From the Inside ....
I stay sat on the floor in total shock.
Mango is up and off his chair having a panic attack over Forrest being missing and getting Coral out of the house and I don't think I blame him!! He didn't like what he heard during that conversation any more than I did!!
I seriously do not know what to think, because I seriously can not believe what I've just been listening to. I'm not sure what gets me the most, that it is actually Gravel who appears to be the hit man who seems to just hack people down for fun or what he's done and doing to Mace. Mace is just another victim of Gravels evil games.
It is Forrest that scares me the most - he is missing and Gravels next hit if he steps foot back into Sugar Valley or if he tries to get anywhere near me!! I don't understand why he's not answering his phone to anyone, I know Mango and Bay have both been trying regularly and sending him text, but he's just not responding ... this scares me even more!!
There is just too much for me to think about especially that my brother ... my own flesh and blood can talk about me and Forrest, both his brother, in the way that he did. Not by name but by colour, and that he could so easily fade us both just to keep whatever his secret is!
"You NEED to find Forrest NOW!!" I say to Cinnamon through my sniveling
"We've got extra people on the case already!!" he tells me which doesn't make me feel any better, I'm never going to be comfortable until I know they have found him and he is somewhere safe, he is the one in danger here! "It's a shame Mace didn't go with him, we would have heard what he's up to with this Turmeric fella. I've sent El round to Mace, she's going to work on him, see if she can get anything out of him while he's upset, I doubt he'll spill anything, but you never know!!"
"You need to be out there and get Gravel off the streets right now!! It's the only way to keep Forrest safe!!" I snap at him thinking Forrest will be safe if they have got Gravel locked up where he can't get to him.
"It's not that easy ... we will find Forrest!! We need to go through a few things, this has tipped everything that we thought we knew on its head, we need to build up a new case ...."
"Forget the case ... you heard it, surely you've got enough there, while Gravel is on the streets Forrest isn't safe!! I'm not safe!! Mace is not safe!! Hell is anyone safe?" I snap at him as I jump to my feet "I TOLD YOU Mace is no hit man!!"
"I agree with Granite!! I want Coral out of that house right now, she's sleeping in the same bed as a murderer for berrys sake and you are NOT stopping me I'm going in to get her myself!!" Mango snaps at Cinnamon. "The berry hole has even got another woman in Apple Hill!!" he snaps nastily "I'm struggling to believe this, I know Gravel can be a piece of work, but this is just ridiculous!! It's no wander he hasn't found my boys yet - he's been too busy playing hatchet man, I bet he's not even looked for them!!"
"Mango, the abduction is very much an active case, I've poked my nose into it a few times because you know a lot of it is being carried out in Apple Hill as that is the only place we have had any physical evidence of them being since the obduction!! And Coral is in no danger!! You heard him!! Granite is there to keep an eye on her and the house is bugged. I'll get her drawn out more. Didn't you tell me you are due to fly out to Rainbow Valley with Mulberry to clear out the old mans house?" Mango nods and says first thing in the morning "Well it might be an idea for you to get Coral to stay with Lilly while you are away - that will keep her out of the house completely for a few days and out of harms way!!" Mango nods miserable but I don't think he's too happy about it.
"What about me!! I can't live in that house with him for a few days knowing what he is. What he's done and what he's threatening to do!! How the hell am I going to face Mace knowing what Gravel has done and is doing to him!! Berry Hole!!" I snap at Cinnamon "I'm sorry but I can't do it!!"
"You both need to calm down a little!! We know exactly what we are doing!! We can't just go in now and grab him we don't have enough on him to nail him down completely, we need to get him wrapped up tightly so he has no chance of getting bail and walking free until his trial, because once he knows we are onto him or if he gets to walk free in between, that's when he can go underground and do a lot of damage!! When we take him it has to be for keeps for all of your safety!!" he frowns at both me and Mango who just sit silently saying nothing. "I'm sorry Granite, I know this has got to be tough on you but I seriously need you to stay put and keep it together for the time being."
"I seriously don't know how I'm going to live in that house with him without losing it!!" I snap at him "How am I going to sleep wandering where Forrest is?!"
