Tag Archives: series

A Tidy Mess (Part Four)

Part one

Part two

Part three

***

 

Katherine felt sick as she looked upon her aunty and uncle’s house. Her dad had died inside those walls. Her father’s death was a memory that she did not hold and yet, in that moment, she was reliving it.

 

Harriett was shocked when she answered the door to her niece whom she had not seen for over a year. Wordlessly, she welcomed the surprise visitor into her home and offered her a comforting embrace.

 

‘Darling, I am so sorry,’ said Harriett.

Katherine looked up into her aunt’s dark green eyes. They were almost identical to her father’s.

‘Wh-where?’ Katherine stuttered.

‘Where what, darling?’

‘Where did you… where was he?’

Harriett sighed, gazing at the broken girl standing before her. She looked over her shoulder towards the bottom of the stairs. Katherine walked slowly over to the spot where her father had taken his last breaths just one week ago. She fell to her knees and began to cry.

 

It had been the slowest week of Katherine’s life. The police were no closer to finding out who had murdered her father and she was growing more frustrated each day. It did not help that nobody else seemed to care. Her mother tried to comfort her with effortless hugs and meaningless ‘I understand’s while Rob seemed to be avoiding her completely.

 

The police had questioned Rob, Katherine knew that, but she did not know what he had told them. He must have had an alibi to keep them from suspecting him and yet Katherine still could not trust her brother. The murder investigation had consumed Katherine to the point where she could not distinguish between her grief for her dead father and her anger towards the mystery murderer.

 

That was why she had decided to visit the place where Tim had died.

 

Harriett did not want to see Katherine and so when she had turned up uninvited on her doorstep, she was annoyed. She knew that her niece would ask questions, and Harriett was fed up of giving the same answers.

 

She had been the one to find her brother’s  lifeless, bloody corpse early on Monday morning. Her husband, Martin, was paying the taxi driver when he heard her scream. The pair stood in the doorway, unable to fully open the door blocked by Tim’s body, struck by devastation as they realised instantly that Tim was dead. Martin phoned the police immediately and their nightmare began.

 

They had been due home from holiday late Sunday night but due to a ‘technical fault’ their flight had been delayed. When the police first confirmed Tim’s approximate time of death Harriett and Martin could only wonder whether, if their flight had been on time, they would have been home before the incident. Would Tim still be alive or would they have still been too late?

 

When they were finally allowed back in their house, nothing was out of place. It was exactly how they knew Tim would have left it: immaculately clean and tidy with everything in it’s place. The rug had been straightened, all doors had been shut, and the cream carpet was clear from any traces of dirt. Nobody knew exactly what had been used to kill Tim, either: the ornament of the violinist was on the window sill, cleaned from Tim’s blood.

 

Harriett and Martin were the only people, aside from Katherine, who felt truly saddened by Tim’s passing. Living in the house had become almost unbearable; they expected him to arrive home from work every evening, Harriett still laid three places at the table, and they felt uneasy all the time. Somebody had broken into their house without leaving a single trace, and that worried them more than anything. They changed their alarm and their locks, they triple-checked that everything was locked even when they were inside their house. And yet, none of their extra security measures helped.

 

Katherine left a few hours after arriving, emotionally drained yet feeling somehow less anguished. Harriett began to prepare the dinner, ready for when her husband arrived home from work. She turned on the radio to distract her from her thoughts, and hummed along as she peeled, chopped and sautéed. Her mood lifted slightly after an emotional afternoon.

 

As Harriett plated up two hearty meals, she accidentally splashed her  chest with the boiling hot sauce. She tore off her top and splashed cool water on her burning skin. Annoyed, she made her way upstairs to change into something else. She looked into the mirror on her wardrobe door and realised how tired she looked. Sighing, she opened the door and pulled out a dress and her make-up bag. She wriggled out of her skinny jeans and donned the flowery purple dress.

 

Harriett closed the door and glanced back into the mirror. Two reflections stared back. She went to scream, but a hand clasped over her mouth to prevent any noise from escaping. She struggled and kicked her legs back, but her attacker was too strong. A hand slipped down from her mouth to around her neck, the thumb pressing forcefully against her windpipe. She looked in the mirror to see her attacker grinning maniacally, both of them watching as she lost her grip on the world.

