Tag Archives: murder

A Burden of Truth

James Robert Whitmore stared up at the clock on the gray stone wall in the tiny room. Eleven-thirty, only thirty minutes left and then they would come to get him. He prayed the priest would get there soon. Whitmore rose up and began to pace from one of the drab stone walls to the other. His stomach started to gurgle, and he wished he hadn’t eaten the meal they had brought for him. A knock on the door caused him to freeze. He glanced again at the clock. It can’t be time. Please let it be the priest. His voice faltered as he called out, “Come in.”

+++++The heavy wooden door swung open, and Father Thomas McCarthy walked in.

+++++Whitmore rushed to meet him, grasping the old man’s hand. He said, “Thank God you’re here, Father. I don’t think I can go through with this.” The priest freed his hand from Whitmore’s death grip. Wrapping his arm around Whitmore’s shoulder, he said “Well, my son, I’m afraid at this point you don’t have much choice. Come now, why don’t we use this time wisely. You asked me to hear your confession, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

+++++The old priest guided Whitmore to a rough wooden bench that sat against one of the bleak walls of the room and helped him sit down. “Now James, I’m ready to listen.”

+++++With wild eyes, Whitmore looked at the priest and said: “It shouldn’t be me, Father. I don’t deserve this.”

+++++“Well lad, the truth is many people feel that you do. We don’t have much time. Why don’t you share your confession with me? Free your soul, James. Now is the time.”

+++++Whitmore had wrapped his arms around himself and was staring at the stone floor. “I’m sorry Father. I haven’t been to confession in over twenty-five years. I don’t even know how to start.”

+++++“All you have to do is tell the truth son. It’s the truth that will set you free.”

+++++Whitmore lifted his gaze up from the floor and said, “The problem with Emily was that she couldn’t keep a secret, and that’s why she had to die.”

+++++A look of shock registered on the priest’s face, but he remained silent.

+++++Whitmore continued: “Besides, the whole damned thing was her fault anyway. If Emily would have just thrown the invitation away like I had done to all the others, she’d still be alive today. But, oh no, she couldn’t leave it alone. She wrote a reply accepting the invitation on my behalf. Can you believe that, Father? The bitch didn’t even tell me what she’d done.” Whitmore looked into the priest’s eyes, expecting to see empathy, but instead, the old man looked like he had just drunk a glass of curdled milk.

+++++He ignored the sour expression on the priest’s face and went on. “I found out what she’d done one night when I was sitting in my study reading the New York Times. I came across this article titled ‘Whitmore to Speak Publicly, the First Time in Twenty Years.’ Of course, I’m stunned by the headline, so I start reading.” ‘James Whitmore, author of the exceptional short story The Winter’s Harvest and several lesser-known works, will be this year’s keynote speaker at Bishop Walsh High School in Rochester NY.’ The article went on, but I didn’t need to read anymore. I knew what happened; my alma mater had sent their favorite son another request to speak at the school. Emily knew I would never accept, no matter how much she badgered me, so she accepted for me.

+++++“Well, I grabbed that paper and marched my ass right out into the kitchen where she was doing dishes, and I introduced the back of my hand to the side of her face. She drops like I hit her with an ax handle. She starts blubbering. ‘I did it for you; I did it for you.’ I’m about to cram that article down her throat when my cell phone rings. I compose myself a little and answer the call. It turns out to be my old agent, who I had not spoken with in years. He tells me he saw that I was going to speak at Bishop Walsh and he says there is renewed interest in the story. He said he was even getting feelers from Hollywood about a remake of the original film. Well, Father, I start to think maybe it’s time to get back out there. Money was getting tight, and I didn’t have a lot going on. I hung up the phone and realized that what Emily had done was a good thing. I went over and tried to apologize to her, but she didn’t want to hear it. Just stormed off and locked herself in the bedroom. I knew it would take some time, but she’d come around. She always did.”

+++++The more Whitmore talked, the more he relaxed. The priest was right; confession is good for the soul. He checked the time again and saw that it was eleven-forty-five. Only fifteen minutes left. The priest saw Whitmore look at the clock, and he tried to interject, but Whitmore stopped him. “I’m sorry, Father, but I only have fifteen minutes left, and I want to finish the confession.”

+++++The priest nodded his head and said, “Go on.”

+++++“Well, the next morning I amble out into the kitchen, and I see that Emily had placed the invitation to speak at Bishop Walsh on the kitchen table. At first, it was an ego rush to see it there. After all these years I was going back, and I was going back because they wanted me. Just like the coaches wanted me when I was their star quarterback.” A smirk came to his face. “Just like all the girls wanted me when they were in the back seat of my car.”

+++++Whitmore stood up from the bench and started to pace the room again. “The problem was she left that goddamn invitation on the table. Sorry about the profanity, Father. I know that’s wrong, especially at a time like this.”

+++++The priest waved his hand to continue. “Well, day after day I see that invitation sitting there, mocking me. That’s when it dawned on me. I don’t know how she found out, but somehow she knows the story that made me famous wasn’t mine. Every morning the smug bitch sits across from me drinking her morning coffee, pretending to read the paper, but I know what she’s doing. She’s trying to break me. She wants me to admit that I took that story from Timmy Wills and then killed him to cover it up. That wasn’t going to happen, though, Father McCarthy, and I’ll tell you why. Unlike Emily, I can keep a secret. Twenty-five years have gone by, Father, and I never breathed a word about what I did to Timmy. Not a word until this very moment.”

+++++He smiled an ingratiating smile and said: “I know you can keep a secret too, but I guess that comes with your line of work, doesn’t it, Father?” The priest’s eyes were wide and locked onto Whitmore. The old man’s face was ashen.

+++++“Anyway, no one should feel sorry for Timmy. The little dweeb was lucky to have me as a friend. God knows he didn’t have anyone else. Seriously, the only thing the kid had going for him was that he could write. I saw the way the whole damned English class would hang on his every word when that five foot nothing twerp stood in front of the class and read one of his stories. Instinctively, I knew that he had something I needed. And I was right. When he read me his story The Winter’s Harvest I knew that was it. I asked him if he had shared the story with anyone else yet, he said no, that I was his best friend, he wanted me to hear it first.

+++++“Well, that was all I needed to hear. I asked Timmy if he wanted to go fishing on my dad’s boat that night. I still can’t believe how excited the moron got when I asked him that. He accepted on the spot, and I knew that I was going to get what I needed. I told him that I would get in trouble if my dad knew I took anyone on the boat so he shouldn’t tell anyone he was meeting me. Just before he left, I told him to bring the story with him because I wanted to hear it again that night. You should have seen the look on his face; you would have thought the prom queen had just asked him on a date.”

+++++The priest’s cell phone buzzed. He said “excuse me” and answered the call. “Yes, I understand. I’ll wait for you here.”

+++++Ending the call the priest looked to Whitmore and said: “They’re on their way.”

+++++The panic that had been in Whitmore’s eyes when the priest first entered the room was gone. He was ready.

+++++Whitmore looked to the priest and said: “I’m almost finished, and I need to get this out before I walk out that door.” Without waiting for a reply from the priest, he continued. “You probably can imagine what happened to Timmy when we got out on that boat, but I still feel I need to say it. We had a few beers as we headed out onto Ontario. I even let Tim drive the boat for a while. When we got about twelve miles out, I killed the motor, and we just sat there and watched the moonlight sparkle on top of the water. For a minute I thought about not doing it, but that’s exactly what a loser like Timmy would do. I came up behind him and cracked his skull with a propeller wrench. He crumpled to the deck. Out cold.

