The Story of Silence

Silence Mourner is like every other person out there, but not every person is like Silence.

The story starts in the small, Italian village of Paura where Father Demetre finds a four-year-old boy in the snow beside three fresh graves. A mystery surrounds the boy, who is he? What was he doing out there alone in the cold? How did he get there? Whose graves are they? And finally, why can the boy no longer speak? Faced with these problems, Father Demetre takes the boy in and with the help of the village doctor, they care for him until a stranger from New York comes to claim him.

Now named Silence Mourner, follow this boy's road to manhood in the distant city of New York where he has slowly come to forget his secret, but his silence serving as a reminder that it should never be told. Now faced with a girl from his youth who is determined to bring it into the light, will it stay concealed, or will his desire to remember bring it all out?

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18. Chapter 18

The snow fell gracefully down on to the roofs of the town of Speranza, covering everything in a fine white blanket. The frosted glass clock on the Town hall chimed dully seven times and stopped, and then silence returned as quietly as the snow fell.

With the evening arrived and the snow falling, all citizens of the town were inside out of the cold, warming themselves by the fire while their dinner was being prepared. This was the case of a family living in the rented upstairs floor of a house stationed close to the outskirts of the town.

The upstairs floor was well furnished; the pictures that hung on the walls were unique and fitted well into their surroundings. In the middle of the designated lounge there was a coffee table laden with pieces of paper on which a child drew with coloured crayons. Around the child, sitting on the soft grey carpet, stood two lounge chairs which offered as a boundary to the boy so that he could not leave. The reason for this being there were guests, and having a four year old running about the place when you’re trying to have a serious conversation, doesn’t help.

The room next to the lounge was the designated kitchen/dining room, with a small black top stove in the corner to cook on and a bench with which to prepare the food. It was in this kitchen that that the woman of the house stood over a pot of something that bubbled gently, releasing an appetizing aroma. She listened cautiously to the conversation coming from her husband at the dining table and the two other men seated, she kept her eyes fixed on the bubbling pot as if she didn’t dare show that she was listening in.

The men around the table wore dark, striped suits, and each held a red carnation in his button hole. They had the slicked dark hair of businessmen, but the woman knew that they weren’t the usual sort of businessmen.

Her husband in his chair looked slightly out of place with the stern, pale skinned, clean faced men in their dark suits. He wore a white shirt with his top shirt button undone, and his brown jacket lay folded over the back of his chair. His eyes were dark and impenetrable, and his dark skin, the only thing covering his lack of sleep.

In the middle of their table an unmarked bottle sat half empty, three glasses stood around it. Occasionally one of the men would reach out, pour himself a drink, and shoot it back; all the while they talked in whispers.

The woman could see reflected in the mirror to the left over the stove her husband’s gun on table, his shoulder holster empty. She watched him take another shot of drink and replace his gun. Casting her eyes down she focused on the pot as he rose, shaking slightly, and pulled on his coat. The two men rose as well, one sucking the last draws of his cigarette and exhaling the smoke through his nose, which then rose and joined the rest gathered from the evening.

As the two men made their way to the door, her husband walked over and whispered quietly into her ear that everything would be all right. She smiled faintly at him and he planted a kiss on her cheek before following the other men out of the room.

A little girl about nine years old, her hair matching her father’s and brother’s tied in ponytails, exited the bedroom connecting to the lounge.

‘Mama?’ she spoke timidly as she entered the kitchen.

Her mother turned from the stove and sank down to her knees so that she was closer to the little girl’s height.

‘It’s okay,’ she whispered as she hugged her daughter tightly. ‘Come on, let’s join your brother,’ she released the girl and rose to her feet. Taking her daughter’s hand in hers she led her back into the lounge where they stepped over the boundary, and sitting down on one of the couches they watched the boy draw his pictures.

The atmosphere in the room was tense and dark as they sat and watched. The mother was scared, her daughter, Georgia, was also scared because she didn’t understand why her mother was scared. And the boy, the boy drew on. His pictures were more important.

