Chapter Thirty Six
Five hours later, he pulled into his old town and slowed down, crawling through the dark streets. First, he went back to the old house. He was shocked to find the entire street had been completely demolished and re-built with large, detached houses with big gardens. He spent a few moments looking at the place where his home had been, remembering some of the happy times he'd had there, before restarting the car's engine and heading for the old diner Gabe used to visit.
He vaguely remembered Daisy Butterworth, though he'd only met her about twice. She was the kind lady who'd run the diner. Gabe had adored her. The diner stood empty now, for several years by the look of it. The old sign above the door was chipped and faded, and several of the glass panes had been broken, and then covered up with corkboards. Killing the engine, Jordan locked the car, buttoned his coat, and set off towards the alley.
He saw a man stood at the end of the alley, waiting, as he approached. The man eyed him warily as he came over. Jordan looked at him with distaste for a moment, before swallowing his disgust.
"Do you come here often?"
"None of your business." The man said, shifting uncomfortably. "Police?"
"No… I'm looking for someone. His name's Gabriel. Do you know him? Blonde hair, blue eyes?"
"No." Jordan opened his mouth again. "No!" The man repeated. Jordan sighed, and leant against the wall to wait with the man. "What're you doing?"
"Waiting. I need to find this person. So if I have to wait in this alley for a week, I will."
"Listen… there are loads of guys around here with blonde hair and blue eyes. There are more alleys like this one. You're looking for a needle in a haystack."
"Well, this is a special needle." Jordan said grimly. "So I'll wait."
"The blonds tend to hang around near the nightclubs." A voice behind them said. Jordan turned to see a young lad, about seventeen, watching them. "The drunks mistake them for girls, and they can make easy cash there."
"The one I'm looking for is older. Thirty three or so." The boy shrugged.
"Don't know. Sorry." Jordan sighed, before fishing in his pocket and handing the boy some notes.
"Shove off home for tonight." He said firmly. "Leave this scum high and dry." The boy smirked, and shrugged.
"Thanks, but… every little helps." The man glared at Jordan triumphantly. "I'll keep my eyes open though, if you'd like. Should I leave a message somewhere?"
"I… I don't know where I'm staying," Jordan said, realising he'd forgotten to get a hotel room. "Erm… meet me back here in two days, at ten o'clock. If I don't come, you'll know I've found him. His name's Gabriel. Gabriel Tanner."
"Tanner?" the boy said, looking surprised. "You're looking for Tanner?"
"You know him?"
"He hangs out in the park. He lives near the bridge beside the canal." Jordan's heartbeat sped up ten-fold.
"Yeah. He… looks out for us." The boy smiled. "You know him?"
"Yeah. He's my brother."
"Brother?" The boy looked sceptical. "Aren't you a little… black? To be his brother?" Jordan grinned.
"We're not actually related. I'm… well, sort of adopted." He thanked the boy, returned to his car, and headed towards the park. He walked through the dark park, watching the shadows warily. The park had always been the hang-out for the addicts when he'd been young. He spotted the bridge, and ran across to it. He slipped beneath the railings and down towards the canal. He walked the length of the bridge, checking all the alcoves for Gabe, before crossing to the other side and checking there as well. The bridge was empty. With a sigh, Jordan clambered back up onto the walkway and settled down on the wall to wait.
After almost an hour, ready to find a hotel and return the next night, Jordan heard a soft groan from the bushes ahead of him. Warily, he went across to them and parted the branches carefully. He gasped when he saw a figure huddled within the leaves, shaking with cold. The figure's hair, shoulder length, was lank and dirty, his bare arms and hands dirty and scratched. The thin shirt was ragged, the canvas shorts ripped and muddied.
Brushing the man's hair away from his face, Jordan saw it was Gabe. Though Gabe was shivering, Jordan saw he was on the verge of unconsciousness. His skin was pale, almost translucent, and he looked ill.
Sliding his hands beneath Gabe's body, Jordan lifted him, worried to feel how little Gabe weighed, and carried him to the car. Laying him out on the back seat and covering him with a blanket, he slid into the front seat. He drove them to the outskirts of the town and found a roadside hotel. He went inside and booked in for the night, before going back out to the car and carrying Gabe inside. Debating for a moment, Jordan finally laid Gabe on one of the twin beds and carefully started stripping his clothes off. He was alarmed to see every one of Gabe's ribs protruding from tightly stretched skin, his stomach thin with near emancipation. His legs were like twigs, and his skin was deathly pale.
Ringing room service for some washcloths and a bowl, Jordan waited impatiently for them to arrive. He filled the bowl with warm water, wetted the clothes and began gently washing Gabe's body. He dried him as he went, before finding a pair of pyjama bottoms in the bottom drawer and slipping them onto Gabe. He carried Gabe's clothes down to the laundry room and put them in to wash before going back, striping down to his boxers and sliding beneath the covers of the other bed.