|I was on my way home at last. The bus was late, as usual and the London traffic horrendous. As I sat on the top deck of the bus, I wondered what reception I would get when I reached home...
By Susan Brown
Copyright© 2011 Susan Brown
I was on my way home at last. The bus was late, as usual and the London traffic horrendous. As I sat on the top deck of the bus, I wondered what reception I would get when I reached home. Glancing at my watch, I noticed that it was nearly seven pm. She hated me being late home, punctuality being a watchword with her. But whether she wanted to see me tonight was another matter.
My wife Jacqueline and I had had yet another row the previous night. It was all getting a bit much. She knew about my need to dress as a woman before we got married. In fact I told her on the second date. She didn’t mind – then, but she very much minded now.
I tried not to dress around her, it upset her now more than it ever used to before. It was a case of dressing while she was out or away at her parents or even when I had to stay at a hotel on business. She thought that I was too pretty, dressed. I wasn’t a man anymore and she felt almost as if she was in some sort of weird lesbian relationship and she was the dowdy one.
Ridiculous that, but she was insecure and had been ever since we married. She was constantly wondering if she was the right girl for me and whether she was ‘worthy’ enough. At first she liked me to dress up for her. We used to go girlie shopping together and at that time it was fun. I was able to dress en femme when at home and when we were not having visitors and then things started to subtly change. She complained that I spent too much time as Sophie – my girl name and not enough as Richard Campbell.
She loved me, yes, but she did not love what I was sometimes, a transvestite or transsexual or some other convenient tag to put on what was my life and had been for most of it. I won’t bore you with how and why I felt that I was more girl than boy. Needless to say it was the usual route of self discovery from an early age which grew on me as I got older and would never leave me as long as I lived.
She never minded any of it. We loved each other from the start and I still loved her and I was sure that she loved me too. Yes we had our difficulties, but we would get through them, I was certain of that fact and hung on to it.
Ten past seven and we were crawling along. I hated the London traffic and the nine to five and sometimes later, like tonight, job I had in an office in the city. I was an insurance broker and I worked at Lloyds, not the bank, the insurance institution founded at Lloyds Coffee House, centuries ago and still going strong even after the upheavals of the eighties and nineties when many members went to the wall. It was mainly used as an outlet for corporations now and lacked the freedom of the past decades. Still, all things must change and I was successful as a director of one of the smaller firms of brokers. I had started on the floor at the tender age of 16 and was now at 28, considered by many to be a high flyer and destined for great things in the future.
Twenty minutes later and we were finally out of the worst of the traffic and making reasonable headway. I cursed the fact that my mobile was on the blink so I had no chance to Jacqui that I was running late.
Ten minutes later and my stop was up ahead. I picked up the flowers and chocolates— she loved those and they were by way of a peace offering. I was determined to have a heart to heart with Jacqui to clear the air.
I went down to the front and as the bus stopped and the door swooshed open, I nodded to the driver and stepped off, the door hissing as it closed behind me. The bus moved off leaving me alone on the corner of the suburban street, the sound of its engine gradually lessening as it took the remaining passengers to their homes. I wondered whether the other passengers had ‘issues’ like I did.
The houses were large and laid back. We had moved in just three months ago and we were yet to have any sort of meaningful conversations with neighbours. Jacqueline was a school teacher, a very good one and she worked in the local junior school, so she was always home when I got back from work. Others in our road seemed to work odd hours and as such, we had seen very few people and those that we had, had not stopped to have conversations. It was strange, we lived in a city of millions of people but sometimes there was no one to talk to.
My leather heels made slight tapping noises on the pavement as I walked the two hundred yards to my house, making me wonder what the sound would have been like in stilettos. I had a darling new dress in my wardrobe that I was dying to try on, but there would be little chance of that tonight. Tonight was the night for mending bridges and making my peace with Jacqueline.
A hundred yards away and I could see the gates of our house and the street lamp outside, casting its eerie yellow glow. Then, in the distance, I saw someone tall and thin come out of my gate and walk swiftly down the road. He had a limp, quite a pronounced one, but as he was going in the other direction, I didn’t see his face.
‘Someone selling something,’ I thought as I finally reached the gate and the man went around the corner out of sight.
The gate was open and I wished that people would remember to close it after them. We could have had kids or a dog or something. What was the point of a gate when people...
...that was strange; the front door was wide open. I went up the drive, my shoes crunching on the gravel. For some reason, my heart was beating loudly in my chest.
