Read Wronged Sons, The Online

Authors: John Marrs

Wronged Sons, The (20 page)

“You wanker! How could you do that to them?” she shouted, jabbing me in the chest aggressively.

I remained poker-faced and silent.

“They’ve gone through hell without you,” she continued.

I didn’t want to know.

“Well what have you got to say for yourself?”

Nothing, actually.

“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled, growing increasingly frustrated.

Actually everything had been very much right with me until ten minutes earlier.

She slapped me across the cheek. It smarted. She slapped me again. It became numb. Another slap. I felt nothing.

“Jesus Christ, Simon. Do you have any idea what you’ve put everyone through?”

I wasn’t interested.

“Say something you coward! You owe me an explanation!”

I didn’t. In fact I felt no urge to justify myself or my actions to Caroline, or to anyone else for that matter. I owed the world nothing and it irked me she was arrogant enough to assume I did.

“Well? Are you just going to stand there?”

No, I wasn’t.

Using all the strength I could muster; with the force of everything that drove me forwards, I clamped both my hands around her cheeks, forced her backwards off the curb and then pushed her into the road and into the path of oncoming traffic.

She didn’t even have time to scream.

Neither her last gasp of breath; the crunching of her bones as each set of wheels rolled over her or the screeching of brakes persuaded me to stop walking and turn around.




Today, 2.40pm

She remained motionless as she processed the horror of his confession. Her husband was a murderer.

She didn’t want to believe it because what he’d just admitted made no sense at all. She’d never met anyone who’d deliberately killed another human being before. Certainly not someone who she’d allowed into her home. And not one she had loved. She had no idea how to respond.

What seemed to him like an age passed by while neither of them spoke. He focused his eyes on the rug while hers burrowed right through him. He didn’t think it fitting to interrupt.

“You… you killed Caroline?” she stuttered slowly.

“Yes, Catherine, I did,” came his reply, reticent but showing little remorse.

She grasped for words. “She was pregnant,” she said quietly.

He inhaled deeply. “I did not know that.”

The colour drained from her face and she felt sick. Actually she more than just felt sick; she knew she was going to vomit. She leapt up from her chair and winced as her weight took her weak ankle by surprise. She faltered upstairs to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. She didn’t have time to lift the toilet seat before the first wave struck and she made a mess on the floor. But the second time, she was prepared and it reached the pan.

He remained downstairs; saddened to hear two lives had been lost that day, and not just one like he’d assumed. But he had done what was necessary at the time.

He stood up, paced around the lounge and heard her retching upstairs. He’d always known that if he was going to be completely honest with her – and that was, after all, why he was there - it was going to be unpleasant. And it was going to get worse. Much, much worse. Because Caroline wasn’t the first person he’d killed, and she wouldn’t be the last. But Catherine didn’t need to know that yet.

Upstairs, her sickness eventually passed, but she remained on the floor, her arm still clutching the cistern, her back square against the radiator, and her foot circumventing the sticky floor.

Suddenly she became frightened of the monster below now he’d revealed what he was capable of. Her arm shot out to turn the lock on the handle. The doors were old and heavy but not impossible to break. A few kicks even from an old man were all it might take.

She asked herself how someone she’d known so deeply - and whom she’d protected one night twenty-six years ago when her life crashed down around her – could’ve hurt a beautiful soul like Caroline. Although it had been a while since she’d thought about her old friend, she remembered the horror of hearing she’d been knocked down and killed abroad.

She was devastated, of course. Just before Caroline and Roger had left for their holiday, she’d confided in her, like best friends do, that she was pregnant. She was over the moon for Caroline and bashed out three babygrows and a jumpsuit to give to her when they got back. She cried into them when Caroline’s mother told her the news.

She recalled the day of the funeral, when the whole village turned out without exception to pay their last respects. Then she spent so much time consoling Roger, who blamed himself for leaving her alone for those few crucial, fatal minutes. He’d never discovered where she was going.