 

Harriett’s limp body fell to the floor. Her murderer looked down upon their victim and admired their work.

 

‘Two down, one to go.’ 


A Tidy Mess (Part Three)

Part one

Part two

***

Katherine had made a list. She did not use pen and paper, nor had she made any conscious effort, but she had compiled a short list of people’s names. Suspects. Over and over again she silently repeated the list of names: Carly, Greg, Trudy, Granddad Keith, Shane and Rob.

Katherine knew what her father had done to Carly and Greg, breaking apart their relationship and then destroying Carly after their affair ended. She had never met Trudy, Tim’s boss, but he was always talking about how much she hated him. Her grandfather, her mum’s dad, had sworn to hunt Tim down and kill him after he left his family in pieces. Katherine would never have seriously considered her granddad as a suspect, but her thoughts were fast becoming irrational.

James was not a person Katherine had met, nor had she really heard about him, but he had heard Rob casually discussing possible killers with their mother. Ellen had no idea who it could have been and she immediately discarded Rob’s suggestion of Carly or Greg. From what Katherine could pick out, her ear pressed to the living room door, Shane used to be friends with Tim. Apparently her father did something to piss him off. She did not hear exactly what her father did, however, because her neighbour had chosen that moment to begin mowing his lawn.

The reason Rob was on the list was because Katherine had no idea where he was on the evening of Tim’s death. Neither did Ellen. He refused to answer questions about his whereabouts, although Katherine knew that the police would want to know more. If it was Rob, he would have no alibi. But she didn’t seriously believe that her brother would kill their father, no matter how much he detested the man.

In reality, Katherine’s list was extremely short. While it should be more difficult than it was to compile a list of a man’s suspected murderers, for anyone who properly knew Tim it would have been easy to find over ten names. But nobody did know Tim, not really. He was not a complicated man, but he led a complicated and messy life.

After he left his family in Devon and moved in with his sister and brother-in-law in Salisbury, Tim had become even more of an enigma than before.

Tim’s parents refused to speak to him after Ellen had told them of the atrocities their son had committed. Harriett and Martin were the only people Tim had left, and they gave him somewhere to stay. Katherine knew it was out of pity that they reached out to her father, but she appreciated it nonetheless – they had saved him.

But Tim did not change. While Katherine was fed lies from her father’s mouth about the tidy life he had created for himself, he had continued to cause people pain and upset.

The last of his crimes against innocent people began when he got a job at a supermarket in the city centre. After working for a week on the checkouts, it had come to Tim’s attention that customers were often unwise. Elderly men and women would come to his till, slowly withdraw their wallets, retrieve their debit cards, and stare intently for a couple of seconds at the interior of their card holders before entering their PINs.

It did not take Tim long to work out that these customers had their security codes scribbled on a piece of paper, stuck just above the pockets in which their bank cards were stored. A quick glance over the counter and Tim could see the four digit numbers.

After hatching his simple plan, Tim waited for his next customer that had made this error. A man of around seventy years shuffled to his till, offering a basket of groceries to the sales assistant. Tim scanned and bagged the items, including a gardening magazine. Taking this as a helpful cue, Tim then engaged his customer in a thrilling conversation about gardening, pretending that he was a keen gardener himself. When the man extracted his debit card from his brown, leather wallet, Tim quickly scanned and remembered the PIN, scrawled in black biro in the spot he had been expecting. Continuing the conversation, Tim managed to distract the customer by handing over his bags of shopping. He quickly grabbed the card from the machine and bid the customer goodbye. Wallet in his pocket and hands busied with heavy bags, the customer exited the shop unaware that his card had been stolen.

A few weeks and several scammed shoppers later, Tim’s manager, Trudy, called a staff meeting. It had come to her attention that an unusually high number of customers were calling into the store to check if they had lost their wallets. All of them claimed to have been served by a man fitting two of the workers’ descriptions: Tim and his colleague, James.

Furthermore, a few of these customers had called the shop to warn them that money had been taken from their accounts after having lost their cards there. James had immediately denied all claims and shunted all of the blame onto Tim, who feigned innocence and ignorance. After an hour of failed reasoning and blame-shifting Trudy warned the two men that he would have to alert the police.

