Caller in the Darkness

by Syd Peck


Red Kelly couldn’t see a hand in front of him in the blackness. The cold windy night had been threatening to become even worse as the hour had spun round to well after eleven. No stars, and the clouds gathered into a thunderous mass with occasional vicious flashes of lightning. As he walked he stumbled again and fell over the rocks on the unfamiliar beach for the twentieth time. He checked his knife sheath out of habit.

He knew he was not far from the high security prison a few miles away. Its light could be recognised by anyone. His belt supported a sheath holding his bloody knife. Sinewy brown hands, scarred with cuts from knife slashes, continually hitched up the belt. His pants and sweater were sodden, but they had half dried now after his three mile stumbling struggle along the rocky beach.

Stepping on a gravel path in the dark, the crunch of the stones pierced the silence so he jumped quickly on to the grass again. He went on tiptoe. Silent. A few metres ahead the weathered front door was not locked, a common practice in country areas. A brown hand lifted the latch and he slipped inside with practised stealth.

There was silence except for a woman’s voice singing softly to herself. He knew she could be an unnecessary distraction before he got his main task done. He held his breath and closed the door silently. Time stood still behind him, and he sneaked up the stairs. He could make out that one door was slightly ajar. He pushed it open slowly and silently.

Inside the darkened bedroom a tiny girl was sitting on the bed clutching a small alarm clock, with her back to him and knees drawn up under the blanket. Her curls spilled over the blanket around her narrow shoulders. Glancing up from the clock, she was staring wide-eyed at the flashes of lightning over the sea.

Checking his knife sheath, the shadowy shape tiptoed behind her. Silent. He slipped a heavy brown hand over her mouth to stop her calling out. Her eyes widened in momentary disbelief.

“Oh, I’m so glad you got home safe! Oh, your pants are wet, daddy. I was so worried when you were so late. It’s after eleven. Did you catch many tonight?” She hugged him tightly.

“Had to pull the boat in at Pitcher’s Cove. Couldn’t get in with the swell at the bay down our cliff. Had to walk along the beach three miles. Yeah, caught a few all right.” He spoke in a practised technical tone. His daughter understood the technicalities well.

“Got some cod for your mother, but I wanted to surprise her so I came up here first without any noise. Wanted to say goodnight. I knew you’d be waiting up for me.” He smiled and his voice softened.

Her red curls jiggled in nodded unison against his brown hand as she hugged him again.

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