Truth Series Book 2/Chapter 9

If the streetlamp hadn’t been vandalised, he would have seen it much sooner. As it was the damage wasn’t evident until Simon had already crossed the road towards his shop. At first he just registered that something was odd, a change in the way that the light reflected from the big plate glass window. Once across the road though he was cursing under his breath as he took in the evidence of catastrophe. This was an old building, built before regulations demanded safety glass and so, instead of a crazed pane there was a huge hole in the centre and jagged shards hanging perilously from the wooden frame.

Simon, glanced around expecting a damaged car pulled up to the kerb. But, there was nothing. So, whoever had hit the frontage had sped away and left him with all the inconvenience and expense of the damage. “Bloody marvellous. Just bloody brilliant.” He kicked at the door.

As he pushed into the dark shop, glass screeched and scraped across the floor. The door jammed against the boards, glass grinding under the wood.

The front part of the room was covered in large splinters. He kicked them away with the side of his foot so that he could force the door closed again before turning to take stock. He had insurance and so it should all be okay but it was shocking and annoying. There didn’t seem to be any other damage, just the ruined window. He stepped across the space and turned on the light. There came a clatter from the storeroom at the rear and the unmistakable odour of petrol.

While he was still struggling to get his bearings, to take in everything that was happening he heard the roar of a car in the side road. He dashed towards the back of the building, to the big storage space and pushed open this door. A low wall of flame was spreading rapidly across the room. At this point it was licking along the dusty floor, burning on the surface of a pool of liquid. He peered into the flickering light, looking for a sack or a blanket to throw over the conflagration but the small pile of cloths was near the exit on the other side of the rapidly growing fire. Flames were licking and dancing along rivulets of liquid slithering down the cracks and faults in the concrete.

He was panicked and frightened, he wanted to run but the rooms upstairs were his first home. They had become precious as a place to hide while the furore of the court case and the backlash were causing turmoil in his life. He had to save his flat. It was his and never again would he allow something that was his to be taken away, not if he had to risk everything to keep it.

Heat grew rapidly as more flames licked at the skirting boards and ran over the boxes and packing materials he had stored, ready for recycling.

The opportunity to do something was getting away from him. He pulled his jacket up over his mouth and made a frantic dash for the rear door where the pile of old blankets were folded neatly in the corner. The hair on top of his head sizzled and he felt the flush of heat on exposed skin. But, once on the other side of the pool of roaring liquid he was able to grab up the cloths and throw them down across the floor stamping and pounding on them until all that was left were the last small echoes of what had threatened to be a major fire. He smothered the small vestiges of flames and when he was as sure as he could be that there were no lingering hot spots he leaned against the wall and gave himself over to the shock and surging adrenaline. His shoes and jeans were blackened and when he ran a hand through his hair a cascade of singed and stinking ends fell onto his shoulders.

Should he call the fire brigade, the police? He no longer thought he needed the first and didn’t want the second. But, mentally replaying the events of the last few minutes he was puzzled. His thoughts tumbled and spiraled. Any explanation that he came up with harked back to last year, to the gang of thugs whom he had crossed and bested and to the men he had hurt on the way. Was it possible that it was coming back to haunt him now. If so the thought was chilling, he had assumed that the worst of all that was over.

His phone vibrated and he let it go to voice mail. Not many people had his number and whoever it was could wait.  Time enough for that later when he’d made sure his premises were safe and he’d calmed down.

He filled a big bucket with water and then pushed open the double doors into the yard. By the time he had finished sluicing and swilling, gallons of water had soaked the floor and skirtings and he threw yet more up against the doors. The thought of the fire re-starting while he was asleep upstairs terrified him. Eventually he climbed up to his living quarters and took a long shower and then pulled on a pair of soft trousers and T shirt.

There were planks in the yard outside and he went back down and took them into the shop to nail them over the broken window. Tomorrow he would make the calls and get someone to come and sort the mess out properly. It was only as he gathered up his tools and began to sweep the broken glass into a pile he saw the three bricks laying against the base of the counter. He lifted them, turning them back and forth. So, no car colliding with the frontage, this was as deliberate as the attempt to start a fire. If he hadn’t come back when he had the whole place could have gone up. The realisation turned his stomach and bile rose into his throat. He had to lean against the old wooden shelves to steady himself.

Though he tried to settle in the flat he was drawn back over and over to the rooms downstairs to check and double check the fire was indeed totally extinguished. The thought that he should probably call the police niggled at him constantly but he really didn’t want to go that route.

After a couple of hours sitting in the chair by the window he went to his little desk to log onto the insurance company site. He might as well use the sleepless hours to organise his claim. His phone battery was flat and as he plugged it into the charger it beeped reminding him there was a message waiting. He clicked through to the recording. It was short.

A low, breathless, staccato of words. “Keep your nose out of things that don’t concern you.”

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Truth Series, Book 2/Chapter 8

Link to book one on Amazon

 

“I don’t suppose you’ve been eating properly have you?” Gloria didn’t answer, her self-neglect was obvious in the way the dingy clothes hung on her body. “Tell you what, I’ll go and get us some fish and chips. Let’s just have a meal and – well you know, let’s just be together.” After an extended pause she raised her eyes.

“Go on then. But, just this, just now. Fish and chips aren’t going to fix me but by God I could eat some. Can you get scraps on top?”

“’Course I can. Do you want a pickled onion?”

“Bloody hell no, don’t you think I stink enough as it is?” He didn’t answer as the blush spread over her face and neck. “Go on, you go and I’ll try and sort myself a bit before you come back.”

“Good enough.”

Simon took his time walking down to the local chip shop, giving her chance to do what she could about herself and the room but also to recover from the shock. She had been so lovely, bright, bubbly and mentally strong it was incredible that she had deteriorated to this extent. He was swept with guilt. What sort of a friend had he been? She had saved him more than once and when she needed help he had been no-where on the scene.

By the time he carried the plastic bag in the back door she had taken a shower. Her hair was loose around her face and shoulders, still damp and he smelled steam and shampoo as he walked past the bedroom door on his way to the little kitchen. She had emptied the ash trays and folded the blanket neatly on the couch in the living room.

“Shall I put the kettle on?” She was bustling about, failing to meet his eyes.

“Great.”

She ate slowly and there was little in the way of conversation until the plates were empty and they pushed back from the table. “So, was that okay?”

“Yeah, I have to say it was pretty good.”

“What have you been doing Gloria? I mean how have you been spending your time?”

She sighed. “Nothing. Really, just nothing. I mean, now and again I have been out. I know you saw me at the court, for your thing and then Peter’s. Of course I had no choice did I? I was part of it.  But apart from that, now and again I have gone down to the shops. There were reporters outside for quite a while and I just couldn’t deal with it. Then I started on line shopping, for my groceries I mean and since then I’ve just stayed in.”

