“When people have wealth, life and freedom to protect they will go to the darkest lengths to protect it.”
Trapped in the Trees
There was only one way to keep her quiet, and it was to silence her forever!
The Ellwood stream meandered through the ancient oak woods of the same name. It burbled over rocks and cascaded down mossy falls. It was as treacherous as it was beautiful.
“Here, let me give you a helping hand, Immi.” Shane steadied the couples backpack on his strong shoulders and stretched a hand over the stream toward his girlfriend, Imogen.
“Thanks, these wet rocks are so slippery.” Locking her fingers in his, she made a couple of quick steps through the fast-flowing water, and dropped beside him with a victorious smile, “There, made it!”
“You made that dangerous crossing look good. Now, don’t shoot me, but seeing this does make you wonder if your parents could have had an accident here somewhere — doesn’t it?”
Imogen followed the Honeybee as it buzzed about the dogroses growing beneath the oak canopy. Her eyes filled with tears as a melancholy sat heavily on her shoulders. “I hate to be a grizzle bum, but no it doesn’t.”
Shane felt her pain and hugged her again as he led the way through the dappled green landscape beneath the trees. “I know you’re so sure they were murdered. Yet, chasing the truth is only going to ruin your life too. Even police detective Kastler didn’t see it pertinent to investigate further.”
“What am I supposed to do!” Imogen slapped her thighs. “There was a black car following my parents for days. My uncle was acting very strange and they were scared of something. Something that led them here on the day they disappeared. Until their bodies are found, I have to keep searching for them.”
“I understand, I do. If I was wearing those pretty pink hiking boots, I’d be doing the same thing as you —”
Imogen chuckled as she adjusted the hems of her little denim shorts. “Ha! Your big feet would be crippled if you were wearing these.”
“Yup, I’d be walking to agony city. Nevertheless, I understand and would do what you are doing. As someone who cares, looking in, I just wish you’d stop and live your life.”
“Thank you, honey. I promise I will stop one day.” Imogen stepped ahead of him. It was then she lost her footing and slid down an embankment with a crack of branches.
“Immi!” Shane leapt after her. He bounced between bushes and lost his feet in an avalanche of leaves. The gnarled trunk of an ancient tree provided the perfect handhold as he came to a stop. “Immi!” He called not seeing her.
A feminine giggle came from the right.
Shane looked, he was amazed to see she was lying under a sizeable bough, its branches curved around her like a cage. “Hey! You okay?”
“I’m fine. I’m not going on that rollercoaster again though,” Imogen smiled at him, “Sorry, I scared you.”
“You’re okay, that’s all that matters.” Shane gripped the bow and levered it aside so she could escape.
“I’m glad my shorts are tightfitting,” she said once upright and brushing leaf litter and loam from her legs and clothes.
“Really, why?” Shane took her hand and indicated ahead, “Let’s go that way.”
“If I was wearing loose shorts, I’d have a forest full of leaves in my knickers about now!”
“And there’s me thinking, tight shorts are all about getting men to stare at your arse all day!” Shane chuckled as he followed the embankment.
Imogen narrowed her eyes at him, “That’s a typical male opinion. We girls wear tight clothes because they make us feel athletic. We’d wear signs saying ‘Feel free to look and touch!’ If we wanted attention.”
“Right, no looking then.” Shane covered his eyes and promptly bumped into a tree trunk.
“You silly!” Imogen giggled and kissed him. “If looking at me, means looking where you’re going; I don’t mind.”
“Thanks,” Shane smiled and took a breath as he watched a pair of squirrels chasing each other through the trees. “So, how far do you think we should walk?”
Imogen looked about her with a thoughtfulness gracing her gently freckled features. “I don’t know, I always hope to feel something out here.”
“Well, look. By my calculations. If we go on for another mile, we’ll hit the old logging road. We can use that to navigate back to the car. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah,” Imogen sighed. “Let’s do that.”
The couple walked on hand-in-hand. They paused to watch a woodpecker burrowing into a trunk.
A family of fallow deer crossed their path as they skirted a small, natural pond.
“I just love dragonflies and damselflies, look at the way they shimmer as they zip about above the water,” Imogen said with a smile.
“They’re as beautiful as —”
“Look!” Imogen gasped and ran to the nearest tree – a lone sycamore in a forest of oak.
“What, slow down!” Shane jogged after her.
Imogen had picked up an oval of metal. “Look, see the elephants engraved on this belt buckle? My dad bought this when we were on holiday in Kimberley City. South Africa. I was seven then. There’s a rounded dent in it too. This proves something happened here.”
Shane nodded. “Yes, it does. Belt buckles don’t get lost when you stop for a pee.” He ran a finger over the indent with a graveness darkening his mood. “And a little hot nookie didn’t cause that either.”
Imogen grinned as she faced him, “No getting ideas, mis— Oh …” Her mirth vanished, “You know what caused this, don’t you?”
Shane held and smoothed her arms, “I’m sorry, lovely. But, I’m sure that was caused by a gunshot.”
“It’s okay, I already know they were murdered.” Imogen walked behind him and took a zip lock bag from her backpack. She put the belt buckle inside and sealed it. “We just proved it!”
“Seems, we did. Let’s look and see if there’s anything else around here?” Shane locked eyes with her. Now, he felt why she was so determined to keep searching for her lost parents.