Jacqui’s pristine Mini was standing on the drive to the left of the house, white and gleaming. It was her pride and joy and I had bought it for her a year ago, almost to the day. Going up the steps I went into the house, putting my keys on the side table and taking my coat off and hanging it on the hook in the downstairs cloak room.
It was quiet, very quiet—too quiet.
‘Jacqueline,’ I called.
Why was it so very quiet?
Then I heard a moan. In the far distance I could hear an ambulance or police siren but my mind was on that noise.
I heard it again, it was coming from upstairs.
‘Jacqui?’ I called again as I ran upstairs.
I ran along the corridor leading to our bedroom at the end. The door was open.
I was almost transfixed by the sight of Jacqueline on the bed covered in blood. She had the phone clasped in her hand and she was as white as a sheet and moaning in agony.
I ran over and saw, with horror a knife sticking out of her belly, it was oozing blood.
Not thinking, I grabbed the handle to pull it out.
‘No!’ don’t...pull it...out!’ she gasped.
‘I’ll call an ambulance,’ I said feeling less than useless and terribly upset. I wanted to let go and fall apart but I needed to be strong for my darling Jacqui.
‘C...called them. They should b...be here soon.’
Her voice was coming out in gasps she could barely speak. I could see her getting weaker and weaker as I looked on in horror, not really sure what to do.
With a wrench, I pulled off my jacket and then my shirt and tie. I wanted to stem the blood, it was oozing out I think from the front and the back...
I could hear the sirens coming nearer as I carefully pressed my shirt against the wound, trying not to make things any worse. It was horrific the way my once white shirt gradually started to turn a bloody red.
‘Hold me...I love you.’ she whispered her face contorted with agony.
‘Oh God, you too!’
I held her as close as I could, she was icy cold and she had trouble bleeding. Where was that fucking ambulance!
‘Who did this?’ I asked, on the point of tears.
‘Magistra Vitae,’ she whispered.
‘What do you mean? Jacqui...Jacqui...JACQUI!’
She was looking at me, her eyes wide open but then the light went out in them she was not there anymore. My darling wife was dead.
There was confusion, a lot of noise and I found myself being led away by someone, I didn’t know who. I was crying my eyes out. I wanted to stay with her, to shake her, to wake her up again; she couldn’t be dead...she just couldn’t!
More confusion and fragmented feelings that I was being taken somewhere. I was in a car. I could hear sirens. I was just wearing my jacket, no shirt. Jacqui’s blood was all over my bare chest. Where was I being taken?
After a lifetime, I found myself in a plain room, sitting on a hard wooden chair, a plain table in front of me. I was shaking. Someone gave me a Luke warm cup of sweet tea in a styro cup.
I was offered a cigarette.
I shook my head.
I was in shock I didn’t know what was being said. It eventually occurred to me that I was being questioned by the police. I had someone in a suit sitting next to me and I vaguely realised that he was a solicitor.
Why did I need a solicitor?
Magistra Vitae, what did that mean?
‘Sorry?’ I said as someone in a police uniform was looking at me and evidently expecting a reply to a question.
‘Why did you do it?’
‘Kill your wife,’
‘Kill my...what are you saying?’
‘You killed your wife,’
‘I didn’t, I love...loved her.’ I said in a strangled voice.
‘You were found with her. You had argued. The neighbours said that you were always arguing.’
‘The neighbours don’t know us. We never even saw them,’
‘But they heard you arguing on more than one occasion.’
‘They must have had bloody good ears then, we are a long way from the other houses. Look, I loved my wife.’
‘Maybe, but that didn’t stop you stabbing her after the argument.’
‘I had just got back from work.’
‘Mrs Pendleton, your neighbour said that she heard you arguing a good half an hour before that. She was in her garden.’
‘I wasn’t there. I was on my way home.’
‘So you say. And then we find you on the bed covered in your wife’s blood with your finger prints all over the knife.’
‘I tried to pull the knife out,’
‘Why, you put it in?’
‘I didn’t, as I say I had just come home...’
And so it went on, time after time after time. I wouldn’t change my story and they wouldn’t believe me. My solicitor, for that was who he was, tried to say that it was all circumstantial, but the policeman kept on saying that there was nothing circumstantial about a knife with my prints on it and proof from, it turned out, more than one neighbour that we were an argumentative couple, always at each other’s throats. And then they found out that our joint life insurance had just been increased two fold. I tried to explain that it was because of our changed circumstances and the fact that we had a bigger house now and more expenses but they just didn’t believe me.