Nothing was proved and while the CCTV footage showed Tim hurrying customers from the till, it was not substantial enough for Tim to be labelled the guilty party. Over that few days, Tim had managed to convince most of his colleagues that it was James who had stolen the bank cards. Tim soon became the victim. James left the job just days before Tim did. He had worked there for fifteen years and had a pending application for supervisor, and yet Tim had driven him away after just four short weeks.

Tim did not care that he had ruined James’ career. He did not worry that he had swindled tens of elderly people out of hundreds of pounds. He did not spare a thought for anyone but himself.

The evening after he left that job for the final time, Tim drove back to Harriett’s house in the Porsche he had borrowed from Martin. They had gone away on holiday for the week, and so Tim permitted himself access to the gleaming car.

He did not know that someone was waiting for him inside the house, but he would have had a good idea of who to expect.


A Tidy Mess (Part Two)

The news of Tim’s death spread through Salisbury quickly.

Everyone reacted with a gasp of shock and horror, but nobody feigned sadness. It was horrible news, one that had surely affected his family in a tremendous way, but it would have taken real effort to mourn such a horrible man.

Tim had no family, not anymore. His daughter was the only person who had continued to bother with him. She would never forgive him for all the pain he had caused so many people, but he was her father and she needed him.

When Ellen, Tim’s ex-wife, heard the news she was unsure how she should react. The police had knocked on her front door early on Monday morning to break the tragic news. He had been murdered. She cried, although she was unsure whether the tears were real or merely for the benefit of the two strangers sitting opposite her. When they left the house and Ellen was alone again, a feeling of relief swept over her. Or, at least, she thought it was relief.

She phoned her best friend, Greg, to tell him what had happened. He did not hold back.

“Good, the bastard deserved it after all he did,” he spat down the phone. “Are you okay?” He then asked, worrying that he had been insensitive.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just…” She paused. “It’s just, how am I going to tell Katherine? She’s going to be devastated.”

Ellen was right. She had requested for her two children to come to the house immediately, which they did. When she broke the news, in what she considered to be a sensitive yet slightly detached manner, Katherine screamed as though she was in unbearable pain and sobbed violently while Ellen tried to console her. Rob, Katherine’s brother, remained fixed to the spot, his face unchanged.

Rob, like his mother, was not saddened by the loss of Tim (or ‘ The Sperm Donor’, as he referred to him in the rare occasions he was mentioned in his presence). For the last year, Rob had completely denied Tim’s existence and so he had already come to terms with losing his father. As he watched his sister crying inconsolably, he pitied her. Maybe she was too young, too naïve, to understand why she should be happy that she was free at last from their scumbag dad.

It was a year ago that the family found out what had been happening. Rob had grown suspicious of his father’s actions long before they came to light but he had remained silent, afraid that he would upset his mother or anger his father. Tim was usually a calm man, but when pushed he had been known to present his son with a black eye. Once, when Tim had unearthed that a fifteen-year-old Rob had stolen money from his wallet, purchased alcohol and cigarettes, and spent a weekend at his friend’s house having parties with his school friends, he had hit Rob so hard in the ribs that they had to go to A&E. So that his father would not tell Ellen about the weekend, Rob had said that he had been riding his bike and had fallen over the handlebars.

One evening, while Tim was marking some of his students’ essays, Rob heard his father’s ringtone in the kitchen. He answered it and a woman answered back. She thought it was Tim.

“Hi babe, are you free to talk?” The woman’s husky voice asked.

“Yeah,” replied Tim, not really thinking about what he was doing.

“Last night was amazing, I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Me too, it was fun.” Rob knew he was not being very convincing, but the woman on the other end of the line didn’t seem to notice.

“When can I see you again?” She asked.

Rob suspected that he would regret it when he replied, “Tonight.”

Rob agreed to meet his father’s mystery woman at a pub in a nearby village. He shouted up to his father that he needed to borrow his car and left the house. He waited in the car park for ten minutes until a burgundy Mondeo pulled up next to him. She looked into his car, smiling, but then her face dropped. Rob was horrified to see that his father’s mystery woman was Carly, his mum’s best friend. He had know Carly, her husband Greg, and their twin sons since he could remember, yet Rob had not managed to recognise her voice on the phone; he would never have expected his father to have an affair with her.

