Bus Stop – Chapter 58

Sarah looked peaceful, lying in the chapel at the hospital.  There was a candle burning on a shelf high on the wall and a white sheet draped across her.  Libby stood looking down at her mother, Jed had taken a step back, given her space.  She reached out and stroked her mother’s hair, shook her head and turned away. “I suppose I’ll have to sort out a funeral.  I don’t know if there’s any money, I haven’t got any.  They reckon- the police – they said she was living in a rented room and hired that car.  Last time I was with her was in a nasty little flat down near London.  Just scraping by really, I suppose she still is – was.”  She sighed and frowned, “I wonder what you do, when there’s no money.  I mean, when my dad died we managed, some money had been coming in and then the blokes on the site he was on, they had a whip round.  It just worked out but I don’t know how to do this.”  She turned round, “Do you know – no of course you don’t.  You don’t have to worry about stuff like this do you?”

Jed thought about the conversation with Mike Irwin, the revelations about the Will and the letter.  He didn’t know if this was the right time to tell her, to let her know that these were no longer her problems.

“Have you spoken to the solicitor Libby?  Irwins, your Aunt Marian’s legal bloke.”

“No, I suppose I’ll have to, do you think he’ll arrange things for her, or is that on me as well.  I don’t know whether I need to do that. Oh I see … Ah you think that maybe because she’s family.  Oh brilliant, that’s brilliant Jed.  Of course, maybe I can get them to pay. Brilliant.”  She beamed at him.  She didn’t know and hadn’t given it any thought.  She was totally unaware that, as Sarah’s plan had failed so completely she was very likely going to inherit the whole property and presumably whatever else had been Marian’s.

She came towards him and stood close, she tipped her head back and looked into his face. “I need to say this Jed, thank you for what you did. You were so brilliant at the lake and although, this,” she turned back to the bier holding Sarah, “this is what happened, I’ll never forget what you did, the way you tried.”  She leaned up and kissed him softly on the lips.  “Thank you.  She was sick and she was nasty and violent but it wasn’t her fault, not really and she didn’t deserve this.  Although I suppose at the end of the day maybe, just maybe it’s better than her being locked up for years and I guess that’s what they would have done.”  She stopped for a moment and turned, took a step towards her mother’s body.  “What do you think Jed, honestly what do you think happened.” He had dreaded this question and struggled to form an answer, to have ready, but in the end he was simple and honest.  “I don’t know, I truly don’t she might have slipped, I didn’t see but she might have gone in deliberately.  She was climbing on the rocks when I last saw her, very near the edge.  It’s odd though, if she was scared of water why did she go there, why not run for the woods and get away.  Something took her there, to the lake.  We’ll never know though, will we?”  She turned back to him and her eyes swam just for a moment before she shook the tears away.  “I guess it doesn’t really matter but I’ll always wonder and I have to just find a way to live with that.  It wasn’t me though was it, I didn’t make her do it?”

He had never seen her so vulnerable.  He knew that he must be careful with his response but again was honest and straight with her. “I don’t see how it could be you.  She was confused and panicked and angry but no Libby I don’t see how it could be you.”  She nodded and reached out a finger to touch her mother’s hand.

They stayed a while longer, sitting on straight back chairs, not really sure what they were supposed to be doing or feeling, but nervous of leaving too soon in case it seemed disrespectful.  Then Libby leaned over and in a low voice she spoke, “Come on let’s go.  We can’t do anything here.  Let’s just go, I’m whacked and I could do with something to eat.  Do you think your mum will think I’m awful if we get a double pepperoni pizza and some garlic bread?”

Jed turned and smiled at her, “She’d only think you’re awful if you don’t get enough for her as well.”

“Come on then.  Oh …”


“Have you got any money?  I forgot to get any from the machine.  I wonder if they’ll pay me my wages next week.  Oh hang on though my mum must have been paying the agency, blimey I wonder how she was managing that.  Bloody hell it’s still a mess.  I hope she doesn’t owe people money; they might expect me to cover it.  Do you think they will?  Well, too bad eh, I’m pretty skint.  Oh, I can let your mum have the money for the rent though.”

He thought of the parcel still hidden in the back of his wardrobe, no way to know how much more Sarah had taken.  He remembered spaces where paintings had been moved.  Really it just didn’t matter anymore. He’d return it, put it back on the old desk.  He was ashamed remembering that he had suspected Libby, another secret for him to bury.  “Mum doesn’t want the rent Libby, you don’t need to worry about that. Let us help you, you’ve got enough to worry about.”

This new closeness was so precious, so fragile he didn’t want to mention the money that was to be hers and the house, not any of it.  He was scared about how she would react.  He slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, flicked it open and grinned, “Yeah, enough for a couple of pizzas anyway and some garlic bread. Come on, I’ve even got enough for a taxi.”


It was an odd few days, they moved through it step by step.  They felt suspended, isolated from the everyday waiting for the results of the post mortem on Marian and a date for the inquest.

The police were keeping them informed, but with both women dead it seemed that nothing would be rushed and it was all just dotting I’s and crossing t’s. It was set to go on for a while.  Jed’s mum had made Libby promise that she would stay with them until it was resolved, until she knew what she was going to do next. She had grinned at Jed behind Libby’s back in the bright morning kitchen and winked at him. He stomped from the room as the blush crawled up his neck and heard her chuckling quietly to herself at the sink.

Libby spent a lot of time alone in her room but they went for walks together and she joined them for dinner and slowly relaxed with Jed’s mum and dad.

Charles Herriot came, he had heard some of the story and was obviously itching to hear all about it but didn’t want to appear to gossip.