I wanted to find a hole and just sink into it. Didn’t these people realise that I was grieving for my wife and the wonderful life that I had just lost?
The next few months were a nightmare. I was kept in prison and had several appearances in court. No one believed my story. I tried to tell them about the limping man going away from the house, but he was never traced. I told them about my wife’s last words Magistra Vitae, but no one thought that it was anything but either my imagination or Jacqui saying something inconsequential and meaningless on the point of death.
The bus driver didn’t remember me and nor did any of the passengers on the bus I caught from the city.
I was the last one to leave the office that evening and I locked up, so there was no colleague to back up the fact that I had left at the time that I said I did.
It was as if I was invisible.
The case went to court and despite a spirited defence from the best barrister that I could afford, I was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In my brief’s opinion, the prosecution’s case had been weak, but strong enough for the benefit of the doubt, such as it was, to go against me. He was sorry, he had tried his best. If any new evidence came up, he would be glad to represent me again.
I was told that we could only appeal if fresh evidence was brought forward. There was none as far as I or the private investigator I put on to it, could find. The limping man hadn’t been seen by anyone and I had no idea as to who he could possibly be.
I was disowned by my family. My company dismissed me even before the case was finalised. That hurt me. I thought that I had friends there...evidently not. The press and media crucified me as soon as the sentence was pronounced. I was hated by one and all and I had nothing to look forward to but at least 30 years imprisonment before I would even be eligible for parole.
God knows why, but I was going to be sent to HMP Acklington, a category C prison. Normally I would have been sent to a Category B prison, but after all the cutbacks, there was no room where I should have gone and anyway, I was not considered to be a huge risk even though, in the eyes of the law, I was a convicted killer.
HMP Acklington was up in Morpeth up in sunny (not) Northumberland and was, if you are interested, the most northerly prison in England.
I was sent there in a prison van, locked up in the back. There were two guards— one a man, the other a woman—they, of course, were in the front. It was a long van and had a narrow corridor with five individual cells. I was locked in the one nearest the back.
The journey was a long one and mind numbingly boring. I had nothing to read and we only stopped twice for ‘comfort breaks’. Those breaks were hell for me as I was handcuffed to one of the guards —normally the man—and everyone could see who and what I was. It was somewhat of a relief to get back into the isolation of the van.
I had too much time on my hands and my mind dwelled on my all too obvious problems as the van sped north to my new unwanted home.
I missed Jacqui terribly. We had our problems yes, but I just knew in my heart that we would have sorted things out, given time. I felt an anger at all that had happened; the murder, my trial and sentence, the fact that no one believed me and worst of all, the abandonment of my friends and relatives. I was alone now with no one to love or care for or about me.
To say I was depressed would be an understatement.
I sensed rather than saw that we were no longer on the motorway. Through the tiny window above my mobile cell, I could see that it was raining quite hard. I found out later that the driver had diverted off the main road due to a crash that had blocked the motorway and had probably lost his way a bit as the van had no satnav. We were on side roads some of them a bit bumpy and bendy and I hung on for dear life as he went, in my opinion, too fast for the road. He may have been running late, I had no idea.
This went on for about twenty minutes and I was starting to feel sick. In fact the burger that I had eaten at the services decided to come back and bite me and I was sick into the corner of my tiny cell. I banged on the wall, asking for them to stop but they didn’t hear me, or didn’t want to, more like.
My guards were not what you would call of the caring type. They barely spoke to each other, let alone me. They weren’t really part of the prison service; they just worked for one of the many services hived off to the private sector. I was just a parcel to be delivered—talk about inhuman.
I could hear the rain beating down harder on the metal of the van. There were flashes of lightning too. It was a rough day out there.
I sat miserably in my well of self pity, wondering what sort of reception that I would get at the prison. I had visions of hardened criminals, drugs, forced sex and violence. I was under no illusions, I was always told, especially at school, that I was too pretty for a boy; silly and ironic really as I wanted to be pretty, as a girl, even then. As a boy, it was a distinct disadvantage—especially as I went to an all boy’s school.
Somehow, I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew was that I was being tossed end over end - there was a bang, and then the sound of metal tearing.
I was stunned for a moment, things went kind of in slow motion. I was lying on the roof of the cell! I vaguely realised that the van had been in some kind of accident and it had rolled over. I may have blacked out at some point, but I wasn’t sure about that.