+++++“Then I wrapped an old anchor chain around his legs and tossed him over the side. He came to when he hit the water, and for a moment he floated there at the surface and stared at me. He never said a word; it was as if he knew this was what life had in store for him. The image of that pale white face in the middle of that cold black water was hard to look at, but it didn’t last long. The weight of the anchor chain pulled him under, and he was gone.”

+++++Whitmore analyzed the priest’s face for a reaction. The old man was shaken and pale. “Now you know what became of Timmy Wills. A lot of people thought the little freak ran off and joined the circus or something just to get away from life on his father’s farm, but I knew better… and now you do too.

+++++“Some people would have been dumb and tried to do something with Timmy’s story right away, but not me. I waited two years before I took it to a publisher. The rest, as they say, is history.”

+++++Whitmore heard them coming down the hall, and he looked up to check the clock one last time. Twelve on the dot. Time was up. He turned back to the priest. “Emily put me in this position, and now she’s at the bottom of Ontario with Tim. Now I have to deal with what she got me into. Thank you for listening to my confession, Father. It has made all the difference in the world.”

+++++Just then the door opened, and Monsignor Carl Rickman walked in with three members of his staff. He looked at Whitmore and said, “I hope our prayer room here at the monastery wasn’t too spartan for you, sir.”

+++++James Whitmore smiled, “Not at all. It was just what I needed. I have to tell you; Father McCarthy was a godsend. As you’re well aware, I haven’t spoken in public in over twenty years. I had a terrible bout of stage fright before Father McCarthy arrived, but he helped me get through it. I don’t think I could give today’s commencement speech without the steadying hand the Father provided.”

+++++The monsignor nodded and smiled at the priest, then said “Thomas, perhaps you should sit the commencement out. You don’t look well. The old man raised his eyes up to the monsignor and feebly nodded his agreement.

+++++Whitmore drew in a deep breath, “You know I told Father McCarthy that I didn’t think I deserved this, but through the power of prayer and confession I see now that indeed I am the person that should be speaking to these young people today.”

+++++Clapping his hands together, Whitmore said, “All right then. Let’s go inspire the newest graduates of Bishop Walsh.” Smiling one last time at the old priest, he turned and headed out to greet the adoring assembly.

A Bed of Roses

Muriel licked the tip of her thumb and rubbed at a spot on her living room window.

+++++“I’m just looking at that Fiona Mc Bride’s house, Tom; have you seen the state of her curtains? They look as though they haven’t been washed in a month of Sundays.”

+++++She pulled the sleeve of her cardigan down and, hooking it over the heel of her palm, proceeded to polish away the streaks of dried spit.

+++++Fiona came to her front door to take in the milk; quarter past ten and she was still in her dressing gown. Muriel smiled sweetly and gave a little wave.

+++++“Mucky devil,” she muttered to herself.

+++++“Now you know me, Tom,” she called out. “I like to keep myself to myself; don’t normally pry into other folks business, but I can’t help but notice these things; some people just don’t appear to have any standards when it comes to taking pride in their home.” She cupped her hand around her ear and glanced over her shoulder to check if Tom was paying attention.

+++++“Are you listening to me? It wouldn’t do you any harm to buck your ideas up sometimes!” She craned her neck to see what he was up to in the kitchen.

+++++Just then the telephone rang; she hurried into the hall to answer it.

+++++“Hello sweetheart; it’s our Mary, Tom, she’s calling all the way from Australia.” Muriel stretched the cord as far as it would go; it just about reached the kitchen door, allowing her a glimpse of him in the kitchen.

+++++His eyes widened as he glared at her.

+++++“Sorry love,” she whispered into the receiver, “your Dad’s a bit tied up at the minute, but never mind him. How’s the new baby doing, I’ve missed you both since I got back, can’t wait to come over next year. Dad’s sorry that he didn’t come with me now.”

+++++Half hour later she was still nattering on, “I know, I know; I was only saying to your father how nice it would be for us to move over there, I could help with the children while you go back to work.”

+++++She pulled a clean, freshly ironed, handkerchief from her apron pocket and began dusting the telephone table while she chatted.

+++++The sound of a chair scraping her newly scrubbed kitchen floor grated on her, she brought the conversation to an end. “Well bye-bye for now love, it was lovely to hear from you; I’ll tell Dad all your news. He’ll be sorry he couldn’t drag himself away to speak to you.”

+++++As Muriel stormed into the kitchen, she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck bristle.

+++++“What have you been up to now, you stupid little man?” She slapped the back of his head. “Have you been trying to loosen that string again?” She bent down to check the binds on his hands and feet.

+++++Tom’s eyes pleaded with her.

+++++“It’s no good you looking at me like that,” she snapped. “You should have thought about that when you brought that floozy in here while I was off helping our daughter in her time of need.”

+++++Tom tried to move his lips, they were parched and cracked, but the gag was too tight for even the slightest movement.

+++++“Imagine,” Muriel shouted. “Imagine! Taking her into my bed! My bed!” She repeated the exclamation, her voice rising in pitch.

+++++Wagging a finger, she harangued him further.

+++++“You knew I had just changed those sheets; 600 thread Egyptian, cotton! And my new quilt cover, I saved for a year to buy that. Oh how could you, Tom?”

+++++Tom’s eyes closed.

+++++“Well it shouldn’t be long now,” Muriel sighed. “You’ll be joining her in her nice new bed soon.”

+++++She gazed out of the kitchen window to the bottom of the garden. The new patio looked lovely with the central feature of freshly planted roses.

+++++“They say blood and bone meal are good for roses,” she added absently.

+++++Patting the thinning patch on the top of his head, “imagine our poor Mary’s shock when she hears that her Dad has run off with his secretary,” she murmured.

Eye Contact

I turned the handle, but the door was locked; searching the surface for a latch, or a bolt, I found nothing.  Apart from the stainless steel knob, the facade was as smooth as marble.  Peering in the semi-light, afforded by the small window on the opposite wall, I could see no means of unlocking this door.  There was no keyhole, no visible mechanism, nothing.

+++++My attention was drawn back to the bulge in the middle of the bed; did she hold the key to my escape?  Had I been too hasty in my actions?  She wouldn’t be much use to me now.

+++++“Stupid bastard,” I muttered.  “You should have thought this through properly.

+++++Fuck! What you gonna do now?”

+++++Feeling the sticky, wet slime beginning to seep through my clothes, I realised I needed to get a bath, wash all this blood and snot off me.

+++++I kicked the bed in passing, the heap wobbled; “Fat bitch!”

+++++Sitting down on the lavatory seat to take off my shoes and socks, as I turned the bath taps on, I racked my brain; how did the silly cow get in and out of the flat? There must be some way of opening the door?

+++++I was about to remove my pants when I suddenly realised that the bath was still empty. Turning both taps fully, I waited for the sound of running water.  When nothing happened I reverted to the old remedy of bashing the hardware with my shoe to force it to work; no joy.

+++++No fucking water, this was great. Then I had a thought, maybe it’s just in here? Could be just the bathroom not working.

+++++Striding into the kitchen, I gave the sink taps a good twist.  Same thing; dry as a redundant crotch. Temper rising, I drummed my fingers on my lips, things not boding well so far.

+++++My stomach growled and I suddenly felt ravenous; it had been hours since I’d downed that greasy burger while waiting for her to emerge from the bank.

+++++I flicked the cooker switch on and pulled open the fridge door, a white vacuum greeted me. Not even so much as an old dried up carrot or mouldy piece of cheese.  I darted a look back at the cooker. “Fuck.” There was no electricity either.

+++++What the crap was going on?  Why was nothing working?

+++++I searched her desk for a telephone book, she must have numbers for emergencies; I could pretend to be a relative and tell them there was a fault.

+++++Going through the telephone numbers, I almost yelled in glee when I came across what I was looking for.  I snatched up the phone, then immediately lashed it across the room; it was as dead as a fucking dodo.