“Very strange situation Jed?”

“Yes, all very complicated sir.”

“You acquitted yourself well though, from the little I’ve heard.  Well done.”

“It was all instinct really, Scouts and swimming training, it just all came back.  Didn’t do much good in the end though.”

“No, of course a sad outcome.  Tragic.  And Mrs Carmody, all that time locked up and the caretaker not knowing she was there.  Well, that’s all very odd.”

“Yes.”  Jed nodded and feigned a yawn.

“Right well you must be tired, I’ll be on my way.  You take your time now Jed, don’t rush back. Wait until you’re ready, fully fit and all that.  Of course everything’s on hold with The Willows, bit of a mess there I’m afraid.  Place was crawling with police when I drove by yesterday.  Not sure what the situation is right now.  We might still be able to rescue something.  You never know.  Mike Irwin’s been in touch.  Apparently there’s an heir, so maybe it’ll still come through.  We’ll have to wait and see, fingers crossed and all that.”

“Yes sir, fingers crossed.”

He really didn’t care, it had all become so very secondary.  As his mother showed Charles out he heard Libby’s voice in the hall.  She had been out for a walk, and he supposed for her smoke, she was being introduced to his boss just as a house guest and he was amused to think that Charles had no idea who he was talking to.  She had an appointment with Irwins later on and once she knew about the Will he worried that she would run from it all. He wanted her to stay, he really needed her to stay.

Another voice joined the chatter in the hallway and Libby led one of the policemen who was dealing with the whole mess into the sitting room.

“Oh, hello.”  The two men shook hands, Jed awkward with his injured arm.  “I’ll just …” he turned to leave but Libby moved to block his way and put a hand on his chest.

“He can stay can’t he?”

“Yes, if you’re happy with him being here, of course.  I just wanted to bring you up to date, let you know where we’re at.” She nodded and lowered herself onto the sofa.

“Right well, as you know we’ve been searching the house and grounds trying to piece things together.  Because the house had been cleaned and re-organised ready for the viewings we don’t think that we’re going to find much in the room that you tell us was locked.  But, at the end of the day we are fairly sure that we know what happened, with your statement and the evidence in the cellar.  We have to wait for the results of tests and what have you to confirm it but …”  He paused for a moment, “We found a large quantity of drugs, a very large quantity hidden in the kitchen and the dining room.  We are tending towards the belief that erm …” he coughed, awkward and uncomfortable, Sarah.” Libby rescued him.

“My mum, it’s okay I know she was sick, unbalanced.  You don’t have to sugar coat things, just say what you have to.”

“Right, good, well.  It seems pretty clear that she, your mum had been drugging Mrs Carmody to control her.  You have already realised, I’m sure that she was kept in the locked bedroom and then moved to the cellar when access was needed to all the rooms in the house.”

“We know all this, we were there weren’t we.”  Jed reached over and squeezed her hand.  “Sorry, sorry it’s just, you know we lived this.”

“Don’t apologise, I’m just trying to put things in perspective.” The policeman smiled and peace was restored.  “Anyway, the main thing is that we have found the drugs.  We did find a large number of Marijuana plants in an old greenhouse which doesn’t quite fit with the other drugs which were pharmaceuticals but, well who knows what she was planning with those.”  Jed squeezed Libby’s fingers, they didn’t dare look at each other.

“Right, Wow, well good grief.”  He had to cover the moment or he knew the amusement bubbling in his stomach would overflow as laughter.

“Yes, but as I say we don’t know what she was planning with those.  They have been destroyed now.”  Libby tensed, he wanted to throw his arms round her, he knew she was struggling to control herself.

“Oh right, good. In that old greenhouse, shit.” She nodded her head and forced her face into a suitable expression.

“You can move back to the flat if you wish.  We have tried to leave it in a reasonable condition but I suppose it’s going to feel disturbed, sorry.”  He shrugged apologetically. “If you could just let us know where you are going to be that would be helpful.”

“I’m here for now.  I don’t know what I’ll do after that but, I’ll get my stuff from the flat if that’s okay.  I don’t think I want to move back.”

“No, well that’s understandable I think.  Someone will be in touch about dates for the hearings and what not.”

“Do you know when we can arrange the funerals.”

“I’ll make sure somebody let’s you know as soon as possible.  It shouldn’t be long.”

When they closed the door behind him Libby and Jed stood for a moment in silence and then simultaneously began to laugh.  She turned to him and he wrapped his arms round her as they giggled and the atmosphere lightened and the pall of gloom and worry lifted somewhat.  Watching from the study doorway Jed’s mother smiled and nodded and then moved quietly back into the room.


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Bus Stop – Chapter 57

They insisted on taking Jed to the hospital, asked Libby if she wanted to go with him in the ambulance. “No, I think I’ll just stay here, see what happens with Marian.  I’ll see you later Jed- okay”

“Okay, but let me know what’s going on won’t you.  Use the mobile.”

“Course I will.”  Then to the obvious surprise of the paramedics she turned and walked towards the little woodland, dragging a smoke from her pocket as she went.  Jed gave a small laugh. “She handles things in her own way.  She’s great though, really.”  They shrugged and glanced at each other as they helped him climb into the back of the ambulance which was also going to carry Sarah’s poor drowned body to the hospital. He’d told them it wouldn’t upset him and it made things easier.

As they drove through the main gates they had to pull to one side to let yet another police car through. The whole area was full of uniforms and cars and Jed would have liked to climb out of the emergency vehicle, find Libby and sit with her in the peace of the woods.  But, his clothes were wet, he was bruised and sore and his shoulder was on fire.  They thought he might have damaged some tendons so he sat with the shrouded body of her mother and let others take charge.


