Second Always Comes Last
“Isn’t he beautiful?” Oskar is one of us. Oskar is a soldier.
‘Let's not take too long then. You guys have to head out to the hospital before it’s too late.’ Shane urged. I nodded.
I tilted Oskar’s head back and smiled at him gently. If not for the black eye, his facial injuries had washed away quite well. He had been dressed in fresh attire, one of the military shirt costumes as well as a large black trench-coat Daniel had found in the back of the shop. Oskar stared up at me in silence, his eyes watery and forgiving. He was a solider; a fallen soldier. He attempted one of his cocky smiles, but his lips did not move to speak, they could only twitch without even raising the corners. He was tired; very tired.
We had carried Oskar up to the top level of the shop and had gently laid him out in the shopping trolley, his back resting against the handle. Beauregard was perched at the bow of the trolley, ready and attentive to the ride ahead of us. Daniel nudged me aside so he could move over Oskar himself. He produced plain mask that he had spent all of the last night painting in a miraculous design of a war-torn hero, the red cross waiting to guide him on his forehead. Beauregard, Darany and I each put on a similar mask, but undecorated. Following that we produced four thin plastic helmets that we had picked up from the craft shop and balanced them each on our heads, Oskar, Beauregard, Darany and I; we would not wear our formal hats today, today we were field soldiers.
Shane opened the door for us and I got behind the trolley and trundled it out, followed . Both Oskar and Beauregard’s weight combined was quite a burden, but I had to put up with it.
We each saluted our farewell to the two officers remaining behind. Shane and Daniel would not accompany us on this trip.
‘Fare well.’ Shane commanded. ‘And get that wounded soldier to a medic.’
‘Yessir!!’ Beauregard yelped. Even with a mask obscuring his face I could tell he was grinning ear to ear.
The hospital was a fair walk away, but it wasn’t too far to take over an hour. Our biggest worry was passing through a busier part of the city and not raising too much suspicion in being four masked boys with a shopping trolley, but then again, we were boys; we’d get away with it.
The first hill was very slight, but the most difficult, and Danary helped me to push the others upward, but after that he was to walk ahead and I was left to burden the weight alone.
Being a Sunday, we didn’t encounter as many pedestrians as we had expected, and our most observant spectators would have been the passengers in the passing buses. However after crossing the bridge over the highway we were well out of the way of the shopping areas and at the top of the hill above the hospital.
It was a fine spring day, the air warm, the skies clear, the ocean visible in the distance behind the horizon of cityscape and docks in the far distance. the hospital area was a mildly pleasant place as well, although inner city, it was surrounded by plenty of spaces of green grass to balance out it’s depressing connotations. We moved around to the backside of the car-park at the top of the slope to the hospitals main driveway. I took out my mobile. Now all I awaited was the call.
There was only one reason I was doing this. There was only one reason I had even allowed this to happen. If things had not been as they were we would have never been gathered outside the hospital with Oskar. I would have never even considered it.
I knew that something had gone down with Hutchoen and his coach. I knew that something had happened in that room. I knew it was something to do with me.
I glanced at my knuckles holding the trolley firmly from running away. Darany opened the bag he had been shouldering and took out the clamps. I just needed that call.
I knew I had done something to the coach. It was me... I had the worst gut feeling of it. I had lost conciousness; fainted. I can’t even comprehend why, but the skin on my palms had felt tight. Tight as if I had been gripping something firmly, like a racket. No matter how many times that Hutcheon had proclaimed it was Sir, insisted it was some spiritual force, I knew otherwise. We were murderers.
My phone rang. I answered the call quickly bringing to my ear, hoping my voice would be comprehensible through the mask.
“About time Shane I was-”
‘Nazza, it’s me.’
“Hutcheon? I thought you said you couldn’t be here today because of something about your coach incident...” My voice trailed off. Speak of the devil.
‘Yeah. And there is something important I really think you should know about it. I know I really didn’t tell you much about what happened, but I guess I was in shock about the entire thing, and I really believed it was Sir.’
“Why are you telling me this now...?” I glanced at Darany. I needed to be able to take the call from Shane, but in the case he discussed he would call Darany anyway. I held onto Hutcheon’s line.
‘Look. I’ve just been thinking about it. It’s nagging on my mind. I thought you should know before... well... this is how it was: You came in, all confused and acting strange right at the right time. Coach was furious at me for reasons, and was really imposing. I was pathetic, so I just took it. You snatched the racket off him and turned it against him.’
“So I did kill him....”
‘No! No. That’s just it. You only made him madder. His face was bright, his cheeks were puffed, hell, I had never ever seen him like that before. Then whatever was bugging you finally hit. You clutched your head and curled up on the ground. Coach was in some sort of frenzy of anger and I couldn’t do anything I was too shocked... So I hoped. I really hoped something would stop him. I hoped in Sir’s name. I begged Sir’s being or any remains of him to help us out.’ Hutcheon paused, but I said nothing so he continued.
‘Coach died. He died right there. He sort of did the same thing as you, went on the ground. But unlike you he just died.’
‘That’s why they called me in today. They found evidence he died of cardiac arrest. He had never been that infuriated before. Fletcher’s off the hook, well at least for murder, he is still being charged with the assault from the racket.’
“So we’re not murderers?” I couldn’t be sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing to hear right now.
‘No! We never were. I told you all this time, didn’t kill him. Not murderers.’
Hutcheon... Hutcheon.. why were you doing this to us? Darany had finished the clamping and both he and Beauregard were watching me.
“Yet.” I said to Hutcheon before ending the call. I was expecting a call from Shane. I needed that call from Shane.
The next five minutes took forever. Nathaniel’s eyes mocked me from beneath his mask.
‘When can we send Oskar to the hospital?’ He whined. I lifted my phones screen and it simultaneously rung. This time I checked the caller ID. It was Shane. I nodded to Darany once. Nathaniel sat up the the trolley and climbed out over the edge. ‘It’s Shane isn’t it? It’s Chen Chen.’ I ignored him and focused on the call.
“Officer Tommy.” I answered.
‘Officer Nazi.’ He replied.
“Are we good to go.”
‘Daniel didn’t do it. He couldn’t... I couldn’t.’
‘We are good to go. I’m doing it myself. Over and out.’
“Wait!?” I protested, but the line was already dead. I didn’t have time to ponder over what Shane had told me... he was doing it himself? I took a quick glance at the clamps and gave the others a thumbs up without mentioning a thing.
“Good to go.” I said.