"Granite I need to ask you a few question ... do you know who this Turmeric is?"
"Yes, Turmeric Knight. If that really is his name!! I THOUGHT he was my friend, but it sounds like he was just another one of Gravels plants. Gravel has probably had someone sitting on me since I left prison!! Turmeric was living in Cherry Hill and worked at the sports stadium, but after the incident with Mace, Turmeric was the one Mace nearly strangled, which was about two years ago now, we fell out and I actually haven't spoken to him since - or seen him come to think of it. Hell!! I've known him for about ten years, we were good mates so I thought and all that time he's probably been feeding news back to Gravel about me!! "
"This Turmeric, is he all brown, long hair like Bay's, tattoo's all up his one arm?" Mango ask while he frowns at me "Scar on his face?" I tell him yes and show him where the scar is, it runs from his forehead down to his cheek. "Yeah that's exactly it ... I know who he is - he's a close friend of Forrest's and I think Slates and quite often I see him going into the dive bar by my house with Gravel. He works at the Stadium with Bay Mosaic and Mulberry!!" he tuts suddenly "What the hell is happening to this town lately, first we have Lime and her lot, now Gravel and his mob running wild corrupting the place!!"
"How good a friend is he of Forrests??" I ask and Mango says they are really good friends, they are always together. "It looks like Gravel has had Turmeric sitting on Forrest just like he was sitting on me. So it's not just Gravel we've got to worry about with Forrest, it's Turmeric too!! His friend and his brother, Forrest is not going to see it coming!!" This just makes me crack up again because I am seriously scared about Forrest's safety!!
Mango's phone starts ringing. He answers it quickly takes a short call then says he need to slip out for five minutes as he smiles at me. I don't really take a lot of notice or think about where he might be going because my head is still spinning from Gravel and Mace's conversation.
"They have given us a lot to work on!!" Cinnamon smiles at me "We've already got a team looking for the bodies of Maces two cousins that you heard mentioned, Aniseed and Basil, they with Mace are listed as missing persons, we actually thought until Mace turned up alone with you that the three of them were all lay low together somewhere, but obviously we were wrong!! I've got a nasty feeling I know what part of Gravels game is, it looks to me like he's got a few games going on here and one of them looks like a grudge with the Brownies - I don't suppose you know what it might be?"
"No!! When I was running with them, I didn't even think Gravel knew them other than in a police capacity - what I was getting up to in Apple Hill was always a pretty guarded secret from Gravel until I told him everything thinking he was going to help me get the Brownies off my back ... I was trying to clean up my act for Forrest, and the Brownies had other ideas they wouldn't let me walk away because I knew too much!! I think you know the rules in that world - once you are in it's a life of crime or the inside of a wooden box." I frown at him
"So you don't know then? Cinnamon has a look of surprise on his face. I frown at him not really sure what he is getting at.
"I think I've stumbled across something that Gravel might have uncovered himself - he has got open access to the police files and I think I know what his grudge might be." he has a strange look on his face. "Your Father! He was on the force and killed while on the job in a shootout." I nod at him "Well ... as you know the details are never really given to the family in great detail, especially not who actually pulled the trigger and fired the bullet that killed your Father."
I look up at him then and suddenly I think I know what is coming.
"It was a Brownie wasn't it!!" he nods and says it was Sage Brownie. Fudge Brownies Father and Mace's Grandfather. "Gravel idolized our Father, it really wouldn't surprise me if he's stupid enough to be holding a grudge against the whole family for Dad fading because he can't get to the man who actually did it!!" Cinnamon laughs at me. "Mace's sister and daughter? Gravel seems to know the whole of Mace's family very well. Do you think they are in any danger?"
"I'm not sure, we are looking into it, but it sounds like Gravel is having a relationship with Mace's sister so it might make it a little difficult to interfere and ask questions without him becoming aware of it. With Mace's daughter, that also has it's complications!" I frown at him wandering what he is on about "There is one thing that I do know that Gravel didn't tell Mace the truth about although he did hint at it ... Tamarin his wife, she has indeed already dropped off the planet as Gravel put it ... Mace's daughter is now in the temporary custody of Mace's sister."