To my left, the side of the van had peeled back like a tin of pilchards and I could see a grassy bank outside. I picked myself up somehow, marvelling that apart from a bump on the head and a swelling on my arm that would turn into a nice technicolor bruise, I was still in one piece.
I could smell petrol, I had to get out.
‘Hello?’ I called.
‘HELLO!’ I shouted.
Nothing, just the sound of rain pattering on the van.
The smell— petrol—I had to get out and see what was going on. I had this fear of fire; I just had to get out!
The rent in the side of the van might just be wide enough—
It was; I squeezed out, just snagging the sleeve of my prison issue jacket. I fell about two feet onto soggy wet grass. Looking back at the van, it looked strange, upside down like that with its wheels in the air, one of them still, bizarrely, spinning. I picked myself up and went to the front of the van and looked in the cab or what was left of it. The front had caved in because it had hit a large rock at the bottom of a gully. Without that rock it all might have been different.
The guards were in there, but it didn’t take a doctor to know that they were both dead. I stood there looking at the carnage. I didn’t like them but no one should go like that.
I heaved the remains of my stomach up onto the wet grass.
I was confused, probably concussion or shock. It was still pissing down with rain and I was out in the open and not really sure what to do. To this day I don’t know why I did it, but I took the man’s’ wallet and the woman’s handbag from their bodies. One had a mobile phone but it was smashed to pieces. The vans’ phone was just a mess like the rest of the cab. The heads of the guards were all mashed up but the rest of them just hung on their seat belts, like disjointed upside down string puppets— I shuddered. There was blood everywhere and I had to wipe the blood off the wallets. Behind the seats were wedged two cases and I was able, with some effort and a lot of swearing to get them out of the wrecked cabin.
I must have had some thought of using the money to get a ride on a bus or taxi, as for the cases, I had no idea—I don’t know even now what I had in mind at the time.
The smell of petrol was getting stronger. Behind the remains of the dashboard, I saw out of the corner of my eye, something sparking.
I got away from there as fast as my rubbery legs would carry me and up the slippery grass bank. I felt rather than heard the explosion. I was flung several feet as a blast of hot air hit me and lifted me off my feet.
There was a bright orange flame and then another explosion. Debris floated down around me and the stench of burning rubber and something else indefinable reached my nostrils.
It was nearly dark but the burning van lit up the sky like some sort of macabre beacon, making me wonder why nothing and no one was around. Surely cars would come this way, attracted by the flames like moths to a light? I went over to the road and could see the skid marks on the sharp bend. He must have taken the bend too fast.
I stood under a tree for a bit. I was shaking violently now; whether from the shock and horror, or the fact that I was cold and wet, I didn’t know. Even from a distance of fifty yards, I could feel the intense heat from the fire. Where was everyone?
No cars passed me and none would for quite a while as I found out later, when I read the story, that the road had been closed due to a land slip.
Everything that had happened to me led me to that point. A series of loosely connected events changed my life forever. I could do nothing for the poor guards in the van and I hoped that they didn’t suffer in the end. I hoped that their families would be able to cope with the tragedy and that no children would have lost a parent.
I raged against the injustice of everything. Why me? I thought.
Then I thought, why not. I wasn’t anything special. I had no angel looking after my welfare. Others had been through what I had and worse and managed to survive, despite all the odds.
Then I thought about my circumstances and the mess that I was in.
Standing under the tree, water dripping on my from the branches above, I tried to decide what I should do. My hair was getting in my eyes, the elastic band holding it in a low pony tail, having snapped at some point. Brushing the hair away from my face and then rubbing my gritty eyes with a shaky hand, I sighed.
What should I do?
If I was a true, honest and upright citizen, I should find help, get in touch with the authorities and give myself up.
But then I would be sent to prison with no hope of release until God knows how many years past—at least thirty.
I looked down at the two cases, one—the black one—obviously the man’s and the other, a garish pink colour, even more obviously, the woman’s. Why did I drag them out of the cab with all the risks involved?
A small germ of an idea took hold in the far flung reaches of my brain. I would have to think it through, but first I would have to get away from this place of death and that smell—.
Looking down at the guards’ belongings, I realised that I didn’t even know their names. Well I had the wallet and the woman’s handbag, I would find out later. Perhaps at some point I would be able to return their things to their families, but at the moment I had to think of myself and how I would survive.
