Today we’re exploring the act of revenge with author Andrew Peters. He has generously offered to share a story from his anthology Solos. I found this one compelling and poignant. I hope you agree!
That your kids in the photo? And the wife? Nice looking family.
Me? I did have, just the one, A daughter. Jenny.
No, no. I don’t really mind. It all seems such a long time ago now. But it’s only …..let me see….four years.
Four years ago….different world. Cathy and I were living in Tonbridge. Happy enough, she worked for a bank, I was still teaching. Well, more working in a school, Deputy Head. Jenny must have been 23 then. Married to a nice boy. Soldier. She used to worry all the time when he was away. They had a house in Ashford. So things were chugging along just fine.
But then they stopped chugging.
Cathy found a lump in her breast. Highly invasive cancer. They started treatment straight away. She had her operation scheduled for the following week. Positive attitude and all that. We’ll fight this together.
Three days later, Jack, Jenny’s husband got blown to bits by a huge roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Positivity seemed in short supply after that. Not so much fight about either. I had a devastated daughter to deal with, and at the same time my wife was dying. Dying she surely was. The surgery removed a very aggressive and well developed tumour, The bad news was that it had already spread. Fair enough, they tried everything. Radiotherapy, chemo, prayer. None of it mattered. Three months after the first operation, we buried her.
Jenny went to pieces, all over again. I wasn’t much better, and I wasn’t much help to her. I flogged on at the job, trying to keep to just the one bottle of wine a night. I drove up to Ashford to see her as often as I could. She’d lost weight. Seemed to be drinking a fair bit too. I’d never seen her smoke before her mother died. Maybe it helped. But the life was gone from her, her eyes were empty, as if they were looking past you all the time. I’m sure we tried to support each other….I suggested she come back to Tonbridge, but she didn’t want to know.
“Maybe a bit later on Dad. Once we’ve got over the shock of it.”
She never did. Eleven months after her mother died, they found her in her garage, with the car engine running and a hosepipe from exhaust to window.
I blamed myself. Why hadn’t I seen the signs, why hadn’t I insisted she come home? Why hadn’t I gone up there more often?
I started to think a little differently after the inquest.
First it turned out that she was nearly three times the legal limit. She’d also taken cocaine, anti-depressants and a decent shot of heroin. There were bruises on her arms and face, some old, some more recent. Needle marks on her arms. It wasn’t the first time she’d injected. From what the pathologist said, it was entirely possible that she might never have woken up anyway, even without the monoxide. But there she was, in her own car, no sign of anyone else having been there, so really suicide was the only possible verdict.
Oh, one other little detail. She was 3 months pregnant.
So, what was I to make of that? My lovely, lively little girl died a sordid junkie’s death, pregnant with some unknown bloke’s child. Nobody had any ideas about him. Jenny had drifted away from most of her friends, Army wives they’d been. None of the neighbours had seen any male callers beyond the postman and at nearly 60 he didn’t seem likely. I was never going to know, which made it even worse.
Then I had to go and clear out her house. Not something I’d been looking forward to. There seemed so little to show for a life. But I didn’t need a house in Ashford, so it was going to be sold. I really just planned to take a few mementos and other bits and pieces, then call a house clearance firm.
I was puzzled that I couldn’t find the laptop I’d bought her a year or two back. But then I thought she might have sold it to buy drugs. I have a different theory now.
Do you know, I nearly missed the one thing that set me off on this path. I was all set to lock the door behind me, when an old memory of her childhood hit me. Jenny’s Diary. Her mother and I used to laugh about it, ever since the first time we found it under her mattress. Not that we read it, and not that we mentioned it to her. I wondered. I looked. Yes, still under the mattress.
I took it home. Read it. I cried. A lot. Because it was all there.
She’d met some bloke in a pub when she was trying to drown her sorrows. Smart dresser. Smooth talker. Before she knew it, she was spending nights in motels with him.