After an hour, the mother left her children and entered into the kitchen to check up on their meal. She called through that it was ready and asked for Georgia to set the table.

They had just finished when her husband unlocked the front door and ran wildly into the room, yelling things hurriedly to his wife. She ran forwards to meet him and he grabbed her and pulled her into the bedroom where he slammed the door shut.

The children could hear the excited yelling coming from inside the room and the sobs from their mother as they started. Presently the sound quieted down. The door was pushed open and they came out, looking as calm as they could muster themselves to be. The children watched their father carry with them a large suitcase. He told Mary to bring the other one out and that he would start the car. Without saying anything to the children he left the room with the suitcase.

Georgia ran over and threw her arms around her mother’s legs, she knew better than to ask what was going on. Mary gave her a quick hug and hurried back into the bedroom where she started to pack the other cases. She knew that she should hurry; Arthur had said that he didn’t know how long it would be before they sent someone after them. He said maybe in a couple of hours when they would find out, but he hoped that by then they would be far away.

She had just dragged the suitcase out of the room when her husband ran back in and told her to take the children down to the car. Picking up the case he rushed out of the room again. Mary picked up Jonathan, and holding Georgia’s hand tightly in hers she left the room after her husband, not even bothering to turn off the stove that was keeping their dinner hot or to lock the door.

The car was waiting downstairs with the engine running; her husband had just finished putting the last case into the boot. He called to her to hurry up and put the kids into the car. She obeyed and buckled them in and shortly they were on their way.

The snow fell as it often did in times of winter in places where it gets cold enough for the rain on its way down to freeze into tiny flakes of chilled raindrops. But though being frozen they did not break as they hit the roof of the speeding car as it drove along the windy mountain road.

Inside in the driver’s seats sat Arthur Crash, next to him sat his darling wife, Mary. In the back seat behind the front passenger’s seat sat Georgia, their eldest child, and next to her sat buckled in, Jonathan Crash.

Though they felt panicked and fearful, Arthur and his wife tried not to show it. It wouldn’t do any good they knew to worry their children. It was best not to let them know why they were running, but he knew also that they already sensed that something was wrong; it was hard not to know.

He glanced quickly over at his wife, his eyes moving over every inch of her face, seeing the fear in her eyes and the straight, determined face she held bravely to prevent it showing. He smiled thinly and turned back to facing the road ahead.

Mary moved slightly in her chair and tightened her grip on his hand, fearful that if she let go he would disappear. Arthur hoped they would make it over the Italian border in time. If they did they would be safe, he hoped with all her heart anyway. The fate of himself, his wife and their children rested on getting over the border.

They had started on their journey about an hour before. Arthur prayed furtively that maybe they wouldn’t be missed until later. By the time they were missed it would be too late. Men could be sent after them, but they would be out of the country and preferably on a train or plane out of Switzerland, heading somewhere where they could be safe.

A movement in the rear view mirror caught his attention and his heart started beating faster as he saw a pair of headlights start creeping up behind him. Suddenly scared that they had found him missing sooner than expected and had caught him up already, he pushed down on the acceleration pedal and the car zoomed forwards.

Glancing again into the mirror to see if the car was still there, Arthur was horrified to note that it had kept up an even pace with him.

He floored the pedal and the car zoomed faster forwards through the thin layer of snow that covered the road. Corners came up fast and he spun the steering wheel as fast as he could to go around them, the car sliding and turning as he drove. The car swerved around a corner and the back tires slid across ice. He righted the car and glanced again in the mirror, the other car still kept up an even pace.

Nervous sweat dripped down Arthur’s face in his fear and desperation to get away from the car following them. And taking too long to stare into the rear view mirror, he missed seeing the curve loom up ahead. In high speed their car crashed through the wooden railing protecting anything from going further, and their car rocketed over the side of the cliff...

Silence stirred in his bed, eyes tightly closed and forehead creased in a frown. Something was wrong. His dream was different this time, the car didn’t go over the edge, it continued on until it reached the end of the road. It was marked off with signs saying the road was out of order.

