Read Looking for JJ Online

Authors: Anne Cassidy

Tags: #Social Issues, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fiction, #Death & Dying, #Emotions & Feelings, #Emotional Problems, #Family & Relationships, #Violence, #Law & Crime, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Emotional Problems of Teenagers, #Adolescence, #People & Places, #Europe, #England, #Physical & Emotional Abuse, #Child Abuse, #Murder, #Identity, #Identity (Psychology)

Looking for JJ

BOOK: Looking for JJ
9.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub






“Like any other offender Jennifer Jones has been carefully vetted. It was the considered opinion of all those concerned that she poses no threat to children and accordingly she was released under licence and is currently living in a safe environment. Any talk of revenge or vigilante action is wholly inappropriate and will be dealt with in the most rigorous manner.”

Where was Jennifer Jones? That’s what everyone was saying. There were only a handful of people in the country who knew. Alice Tully was one of them.





part one:
Alice Tully






Everyone was looking for Jennifer Jones. She was dangerous, the newspapers said. She posed a threat to children and should be kept behind bars. The public had a right to know where she was. Some of the weekend papers even resurrected the old headline:
A Life for a Life!

Alice Tully read every article she could find. Her boyfriend, Frankie, was bemused. He couldn’t understand why she was so fascinated. He put his arm around her shoulder and dipped his mouth into her neck while she was reading. Alice tried to push him away but he wouldn’t take no for an answer and in the end the newspaper crumpled and slipped on to the ground.

Alice couldn’t resist Frankie. He was bigger and taller than her, but that wasn’t difficult. Most people were. Alice was small and thin and often bought her clothes cheaply in the children’s section of clothes shops. Frankie was a giant beside her, and liked to pick her up and carry her around, especially if they were having an argument. It was his way of making up.

She was lucky to have him.

She much preferred to read the articles about Jennifer Jones when she was on her own. It meant waiting until Rosie, the woman she lived with, was out at work. It gave her plenty of time. Rosie worked long hours. She was a social worker and had a lot of clients to see. In any case the stories about Jennifer Jones weren’t around all the time. They came in waves. Sometimes they roared from the front page, the headlines bold and demanding. Sometimes they were tiny, a column on an inside page, a nugget of gossip floating on the edge of the news, hardly causing a ripple of interest.

When the killing first happened the news was in every paper for months. The trial had thrown up dozens of articles from all angles. The events on that terrible day at Berwick Waters. The background. The home life of the children. The school reports. The effects on the town. The law regarding children and murder. Some of the tabloids focused on the seedier side: the attempts to cover up the crime; the details of the body; the lies told by the children. Alice Tully hadn’t seen any of these at the time. She had been too young. In the past six months, though, she had read as much as she could get her hands on, and the question that lay under every word that had ever been printed was the same. How could a ten-year-old girl kill another child?

In the weeks leading up to the ninth of June, Alice Tully’s seventeenth birthday, the stories started again. Jennifer Jones had finally been released. She had served six years for murder (the judge had called it
but that was just a nice word). She had been let out on licence which meant that she could be called back to prison at any time. She had been relocated somewhere far from where she was brought up. She had a new identity and no one would know who she was and what she had done.

Alice fell hungrily on these reports, just as she sat coiled up and tense in front of Rosie’s telly, using her thumb to race past the satellite channels, catching every bit of footage of the Jennifer Jones case. The news programmes still used the only photograph that there had ever been of the ten year old. A small girl with long hair and a fringe, a frowning expression on her face.
was the little girl’s nickname. The journalists loved it. It made Alice feel weak just to look at it.

On the morning of her birthday Rosie woke her up with a birthday card and present.

“Here, sleepyhead.”

Alice opened her eyes and looked upwards at Rosie. She had her dark suit on and the white striped blouse she always wore with it. Her hair was tied back off her face, making her look serious and stern. Instead of her usual hanging earrings she was wearing gold studs. It was not the way Rosie liked to dress.

“Don’t tell me, you’re in court today!” Alice said, sitting up, stretching her arms out, ruffling her fingers through her own short hair.

“You guessed it!” Rosie said. “Here, take this, birthday girl!”

Alice took the present while Rosie walked to the window and pushed it open. A light breeze wafted in, lifting the net curtains. Alice pulled the duvet tight, up to her neck.

“Do you want to freeze me to death?” she said, jokingly.

Rosie took no notice. She loved fresh air. She spent a lot of her time opening windows and Alice spent a lot of time closing them.

Inside the wrapping paper was a small box, the kind that held jewellery. For a moment Alice was worried. Rosie’s taste in jewellery was a bit too arty for her. She lifted the lid off gingerly and saw a pair of tiny gold earrings.