“So, where are you now Jed?”  I tried to ring but it just kept saying leave a message.”

“I had to turn the phone off in the hospital.  Did you leave a message?”

“No, I didn’t leave a message.  Why would I want to do that?”

“I would have known that you called.  I didn’t know you called.”  He realised that he hadn’t actually checked his call log and felt a pang of guilt.

“Yeah, well I said I would.  Are you okay anyway, your arm and everything?”

“It’s not bad, I’ve got a sling on and I have to be careful but it’s okay, I got painkillers.  Have you been to erm, you know to see your mum, her body.”

“Not yet.  I wondered actually if you’d– come with me.  It’s okay if you’re busy or whatever.”

“Of course I’ll come, when do you want to do that?”

“Oh shit, I don’t know.  The police have had me in an interview place for ages, I only just got out.  Then they asked me to go and identify Marian, that was stupid as well, I mean I never knew her did I.  Anyway, they seemed to think I was the best one to do it.  I said they should get that solicitor bloke but it’s done now anyway.  I had to go and just say yes I was with her when she died and she told me who she was.  It was all a bit weird.  Anyway, now they have to do a post mortem on the poor old thing.  Christ you’d think she’d been through enough.”

Well, just tell me and I’ll pick you up, I can borrow my mum’s car, oh hang on I can’t drive, not with my arm in a sling.  Never mind I’ll work it out.  I’ll come to the side gate yeah.”

“Yeah well, I’m not there?”

“What? How do you mean.”

“I couldn’t stay at the flat.  The police were everywhere and going through the house and my place and they said I should stay somewhere else for now, it’s all confused right now.”

“But, where are you?”

“I found a hostel.”

“Bloody hell Libby you can’t stay in a hostel.  Not after everything you’ve been through.”

“It’s okay, I’ve stayed in worse places.  I’ll just meet you in The Feathers okay. In an hour.”


She was sitting in the window with a pint of lager on the table in front of her.  She grinned at Jed as he came up to join her.  “Do you want a drink?”

“I’ll get it, I can’t drink because of the pills but I’ll have a coke,” he indicated the half empty glass, “Another one?”

“No, better not.  It won’t look so good if I turn up stinking of booze.  At least they let me have a shower, in the bedsit.  I was sorry about that, I liked living there.” She shrugged, yet again accepting the vagaries of her fate.

“Right.  Listen Libby, my mum is going to come in the car and run us to the hospital, if that’s okay.  I’ll just ring her when you’re ready.”

“Okay, that’s nice of her.”

“Yeah, she’s great.  Freaked her out a bit when the police turned up at the door to say I was hurt, but she’s calmed down now.  The thing is though, I told her about you, about where you said you were going to stay.”  He saw the flare in her eyes, the tightening around her mouth.  “Oh come on Libby, after what had happened what did you expect.  I told her all about it, of course I did.  It’s what families do.”  She lowered her eyes to the table, her fingers were wrapped around the glass and she slid it backwards and forwards in tiny jerky movements.

“Yeah well I don’t have much experience of that do I?”

“No, I know.”  He leaned and put his hand on top of hers.  “My mum said that if you like you can come and stay with us.”  Almost before he finished speaking Libby was shaking her head.  “No, just wait, don’t say no straight off like that.  Please Libby.”

“I don’t stay with people Jed.  I need to be on my own.  I can’t.  Tell your mum thanks but I’m better on my own.”

“But Libby, we’ve got a spare room, you can even have your own key and come and go as you like.  It’s nice Libby and comfortable, you could stay in the room or join in with us, whatever you like.  I just hate it, the idea of you in a hostel.  I want to look…”  He stopped as she raised her eyes to his.  “Shit Libby, we’re friends aren’t we.  I just want you to be okay, I want you to be comfortable and safe.  Just until you get sorted that’s all.  Please.”

She didn’t speak for a long time but then she looked up at him, “Tell you what.  If your mum’ll let me pay her some rent.  If I can just be by myself when I want, if I don’t have to, you know …”

“I can guess what she’ll say about the rent, she’s not going to like that …”

“Well,” she shrugged and went back to sliding the glass on the wet table.

“Okay.  Okay I’ll talk to her, will you come though.”  She grinned at him.

“Thank you.  That’d be great.”  He sat back on the straight wooden chair, a small glow of happiness had begun deep inside, he pushed it down, all she had agreed to was to come and lodge with them.  Still though it was something.

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Bus Stop – Chapter 56

Staggering and slipping he struggled up to firmer ground.  Sarah hadn’t made a sound and her head lolled loosely on her neck as he dragged her with him.  Her limbs flopped pathetically on the grass.  He laid her on her front, lifted her with a hand under her belly so that her head was lowered and he thumped her back, nothing happened.  He flipped her over, laid her straight and tipped her head back, straightening her airway.  With his thumb on her chin, he pulled open her mouth and peered inside, there was no obstruction.  He lowered his head, covered her lips with his own and breathed into her.  He drew back, turned to the side, gulped in another breath and again lowered his face to hers, and then again, watching her chest, desperately hoping for spontaneous movement.  He was peripherally aware of Libby running round the lake side.  He knelt more upright, crossed his hands on Sarah’s chest and pumped, thud, thud, thud, counting under his breath, one, two, three.  Now the breathing, the pumping, again the breathing and still there was nothing.  He put his fingers on the side of her throat, searching for the throb of life and felt only cold, wet skin.  Again he pumped her chest.  Libby had reached them.  “Kneel down here Libby, when I tell you do this,” he demonstrated the cardiac massage.  “Can you do that. You need to push harder than you want to, don’t worry, nice and regular but good and hard.”  She nodded and crossed her hands on her mother’s body.