“On your own?”

“Yeah. Just me. Who would want to be with me for God’s sake?”

“Me.”

“Yes, well. I heard you knocking but I just couldn’t face it. Couldn’t face anyone.”

“Are you going to let me help you?”

She didn’t answer. “Well, thing is, I came down for a reason, I need you to help me.”

“The dead girl?

“That’s it.”

“If I don’t know her how can I help you?”

“To be honest I don’t know why I’ve taken this on except that I felt sorry for the old bloke. Mind you I didn’t need to as it turned out, he’s not some poor old codger, turns out he’s a successful business man. But, his sister – she’s got cancer and – it’s his sister.”

“Hmm.”

“Anyway, I just said that I’d see what I can do to find out what happened and I thought it would help to have someone – well you really, to talk it through with.

Before he came I’d been wondering, it feels a bit daft in a way, but I’d been wondering if I could do this. Investigate stuff, maybe even do it properly, set up a business. I’ve been researching it and I think the fact that I was completely cleared of everything to do with Sandie means that I could at least apply for the papers, the licence. ‘Course there is the other stuff, with the warehouse and Stephen and all that, but nobody knows about that, except us of course and I don’t reckon he’s going to do anything after all this time. Anyway I needed someone to talk to.”

“Just to talk?”

“Well, any help at all you can give me.”

“So, what did he do, this bloke that’s in jail?” They sat in the scruffy room while he outlined the problems. As he spoke he saw the lines of tension soften a little and interest spark in her eyes. She asked him questions, made more tea and he saw a glimpse of Gloria begin to reappear.

Simon glanced at his watch. “God, look at the time. I’ll get off, but I’m coming back, you know that don’t you?” She nodded at him.

“Okay.”

“And will you help me?”

“I don’t see how but if you want to just talk about it, I can do that. I’ve got plenty of time after all.”

“Great. Thanks Gloria.”

“No, no. Let’s just see how it goes. I might well get up in the morning and decide I want to be on my own after all.”

“No, that’s over.”

“Well, we’ll see. But, I have enjoyed seeing you. I didn’t think I would, couldn’t see how I could face you, but – yeah. It’s been good and if I you can help this other bloke, well really this woman, the one that’s dying, that’d be good as well.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow. Do you think you’d enjoy a walk? Just a short one, up to the cascade maybe. I can make a flask, bring some biccies.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.”

“Well I’ll come down and we’ll see how you feel.”

He kissed her quickly on the cheek and then listened as she locked and bolted the door behind him. As he strode back up the hill to his flat his feelings were scrambled. It had been an intense and unsettling evening and he understood that he had taken on yet another responsibility. It was a bit overwhelming after all the years of keeping his head down and letting no-one come close. He was beginning to care again, it was unnerving. He could step back, there was still time and life was simpler without other people. But it was lonely and he had had his fill of loneliness.

 

 

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Truth Series, Book 2/chapter 7

The once bright, tidy room was gloomy. There was one small side light turned on, an ash tray on the coffee table was overfull and there were two glasses on sticky looking coasters. A soft pink blanket was heaped in the corner of the couch and Gloria’s slippers were pushed together underneath. Her feet were bare and as Simon glanced down she shuffled in front of him to retrieve her footwear. As she passed he smelled body odour and tobacco with an undertone of the perfume that she wore. He reached a hand towards her but she pulled away and walked over to the drinks cabinet. “I’m ploughing through the spirits pretty well now, Simon. Do you want one while there’s some left?”
His first instinct was to shake his head but in the event he nodded just once. “Yeah, why not?” She poured a large whisky and held it out to him.
“There you are. Now, say your piece and then go away and really, Simon, don’t come back. It’s over.”
“What is, what’s over?” She shook her head and looked at him sadly.
“Everything really. But, you and me, that’s gone and the hotel…finished…and, well, me – there’s nothing left.”
“Don’t be stupid.” She drew in a hiss of breath but she didn’t speak. “You can’t let this go on.” He swept his hand around, taking in the untidy, sad room. “It stinks in here, you look a wreck and the hotel is a mess inside, outside. What are you thinking? Why have you let this happen? What is this going to solve?”
“I told you to say your piece and go. I don’t want to hear your opinion of me, I don’t need it. You said there was a dead girl, do I know her? What has it to do with me?”
“No, you don’t know her. But, a bloke is in jail and I’m pretty much convinced from what I’ve heard that it could be wrongful – like me. Apart from that his wife is dying and if nobody does anything she’ll be gone before he gets out.”
“But what the hell has all of that to do with me? Why would you bring more trouble to my door? Don’t you think I’ve got enough?” Her voice cracked and Simon took a step towards her but she raised a hand and glared at him. He paused for a moment and then lowered to the settee where he sat with his head bowed, sipping on his drink.
“What I don’t understand is why you have gone down this route. Why this, locking yourself up, letting it all go – why?”
“Shame.” The word was whispered and as Gloria sat in her chair before the dead fire she repeated it. “Shame and disgust and grief.”
“But, Gloria you have nothing to be ashamed of.” She gave a harsh cough of a laugh. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You helped me to find justice, not only for Sandie but for that thug Jason Parr as well and maybe he didn’t deserve what happened to him, but it was right in the end.”
“Yes, and how many others? I don’t know do I? We might never know. Peter’s locked up and I hope they never let him out but we don’t know if he killed anyone else. Shit Simon he raped your sister, a young girl. What sort of monster is my brother? What sort of people was he caught up with and what sort of family are we that raised a creature like that?”
“But it wasn’t you.”
“He was my younger brother, we were close, we cared for each other and yet I didn’t know. I knew he was becoming a thug, he was a bad lot but I could never, never have believed that of him if I hadn’t heard him confess with my own ears. And, then there’s me isn’t there?”
“You, but love, you didn’t do anything.”
Her voice rose now, became shrill, “Didn’t do anything, bloody hell Simon, I threw boiling water at him, I blinded him in one eye.”
“But you saved me, doing that saved my life.” She shook her head again and thrust her fingers through the tangle of her hair.
“Well, maybe.”
“Never mind maybe. I’m sure of it, you saved me. So, you should stop all this wallowing in guilt. You didn’t turn him bad and what you did with that kettle, the boiling water, it was brave and it saved us both.”
“And what about my husband, what about Dave?” There was silence for a moment and she stood and picked up the framed photograph from the top of sideboard. “I thought we were close, happy and I thought I knew him.”
“Yes, well – I see that must hurt.”
“I didn’t even know he was in debt, he killed himself and I didn’t even know he was in trouble. What sort of a bloody wife was I?”
He couldn’t bear to watch her any longer, tears slid down her cheeks and she wiped them roughly away with the back of her hand and sniffed loudly. Simon stood and took her in his arms as she gave way to the crying that caused her body to tremble and her breathing to change to gulping sobs. He rocked her gently back and forth and held her close until the worst of it had past and then he pulled her down beside him onto the settee and held her hand and looked into her drowned eyes.
“Gloria, love. You can’t blame yourself, and you can’t let yourself go like this. The horror is over, you have to move on. Please.”
After many minutes she raised her head. Looked at him with eyes that were red and sore looking but she managed to dredge up a smile. “That felt good. Oh don’t worry I’ve had many a good roar but it felt good to have someone to hold me.” She sniffed again and pulled away from him. “God, Simon I’m rank.” Now she created even more distance by moving back to her chair, but he slid along the settee so that there was just a foot or so between them. “It’s no good though. If crying could make it better, then it would all have gone away by now.”
“This can’t help though.” He raised his glass tipping it to make the amber liquid inside swill back and forth.
“Ah, but it does. It smooths the edges, it takes some of the sting and if I drink enough it takes me away completely.”
“But, you know that’s not wise.”
“Oh Simon, wisdom and sense have gone long ago.”
“Oh come on now. Please Gloria, don’t say things like that.” At her huff of impatience, he slid from the seat onto his knees in front of the chair. “Do you remember when I tried to take all those pills and you wouldn’t let me? You said that you weren’t going to let me make you regret not doing enough. Well, here we are. I’m not letting you do this to yourself. I had no idea. I thought you just didn’t want to see me and didn’t want to run the B and B if I had known that it had got this bad I would have been down here far sooner.”
She dragged a creased and shredded tissue from the end of her sleeve and used it to wipe her nose. “I just don’t see how to get through it though, I can’t see a life beyond this horrible guilt. When I close my eyes I can hear Peter screaming and then I wonder how many other people there were screaming and I can’t shut it out.”
“Oh Gloria, love. You poor, poor thing. You don’t deserve this.”
“Well, it’s what has happened isn’t it?”
“Let me help you?”
“I don’t think you can. I don’t think anyone can and I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She took the last big gulp of her drink, lowered her head into her hands and hid herself from it all and Simon leaned close and wrapped her in an embrace and knew that he had to save her from herself and the misery that her life had become.