+++++Stomping about the room, throwing things as I went, there must be something here to explain why all this was happening.  I searched her desk again, picking up letters that I had previously flung about.

+++++Ah! Southern Electricity; I quickly scanned the page.

+++++‘Thank you for your instruction to disconnect your supply.

+++++We can now confirm that this request has been actioned

+++++with immediate effect.  Please contact us on your return

+++++so we can re-connect you.’

+++++“Bastards!” I scrambled on the floor, rummaging through the discarded papers.

+++++Again, disconnection notices; the water, the telephone.

+++++Shit! Everything had been turned off.

+++++From the conversation I’d had with her earlier, I should have guessed.

+++++I banged my fists on my temples, “Think, come on you stupid prick, think!”

+++++I was in the penthouse, top floor, out of sight.  I tried hammering on the windows.  The triple glazing was doing its job in preventing the sound to break through; even if I could be heard no one could see me anyway.

+++++I should have been more thorough when I read up on her.


+++++Belinda Black, rich, famous author and one time socialite, now a virtual recluse.

+++++I had been searching through the list of ‘Who’s Who’ and came across this rich bitch that lived on her own.  She was a bit of an eccentric and had moved into the penthouse at the top of the tallest building in the city where I lived.  The builders had been given instructions to make the place entirely soundproof; the renovation had also included reconstructing the windows to replace the panoramic view with small triple glazed ones.  Apparently, she didn’t like any distractions when working.

+++++I had been watching her movements for some time now; for the last month the recluse had been very active.  Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, she had arrived at her bank with a briefcase; it always seemed heavier when she left than when she arrived.  I had put two and two together and come up with thousands.

+++++As she left that Tuesday, I snuck into the building wearing one of the electricians overalls.  There was a continuous stream of workmen in and out doing alterations all the time, so I was able to slip in undetected.  Once inside, I quickly made my way up to the top level where her lift was situated.  After a slight tampering, I managed to immobilize it.

+++++When she emerged from the bank, I’d slipped back ahead of her, and just happened to be on hand when she found herself unable to get the lift to work.  As it was the only means of accessing her apartment, she had allowed me to help.

+++++As soon as the lift doors opened, I had pushed her inside and held a knife to her side.  Once we were in the lobby to her apartment, while she let herself in through the door, I scanned the area.  The door had clicked shut behind us.

+++++She took quite a beating before showing me where the safe was.  Oh how I laughed and danced as I threw bundles of notes into the air. I couldn’t believe it, there was far more than I ever could have imagined.  Stuffing it all into a large holdall I’d left it by the front door.

+++++“What the fuck were you gonna do with all that dough?” I asked her.

+++++She had become so scared of me by now that she blabbed everything.

+++++“I’m going back to France, I have a secluded place in the south; I just wanted to disappear. My ideas dried up and I can’t meet the commitments that I’ve already been paid for; the tax man wants his share too. I’ve told my publishers that I’m going away to a retreat for a few months to get some writing done. I thought it would give me time to vanish for good and still keep the cash. I’ll share it with.” She had that pleading ‘don’t hurt me’ look in her eyes.

+++++“You crafty old bitch,” I said.  “I’m not good at sharing, but I’ll help you to vanish alright.”

+++++She screamed as I plunged the knife into her chest.  It was a pity about her insistence on soundproofing the penthouse, as no one could hear her screams and pleas for help, and because she was a very large lady, it took a quite while for me to finish her off.

+++++Now here I was, trapped inside this hell hole with her.

+++++There must be something that operates the lock? I thought.

+++++I hadn’t noticed any keys when we came in, and I’d been too busy checking that all was clear to notice how she opened the door.

+++++I went back over to it and, inch by inch, examined the surrounding surface.

+++++It was so small, it took me a while to find it, but there it was!  It looked like a peephole, a tiny circle fixed into the wall; it had been camouflaged by the busy wallpaper, but it was there alright.  I guessed it was an eye recognition device.  I’d heard about this type of lock; was it something to do with the retina?  Oh, fuck, I didn’t know, but I knew it was like a fingerprint and only worked for one person.

+++++Could it still work? I’d have to get her over to the door.  I dashed to the bed and threw back the cover.  Holy shit! What was that stink?

+++++As I tried to pull her off the bed I realised that she must have emptied her bowels and bladder during the attack.

+++++Grabbing her scarf, I wrapped it around my face; I then attempted to move her mighty bulk.  She was probably twice as heavy now; a dead weight as they say.  I was never going to shift her on my own.

+++++“Think, think, what now?” I screamed, banging my temples again.

+++++Right, I don’t need all of her to make the lock work, just her eye.

+++++Racing into the kitchen, I grabbed a soup spoon out of the drawer.  Hurrying back, I thought, this better work or I’m going to be stuck with this fat fucker forever.  So anything that had to be done, I was up for it.

+++++The eye wobbled in the spoon as I ferried it over to the door, and it wasn’t easy to handle as it slipped between my fingers, but after a couple of tries I managed to position it in front of the scanner and waited to hear the click of the door unlocking.  Fuck all happened!

+++++After a couple more attempts, without success, I lashed the eye across the room and watched it bounce off the headboard and roll down the bed coming to rest by her hand.  It seemed to follow me as I walked around the room. Oh God, I had to get out of there!

+++++I tried to lift the typewriter but it was too awkward, so I picked up a big, round, glass paperweight from her desk and heaved it at the window. Unfortunately, I was standing too close and felt the full impact as it bounced off the toughened glass and smashed into my chest breaking a couple of ribs; it then dropped onto my foot, smashing my foot in the process.


+++++As days rolled into weeks, I became more emaciated.  I had drunk the water from the lavatory, rationing myself to a few sips a day; I was now sorry that I had pissed in there first.

+++++My stomach had stopped growling, but apart from a packet of mints I’d found in her handbag, the flat was devoid of food.  This was it; I’d just have to wait for the end.

+++++Night followed day without any sound.  Even that tapping noise in my head had stopped.


+++++Then today, I hear the click of the door and voices as someone enters the room.

+++++“Whoa! What a stench” he shouts. “Oh Jesus there’s no windows to open either. Hey Joe, two body bags up here, and quick,” he calls into his radio.

+++++Something screams in my brain; two body bags?  No, not me, I’m not dead.

+++++I feel someone lifting me up and placing me on a plastic sheet.  As the zip rolls up over my face, I try to scream. Nooo!

+++++I can hear muffled voices through the plastic.

+++++“Hey, look at this, Joe; it looks like this guy has typed up a confession.  The last paragraph says he only had lavatory water and mints to live on, I wonder how long the poor sucker lasted after that?”

+++++“Wonder why he didn’t leave?” Joe asks.

+++++“He couldn’t mate,” the other guy answers, “she held the key? One of those new eye recognition jobs; we had to get them to override it for us to get in here today.”

+++++I hear the swish of a curtain and a sudden rush of cold air surrounds me.

+++++“What’s that mate?”  One of the guys shouts.

+++++“It’s the fire escape, don’t know why he didn’t use it; it’s a bit obscure, but you just pull this lever here, see.”

The Reference

It is important to garner exemplary references in my profession. Good, very good are not good enough. They must be exemplary. It is for that reason I went to those professors who were most familiar with my teaching and scholarship.  I was a dutiful graduate assistant, a hard-working adjunct and saw no reason why I would not get references in accordance with my academic standing.

