Tag: killer

Just Keep Breathing

‘Just keep breathing,’ he said.
‘You’ll be alright,’ he said.
‘I’ve got you,’ he said.
And with that, the man who’d been my rock and my love for the last fifteen years let go of my hands and waved me goodbye. It sounds cosy enough, but as he unlinked his fingers from mine, I plummeted from Floor 65 (the marketing department of my employer for the past seven years) to the ground. That’s what happens when your lover suspends you from an office block window.
His face was the last one I saw, and that smile as he watched me flail and fall – I think that was the only genuine emotion he’d ever shared. At that moment, when our skin lost contact, I knew, categorically, that I’d been right about him. Not all along, obviously. Only Lissa had known who he really was. And she’d known right from the earliest moment.
You know how they say that events of your human existence flash in front of your eyes as you pass from mortal life to eternal death? Well, I concede the truth of this.
As I fell, a flickering, fast-action film played behind my eyelids, and unsurprisingly, the film of my life omitted my earliest years. The fast-playing cinematic odyssey began only at the moment I met Artie Shaw.
I trusted his name. It was reassuringly working class and Northern – I made an assumption that he was reliable, down to earth and generally nice.
(Of course, I had no idea at the time that he’d changed his name as a tribute to Arthur Shawcross – the American serial killer – but in deference to his psycho hero, only used a shortened version of the man’s name – Artie Shaw.)
It was only four years after meeting him that I became aware his birth name was Adam Smith, but when I met him, just before my twentieth birthday, on a Duck and Partridge-organised trip to Alton Towers, I didn’t know.
‘Call me AS. Or Artie Shaw. Whichever version you like,’ he said, as he lightly and almost imperceptibly pushed away my best friend, Lissa. She scowled at him and continued the scowling all the way to the amusement park. But AS, AKA Artie Shaw, AKA Adam Smith, appeared unbothered by her disapproval. He barely looked in her direction, and I can’t pretend that I wasn’t flattered. After all, he was, and still is, the most amazing looking man. Skin so soft, and virtually hairless, eyes dark violet, and hair reaching his shoulders in curled black coils. Even as I fall I still don’t believe there is another man so surface beautiful in the whole of humanity. Though, behind his eyes there’s an unmistakable ugliness.
On that hour and a half coach trip, we talked mainly of music. Back in those happier days I was into the band James, and he took the mickey. Of course he did. Artie was far cooler than I would ever be, so was, of course, a fan of Nirvana. Later we spoke of badminton too, and I was shocked to discover that he’d watched me playing the previous day at the gym.
‘You looked hot,’ he said. He didn’t concentrate on my game or my power shots – he just thought I was sexy, that my breasts were bouncy, my legs were long and muscled, and my hair was ‘nice and shiny’ and parted in the middle. All surface. Just as he liked it.
I know this now. But back then I’d never met another person like him. He seemed to charm the entire pub or bus or room on every occasion he spoke, and always gathered himself a crowd of enthusiastic hangers-on.
And he was interested in little old me.
Lissa told me right from the first moment that I needed to keep away. She warned me not to get involved, but who listens to their best friend when a gorgeous violet-eyed man who could have had his pick of every girl (and many of the boys) in the pub shows interest?
It didn’t help that my mum and dad were as charmed by him as I was, and so was my flatmate.
Lissa was the only one who saw through the surface charm.
‘He’s lying,’ she’d say. ‘I don’t trust him. You shouldn’t either’.
‘But he’s lovely,’ I’d say, and put her concerns to one side. What best friend could ever compete with Artie Shaw, the most delectable male being ever to be born?
I should have realized what was to come when I tried to organize a date night out.
‘Can’t darling,’ he said. ‘It’s a night out with the lads tonight.’
‘Since when?’
‘Since forever. Cuppa would be nice, darling.’
I filled up the kettle and texted Lissa.
‘Fancy a beer, stranger?’ I wrote. Her response was immediate – ‘Yep, Grey Bull at 8. OK?’ But it was only two hours off, and I had to make dinner and have a shower and dress up a bit. But when Artie saw me preparing myself, he charmed me into staying at home.
‘I’m expecting a delivery, darling. I feel terrible, but…’ Of course, I agreed. But as soon as Artie left the house, my rebellious streak kicked in. It rarely did. But the rebellion continued to increase with every brush of my make-up. I arrived at the pub only a couple of moments later than Lissa.
She directed me into a corner with our drinks. I was dressed nicely but not fancy, in my expensive jeans and a tight but not revealing t-shirt. I wore boots with small heels and my hair was down.
Suddenly, Artie turned up at the other side of the pub.
‘That’s why I suggested coming here,’ confessed Lissa. ‘He’s here a lot and you can hear his voice echoing from the next room. Am sorry to tell you this, but he’s usually with another woman.’
‘Why haven’t you told me before?’ I gasped.
‘I couldn’t find the right time. I’m sorry.’
So, this was why Lissa had deliberately selected a small nook, away from passing customers, the bar and the toilets. Instead of this being our sweet, clandestine night out, it had transformed into a spying session!
His voice did carry. Every sentence he announced as in the style more of a political broadcast or speech. I half expected to hear rapturous applause and whistles and cheers after every one of his proclamations. But I hadn’t seen who he was in the pub with.
Once the shock began to dissolve a little, I asked Lissa if the woman was always the same. She shook her head.
‘Perhaps they are workmates or girlfriends of his mates?’ I suggested.
‘Does it sound like that to you?’ she said, her expression grim.
I listened again. There was plenty of giggling, and even more of that sonorous know-it-all voice. Well, that was a change. I was beginning to think negatively about him. I couldn’t remember ever admitting there may have even been the tiniest trace of anything untoward in any element of his personality.
I couldn’t’ remember precisely what served as my final trigger. And I couldn’t remember another night out with Lissa that had comprised of almost no talking.
But when I heard Artie referring to my beloved dog as the ugliest creature ever, I exploded inside.
‘Don’t do it,’ whispered Lissa as she looked at my face crinkling up with scarlet rage. ‘Don’t confront him here. No good will come of it. Honestly. Please!’
But I couldn’t and wouldn’t listen. Not at that point. I suddenly realized what I’d been hiding from myself. This guy was a no good narcissist, and probably worse.
I had to restrain myself from vaulting over the bar and clubbing the arrogant bastard. Instead, spoiling for a fight, I restrained my fury and marched out of our nook, like an ill-tempered Jack Russell, with Lissa at my heels.
Flash forward eighteen hours. Change location to my office building. And remove the entire cast of observers and Artie-fans.
And here I am, falling. You’d think that panic would warm me, but all I feel is chill factor. My immediate removal from the pub had made local news. And after that, my eighteen hour hostage status had been updated to potential fatality. On the ground, reporters hovered. Cameramen smiled. Observers observed.
I’d been dangling for twenty minutes before that bastard let go. And as I fell, I watched as the hostage team ensured the correct position of the safety inflatable intended to prevent my entire body from breakage. I landed.
I hit. I bounced. I stopped screaming.

