Danny: Part Twenty-Eight

This is the twenty-eighth part of a fiction serial, in 847 words.

My uncle had to make the best of his new situation. I was now firmly in control of things, and had both sets of car keys. As annoyed as he was, he had to comply, and still bought the shopping and did the cooking. He had to go to the supermarket on the bus now though, and struggle home with the bags.

As for commuting to and from work, he went to the local Halfords and bought a basic bicycle. I laughed as I imagined him pedalling along the main road, as he probably hadn’t been on a bike for forty years. I told him he had to buy a safety helmet too. I couldn’t risk him being killed in an accident.

At least not until I was eighteen.

My new job was not quite what I expected it to be. The training programme supposed to direct me into a managerial role started off from ‘the bottom up’, as my boss liked to say. That meant I was doing everything from making tea for the warehouse staff, to stacking the waste cardboard and tying it in bundles ready for collection.

If it was meant to humiliate me, or break me, I didn’t let it. The pay was the same, whatever I did, and I had Brian’s new car, now my new car, to drive to and from my job.

One of the long-serving fork lift drivers started to pick on me though. Derek Fox was a heavily-tattooed man who favoured the wearing of sleeveless vests under his hi-vis waistcoat. That meant his voluminous chest hair protruded through the gap like a huge bunch of salt and pepper grey broccoli. He thought it was funny to send me on pointless tasks, like going to the equipment stores and asking for a Long Weight. I was naive enough not to realise that meant a long wait.

And I stood there for thirty minutes before it dawned on me.

Another day, he was fiddling around at the back of his fork lift, and called me over. “This isn’t working, you need to go to the stores and get me a bucket of steam”. I didn’t fall for that one of course, but I went to the stores anyway. I could hear Derek and his mates laughing behind my back.

He was on borrowed time.

The second part of my induction was learning how to drive a fork lift, and working with the regular mechanic to service them, and do basic repairs. He was a nice bloke, and complimented me on how well I drove the awkward vehicle. “You’re a natural, Danny. Some of the new starters take weeks to get the hang of it”.

He called me Danny, so Tom became my friend.

Now I was in a real job, with only four weeks holiday a year, my regular women could no longer come to the house until much later. Sandy stayed regular though, and her forty quid a week paid for my lunches, and petrol for the car. I had grown to like her a lot, and one day she had news for me. “My old man died in prison. They said it was Angina. I’m going to move back down south and live with me sister. Gonna miss you, darlin'”.

I let her off paying that day, for old time’s sake. Maybe it was time to look for a real girlfriend.

Before that, Derek had to pay for his ridicule.

The company got a new contract, delivering electrical goods to a big chain of high street shops. There were all sorts of things like fridges, washing machines, freezers, and televisions. When they came in from the manufacturers, they were stacked really high in the warehouse, until the individual orders from the shops came in. I was on my last week working alongside the mechanic, when I heard the warehouse manager talking to Derek.

“There will be some overtime for you tonight, if you want it. I need forty washing machines brought down from the stacks, and put on pallets for tomorrow’s distribution loading.” Derek jumped at the chance to earn the extra money, and I carried on working, as if I had heard nothing.

As people started to leave at the end of the day, Derek went into the staff canteen to make something to eat before he started his overtime. The night team were due in later, and he would work with them for the couple of hours it took. It was easy enough for me to hang around, telling the mechanic I would put away the tools, and clean up.

Onece nobody was around, I walked over to where Derek’s fork lift was parked. He had fitted a whip aerial onto the back, with a fake fox’s tail attached. Everyone called him Foxy, because of his surname, and he had seen fit to personalise his truck.

All that was needed was to loosen the main hydraulic fitting. Just a little bit, enough for a tiny leak that wouldn’t be noticed at first.

Two turns with a big spanner.

Guest Post: Abbie Johnson Taylor

I am delighted to have received a guest post from American blogger and writer, Abbie Johnson Taylor.
It is a short story.

STARTING OVER

Shelby gazed out the kitchen window at the barn and surrounding landscape, covered in winter snow. More flakes were falling from an overcast sky, cascading in swirls of white. It felt so good to be home. She’d always loved her parents’ ranch in Wyoming, the wide open spaces, the livestock, the wildlife, even the harsh winters, and wished she hadn’t left after marrying Ian. As a matter of fact, she wished she hadn’t married Ian at all.