"What!? Has she been faded too?" he shrugs
"Another missing person." he pulls a face "Tamarin Brownie went to work one day, never arrived at her work place and hasn't been seen since. We kind of suspected that someone was picking off all of the Brownie family, maybe we were right and that's what Gravel has been up to."
"How old is she? Mace's daughter." I ask curiously
"She is about six or seven now, I can't remember."
"I seriously don't believe all of this ..."
"Me either to be honest - Mace Brownie the notorious hit man has been feared and on everyone's want list for years ... now it's all been tipped right on its head!! He seems to be the guy you say he is after all and by the looks of it - just another victim of Gravels nasty games. And Gravel, well there is an eye opener, there have been whispers about him being bent flying around for years, but this!! It's just taken it to a whole new different level!! " He rolls his eyes at me
"I should have known!! He has always been a vindictive Berry Hole!! He faded my dog when we were kids, just because he didn't like it and it stole and ate his sweets!!" Cinnamon laughs at me "Well I hope he gets what's coming to him, I know he's my brother, but he seriously needs to be stopped!!"
"Oh don't worry he will be stopped!! This has now turned into a full scale operation, we've had to get special branch involved because Gravel is one of us." he smiles at me "We need to go through all of what we thought were Mace's hits. From what I heard, it looks like Mace was only responsible for the first one, his cousin who was strangled when he was fifteen around about the time that Fudge Brownie was done over inside. I've read up on all the hits recently and I remember Gravel was actually involved in that case because it happened here in Sugar Valley. Gravel was actually the first one to start pointing the finger at Mace. However, I did hear Mace saying it was self defense - so he might not even get charged for it, it depends on the circumstances and if Gravel, who appeared to be present at the time backs up what he has said. We can't tell until we pull them both in." he frowns at me for a moment
"Are you saying Mace might walk free after all this?" I ask pretty shocked
"He could well only be looking at a few years if that's all we end up having on him and if the self defense does go in his favour ... there is the false identity he's been using to consider, but we've got a long way to go - we don't know what else might come up yet. We might even be pulling Mace in sooner, and if he co-operates fully, he'll be treated leaneantly. I think you know how that works, you've done it yourself, you received half the time the Brownie brothers received." he smiles at me then laughs. "Plus he's already got El fighting in his corner."
I just sit there staring at him for a moment. My head is all over the place.
"From that conversation we actually do have quite a few things on Gravel at the moment, you heard him admitting one of the hits - Mace Wood and possibly Mace's two cousins, the verbal threat to you and Forrest, plus what he's doing to and with Mace. Just because Mace didn't commit the murders it doesn't mean that Gravel did them all himself, he could be using various hit men to do his dirty work and that might explain why there is no pattern to how they have been done, and I suspect this Turmeric fella could well be one of them. But it sounds pretty obvious that Gravel has pinned the eighteen hits all onto Mace so if he didn't actually commit the hits himself, he was the one who instructed them and has been tampering with witnesses and paperwork to pin them on Mace so he's an accessory." he laughs sarcastically for a moment "It will only take us days to build up a good enough case against Gravel to get him locked up and out of harms way permanently with no way of wriggling out of it!!"
Mango walks into the office with a piece of paper in his hand, he almost looks amused. He hands the paper to me straight away. It's the results of the paternity test.
I start reading, my head starts spinning and everything goes black as I pass out.
"Granite!!" I hear Mango laughing as he slaps my cheek gently quite a few times as I start to come back round. "Wakey wakey Granite!!" I can hear both Mango and Cinnamon laughing as I move my hand up to my head and moan as I open my eyes. I am flat out on the floor and my head hurts.
Mango and Cinnamon help me to get up off the floor and onto my feet. I feel Mango checking the back of my head as he tells me I banged my head pretty hard when I hit the floor.
"I AM SERIOUSLY GOING TO FADE HIM!!!" I shout as I stare down at the piece of paper that is still in my hand, I need to double check that I did not read it wrong. "HELL!!"