+++++But professors can be sneaky, they can be devious. There are many things that can be said of professors, but being upfront and honest are not among them. They can send a reference that to the layperson’s eyes appears to be positive, and glowing in praise, however scrutiny will show it to be equivocal in its support of the referent. And equivocal is a death warrant for anyone who is applying for a teaching position. The best one could hope for would be as a teacher of Freshman English 101 which is little more than being a glorified high school teacher. I wanted to verify my references were truthful; that is effusive and laudatory. I applied for a non-existent teaching position to a small college in Tennessee. I had a friend who worked there, and he would receive all my transcripts and references and send them to me sight unseen.

+++++They were exemplary examples of objectivity. They were universal in their praise of me, my studies, my research, my teaching abilities, and so on and so forth including my chairman’s Dr. Wilmut. I risked asking for his support, as I suspected he harbored personal animus toward me. He was, however, highly respected in his field, and it would help to have his recommendation.  It appeared his personal feelings, whatever they were, did not get in the way of his professionalism. So, I thought.

+++++Wilmut was a short, tyrannical, balding, middle-aged man with a nasally, wheezing voice. He was prone to flatulence usually displayed during department meetings, and telegraphed by slightly lifting his rear and shifting his body to one side. The result was usually a muffled, rather apologetic emission but often, either for a joke or an expression of disdain for whoever was speaking; a full blast would erupt.  Only full, tenured, professors were bold enough to acknowledge his behavior.  Even tenured associate professors, one step away from the Olympian stature of full professorship, were resigned to do something for which they were well versed; play dumb.

+++++The only reason I could find for him not liking me was jealousy. He was unseemly and old, while I was young and good looking, and as he could only leer and dream of luscious 19 and 20-year-old coeds, I was able, and willing, to do more. I was sure he was unaware of my trysts with his wife; a handsome, stern looking woman, with a wonderful body who underneath her public façade of academic aloofness was a tigress in bed. There certainly would have been talk about it throughout the campus had it been known.

+++++In an attempt for him to even the score so to speak, I often left him alone to keep my wife, who of course is a knock out, company during parties and social gatherings. It would be a great opportunity for him to ‘make his move.’  He could endlessly chat and hope she would find his recent paper on Chaucer’s The Wife from Bath, an irresistible aphrodisiac. Little did he know that what really turned on my wife was a reading of Beowulf in the original Olde English.  I joke.

+++++Wilmut assured me I would have a one year appointment as assistant professor upon completion of my dissertation, but it was scrapped for, so I was told, budget cuts. I was suspicious of course. It would not be beneath him to sabotage me. I did land a teaching position as a one year replacement at a small, rather non-descript college in upstate New York.

+++++It wasn’t what I wanted, but I taught two literature classes and only one composition class.

+++++“It’s a good sign,” my wife told me. “I heard from Jan and she said she’s got a job at small state college in Wyoming, and she’s teaching three composition classes.”

+++++“Jan would be that happy with that. She’s lucky to have it.”

+++++“David, that’s not right. She worked hard.”

+++++“Good for her. Tell her I said hello.”  But, in all honesty I was optimistic about our future.  Things were wonderful for us. We bought a new car and Camille was pregnant. Buoyed by the relative ease I had in getting my position, temporary as it was, and since I had two articles published in literary journals, I believed a full-time, tenure tracked position would be my next position.

+++++My one year position was extended for another. I was lax in sending out applications so the extra year was much appreciated. We were still very happy, Camille and I, but the baby was very demanding, and that, along with an astoundingly drastic reduction in our sex life brought moments of strife into our household. I sent out 136 applications and for my troubles I did not get one damn interview.  My heart-felt plea to return for a third year was declined. I was lucky to land a job at Hansen-Toulour Community College teaching freshman composition.

+++++In the world of the academe, respected professors would rather go through un-anesthetisized surgery than teach English 101.  It is a form of punishment relegated to graduate-assistants, students working on higher degrees, and in my case, a Ph.d who couldn’t find a job. I was to teach two literature classes and three compositions classes! A five course load! I prayed no one at my previous school was aware of my fall.

+++++I spent one year at HTCC and it was enough for me to become bitter, frustrated and disillusioned.  I tried to internalize my feelings but often expressed them in constructive, perhaps injurious criticism, in the margins of students’ papers. There were also sporadic, passionate outbursts directed at fellow members of the faculty. There were moments, few and far between however, when I lashed out at my wife.

+++++There was never any violence. The arguments we had, most couples would consider mild, but for Camille they were volcanic. My wife is quiet and gentile in nature. She had never seen me like this, and as innocuous as my loud, yet highly controlled manifestations of displeasure were, it troubled her and she reacted badly to them.

+++++“You could have taken,” she said one time, “that position offered to you at Meade University. It was full time.”

+++++“Full time teaching a four course load and three of those courses wet nursing the semi-literate to understand the differences between, to, two and too.”

+++++“It was full time, and a pay increase, for God’s sake.”

+++++“I’ll find something better. I’ve submitted another article for publication.”

+++++“What’s that, three in three years?”

+++++I gave her a look. “Everything will work out.” And I did her a big favor by walking to my study and locking the door.

+++++Ashley at that time was waking up three or four times a night and I could not dedicate myself as fervently as I wanted to on job hunting, and on my academic research. We argued more and when I complained how the demanding Ashley was cutting into my time she said, “Your time? So what? Your time is all a waste of our time!”

+++++Our life was not as we expected it to be. But, was I to blame? I didn’t think so. It was a hectic year, a bad year with the only positive to come out of it was I found the reason for my joblessness.

+++++My friend in Tennessee called to say that he had received an updated reference a while back and was going to send it, but it had been misplaced and he only just found it. It was Dr.Wilmut’s. He had replaced his original reference with a new one backdated to correspond with the original. In his new version words like ‘volatile,’ ‘under-achiever,’ ‘temperamental’ stood out as if written in bold-face. There were phases like, ‘could improve if given the right circumstances,’ ‘doesn’t seem to get along with his contemporaries as he should,’ and, ‘at times is confrontational with his students.’

+++++I had found the reason for my unfavorable situation, not only in my professional career but also for the slow dissolution of our marriage. Our feelings toward each other had been altered seemingly irrevocably. Neither of us felt the joy, nor the sense of optimism, we once had. It was difficult to suppress my bitterness and hatred for my situation and too often my wife felt the brunt of my dissatisfaction. She became judgmental and criticized every little thing I did, and was not hesitant to compare me to other men, comparisons in which I did not fare favorably. Ashley kept us together but there’s only so much a two year old can do. I swore that my child’s life would not become damaged as ours had become. I swore I would ensure my family had a fair shot in the future.

+++++During our mid-term break I drove to New Jersey where I booked a room at a Motel 6 in Pompton Lakes.  I told my wife I’d be reading a paper on The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. I thought she would be happy to have some time alone, but instead she became angry and a violent argument followed. I could say we kissed and made up and all was honky dory, but it would not be true. She threatened to leave, and I would return to an empty apartment. She said I was leaving to meet one of my students, Victorian Literature Groupie Whores, is what she called them.  What an imagination! Ashley was as frightened as I’d ever seen her. I promised them this trip would bring things back to normal, and we’d never argue again. My wife laughed. We argued and Ashley cried. I arrived in Wayne that evening with the image of my little girl in tears fresh in my mind.

+++++Evening classes were in session and Dr.Wilmut was in his office. The door to his office was ajar and I heard him tapping, tapping so gently on his computer keyboard.

+++++“Dr. Wilmut,” I said. The man was so deeply immersed in his work he nearly jumped out of his seat.

+++++“David?” he asked, “what are you doing here, aren’t you still teaching?”

+++++“The reference you wrote for me needs to be revised,” and I flung the copy at him. “You made too many typos. For example you spelled genius as m-e-d-i-o-c-r-e. And look, you meant to say ‘dedicated’ but erroneously wrote ‘lackadaisical.’  There are more; had we the time.”