The kitchen door opened, and her father came in, stomping the snow off his boots and closing the door. “Boy, it’s really coming down out there,” he said, removing his gloves and stuffing them in his coat pockets.”

Shelby turned to him with a smile and said, “Well, the dishes are washed and put away, and the kitchen is as clean as I can get it. How else can I help?”

“Well, nothing else needs to be done right now,” he answered, removing his coat and hat and hanging them on nearby hooks. “Sit down. I’m gonna brew another pot of coffee, and we’re gonna talk.”

“What about?” she asked, taking a seat at the kitchen table.

She knew the answer to that question. The day before, after making the hasty decision to leave Ian and after not speaking to her father in months, she’d called him from the Los Angeles airport and given him her flight information. He’d asked no questions and promised to meet her at the airport in Sheridan. Her flight from Denver had been delayed due to inclement weather, and she’d arrived late the night before, but her father had been there when she’d gotten off the plane, and they’d ridden most of the fifty miles north to the ranch in silence. Now, he was ready for answers.

He said nothing, as he started the coffee pot, then took a seat at the table across from her. “Well, something tells me you didn’t just drop everything and come all the way back to Wyoming from California just to help your old man out, now that your mom’s gone. By the way, how’d you get that nasty bruise on your cheek?”

She touched that spot. It still felt tender. Shaking her head in an attempt to clear the memory, she said, “I’ve left Ian. You know why he wanted us to move all the way to California? To get me away from everything and everyone familiar. The counselor at the women’s shelter where I went yesterday told me that sort of thing is common. The abuser tries to isolate his victim, so she doesn’t have any support system.”

Her father’s face darkened, and his fists clenched. “Son of a bitch! I had a feeling something was off about him but didn’t want to say anything. When I was your age, if anyone had told me there was something wrong with your mom when I married her, I would have said they were nuts.”

Shelby couldn’t help smiling. “Well, you were right about Ian, but of course, I wouldn’t have listened.”

“So, he’s been beating you up?”

“Yes, it started after our honeymoon. We’d just gotten settled in Huntington Beach that night when you called to tell me about Mom’s car accident. He said I didn’t need to come back here to be with her, that she would be fine, that he needed me more. I figured he was just tired. So, I took my phone in the bathroom and made the airline reservation. He said nothing and for once, he wasn’t interested in making love. Again, I figured he was tired. So, we just went to sleep. The next morning, he still wouldn’t talk to me.”

“I see.”

“I called him from the hospital in Denver, where Mom had been airlifted, but I just got his voicemail. I told him Mom wasn’t expected to live and suggested he come, but as you know, he never called me and never came. You and I figured he didn’t want to leave his new accounting job so soon after starting, which is understandable.”

“I suppose, but he still should have been with you.”

“Yeah, well, it just got worse after I got back. That was when he started hitting me every day for some minor infraction. His steak wasn’t cooked just right. The apartment wasn’t clean enough.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“At first, afterward, he apologized and told me how much he loved me. Bla bla bla. But then, he stopped doing that and became a control freak.”

“I’ll be damned.”

“He also made fun of me and put me down. He didn’t like me getting friendly with any of our neighbors. It seemed like he was always jealous.”

As tears threatened, she hung her head. Her father reached across the table and took her hand. “Honey, I’m sorry.”

“At first, I thought he was stressed out because of the new job. I thought that if I tried harder, it would get better, and we would eventually go back to the way things were before we got married. I loved him, but I don’t know why now.”

“You were interested in selling real estate. I thought you said you’d find a job doing that in Huntington Beach.”

“He wouldn’t let me. He wanted me to be a stay-at-home wife. He didn’t want me getting involved in anything. So, what was I supposed to do at home all day besides cook, clean, and shop?”

Her father sighed. “You know, I think your mom felt the same way. With you being our only child, once you were grown and able to take care of yourself, there wasn’t much for her to do out here in the middle of nowhere. Of course, I wouldn’t have objected if she’d wanted to work, and I never raised a hand to her.”

Shelby found herself smiling again. “Mom was lucky. You were a great husband. Anyway, something snapped yesterday. After Ian left for work, I researched women’s shelters and found one nearby. I went there, but then, I decided I just wanted to come home.”