Seeing the sign up ahead signaling the end of the road, Arthur applied the brakes and the car screeched to a halt. The car following them slowed suddenly as well and stopped about five meters away, its lights flickering to low beams.

Arthur went to open the door of his car but his wife gripped his hand tightly in hers, preventing him from going even further. She looked at him with a pleading look in her eyes as she shook her head, tears flowing from her eyes as she begged him silently to stay in the car.

Arthur gave her a small smile of reassurance as he touched her cheek to wipe away her tears, and then opened the door. His gun in his hand he stepped out into the snow, and didn’t even have a chance to fire.

Bullets fired from the window of the other car. They pummeled into Arthur and his body jerked and rippled as the bullets tore him apart. And then the force stopped and with nothing keeping him upright, he slumped to the ground. Mary screamed, and yanking open her door ran out of the car. Bullets fired again from the machine gun, the sparks lighting up the night. She fell by the boot of the car; she didn’t even get to kiss him goodbye.

There was crying from the car now. Georgia was crying and so was Jonathan, though he wasn’t sure why. The sudden loud banging had scared him and he could make out his father lying on the ground by the door, the fallen snow around him slowly changing to a dark red that he could see by the light of the car beams.

The door of the car behind them opened slowly, and Georgia could see a man’s form approaching through the back window of the car. She watched mesmerised as he strode forward, the snow crunching underfoot and the lights of his car preventing her from seeing his face.

Tears spilled from her eyes as she hugged her brother tightly in her arms and watched as the man reached the car and opened the back door. He leaned down and looked in. He was a youngish man of thirty with a long face and pointed nose, and a mouth twisted up in an evil smile. His hazel eyes moved over the interior of the car first before landing on the shaking forms of Georgia and Jonathan.

Then reaching a hand in, he grabbed Georgia by her hair and pulled her out of the car and out of view. There were two quick shots, and then the only sound Jonathan could hear were his own cries.

There was the sound of the man taking a quick breath and then letting it out, then the man looked back in and dragged out Jonathan.

Jonathan kicked and screamed as he was dragged from the warm car into the cold wind and snow of the mountain. His screams were cut short by the man’s hand clamping over his mouth and forcing it closed.

‘Good evening,’ the man spoke in a soothing manner, his voice accented with that of an Italian. ‘My name’s Joseph Amerigo, though telling you this is for no reason, you probably won’t remember tonight. Now you probably don’t understand what has just happened to your parents and your sister. So here’s the thing, they’re dead and you’re alive, little one.’ He carried Jonathan over to his car and sat him down on to the hood and continued talking.

‘Your daddy did a bad thing. He drew the first of the blood and labeled his death. He killed his brother and partner. Why he did this, I don’t know,’ Amerigo told him, shrugging, ‘but I was hired to kill him for that and his family. But here’s the thing, I’m not a child killer. Well, I am tonight. But your sister, she would remember. She could tell people what she saw if I left her alone, and I would get into big trouble for it. So I killed her. But you, I don’t think you’ll remember. You’re what? Three, maybe four years old? Yeah, you won’t remember. So, instead of killing you so you don’t talk,’ Amerigo replaced his gun and pulled out a switch blade knife, ‘I’ll make it so you can’t talk.’ He flicked the knife open and pulling open Jonathan’s mouth, he gripped the boy’s tongue in his hand.

Fear filled Jonathan, it prevented him from screaming or doing anything, if he had done something he might have saved himself the agony.

Amerigo placed the silver blade into Jonathan’s mouth, and putting it as near to the base as he could, cut and ripped the boy’s tongue out.

Jonathan screamed. The pain was the worst he had ever felt before in his life. His mouth quickly filled with blood and he started chocking on it and his tears as they flowed as he cried and screamed.

Amerigo dropped Jonathan’s tongue into his pocket and wiping his blade clean in the snow, flipped it shut and tucked it away also in his pocket.