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Truth Series – Book 2/chapter 6

He read through the notes. They were mostly the things they had just discussed but there were details about the evidence, the damaged car, the CCTV film. Simon had already found most of it for himself online. At the end of the second page there were a few notes about the dead girl.

She had been out with friends after a day at college, they hadn’t been drinking and it hadn’t been particularly late when she had told them she was going to walk home. She had done it before and always the same quiet road.

Though Simon had spent years locked away he knew this was not usual behaviour of young women these days. They’d watched television in jail, he’d listened to the conversations when someone went missing, the speculation and brutal opinion. He knew that over and over they were cautioned about putting themselves at risk but all four girls she had been with had told the police the same thing. She often walked home alone and though they said that they didn’t like it, would never do it themselves and had often tried to talk her out of it she was confident that there was no danger and brushed aside their concerns.

In the end the danger hadn’t come from thugs or rapists but from a cowardly driver who sped away leaving a young girl in the rain, dead or dying alone.

He went through to the kitchen and took a beer out of the fridge. As he sipped from the bottle he made a cheese sandwich, found a bag of crisps and then took it all back to his table. Charlie Clegg had listed the names of the girls. He had obviously had access to all of this information through the solicitors working on his brother in laws behalf and he had been thorough.

All five girls had attended the six form college. Four of them had been trainee hairdressers with the fifth studying to be a veterinary nurse. They were all local and had been together since school.

It had happened over two years ago, they would be finished with college by now surely, gone on to jobs or no jobs or marriage. How would he ever trace them? It seemed logical that he should do that that. He must speak to them.

It was quiet in his flat, sitting beside the window as darkness grew and the yellow glow of lamps appeared along the roadsides and in windows. He stood and gazed out at it. From here he could see down Bradford Road, almost to where it became the High Street. There half way down was the turn into Mill Street, and Mill Lodge and Gloria. He would give anything now to be able to talk to her about this. She had been so bright, so sharp and it would be wonderful just to have someone to toss the ideas back and forth with. Though he had spent many hours studying when he was in jail he had found in the last months her down to earth common sense was what he needed to make things real. Sitting alone reading it was all about the words, the dry facts and this had to be about the people.

He slapped his empty bottle onto the table and snatched up the papers. Dragging on his jacket he thundered down the stairs and out into the chilly evening.  He strode quickly down the hill, his hiker’s legs carrying him quickly into town, around the corner and through the gates of the B and B.  He lifted the letter box flap and yelled through.

“Hey Gloria, Gloria, if you can hear me just come and let me in. I need you to help me. I need you to stop wallowing in self-pity and tell me what to do. I know you’re in there, it’s time to get on with stuff. There’s a girl dead and a bloke accused who might not have done it – does it sound familiar? Yeah right, and if you want to have a chance to make up for what your brother did why don’t you frame yourself and help me with this?” He thumped again on the wood. “Come on, you’re better than this. Help me Gloria.” He didn’t hold out much hope but was driven to try. He stood before the door now, his heart thumping, his rapid breathing clouding the chill air.

A light came on inside, the leaded windows glowed red and blue and behind it he saw the wavering shadow of someone coming nearer. “Go away Simon. I don’t know what you’re trying to do here. We fixed it all, you cleared your name. You found the truth. Let it be enough and leave me be. I don’t want to see you – go away and if you come back I’ll call the police. How can you come yelling this stuff through the door – don’t you think I’ve suffered enough? Go away. Sandie is at peace, my brother is in jail, where he belongs.”

“It’s not Sandie, I’m not here about me – it’s someone else Gloria. I need you to help me. Please. I need to see you. At least let me talk to you. I’ve said I’ll help someone and I don’t have a clue how to go about it really. I know it’ll help to talk to someone and, Gloria you’re all I have.”

“You don’t have me, Simon.”

“Open the door please? Let me in and we can talk.”

“Oh bloody hell.” He held his breath as the shadow leaned forward, deepening against the coloured glow and he heard the click of the latches and the slide of the chain into the runner. The door opened a crack. “He could see only part of her face, her hair messy and unwashed trailing to her shoulders, her eyes were bloodshot and sore looking in a pale face. “Why won’t you just let me be? Have you any idea what it’s been like?”

