The town was still and dark, and every noise, the hum of the street lights, the thud of her own heart, the sound of a newspaper being blown up the street on a gust of wind, the occasional cat fight made her nerve endings twang. She was two seconds away from turning and running all the way home. She hadn’t got a clue what she was doing out so late—or early, depending on your point of view.
She paused at a cash point, wondering what she would do if the account had been frozen. She didn’t know how it worked, if a person died, did everything get frozen, or did the banks have to be notified by the next of kin?
She punched in the pin, suddenly remembering it was her birthday numbers, as it was the only thing her Da—Michael—could remember straight off the top of his head.
Luckily for her the account was still active. She emptied it and began to divide up the cash around her person, just in case she got mugged. She had nearly eight hundred dollars on her, which made her jumpier still.
She walked to the bus station, her mind was strangely empty. She settled down on one of the metal seats bolted to the floor and stared at the wall. It was all she seemed capable of doing. For a few moments after reading her mother’s journal her thoughts had bombarded her at an alarming rate, but the decision to go to Santa Carla seemed to have put a stop to the whole thinking process.
At six a.m. when the depot officially came to life she paid for her ticket, made polite chit-chat with the vendor about visiting her family in her summer break, then sat down once more and waited for her bus.
At seven am she was getting edgy. Her uncle Sam could be awake by now, he could have already noticed she was gone. He could be on his way here by now.
She forced herself to act calm and not arouse anyone’s suspicions, but could not hide her sigh of relief when the bus arrived.
It was when the bus crossed over the town line that her actions hit her. She had run away. She hadn’t told anyone where or why she was going. The last thing her family—what was left of it—needed was more grief and worry, but that’s what she had done.
She tried to block the thoughts out, and eventually reached for her mother’s journal to immerse herself in more half-truths about her family.
The next entry was short.
Friday 10th July 1987
Mi’s brother, has a plan. And connections. He’s going to get us out of here.
Tuesday 14th July 1987
Oh, god. It’s so awful, I can’t write about it. Laddie, Michael (for that is his full name) and I are alive and… we’re alive, I’m not sure we’re well, but we’re getting there. Lucy, Sam, Edgar and Alan have also survived. We are safe, for now. I have found people I can trust, and it’s about time I grew out of the habit of only writing initials in my journal.
We’re now in a motel, miles away from Santa Carla. We could put a million miles between us and them, it still wouldn’t end.
I’m going to focus on the positive, not the negative of this ordeal. Michael loves me, and I love him. Believe it or not, he asked me to marry him. He asked me a few moments before all hell broke lose, just so, no matter what happened, I would always know how he felt about me. And I told him yes, just so he would know too.
‘All hell broke lose’? What’s that supposed to mean? Luna wondered. What happened, Mom? What? What had you fleeing Santa Carla in such haste? She read on eagerly. ‘D’ and his boys must have come after her mother. But she only found empty pages, and then, finally, an entry.
Friday 24th July 1987
I told him. Finally, I found the courage to tell Michael that I’m pregnant. I told him in one sentence so there was no confusion. Michael wanted to formally announce that we were getting married, but I couldn’t let him do that without knowing.
I said, “When you met me I was a month pregnant.”
“By him?” he asked after several moments of thought.
“Yes, it was only one time. He was kind to me, it was before I knew what he was, and I was lonely.”
“Did you love him?”
“No, I was just lonely,” I repeated, waiting for the anger and disgust.
“But you love me?”
“More than I ever thought I was capable of.”
“Then our child will be well loved.” He took me in his arms and began to whisper sweet things about naming our child and getting me to a doctor for check-ups and sonograms, things I know we can’t afford. But somehow I think we’ll manage. Michael brings amazing strength to me. I told him I really liked Moon Child as a name for our child, he just told me that his Mom would be very impressed with the choice, but would our child?
I’m not sure. Maybe something else, I like the concept too. I’m Star, Michael was nearly Moon Child or Moon Beam, our child should have a name that follows the pattern.
Well, I like Luna better than Moon Beam. She thought, suddenly realising tears were in her eyes. Michael had known he wasn’t her father, and still loved her.
Saturday 25th July 1987
Oh god! Michael’s Grandpa and the Frog brothers’ parents have been found murdered. It’s terrible, I can’t believe they did that. Well, I can, I know what they’re capable of, but what I mean is—and there’s no nice way to put it—I can’t believe the boys left it so long. We fled Santa Carla eleven days ago, and nothing happened to the family members left behind. Now they do it. When we begin to feel safe. It’s just like him to play such a horrible mind game, and so viciously. Bastards.
Everyone is in shock, even Laddie, who never even met them. Laddie may be young but he knows what’s going on. Lucy has taken it the worst, she doesn’t seem herself at all. Before all this, despite what had happened, she was acting like a worried mother, assuring us that everything would be fine—but I think this has been too much for her. The loss of her father had made everything sink in very quickly.
As the only other female in our group, she has reached out to me, which has, at least, forged a bond between us. I know before that she saw me as, if not the cause, the start of all this trouble at the very least.
I asked her if she blames me for the deaths. I know I blame myself, but she doesn’t. She blames her father’s pig-headedness. His inability to leave his home despite the danger. And she blames them. But she manages not to blame me, because if she blamed me, she would have to blame Michael as well.
It’s ok, Lucy, I blame myself enough for all of us.
Again the ink was smudged with tear splatters. Luna was frustrated. What had happened, before ‘D’ and his boys wreaked revenge on Grandpa and the Frog parents? Did the police catch them?
Her questions went unanswered as she read more of the journal. It held very little of interest or importance, it mostly documented her Mom’s pregnancy, the family’s reaction to every kick, the mad cravings and so forth.
The only reference there was to that time in her life was several months down the line where her mother had put:
I refuse to dwell on the dark, my child will go into the light. Only Michael knows the whole truth about the episode, and it shall stay that way. Michael is the baby’s father in every way that counts. It shows when he comes home with baby-grows, despite the fact I’m only six months along. I love him, he loves me, and we love our child. There is no darkness in my family.
No, just secrets, lies, deceptions and death, Luna thought bitterly, as sleep tugged at the edge of her consciousness. She put the journal back in her bag and tried to get comfortable on the seat.
When she woke up, an old lady was sitting next to her, and true to stereotype, when Luna made her wakeful state known, the old lady turned to her and told her the long version of her life story.
They had just got to the sixties, where Veronica’s daughter—Veronica was from next door and was rather above the station god gave her in life because her husband was one of those stockbrokers from the city—had run off to join a hippy commune.
“See, pride comes before a fall, that’s what my Mom always used to say—Did I tell you—”
“Sorry to interrupt—” Luna stifled a yawn. “—but are we near Santa Carla yet?”
“We’ll be there in five minutes,” the old lady replied. She had told Luna her name, but she had been unable to remember it as she had been bombarded with too much boring information at the time. “What’s in Santa Carla for you, Dee?”
Luna had given her the name Dee, since it figured so heavily in her thoughts. “Family,” she replied with a trace of irony.
“Family is a wonderful thing. Did I tell you about my nephew? He’s a lawyer, you know. Not one of those nasty ones that protect criminals, but the kind that lock them up. Anyhow, my nephew—Charles is his name…”
It’s gonna be a long five minutes, Luna thought sardonically, as she listened to Charles’ exciting escapades.
Luna noticed a sign welcoming them to Santa Carla, and breathed a sigh of relief. Then she noticed the writing on the back, Murder Capital of the World, and wondered just what she was getting in to.