|It all seemed a bit unreal; here I was an escaped prisoner, dressed as a woman, trying to start my life over again. In addition to this, I was desperate to know who murdered my wife and how I could bring the killer to justice...
By Susan Brown
Copyright© 2011 Susan Brown
This is a continuation of the Story The Fugitive; for this to make sense it might be advisable for you to read this first
Richard Campbell was convicted of a crime that he did not commit. His wife was murdered and a limping man was seen hurrying from the scene of the crime
Due to a bazaar set of circumstances that enabled him to be free from custody, he now presented as the woman he, and now she had always felt that she was. This gave her the chance to find out who killed Jacqui so that Richard now Sophie can prove her innocence and bring the limping man to justice.
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.
And now the story continues...
The driver of the taxi was a bit of a chatterbox, but the things that he had to say didn’t really need any response, as he appeared to like the sound of his own voice. I just grunted occasionally and said one or to ‘really’s’ and he seemed happy with that.
My mind was on other things.
It all seemed a bit unreal; here I was an escaped prisoner, dressed as a woman, trying to start my life over again. In addition to this, I was desperate to know who murdered my wife and how I could bring the killer to justice.
I had no money or identity. It had been assumed that I had been killed in the crash that lost the lives of the man and woman who were guarding me and taking me to some God forsaken prison inn the middle of nowhere.
Their misfortune, tragic as it was, had given me the opportunity to have a new life; one that I should not have needed. Just a few months before, I was a successful director of a firm of insurance brokers. I was reasonably well off and I had a lovely wife and a house that most people would die for. The fact that I had marital problems and my wife Jacque no longer approved of my, shall we say, dressing habits, I thought we could get over. I would have sacrificed that side of my life, or at least kept it away from her out of sight, but I would never have that opportunity now as she was dead and I had no need to hide behind any sort of male persona any longer.
Looking up from my musings, I saw the sign:
‘Corbridge, pop 3500, please drive carefully.’
Population 3500. It was hardly Newcastle, was it? I wondered if I had made a mistake by not deciding on Newcastle as a location to start my new life as Sophie. If this place was so small, I could hardly blend in.
Well I had made my decision and if necessary, I would move on if things didn’t pan out.
The taxi pulled up outside the Lion Pub and I paid the £15 fare. The driver took my case out of the boot and handed it to me. I could see that he was looking at my less than adequate cleavage and wondered if he realised that my boobs were made of nylon tights!
‘Bye love,’ he said as he gave me a bit of a leery grin and sped off down the road, leaving me standing there, case in hand and wondering what to do.
‘At least, he thought that I was woman,’ I mused, standing there in the street looking around and wondering, ‘where now.’
Well, there was a pub right by me, but women walking into pubs by themselves could be noticed, even in this day and age, but there was a teashop cum café across the road and that would suit me better.
I had been out dressed on a number of occasions and it held no real fear for me. Luckily, I passed quite well and what with my soft voice, I hadn’t been clocked…yet. Fingers crossed that I wouldn’t be found out in the future. As I walked across the road, my heels clicking rather nicely on the hard asphalt. I thought that I looked OK in Maureen’s white cotton blouse and calf length cream skirt, if I didn’t look girlie enough in this outfit to pass as a woman, then I never would.
The door sort of tinkled as I walked in to the teashop. The café was quite full, with quite a few couples, some with and some without children and several gaggles of elderly women were sprinkled about. It seemed quite a popular place and I was pleased about that, as there was safety in numbers–I hoped.
The lady behind the counter looked up as I shut the door to the sound of another tinkle. She looked a bit harassed, overworked and stressed.
‘Sit anywhere dear,’ she said, smiling tiredly as she came out from behind a counter with a tray and placed it in on a table where a family was sitting.
I went over to a free table by the front window and sat down. In seconds, she came over with a notebook and pen in hand.
‘What would you like, dear?’ she asked, pushing a wisp of hair off her forehead.