Angry and confused, Rob sped off without asking any questions, and confronted his father. Tim made no threats nor did he try to deny anything. He promised to tell his wife, but Ellen had entered the house during the shouting match and heard everything.

That evening was the worst night of Rob’s life. He witnessed the screaming, the crying, the arguing and the unravelling of many truths. His father had been having an affair with Carly for over two years. All the evenings Tim spent at school marking essays and meeting with the other teachers in his department were actually evenings spent somewhere secret with his wife’s best friend.

Rob was relieved that Katherine had moved out a few weeks previously, so she did not have to know all the small details that were being yelled through the house by their mother. She threw her husband out and told him never to return. But the next day, she changed her mind.

For the next month-or-so, Ellen and Tim carried on as if nothing had happened. When Greg had heard about his wife’s affair, he had kicked her out immediately and vowed to cut off Tim’s testicles if he ever saw him again. He stopped talking to Ellen altogether, unable to forgive her for staying with the man who had ruined their lives.

Ellen was in constant turmoil. She was always anxious to know where Tim was and called him constantly to check up on his whereabouts. Eventually, she cracked. Switching on his laptop and searching through his files, Ellen thought she would put her mind to rest. Instead, she discovered that her husband’s treachery was only the beginning.

Three different girls had been emailing Tim. Blackmail. Threats to tell the headmaster, to tell their parents, to tell Tim’s wife. Three of Tim’s students were claiming that he had made passes at them. Ellen felt sick as she read the messages. None of them mentioned the word ‘sex’, but that was only a mild relief in the cobweb of lies in which she was trapped. Tim was the spider, creeping over girls and women, spinning a web of destruction.

Ellen phoned the school to report the emails and Tim’s career, family, and reputation crashed around him. His family, except Katherine, detested him, his best friend wanted to kill him, and the families of the three fifteen-year-old girls had a score to settle. Tim was forced to leave his home in West Devon and moved to his sister and brother-in-law’s house in Salisbury. He left behind tens of people who hated him to start anew.

However, it seemed that Tim was so accustomed to making enemies that he had forgotten how to make friends. His fresh start was the beginning of his sticky end.


A Tidy Mess (Part One)

Tim yawned. He did not care that a customer had approached his till with the Sunday newspaper, the correct change clutched tightly in the elderly woman’s wrinkled fist, nor did he care that his manager’s beady eye was fixed on him. He absentmindedly scanned the barcode, flipped the paper in half and exchanged it for a few silver coins. The old lady ambled away from the counter and Tim’s manager marched towards him.

‘I’ve told you before about not ironing your shirt before work, Tim,’ Trudy said in her sharp, shrill voice. ‘And don’t yawn in front of the customers, it makes you look like you don’t want to be here.’

‘It’s 7am on a Sunday morning, I don’t want to be here.’ Replied Tim simply.

Trudy sighed, unable to find the energy to argue with her most stubborn employee, and sped off towards the bread aisle.

Probably going to find someone else to moan at, thought Tim. Warm saliva circulated the taste of last night’s beer around his mouth. He grimaced and greeted his next customer, responding with only a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as the middle-aged suit struggled to make jovial conversation. The day was going to be slow and painful, Tim was certain.

 

The top of Tim’s thigh began to vibrate. He glanced around and, no manager or customers in sight, lifted his vintage Nokia half-way out of his pocket. It was his daughter, Katherine. He made a mental note to call her on his break and released his phone.

Only eight more hours, Tim told himself. He detested the inconsiderately visible clock that faced the counters: keeping track of the time made it go even slower, it seemed. His third yawn caused tears to gather in the corners of his eyes. He shut his eyes and slowly dragged the palm of his hand down his face. When he opened his eyes, a young woman was standing in front of him, talking rapidly and loudly into her phone and thrusting a two pint bottle of milk and a scrunched up five pound note at him. He carried out the transaction silently aside from a forced ‘thank you’ as the chatty brunette shot him a smile and darted out of the automatic doors.