+++++“How’d you get his?” he asked.

+++++“What’s it matter? I have it.”

+++++“I heard you were teaching at Houghton University in Pennsylvania.”

+++++“New York State.”

+++++“Of course, yes, New York State.”  Are you no longer teaching there?”

+++++“No. Do you know what I’m doing now?”

+++++He shook his head no.

+++++“I’m a part time instructor at a junior college in upstate New York teaching three, as in thirty students per class of writing composition.”

+++++“It’s a start, David, you’re still new in the profession but must understand that the market is tight. What matters is you’re still in the game.”

+++++I picked up the copy he had let fall and held it in front of him. “And this glowing recommendation is going to help me?”

+++++“David, I want you to listen to me.”

+++++“Ohhhhh, you must have had a good time fabricating this spurious revisionist reference. You did it right here, at this desk, and on that computer. I can see you laughing your fat, balding head off at my expense. And when your work was done you must have had a great time thinking about all those prospective chairmen and chairwomen and chair people, reading your reference, didn’t you? Well, good doctor there were over 136 of them, that guffawed and chuckled and slapped their knees and thought, ‘What the hell is this guy thinkin,’ ‘this guy’ being me, ‘of applying for our position?  Oh, my,’ they further thought, ‘the poor sap must be delusional.’  Right; a wonderful time was had by all.”

+++++I put my briefcase on an empty chair and took out a gun.

+++++“David, let’s talk. I can explain everything. Could you please put that gun away?” He looked up at the wall clock and I cursed my stupidity. In a short while night classes would end. I had to hurry. My mind flashed back to our most horrific arguments and I saw my daughter, my little Ashley tugging at her Daddy’s leg crying for us to stop our fighting.

+++++“David, in retrospect I should have left the original in and for that I admit I was wrong, but when I found out you plagiarized one of your term papers I felt I had to do something. But it’s no big deal, really. A minor case of copying that’s all. Many students do it. I’ll be more than happy to write you another reference much more representative of your talents.”


+++++“Yes.  Last year I read a paper that struck me as highly suspicious. It seemed to me I had seen it before, and I remembered it was a term paper you had written for me in your senior year.”

+++++Plagiarized. I remembered. I had paid four hundred dollars for a sure A+ paper. That miserable son of a bitch finance major told me papers were used only once.  The bastard then sold it to some moron who couldn’t revise it a little to differentiate it from mine.

+++++“I keep some copies of student papers, and his was almost word by word similar to yours. I dug deeper and discovered the original was from an obscure dissertation written in 1962.”

+++++“Who is this student?”

+++++“The student?”

+++++“Yes, the one who plagiarized my paper.”

+++++“She’s still in school. Here, let me get her address.” Wilmut scurried to his desk, and quickly ran through the papers. “Here, here, she’s still in school. I had to fail her of course, but it was only an elective, she’s actually a public-“

+++++“Shut up!”

+++++“Yes, of course, I’m sorry. You see, David, if I had withdrawn my original referral it would have caused a lot of red flags.”

+++++“And you couldn’t keep it the way it was?”

+++++“It would not have been honest.”

+++++“It was honesty that drove you to do what you do?”

+++++“Yes, academia has a very stringent ethical code.”

+++++“And your being mad at me had nothing to do with it?”

+++++“I was disappointed someone with your ability would do such a thing.”

+++++“You’re not mad because I had been screwing your wife?”

+++++He looked as downcast as a beaten dog. “We have an arrangement. I’m an old man now, but even as a young man it was difficult for me to keep-“

+++++“Her satisfied,” I said and smiled broadly.

+++++“Yes, damn you! My wife is intelligent and we had that in common, she’s also very physical with a remarkable earthiness, a robust sensuality to her that, as you succinctly said, was problematic for me to satisfy. So, we made an arrangement.”

+++++“You knew about us?”

+++++“Yes, we even made tapes.”

+++++“Tapes; of me fucking your wife?”


+++++The bell rang. I moved quickly. The gun was only to get his attention. I pulled a knife from my brief case and repeatedly stabbed him.  I told my wife I was to speak on, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, so I looked down at his lifeless body and said: “’It is lawful and hath been held so through for all ages, for any who have the power to call to account a tyrant, and to depose and put him to death.’

+++++I felt a sense of relief and relaxation. With this matter closed I could get back to normalizing relations with my wife. We could, once again, be a happy family. But, I had to see Prudence Wilmut one last time. I parked in their driveway as close to the house as possible. I rang the doorbell and waited, then rang again.

+++++I could hear her from the hallway as she approached the door. “Did you forget your keys?” she asked?

+++++“I gave the house key back to you, remember?” I replied.

+++++There was a moment of silence.  “Who is this?”

+++++I stepped back so she could get a good look at me through the spyhole. She quickly opened the door. “David! What are you doing here? He’ll be home soon.” I walked in, and by force of habit took her in my arms and kissed her deeply.

+++++“I ‘ve just seen him. He won’t be here for a while.”


+++++“He said there are tapes of our love making. He said he made tapes of us. Is that right?”

+++++“That’s ridiculous!”

+++++I slapped her hard across the face. My voice remained calm. “He said they were here and I believe him. I’ve got no time to play now get them!”

+++++I grabbed her by the arm.

+++++“You’re hurting me, I’ll get them. My husband and I had an arrangement.”

+++++“So he said.”

+++++“We showed them to no one. No one knew but us. We told no one.”

+++++“So you say. Where do you keep them?”

+++++“In the bedroom.”

+++++I led her up the familiar stairs into the familiar room and saw the very familiar bed.

+++++“It’s in here.” She opened the door to the walk in closet door, and pointed to a row of innocuously titled films on a shelf. There were twenty of them. She pulled several out.

+++++“These are all we have of you, honest.”

+++++“Honest! You? Don’t make laugh. Put them all in here.”

+++++“Please not all of them.”

+++++I laughed. “Yes all of them. So, this is how you and your husband got off, huh, by watching these tapes?”

+++++“Just take them and leave. He’ll be home soon.”

+++++“I doubt it.”

+++++“What do you mean?”

+++++I nodded toward the bed and asked, “How about one more time?”

+++++“He’ll be home soon, please go. Maybe we can see each other tomorrow. Let me know where you’ll be, and we’ll meet.”

+++++When she turned her back to shut the closet door I pistol whipped her.

+++++She lay prostrate on the bedroom floor her breathing was heavy and labored. I took the pillow from her side of the bed and held it tightly over her mouth until she breathed no more. I looked into the closet, and imagined him with his little camera filming us, filming all of Prudence’s lovers. He was such a sick bastard. I’d never film anyone screwing my wife, never!

+++++I arrived home the next day. Ashley was so happy to see her Daddy. I sensed my wife’s apprehensiveness.

+++++“Things are going to get better, darling,” I told her, “I’ve had time to reflect. I prayed like I never prayed before. I realize how lucky I am to have you and Ashley. Please forgive me.”

+++++She unfolded her arms. “It’s good to have you back again.”

+++++Camille took Ashley to see her mother the next day and it gave me time to view the tapes. It wasn’t what I expected.  It started with Prudence in front of the full length mirror playing with her nipples. The camera followed as she moved her hand between her legs then a full zoom on her mouth as she faked orgasm (I knew Prudence, it would take more than what she was doing to make her orgasm). Then the title appeared. Wilmut must have had pretensions of being a big time film director. There was the name of a production company, then the title, “Prudence and the Dunce, Part 1,” and below it, ‘starring Prudence Wilmut and David Bolton.” That sick bastard! He called me a dunce. I looked at the other tapes.