“Yes, I think I have an idea but this can’t go on and now I really do need you to help me. There’s a bloke in jail and his wife is dying and I said I’d help. God knows why, but I did. Please help me Gloria? I know you can.” She shook her head and the door closed with a sudden slam but then he heard the chain rattle against the wood and she opened up again. “Come in, come on in and just have a look at me and then tell me you think I can help you, Simon.” With that she pulled the door wide and he stepped into the dusty, untidy hallway. The air was stale and thick with the smell of tobacco smoke and Gloria stood before him dressed in a baggy, stained track suit her hair greasy, a lit cigarette gripped in her fingers. She had lost weight and deep wrinkles ran from her nose to her mouth. “Shit Gloria, what have you done to yourself?” As he reached a hand towards her tears sprang to her eyes and she brushed them away impatiently. “I’m having a drink. You can join me just for one, say your piece and then leave me.” She turned and stalked away from him down the hallway and into her own flat at the back of the house. He followed her into the dim and grubby rooms.

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Truth Series. Book 2/Chapter 5

Link to Book 1

On the way home Simon called into the little stationer’s shop at the top of Bradford Road, he bought a couple of note pads and a pack of blank postcards. In books he had borrowed from the prison libraries, dozens and dozens of them over time, investigators used cards to write down pertinent points. Again he felt a bit stupid, as though he was play acting. He had to somehow make this real, it was not a novel, not a film – there were people involved, real people and none so real as ‘Our Colin’s’ dying wife.

Once back in the flat he made a pot of tea. He sat at the desk by the window and opened his new book. He copied down the names, the dates and the very few facts that he had and then stared at the almost empty page. He printed out another copy of the newspaper report and cut out the image of Melanie. He blu tacked it to the wall. That made it real. He wouldn’t take that down again until he knew as near as possible that he had done all he could to find out what really happened. If it was that Colin Bliss had killed her, so be it.

The personalities were important weren’t they. Colin, the dead girl, they were the crux. He had to know much more about them and for that he needed Charles Clegg.

Okay. It was happening, he was going to do this. If he made a pig’s ear of it at least he would have tried.

***

“Come in Charlie, take your coat off. More rain eh.”

“Aye lad but it wouldn’t be Yorkshire without it. Are you well?”

“I am, thank you. How are things with you?”

“Well, about as you’d expect. Our Maureen’s up at the ‘ospital, some god awful treatment.  My Beryl goes with ‘er, drives ‘er ‘ome after. It touches us all, som’mat like this.” Simon nodded and pursed his lips, tried to look sympathetic. He had to believe in these people. He had to care about them as much as he had cared about his own family. How did you do that? He would have to find a way.

“Tell me about Colin?”

Charlie leaned back in the chair and crossed his legs. For a moment he didn’t speak, collecting his thoughts. “Well ‘e’s younger than me. ‘Bout ten years I reckon, same age as Maureen, my kid sister.” He stopped for a moment and turned to look at Simon who acknowledged the unspoken recognition of a link between them. “E were born down round Manchester, came ‘ere when ‘e were a kiddie. Met our Maureen when they were teenagers and they tied the knot when they were ‘bout twenty. They’ve no nippers of their own. Don’t know why, they never said and – well som’mat like that you don’t ask. ‘E Works for Stamforths, do you know ‘em?” Simon shook his head. “They’re based down near Leeds, they distribute drugs. Take in orders, buy ‘em and then supply chemists, vets, that sort of thing.

“Vets?”

“Aye, not that much difference is there, vets, doctors, all the bloody same, you ask me, though if I were sick I’d rather trust a vet. Well, our Colin, ‘e ‘as to go round and try to get orders and then sometimes, with the animal stuff and that, there’s deliveries an’ all. If it’s needed quick like and it’s a regular customer. At the end of the day it’s just reppin’ really.”

“So that’s what he’d been doing on the day of the accident?”

“Aye. Well no, not really. ‘E’d been to some sort of meeting. I don’t really know that much about it. That’s not my world but it were some sort of gatherin’I understand. Manchester way I think, anyway ‘e said as ‘e ‘ad a pint but just one and it had been with som’mat to eat and ‘e were nowhere near drunk.”

“Colin and Maureen were they – I mean, are they happy?”

“What, ‘appy? Well I think so, not som’mat you talk about is it – why do you want to know?”

“I’m just trying to get a picture of him in my mind. An idea about his life really. I know you think he must be innocent. I understand that, but I’m trying to get an idea about him for myself.”

“I see. Well, now then what can I tell you. I think they were ‘appy. ‘E liked his job well enough, used to talk about it plenty anyway. Bragged a bit now and again truth be told. How ‘e were top salesman and all that. It were nob’but a little bit of an outfit, not as if it were Boots or whatever but anyroad ‘e liked it well enough. ‘E were just ordinary, but I’ll tell you this,” The old man sat upright and jabbed a finger towards Simon, “’E wouldn’t drive drunk. I know that, I know that for a fact. I’ve written it down why but I’ll tell you anyway. ‘E wouldn’t drive drunk because ‘is own mother were killed by a drunk driver.”

“Oh.”

“Aye, a lorry it were, out on the bypass. Mowed ‘er down and killed ‘er while ‘e were so drunk that ‘e couldn’t ‘ardly stand up. So you see…” now he simply shook his head.

“Yes, yes I see. I understand.”

“I’ll leave you this.” Clegg held out an A4 sized envelope. “I’ve written down all that I thought might ‘elp and I put my phone number on there. Not the ‘ouse, don’t want you speaking to Beryl and ‘er pesterin’ me with questions, but you ring me any time you like.”

“Are you retired Charlie?”

“Nay lad, not me. I reckon I’ll work till they nail me in my box.”

“And, what is it you do?”

“I’ve me own business. Transport. Clegg’s International Haulage.”

“Oh right, I’ve seen your trucks.”

“Aye, I reckon you probably ‘ave. We’ve done well. I’ll let you get on and I’ll be off, I’m sure we both ‘ave plenty to do. Keep in touch won’t you?”

“I will, I’m still not sure how much I’m going to be able to help you but I’ll do what I can and if your brother in law is innocent I’ll do my best to have him cleared. If it all works out we’ll need to talk to a lawyer. That’s a long way down the road but just so you know it may be necessary. I know someone, the woman who handled my case. Will that be okay?”

“It’s up to you lad. You’ve taken it on, you sort it and I thank you.” With that he stood, offered his hand and then clattered down the stairs and was out in the road with no further word.

After he’d gone Simon logged on and typed in “Clegg’s International Haulage” it was huge and Charles Clegg lived in a grand house in the countryside between Ramstone and Leeds, a place with acres of land and imposing buildings. Surely he would have had the best solicitors at his disposal, probably a whole legal team and they hadn’t been able to save Colin from jail. How then was he, no more than feeling his way in the dark with no experience going to be able to? Simon puffed out his cheeks and spoke to the empty rooms. “Bloody hell what have I let myself in for?”