"Mango passing out still doesn't beat your reaction to the triplets!!" Cinnamon starts to laugh as I frown at the two faces staring back at me with amusement. "Forrest is always very quick to tell everyone all about Mango finding a positive pregnancy test in Lilly's dressing gown and running out of the house through town and around the hospital barefoot and wearing nothing but his bed clothes when Lilly was here in a coma and pregnant with Tap, Coral and Mo!!"
They both stand there laughing but I can't because I'm in shock!! I've only ever passed out through drugs, alcohol and extreme pain before. Never through shock, but on top of listening to what is going on with Gravel and Mace my head couldn't take the paternity test result!!
Slate is my child, not Gravels - Mine!!
"Well I am really happy with that result for Slate's sake!!" Mango says "but I am worried about how he is going to take all this news!! He already has more than enough to deal with already!!"
"This all suddenly makes sense!!" Cinnamon laughs "It looks like we might have just found the 'secret' that Gravel is trying to protect and what all this with you and Forrest is all about!! ... Slate!! I think Forrest must know that Slate is your child and that is what Gravel is trying to stop him from telling you."
"Well you can add something else to Gravel's charge sheet - I want him done for fraud, he's stolen my child fraudulently for the past twenty years!!" I snap "I've washed my hands with him - he's not my brother anymore!! The back stabbing berry hole, he has robbed me of twenty years of that boys life ... this is now war and you better get him locked up quickly Cinnamon before I fade him myself!!
"What the hell has Coral got herself mixed up in and I thought Tapestry was the idiot in our family!!" Mango mumbles
Cinnamon stands rubbing his head for a moment then frowns down at me after Mango makes me sit down on one of the chairs, I think he can see I'm rocking on my feet, I feel like I might be about to pass out again. My head just can't process Slate being my child properly, or how this suddenly changes everything for me.
"Granite, Slate being your son is not to leave this room!! You and Mango are to tell absolutely NOBODY about this, especially not Bay!!! Anybody you do tell you are putting in danger ... if Gravel finds out that anyone else knows his secret, he's likely to hack them down. So until I've got Gravel safely tucked away behind bars - Slate is your Nephew and nothing else!!" he looks at me awkwardly "I'm afraid you are going to have to bite your tongue and hold your nerve with Gravel, you can't let him see anything has changed!!"
"Great!! Just Great!!" I snap at him "Well I'm telling you now, when Slate wakes up I want security back on his door, that man is never stepping foot anywhere near that boy again!!"
Something hits me then - Fudge!! It is not just Slate I've gained but probably also those two babies that are almost certainly going to turn out to be Slates. Slate being my child is even more proof that Gravel is not capable and still has not managed to actually father a child of his own yet, which makes those babies being his even less likely!!
"Hell ... I'm not old enough to become a Granddad!! How the hell did this happen!?"
Mango and Cinnamon both start laughing at me. Mango reminds me that he is younger than me and has already got two Grandchildren and another three on the way so I'm plenty old enough!!
It took me quite a while to pull myself together enough to go back to Gravel's house. Mango prescribed me something to calm my nerves which kind of amused me. He also gave me a job to do at the hospital, to keep my busy, preoccupied and out of the house more over the next few days while he is away in Rainbow Valley sorting out his Father-in-Laws house. Now I understand why he was testing me earlier, and I must have impressed him somehow because he gave me his whole patient list to look after while he's away.
I couldn't even face going to see Slate because it would have totally cracked me up which I couldn't afford to do in front of Bayleaf. Now knowing that Slate is my child has totally changed everything and having to keep it to myself makes it harder to deal with. I have just tonight to get my head around it before I face seeing him tomorrow wearing a brave face.
When I get back to Gravel's house, I found Mace in the living room on the couch in pieces. It looks like he has been crying for most of the day. I was half expecting to find Elderberry with him but he was alone, lying on the couch tears streaming down his face.
I felt really awkward as well as bad for him. I can imagine why he's upset and wander how he's managed to carry it all on his shoulders for all these years without totally cracking up, especially his daughter. I wandered if he is on the verge of cracking, I am almost scared to push him in case he does because I am hardly holding it together myself. Cinnamon has also warned me that it's not just Slate that I have to keep to myself, I've also got to act totally normal with Gravel and Mace. I am not to let either of them know or see that I know anything. We still don't know if we can completely trust Mace, so he is to be kept in the dark until he is pulled in.