Thumping, breathing, thumping, breathing and hoping for a sign of life, for the gasp and cough that would tell them that she lived.

There was nothing. On and on, still there was nothing.

They didn’t hear the rush of water, nothing of the song of the birds all there was in the world was the rhythmic blow of air and the gasp from Libby with each thump of her hands on the still, unresponsive body.  On and on they went, willing her to live, to breathe, to reward them with a spurt of watery vomit and the splutter of revival, but it didn’t come.

Her lips were blue, Jed pulled up her lids and looked into her eyes, they seemed to him devoid of the light of life but how could he be sure, how did he know whether he could stop, maybe she was on the verge of recovery.  He looked up at Libby, though there were tears forming in her eyes she didn’t flinch from his gaze.  She shook her head, but he told her, “We should carry on; I think we should.”  He turned his head again and took in a deep breath but when he bent towards Sarah he saw that Libby had placed her fingers over her mother’s mouth.  “Libby.”  She shook her head.

“I don’t think it’s any good.  You tried Jed, we tried but I don’t think it’s any good.”  I’ll go and get your phone, will you stay with her.  He fell back to sit on the grass, his shirt was torn and stuck to him in clammy patches, his arms and legs were weak and he began to shake and shiver.  He nodded and as Libby left to fetch his jacket and to ring for the police and an ambulance he lowered his head to his bent knees and closed his eyes …

He felt the sudden warmth as his jacket was draped around his shivering shoulders and looked up into Libby’s eyes.  Shock had whitened her face but there were no tears and as she flopped down on the grass beside him to tell him that the police and ambulance were on the way her voice was steady.  She leaned and laid her hand over his.  “You did your best.  That was so bloody brave, going into the lake like that.  You did your best, Jed.”  She moved closer and wrapped her arms around him.  You’re frozen, here we go, you’ll have to ignore the stink, I know I honk a bit but I’m pretty good at sharing body heat.

“I’m sorry Libby, I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, me too.” And they sat together and listened to the wail of the sirens drawing nearer.


The first responders pounded around the edge of the lake, they brought their defibrillator and oxygen, they went through the motions but everyone knew that it was too late.  Sarah was dead, there was to be no bringing her back.

“I’ll go and open the main gates, for the ambulance?”  Libby stood now as the paramedic wrapped Jed in a survival blanket and laid another over Sarah’s body.

“Are you sure love, I can do that it you want.”  She shook her head and strode away.  “Tough your girl isn’t she.  Holding it together.”

“Oh, she’s not my…”  Jed stopped himself, it didn’t matter.  “Yeah, she’s awesome.”  Do you know about the other woman?

“The other woman?”

“Yeah in the cellar, back at the house.”  He could tell by the look on the young man’s face that either Libby had forgotten to mention about Marian, in the drama with Sarah, or the message had become confused.  He suddenly felt dreadfully weary and almost didn’t bother to go on but with a sigh be continued.  “In the cellar, the woman who owns this place, she’s dead.”  As the emergency worker jumped to his feet grabbing at his bag Jed held out a hand, “No, she is very dead.  She’s been dead for a while.  Actually I think you should call the police, unless they are already coming.  Shit, what the hell has happened, what the hell has gone wrong.” And he lowered his head again.  He heard the paramedic muttering into his mobile and then tuned it all out, listened to the sound of the wind in the trees and the sing of water as it made its way back to the river and he waited for Libby to come back.  Perhaps she would put her arms around him again – he could only hope.

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Bus Stop – Chapter 55

Because of the slope of the ground Jed lost sight of Sarah as she neared the lake.  The next time he saw her she was clambering on the rocks at the narrow end of the expanse of water, the place where he had seen Libby crying quietly days and days ago.  He heard the thump of feet on the grass behind him and turned to see Libby hurtling across the meadow.

“Where is she?  Can you see her?” she shouted.

“She’s down here, by the lake.”  He stretched out an arm pointing behind him but when he turned back Sarah had vanished.

“I can’t see her.”  Libby was alongside him now, scanning the grounds.

“She was on the rocks.”  They didn’t verbalise the thought but when Jed reached out to take her hand Libby didn’t pull back as she might have done before.  He looked down and saw his own fear reflected in her face, there was nothing he could say to reassure her.

It didn’t take them long to reach the bank, “Be careful Libby, it’s slippery.”

“She’s scared of water.”


“Terrified of the water, always has been, after what happened.  She can’t swim, neither of us can swim.”

“There!” Jed pointed towards the centre of the lake.   Sarah must have submerged as she went in and now bobbed to the surface yards from the rocks and swept by the current, rolling and swirling towards the huge grating in front of the drainage pipe, “It’s okay, it’s okay.  Stay here.”  Libby was staring at her mother as the water carried her on.  Her eyes were pools of horror, dirty fingers covered her mouth.  She glanced at Jed, then turned back to the lake and walked as far as she could, up to her ankles in the shallow water licking at the muddy bank.