Of course he was married. She didn’t know what line he was feeding the wife. Turned out he owned the pub, and a couple of others. He also made a lot of money from distributing drugs.
Jenny must have been easy meat. A little cocaine, them a little more, finally why not try the needle? He never injected, but she started. Not that she felt herself getting too desperate for it just yet. But it was only a matter of time. He could be rough if people argued with him and she was getting frightened.
Then she found she was pregnant, and she got terrified. The last entry was dated the day before they found her body. She’d made up her mind to tell him. He’d been promising to leave his wife, this might be the spur he needed.
Oh my poor girl. I know, call her a fool, it’s so easy to see these things from the outside.
So what happened next, as they say. Did she tell him, he didn’t want to know, so she dosed herself up all alone and turned on the ignition? Did she tell him, he didn’t want to know, got her drunk, gave her a few other things and assisted the process. I didn’t know. Probably I never would.
But now I knew where he could be found, and I knew his name.
I decided right then that I was going to kill him.
Of course, with my Special Forces background, I knew plenty of people who’d provide me with a gun, or explosives, though I always prefer to use my bare hands. Yes, I am taking the mick. I’m a maths teacher. Well, yes, alright Deputy Head, but I doubted that he’d be responsive to a good talking too and a lunchtime detention.
I doubt he’d have been responsive to anything short of a tank. The man was huge and looked dangerous. Well, I knew the names of his pubs, so it wasn’t difficult to get a look at him. I started going to Ashford a little more often to try to get some idea about him. Just a quiet half in a dark corner,
Huge as I said. Muscle. Lots of gold. Seemed to do well with the ladies in his pub, but he had a temper. I saw him smack some bloke who got offensive to a barmaid.
I took a look at his house too. Well, I’m no James Bond, but it was easy to follow him home. Who’s going to look twice at a middle aged man in a four year old Daihatsu? Nice. Big . Gates. (The house, not the Daihatsu).
I was going to kill him.
The method was a little problematic. He didn’t seem to have a bodyguard. not that he needed one. I couldn’t think of a system for getting hold of a gun, I wasn’t likely to be able to slip powdered glass in his cornflakes, so what was I to do?
Well maybe the Mathematical mind might help.
I decided I needed to find his weakness. And a weapon.
The weakness took me three months to spot. The weapon took two years to prepare.
I needed to know his routine. So I spent a lot of time 100 yards down from his house, watching his comings and goings. I started to think a bit more like a detective. I hired different cars, wore different clothes. I even bought a rather sad auburn wig and wore it sometimes. It was so obviously a toupee that people couldn’t take their eyes off it, so I hoped they might not recognise me without it. No, I’m not a master of disguise, but who looks closely at all the cars in the road? Even drug distributors don‘t generally expect to be followed..
Every fortnight, on Sunday morning, he left home between 11 and 12 and drove to Folkestone. Always along the A road. He went to Manor Road and parked. Stayed inside for about 3 hours and then drove home. Another mistress? No. A little sleuthing (well, alright, a peek at the electoral roll) showed me that Mrs Shirley Wilson lived there. Sunday lunch with mother.
So that was the weakness.
Now for the weapon.
A simple plastic card. An HGV licence. I was going to be a lorry driver.
It took a while, but it can be done fairly easily.
But there were other things I needed to do at the same time.
First I resigned….well, took early retirement actually. The school were sympathetic, so speeded things up. Full pension and lump sum.
Not that money was a problem. Cathy had been well insured, we had money inherited from our parents and I had all of Jenny’s money plus the sale of her house. She hadn’t as it turned out, gone far down the heroin route. Certainly not far enough to spend much.
So, I was free to concentrate on that licence.
Once I had it, I went into the haulage business.
A little one man operation. I talked to the bank and between us, we bought a truck . A very big truck indeed. I leased some space on an industrial estate and I was in business. Not that it mattered, but it actually went rather well.
