Some would have described him as intransigent, but not me. In my mind, Peter Myles was simply a fool. A pig-headed, bloody-minded, fool. His major weakness – not knowing when to keep his mouth shut. Whenever he got an idea into his head he had to share it with the world. I warned him time and again how dangerous this was but he wouldn’t listen. I tried my best to protect him, but there was only so much I could do.
The secret police had eyes and ears everywhere. You couldn’t trust anyone. Not even your closest friends and family. They had ways of getting people to talk. Fear cut across all relationships, however strong.
Peter’s problem was that he trusted everyone. This naivety was what made him so adorable but one day, it would be the death of him.
We all knew about the red clouds that appeared every day on the outskirts of town. They would emerge from beneath the snow, swirl around for an hour or two, then disappear. The state controlled media never mentioned this phenomena and nobody ever asked what it was or where it came from. Nobody that was, except Peter. Despite everything we said to him he decide to carry out his own investigation. He took samples, made detailed notes and was even foolish enough to take photos.
It was those photos and detailed notes that he had spread out in front of me as we sat at our usual table in the local pub. In a voice, much too loud for comfort, Peter said,
“I couldn’t figure it out at first, then it came to me. It was so obvious I still can’t work out why I didn’t see it earlier. I’ve been over my notes a thousand times and checked and re-checked the photos. I’m telling you Susie I know exactly what’s going on. I know what that red cloud is.”
The more enthusiastic he got the louder he spoke. I noticed the drinkers close to us had nervously picked up their drinks and moved away. Jim, behind the bar, looked across at me, his eyes pleading with me to shut Peter up.
“Peter! Keep your voice down. You’re making people nervous. Why don’t you put that lot away and have another drink?”
“But Susie, you’re not listening! This is important. This is what we’ve been looking for. I know what’s happened to all those missing people. I know what’s happened to our friends.”
“Not here Peter! Let’s take this stuff back to my flat. You can explain it all to me there.”
Much to the relief of the other drinkers Peter agreed. He collected his papers and we headed back to my place.
The relief of getting his story off his chest, mixed with a bottle of red wine left him exhausted. I helped him to the bed we’d shared so many times and within minutes he was asleep.
I went back to his notes and his photos. It was amazing just how much he’d managed to put together. He was right of course, the red clouds did have something to do with the missing people. It was, in fact, the smoke poring out from underground incinerators where enemies of the state were disposed off on a daily basis. Nobody knew why the smoke was red. There was no scientific reason for it. In the end the authorities had stopped worrying, working on the assumption that none of the terrified inhabitants of the town would dare ask questions. None that was, except Peter.
The knock on the door came in the early hours of the morning. It woke Peter. I was already awake, sat in my dressing gown in a small chair, in the corner of the room. I knew who was at the door. I’d been expecting them. Without getting up I shouted,
“Come in. The door’s open.”
Three heavily armed policemen walked into the bedroom. The officer looked at me and saluted,
I nodded and watched as they dragged Peter from the bed. Just before they dropped the hood over his head he looked at me and I could see from his eyes that he knew what I’d done. As they took him away I brushed away a tear, telling myself it was for the best. It was my job to help rid this world of the potential troublemakers like Peter Myles.