+++++They all had the appearance of a low budget shoe string film. There were, “Prudence and The Clown Prince,” with the male lead being a newly hired assistant professor, “Prudence and the Perpetual Graduate Assistant,” who was Ronald LeForge, and there were others. I had to laugh. All that was lacking was for Prudence to lie on the bed, legs spread and say, “Mr.DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.’ It was hilarious. And when I thought of them dead I laughed harder.

+++++Without exception all the leading men were faculty members. It’s no good to play those tapes in select theatres, so I would have copies made. Those tapes were going to be my ticket to a full tenured job. I’d let them know if they didn’t use their vast network of contacts and academic pull, I’ll let their wives, their deans, the university president have their own tapes. I lay on the bed, and daydreamed of me in my big office with windows overlooking the campus and taking various coeds in a variety of positions and teaching one, maybe two classes a semester.  Life looked good.

+++++The next morning I was still flush with expectation and hope. “You know, darling,” I remember telling my wife and putting my arms around her. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but things are going to change.”

+++++“I hope so, David, but you’re acting the way many people do when they come back from a vacation. What will happen when the real world sinks in again? A real world of me, a family, and what you consider a dead end job.”

+++++“A dead end job. Are you saying this is as good as it will get for me?”

+++++She paused for a moment and took my hands from her waist.

+++++“I’m not saying that at all. Time will tell.”

+++++What happened next was like one gigantic wave sweeping over me at the beach.  It is difficult, even now, to differentiate events just as it would be impossible to differentiate one part of a long wave from another.  But before I could answer her our doorbell rang. Camille led in three detectives with two patrolmen behind them.

+++++“They said they wanted to see you.”


+++++“Mr. Bolton, I’m Lt. Shaw from the Ithaca police department, these two gentlemen are Detectives Gizello and Franklin from the Wayne police department. They drove all the way up here just to see you.”

+++++A Jersey detective, Gizello said, “We’d like to question you about your whereabouts a couple of nights ago.”

+++++“I took a little trip to clear my head. I stayed a couple of nights at a Hotel 6 on Rt. 23”

+++++“In Pompton Lakes?” the other asked.

+++++“Do you know of any other?”

+++++“David! Please can you tell me what this is about?  Yes, Detective, he was away yes, we were having some troubles at home, nothing serious. He left to clear his head. It gave us time to think.”

+++++“Mrs. Bolton two people have been murdered. An August Wilmut and his wife Prudence. You know them of course?”


+++++“Of course we knew them. How could we not? You don’t think for a minute, for a nanosecond that I had anything to do with it?”

+++++“We’re taking him in for questioning, Mrs. Bolton. If he can clear this up, we’ll have him back soon.”

+++++It was a blur. They sat me and said they had proof. One detective, not sure if he was supposed to be the good one or bad one, said it was murder one, but if I confessed they would tell the D.A. how co-operative I was and he might knock it down to murder two.

+++++They had no proof. It was all a bluff. I smiled smugly and said nothing. I’d let them earn their money before they let me go. Then the other detective came and put a tape in the VCR player. “We brought this tape with us all the way from the Garden State.”

+++++“What the hell are you talking about?”

+++++“Doc Wilmut liked to take movies, but you already know that, don’t you?”  I smirked at him. I had been in that bedroom enough times to know there are no security cameras, and before I left I went over that room with a fine tooth comb. Bluff, bluff and more bluff.

+++++The tape lacked the same, albeit simple, production values of the ones he made of Prudence made. There were no titles, no credits.

+++++“Pull up a chair,” said Monahan, “sorry we can’t offer you any popcorn. We found a camera behind a poster of Edgar Allan Poe. Shhhh, quiet the movie’s started.” A male student walked in, they exchanged pleasantries then began to kiss.

+++++“Ooops,” said a detective, not sure if it was the good one or the bad one, “Let’s fast forward it to the good part.”  He did so, and my mouth dropped. There I was entering his office.

+++++“This is it, Bolton. The big time. Mr.David Bolton enter stage left. Here’s you’re big scene. Action!”

+++++I watched myself murder Dr.Wilmut.

Murder Me

THANATOS:  Please, somebody, I just want to be killed.
ABADDON:  Well go on and die, spineless bastard. Haven’t got the guts to do it yourself?  ’ll do it for you.
+++++I pressed the Send button and closed the page. I can’t be doing with the crap people talk on the Net. What kind of a stupid site was that anyway? Autoassass? Not as if I was looking for a site full of sickos like that. I was only browsing true crime and somehow it popped up.
+++++Makes you wonder what goes on behind those blank faces you see on the street. Mostly nothing – half of them barely alive, never done nothing, never thought anything past the next football match, pizza night or mortgage payment and the other half are raving bonkers behind their empty faces. God knows what’s going on there.  You can understand why people run amok with guns, putting a load of them out of their misery. People deserve to die if you ask me.
+++++That night I dreamed about hiding out in the wood overlooking our town with a telescopic rifle, picking off everyone who ever gave me a hard time: school teachers, bullies, Mum, Dad and most of all my horrible brother Brian.
+++++I kept thinking about the dream all next day at college. I’ve had that dream so many times and while the lecturer was droning on about T.S.Eliot and J. Alfred Prufrock, I was thinking that if I had a gun in my desk I could take out half the class before anyone stopped me. I made a list in my head of the ones I hated most and their proximity to the line of sight but it was all just a daydream like the way I imagine sniping at the zombies on the bus and in the street.
+++++I’d forgotten about Autoassass till I got home and went upstairs to log on. There was the URL in my recent history and I couldn’t resist clicking on it.
THANATOS:  Abaddon? Really? I want to die. I mean it. Are you in UK?
+++++This was a laugh. I hit Reply.
ABADDON:  Happy to oblige. I’m in North West. What do you fancy?
+++++The reply was almost instant.
THANATOS:  I don’t need to know. You choose.
ABADDON:  Joker. You almost had me there.
THANATOS:  I’m deadly serious. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always daydreamed about it, hoping someone would kill me. You don’t know how many times I’ve hung around dark alleys, hoping to meet a serial killer. When I read stories of people being murdered or hear about them on the news, I think how lucky they are. No one ever takes me seriously. I thought you might be different.
+++++I didn’t know how to answer that. Surely he didn’t mean it? I was assuming it was ‘he.’ I was getting a creepy feeling; it wasn’t such fun any more. I felt like he could see me, see that I was getting scared. I logged off. Good job because the next thing I heard footsteps thumping up the stairs and I closed the site down quick before Brian burst in.
+++++‘Clear off Ashley, I need to use it now.’ He almost pushed me out of the chair and sat down in it himself.
+++++‘I hadn’t finished,’ I said, even though I had.
+++++‘Use your phone,’ he muttered, already scrolling through his Facebook timeline.
+++++I aimed an imaginary gun at the back of his fat neck and went back to my own room. I played some music, messed about on Facebook and tweeted a few mates. I didn’t really believe Thanatos but I was thinking about it after all. It was stupid to be scared, it was only a game, only a laugh. He didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know him. I brought the Autoassass site up on my phone and logged into the chatroom. It was like something I couldn’t stay away from even though it was crazy.
+++++There was another message for me.
+++++I thought about it. Hadn’t I always wanted to kill – ever since I could remember? Every time I couldn’t get what I wanted that rage would rush up and now all the time it boiled in my head. All I could think was how stupid people were and how they all got in my way, none of them deserved to live and spoil life for people like me. Maybe it would make me feel better, going along with it, just playing the game to see where it went.