The New Rumplestiltskin

Graham twitched awake and immediately found himself not only bound and gagged, but in deep confusion about how he’d ended up in that state.  As his eyes dragged painfully open, they adjusted to the low light and the truth began to filter into his consciousness. Within a couple of minutes, his brain had managed to piece together each disparate and seemingly irrelevant memory, and the picture this left him with was almost beyond belief.

Images of his tiny daughter, also bound and gagged, were printed onto large posters which also displayed a few scrawled words of black marker pen startling against the flat white background. “Fess Up Or She Gets It” the posters said.

This was not where he expected to find himself when he’d woken for the first time that morning. At 7am his alarm had run and he’d speedily dressed, ready to leave the house. He’d been positive and cheerful, looking forward to his meetings that afternoon, and to the kids’ party to be held at the indoor play area just down the round. His daughter, aged only three, had been awake for two hours, bouncing around happily, excited at the prospect of princess dresses, snack food, sweeties, and running round with friends.

But he’d opened the fridge for a rummage, looking for an individual tetrapak of orange juice to take with him in the car. He’d heard a noise, and after that could remember nothing.

Graham Harvey had been living the weekday morning dream. Then he wasn’t.

He looked again at the “Fess Up Or She Gets It” poster: a sheet of A4 with letters scrawled onto it with a thick royal blue marker pen in uneducated script.

Torn, as he usually was, between two different and diametrically opposed dialogues, he queried his senses about whether it would be best to shout out and demand rescue, or whether it would be wisest to sit still and wait. He decided on the latter, mainly because he didn’t had the energy for confrontation, and the bleeding cut at the back of his head was still both seeping and throbbing. After all, he’d been removed forcibly from his home and had been brought here. Surely that meant that the kidnapper must have been expecting something from him that wasn’t just money. He could have done it in a very different way if he’d only wanted the money. Still, it was an unusual way of demanding a ransom – to take the payee and leave the tiny, defenceless child.

Was that what had happened to his little girl?

And what did ‘Fess Up’ mean?

The thought hadn’t occurred to him till that moment.

His senses perked into action and he realised, for the first time, where he had been imprisoned. He was in Travis’s basement. The unused weight training equipment and the overstuffed, fading corner sofa gave it away. He’d been down there many a time watching football or rugby, knocking back a few cans, and shouting with jubilation at every goal.

So, Travis had found out. Graham should have anticipated such an extreme reaction. After all, a man was really asking for it when he embarked upon an affair with his best friend’s wife. Damn it.