Jed kicked off his shoes as he ran and then plunged down past Libby, he shrugged out of his jacket and dragged his trousers down and over his feet, and then he forged forward.  As soon as it was deep enough he thrust off with his legs, his arms reaching.  His crawl stroke was strong, he’d swum for the school and county and had always loved being in the water but the pull of the current was stronger, dragging at him and it scared him. He tried to adjust and keep some control but Sarah was struggling in the middle of the lake, her arms flailing, the pale blob of her face vanishing over and over as the water took her under.  Libby was yelling from the bank it sounded muted and distant.  “Mum, mum, hang on.  He’ll get you.”  It spurred him on.  He gave up some of the attempt at control and let the rush of water carry him. He was bumped and knocked by floating debris but the flow swept him towards where Sarah was. He struggled to keep her in his sights because she was sinking more and more often now.

Libby screamed from the bank, “She’s gone Jed, I can’t see her.”  He took in three deep breaths, exhaling between to make sure his lungs expanded fully and then dived into the murky depths.  Visibility was very poor, the lake full of leaves and twigs and though the water itself was clear it was dark with swirling sediment, he could only see a few inches in front of his face.  He pulled back up to the surface, spun his head and caught a glimpse of the pale cardigan a few yards to his left.  As he swam towards her Sarah vanished again and he dived under. legs kicking, arms stretching and pulling with all his strength as he tried to reach her.  She was no longer struggling but swirling downwards just an arm’s length away.  He kicked out and reached, grabbing at her clothes.  His finger ends touched the fabric but as he tried to close his grip she rolled and it flicked away from him.  His lungs were aching now, his throat beginning to burn but he knew that if he went back to the surface it would be too late, she would disappear into the dark.  He jack-knifed, pushed downwards with his upper body, flicked his legs upwards and kicked hard, going deeper, fighting the current, trying to get underneath her.

Stretching and grabbing he caught at her hair, twisting it around his right hand and then snatched her clothes with his left.  Now, with his lungs on fire he turned his head to the surface and saw the distant, vague gleam of light on the wavelets above him. He propelled himself upwards, dragging the dead weight and broke the surface just inches from the pipe.  It was too late to avoid it and as his body was slammed into the metal grating he tried to take a stronger hold on the woman but still only held her with one hand in her hair.  The relentless rush smashed her, a broken doll against the metal struts.  He was desperately trying to keep her face above the surface and his arm and shoulder screamed with the effort.  He needed to take in air but the pounding water filled his nose and mouth and he felt his throat close.

He turned away from the flow and threw back his head and coughed and spluttered, snot and water running from his nostrils but was able to take in a breath.  Sarah was beside him pushed and twisted by the constant gush. He took a great gasp and then spun back round, his back against the grating.  The water battered and pounded at him but he was able to use the force of it to hold him in place with his feet twisted between the bars and his legs braced against the metal so that he could wrap a hand around the sagging body.  Once he had a better grip he thrust away from the pipe sideways, at an angle to the rush of water and kicked with all his remaining strength for the shallows.

As the force decreased he rolled and wrapped an arm over Sarah. Holding her on his chest and belly as he kicked with his legs to the nearest bank.  It was muddy, slimy and steep and for now all he could do was lean against it, gasping and coughing.  He wasn’t going to be able to climb out at this spot but the current was weak here and so he half swam, half waded until the slope lessened enough for him to scramble out pushing and dragging the ungainly, helpless body with him.


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Oh Look What Happened Now



November 19, 2015 · 11:17 am

Bus Stop – Chapter 54

He changed tack, “Here let me have that bag.  I’ll carry it for you, we can go together and take it to Marian.  I’ll help you.”  Jed needed to get down there, to let Libby out and see what had really happened to Mrs Carmody.  He needed to do something about this mess.  He reached out and took the plastic carrier.  To his surprise Sarah gave it up easily and linked her arm through his.

“Well thank you so much.”  They stumbled along the narrow path and then down the first of the dingy steps.  He called out “It’s okay Libby, we’re here.  It’s okay.”

“Well you took your time.  Come on, bloodywell get me out.”  Sarah tutted as she shook her head and then turned to take the shopping from his hands.  “Now, you have to wait here, and then we’ll go and see the solicitor.” In her twisted world all was in order, she was in control.

She inserted the key into the old lock, turned it and began to pull the door but it flew open knocking her onto the dirty concrete slab.  Libby pushed through the space and stumbled on the flailing feet of her mother who was scrabbling backwards up the steps. “What the hell. Shit, mum it’s you!”


Jed leaned forward, he dragged the older woman to her feet and reached out a hand to Libby who was standing in the doorway watching in disbelief as her mother straightened her clothes and picked up the fallen carrier bag.  She turned to Jed, “Where did she come from?”

“She was in the garden, coming to see to Marian.”

“Well, she’s come too bloody late by a long way.  She’s in there dead and cold.  Do you know what you’ve done?”  She had grabbed hold of Sarah’s face, one hand on each side of her head, she was peering close into her eyes.  “Do you understand what you’ve done now?  She’s dead.”

“No, no she can’t be,” Sarah shook her off and stepped towards the cellar door. “She can’t die yet.”

Libby turned to Jed, “I think you have to ring the police, we need the police and I suppose an ambulance.”

“Are you alright Libby.”

“Me? Well yeah, I smell like a stable and I’m thirsty but yeah I’m okay.  Marian though, she’s in there on her own.  She was so thin and so scared and lonely.”  She raised a filthy hand and rubbed at her eyes.  “Poor old thing.  She just drifted off in the end, in the stinking cellar, in the dark.”

Jed stepped towards her and carefully, because he didn’t know how she would react he put his arm around her and briefly she leaned into him.  “You were with her then, when she died, you were there.”

“Yes, we were trying to keep warm.”

“That must have been horrible.”

“Well, it wasn’t the best way to spend a night.” She shrugged him off. Anyway, as I say we need the police I think.”  She turned and followed the sound of Sarah’s voice.  While they had been talking she had shoved past them.