“Of course, honey. You did the right thing. I love you, and no matter what happens, we’ll get through this together.”

“I love you, too, Dad,” Shelby said, no longer able to hold back her tears. She jumped up from the table, hurried around to his side, and pulled him into a bear hug, burying her face in his shoulder, drinking in his reassuring scent. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you before and tell you what was going on. I just didn’t know what to think until now.”

His arms came around her, as they’d done many times when she was a child, hurt or frightened. “Honey, it’s water under the bridge. The important thing is that you’re home and you’re safe.”

As her father held her, Shelby also realized that after months of feeling like a bird in a gilded cage, she was finally free.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of three novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Her work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet, The Writer’s Grapevine, and other publications. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Please visit her website at: https://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author https://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com abbietaylor945@gmail.com

Full Circle

An excellent short story from American blogger, Pam. Bang up to date, and delivers a punch too.

All Things Thriller

Under normal circumstances K.K. would have gone Unionville Parkway even though it made her commute ten minutes longer. That’s what everybody does. If you don’t go Unionville you have to take H27 South straight through Scottstown. And nobody wants to do that unless they have to get to the hospital–fast.

Scottstown is bad. Lots of gangs. Lots of dope. Especially over there by Memorial.

Lots of guns there too, but people don’t talk about that. Probably cause there are lots of guns in Unionville also.

Back when she lived at home, our parents forbade her from going anywhere near downtown Scottstown. “Girl, I’ll light you up if I catch you over there,” mother would warn. Dad just threatened to take her car keys; her whole life, he never laid a hand on her.

All the threats in the world didn’t matter though, when Sawyer, Toby and Lady T went dry…

View original post 831 more words

Danny: Part Twenty-Seven

This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 783 words.

Some opportunist criminals found McCarthy’s body just after dark. They were trying to break into the remote garages, and no doubt were delighted to find the door unlocked. Less delighted by what greeted them inside, they made an anonymous call to the police then ran away.

Just as I had hoped, suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning was immediately believed to be the cause of death. Even with no suicide note, it looked completely non-suspicious, and a quick check on his background soon revealed the allegations in his former job, and his hurried departure to our town. It got a brief mention on the local news that Monday evening, and that was that.

Unusally, there was no special assembly in school, and his unexpected departure was never mentioned.

What followed for me was a period of contentment and reflection. I reflected on the fact that I was connected to every death in some way, however tenuous. If someone ever investigated them as a whole, I would end up being the main suspect. But I wasn’t worried, as I felt secure in the knowledge that there was no evidence whatsoever. They would never get enough to charge me for any of the killings, let alone all of them.

My little sister had suffocated on a toy that was too big for her cot.
Paul Carpenter had drowned on a solo swimming trip in a dangerous place.
Sophie had been depressed after arguments with her parents, and had hung herself.
Maria was a drunken criminal who had blown herself up by lighting a cigarette during a gas leak. Nobody missed her.
Liam and the old woman next door were unintentional. Yeah, sorry about that.
McCarthy deserved what he got. I suspected that other victims of his lust were cheering his death.

Eight deaths. Six deliberate murders, two collateral damage. Not that much, compared to famous killers.

I had no desire to be famous, so it was time to take a break. Leave some space between any deaths that might later be associated with me.

Get on with my studies, and fiocus on my next milestone, becoming seventeen and getting a driving licence. Three months before my birthday, I attended a careers exhibition at the school, and got chatting to representatives of the company I worked for eventually. They liked my grades, and said that if I didn’t go on to university, they would train me up on a management programme in the less than fascinating career of delivery logistics.

That appealed to me for two reasons. It wasn’t that far from where I lived, and the pay was good.

That same day, Uncle Brian decided to buy a new car. Being Brian, it was nothing exciting. A standard Ford Fiesta four-door in factory red, with no extras. He took out a two-year loan, after paying a substantial deposit, and collected the car the following Saturday. I suggested that he could put me on the insurance once I had my provisional licence, and take me out on ‘L’ plates. He grinned.

“Do you have any idea how much that might cost? An inexperienced driver of seventeen? Too much, that’s how much. Best you think about proper driving lessons when you can afford them”. I grinned back. He would learn the hard way.