 

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Truth Series – Book 2/ Chapter 4

Sun filtering through the curtains dragged Simon from a deep sleep. The insomnia that he’d suffered for years now was improving and this had been a really good night. The walk and the decision to move in a different direction had cleared space in his mind. He wouldn’t shelve the idea of starting an enquiry agency altogether but he would put it off for now. He would wait for a while, just live an ordinary life, find an ordinary job and then look at things later. It was sensible, it would be easier.

Today though he would do a hard thing. He would go to Mill Lodge, knock on the door again and hope that this time Gloria would at least come and speak to him. He understood it was unbelievably difficult for her. Her brother had been deeply involved with criminals. He had raped and killed Sandie. Surely though, surely, she knew he didn’t blame her? They had been close, more than friends and her support and belief in him had been the only thing that had kept him going when it all seemed hopeless. He missed her friendship and her positivity and he missed sharing her bed.

By the time he’d had his tea and toast the weather had deteriorated. It was drizzling and miserable grey clouds turned the town monochrome and obliterated the hills. He put on an anorak and tugged up the hood. Shoulders hunched against the cold, wet wind he walked towards the town centre. Half way down the hill he turned right into Mill Street and past the old people’s home, the Clearview Hotel and then into the double gates of Mill Lodge. The garden looked sad and overgrown, dirty water dripped from blocked gutters. Obviously Gloria had told the gardener not to come, possibly at the same time as she had dismissed Rebecca, the young girl who helped with cleaning and breakfast service

Rebecca had snivelled and sniffed and told him that Gloria had hidden away in her room after the horrible events in the betting shop, leaving Rebecca to cope on her own. Then when the last two guests had gone she phoned and said that she didn’t need her anymore, the hotel was closing.

A few days later she received a cheque for a month’s wages in an envelope holding a small card with just one word printed across it – Sorry. She knew no more than that. Several visits over the following weeks had been abortive – no-one had responded to her knocking on the door. The telephone was never answered and she couldn’t even reassure him that Gloria was still there. “I’ve given up now Mr Fulton. I’ve got another job.  It’s okay – they let me go in and do the bar in the evening as well as cleaning. It’s more money. I’m sorry about Mrs Bartlett, she were always good to me but I need a job.” He had patted her on the shoulder, told her she had to look after herself after all and that had been the last time he had seen her.

Over the weeks, as he had walked down the back snicket between the garden wall and the moor there had been a light in her bedroom window. Sometimes on his way back from the pub he had noticed a glow from the kitchen window on the side of the building. But by day the place looked empty, neglected and unloved. He could just let it all go. He didn’t have to do this now. This new life had been hard earned and there was no need to complicate things. But then, he owed her, she had believed in him when nobody else did, stopped him overdosing on pills and booze and bullied him into carrying on. Without her he would most likely be lying in the churchyard now with Sandie and his mum. He wouldn’t have this life if it hadn’t been for Gloria.

He tried the bell first of all and heard the jangle of it deep inside the hotel but there were no footsteps across the hall, no rattle of keys. He glanced at the bay window but that was the guests’ lounge and so it was no surprise when there was no flit of shadow across the window or twitch of the drapes. He raised his hand and hammered on the wood and then bent and stood with his mouth close to the letter box, lifting the flap and shouting through. “Gloria, it’s Simon. I really need to talk to you. I know you’re in there. I’m not going away this time so you might as well open the door.” He straightened up and glanced around. Perhaps he was being too confrontational, it could work against him, drive her deeper into the darkness which was all he could see through the narrow gap. “Come on love, please. I’m worried about you. I really want to see you. I miss you Gloria. Can’t we try and sort this out? I don’t blame you. I’ve never blamed you for any of it. Shit, I could never have done it without you. Gloria please, these aren’t the sort of things I want to yell through the door. Let me in!” Still there was nothing.

He turned and walked across the front of the building, stopping to press his face against the grimy glass of the second bay. The tables inside were bare, no cloths, no shining cutlery. It looked more like a furniture warehouse than a dining room.

He went down the side alley, past the kitchen window, stopping again to peer inside. He could make out a plastic box full of empty bottles and the big waste bin next to it was lidless and overfull. As he took in this evidence of neglect and despair his spirits sank.

When they first met he had been the one lost to black moods and anger and even now when the darkness threatened, which it still did when he thought of Sandie and the stolen years, he could remember Gloria and their loving and that there was still deep inside him the possibility of more than just breathing and worrying about what would come next.

He stopped in the back garden and looked out at the stretch of sky and moorland beyond the low wall. The clouds were blowing away on the rising wind and he could see the pewter glint of the river in the distance. He wanted to go out there, to walk and breathe the freedom but first had to sort this out, if he could. On the lawn was a small stone bench and underneath it the plastic bag he had left there on the day everything had come to a head. He dragged it out. It was wet and dirty, the two orchid plants inside had long since died and dried to brown stalks. So then, since the day of the face off above the betting shop Gloria had never even come out into the back garden, or surely she would have seen the bag and investigated. He was beginning to appreciate exactly how much she had crumbled under the weight of shame, sadness, guilt – whatever it was. He owed her too much to allow this to go on.

He turned back to the kitchen door and banged with his clenched fist against the wood. “Gloria, for god’s sake please just let me in. Just talk to me please!”

He was tempted to break one of the panes and reach inside but he didn’t want to scare her. He gave the door one last massive thump and turned away. He couldn’t do any more.  The blind over the window next to the kitchen moved, he held his breath. She pulled it up in one corner and bent, peered out. Her voice was faint but she was shaking her head and the visual clue made her words clearer. “Go away, leave me alone. I don’t want to see you. I’m not seeing anyone.” And before he had a chance to answer she dropped the thing back and the light was turned off in the room.

He gathered up the polythene bag and went out to the road. Before he left he went to the front door, the letter box. “I’m not giving up. I will speak to you. I’m going to keep coming.” He let the thin metal cover fall back into place with a quiet clank and then went to The Oak where he ordered a pint and a pie and took himself into the corner by the window. He felt depressed and stuck. He needed to move on, wanted to but he just didn’t seem able to get going. The past had hold of him still. He would break loose and it had to start soon. Bugger it he thought, it had to start now. He’d been treading water and it was time to stop procrastinating. He muttered to himself ‘Get yourself sorted, come on get your arse in gear.’

 

 

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Chapter 3 – Book 2 Truth Series

Link to Book one on Amazon – Twist of Truth

They parted with a hand shake outside the pub and Charlie Clegg promised to deliver his notes in the next day or two.

Simon watched the other man drive away and then rubbed his hands over his face. This was overwhelming, this was messing with other people’s lives, not like his own case at all.

After the court cleared him of his sister’s murder he had been ecstatic, for several days he had been unable to settle to anything. He had walked miles on the moors and spent long hours with his father, the second chance of a relationship still fragile and precious. Then had come a period of anti-climax which almost dragged him into depression, until he understood that now he had his life back he had to find a way to live it.