With one last lingering look at the place where, but for a slice of luck, I would have died, I picked up the cases and handbag and moved off down the road. I had to choose a direction; one way looked as good as another so I went left on the first steps which would turn out to be a very long journey.
I walked for ages. There were no houses along this stretch of the road and I wondered yet again, why there was no traffic. The rain had stopped and luckily the night wasn’t that cold. As I walked and the clothes gradually dried on my body, I felt a bit more comfortable, even though my socks and shoes remained somewhat damp.
Eventually, I saw in the distance a bungalow. As I drew nearer, I could see that it was empty, and there was a for sale sign outside. This was ideal for me to at least hide and think out what I was going to do.
If I was of a more sensible mind, I would probably have thought that the authorities might search for me, but I was tired, weary, hungry and I needed to rest. I went through the gate and up the path. The front door was locked—no surprise there, so I went around the back. The kitchen door was closed but a side window had rotted away a bit and the catch was only held on by a few rusty screws. I was able to open the window and let myself in. Then I unbolted the door and brought in the cases and handbag.
It was warmer inside than out, but there was no furniture. I had a quick look around. It was musty in there and obviously had not been lived in for some time. The lights wouldn’t work, but the gas stove was still in place and after fishing around under the sink, I turned the gas on; at the same time I turned on the water.
I knew that the woman guard was a smoker and I took the lighter out of the handbag and lit the gas on a hob. It immediately made me feel a bit better as the blueish flame lit up the room a bit and made the room seem warmer and friendlier.
I had nothing to drink but water and nothing to eat, but I wasn’t that hungry.
I sat on an old packing case that had been left in a corner and then started considering my options.
The germ of the idea that I had thought of earlier had come back to me. It was mad, stupid, and was bound to fail, but if I didn’t try it, I would never forgive myself.
I looked at the options, weighing them in my mind as I would any insurance risk that I was trying to put together and persuade underwriters to take on— in the days when I actually had a job, that is. I was the type of person that weighs the pros and cons, establishing any risk factors and looking for any unforeseen eventualities. This had been my job and I was used to it and that was why I had been so good at it.
All that had ended now, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t use my expertise to make the most of things and hopefully move forward.
I made a mental list.
Fact one, I was a convict, albeit innocent. In the eyes of the law I was guilty.
Fact two, if I gave myself up, I would be imprisoned for at least thirty years, maybe more. Life meant life in the UK even through you could get parole and it didn’t take much for you to fail your parole, and anyway, there was no guarantee that I would live to ever be released.
Fact three, someone had killed my wife and I needed somehow to find out who it was and bring him to justice. I had few clues as to his identity, but I had to at least try. The only clues that I had was that he was fairly tall and thin and that he had a limp— not much to go on. Then there was the whispered Magistra Vitae that Jacqui had said. Was it just dying delirium or did it have something to do with the identity of the murderer. It is a fact that most murder victims are known and associated with their killer. I would have to use that fact as a starting point.
Enough of the facts; how would I get things rolling?
I looked in the man’s case— nothing much there would fit me; he was taller and much fatter than I was. He had a toilet bag, but the items in it didn’t seem very clean and I really didn’t fancy using any of his stuff.
Looking at the man’s belongings sort of firmed up what I thought I should do.
I believed that I could not be seen as Richard, anywhere—too much chance of being recognised. I had the woman guards’ case and she was, God rest her soul, a similar shape and size to me. I would have a look in her case and see what clothes that she had bought for her overnight stay at the prison.
You may have gathered by now that I had tentatively decided that I was going to dress as a woman. I had longish hair and I normally, unfashionably, kept it in a man’s low pony tail. Others at work used to laugh at me and call me the office hippy, but I kept it long for the precious times that I could dress as a girl.
I got up and went over to the pink case. Picking it up, I placed in on the work surface and opened it up.
I raised my eyebrows as I pulled item after item out. There were three blouses, a jumper and cardigan, two skirts, a pair of jeans, a cream jacket, two nightdresses, some undies and a largish makeup bag and no less than five pairs of tights, not forgetting two pairs of shoes, some sandals and other odds and sods. I had enough clothes to be going on with and my idea seemed to feel the right thing to do.
I picked up the purse and the man’s wallet with some hesitation.
It felt strange and rather personal, looking through the two guard’s possessions, but I had to and they didn’t need any of them now anyway. The purse had fifty-five pounds in it, some change and a number of credit cards and an identity card. Her name was Maureen Symonds.