The exams that summer went well, and I passed everything I hoped for. My plan was to leave school after the Easter break, and start my new job the first week in May. Meanwhile, I received my learner licence, and booked an intensive driving course for the second week of the summer holidays. It was very expensive, especially the one-to-one option that I chose. Picked up in a company car in the morning, and driving for most of the day, with practical classroom work before they dropped me back at home.

It lasted from Monday to Friday, with the official driving test pre-booked for the following Monday. If Brian wondered where I had got all the money from, he never asked me.

Passing first time wasn’t a done deal, but I was very pleased to receive the slip that meant I was a qualified driver. The next day before Brian went to work, I told him that not only did he have to put me on the insurance for the Fiesta, he had to sign the car over to me, as the new owner. Once he had paid it off, it would be mine.

As soon as he started to ridicule my idea, I only had to mention informing the police of what he had been doing to me, and he nodded.

Then he shut himself in his room until he had to leave for work.

Danny: Part Twenty-Six

This is the twenty-sixth part of a fiction serial, in 855 words.

McCarthy was very talkative in the car. “Call me Patrick, but never in school of course. I could tell right away you were interested, Daniel. You gave me the look, and that got me excited at the prospect of talking to you. That’s why I offered you the lift this morning”.

He also told me he had left his previous school and moved over one hundred miles to get away from possible accusations that might have destroyed his life. I was actually shocked at how much he wanted to tell me.

“There was a boy at my old school. You know how it goes, we liked each other straight off. He wanted me, and I felt the same. It lasted a year, until he was almost fifteen. He told me he loved me, and wanted to live with me when he could. I told him that could never happen, but I never realised he would hang himself once he knew that. People had seen me giving him extra attention at school, and they started talking about that. Before any trouble started, I applied to change jobs, and ended up here”.

I assured him I wouldn’t be killing myself over anyone, certainly not him.

“It’s easy to see you’re special, Daniel, it really is”. To confirm what we both knew was going to happen, he ran his hand up my leg as he said that, and licked his lips.

Once we got back to my house, he parked around the corner. Inside, I abandoned all pretence of offering him a cup of tea, and suggested we go up to my room.

Looking back, I have to be honest now. It wasn’t that bad. Much better than putting up with Uncle Brian, and lots of affection and tenderness, which was totally unexpected. In different circumstances, I could see how I might be quite happy with him. But the circumstances were not different. He was a teacher, and a horrible bastard teacher into the bargain. He liked me so much, he rang his wife and told her he was held up with reports at school. Then stayed for a second session, not leaving until almost seven-thirty.

After that first time, he was completly smitten. He left Dominic alone, and changed his teaching style completely. Some of the other kids at school were wondering how come he had suddenly become a nice guy. Only I knew the answer to that.

During that school term, I let him have his way with me once a week, keeping him keen. But he wanted more, and at weekends, when he could tell his wife he was attending various sporting events. When I told him he couldn’t come round at weekends because Uncle Brian would be home, he devised a plan. Renting a garage not far from where he lived, he took me there one Saturday afternoon.

To make sure that nobody saw him picking me up in his car, I had to meet him by a bus stop on the south side of town. That was when I discovered he lived nowhere near me.

Even if I had really wanted to get together with him, the choice of a rented lock-up was pretty seedy. Having sex in the back of his car lit by flourescent strip lighting was far from my idea of an affair. He tried to sweeten the pill by bringing along lots of snacks and soft drinks. As a health-freak, he didn’t drink alcohol, and that removed the Maria option.

But that garage gave me an idea.

To make it work, I had to convince him I was crazy about him. Given my experience over the previous three years, that was easy enough to do. I was so convincing, he even talked about leaving his wife when I was eighteen, taking early retirement on two pensions, and us moving in together once I was done with education.

Like Maria, vanity was his undoing.

I still had some of Brian’s unused vallium, and together with half of an old hosepipe from the garden shed, that was all I needed.

One Sunday afternoon, after a particularly passionate meeting in his car in the garage, I produced a two-litre bottle of coca-cola from a rucksack I had brought along. He gulped down almost half if it, flushed as he was, and had no idea it contained ten of Brian’s vallium tablets. I offered a second time, which he jumped at, but when that was over, he fell fast asleep in the back of his car.