Jed took out his mobile, turned on the torch.  They heard the sobbing before they could see round to where the body lay against the wall. At first it seemed that Sarah was overwhelmed with grief, she sobbed and groaned.”  Libby turned and looked at him and raised her eyebrows and then they drew nearer.

“Stop it, Stop it – Mum, leave her!” She dashed forward and began struggling with the other woman, who was holding the dead body in what had at first seemed to be an embrace. Sarah was trying to pull the corpse from the thin damp mattress, she was trying to make it stand.  “You’re not dead, you’re not.  You can’t be dead.  It’s not time.  Stop it now, stop pretending.  You can’t be dead.”  They ran to where Sarah struggled to hitch the heavy weight upwards.  Jed grabbed at her, dragging her away and Libby threw herself towards the remains of her great-aunt as it slid hideously towards the floor.

“Bloody hell, stop it Sarah.  Leave her, she’s dead can’t you see it’s too late, she’d dead.  It’s all over, leave her now.  Let Elizabeth cover her up.  We need to get an ambulance for her.  Just leave her.”  She spun from his grasp and backed away shaking her head and pointing.

“No, that’s not fair, she had to know what it’s like, she had to feel the despair.  She can’t have it her way, she always had it her way, they all did.  No.” She turned and before he could stop her she ran for the door, up the steps and out into the garden.

“Go get her Jed.  Catch her, she’s sick.”

“Are you okay?”

“Of course I am but she’s not.  Go and catch her, get my mum. I’ll come, when I’ve seen to Marian but you just go,” and he left her lifting and pushing at the awkward cadaver and retrieving the damp covering from where it had fallen.

“Sarah, come back. It’s okay Sarah.  It’s all going to be okay!”  He jogged up the steps into the bright day and looked around but she had vanished.

He dashed back through the produce garden expecting that she would head for the car parked outside but the gate was closed.  He turned and ran back to the front of the house, there she was.  She had crossed the drive and was now running across the drive and onto the grassy meadow leading to the wood and the lake.

“Sarah, wait.  It’s alright Sarah, come back.  We’ll help you.”  He glanced back, torn between a need to help Libby and the urge to chase after her demented mother.  She sped on, her long cardigan flying behind her, never glancing back just on and on pounding down to the lake and wood.  If she made it through the trees she could be over the low wall and away, but as he watched she veered to the left and slipped and slithered down the increasing slope towards the glinting water.

“Sarah, wait!”

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Bus Stop – Chapter 53

Jed tried to move on, intent on reaching the shed, finding something to use to release Libby.  Sarah stepped in front of him. He shifted to the side, tried to go around her, “Didn’t you hear me?”  Libby is locked in the cellar and Mrs Carmody is dead.  Get out of the bloody way.”

Sarah shifted again, blocking his way, “No, she’s not, she’s not dead and anyway, what has any of this to do with you?” The question brought him up short.

He’d had enough.

“Libby, is Elizabeth, your daughter and she’s locked in the cellar with Mrs Carmody your aunt, who it seems is dead.  Is that clear enough for you.”

“Elizabeth, no that can’t be.”  Sarah shook her head then leaned and looked past him in the direction of the cellar.  “No, Elizabeth has gone, she left me, ran off.  She’s not here.  You’re wrong.  Anyway this is nothing to do with you.  You’re only supposed to be selling the house, that’s all you have to do.  I don’t know why you think you can come round here trying to take over.”

Jed bent towards her, he grasped her upper arms, forcing her to look at him, “I’ll say it again. Libby – Elizabeth, your daughter is the caretaker.  She’s down in the cellar with the dead body of your aunt.  Now, move and let me get something to let her out.” He pushed her sideways and she stumbled causing him to grab out at her again and hold her more tightly, to steady her. She muttered to herself quietly, and closed her eyes.  When she opened them again she looked perplexed. “Marian can’t die yet.  She can’t die until it’s all over.  When it’s all gone and she has nothing left but not yet.  I have to go and see the solicitor.  I have to give it all away, all the money, it all has to go – everything.  No, she can’t die yet.  I’ve brought her some food.”  Here she held up a thin carrier bag, there was a bottle of water sagging against the side and he could see a small triangular package – a sandwich maybe.  The story began to fall into place, it was incredible but everything started to make a sort of insane sense. “You.  Was it you? you locked them in?”

“I had to, I had to get her out of the way.  It was your fault though,” she pointed at him and nodded,” insisting I unlock her room, she’d have been okay in there.” She pointed at the house.  “She’d been fine in there for ages, sleeping in her own dirt and so grateful for all the help I gave her. Stupid old woman. I had her under control.  I’d kept her quiet.  Didn’t I keep her quiet?  But no, not enough for you was it?  You insisted that the room was opened.  That caretaker told me.  I had an email, ‘Oh you have to let me into the room, you have to, they need access.’  Now she tipped a head to one side, a frown wrinkled the skin between her eyes, deepening the groove. “That was the girl from the agency.  She’s just someone to pass messages, just a nobody, that wasn’t Elizabeth.  She was living here but only as part of her job.  This should have been my place.  No, Elizabeth left me, she ran off and left me on my own. I have to go and take this to Aunt Marian,” she lifted the bag, shook it in front of him, “I have to give her the water and some more medicine, can’t have her waking up.  When it’s all done, when I’ve seen the solicitor and it’s all gone, then she can die.  But not until she feels it, feels what it’s like to have nothing.”  She tried to push past him and Jed held her back.

“My God, has it been you, all of this.  The house sale, the paperwork, everything? And all this time, that poor woman was locked up.”