The search for truth and the ultimate prize of justice had spawned the idea of running some sort of enquiry agency. First he dismissed it as ridiculous, then considered it a possibility and now, well now it was becoming a desire. Whether it would morph into a plan and finally into reality remained to be seen. Still though, he wasn’t sure how to go about this. He shrugged his shoulders. He had to start somewhere and so, once he was home he surfed the net, reading online copy.

The papers carried the story for a few days after Melanie Walker had been killed and left beside the road, her blood flowing with the rain and muck into the roadside ditch. Then they stirred again when the net had closed around ‘A local man’ and finally had come the naming, shaming and the harassment followed ultimately by coverage of the court case which found Colin Bliss guilty of manslaughter.

Simon printed pages. He needed to organise his thoughts, it was possible to do it on the screen of course but he wanted paper, a pen, some hard copy, something to make it all seem real.

He learned about a young woman studying at hairdressing college, ‘a beloved daughter’ who met a violent and premature end. There had been a time when it would have been too close to home but he was learning to compartmentalise. Everything couldn’t be about Sandie. Other girls had died, other families had fallen apart and turned against each other and other truths had been lost in the mire of accusation and false belief.

Melanie had been out with friends but left early saying she wanted to walk home. It wasn’t uncommon for her to do just that.

There was no CCTV on the moorland road that she took, but the cameras at the end of the bypass and others on the main road to Ramstone, had picked up Colin Bliss in his Blue Ford Mondeo. No other vehicle had taken the same road at the same time. It wasn’t his usual route, the unfamiliar roads were unlit and winding. There was damage on the front wing of the car and when the police tried to follow up the story of a near miss with a double decker bus in the town centre in Leeds they could find no evidence. None of the bus drivers had reported anything. It wasn’t until the next morning, Colin had argued, that he realised the extent of the damage. The fact that the car had been washed thoroughly and repeatedly was also suspicious. There was no blood and the defence had made much of this but it had rained heavily during the days after Melanie’s accident and the assertion that there would always be some blood was dismissed. “She was thrown aside before she began to bleed,” said the prosecution and the road was wet, no blood would have a chance to creep into the crevices. Bliss had insisted that he washed his car regularly, he was a pharmaceutical rep, he had to present himself well, it was routine at least twice a week in the winter, more often still if the weather was bad.

On the girl herself there was nothing, she had lain in the road for several hours while her parents telephoned friends and paced from room to room in their home, trying to believe that all would be well. Her poor broken body was soaked, her torn clothes filthy. The only comfort for those who had loved her was that the injuries were to her head and it seemed that she would have been dead before the car sped away.

Simon dragged his paper and pen nearer. He would start by finding out about Colin, try to ascertain why Clegg was so convinced that he was innocent for surely there was nothing in the news reports to cast much doubt on the verdict. The facts had been gone through by solicitors and the police and examined over and over why should he believe that anything was other than it seemed, except he knew from his own experience that it could be.

***

The sun was beginning to dip and the light through his window was fading. It was a favourite part of the day and he pulled on his jacket, laced up his walking boots and left to have a hike across the hills before it became too dark.

As he walked for an hour in the quiet and gathering dusk he tried to empty his mind and leave room for thoughts to find their own way. Birds spiralled above him, sailing through the turquoise sky and sheep ran from him onto the short moorland grass, the regular thud of his boots and the peace soothed him as he had known it would.

Perhaps if he could start to understand Colin it would help. The man himself had said he wanted it leaving alone. It was odd but hadn’t Simon himself done something similar. When he had been beaten, slashed and stabbed in the showers in jail he had let go of any ideas of appealing his conviction, kept his head down and waited out his time. It was easier and he was tired of the struggle and nothing could bring Sandie back anyway.

Colin’s decision meant that, for now at least he couldn’t visit the prison. As he put the idea aside a tiny knot of tension unwound and he acknowledged the unease the idea of visiting a prison, any prison caused. It might have to be faced in the end but the longer he could put it off the better he liked it.

He kicked out at a loose rock beside the footpath. Maybe it was the thought of prison, maybe it was just good sense prevailing but he was again beset with doubt. This was stupid. He couldn’t do this. He climbed the stile and turned back to his home. He’d ring Charlie Clegg tomorrow, tell him he’d changed his mind and then he’d stop putting off the inevitable and start looking for a proper job.

The route took him past the end of Mill Street. As always he glanced towards Mill Lodge, one small window glowed with light, it was the kitchen of Gloria’s little flat inside the bed and breakfast – that was something he should be dealing with, something real. He had to go and see Gloria, they had to sort things out. He would do that tomorrow.

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Chapter 2- Book one in the Truth series is available on Kindle – click the linky thing

Twist of truth linky thing

 

There was no point going to bed, his mind was buzzing. Simon sat in his chair looking out at the empty road and the dark hulk of the moors above sleeping houses. He hadn’t a clue where to start. He actually felt a bit ridiculous, play acting. Now, with the flat to himself and time to think, it was obvious he should never have told old Clegg he would help him. This just wasn’t the same as his own story. Even though the man was right and he understood the frustration and the pain of being wrongly convicted there were so many differences. First of all, he had known for certain that he hadn’t done what he had been convicted of. He had been driven by the need to clear his name and he had all the facts seared into his brain.

What proof did he have of the very basics of this case, of the innocence of “Our Colin?” He had no right of access to any legal information. He hadn’t a clue where to start and had made a rash promise that brought the light of hope to flare in old eyes. But, here was the other thing, the idea that maybe he could do something with his experience, his studies and his deep seated belief that the truth was all that mattered. More than anything else and even though, as in his own case, reality might be unexpected, inconvenient and the repercussions were shattering it was truth that mattered.

It would probably go nowhere but really; the old man would be no worse off. He had made him promise not to say anything to his sister, not for the time being at least so really, what harm could it do. They had skirted the issue of payment and agreed that if and when Simon made any progress they would talk about it again. In the meantime, if there were costs Charles Clegg would pay. “I don’t want charity young man; I can pay my way don’t you worry.”

***

The sky was smudged with grey and a couple of early morning trucks had rumbled past he stood up and stretched his cold muscles. He took the glasses into the kitchen, checked the locks on the front door and in the quiet bedroom he slid under the duvet. He would ring Charles Clegg tomorrow and ask for a meeting, find out as much as he could and feel his way forward.