Pulling up his trousers, I made sure three of the car windows were shut tight. Then I opened the back one above his head just enough to get the end of the hosepipe through. Once it was in place, I jammed his jacket into the gap, then placed the other end into the car’s exhaust pipe, wrapped in some rags I found in the old garage.

My last job was to start the car, leave the engine running, check that the fumes were filling the car, and then leave after closing the up and over door shut tight.

Danny: Part Twenty-Five

This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 795 words.

Life continued to calm down, and I carried on doing well at school. On my sixteenth birthday, Uncle Brian bought me a fancy watch with a metal bracelet. He told me it was the one James Bond wore.

Like I believed that for a second.

He was still being bullied at work, both mentally and physically. I suggested that he change jobs. For one thing, the local bus companies were looking for drivers, and the pay wasn’t far removed from what he was earning. I was surprised by his response.

“I won’t let those bastards beat me, Daniel. They can push me around, steal my food, refuse to answer me when I talk to them. But I am what I am, and it’s too late to change that now. If I stick it out, they will eventually get tired of it”. I was impressed by his optimistic outlook, but thought he had really missed the point.

They would never give up. It wasn’t going to go away.

I had whittled down my female visitors to two regulars by then, including Sandy. With eighty pounds a week coming in from their visits, I now had well over two grand, even allowing for treating myself to a new X-Box, and some nice clothes. I only had two years to wait, and then everything would get so much better.

Then we got a new Games teacher.

Mr McCarthy replaced the much younger Mr Addison. He had got married, and was moving to New Zealand, so the rumour had it. McCarthy was a very different animal. Late forties, ex-drill instructor in the army, and in every way possible, a complete bastard.

Yes, he was hard on us in Football and Rugby. As for P.E., he would run you ragged until you collapsed. But that was only the half of it. When it came to shower time, he was there. Perving over the naked boys as they showered, then turning to watch them as they got dressed by the lockers next door. He showed undue interest in a couple of us, including me.

Uncle Brian had told me enough about the signs and indications over the years, so I immediately realised his intentions. Dominic was a quiet boy, studious, and no trouble. McCarthy would pick on him during class in the gym, and whatever we were doing, Dom was never good enough at it. But when he received no reciprocal signals from Dominic, he transferred his affections to me. I knew all about signals from Brian, so it was easy to lead McCarthy on.

His time in this life was limited from the first time he winked at me.

Managing to divert his attention from Dominic, I soon had the horrible man on the hook. Like a lot of them, he was married, and even had a daughter at university. And also like a lot of them, he led a double life of abusing teenage boys, I instinctively knew that. At the age of sixteen, strictly speaking we were legal. But that didn’t apply to teachers, who had a duty of care to their pupils.

Not only would they lose their jobs, they would almost certainly get a custodial sentence in prison.

But that was never going to be enough for my liking. Not for McCarthy.

He managed to instigate first contact by stopping his car to offer me a lift into school one day. I later found out he lived in the opposite direction, so had clearly looked up my address and cruised around until he spotted me. McCarthy wasn’t very original, pulling the seat belt across me after I got in, to get as close as possible, then allowing his hand to brush my leg every time he changed gear.

“You got a girlfriend at school, Daniel? A good-looking boy like you must have your pick of the girls”. I told him I didn’t have a girlfriend, then for good measure I added that I found girls a bit silly, and not that interesting to be around. He told me that his wife was boring, and he had been pleased to see his daughter leave to go to university as she was lazy and argumentative.

“I would have preferred a son. Someone like you would have been good, Daniel”.

When he dropped me off, I asked him if he wanted to give me a lift home later, and I would meet him at the back of the school grounds so nobody would see me getting in his car. I told him my uncle was at work until at least ten, and he could stay for a cup of tea if he wanted.

He could hardly speak with excitement, and his throat sounded dry.

“That would be lovely. Thank you”.

Danny: Part Twenty-Four

This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 726 words.

Shaking Uncle Brian out of his doldrums wasn’t easy. I had to resort to threatening to report him to the police in the end. I was bluffing of course, as that would likely have seen me end up in a children’s home, with my dad not offering to house me, and me not wanting to live with him anyway.

But it worked. Brian came off the tablets, and started to do his share around the house. He would cook meals before leaving for work, and I could hot them up when I was hungry at dinnertime.

