Jacob dreamed vividly of his childhood. It was of his Grandfather and himself, aged eleven, standing silent by the river Ant; one of the many arteries of Norfolk. He looked up at the chiselled features of his elder, seeing the spectre of a lifetime’s experience in his wrinkled face as he cast a fishing line out into the motionless waters. Weary, jaundiced eyes never switching their focus from the task at hand. Time was an abstract here, waxing and waning at its own leisure with little consequence, yet despite this Jacob felt that he had been with his Grandfather for an hour or more and in that hour no conversation had passed their lips, no ponderings or exchanges, just an occasional abrupt instruction here and there. Blunt teaching that had led him to become the skilled angler he was today, having received awards for his expertise, albeit in local tournaments only. The silence between them had continued to grow before his Grandfather spoke and even then it was uncertain whether it was to Jacob or the wilderness at large, a supplication to the old gods who lay buried in the reeds. The words came low and monotonous, holding immeasurable sway to a child’s imagination and holding dominance over all other sound.
Across the table, nearest the door of the matchbox sized interview room, Detectives Knight and Shannon sat, staring in bewilderment ahead of them. Knight’s hand hovered over the interview tape reluctantly before taking the plunge, pressing the rewind button to take the tape back to its beginning. Shannon watched from behind the curtain of his fingers, rubbing his eyes at the click of the recorder reaching its start. They had been in the room for two hours already and this would be their third attempt. “Right,” Knight began, her coarse voice matching her strictly neat attire “Let’s try this again.” opposite sat a man, crossed legged, slouched in the interview chair with a dangerous casualness for such a formal setting. A cigarette complimented one hand while the other lay outstretched from his body, ever ready should Bacchus himself materialize a Cabernet Sauvignon from thin air. The Man’s dapper attire was in contrast to the detectives across from him and in all their lack of similarities the table provided an ocean of distance. Despite his fondness for donning a Panama and a polka dot Cravat a bigger penchant had made itself obvious, and it had not gone unnoticed that the smell of alcohol had waltzed around the room for some time. Stopping once in a while to pinch the Man’s cheeks to keep them chapped and rosy. “Can we start with your name?” Shannon asked and the man nodded slowly. “Cyril St Jude” he said.
I want to tell you gentlemen a story. Two weeks ago I had the great privilege of seeing our boys in action down in that great hell hole called Huế, Stepping right off a whirlybird and into the blistering heat of an active fire fight. Glorious. Some lieutenant screamed at me over that all embracing sound of ordnance we’ve grown to admire and pointed to a temple, hiding itself behind heathen smoke. He told me that there where Cong dug in deep and that before they neutralised him, a sniper on top of one of them Pagodas took out four of his men. He continued to fire even as the thing went up in smoke courtesy of a few licks of the Zippo. I lost sight of him behind the plumes but I know he burned happy.
Everything’s changed. The thought resonated as he scanned the landscape of the town below. From nought to eighteen he lived there with his mother and three siblings in a dilapidated terrace before events would see him don a uniform and travel halfway around the world to kill people of a similar age but who spoke a different tongue. At twenty five he returned with his brothers, one in a coffin, before at twenty six he left for good, returning only to see his brother married and his mother buried. Now at seventy after his younger brother’s death he returned to the town more often, mainly to act as surrogate grandfather to his great niece. She was eight and rarely spoke but would draw the most amazing pictures of animals. Forty years ago they would have called her creative and said no more of it. Now they called it Autism and approached the matter with clinical opaqueness.