 

Eight hours trundled by until Tim was finally free to go home. He was sitting in the car, fumbling with a pouch of tobacco, when his phone rang. It was his Katherine again.

Shit, I forgot to call her back!

He answered the phone, letting the filter tip drop from between his dry lips.

‘Alright, love?” He asked gruffly.

‘Dad, listen to me. You can’t go home.’ His daughter sounded panicked.

‘What? Are you alright, Kat?’

‘Dad, just promise me you won’t go to your house. Something bad’s going to happen,’ She pleaded.

‘What do you mean, something bad? Don’t be silly Katherine, I’m fine.’ He was met with silence, and then a deep exhale.

‘Okay then, dad, just call me when you’re home okay?’

‘Will do, bye love.’

‘Bye dad.’

 

Tim would have been disturbed by his daughter’s phone call, once upon a time. But not anymore. Katherine phoned him at least once a month with a warning (or ‘vision’ as she liked to call them). Since she was fifteen, Katherine was convinced that she had some sort of psychic ability to see into the future, but her prophecies hardly ever came true and those that did were never more than coincidence. Tim shook it off, rolled and lit his cigarette, wound down the car window and drove out of his parking space, the thought of a cold, refreshing beer and  comfortable sofa propelling him home.

 

He pulled up on the large, gravelled driveway fifteen minutes later and stepped out of the silver Porsche 911 Carrera. Upon entering the boastful house, Tim deactivated the alarm system and locked the door behind him. Stepping into the front room, the middle-aged shop worker knew something was different.

 

Tim was a very particular man and everything had to be perfectly in its place. But it wasn’t. The rug was not straight, the door leading to the kitchen was ajar, and a letter was on the floor. There was no way that Tim would have left the house in this state; just looking around made him feel uneasy. Then again, he had had several beers last night. Maybe he had woken up still slightly drunk and failed to realise the mess he had caused. He doubted it, but it was possible.

 

Unworried, Tim walked into the kitchen. Everything was perfectly in order, it seemed: The floor was immaculate, one clean tea towel hung from the cutlery drawer handle, the blinds were all three-quarters open and the breakfast bar was gleaming. He opened the dishwasher to find a clean mug and began making himself a cup of tea. As he poured water into the kettle, he realised that he had not been to the toilet since before he started work. Suddenly, his bladder felt ready to burst. He put the kettle on and rushed towards the stairs.

 

If Tim had not been in a rush, he would have noticed the faint footprints on the cream carpet. He would have heard shuffling. He would have noticed that the ornament of a woman playing violin was no longer on the window sill at the top of the staircase. Unzipping his fly as he dashed into the bathroom, he did not bother to lock the door before emptying is bladder with a satisfying release.

 

He could hear the kettle bubbling from the kitchen, and so he did not hear the shuffling from the bedroom next door. After he washed his hands, Tim gazed up into the mirror. He realised how tired and old he appeared. He was only forty-two and yet he looked at least fifty. His daughter joked that he should dye his hair because the grey was becoming more dominant that the light brown it once was. He wondered what his daughter would say if he turned up on her doorstep with all the grey entirely eclipsed. Maybe he would dye it blue to shock her. He smiled at the thought and turned off the bathroom light.

 

The kettle was roaring through the house, coming to a boil. Tim walked across the landing but stopped suddenly. He could faintly hear something else. Creaking. Shuffling. He turned quickly, but nothing was there. Mentally shaking himself, he arrived at the top step. The kettle clicked and stopped  boiling. A floorboard creaked. Tim span around and froze. Someone was there. He squinted through the darkness, trying to make out the shadowed face.

 

‘You?!” Tim exclaimed in shock.

 

A heavy object struck Tim around the cheek. He whelped in surprise as he was knocked backwards by the force of the blow, toppling on the step before losing his balance completely, tumbling down the staircase.

 

As he lay at the bottom of the stairs, heavy footsteps descended upon him. His attacker stopped, took a deep breath, and brought the ornament down with great force onto Tim’s skull.

 

Tim’s phone vibrated in his pocket. It was Katherine, calling to see if her father had arrived home safely.

 

To be continued…


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 58 other followers