Things went on as always the next day; usual crap at breakfast, Dad reading drivel out of the paper, Mum rushing round dishing out toast and slathering herself in lipstick at the same time, Brian slurping cereal like a pig.
+++++College was boring, boring, boring. I kept my phone under the desk on silent and I kept checking Autoassass. It was like I was the hero of some game designed especially for me; it beat playing Candy Crush any day but hours passed with no message from Thanatos. So, he was just a knob acting stupid after all, then just as the day had stretched its boredom to snapping point in the last hour before home time I felt the phone vibrate and there it was, Thanatos, and there was a photo.
+++++He was old, old as my dad if not older. Dark hair and glasses, he looked a bit like the bloke who had our corner shop but it wasn’t him. He looked like any zombie you could see on the street any day and I thought, why am I bothering? He could be a paedo trying to get me to meet him and then I thought people like that deserve to die anyway. I thought of all sorts of things I’d like to do to him and while I was still thinking about it the class broke up for the day.
+++++On the bus home I got another message.
THANATOS:  We need to talk
+++++I typed, Later and put the phone away.


When I got home no one else was back yet. I went up to the study and turned on the computer. I scrolled through family photos till I found a head and shoulders shot of Brian taken on the beach at Pwlheli on last year’s holiday. I brought up Autoassass and posted the photo to Thanatos.
THANATOS:  Handsome lad.
ABADDON:  Thanks.
+++++I really was starting to think he was a perve, a blind one at that if he thought our Brian was handsome. Suddenly the door opened and I jumped.
+++++‘There you are,’ Mum said. ‘Come on, we’re going out for pizza, just us three. Brian’s got his evening class.’
+++++Big deal. She obviously thought so. Boring Pizza Hut full of dickheads and their squawking kids shoving sticky fingers everywhere. I silently machine-gunned the lot and checked my phone.
THANATOS:  Are you up for it then?
THANATOS:  Why would you want to?
ABADDON:  I’ve always wanted to.
THANATOS:  I was hoping you’d say that.
ABADDON:   How do you want it done?
+++++‘Have some more coleslaw,’ Mum shoved the container under my nose.
THANATOS:  I told you it’s up to you.
ABADDON:  I like guns but I don’t have one.
THANATOS:  There are lots of other ways.
+++++‘Stop fiddling with that bloody phone.’ Dad said with his mouth full of stuffed crust. ‘What are you doing anyway?’
+++++‘Just playing a game.’
+++++‘Can’t you wait till you get home?’ He puffed crumbs across the table.
+++++‘It’s boring here,’ I said.
THANATOS:  There are conditions. I don’t want to see you, or know the moment. You must surprise me.
+++++‘Put it away, Ash.’ Mum cut me another slice of pizza. ‘Honestly, you kids.’
+++++I clicked the phone shut. I was thinking he’d get a surprise all right if I turned up instead of Brian. It was really fun, almost as if it was real and the more I thought about it, the more real it got. Soon as we got home I ran up to the study and the computer.
THANATOS:  Are you there? Don’t mess me about.
ABADDON:  I’m not.
THANATOS:  You’ll really do it? I’m desperate.
ABADDON:  What’s your name?
THANATOS:  No names, no info. I told you. How do I know I can trust you?
ABADDON:  I told you, I’ve always wanted to kill someone and it’s getting worse. If it’s not you it could be anybody in the street.
+++++As I typed this I realised it was true and suddenly it stopped being a game. I took my fingers off the keys and for a moment I couldn’t breathe.
THANATOS:  Wouldn’t want that on my conscience, lol.
+++++I couldn’t go on. It was like standing on a cliff. He was serious and it was up to me which way we jumped. ‘You haven’t got the nerve’ a voice said in my head and that tipped me over the edge.
ABADDON:  Leave it with me, I need to think. 


I thought about it all night. I didn’t have the strength to strangle or drown someone and even though he might want to die surely reflexes would take over to make him struggle at the end. Hit men always did a clean job in the films and I wanted to be the same. I didn’t have access to poison darts or anything like that and it was no use planning to slip something in a drink if I wasn’t supposed to let him see me.
+++++I went into the garage and looked in Dad’s toolbox. Peter Sutcliffe used a hammer but was I strong enough to do the same properly? I looked at the screwdrivers but they didn’t look sharp enough to make a deep thrust, unless I went for his eyes and that meant coming face to face with him too. No, it had to be one of Mum’s Sabatier knives. She kept them really sharp.
+++++I was still thinking about it at breakfast the next morning after dreaming about gouts of blood in gushing fountains. What would it be like to stab someone? Would the blade slip in as if into butter or would the skin resist, a tough layer to be pierced before the knife slid into the organs?
+++++I spent the morning in class looking up the structure of the body on my phone. It wouldn’t do to hit a bone or miss a vital spot.


THANATOS:  St John’s Gardens, Liverpool, 9th July, 1 pm. Don’t let me see you. I love you so much for doing this.
ABADDON:  Is this for real?
THANATOS:  Don’t doubt it. Don’t let me down.
+++++Saturday was only two days away. Of course I wouldn’t go – or if I went it would only be to look – but I went down to the kitchen and took Mum’s knives out of the block, testing their sharpness on my finger.
+++++‘What are you doing?’
+++++I jumped when Mum came in. ‘Er – nothing.’ I turned away to the fridge, stuffing the knife under my tee shirt. ‘Just getting a Coke.’
+++++‘You drink too much Coke,’ Mum said. ‘What have you done to your finger?’
+++++I looked down and saw blood leaking out. ‘Cut it on the printer paper,’ I invented. ‘Trying to print my coursework.’
+++++‘Well, don’t stand there dripping,’ Mum said. ‘The plasters are in the bathroom. Honestly!’
+++++I went upstairs, sucking the blood and thought about putting the knife into Thanatos. I might get only one stab, from the back, should I go for lung or kidney? Maybe I should go for the neck, it wouldn’t do for him to survive. The thought excited me. I couldn’t sleep for thinking about it and I knew if I didn’t do it, I would regret it all my life. I would never know peace.
+++++But even on the bus with my mother’s knife in my inside pocket, the blade pressing in my chest, I still didn’t believe it was real. I thought I would go to the gardens and nothing would happen, Thanatos wouldn’t be there, and I wouldn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
+++++There weren’t many people in the gardens, it was a dull day. I looked around for a while, thinking he’d been having me on all the time. I even thought maybe he was an undercover cop looking for potential criminals but then I hadn’t actually done anything wrong, had I? Then I saw him, or I thought it was him, sitting with his back to me on a bench down at the bottom end of the gardens, away from the path people used to cut through to the Walker Art Gallery and the museum.
+++++I walked up and down a bit, even walked right past in front of him to make sure it was him. He was expecting Brian, not me, so he wouldn’t recognise me and I needed to make sure, I didn’t want to hit on the wrong bloke. He smiled as I went by and he just looked ordinary like some guy who was sitting there waiting for his wife to finish her shopping or until his train was due at Lime Street station just across the road.
+++++My heart thumped as I circled round to the back of the bench and I wandered up and down still not knowing what I was going to do next. ‘See, you can’t do it,’ the voice said in my head and I took a deep breath and looked round. There were people walking along the path at the top of the gardens but no one down this end. I took the knife out of my pocket and I just went up quickly and slid it into him, making sure I aimed at the right lung. It went in between his ribs like it was just a joke. I pulled it out and it was like nothing had happened, except that the blade was streaked with red. He sort of went, ‘Oof’ and fell forward and I stuck it in again on the other side to make sure both lungs got it.
+++++He didn’t move after that, just slumped down and made a funny, rattling noise. I didn’t dare wait to make sure he was dead. There was hardly any blood which was good, wouldn’t attract attention. I looked back as I headed out of the gardens. He just looked like some old drunk sleeping it off on the bench. I went out of the lower gateway and melted into the crowds round St. John’s Precinct.