‘Can I have a cream tea please? I asked.
‘Won’t be a jiffy,’ she replied with a gentle smile, ‘ here on holiday?’
‘Just passing through on my way to erm, somewhere else.’
She looked puzzled at that and I inwardly cursed myself for saying something stupid.
She just gave me a strange smile and went off, leaving me wondering how long it would take for me to be found out if I carried on saying things like that.
I had to be careful, think out a credible sounding past for me, decide on a story and stick to it. To be fair, I was a bit stressed myself at that moment and the things that had happened to me lately had made me a little bit freaked out!
The teashop lady came back in moments with the tea and with another smile, left me to enjoy my cuppa, scones, jam and cream–which were yummy by the way!
I nearly jumped out of my skin as I heard a siren outside coming towards us. I shrank down slightly in my chair and put my hand over my face. I dreaded the possibility that my subterfuge had been found out and that the authorities had been able to establish that I wasn’t in the burnt out shell of the prison van along with the other two.
The siren came closer and closer and then shrieked past. I looked up and saw that it was an ambulance and I sighed with relief and then felt guilty, as it was obvious that someone was ill, hurt or worse.
With a shaking hand, I picked up my cup and sipped the hot tea. Tea was good for shock I heard and I was in need of a pick-me-up.
I lingered a bit in the café, not knowing what to do and full of indecisiveness. It was all very well saying that I would start again, but now it came to it, I wondered if I had bitten more than I could chew. In this modern, technological world where your every move is digitally recorded and CCTV seemed to be everywhere, staying under the radar would be very difficult. I had no credit cards, identification or anything else that would place me as a law abiding citizen in our society. Could I exist without any of those important bits of paper?
I sighed and drank the second cup of tea.
Gradually the place emptied and the final group of old ladies got up and with goodbyes all round they left, leaving just me and the waitress, manager or whoever she was.
I was once again deep in my own thoughts and had just had a bite out of my second oversized scone, jam and cream, when I was aware that I was being looked at again.
‘What is it with her; can’t a body have a bit of peace and quiet around here?’ I thought.
She came over, cloth in hand and wiped down the table next to mine.
‘Nice weather,’ she said.
‘Yes,’ I answered, nearly choking on a crumb.
‘It wasn’t so nice yesterday.’
‘No,’ I replied remembering the foul weather, the rain, crash and terrible sites that I saw on that memorable day
This seemed to be some sort of implied invitation to come and sit with me and she did just that.
She was quite pretty; about fortyish with long blond hair that wasn’t her natural colour. I could have told her to go and have her roots done, but I was a politely brought up wannabee girl and I just smiled and continued demolishing my scone in the vain hope that she might just get up and go elsewhere.
‘So, just passing through?
I sighed and put my scone down.
‘Yes, that’s right.’
The woman, who’s nametag said that she was Tanya hesitated and then said, ‘look, I’m a nosy cow, or so my sister keeps telling me, but I can see that you are nervous and jumpy. You keep looking out of the window as if you are frightened of something or someone and when that ambulance went past, you looked close to fainting. Is there anything I can do? Just tell me to mind my own business if you like, but if I can help, I will.’
I had been bottling things up inside me for so long and right there and right then, I couldn’t control myself any longer and I burst into tears.
This was just wonderful, master of disguise me; the first kind words and I turn into a quivering jelly.
Jacquie always said that I was emotional. In fact I used to cry more than she did at some of the films on the TV on at the cinema. I hadn’t cried since shortly after my wife had been killed and I was overdue some form of emotional outburst–but it had to be now, when I should have been calm and collected.
Tanya leaned across and touched the top of my arm, and then with a finger she pushed the short sleeve of my blouse up slightly.
‘Nasty bruise there; man trouble?
With bleary eyes I looked at my arm. Somehow it had a big bruise on the flesh of my upper arm right where the sleeve of my jacket got ripped in the crash. I hadn’t realised that I had injured it. Things like that might give the game away. I needed to think and think fast. I hated lying, but I had no choice. If I told Tanya the truth, she might get the police involved. My secrets had to stay secret. There was no alternative, I would have to lie through my teeth and hope that I don’t slip up.