The man’s wallet had seventy pounds in notes, some credit cards, a silver foiled condom and his identity card that said that he was Don Chivers.
‘Well Maureen and Don,’ I thought, ‘I’m sorry, but my need is more than yours now.’
I put the money from the wallet in the purse. I would bury the wallet with Don's case before leaving and take the handbag and purse, not forgetting the pink case with me.
I could hear the noise of an engine. I turned the gas off. It took a moment to realise that the engine noise was coming from overhead and that it was a helicopter.
They must have been looking for us. It couldn’t be more than two miles away from this house, the crash scene that is. They would see the glow and then land and after that—who knows. The explosion and heat may have obliterated the identities of those in the van and at the back of my mind, that was a factor that I had relied on when thinking up my current plan. Whether it would work, I didn’t know, but only time would tell. Would they look for DNA and if they did, could they identify the remains after such an accident as this?
I had no idea, I would just have to hope and pray that the assumption was that all the people perished in the intense flames and not just the guards.
The sound of the helicopter receded into the distance. I was left wondering how they would find the scene. Had I left any traces of the fact that I was still alive?
Lots of questions unanswered. Well I would find out soon enough.
The rain had gone now and the clouds too, leaving a strong moonlit night. By its light I was able to have a look upstairs. In a cupboard I found a couple of rather smelly and slightly damp blankets.
Going back to the kitchen, I made myself a sort of camp bed using the blankets and the case as a rather hard pillow with one of Don’s jumpers on top to soften it a bit. I just wanted to use the bed as somewhere a bit softer to sit and lie on as I waited for the long night to be over, but I must have been tired. I should have tried to stay awake, but I just couldn’t and I fell, despite heroic efforts, into a deep sleep.
The sun streamed through the uncurtained window the following morning. I had been awoken by the sound of traffic outside. The occasional car went past including, whilst I was watching, two police cars, a breakdown truck, an ambulance and going the other way from the accident, a fire engine.
There was no doubt then that the crash site had been found. The fact that no one had called here was a good sign. I would have thought that if the authorities had any inkling that I had survived the crash, they would have searched the area and that included unoccupied houses and bungalows. I had taken a hell of a risk, falling asleep like that.
I decided to hang about for a bit, just in case something or someone might call. I could just picture it though.
‘No answer Sarg.’
‘Mmm, can you smell gas?’
‘I think so.’
‘Then we must enter the premises to make it safe.’
The door gets knocked in or maybe a window and in come the police.
‘Ello,elllo, ello, who have we here then?’
Shortly after I would get carted off to the police station and then I would start my extended stay at Her Majesty's Pleasure.
That wasn’t quite how I wanted things to go, so after the dirty job of burying Don's case in the garden and covering the traces, I went into the bathroom, had an incredibly cold shower and a shave using Maureen’s lady razor, on my face. Being fair haired, I didn’t have much of a strong beard, for which I was grateful. Maureen had some Nair hair remover which was useful for under my arms, my legs and the small amount of sparse chest hair that I had. I felt much nicer, smoother and cleaner once I had washed away the cream.
Then, once I had dried myself, I started my transformation into Sophie using the clothes and makeup provided, all be it unknowingly, by Maureen.
It felt weird putting on someone else's clothes and even worse their makeup. I had learned early on that it was neither good nor hygienic to use other people’s makeup, but needs must, as they say.
I was fairly accomplished in the mysterious art of makeup—I had had years of practice, after all on a part time basis. I dressed in my undies only, I didn’t want to cover the clothes in makeup—almost a cardinal sin that.
I put my face on in a matter of minutes. The colours were not ideal for my complexion, but I made do. I decided to lay it on slightly thicker than usual and changed the apparent shape of my face, eyes and lips using shadow, mascara and over painting my lips slightly to make them look as full as possible.
Looking out of the window, I could see that it was going to be a fine day, so I put on a white cotton blouse and calf length cream skirt. It was a bit hot for tights so I just put Maureen’s sandals on and then I was nearly done.
I spent some time on my hair and decided to have it loose and around my shoulders with some hairspray to stop it getting out of control. Luckily there was no wind to speak of, so it shouldn’t get too messed up unless the weather changed.
Thinking about it later, I didn’t really think things through. Any policeman who called may have wondered what I was doing in an empty bungalow with a for sale sign outside. But it never happened, so I managed to get away with it.