To cheer himself up, Brian took a week’s holiday and went off to visit Amsterdam, telling me he had never been there. I wasn’t invited, which was just as well, as I wouldn’t have gone with him. To be honest, I didn’t actually believe he was going to Holland. More likely meeting some other men with similar sexual proclivities nearer to home.

The weekend when he was away, I took the opportunity to search the house properly. I knew he would have incriminating stuff hidden away, and by the time it got dark that Saturday, I had found most of it. He did hide it quite well, but chose places that I had seen used on many crime shows or films. Large envelopes taped to the underside of drawers in the bedroom, others placed behind the desk he used in the tiny spare room not much larger than a cupboard.

Most of what I found was as expected. CD-roms and home-burned DVDs containing thousands of indecent photos of young boys. Memory sticks with video clips of boys engaging in sex with older men. Including Brian, who could clearly be identified in at least a dozen clips. I replaced them all very carefully, exactly as I found them. They could wait until the time came.

Then leafing through a tattered box file that was in plain sight on top of a bookshelf, I found something that I really hadn’t expected. It was my paternal grandmother’s will, signed and witnessed on a date I recognised. My fifth birthday. It came with an accompanying letter from one of the more reputable solicitors in the town, and the contents of the will itself were very short.

She had left everything to me, her only grandson. I could claim my inheritance, which consisted of the house and contents, on my eighteenth birthday.

Nobody had ever mentioned that.

Not willing to take a chance that those papers could be destroyed, I removed them from the box file, and took them up into the loft, wrapped in tinfoil. At the back of the loft where nothing was stored, I lifted the fibreglass insulation, and slipped my little parcel under it. Even if Brian noticed they were missing, which seemed unlikely as the box file was covered in thick dust, I doubted he would ever mention it to me.

If he did, he might have to tell me what was on the paperwork.

Finding the will changed everything. I had a goal now, and a fixed date to look forward to. In less than four years, I would inherit the house. Once I had been to see the solicitor, I would give Uncle Brian the bad news. He would be out on his ear.

That gave me something I wasn’t used to, peace of mind. I became a nicer person, more content, more forgiving.

When Sandy arrived early on Monday evening as arranged, she had someone with her, a mousey-looking, quiet woman who looked to be about ten years younger than Sandy. I was a little confused at first, and asked if they wanted to both go upstairs with me at the same time. Sandy laughed so hard, she almost choked.

“Nah, nuffink like that, darlin’. Rachel’s me younger sister, ain’t she? Got the train all the way up from London just for today. She’s got the money, forty as usual”. I was in such a good mood after discovering the will, I told her that Rachel could have a freebie.

That good mood continued for the rest of the year. I did well at school, remained pleasant to Brian, and soon had almost fourteen hundred stashed. I had to use two pairs of shoes to hide it by then.

And since Maria, I hadn’t killed anyone.

Honest truth.

Danny: Part Twenty-Three

This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 785 words.

No chance of getting much sleep that night. When Uncle Brian got home, he was chattering about the event that was a big deal on the estate.

“Gas explosion, they reckon. It was on the news in the car radio. Two dead, one critical”. After the sirens of the emergency vehicles stopped, there was a helicopter flying around, shining a big beam of light to aid the rescuers.

I was watching it from the front room window, when I suddenly realised what Brian had said. I asked him to repeat it.

“The news said one house was almost demolished. There was one dead inside, and one taken to hospital. Then in the house next door, someone was killed when a wall collapsed on her”.

I had to wait for the early news to find out more. I got Brian to ring the school and say I was sick. I felt too tired to spend the day concentrating on lessons. By the time of the third bulletin on the local news, the full extent of what had happened was known.

It was being treated as a domestic gas explosion. The gas company and Fire Brigade investigators were examining the scene, and the street was cordoned off. But according to the policeman being interviewed, there was no further danger to the public, and it was regarded as non-suspicious. The person found dead was described as a woman in her forties, and a teenage boy was in intensive care with life-changing injuries. A seventy-eight year-old woman in the adjoining house had been removed from the rubble, and pronounced dead on scene.

On the six o’clock news, they were named. With the additional information that Liam had died of his injuries and burns just after four that afternoon.

Following that explosion, much of my life changed. Not all for the better.