‘Pull yourself together Sophie!’ I thought, mentally slapping myself around the face.
The trouble with lying is that you can forget things. I had no intention of doing that. I would need to have a simple story that would stand the test of time. Goodness knew how long I would have to keep up the pretense.
I thought quickly and then just nodded at her comment, my mind going nineteen to the dozen as I constructed a story that would fit my now somewhat strained circumstances.
‘I’ll get another pot of tea and close up for a bit. It’s a quiet time before lunch, so we won’t be disturbed.
She bustled away, leaving me to construct the fictional story of my life. A good plus was that she had no inkling that I had extra equipment in my panties and that I was born a boy. I blessed my rather delicate features, lack of any noticeable Adams Apple, fair skin and longish blond hair.
The prison authorities had wanted to get my hair cut, but I stood on my human rights (what a laugh that!) and I had managed to keep away from the scissors. I had been told in no uncertain terms that I would be quite attractive to some of the men in the prison…
By the time Tanya had returned with a fresh pot of tea, I had wiped my eyes carefully–not wanting to increase the panda look, blown my nose, and taken grip on myself.
Tanya played mum and poured and we sat for a moment, not saying anything. In the end her curiosity took over.
‘Would you like to talk?’
I smiled weakly, took a deep breath and plunged into my deep pool of lies.
‘’I…I had to leave.’
‘Your husband?’ she whispered, even though the place was empty, apart from us.
I nodded, had another sip and continued.
‘He…he is a violent man. Oh he was lovely at first. He worked in an estate agents office, as the assistant manager. Donald, was a hard worker and was always at the top of the pile with sales figures. Then the property crash came and things went bad. Much of his pay was based on sales commission rather than salary and the money nearly dried up.’
I took another sip and glanced at Tanya, who was all ears.
‘At home things were okay but after a while he got moody, used to spend more times down the pub and coming home late, drunk. Somehow, it was all my fault and he took it out on me. Alright, I couldn’t have any babies as my tubes were messed up, but that wasn’t my fault, was it?’
‘No love; men can be pigs.’
‘Amen to that,’ I said fervently. ‘You not married?’
‘No divorced, no kids, thank God, I couldn’t cope with that as well as a two timing sod of a husband. He used to help out with me here, that was all he was good for. I had a waitress, part time, a slip of a girl; young enough to be his daughter. They ran off together and I happen to know that her dad is going to do bad things to Brian when he catches up with him. Anyway, sorry you were saying?’
‘What? Oh yes, my erm, husband. More and more he came home drunk and violent and then he accused me of seeing other men. The plumber had been to fix the cistern, nice man, but not my type. Anyway, we were both looking under the sink at a little leak that we had. Something to do with the C bend…’
‘You mean S bend.’
‘Do I? Yes, probably, anyway, Don came home early for once, pissed as a newt and two sheets to the wind and caught us under the sink. The long and short of it was that the plumber chinned him for being a cheeky bugger and stormed off. After getting himself up off the floor, Don hit me with a wrench that the plumber had left on the side. The pain was awful. He was screaming and cursing me and then he threw the wrench at me, just missing my head by inches and then grabbed a kitchen knife and came at me with it.’
‘Bloody hell!’ said Tanya.
‘It nearly was,’ I replied fervently. Anyway, he was as drunk as a skunk and he fell over on a wet patch on the floor and I took the opportunity to run for it. I went upstairs and grabbed my suitcase, then I climbed out onto the garage roof and somehow scrambled down, laddering my tights in the process and ran for it.’
It sounded feeble to me, but Tanya looked pretty well convinced. I carried on like a train with no brakes.
‘I had a bit of money, but not much else. I wanted to get away and so I flagged down a taxi, got to the station and just picked a spot as far away from Donald as I could get.
