Celia by Rebecca Milne

“Follow me” she whispered.

I could not see any of her facial features as she grabbed my arm and I followed along behind her. Her boots, cloak and hat were all caught or attached to each other, not that she minded of course because she led me down the misty alley and we took an unexpected corner and entered a little hut. The door was green and almost hanging off its hinges. Inside there was a multitude of furnishings that looked mis-matched or second hand.

Business was business, so I sat down on the green leather armchair as she went away to find something in a cupboard. I began to look around me, at the ripped up magazines and bloodied butter knives on the counter. Onto the pictures and word documents that were displayed along the walls. Finally, when she found what she seeked she stood in close proximity to me. She held a photograph of a girl with flowing blond hair, eyes shining as the cameras flashed. She gestured to the photo.

“You know her”

I shook my head but then recalling a distant memory, began to nod. The blood rushes to my cheek as her hand pulled away.

“I’ll ask you again, do you know her?”

I sat in silence, not knowing what to expect or what was happening. When she realised she would not be getting an answer she huffed a great sigh and began to take off her hat. Her hair fell done past her shoulders but her stylish manner of placing it on the counter made me think, she knew I was watching.

She pulled her black locks to drape over one of her shoulders before turning once more to fetch a drink. It was then that I saw it. A mark on her neck that was so distinct, I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it first. I don’t realise until she turns to face me and sees me pointing. She comes closer, I see the tattoo more vividly. I began to shake but she grabs my coat and asks me

“What do you know?”

I make some sort of utterance that I’d seen that mark before, but she explained that she could not persist or tell me anything until I told her what I know, of that girl in the photograph. It takes me a moment and then I began.

“I was in the pub one night, drinking away the sorrows of the day, when I looked up to see her serving me my next drink. Her hair was pulled back into a pony tail but her eyes and her smile was shielded. A few drinks later, I think she spoke to me either that or I was too giddy to restrain myself. I went to move to get off my seat when my legs began to shake and tilt. I heard the sound of heels battering against floor boards, I was lifted back up by her and she helped me back towards to my seat. When she walked away I saw the mark on her lower back. In the bit between where her shirt met her skirt. It was dark and blurry and I could just make out the outline. It was a dove or a blackbird. A tiny bird with something going across its neck. I thought at first it was an olive branch, maybe she was religious. Then I noticed the ends of my so called branch was not white with olives or little delicate flowers but red like blood drops –“

I broke off but when I look towards her again, she was looking at the photograph.

“Sir, I want to help you” she says, softer than before.

“But you need to be convinced that you don’t know her”

I must have looked puzzled as she began to explain,

“There’s four of us, well three now – sisters. We all carry the same mark” She pulled her cloak towards her shoulder so I could take a closer look at her neck.

“If the police was to catch one of us it’d be game over, they’ve been hunting us for months”

Strangely accustomed to this topic I nod and reply

“So what do you want with me?” I looked hard at her.

“When they look for you, attached to their most recent case you’ll deny that you ever saw her or me – you don’t know this mark and have never seen it before”

What recent case, I wondered.

“And what if I don’t?” I said foolishly. I blinked and had a sharp piece of glass placed almost rubbing against my throat.

“Well – we already have one body” she says, gesturing under a mat where only my peripherals could make out an outline of a person.

I gasped, and looked back to her large brown eyes.

“What do you want me to do?” I had asked, scared out of my wits.

She looked conflicted for a moment.

“You gonna snitch?” she asked.

I shook my head. The glass was removed but she picked something else up from the counter.

“Hold still”

She tugged at the top button of my shirt until it gave, my shoulder was exposed and she took full advantage. I thought at first she was kissing it, biting it but it hurt much more than it should. I looked down slightly to see her point her little ink gun into my arm. I was becoming one of them. I passed out, either that or shed battered me away again. When I awoke she was covering up the bar girls body, back under the mat.

“Who killed her?” I asked, not realising until the word had left my lips.

“You did” she paused. “Or we’ll say you did if you don’t back up the alibi I’m going to give you”

Confused and stunned I sat there, staring at my now tattooed upper arm.

“Sister Celia was charged with killing a man, who got too rowdy at a pub”

“That’s her name?” I said, obviously not picking up the rest of the phrase.

“That’s her name to you-” the woman said with spite.

“Now- the police has a dead man in a pub and are looking for the murderer” she glanced towards the body then back to me.

I looked down to see my arms and legs restrained by tape, so much so that I couldn’t move.

“The police are not yet notified of the death of my sister, but it was needed” she broke off, and started moving briskly around the little rooms.

“Who was it that killed her?” I asked again, as I felt like I was stuck in this conundrum.

“I didn’t mean too” she said sadly, but with seemingly no regret. “She was panicking and freaking out, she was threatening to expose us all- my other sisters have went into hiding in another part of the country”

“I’m sorry, but why did she kill that man? What are you’s afraid of?” I sound angrier out loud than in my head.

“Now, this brings you in – I’m gonna have to go soon but- you’re the bloke dead in the pub, I’ll have to move your body to the backdoor shortly. You killed Celia, for I don’t know. Not giving you another drink? Or for not being a good enough partner? Waitress? Then when you sobered up a bit you killed yourself in grief and regret of your actions”

I looked at her and began to realise my oncoming fate.

“Why me?” I asked quietly.

“Don’t you think we knew you were working on our case, on the thirty-seven murders in the last four months – soon to be thirty-eight, but you won’t be logging this one – will you detective?”

She grabs a knife from the cupboard but I could see the outline of a gun in her cloak pocket. The mat is removed and I could see clearly a bullet wound that must’ve went through her, but the position of it. Is like she was shot from behind her – right where her tattoo was.

“Why tattoo me?” I asked. “If you’re just going to get rid of me anyway”

She started wrapping her sister in the material and slowly dragged her body to the entrance.

“If your found alive with the mark, your one of us – found dead you’re a traitor to our organisation or a threat to our business” she said it, like she’s a banker or waitress not a hard cold killer.

When I’m knocked out again I awoke near the bins at the back of the pub. I see her body in the gutter, collecting water in her wounds as it rained. The lady steps out, hat and coat in place despite the wind and rain.

I noticed that not all the blood in the puddles was hers, I was bleeding from a cut to an artery near my shoulder – right over the new set tattoo.

I am a part of this now, I can’t do anything about this.

I hear the bullet in the gun click in to await a trigger. I thought nothing better than to go along with it.

“I didn’t mean to kill her” I said.

“Thanks for the interest detective”

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