"Please tell me you have been watching soppy movies again!" I laugh at him as I sit down on the couch by him even though I can see that the TV is not on. He sits up and tries to wipe the tears off his face.
"Busted!! You know me the stupidest things make me cry!!" I laugh at him as I wipe the tears off his face and start kissing him. "I had to turn the TV off it was cracking me up!!" Yeah I doubt the TV has even been on at all and I think I know exactly why he has been crying!!
We lay back on the couch and he puts his head on me.
"So how did it go with Gravel?" I ask curiously to see what he'd say.
"Crap!! I really don't like your brother!! Thankfully he got called out on police business so I didn't have to spend too much time with him!!" he looks up at me for a moment "Gran please don't leave me alone with him again!! I seriously can't wait to go home and away from him!!"
"I'm sorry I won't do it again!! I really don't know what I was thinking this morning!" I must have still been half asleep!! I say to him quietly. "Have you been home alone all day? You should have phoned me!!"
"El came round! We went to the bowling alley and had dinner at the bistro. She only went about an hour ago." he smiles at me. "How did it go with Coral?"
"Crap!! She irritates the hell out of me!" I laugh "I spent most of the time with Lilly and Mango's parents, we had a lot to catch up on. Coral went off somewhere with her little sister." he asks me if I've been at Mango's all this time. "No, I got a call from Mango, he wanted me to go into the hospital. You'll never guess what happened to me today, I ended up in theatre doing surgery with Mango." He glances up and laughs at me, he knows how much I love my job and miss not being at work at the moment. "We also went through Slates treatment program. Tomorrow the wake up process begins."
"Good!! I just want to get this transplant done and go home!!" he mumbles quietly, it sounds like he is nodding off to sleep.
We just lie there in silence. I decide to leave it until later to tell him my other bit of news, I doubt he'll be too impressed when he hears it because I'll hardly have any time for him!! I close my eyes like he does and just lie their thinking about everything that has happened today. Hell ... Slate is my Son not my Nephew!! How am I ever going to get my head around that?!
"Look at you two! Love's young dream!! I think I need a sick bucket!!" Gravel's slimy voice snaps me out of my thoughts. I just want to jump up off the couch and go for him but I have to bite my tongue and hold my nerve because I can't even make him suspicious!!
"Shut up Berry Hole!!" I snap at him, I'm glad I've got my eyes closed so I don't even have to look at him!!
"So is Macey boy not cooking tonight?" he asks and it irritates me that he is calling him Macey boy because that is what I had heard him calling Mace during the taped conversation. "I'm starving! I'm sure he said he was cooking tonight! What's up with him anyway?! He looks like he's been crying." He frowns at Mace.
"No he isn't cooking!! He's homesick like I am and I'm not disturbing him because he's asleep." I snap at him "I'm taking Mace out later to eat so you'll have to cook your own food!!" I snap at him and I hear him grunt "Where is Coral? doesn't she usually cook your meals?"
"She's staying at her Mom's for a few days. Mango phoned me earlier, he's going to Rainbow Valley for a few days to help Lilly's brother clear out their Dad's house and Mango wanted Coral to stay with Lilly while he is away because you know she has blackouts, it makes him feel better if one of the kids is there with her." I laugh in my head because I knew he was going to tell me about Coral staying at her parents, I was with Mango when he actually made the phone call to Gravel. He goes quiet for a moment "So were you not with Coral all day?"
"No she went off somewhere with Cotton and I popped into the hospital to check on Slate's progress." I mumble wishing that he would go away.
"That's funny! I've just come from there and Bay says he hasn't seen you at all today. He says he's spoken to you but not seen you and I know Bay has been at the hospital all day!!"
"No he hasn't seen me because I've been busy. I popped up to Mango's office to check on Slate's progress, because staring at your son's comatosed body is not going to tell me anything is it!!" I snap at him. It almost choked me to say your son, but I have to play the game. "Mango needed to run through his treatment program with me and we had a lot to discuss."