He released Jonathan, who was too frightened and in pain to think about moving and bent down and picked up a handful of snow which he then rammed into the boy’s mouth to numb the pain.

The sudden frozenness of the snow in his mouth made Jonathan choke even more. His entire mouth hurt from the pain and the cold, his body shook from the snow falling around him and melting on his clothes and seeping through to his skin.

Amerigo dug out most of the snow from Jonathan’s mouth and put a fresh load in. Then he picked up the boy and placed him into the front passenger’s seat of his car. Turning the heater on he closed the door.

Jonathan watched wide eyed, blinking rapidly away his tears, as Amerigo dragged his family’s bodies over to the car and piled them into the back seat. Jonathan tried to swallow but he kept chocking, having no tongue to help him.

He heard a crash and turned away from looking at his father’s pale face to see Amerigo walking away from the empty spot where their car had been. He entered into the front seat and started the car; backed up, turned around, and drove back the way they had come.

Jonathan didn’t know how much time passed as they drove; he had too many things on his mind. A while back the ice in his mouth had melted, leaving him with a mouthful of water that he either managed to swallow or let dribble out with his blood.

He kept his eyes fixed on the road, too scared to look behind him at the three bodies piled up on the back seat, or at the man seated next to him. He had spent the early part of the trip looking behind at his parents and sister, and then realising that they were dead and that there was nothing to do, and finding it too unbearable to look at them anymore he turned away.

Eventually he noticed a building rise out of the dark, lit up by the headlights of Amerigo’s car. A metal fence lined the road, with an open gate set in the middle of it. The car drove through and down a short path. Spread out on either side of it were lines of weathered, grey stones. The car pulled to a stop at the very edge of the forest, the ground was clearer here of tombstones.

Three graves had already been dug, fresh dirt piled up beside them showing that they were fresh; Amerigo had been expected to come back with the bodies.

Amerigo hopped out, and pulling the bodies out he pushed them into the graves. Half an hour later he had replaced the dirt and carved out Jonathan’s family’s names on three crosses, planting them at the heads of the graves.

He fetched Jonathan from the car and placed him in the snow next to the graves, and then he leant down so that Jonathan could see him clearly and said, ‘If you cry you might be found by the owner of that church over there,’ he said, pointing. ‘And remember, if you tell anybody, I’ll find you and all you have told, and they will suffer the same fate as your family.’

After receiving a hesitant nod from Jonathan, he slapped the boy on the head to make him cry and drove off.

Silence woke, screaming as loud as he could from fright that he hadn’t felt since that night. There was another yell from across the hall, a thump, and then a pounding of feet as Thomas ran into Silence’s room, holding a bat in his hand. He flicked on the light and stared at the white, shaking form of Silence lying in bed. He lowered the bat and walked slowly over to the end of Silence’s bed.

‘What’s up, mate?’ he asked, worry seen clearly on his face.

Silence didn’t answer; he hardly noticed Thomas as he propped himself up on his elbows and stared blankly at the open door of his room. His breathing came hard and his head felt light and heavy at the same time. He wanted to scream again but knew that it might not be a good idea.

‘I’ll get you some water, you want a doctor? Some water, that’ll help you!’ Thomas babbled as he left the room and returned a short moment later and found Silence in the same position as he’d been left. Silence’s scream had scared him stiff when he’d heard it and woken up. He handed the glass of water to Silence who seemed to notice he was being offered something and took the glass, but didn’t drink from it. His mind was working hard, trying to process what he had just seen.

‘You want the doctor?’ Thomas asked again. He didn’t wait for Silence to respond, he just left the room again for his phone.

Silence didn’t feel well enough to get out of bed to stop him, so maybe he felt that he did need a doctor after all. He could see clearly in his mind the images of Amerigo dragging out his sister. He could hear in his ears the ringing of the gun shots that stopped her screams. The pain in his mouth as his tongue was half cut and half ripped out of his mouth, the sharp taste of blood in his mouth that never stopped or went away, and the feeling that he was suffocating. The tears that blinded him and his own cries that deafened him, he felt like he was going to be sick.