‘Where did you live?’
‘Guildford,’ I said as I had been there a few times.
‘Never been there myself,’ said Tanya.
‘Good… I mean it’s a good place, if it wasn’t for my husband.’
‘What are you going to do now, divorce the sod, I suppose.’
‘Yes, I will, but divorce costs money and I don’t have anything. All the accounts were in his name and the cards were his with me just being a name on them. He would have cancelled the cards by now and blocked access to the bank accounts. He knew all about that sort of thing and I was a bit of an idiot where that was concerned.’
‘Did you call the police?’
‘Yes, but they said that they couldn’t help– his word against mine. No proof or witnesses, stuff like that.’
I drank the last of the tea and got up.
‘I have used up too much of your time. I ought to go now and find a place to stay. I need to get a job before what little I have runs out.’
Tanya looked at me and smiled.
‘Are you in any hurry to move on?’
‘No, not really, I was just thinking about that before you sat down and wondering where I should go from here.’
‘You saw when you came in how rushed off my feet I am sometimes. It’s always like that; big rushes and then quiet periods like now. I’m either too busy or it’s too quiet. So how about you work here for a bit. Cash in hand. I’ll pay you say seven pounds an hour. Not much but it’s all I can afford.’
I thought for a moment. It wouldn’t hurt to work here for a while, recharge my batteries and decide what I was going to do about–everything.
‘Is there a bed and breakfast around here?’
‘Well I would need somewhere to stay.’
‘You can stay here if you like. The flat upstairs isn’t being used now. Brian and I used to live there before we bought the house down the road.’
‘How much do you want for rent?’
‘I don’t need rent. You can open up early sometimes. I like a lie in and I have a few regulars for breakfast–oh you can cook?’
‘Yes, not fancy stuff though.’
‘Nothing fancy here. We are mainly tea, cakes, sandwiches and things like that, but I do full English breakfasts too as it pulls in the regulars.’
‘I think that I might manage eggs and bacon.’ I said smiling.
‘Does that mean yes?’ she asked.
‘I suppose it does,’ I replied laughing.
‘When can you start?’
‘Well I have a full diary of engagements for the next fortnight, but for you I’ll cancel them.’
We both giggled. I think that I was going to like Tanya, but I would be careful, as I didn’t want to spoil things by telling her my real history.
So that was how I found myself working in a tearoom cum café. I marveled at my luck. Just a few short hours ago, all I had to look forward to was a lengthy spell in prison, sowing mail bags, breaking rocks or whatever they do there and then there was the crash and everything changed. I was presenting as the woman I knew in my heart that I should have been born to be and I had a job and a roof over my head. I would never wish those others dead, but that wasn’t my fault and I had to make the most of my opportunities.
I had been shown the flat by an enthusiastic Tanya and I had dumped my meagre belongings in the bedroom. It was two bedrooms, with a small lounge and kitchen. There was no bath but there was a nice shower room, with a basin and large mirror. It wasn’t The Ritz, but it was a clean bright little flat and it would suit me very well.
Lunchtime was busy and I marveled as to how Tanya had been able to cope by herself since her Brian ran off with a slip of a girl. It was obvious pretty early on that offering me a job wasn’t just charity. She needed someone and that someone was me.
I was given a black dress with white apron and a rather pretty cap. I looked every inch the waitress and I sort of relished my role after years of wearing men’s suits and ties.
If only Jacqui could see me now!
We had a few other spells in the afternoon that were busy and my feet ached from all the fetching, carrying, ordering and the multitude of other things that I had to do in the course of that first afternoon.
The teashop closed at 4.30 and after that I was able to take the weight off my feet as Tanya and I sat at a table and had another well earned cup of tea.
After a moment to gather my thoughts I looked up at Tanya.
‘Is there a library around here?’
‘Need a book?’
‘No, I want to look on the internet–that is if they have computers there for the public’s use.’
‘They have, but the library closes early–about now actually, why?’