If he was going to do this, then there were also other issues to address and so he would go online. He would look at whether it would ever be possible, given his history, for him to formalise things and apply for some sort of licence. Then he knew just what he would do with the space downstairs, it would be his office. He grinned, Simon Fulton Enquiries. It sounded good. He’d have a web site; he’d need a car. He could do this, couldn’t he? He wished that Gloria was with him, he longed for her support, he just longed for her anyway. Seeds of doubt growing in the back of his brain taunted him but he ignored them. Here he was heading for forty in just a few years and he had never achieved anything. His developing career, such as it was, had been cut short and though he had studied in jail he hadn’t actually taken all that knowledge and used it. It was brute force, violence and luck that had been his salvation and he wouldn’t be able to rely on those things forever. Rolling with the tide, blown with the wind, he could hear his mother’s voice and she’d been right. He had never applied himself, maybe now was the time.

***

They met in the pub, a table in the corner away from the bar and the draught whenever the door opened. “Thanks lad, thanks so much. I were so pleased when you called.”

“I’m not making any promises Mr Clegg.”

“Call me Charlie, I’ve been Charlie all me life, to friends and family anyway.”

“Right, well as I say I’m making no promises. All I can say is that I will find out what I can, it might be nothing or it could be something you don’t want to hear, but if I think I can help Colin I will. I need your help though.”

“Of course you do lad. What do you want?”

“Well, first of all I can’t stress how important it is to be that you don’t mention this to your family. I don’t need the added pressure of your sister’s hopes and your wife’s expectations. Secondly I need you to jot down all the important stuff. The dates, the places Colin had been, the names of the police officers who dealt with it – anything really that you can remember. I need to know what happened to the car…” Clegg opened his mouth to speak but Simon held up his hand. “Don’t start telling me about any of it right now, it’ll just get confusing and it’s better if you write it down, carefully. Except for the dates, I need the dates so that I can start to look things up on the internet.”

“Aye right, what sort of stuff are you going to look up?”

“First of all I’m going to have a look at the papers, what they said about it all at the time. I’ll be honest with you. I’m just feeling my way here but I know that with my own case the reporting in the papers crucified me.”

“That’s it, that’s it exactly. They decided he were guilty and wouldn’t let it go. I don’t know how he was ever supposed to have a fair hearing.”

“Okay then, the date?”

“It were February two years ago. February fourteenth, easy to remember.” The old man nodded his head. “February fourteenth, two thousand and twelve. It’d been sunny all day but the weather turned, in the late afternoon, it rained.”

“Okay, let’s stop. Write down for me the time it happened, how it was reported and of course the name of the woman who died?”

“She were nobbut a girl, barely a woman at all. Poor thing, she were only eighteen.” He coughed and pushed the ends of his fingers against his closed eyelids. Simon picked up the empty glasses and walked to the bar to give the man time to collect himself. A young woman dead, a man wrongly imprisoned and a wife dying with Simon as her last hope. The magnitude of this task he had taken on was starting to become frighteningly clear.

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Chapter 1

 

Well silly me – I can’t do that – talk about a huge spoiler – oooops sorry.

I put up Chapter one and then though oh hang on that tells the world and his wife what happened in the first book. So, I took it down and then I had a re-think.

 

Go on have it – why not – it might entice you to read the first one -available on Amazon🙂

Chapter 1

Simon closed the door and led the older man into the dim interior of his messy shop. Charles Clegg peered around. “What’s going on with this?”

“Sorry?” Simon opened the door at the bottom of the stairs and waited for him to catch up.

“Well this, it’s neither shop nor office or nowt else. Some nice wood though.” He stepped up to the counter and ran a hand along the dusty wooden top. “A nice piece of mahogany, worth a bit. Folks like all this old stuff now. You could sell it.”

“It’s not mine. I don’t own this place. I rent it.” Simon glanced at the counter and the shelves, his mind filled the empty spaces with paper samples, books of designs and patterns. all the stuff that lay around when this was the display space for the small printing business operating here. The place of his apprenticeship, before desperate events left his family decimated and himself in jail for murder.

Why he was here still puzzled him but it had seemed right as he planned revenge and retribution. Maybe when that went in a totally unimagined direction he should have moved away.  He could have written off the year’s rent, taken some positive action. He hadn’t, he had allowed himself to settle, even turned it into a home. Sometime he would need to make more decisions about the use of the shop space and even where his life would go from here. His granddad’s legacy wouldn’t last forever and he needed to create an income.

In an attempt to move things along Simon turned and stepped into the stairwell hoping that the stranger would follow him.

He didn’t really want to do this now. He’d had a long day with his father, all the more precious since their recent reconciliation and now he planned an evening with a glass of whisky and his book. He glanced at his watch. “What was it you wanted to talk to me about Mr Clegg? I don’t really understand why you’re here to be honest.”

“Aye, right.” With a sigh the other man crossed the floor and followed Simon into his flat.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” Old courtesy, dyed in the wool. As he spoke, Simon waved a hand in the direction of the kitchen but again Charles Clegg was turning his head back and forth, taking in the newly decorated room and the mix of furniture, some newly bought and other stuff picked up from car boot sales and junk shops.

“This is nice. Wouldn’t have thought it from the look of downstairs. You want to have a word with the landlord. He could sub-let it. Cut your rent perhaps.” Simon struggled with his patience.

“I haven’t decided what I want to do about downstairs yet, but really Mr Clegg I don’t think we need to discuss it. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”

Clegg pursed his dry lips and let out another heavy sigh. Being forced to state his case it seemed that he might be overwhelmed and back out. He lowered his head and shook it a little, dragged out a huge white handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. “Oh I don’t know lad. I’m probably being downright daft but I just bethought myself that maybe you could do for me what you did for yoursen’”

“Tell you what, why don’t we have a drink? I’ve got some decent whisky or a Guinness. You tell me what’s on your mind.”

“Aye, that sounds grand.” As Clegg lowered himself onto the couch, Simon dragged a bottle of whisky and glasses from the cupboard built into an alcove beside the chimney breast.

He handed the generous measure over and took his own place in the arm chair by the window. Clegg began to speak again, his voice low but firm now. “Of course I know who you are lad. I know your history and I know what they did to you. I don’t know your family, though I did see your dad round town now and again. Folks were always happy to point ‘im out as he passed, shaking their heads and tut tuttin’ but not one of ‘em reaching out a hand in friendship.” Simon stirred uncomfortably and the old man coughed and took a sip of whisky. “Aye, well that’s done isn’t it, all done and Justice served at last. Well it will be by the time the police round all them buggers up and the courts work their way through it. I suppose it’ll go on for years, ‘anging over your ‘ead as well I expect.”

“Yes, but at least I cleared my name, eh?”

“Aye lad, you did that. That’s why I came to see you. It’s a cheek, I know it is but well, once ‘t’ idea took ‘old I couldn’t shake it.” He leaned forward now and stared straight into Simon’s eyes, “Would you be willing to do for me what you did for yoursen?”

“What, you mean clear your name? What is it that you’re accused of?”