I was on a high that I’d actually done it. I was different to everyone around me but I’d always known that.  At tea-time I couldn’t eat for excitement but there was nothing on the news so I felt a bit deflated and had to keep telling myself it was real, not something I’d imagined or dreamed.
+++++‘Have you had my vegetable knife?’ Mum said to Dad.
+++++‘Me?’ He looked at her across the kitchen table.
+++++‘You’re always taking my knives to tinker with things in the shed.’
+++++I’d forgotten about the knife, still in my coat pocket. I went upstairs and washed it clean in the bathroom sink. Watching the bloody water swirl down the plughole I felt so important.
+++++It was on the late night news but only on the local bulletin. I guess murder isn’t so unusual any more. It didn’t say much, just that a man had been found dead with stab wounds in St John’s Gardens. A few hours had gone by before someone found him and no one had come forward to say they’d seen anything suspicious.
+++++I switched off my TV and lay back on my bed. How clever I was; how easy it had been. I burst out laughing.
+++++‘What’s so funny?’ Brian came clumping in my room. The knife was on my bed and I covered it quickly with my pillow.
+++++‘Get out! Don’t you come in here without knocking.’
+++++He hung in the doorway so I pretended to scroll through my phone messages, ignoring him and after a minute he went away. Later I took the knife downstairs and put it in the dishwasher with the rest of the cutlery. I slept like a baby. All that tension in my head had gone, just as I’d hoped. From now on I would be happy.
+++++The next day everything was normal except that I carried the secret inside me like a hidden jewel. At lunchtime I went into town and treated myself to a cheeseburger. I went window shopping to Curry’s, looking at laptops and tablets and wondering if Mum and dad might get me one of my own for Christmas instead of having to share with Brian.
+++++All the TVs in Curry’s were on the news and I stopped dead when Thanatos’s photo flashed up on the screen. His name was Andrew Wilmslow, a nerdy name that suited him but the photo of a hard-faced blonde took his place and the newsreader announced that his wife Shirley was being questioned in connection with the murder. I couldn’t think what he meant, it didn’t make sense.
+++++‘Everything all right?’ I opened my eyes. A sales lad touched my arm. I saw everyone in the shop was looking at me. I realised I was clinging to the shelf at the edge of the counter and I was shaking all over.
+++++‘I’m fine.’ I pushed him away, went outside and walked till my head cleared and then I started laughing. It was perfect for me if they hung it on her. No wonder he wanted to die, hitched to an ugly cow like that. In all the crime programmes I’ve watched the partner is always the main suspect but of course this time they were barking up the wrong tree. They’d probably soon realise that.
+++++Why was everyone on the street staring at me? I realised I was laughing out loud, so hard that tears were running down my cheeks. I felt light as a feather. I gave them all the finger, all the stupid sods, and made my way back to college.
+++++I was right about the police. When I got home there was a cop car outside and at first my legs shook but of course they’d come for Brian, not me. One of the plods had Brian in handcuffs. That was awesome. My heart swelled. Not so big now, I wanted to laugh in his face but instead I put on a concerned expression.
+++++‘What’s going on?’
+++++‘This is my daughter, Ashley,’ Mum said. Her blue eyes looked black against the white of her face.
+++++‘What’s up?’ I said but she just shook her head and Brian looked like a cow that’s been hit with a stun gun.
+++++‘I’ll have to go with him.’ Mum dragged on a jacket. ‘Your dad’s on his way home. You’ll be all right love.’ She pulled me into a hug. Over her shoulder I saw another cop coming down the stairs with the computer wrapped in clear plastic.
+++++I went upstairs and looked at myself in the mirror. I was grinning from ear to ear. I brushed out my long blonde hair and practised a demure smile, a bit tremulous and fearful. Who would ever suspect me?

‘It’s crazy.’ Mum looked bewildered. ‘Our Brian’s never heard of this chap. But they say his photo was on the man’s computer. They say he’s been sending messages to him on the internet, on a site for people who want to be murdered.’
+++++‘What?’ Dad roared. ‘Is it someone’s idea of a joke?’
+++++‘The police say he told this chap he wants to kill someone. He must have thought it was some kind of game.’
+++++‘I never heard such nonsense,’ Dad shouted, ready to explode. ‘I don’t believe it. Our Brian wouldn’t do anything like that. Ashley, do you know anything about this?’ They both looked at me. I decided it was time to let fall a few tears.
+++++‘Oh, love,’ Mum said. She sat down and put her arms round me. I leaned into her, felt her body shaking and the next thing I was sobbing against her chest.
+++++‘He has been a bit strange lately,’ I murmured when I got control of myself. I looked up at Dad through my tears. ‘And he never lets me near the computer.’
+++++It was pretty awful listening to them crying and moaning so I went up to my room and thought how much better life was going to be, just the three of us, without Brian. We’d have to go and visit him of course but I could put up with that, in fact I would rather enjoy it.
+++++The phone had been ringing all night, all the stupid aunties and uncles, nosy neighbours who’d seen the police at the door. I was watching the ten o’clock news to see if there was anything about Brian being charged with the murder when Mum walked in my room without knocking. I put on my sad smile.
+++++‘Ashley – Janet next door’s just been on the phone. She said you must have had a lucky escape.’
+++++‘You what?’ I took my earphones out, wiped my eyes as if I’d been crying for poor Brian.
+++++‘She said she was in town yesterday, saw you coming out of St John’s Gardens. She said it was just about the time that poor man was killed.’
+++++‘She’s a dirty fucking liar,’ I snarled and it was only when I saw the shock on Mum’s face that I realised what I’d let slip.


That was it really. I couldn’t believe my parents would grass me up like that. Well, I could because they’d always really preferred Brian to me, I knew that. Dad took my phone and even though I’d deleted everything the police soon found all the messages.
+++++Dad kept shaking his head at the police station and saying, ‘I can’t believe it,’ while Mum just seemed too stunned to say anything but the one who got the biggest surprise was me when they accused me of plotting to kill Wilmslow with his wife Colleen.
+++++I’d refused to speak until then but my mouth just opened of its own accord. I barely recognised my voice. ‘What?’ I shrieked, ‘I never heard of the woman.’
+++++‘Come on Ashley,’ the detective leered at me.’ She’s already confessed. She was having an affair, common knowledge apparently. She might have got away with it otherwise.’
+++++‘I don’t get it,’ said Dad. Neither did I.
+++++‘She pretended to be her husband on the internet, put up a photo of him saying he had a death wish and she waited to see if someone would come along and oblige. She says that Brian agreed to do it, said he had a compulsion to kill, but of course it wasn’t Brian, was it, Ashley, it was you?
+++++‘She arranged the meeting with you, told her husband she had a hair appointment in Liverpool city centre and arranged to meet him afterwards in St John’s Gardens so they could have lunch together. He fell for it and there you go. What we need to know, Ashley, is, did she set you up too, or did you know it was her masquerading as her husband and went along with it?’
+++++I shut my mouth up then and didn’t say anything after that.  I couldn’t believe I’d been so easily taken in and I certainly wasn’t going to admit it to anyone else. Of course they let our Brian out and he, Mum and Dad went home to play happy families.
+++++All the time I was on remand I only kept going by thinking of a hundred and one slow and painful deaths for them and our Brian. Mum came to see me once but she looked at me like I was dog shit – as if I cared.
+++++‘How could you, Ashley?’ she kept saying and I got bored and told the warder to take me away. She didn’t come again and Dad never came at all
+++++But the one I had it in for the most was that witch Colleen Wilmslow. I thought if I could just get at her when we stood trial…
+++++Thing was, I never got to court, instead they sent me to this place, hospital for the criminally insane, it’s called.  Me! It’s all of them should be in here, I’m the only sane one. But it’s not too bad in here and I’m only young. When I get out I’ll go for that witch first and then I’ll take care of my loving family.