‘I erm just want to see if I can get a cheap solicitor and find out a bit more about where I stand, legally.’
‘So there’s no turning back.’
I shook my head. No there was no turning back, but not for the reasons she was thinking about.
‘Look, why don’t use the computer in the office. It has internet and everything.’
Tanya had a small office out back where she did the paperwork.
‘Are you sure?’
‘I use the one at home mostly. I was thinking about getting rid of it, but it’s useful for ordering stock and stuff like that. You are welcome to use it.’
‘Thanks Tanya, you’re a star!’
‘I am aren’t I?’ she giggled. Then she looked at her watch.
‘Look, I have to shoot off now. I visit my mum before going home most days and if I’m late she frets.’
‘Where does she live?’
‘The other side of the village.’
Tanya got up, went over to the counter and opened the cash register, then returned to where I was sitting.
‘Here is some money for today, so you don’t go short. In future, I can pay you daily or weekly, it’s up to you.’
‘Can it be daily?’ I asked, not knowing if I would have to make a quick getaway at some point.
‘No problem, here is the spare key, let yourself in and out and make yourself at home. You can take whatever you like from the kitchen, but if you do, please replace the food as the last thing I want is diners having a moan about the lack of sausages!’
We both laughed and then Tanya continued.
‘The supermarket is Tesco’s Local and it’s on the edge of the village on the road to Newcastle. If you need anything, they stay open late. I get most of my stuff there as it’s cheap. Now I have to go or my mum will tell me off!
I got up and followed her to the door.
‘Thank you Tanya, you have been so kind to me.’
I felt tears prick my eyes.
‘Don’t be daft. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours as the actress said to the bishop.’
‘You are very trusting, you don’t really know me.’
She paused at the door.
‘I’m a good judge of character, apart from the slime ball Brian, I took my eye off the ball there, but you, I think I can trust. See you tomorrow, we open at 8 am.’
She smiled, gave me a peck on the cheek and left.
I locked the door, tidied up a bit and then went upstairs.
It took just a few minutes to put my clothes in the wardrobe and drawers. I knew that at some point quiet soon I would have to do some clothes shopping, but what I had would last about a week. I would need a mobile phone too. It would have to be PAYG as I didn’t want any calls that I might make to be traced back to me.
I tested the bed by sitting on it and bouncing up and down; then I took my shoes off and rubbed my aching feet. I wasn’t used to this sort of work and it was rather tiring, but I wasn’t complaining, I had been lucky, very lucky and to be honest I could do with a bit more if I was to come out of this a free woman–not man; that phase of my life was finished with.
Frankly, I don’t think I was ever great shakes at being a man. Even as a child, I was not into the macho thing. Being thin, small and a bit shy, I had experienced bullying up close and personal and had had bitter experiences of the contempt from other kids had, for a runt like me. As I grew up, I put a shell around me where I wasn’t going to be hurt by the taunts, snide comments and other things that bullies did to me.
It took a while to get over the hatred and the angst, but I won out in the end and I left that school with one of the best academic records of any pupil despite the low life’s that tried to screw me into the ground.
So I got married, found job that I was good at and had found my Shangri-La.
Only it wasn’t to be and my life had been ruined. I now had to brush myself off and start again. Regrets didn’t help me. “What if’s?” and “should I have done things differently?” would not change a thing. The past was the past and the future was before me. I would get the man who killed my wife, make sure he paid for what he had done and then I would begin the rest of my life.
But first things first, I had to put a plan into action.
My former career training helped. First things first…
I went back downstairs to the empty tearoom and then into the small office. Sitting down at the desk, I bent down and switched on the computer.
A few moments later, I was on line.
I Googled my name and wasn’t surprised at the number of entries. Lets face it, I was a convicted killer who had got his just deserts by being fried alive in a crash, or that was how the media put it. There was no indication that I had escaped the crash and I was heartened by the police’s reaction to my “death”. They weren’t looking for me and the case was closed. There would be an inquest in a few days time in Newcastle where it was expected that, along with the dead prison guards, a verdict of accidental death would be recorded.