That computer obsessed geek, Travis must have got away with it too, otherwise Graham would not be in this position – tethered and forced to stare at images on the walls of that small room.

Woozily, he attempted to rise from his position on the floor, and as he did so, the television sprung into action. Graham struggled to his usual seat on the sofa and watched as the screen came to life in a psychedelic swirl of garish colour.

The voice of a person he’d considered a friend, began to speak.

‘Mr Graham Harvey. You’ve been a bad, bad boy, haven’t you? Oh, yes, I know all about you and Debbie. She confessed. I admit under duress. And now it is time for you to fess up to your lovely lady wife, Shelley. She’ll be wondering where your sweet little daughter has got to, and wondering if you’re with her. Poor woman, it’s so cruel to rid her of the two millstones round her neck. But not as cruel as having an affair. With MY wife.’
Graham sat open-mouthed.

‘So, there are two things you need to do. First, you need to write a letter to Shelley. You need to tell her exactly what has been going on. No coded sentences. No clues as to your position or welfare. When finished, you need to push it under the door.  I’ll deliver it to Shelley.’

‘What’s the second thing?’ asked Graham.

The voice cut in. Clearly a recording. ‘You’ll no doubt be wondering about the second thing. You’ll find out soon enough.’

The television cut off and the room’s lights came on, exposing a pad of lined A4 paper and a blunt but still useable pencil on the coffee table.  Graham leaned across and began to write. 

It was difficult to express all he needed to say in words, and without his wife in front of him.  Really Debbie meant nothing. It was all about sex. There was no love involved, but how could he ever get Shelley to understand? He rubbed his eyes with his palms then placed the pencil’s lead on the page. He began to write…

There’s no need to go into detail about what his letter related. Suffice it to say it was the same excuse-making self-pitying rubbish that every other similar letter would include. It wouldn’t be enough to stop Shelley being upset. But nothing in this situation would be enough.

Graham got up with a little struggle, and made his way to the door at the top of the wooden basement steps. He pushed the paper under the door, in silence, and returned to the sofa.  

He watched the clock. Six minutes later a voice came from behind the door. It was the same voice as had appeared on the television earlier.

‘Your letter is inadequate, but, quite frankly, anything would be inadequate. She deserves better.’

‘I know. I’m sorry, Travis.’

‘It isn’t me who needs the apology, is it?’


A silence.

‘So, I’m just going to wander round to see Shelley. I’m going to hand your letter to her, and comfort the poor girl in whatever way I see fit.’

Graham winced. No, not that.

‘What about the second thing I have to do?’

‘Ah yes, my nasty neighbour, Graham. Your next task is to guess my name.’

‘I know your name. You’re called…’

‘No. Travis is a name I’ve been using for quite some time, but it’s not the one I was born with. Give it a thought, and I’ll be back later.’

‘No, wait… Why are you doing this to me? When are you going to let me out? What are you going to tell Shelley?’

But it was too late. Travis was gone.

How the hell was Graham going to work out the name of a man he could only see as Travis Fylde? Sighing and aching both physically and with the agony of heartache at the upset his wife would be experiencing, Graham again picked up the paper and pencil and began to write.

He had fallen into a disturbed slumber by the time Travis returned and again stood outside the basement door.

‘Graham,’ he wheedled. ‘Where are you, lovely neighbour?’

Graham woke with a jump. ‘How is Shelley? Is she alright?’

‘Dear dear,’ said Travis. ‘We can’t ask questions till we’ve answered the one I asked. What is my name?’

‘Why do I have to do this?’ Graham asked. ‘It’s like that scene on “Father Ted” where Mrs Doyle has to work out that a priest’s name is Todd Unctious. Or when the girl imprisoned and forced to work to spin something or other into gold, was forced to work out the name of Rumplestiltskin.’

‘Ah yes,’ said Travis. ‘Only on this occasion, there’s a lot more at risk than a little bit of forced imprisonment or forced labour. But, as you’re so ridiculously stupid, I’ll go easy on you. I’ll allow you to guess my two names independently. Right. On your marks, get set go.’

Graham stumbled to turn back to the correct page in the notepad. Mentally he extracted all the first names from the list, and he reeled off each one. Alex, Sam, David, John… then some slightly more unusual names – Sheldon, Gabriel, Cameron.  The silence was deafening. Graham continued with a few other more of the uncommon names – Vincent, Frank, Albert…

A shout from outside the door informed him that the last name he had read out was correct.

‘So you know I’m Grant,’ he said. ‘Second name. Ready steady, go…’

It was a lot more difficult and it wasn’t helped by the fact that Graham was still dopey from his kidnapping. He listed surnames from his family, his friends, his work colleagues, famous singers, famous writers… but still there was silence outside the door.

‘I can’t think of any more,’ he said, with a massive sigh.