There was a tearful phone call from Toni. She suggested that her mum had got drunk, then lit a cigarette as soon as she woke up. I agreed that sounded likely, especially as it was the part of my plan that I had been counting on. Between the tears, and blowing her nose, Toni had more news.

“The bodies are being brought back to Ireland for burial, Danny. They won’t let my dad out of prison to attend the funeral in case he tries to escape. The thing is, I have nowhere to live now, so have to stay here in Ireland, and live with my auntie. I hope you can come and visit me soon, perhaps your uncle will give you the money to fly over?” I told her I would ask him, and that I was going to be very sad that she couldn’t come home. Which was true.

But I never saw her again.

Brian was delighted at the news, and told me he was going to change back to day shifts. But when he went into work, they refused to let him change, and the men on his team who didn’t like him warned him he was still being watched. One even suggested that he might have been responsible, seeking revenge on the Malones. Now he was even more scared than he had been before.

The Friday afternoon after the explosion, someone came to the door not long after I got in from school. It was Sandy. She smiled as I opened it. “Got a spare hour, love? I’ve got forty quid for you, and now you can keep all the money”. I let her in. Might as well make some money out of it, now I wasn’t giving most of it to Maria.

Though when fat Kerry turned up the following week pushing her toddler in the buggy, I told her in no uncertain terms that she should never call at the house again.

Now I got to choose.

By the time I turned fourteen, I had six hundred pounds saved up, stashed in an old pair of school shoes in my wardrobe. My regular women callers had spread the word around their friends, and I kept a diary using initial letters and times to indicate when to expect them. I limited it to three times a week though, so as not to let my studies suffer.

For Uncle Brian, they were bad times. The silence at work had turned to outright bullying, and he was too scared to mention it to his bosses. More and more, he relied on his anti-depressant tablets, and he let the housework go until the place started to look like a tip. I was fed up doing all the chores, and eating crap because he couldn’t be bothered to cook.

Time to have a serious word with him.

Danny: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 798 words.

The day before Toni flew out to Ireland, I gave Uncle Brian some money and asked him to buy me a bottle of Bushmills when he went shopping. I told him the truth, that it was a Christmas gift for Maria, to keep her sweet.

It was never going to be wrapped and go under a tree though.

My uncle was taking Vallium now, after telling his doctor that he was very stressed at work. I had already stolen a few of his tablets from the bottle in the bathroom cabinet, and when he gave me the whisky, I crushed three of them into a fine powder, before adding it to the Bushmills and giving it a good shake.

Since the visit of the kinky lawyer, and before Toni flew out of the country, Maria had sent two more women to my house in the late afternoon. One of them had cried after, and said she felt ashamed. The other one wanted me to tie her hands to the headboard with some cord she had brought along, then swear at her while we did it.

I guessed that most were wives of prisoners doing time, or contacts like the lawyer, and I was beginning to wonder just how many women Maria knew who were willing to pay for sex so their husbands never found out they were being unfathful.

As well as the money, their meetings with me gave Maria a huge hold over all of them. One anonymous word from her to the police, and they would be arrested.

The arrangement to see Maria was on the first Monday of the school holidays. It was cold and bright, and she told me to come to her house just after three. To hide the fact that the Bushmills had already been opened, I kept my hand around the top as I showed it to her, then pretended to crack the cap as she went to get her tumbler. I knew it was her favourite tipple, and she needed no second bidding to pour a large slug.

Once that had been gulped down, she smiled at me as she refilled her glass. “We’ll have to do it down here, so we will. My Liam’s in bed upstairs with the flu. He’s taken some medicine, and he’s fast asleep. So keep the noise down”. I wondered why she said that, as I never made any noise.

When the second drink was almost gone, she struggled out of her skinny-fit jeans and panties then sprawled out on the sofa in her version of a seductive pose. I did some of my best acting, pretending to be excited by her, and saying lots of things that she loved hearing. When it was over she was beginning to look very tired, and filled her glass again after lighting a cigarette. “Did you bring the money from the last one? Did she ask you to tie her up? She said she might”.

I handed over the sixty pounds, and she gave me back thirty. “You’re a good boy. Here, take half”.

Lying back on the sofa with her jeans still crumpled on the floor in front of her, she took another big swallow of the whisky, then yawned noisily. “Jeezus, Mary, and Joseph, I feel bloody tired. Must have had too much of the old Black Bush without eating”. Her eyelids were flapping, and I could see her screwing up her eyes, trying to focus on me from across the room.