He barely made it out of his bed and to the bathroom before the start of the vomiting. His head hurt and his body ached as he remembered the freezing snow.

Thomas returned, and hearing Silence stopped off at the bathroom.

‘I’ve called Bines from the room above,’ he said after he’d fetched the glass of water from Silence’s room. He offered it to Silence as Silence pulled away from the sink and slumped against the wall. ‘He’ll be here soon.’

Silence took the water thankfully and gulped it down; unfortunately it was cold water which just reminded Silence of when Joseph had stuffed his mouth full of snow. He spat it out and slid sideways down the wall so that he lay on his side moaning, his eyes clamped shut. He couldn’t seem to rid his mind of the memories; the cold floor didn’t help either to ease his mind of the feeling of snow. He knew there was a reason he preferred summer.

‘I’ve called the doctor,’ Thomas repeated again just as something to say as he helped Silence to his feet and back to his room and bed.

The doorbell rang and Thomas left Silence to pull the covers up as he left to answer the door. A short, squat man stood in the hall in his pyjamas and wearing a red robe, he also clutched a brown bag in his hand.

He lived on the floor above Silence and Thomas and worked at one of the hospitals in the city, Thomas wasn’t sure which one though. Bines had a sharp mind and didn’t approve of Thomas, but he had talked to Silence a couple of times before and had enjoyed the conversations immensely. He didn’t often answer to the calls of the other members in the building; it wasn’t his job to do house calls even though he was in the house. But upon hearing that Silence seemed to be suffering from some sort of fit, from Thomas’s description, he decided that he would bend his rule once and see what he could do to help.

He blinked at Thomas through his large, round glasses as the door opened.

‘I hope you know what time it is, and the fee for waking me up,’ he told him gruffly as he followed Thomas through the living room and down to Silence’s room, where Silence still lay looking pale and frightened. His breathing sounding ragged when they walked in.

Bines placed his bag on the ground and walked over to Silence’s side. After a quick examination he turned to Thomas.

‘It’s a case of extreme shock,’ he explained as he reached into his bag and pulled out a packet of pills.

‘Keep him lying down and cover him only enough to prevent loss of body heat and keep his feet raised about a foot,’ he instructed Thomas as he popped out one of the pills from the metallic grey sheet inside. Picking up the refilled glass of water on the bedside table, he made Silence swallow it. Then taking a taking a pad from his bag, he filled out instructions of how many pills Silence was to take and when.

‘He should be fine now, just make sure you follow the instructions that I’ve written down for him, and call me in the morning if he’s still not all right. Okay?’

Thomas nodded, he’d missed a lot of what the Doctor had been going on about, but it was written down so he could check it if he still couldn’t remember.

‘You wanna cup of coffee or something before you go?’ he asked as he led Bines back down the hall.

Bines shook his head.

‘I’ve got a bed waiting for me that I’d like to get back to,’ he declined. ‘Goodnight,’ he told Thomas as he reached the door.

‘Right, yeah, goodnight, Doc. Thanks for your help,’ Thomas replied as he waved goodbye to Bines and then shut the door. He then wandered back into Silence’s room and sat down.

‘Wow, mate, I don’t know what you did to do this, but you almost gave me a heart attack when you first screamed. Woo! If that had happened then we’d both likely be in bed!’ He laughed cheerfully. After Silence didn’t respond with anything more than a nod he got to his feet.

‘If you need anything,’ he said walking to the door, ‘just give out a shout, but not a scream!’ he laughed. ‘We already had one of those tonight! A shout will do.’ He bounced his head a couple of times as Silence didn’t respond, and then he said, ‘Right, I’ll be off.’ Silence nodded again and Thomas flicked off the light, closed the door, and headed back to his room.

After hearing Thomas’s door close, Silence rolled over. That dream had given him a turn, but the thing was it hadn’t been a dream. He remembered everything, and now he could tell Susan everything.

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