‘Oh dear,’ said Travis/Grant. ‘Shall I give you a diddy little clue? Alright, dear neighbour, I’ll do you a tiny poem. My first is in love but not in hate. My second’s in pear and also in date. My third is in lemon but not in crime. My fourth is in punishment and also in lime. Have a think about it. I’ll be back.’

Graham spent almost an hour trying to work out all possible configurations, and there was only one name he could come up with. Vale. Grant Vale. But he was sure he knew the name from somewhere. He must have picked it up from the television.

But then it sprung into his consciousness. Oh no. Oh, very, very, definitely no.

Grant Vale. Grant Vale.

Serial killer Grant Vale. Revenge killer Grant Vale. Gone to ground Grant Vale.

And it was at that precise moment that Graham Harvey realised that pretty much the most inadvisable thing you could ever do was to have a love affair with a serial killer’s wife.

He lay on the sofa and resigned himself to his fate.

There’s a Stink in My Sink

There’s a stink in my sink.  It wafts up to meet me each time I enter the kitchen.  I don’t even need to go near the sink to get a whiff, and this kitchen is pretty large. 

I wonder how to deal with this.  It’s a definite stink, but there’s no blockage in the house, and the drain outside seems clear too. I’ve already poured a kettle full of boiling water into both plugholes.  I’ve doused with thick bleach.  I’ve pushed a long, skinny wire brush into the depths of the water pipe, and watched as it emerged, mucky and manky.  But the smell still remains. 

I am loath to add further chemicals to the bleach I’ve already used, as it seems such an extreme measure.  But, on the other hand, this stink is extreme…  it permeates my clothing when I settle in my armchair.  The dog noticed something was different a few weeks back.  He is a big dog, as you know, and jumped up to sniff the sink.  It made him sneeze.  He’s avoided the kitchen since.

My neighbour across the hall, Nigel, seems to be a nice man and I asked him in to have a look.  He often wears overalls and I once saw him with a huge bag of tools and carrying a plunger, so I figured him for some kind of plumber.  Turns out I was right.  Turns out he has a stinky sink too.  Bathroom as well as kitchen.  Me too, I said, but the kitchen is worse.  He poured some crystals into the plug hole and advised me to leave them for an hour or so then do it again if the smell hadn’t gone.  He said it made a difference to his sink and that I shouldn’t report the smell to the council as it would no doubt dissipate soon.  He didn’t say dissipate though – he said disappear. 

But the smell stays.  In despair I call the landlord, who comes to check all six of his flats.  All six have stinky sinks and no amount of foaming crystals is going to put an end to this problem.  I reported it to the council.  Three days later the workmen arrives: a positively speedy response.  They check within the drains and discover a problem: gooey stuff. At first they thought – fat iceberg – as these had been reported in the news as causing incredible problems for sewage workers.  But these pieces weren’t fat.  They were meat.  Bit by bit, varying sizes of meat pieces appeared and the rancid flesh was placed into a bucket. 

Then the council workers check five flats.  In them, the smell reduces as the rotting meat is removed.  In them, the tenants are grateful and happy that somebody has finally done something. 

From the sixth flat, that of my neighbour Nigel, there is no response to the workmen’s knocking.  Nigel appears to be out, so the landlord (who had been present throughout the council’s work, to ensure they didn’t try to charge him for works carried out) offers them a key.  I watch with curiosity as the four-strong group open his door. 

Within seconds, ashen-faced men emerge and I hear a snippet of their conversation.  It turns out that there is a good reason why Nigel keeps himself to himself.  It turns out that there is a good reason why he never has visitors, and insists on coming into a neighbour’s flat, should he wish for a little company.  He’d been subletting his flat to the remains of fourteen corpses.  Parts of these had been cut up and pushed into the drains which had been unable to cope.  Hence the stench. 

I never see Nigel again, but I still have his plastic pot of unblocking crystals.  His flat had been wiped clean of all his fingerprints, but there are a handful of prints remaining on the crystals pot.  The police discover Nigel’s identity speedily: Mark Charnock.  He had killed before and had disposed of the bodies in this exact same way.  He’d gone to prison, and had escaped.  So Nigel, or Mark, had begun his life again as he took the lives of others. 

Mark Charnock is soon caught.  It seems he couldn’t stop with his madness.  He couldn’t stop killing, and he made the terrible error of living on a new estate where the drainage system is woefully inadequate for his particular needs.

It is seven months later when I remember: seven months later when I run to the toilet to vomit.  I remember the ‘home made chill-chicken pie’ he’d made for me.  He brought it round in a beautiful earthenware dish.  I remember at the time thinking it odd that he referred to the pie as a ‘she’.  She’s a good one, he’d said.  Full of spirit.  Bit strong, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  I’d thought nothing of it. 

But I knew, as I wiped my mouth free of vomit, that I’d been an unwitting cannibal.  And that Nigel had laughed his socks off at the thought.