“No, it’s not me it’s our Colin. My brother in law. He’s been locked up, two years now. Manslaughter. They reckon he were going too fast and he were drunk.  He’d been at a ‘do’, but he said he’d only had one drink, his so called colleagues were a lily livered bunch, not one of em would say aye or nay. By the time they came for ‘im it were too late for blood tests and what ‘ave you.”

“Oh no, no – I’m sorry Mr Clegg, you need a private detective, something like that. Not me, or maybe a solicitor who can go to the police for you. No. I’m sorry.

“Oh – I’ve been to solicitors and I’ve looked into private investigators but they’re a cold bunch, talk about fees before owt else. It struck me you see that you’d know, you’d know what it’s like to be beatin’ your ‘ead against the wall. He wouldn’t do it, ‘e really wouldn’t. He says ‘e wasn’t drunk, says ‘e didn’t hit nobody, didn’t see nobody but tell that to the police with their bloody cameras, they won’t listen.”

“Yes, I understand but really, I don’t think it’s me you want.” Clegg leaned forward and fixed his eyes on Simon’s.

“She’s dying you see. Our Colin told us to leave it, said as how ‘e’d serve his time – another three years to go and then he’d put it behind him. We tried to talk him out of it but it were no good. He said it was all too much stress for them, as a family and that ‘e wanted something left at the end of it, something of what it used to be like. That was before she got sick though. Doctors reckon she has mebbe a year. We haven’t told ‘im about it, says she doesn’t want to, but it’s not right. My Beryl and me, we’re driven mad with it all. Please, won’t you just see what you can find out? Please. He wouldn’t have done it, driven if ‘e didn’t think it were safe.

An idea had tickled at the back of Simon’s mind for months now, just a nub of a plan and now here it was, maybe this was some sort of sign.

While he’d been in jail he’d studied law, planning an appeal that never happened and keeping his mind alive and his spirit from the hopelessness that had threatened every day. The feeling of relief and ‘rightness’ when he cleared his own name had made him wonder if his future maybe lay that way.

Helping.

Most of the people he had been incarcerated with had protested innocence, of course they had. But, he knew that some of them were telling the truth and that the only thing that they had done wrong was to be victims of fate. Fate and the system and human fallibility.

He sipped his drink and spoke slowly to the old man in front of him. “I can’t make any promises Mr Clegg but I’ll tell you what, I’ll have a think about it and if I can help you I will.” His stomach clenched as he spoke, his own case had taken him into danger, disaster and the loss of a developing relationship with Gloria – what on earth was he doing?”

 

 

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Through My Eyes I See It

I came across this recently in a bit of a tidy up I was doing and thought it could have another outing:-

Through My Eyes I See It.

The trees in the park are glorious. Like a magnificent pavan they unroll as far as these old eyes can see, their ball gown finery, gold and russet and crimson billowing and tumbling in the breeze. The pain is good this morning. It is there prowling like a great bear around the battlements but for now at least the drugs repel it. Soon though the other assaults will begin, first on my physical self and then, and what is far worse, on my poor addled brain.

Here she comes now the “care assistant” who in truth needs some assistance to care. Bright and brittle in lavender and body odour. Brace for the first wave of attack “Oh Amy what are you doing sitting here all on your own? Let’s pop you with the others so that you can watch something more interesting, it’s no good you just staring out of the window at nothing all day.” Staring at nothing, the billow and wisp of cloud, the glorious, glorious trees and the oceanic swells of winter wheat rushing before the wind. “Staring at nothing.” And she will take me and “pop” me before that abomination the television. She will line me up with the others ogling in aquatic dumbness at the flashing colours. How I hate it, the joyless laughter, the high priestesses with their pregnant pauses and their pregnant bellies and the ignoramus hoi polloi giggling and flirting, leaping into mutual degradation all for their fifteen minutes and a free holiday.

Don’t “pop” me anywhere you lavender suited storm trooper. Leave me in peace with the song of the birds and the glitter of the frost where it lays encrusting spider webs beneath the hedge. Treacherous vocal chords gurgle and splutter. Outraged obscenities transmute into meaningless drivel and so I am duly “popped”. The second invasion approaches, there is nothing in my arsenal with which to repel. “Hello Amy, it’s Thursday.”

Good God Mrs Wilkins you don’t say, a revelation beyond all expectations.

“My Gerry comes today, he comes every Thursday without fail. He’s such a good boy.”

First of all you overblown dollop he is not your Gerry. He is Gerry who belongs to the world, he has a wife, a life and a reason to be. He can wash himself, shave his flabby fat chops and presumably grope ineffectively at his wife in the dark to produce his disgusting progeny. He is not a good boy he is an avaricious little shit who comes every Thursday in the hope that you will have expired on Wednesday night and the home haven’t had a chance to tell him. He comes so that he can pack up your feeble belongings and once and for all put this whole miserable responsibility behind him.

“It is a shame that you never had any children Amy, they are such a comfort.”

Comfort my arse you silly old fool. A cushion is a comfort. Haemorrhoid cream is a comfort Gerry is a cretin.

Now, it comes, the deepest torture. Another careless carer her mind on bus stop gropes with spotty youths and illicit fags in darkened corners will spoon pap into my gullet. Bang the spoon on my teeth again you moron and I swear I’ll somehow find the wherewithal to bite your hand. Oysters fresh from the sea in the South of France. Tender pasta robed in piquant sauce bejewelled with fiery peppers and bread still warm from the boulangerie. Drooling peaches and sun-filled melon with a Bacchanalian of sparkling white Bourgogne sipped from crystal goblets as the heat of the day bleaches the hills and diamonds sparkle in the bay. I can’t bear it, not another minute, not another mouthful, jelly and juice and plastic oh god.

The outsiders approach. The floral tributes, chocolates, pictures of grandchildren. The hugs and kisses, grinning rictus and off set embraces. No don’t come over here, please don’t. “Hello Amy, how are you today. You’re in the best place there’s a nasty wind out there and you’re lovely and snug.” A force seven gale off the ocean, lifting my hair glueing the clothes to my legs and startling tears from my eyes. His hair lifting and flicking as he smiles down at me, the two of us thrown together by the force of nature external and internal. His arms a harbour his broad chest my haven and the warmth of his body welding us together in the blasted sunshine. The sudden silence behind a hedge and the glory of daytime lovemaking. His tears, my tears the ghastly separation as he leaves for the airbase and the violence of waiting for his return. The devastation, the emptiness and the total loss of reason when he is gone and then the wretched years of decline becoming this traitorous slug of a body slumped in a dung heap home waiting for release.

He is here, he has come, it is time, thank God it is time.

“Nurse, excuse me nurse, can you come quickly and look at Amy I think there’s something wrong.”

Ah no for the first time in decades something is wonderfully right.

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