Without warning, the door handle turned and she jumped.

“Leave me alone!” she croaked, her throat acidic and sore. But he had no intention of leaving yet.

“Catherine,” he said calmly. “Please come out.”

“Why are you telling me all this? Are you going to kill me next? Is that why you’ve come back?”

He might have laughed under different circumstances. “No, of course not.”

“How can I be sure? I have no idea who you are. You’re a stranger.”

“As are you, but we all change, Catherine. All of us change.”

“But we don’t all change into murderers and kill our friends!”

He couldn’t disagree. “Come back downstairs and let’s talk.”

“About what? There’s nothing you can say that can justify what you did.”

“And I’m not going to try to. What’s done is done and I won’t take anything back. I’ve come a long way to see you Catherine. Please.”

She paused, and heard him walk slowly down the stairs. She took a few deep breaths, and then splashed cold water across her face. She patted herself dry with a hand-towel and was surprised by her reflection in the mirror. An old woman stared at her. In the time he’d been in her house, she’d been thirty-three again. Now she was every inch her fifty-eight years.

She disregarded common sense and unlocked the door and as she made her way to the landing, she resolved that if she was going to die at his hands, she was going to put up a bloody good fight first.




Colorado, America, Twenty-Three Years Earlier

May 2, 7.40pm

The faces of the others hadn’t haunted me like Caroline’s.

Again and again, I recalled the warmth of her soft, cupped cheeks and hair as it brushed the back of my fingers. I remembered thinking how surprisingly light she felt when I threw her body into the road.

I could still hear the bursting of her skin and bones as each vehicle crushed her. I still felt the adrenaline soaring through my blood as I ran back to my hotel to grab my backpack, and then vanished into the night.

But when my foot pressed hard on Betty’s accelerator and Key West faded behind me, all I saw was Caroline’s face in the rear-view mirror.




Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado all flashed past like a wheel of photos in a red plastic Viewmaster.

The majority of my next three months were spent on the road manipulating fellow runaways into helping fill my hours – new groups of friends for the days and women for the nights. And when female volunteers were sparse, I’d seek out those who required payment by the hour.

Boney or Rubanesque, dark chocolate complexions or as pale as death - appearances never mattered when I was knelt behind them as they balanced on their hands and knees. And if they could provide the chemical stimulants I’d grown to enjoy since my first time with the two girls in Miami, then even better.

I offered transportation to anyone who needed to be somewhere else; even to a State hundreds of miles from the route I’d intended. I did anything to avoid being ensnared by myself, because that’s when I dissected my actions.

I didn’t doubt for a moment whether killing Caroline had been the right thing to do. In fact I was still galled by her for backing me into a corner. But Caroline had had a choice; I hadn’t. By following me, she’d made the wrong one. I had made the correct one.

I’d gone to great pains to keep my past and present separate. And when she demanded reasons, it was easy to predict the chain of events that would follow in allowing her to walk away.

She’d have hurried back to the hotel to inform Roger his departed friend was actually thriving under the Floridian sun. Then, on their return to England, he’d have felt duty bound to tell you you’d been abandoned, not widowed. While I was missing, there was doubt. With confirmation came certainty and I did not want to be thought of in either a negative or positive light. I didn’t want to be thought of at all, full stop.

Caroline had paid the price of interfering with what was meant to be. And I was not responsible for that.


Utah, America

July 20, 5.15pm

I removed my paltry belongings from my backpack and spread them out in a semi-circle across the saline terrain. I built two heaps – the ‘keep’ pile and the ‘toss’ pile. The first contained essentials such as clothing, maps, Darren’s passport, and money.

The second pile was for items I wouldn’t need or use again; such as telephone numbers and photos of myself with people I’d already forgotten. Souvenirs only served to remind me of experiences I’d already had. It was what was to come that interested me more. And if I were to continue travelling light, sentiment would only weigh me down.