“Well of course silly, who else would it be.  There is nobody else, they’re all dead.  Mummy and Daddy – they drowned and then Brian, all gone.  Nobody left, just her, the old bitch and she can die now, once I’ve shown her what it was like.  What it feels like to have nothing”

“Have you got the cellar key?”  She pulled it from her pocket, a big old-fashioned brass key with a long shaft and a heavy bit.  She wagged it in front of him and as he reached to snatch it from her, she danced backwards along the path.

“Oh no, you can’t have it.  I have to go and give her some water and then I have to lock her up again, it’s nearly over.  It took a lot of planning but it’s nearly over now. She can come out when it’s all gone.”

She was mad wasn’t she?  This little woman, older version of wacky, fascinating Libby, she was quite mad.  He felt completely unprepared for this, had no idea how to proceed.  “No, Sarah, you have to give me the key and you have to let me go and get them out.  After that we can talk.  You can talk to her, your daughter, Libby, Elizabeth.  You’d like that wouldn’t you.  Wouldn’t you like to see your daughter?”


“But, it’s your little girl.”

“She left me, she went away and didn’t care what happened.  Anyway it’s not her, I wouldn’t have pushed my own daughter down the steps.”

“Christ, you pushed her down the steps.  How could you?  And then you locked her in, with a dying woman?”

“Don’t be silly, I wouldn’t do that to my own daughter.  No, I locked Marian in, she deserved it.”  She was nodding her head now, “She did you know.  Then that girl, the one from the agency, came snooping round, poking her nose where it didn’t belong.  Well of course she had to stay down there.  Didn’t see me behind her, not in the dark,” she giggled now, just briefly before putting a hand in front of her mouth. “Don’t worry though, I’ll let them both out once the house is sold and the money is all gone, all going to charity, see that’s a good thing. You should go, you should tell that solicitor to get a move on, tell him that it’s all okay and he must just do as he’s told.  Then they can come out.  When it’s all gone.”

In the background, like distant thunder he could hear Libby pounding on the cellar door.


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Literally Stories – Week 50


Literally Stories – The Anthology ebook and paperbook – all proceeds to The Book Bus charity

Originally posted on literally stories:

A year is a long time.  Well a good three hundred and sixty-four days.  If you don’t believe me multiply the seven days we have in a week with the fifty-two weeks in the year. Anyhow, I mention the year as that is the time that has passed since our first ‘Post’ was published.  I wonder if Jenny Morton Potts realises that she is now part of our history?
We have had a ball.  It hasn’t always been easy.  To be truthful the submission numbers have at times been a bit of a disappointment and sometimes a struggle.  We have always kept true to our initial ideals.  We have only published what we thought was either interesting, unique or edgy. If we got all three of those, we were delighted.  The writing always had to reach the standard that we insisted on.
So to all who we have published, to…

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Bus Stop – chapter 52

He started back in the flat.  Though she certainly wasn’t there it was as good a place as any.  All was as he had seen it except for the absence of Sarah screaming and kicking him.

Before he left he snatched the bunch of keys from the hook by the door and then let himself into the big house by way of the small, half glazed blue side door.  It felt empty, walking around dead rooms and peering into cupboards and storage spaces he could feel that she wasn’t there but was compelled to look anyway.  He called her name as he went.

Afterwards he closed and locked the door and then turned to the end of the vegetable garden. A small rickety shed sat against a wall.  The dirty little window didn’t give much of a view from outside.  It looked dusty and neglected inside but when he turned the knob the lock opened smoothly.  Old hinges creaked and the door stuck on weeds grown along the edge of the path and it was pretty obvious nobody had been in amongst the old tools and pots for a long time.

There were other outhouses though and he would search them all.  Why Libby would be in them was a mystery but at least he could then cross them off his mental list.  She must after all be somewhere.

Did Sarah actually know? Impossible to even guess and once he had exhausted the estate what then.  Was it possible that Libby had simply gone and he would never see her again?  The thought was horrible.  He would look for her here and then – well then, he just didn’t know.

His mobile vibrated in his pocket and he groaned pulling it out and reading the screen ‘Mike Irwin’.  He was surprised by the time notification glowing on the tiny screen, he had been more than an hour in the house and shed.  He was very late for work and hadn’t let them know.  More trouble to deal with.  He clicked the accept key.  “Mr Irwin good morning.”

“Jed, I won’t keep you, just calling to say thank you.”

“Thank you?”

“Yes, for your speedy action regarding The Willows.”  Best not to speak and so he simply made a small noise, a grunt.  “Mrs Carmody’s representative came in this morning, about half an hour ago, unfortunately it was before I arrived at the office, but I have an appointment with her later.  It would have been better of course to meet with Marian immediately but at least we are moving forward so, thank you.”

“Right, good.  So, I’ll join you shall I?” He had to be there, he just had to be.

“No, no I think better not.  It may be necessary for us to discuss other confidential subjects, no better not.  I’ll keep you informed of course,” and with that he rang off.

‘Mrs Carmody’s representative’ Libby?  But why suddenly and why not let him know first?  He had walked back towards the house as he had been speaking and intended to move on to the little workshop and the garage, should he carry on, if she had contacted Irwins perhaps it was pointless. He heard a car draw up on the other side of the wall,  quick footsteps on the road and then the creak of the side gate.  If this was Sarah, and indeed who else could it be, he didn’t want to be found again.  He jogged back round the corner to where the cellar steps were. He knew that the door was below ground level and he could hide there until she had gone.  The steps were mossy and damp but the space was shadowed and would serve.  He jumped down the small flight and tripped at the bottom.  He shot his hands forward to save himself and they thudded against the rather soggy old wood but he didn’t fall.  He took a handkerchief out of his pocket to wipe the mess from his hand and then pushed into the corner to wait.