My head was still a bit tender from the knock I had in the accident and the bruise on my upper arm was sore too, but I was much luckier that the two others and for that I was thankful.
After a few hours of no official looking traffic, I deemed it time for me to make a move. There was a risk, I knew that someone might pass me and wonder what a woman was doing going down the road by herself with a suitcase, but I was willing to take that risk. I just hoped that some Neanderthal type didn’t stop and offer me a lift! Maybe a taxi might pass or I might come across a bus stop. I could always ring for a taxi if I could find a phone box that hadn’t been vandalised.
I looked in bathroom mirror, checking for any signs of Richard Campbell. I was slim, not too tall. The bra had been stuffed with a pair of chopped up tights and that would have to do for the moment. At home I had some lovely and expensive breast forms, but home for me now was on the road. I was lucky in as much as I did not have a prominent Adams apple and my voice, soft at the best of times sounded, when I wanted it to be, breathy but feminine. I would have to practice as much as possible. I could not afford to slip up. I had to be one hundred percent woman, anything less and I might not get away with this.
I put everything back in the case, picked up the handbag, had one more look around—I had made sure that I had put everything back in its place—and then let myself out of my temporary refuge, shutting the kitchen door firmly.
Walking down the path, I opened the gate, glanced up and down the road and then started to walk away from the accident scene and down the long road to wherever it would take me. I was a fugitive from misplaced justice. There was a murderer out there somewhere. I needed to clear my name, but first I had to make sure that Richard Campbell was considered dead and then I might have a chance to catch the killer unawares.
How I would do this I had no idea, but my darling Jacqui had been murdered by the limping man and I was the only one who could find him and bring him to justice.
Several cars and lorries passed me and one or two stopped. They were driven by men and I felt nervous about being picked up by a strange man, so I refused politely, saying that I only had a little way to go. Then at a crossroads, there was a phone box and it was working. It smelt of urine inside and I wrinkled my nose, but it didn’t put me off picking up the receiver and dialling the number of the taxi service on a card taped to the wall.
‘Hello? I need a taxi,’
‘Where to love?’
Where to? I had no idea where I was.
‘Erm, into town please?’
‘Where are you?’
I looked at the signs outside,
‘On the junction of the B6138 and 6321,’
‘So do you want Corbridge then or Newcastle?’
I must have sounded stupid, but after a seconds thought I just said, ‘Corbridge please.’
‘Right love, someone will be there in twenty minutes.’
‘No problem love,’
I put the phone down. At least I sounded like a woman. I had tried my best, but it’s difficult to know sometimes what your own voice sounds like.
I waited outside the phone box. A few cars slowed down, but none stopped. I did notice a police car in the distance and I stepped behind the phone box before it came close enough to see me.
Maybe I should have said Newcastle to the taxi man, I might have been able to lose myself in a big city, but single women by themselves can have problems in a city and I was worried that I might not be able to cope with any more problems than I already had. I would find a small hotel in Corbridge and make more plans then.
A car pulled up.
‘You asked for a taxi?’
‘Yes, thanks,’ I said as the driver got out, put my case in the boot opened the rear door for me.
‘Thanks,’ I breathed.
‘No problem,’ he said smiling and looking distractedly at my modest cleavage.
We started off down the road and it was only then that I realised that we were going back the way I had walked.
In what seemed like seconds we passed the bungalow and then a few minutes later the crash site, where the driver slowed right down to have a look.
I could see the long skid mark and a scorched tree, together with a police ‘beware!’ notice on the side of the road. Behind and below that, the ditch was empty, but you could see where the van had landed and an indentation, almost a crater and more scorched earth and greenery where the violent explosion and fire had taken place.
‘Terrible that wasn’t it?’ said the driver.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
‘Prison van, lost it on the bend and went over in the ditch; three people killed, that’s all I know.’
‘Yes, makes you feel lucky to be alive,’
‘Yes,’ I said as we accelerated away, it does.’
As we approached Corbridge, I wondered how I would manage, as a woman, on my own and with no identity, to blend in, let the dust settle and after that, find the limping man who killed my wife.
I had been convicted of a crime that I did not commit. A man was at large who had killed my wife. He had to be brought to justice, and I was the person who was going to do just that.
Please leave comments and kudo thingies...thanks! ~Sue
The story was based very loosely on The Fugitive, an American TV program of the 60’s. I will leave it up to the readers to let me know if you feel that this pilot should continue as a series.
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