.
No Mary. Nobody. No female. Just himself. And fully clothed.
It took him a few seconds to realise where he was. Christ. He had been bloody dreaming. Again! This was getting beyond a joke now. It had seemed so...so real. Sitting up he grabbed the adjacent pillow and brought it up to his cheek, pressing his face into it. He wasn’t certain, but he could smell some delicate perfume. He doubted it was Daz, or Persil. It would be hers. Mary’s. God it smelt good, even though it was faint.
Disappointed he looked at the bedside clock. He had been asleep a good while, well over an hour.
Time to pay Father Daniel a visit.
Smoothing his crumpled clothes, and slicking his hair, he put on his coat, quickly checking the pockets. Grateful that both his gun, and all the little trinkets were still safely in place, he closed the door of the bedroom, and the flat and headed out onto the Manchester streets once more. It was only when he got halfway along Pollard Street he realised he hadn’t seen the Womble. He felt a little disconnected . He was sure he had left it lying on top of his coat on the bed. It was a bit big to squeeze in his pockets. It must have fallen off on to the floor. He debated going back for it, but hey-ho he didn’t have time, couldn’t be bothered. And besides it would still be there when he got back.
The doors to the Refuge , for a change, were wide open and welcoming. As Gene entered the big wooden door, he could hardly see the rest of the Church for people,all crowding round the front of the Alter. He got a whiff of food. It smelt like cabbage. Followed by a strong smell of burning. A very intense smell, and smoke too. No doubt it was lunchtime and the feeding of the 5000.
Gene pushed his way through the crowd of various waifs and strays. He caught a black and white flash of a dog collar in the corner of his eye.
Suddenly a woman let out a wail.
“Oh my God.” A toothless tramp muttered.
“This is not happening” somebody else said “It’s just not happening...”
This was followed by more screams and cries of dismay. Lots of swearing and expletives from old and young alike.
As Gene pushed his way further along he noticed they were huddled around a TV set. Gene looked at the various faces, ashen, as they stared in disbelief, hands to mouths, tears in eyes. Silence. Followed by more cries of astonishment and horror.
“Ah, Gene, you’re back”. Daniel spotted him. Not even surprised, or even remotely interested.
“The atrocities of our time I am afraid. “ He nodded to the television. Gene watched the pictures before him. He realised it was the BBC News. He couldn’t quite make it out, but it was fast becoming a habit, him stumbling upon some news story. A familiar feeling washed over him.
Forgetting the reason why he had come to see Daniel, he asked a question.
“What is the date?”
Somehow he knew he had moved along in time, once more.
There were more cries.
“So help them all, Dear Lord, we need to pray” said Father Daniel to his flock, although he knew himself there was little hope.
Gene stared at the screen along with everyone else. He could see it was some kind of accident. There was a plane, a lot of smoke, and it appeared to have crashed into the side of a block of flats. As he looked closer, he realised it wasn’t a block of flats, but a tower block. One of two. Christ. That was America. New York in fact and he realised it was the famous Trump Twin Towers.
“It’s 11th September, Gene! Or as the Americans say 9/11, the year is 2001”. Father Daniel said, before continuing
“and the rest, as they say Gene, is history”.
For the following few hours each and every person in the Church, and indeed across the whole wide world, watched, in horror as terrorists attacked America. Gene, speechless himself watched people jumping from windows, reports of planes being hijacked crashing into the Pentagon at Washington. Gene learnt Bush was the President in power. He watched the White House and the Capitol report of evacuation. He stared in horror and disbelief as the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed before the eyes of the Nation. Reports of car bombs followed and it was as the North Tower collapsed a phone rang somewhere.
Father Daniel quickly ran to his office to take a call. Gene was just within ear-shot and , with one eye on the tv, strained to hear the conversation above the cries of the crowded church.
“Thank God for that. Yes.... yes....I knew you were over there but I wasn’t sure what time you were due back or what time your flight was. How long? So soon....oh, yes, I will , I will get the kettle on. Packed house here. I need your help so badly. We need to pray for everyone for all the lost souls.....hurry back.”
Father Daniel said nothing as he returned to the people waiting in the refuge. Lunch had been abandoned. Nobody was hungery. Gene listened, hearing several people mention they had relatives, or friends in New York. Somebody’s son-in-law worked on 10th floor or the North Tower. Another had a niece in Washington. Some guy, not your usual vagabond, but a well dressed businessman passed around a small phone. A woman tried to call a number, and then cried there was no answer. Network busy.
The events of the afternoon unfolded one by one, by one.
Nobody spoke.
Nobody could believe it.
Gene thought back to the Manchester events and the bomb. Christ, that had been bad enough. But this? Now being heralded the “worst event in history”.
People were dazed. In shock. Father Daniel at one point, mid afternoon prised himself away from his congregation.
“We need to pray. Each and every one of us. Though Lord knows....it is not going to help. See Gene. Do you understand now? What is happening. All those souls...? You can’t save them. Nobody can.”
Gene was silent. For the first time in his life, he had nothing to say. He felt nothing. He was numb.
“We need to all come together, and unite in prayer. I am glad you have witnessed this atrocity, Gene. You needed to. To make you understand. So we will all pray...but first....Tea! Hot sweet tea, plenty of sugar..”
Gene watched as the Priest hustled away into the kitchen area, his cassock russling against the edge of the pews. He returned carrying a large silver urn.
“Make yourself useful, my man and bring the other one. Careful now, the water’s boiling hot”.
Dazed, Gene did as he was told. The tea urn was rather heavy and the metal burnt the edge of his fingers.
Carrying it to the trestle tables he placed it next to the other urn, and watched as Father Daniel poured out watery weak looking liquid into plastic cups, and began handing them round.
Gene wanted to puke. He couldn’t take anymore. He needed a ciggie. Yes. That might help.
He walked up the aisle feeling around in his pockets. Damn. He had no matches, lighter or cigs.
Turning back down the aisle, he faced the tv screen once more. Some of the crowds had moved away and were sipping tea, sitting in the pews.
Gene stared at the piles of rubble that were once the two skyscrapers. There was nothing. But smoke, and ashes.
“Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust” he heard a voice behind him.
The voice sounded a little familiar.
He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. This had to be the worst day ever, the longest day. A day nobody in the world would ever ever forget. It was like another dream, no, a bloody nightmare.
“Somebody pinch me, tell me this is not bloody real”.
Suddenly he felt a pinch on his arm.
“Oh it’s real, to be sure, it is, Gene”.
He turned.
And found himself staring at the figure of a nun.
A nun who knew his name! Well, no bloody surprises there.
As he continued to stare at her he felt she was familiar, although he wasn’t entirely sure why.
Gene always thought of nuns as being older, like the Mother Superiors he saw in “The Nun’s Story” which his mother had loved. He knew they certainly didn’t look like Audrey bloody Hepburn.
Yet this one, well, she wasn’t that old and withered. He tried to place her age but struggled. Maybe in her early 50s, or late 40s. He had no idea. She had a good skin. And clear eyes....

“Ah....you’re back! “ Father Daniel went across to the nun and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. Gene felt a little umcomfortable. He wasn’t sure if nuns had that kind of contact.

“Now..you’re here you can come and help me with this lot, if anybody wants a bite to eat, not that they will, all appetites seem to be lost, but , well there is some food available, but it’s mostly the sweet teas we are dishing up....oh, Gene, I will introduce you...of course you need none yourself, but Gene...” Father Daniel motioned to the nun...

“Meet my trusted friend, and assistant, Sister Mary Magdalene”.

Gene looked at the nun, and she looked back at Gene as Father Daniel continued,

“or as I like to call her, “Maggie.”