On the other side of the door Libby pressed her ear to the boards.  She had heard the dull thump and surely she had felt a thud.  She grabbed the metal pick and pushed it through the keyhole, she yelled out “Hello, help – help.  Hello, I’m in here.”

The wire poked against Jed’s side and the shock sent him back onto the bottom step his hand against the place on his jacket where he thought he had been attacked, by what – a rat maybe a cat, something had clawed at him anyway. He scanned the area and that was when he saw it, a shiny stick of some sort jigging back and forth in the keyhole.  He turned to look back into the garden but couldn’t see much because of the low vantage point.  He leaned nearer to the door, trying to keep the noise to a minimum he whispered.  “Libby, Libby is that you.”

“Jed, thank God. Yes, I’m locked in. let me out for Christ’s sake get me out of here.”

“Quiet Libby, just keep quiet.  I think Sarah is here.  Keep your voice down.”

“Bugger that Jed, just get me out of this place.  Marian is in here.”

“Marian, do you mean Mrs Carmody.  Bloody hell, is she alright?”

“No, she’s not soddin’ well alright, she’s dead.  Please Jed, get me out.”

He jumped back up the steps into the garden, he would go to the shed, there must be something there to break the lock or smash the wood of the door.  As he rounded the corner Sarah was looking straight at him.

“You again! why are you back here?”

“Never mind that.  Libby is stuck in the cellar and Mrs Carmody is down there, she’s dead.”


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Bus Stop – Chapter 51

Jed turned out of the narrow side gate heading for the main road.  It was nine-o clock and the morning traffic was increasing.  He carried on for a few yards and then stopped.  He couldn’t just walk away from this.  For one thing going into the office with no news wasn’t an option and for another it was obvious that Sarah had lied and lied again. In the bedroom he had been caught off guard, embarrassed and guilty but the things that he had been told didn’t make any sense.

Sarah obviously did not know that the caretaker was her daughter and so Libby wasn’t with her, ill or not.

He had believed Libby walked through the wood on Thursday evening, but it could just as easily have been Sarah, seen from a distance in the dark – yes it was probably Sarah.

In his mind’s eye he could remember the patch of puckered and shiny skin on Libby’s arm, evidence of uncontrolled violence.  If Sarah could do that to her own daughter then what other dreadful things might she be capable of, and what of Mrs Carmody, he was no nearer to finding out where the old lady was.

Perhaps he should report Libby missing, her clothes were there and she wasn’t, and for sure she was not with Sarah.  Then he imagined trying to explain about mothers and daughters, vanished old ladies and wills and letters, no that wasn’t happening. He could go into the office, be up front about the whole thing, get down to the nitty-gritty, the covering up that he had done and the obfuscation – he gave a huff and shook his head.  After that he could trail up to London and get a job in All Bar One and live in a bedsit, if he could afford it. Or he could do what he should have been doing instead of standing about like a prat, he could go back and find her.


Libby searched for the wire flag, scrabbling around on the filthy floor.  She crawled on her hands and knees until eventually she had it back in her possession.  She tore at the fabric again until what was left was a thin streamer fixed to the end of the piece of metal.  She wound it as tightly possible down the full length of the makeshift handle.  It was a tight fit but with a final spurt the thing poked through the keyhole and into the light.  She shook and juggled it until the fabric unrolled and then jerked it back and forth and felt the pull of it as her flag waved on the outside of the cellar door.  She dragged it back a little now and wedged it in the hole.  It would do no good to sit all day wagging it back and forth, though in truth there was little else for her to do, but it was there, dangling from the keyhole.  She needed to wee and went the noisome place that she had used before and squatted in the dark.  She reached out and pulled a piece of the old sacking towards her and used it to wipe herself dry.  She felt filthy and knew that she was beginning to smell, there was no help for it, but it added to her sense of desperation.

That done she jogged on the spot until she felt warmer, then went back to the door and sat listening.  There were birds tweeting in the garden but it was too far away to hear the traffic on the road.  She sighed and leaned back against the wood. There must be something else to do. She took up another piece of the wire and began picking at the door with it.  It bent and broke but now and then she was rewarded by a sliver of wood splintering away.  Maybe if she dug away for long enough she could weaken the board near to the lock and simply kick it out.  Occasionally she jiggled the banner although it seemed pretty futile.  Until the light changed.  It was so subtle that she would have missed it had she not been concentrating on picking at the boards.

The shadow passed, stealing the glimmer of light from the gaps in the wood.  Someone was outside, she grabbed the handle and jerked and rattled it frantically, “Hello, I’m in here.  Can you hear me?  In the cellar – Hello.”

She felt the pull on the wire, she pulled back still yelling, thumping now with her other hand.  Again it was pulled, stronger this time, yet stronger and then it was gone.  Snatched from her grasp and dragged through the little hole.

Her palm was torn and bleeding and her other hand was throbbing from thundering on the door.  She stood up, pulled at her clothes, fastened her jacket and waited.  She waited for the rattle of the key in the lock, waited for the shout from outside telling her it was all okay, she’d be out in a minute.  Just hold on.  She waited.  The shadow moved away, they’d be back in a minute, probably gone to get the key or an axe.  She waited.

Sarah flung the wire flag as far as she could into the flower border and dragged the gate closed behind her.  She turned to the left and around the corner to where her little car was parked.

Jed watched her go.


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