“Thank you, honey. It means a lot that you are willing to keep searching.” Imogen kissed him as her focus fell upon the leaf litter.
“We’ll at least have enough evidence to get the police back on the case when we get out of here,” Shane said while searching around a vicious blackberry cane. He couldn’t resist munching on a few with the dark, sweet fruits as he kicked about the leaf litter.
“That’s what I’m hoping. There’s only so much we can do. I —”
“Sorry, Immi. Did either of your parents smoke?” Shane held up a silver vesta case.
Imogen’s jaw dropped. She walked over with tears in her eyes. Her expression was one of growing fear and anger. “I don’t believe it. If this is here, my uncle was too. I remember him making his cigarettes as this a lot.”
“Your uncle’s still alive, isn’t he?” Shane queried while wrestling with the vesta’s lid.
“Yes.” Imogen looked at him horror-struck.
Shane gave up on the case and smoothed her blonde locks from her face, “But, that means …”
“He killed them. He murdered my parents,” Imogen’s voice came out as a whisper as she took the case in her shaking hands.
“I’m so —”
The sounds of a branch snapping shattered the serenity of the forest.
Imogen and Shane spun around and see a man in dirty jeans and a rock band T-shirt striding towards them.
“Uncle Roland, how could you!” Imogen yelled; tears of bitter resentment splashed down her cheeks.
“I should have known the only way to keep you quiet; would be to silence you forever too!” Roland drew a small black pistol.
Shane’s father loved spending time with a rifle range. As a result, Shane had become familiar with quite a few firearms, he recognised this one as a Taurus TX 22. Leaving little doubt this was the man and the gun responsible for the dent in the belt buckle. “What do you mean; keep Imogen quiet? You came in here murdered her parents. She knew nothing to convict you until we found the evidence against you!”
“Evidence that’ll never leave this woodland,” Roland aimed at the boy, “Pity, you got him killed too, Imogen.”
“He asked you a question — what did you mean ‘keep me quiet?’” Imogen demanded to know as she ignored the threat.
“Simply that I should have known you’d hunt for the truth. I should have murdered you to ensure my safety. Get over by that, Sycamore!”
“What is the truth?” Shane asked as he curled his fingers into Imogen’s and backed away with her toward the tree. “Why did you kill them?”
“No,” Roland shook his head. “You really don’t want to —”
“Spare me the bullshit!” Imogen’s back struck the tree trunk and she stomped a hiking boot. “Why did you kill my parents. You killed your sister. TELL ME!”
“I tried to warn you. Mummy and daddy, we’re not the angels you think they were.”
Shane’s hand told him of bullet holes in the tree trunk. “No, you will not defile their names after shooting them right here against this tree!”
“Too late. Mummy and daddy were diamond smugglers. All those times they took you on holiday to Kimberley, Angola, Botswana, even Kinshasa in the DRC, they were going to collect diamonds.” Roland released the safety on his gun.
“So, what? People go abroad to buy gemstones on legitimate business all the time,” Shane argued.
“How many of them use their precious little daughters to smuggle diamonds over the border, though?” Roland sneered.
“Now, what —”
“He-he’s telling the truth.” Imogen cried with fresh tears running tracts down her cheeks and dripping off her chin into the leaf litter. “That’s why mummy always had to repair my bears and dolls, isn’t it?”
Roland nodded, “Very astute. At first, they hid them in the liners of your nappies. When you grew out of those, your toys became the next best thing. Now, enough chitchat.”
“No, not yet!” Shane pulled Imogen into his arms and held her as she cried against him. “I understand they were diamond smugglers, but where do you come in?”
“Never you mind.” Roland raised the gun.
Imogen freed herself, “I know.” she raised the vesta case. “There were diamonds in this case from time to time.”
Roland gasped at the sight of his case.
“Oh, there are diamonds in it now too, then,” Imogen pressed. “My parents smuggled the diamonds for you. You forced them to bring them home to you so you could sell them and get rich — right? They refused after almost being caught at the airport and you killed them to protect yourself — right!”
“Like I said, very astute!” Roland pulled the trigger.
A gunshot rang out scaring birds out of the trees.
Shane flinched but no bullet struck him or Imogen.
Roland’s shoulder exploded in a gout of blood and he collapsed to his knees. Police officers quickly surrounded and arrested him.
“Imogen, Shane, you both did very well getting the truth out of him,” said detective Kastler approaching the couple.
“I can’t believe he fell for it!” Imogen said full of relief.
“I can,” the detective smiled. “The way you too laughed and loved each other as you walked through the woods, made me believe you.”
“Our love is real, that’s why.” Shane smiled and kissed Imogen.
“What happens to him, now?” she asked having handed over the vesta case and belt buckle. Kastler had stashed the buckle to set the ruse when Roland needed to be unmasked. Finding the case was a bonus.
“He’ll go on trial for the murders, hopefully, get a life sentence.” Kastler put his hands on her shoulders. “You, leave that to me. You go off and enjoy your life with Shane. Detective’s orders!”
“Thank you,” she hugged him.
“Yes, thank you, Detective.” Shane offered a helping hand in the waning light and led her away. “Let’s go, Immi. We’ve got a lot of love and life to enjoy now!”
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!