I placed a faded denim shirt between the piles, repacked my backpack and stored it behind a nearby boulder. My discarded items were consigned to Betty’s boot. I cut through the shirtsleeve, then unscrewed the petrol cap and carefully fed it inch by inch into the hole.

Betty had been the perfect travelling companion for six thousand miles, but her time was coming to an end. Her rear axel throbbed over the feeblest of bumps. She required a thirty-minute rest after every three hours of travel, or steam would burst from her radiator like Old Faithful.

I chose the Bonneville Salt Flats as her final resting place. Its fifty square miles of empty, horizontal earth was so flat and brilliant white, it was like God had run out of time when creating the world and thrown his paint pots down in frustration. Betty could make her mark there.

I pulled a cigarette lighter from my jeans and after several flicks of its flint, the cuff caught light. I stepped back and stared hard into her windows, desperate to find Caroline and the others inside, slowly cremating in the flames. But the only thing to burn was my reflection.

I lit a cigarette, walked away from Betty and awaited a climatic explosion. Instead of a giant fireball came a belly rumble. Flames slowly lapped from under her doors and scorched her windows. One by one, her tyres burst then her windows popped and shattered.

“You okay there sir?” a man shouted from inside his truck as he pulled over to the side of the road. “What happened to your wagon?”

“She over-heated and caught fire.”

“Shit man, where you headed?”

“Anywhere, really.”

“I can give you a ride to Nevada if you like?”

I accepted his offer and as we drove off into the distance, I watched through the wing mirror as my girl smouldered, then bid farewell by exploding into the sky like a comet.




Northampton, Twenty-Three Years Earlier

July 17, 6.55pm

“I’m retiring, Catherine,” began Margaret. I nearly spat my tea across the kitchen table.

“Jim and I are moving to Spain,” she continued, oblivious to my dismay. “We’ve bought a nice little villa on the coast in Andalusia. I plan to start scaling down next summer, and all being well, we should be there by New Year.”

“Oh,” I replied. She might as well have slapped me across the face.

I’d thrown myself into making clothes for Fabien’s and had even given up ironing for others so I’d have the time to plough through almost a hundred outfits. It was also a therapeutic way of keeping my mind off poor Caroline. Annie and I missed her so much; it was almost too much to bear and we took comfort in each other and tried our best to help Caroline’s parents cope with their loss.

But with Margaret’s news, all I saw was my future behind checkout number seven again.

“Do you have a buyer?” I inquired, hoping my new boss would be just as keen on my work.

“That depends on you, darling,” she replied, screwing a cigarette into a plastic holder. “I’m giving you the first option to buy me out.”

I laughed out loud. Clearly the prospect of spending the rest of her life under the Spanish sun, drunk on margaritas served by hunky waiters, had sent her a little doolally.

“You know I don’t have that kind of money!” I answered. “Look around you. Everything in this house is second or third hand or broken and held together with Blu-Tack. How on earth could I afford to buy your shop?”

“Oh you should never let money get in the way of a good idea,” she tutted. “As far as I can see, you have three options – either get yourself a bank loan, re-mortgage your house or you and I can come to a financial agreement until the balance is paid off.”

“But I know nothing about business!” I protested.

“You’re full of excuses aren’t you? I didn’t have a bloody clue about it when I started, but did that stop me? Did it hell. So what’s stopping you?”

“Margaret, I’m not like you,” I sighed, reminding her of the obvious. “You have the confidence to do anything you put your mind to – and the money. I’ve got the kids and keeping a roof over our heads to worry about. It’s impossible.”

She took a long drag from her cigarette and poured herself a third cup of tea from the pot.

“Do you remember when you told me about your mother, and what a bitch she was to you?”

“I didn’t call her a bitch,” I interrupted, a little surprised.

“Well she was, so learn to live with it. You took everything negative she ever threw at you and turned it into something positive. What did you do after Billy? You picked yourself up and got on with life. And what about when Simon disappeared? I bet you felt sorry for yourself, licked your wounds then put your children first, didn’t you?”

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