Moments later, the tumbler fell out of her hand, and her head tipped back onto the cushion. She was out cold.

In her kitchen, I carefully tipped the vintage gas cooker forward until the safety chain stopped it falling. The racks inside made a scraping sound, but it wasn’t too loud. I could see the rubber gas pipe connecting from the wall into the cooker, and I used a tea towel wrapped around the connection to loosen it. It was harder than I expected, but the rubber was old and greasy, and eventually shifted.

The tiny hiss I could hear as the gas began to escape was all I would need. As it was so cold, every window in the house was closed, and with the living room next door, the gas would soon find a level. Easing the cooker back into place, I left the house quietly, hearing Maria snoring as I closed the door with an almost inaudible click.

Lying on my bed writing an essay for homework, I checked the time on my digital alarm clock. It was just after seven, and I was starting to feel hungry.

As I got up to go downstairs and make something for dinner, the explosion from three streets away rattled our windows, and made my ears pop.

Danny: Part Twenty-One

This is the twenty-first part of a fiction serial, in 725 words.

The weekend gave me some relief from the unwanted callers, and I got to take Toni out for a burger and milkshake, followed by sitting under a shelter in the park because it was raining. She didn’t stop talking about how much her mum liked me.

“Oh, she thinks you’re great, Danny. Says I should stick with you because you are solid and loyal. She actually said I would never find anyone better than you, if I live to be a hundred”.

If only she had known the truth.

When I walked her home and said goodnight, I hadn’t got far before Maria caught me up. She was holding a shop-bought fruit cake, her excuse to come out and talk to me. As I took the cake, she grinned. “I will be around for the money on Monday. That fat bitch Kerry hasn’t paid up, so you can kiss goodbye to your share. Still, I have some better-off women lined up for you, so I do”. I wanted to punch her in the face, but just smiled.

Uncle Brian was walking on eggshells around me. But he cooked a great Sunday dinner the next day, a half-leg of lamb with all the trimmings. The unwanted contact with the Malone family had really shaken him up, and he hated having to work the two to ten shift because nobody on that shift line spoke to him. He was starting to see what the life of a known sex abuser was like, out in the real world.

Maria turned up just after six on that Monday. “So Sandy gave you forty, right? You can keep fifteen, and give me the rest. As for Kerry, when she pays up I will be keeping it all. I don’t like having to wait for me money. Someone else is coming round after seven. Look after her, she’s a lawyer, and a good friend to my family. She will give you a hundred, and I will be back for my share tomorrow. Have yerself a nice bath first, and make sure yer bed has clean sheets”.

I nodded, and handed over the twenty-five pounds.

When the lawyer turned up, I was at a loss as to why she felt the need to pay for sex. She was forty-something, smartly dressed, surprisingly curvy, and very good looking. She was also wearing a wedding ring, and an expensive-looking diamond engagement ring. To tell the truth, I really fancied her. She was businesslike, producing five twenties as soon as she walked through the door, and not telling me her name.

As soon as we got into the bedroom, I discovered why she had to pay for the sex she wanted. She had a serious kink.

“Okay, you call me mummy while I’m here. Just go along with whatever I say or do, and we will both have a nice time”.

She was well-spoken, and wearing expensive underwear. Obviously used to taking charge of the situation, she chatted to me as if I was her son, and then did things mums and sons rarely do. At least in my experience. Even though I did have a nice time, as she said I would, the strange scenario she stage-managed was very off-putting. When she left, I was hoping she never came back.

The next day after school, Maria showed up as she had said she would. “Well, you did very well with the lawyer. I got a bonus for that, so you can keep sixty”.

Having Maria alone for a while as I went to get the forty pounds, I started to implement my plan. Hard as it was to carry off, I told her I missed her, and while it was all very nice that she was sending her friends and contacts around to have sex with me, it was her I really wanted. The flattery worked, and she said I could go to her house once Toni was not in the country.

“She’s off to see family in Ireland in December. You can come round one day then, so you can”. She was stroking my face and smiling at me as she stuffed the money into the pocket of her jeans with the other hand.

Vanity was going to be her downfall, and I didn’t have too long to wait until the Christmas holidays.