"Busy doing what? What treatment program?" he snaps "I'm his Dad, why hasn't he told me about this treatment program - what is it anyway?" he sounds irritated.
"I went into theatre with Mango to do an emergency procedure on one of his patients." I laugh at the look on his face "And yes we do know you are Slate's Dad ... and Mango didn't tell you because it's nothing you have to worry about - every patient has a treatment program and I am a doctor remember, it's what we work off and while Mango is away I'm the doctor in charge of Slates care."
"WHAT?!" he snaps "You are joking right?! You can't look after my sons care!!"
"I am perfectly capable!! I am a fully qualified doctor and surgeon remember just like Mango and Forrest. Normally Forrest would have stepped into Mango shoes while he's away but seeing as Forrest is at Meadows Mango has asked me to do it." I laugh "If Mango thinks I'm capable then I don't know why you are stressing. Don't think that man hasn't already scrutinized my medical and work history because he's probably gone through it with a fine tooth comb and I know he's phoned Cherry Hill for references because he's told me!!"
"Why you? I'm not having it!!" he snaps "I'm going to phone Mango, I want to know why he hasn't asked me about this!!"
"Are you for real?! Does Mango phone you up every time a different doctor or nurse goes near Slate ... No! I don't think so!! What is your problem anyway? Who would you rather have looking after your son - a random doctor who doesn't know him from Adam and who Slate is just another patient to ... or me? He is my nephew remember and I'm going to look after him a lot better than a random doctor would!!!" I snap at him "I thought you'd be pleased I am the one looking after him, he is my family too remember, the only blood I have besides you!!" I laugh sarcastically "Oh but I forgot, silly me!! I am still and always will be just that drunken crack head to you!!"
He just stands there staring at me saying nothing.
"So don't expect to see much of me over the next few days, because I'll be camped out at the hospital working and taking care of your son and all of Mango's other patients in Neurology!!" I laugh at him "Hysterical really, Dr Mango Muffin who is one of the best Neurosurgeons on the planet trusts me to look after his patient list but my own brother doesn't trust me to look after my own nephew!!"
"Well while Mango is away, you can sneak me in to see Slate!!" he says suddenly without reacting to anything I have just said to him.
"Sorry, no can do!! It's more than my jobs worth!!" I laugh at him "It's in the patients best interest, you put him there so you being their might upset him and hamper his recovery. You won't be seeing Slate again until he wants to see you!!" He'll never be seeing him again if I have my way!!
"Oh come on stop playing the doctor!! He's my son for berry sake and you are my brother, I'm sure you can see how ridiculous this is, they are stopping me from seeing my own son!! He needs me!!" but he isn't your son is he berry hole!!
"It's funny isn't it suddenly you remember Slate is your son and I'm your brother ... when it suits you Gravel!!" I laugh sarcastically "It's just a shame you didn't remember that when you was getting me locked up and grassing me up to the Brownie brothers, or when you was getting your leg over Slates girlfriend!! You are nothing but a selfish backstabbing Berry Hole!! Slate needs you like he needs a hole in the head!! You are not seeing him end of!!"
"Go to Hell Granite!!" he shouts at me as he storms off into the kitchen. "I'll remind you of this the next time you ask me for a favour ... BROTHER!!"
Brother!! He doesn't know the meaning of the word!! He has seriously done it with me now, I would treat an enemy better than he's treated me!! He has completely broken what little connection and history we have ever had and I'm not going to waste one minute of my time worrying about what is about to happen to him, he's brought it all upon himself. He's killed us with his lies and deceit and he's robbed me of the last twenty years of my life in more ways than one!!
I laugh to myself as I hear him banging angrily around in the kitchen.
"He is the only one going to Hell!!" Mace mumbles quietly as he opens his eyes and glances up at me. "And the Berry Hole is seriously going to burn!!"
I hadn't even realized Mace is awake, I thought he was asleep. We just stare at each other before we both burst up laughing!
If only Mace knew just how true those words of his are and how soon it is coming!!
I'm just scared of what might be coming for Mace!!
Song ~ Linkin Park ~ From the Inside