I had contacts in France via some old colleagues, and I started importing cheese. I’d drive over, pick it up from Amiens, haul it back over and deliver it to local farm shops, independent stores, market traders. One trip a week I used to do, and from time to time picked up a few other jobs here and there. Removals, Deliveries. I was making some money, though I’m not sure I could have kept it up long term. But then I didn’t need to. The truck was really too big for most of the jobs I did, but that was the whole point.
I established myself and established a routine. I’d drive up from Amiens to Boulogne on Friday night, park up at the ferry port, then have a couple of nights on the town before catching the Sunday morning ferry back to Folkestone and driving home. I’d done it often enough for it to be nothing unusual.
Now it was time for action.
It was a very complicated way of killing someone, a lot of work. But maybe the complexity of it appealed to the maths teacher in me.
I took another trip up to Ashford, praying that Old Mother Wilson hadn’t died. She hadn’t and the routine hadn’t varied. Every fortnight, regular as. He’d changed his car though. Now it was a Jaguar. Yellow. All that money and no taste. Still, it made my life a whole lot easier.
The preparation had been long and complicated, but the plan was simplicity itself. I was going to drive up from Folkestone on a Sunday lunchtime, eyes peeled for a yellow Jaguar and then drive my truck straight into it at 60mph. It was a very big truck indeed. Maybe better than the tank I thought I’d need. It didn’t bother me that I might need a few attempts at it. If he was too close to another car, if I was stopped at lights when he came past. I had all the time in the world.
As it happened, I got it right first time.
8th of May. I was barrelling along at 60, clear road ahead, when I saw him coming. Not another car in sight. I watched that bloody yellow thing get closer and closer.
Then I pulled straight across the road at him.
Mother of God! There was a blonde woman at the wheel.
I tried to swerve, but no hope. All I managed to achieve was to hit the side of the car with the side of the truck. The Jaguar took off across the verge and into the fields like an ice hockey puck that had just been slapped .The doors burst open, it rolled, it bounced, and it ended up on its roof. Then it burst into flames.
I’d just murdered three innocent people.
Because it turned out he’d broken his wrist. So his wife was driving him down. It was Mother’s birthday, so they couldn’t postpone. She didn’t normally go, as she and the old woman didn’t get on. Of course they had the kids in the back too.
There was barely a mark on the truck. I didn’t have a scratch.
Police. Court, I told them I must have had a blackout. Couldn’t remember a thing. Endless remorse. I was so obviously devastated that they barely punished me. Suspended sentence. I won’t be driving a truck ever again of course.
Did I care about the wife and kids? Not really. To be honest, I haven’t cared about very much for an awful long time.
There was never any suggestion that it wasn’t an accident. I had no connection with Wilson. Even he wouldn’t have known my name, Jenny being married. And Wilson wasn’t going to be answering any questions. And who in their right mind would imagine murder by HGV? OK, it’s a very effective blunt instrument., but it’s not exactly precise.
Far too imprecise as it turns out.
Because the bastard isn’t dead.
Arrogant swine wasn’t wearing his seat belt, and was thrown out as the car rolled. Not that he’ll be dancing for joy, because he landed head first. Broken cervical vertebra and brain damage. I’m told he’ll never walk or use his arms again, even if he does come out of the coma. But his mother won’t let them switch him off. She swears blind she’s seen him blink a few times.
So, there we are. I’d got my revenge. He’d lost his family, and what life he’d got left wasn’t worth living. I went home to my empty house. Read. Watched TV. Don’t go out much.
Closure? Not really. Not quite. Took a while to realise it, but there was one thing I wanted him to know, and one thing I needed to know.
Anybody can get in here, I just told them I was an old friend.
So. Now you know the whole story. Now you know why.
But I still don’t know whether Jenny killed herself, or whether he’s got that on his conscience too.
Was it murder?
Blink once for yes, twice for no, Mr Wilson.
I hope you’ll take the time to connect with Andy and explore his fictional world.
Thanks for reading.