So I wasn’t being hunted. I would make sure that no one could possibly recognize me. I did look a lot different as a woman than ever I did as a man. I always laughed when I read on the TG fiction sites about a man being miraculously unrecognizable by changing a parting and slapping on a bit of lippy. However, I was skilled at makeup and knew what I had to do to change the shape of my face and I intended to put those skills to good use.
My thoughts then turned to my wife and I felt a jag of pain in my heart as I mourned her loss. I wouldn’t rest until I had done something about finding her killer.
I opened up a new Word document and saved it as “Jacqui” I then put the folder in the “pif” folder of the computer and encrypted it. The last thing I wanted was Tanya finding it. I would clear all history of the file after using it, so, I was confident that it was safe from prying eyes.
I reopened the file ad started writing.
I put down all I knew about the murder, and the time leading up to it.
It was obvious to me that the murderer, who I would now refer to as “X”, was at my house at least thirty minutes prior to my arriving home. My so called friendly neighbors had heard shouting, how they did that, I wasn’t sure as our house wasn’t that close to our next door neighbors, I would accept that they did hear something as there would be little point in lying.
So they heard X and Jacqui arguing and assumed that it was me. Circumstantial evidence that, as it could have been anyone, but the jury believed the prosecutions case, which included the fact that I had blood on my hands and the financial arrangements that would make me rich if my wife died and those combined factors were enough to wrongly convict me.
So it came down to who was it that actually killed my wife?
It is a fact that most murders are committed by someone known to the victim, normally a family member and often the spouse. It wasn’t me and Jacqui had no close relatives or friends. So it seemed likely to me that it could have been a colleague at her school.
The whispered “magistra vitae” just before she died was another clue. I didn’t agree with the prosecution’s view that it was just some sort of delirium comment. Magistra vitae, or at least the full phrase which as actually "historia est magistra vitae" I learnt meant “history is life's teacher”
I believed that she was trying to tell me something and that could be that one of her collogues at school was her killer. It was tenuous, I knew, but I had to start somewhere.
I Googled Tennyson School, and then clicked on the link. I had often gone on that site with Jacqui; despite being a trained teacher with all sorts of qualifications, she was never that happy with the computer side of things and often asked me for help.
One benefit of all this was that I knew the passwords and I mentally crossed my fingers that they hadn’t been changed.
“Waterlillyx9232” got me in and I shook my head at the lack of security. I would have changed the password regularly so that people like me couldn’t access sensitive records. Still, I wasn’t complaining!
There was a list of teachers and their subjects and I printed off the details. There was also a historic list of lesson timetables in datal order. I scrolled down the list until I found the day when Jacqui was murdered and printed that one out. Rubbing my eyes, I realised that I was getting very tired. It had been a long day and I needed some rest.
I closed the computer down after clearing the traces of my activity. Then I got up, stretched my arms, picked up my papers and left the office. I made myself a quick sandwich and a cup of tea and then went upstairs to the flat.
I ate my sandwich and drank my tea sitting in the small lounge. I was feeling a bit better about things now that I had a plan of action. Time would tell if my efforts would get there just rewards. Even though it was still quite early, I decided to go to bed. I needed to be up early, as I wanted to be downstairs for when Tanya arrived.
I quickly undressed, removed my makeup, had a quick shower and then put on my nightie. I was still a bit uncomfortable about wearing a dead woman’s clothes and vowed that as soon as I was able, I would get my own clothes, just another thing to add to my list of things to do.
I went to sleep thinking of Jacqui and how much I missed her, hoping against hope that I would catch the man with a limp and do to him what he did to my lovely wife. But death was too easy for him. I wanted him to rot in prison for the rest of his natural life and then and only then, I could get on with my own life.
Please leave comments and kudo thingies...thanks! ~Sue
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