“These are lovely,” Alice said and felt a strange lump in her throat.

“More your taste than mine,” Rosie said, looking in Alice’s wall mirror and pulling at her jacket, using the flats of her hands to smooth out her skirt. She looked uncomfortable.

Alice got out of bed and stood beside her. She held an earring up to one ear and nodded approvingly. Then she squeezed Rosie’s arm.

“You’re on lates this week?” Rosie said.

Alice nodded. She didn’t have to be at work until ten.

“I’ll be home early. So I’m going to cook a special meal,” Rosie said. “And it’s not only your birthday we’re celebrating. Next Saturday, you’ll have been here for six months!”

That was true. Six months of waking up every morning in that bedroom, of eating in Rosie’s kitchen, of seeing her name on letters:
Alice Tully, 52 Phillip Street, Croydon.

“My mum’s coming. What about Frankie?”

Rosie had been making a special cake that had been hidden from Alice. Her mother Kathy, a funny Irish woman, was helping her.

“He can’t come.”

She didn’t bother to explain. Frankie said he felt awkward around Rosie, as though she was watching him, waiting to tell him off every time he touched Alice. He preferred it when they were alone.

“Oh well. It’ll be just the three of us then.”

After Rosie left Alice sat on her bed holding the earrings and looking at her card. There would be nothing from her mother, she knew that. She sat very still for a moment, aware of her own body, trying to read her own sensations. Was she upset? She had other presents and cards. She had Frankie and her friends from the
Coffee Pot
. Then there was Rosie herself. Rosie with her powerful hug and no-nonsense manner; Rosie who smelled of lemons and garlic and basil and who was always trying to fatten her up. Dear, sweet Rosie. Alice hadn’t known that such people existed.

The sound of the letterbox distracted her. She got up and took her card over to the mantelpiece and stood it up. Then she walked downstairs to the front door where the morning paper was sticking through the letterbox. She pulled it out, taking care not to graze it or tear the pages, and took it back up to the kitchen. Without looking she laid it down on the kitchen table and got on with making her breakfast. She tipped out some cereal and poured milk into her bowl. One dessertspoon of sugar was all she wanted. Then she got out the orange juice and poured herself exactly half a glass. Where eating was concerned she had a routine. She wasn’t fussed about her weight or her shape. She just ate what she wanted and no amount of persuasion from anyone was going to change that.

She sat down and flattened the newspaper. There it was again, the headline she had expected.



Is this justice?


Her wrist trembled as she lowered her spoon into the bowl and scooped up some cereal. The story was the same as every other one that she had read over the last weeks.
Should Jennifer have been released? Should she stay in Britain? Is she a danger to children?
Then there was the revenge angle:
Would the dead girl’s parents try to find Jennifer?

As ever, the newspaper gave a brief outline of the story of that day at Berwick Waters. Alice read it. It was just like all the others. She had read them all. If anyone had asked she could have probably recited it by heart.

A bright blue day in May, six years before. The sun was staring down from the sky but a sharp breeze bothered the bushes and flowers, bending them this way and that. When it died down, the sun’s glare was heavy, and for a fleeting moment it might have seemed like a midsummer day.

The town of Berwick. A few kilometres off the main Norwich road. It had a high street with shops and a pub and road after road of neatly laid-out houses and gardens. Beyond the small school and the park the road led out of the town past the disused railway station to Water Lane. A row of cottages, eight of them. Formerly owned by the council, they stood in a small orderly line along the road.

They weren’t all run-down. Some were cared for, with conservatories and extensions built on. Others had peeling paint and broken fences. Some of the gardens were colourful and neat, their blooms in geometric beds, their terracotta pots standing upright, early blossoms tumbling over the edges. Others were wild with weeds and strewn with broken toys. Above them all were washing lines hoisted up into the sky, children’s shirts and dresses struggling in the breeze one minute and hanging limply in the sun the next.

Three children emerged from a gate at the back of one of the gardens and started on the path to Berwick Waters. It was only a kilometre and a half away and they were walking smartly, as though they had some purpose. The lake at Berwick Waters was man-made, filled up some ten years before by the water company. It was over three kilometres long and was surrounded by woodland and some landscaped picnic areas. The water in the lake was deep and children were not encouraged to go there alone. Some people said that families of feral cats had lived in the area and had been drowned when it was filled. At times, during the day, when there was absolute silence, some people said, their cries could be heard. Most people dismissed this, but many children were in awe of the story.

On that day in May the children were cold at first, that’s why they were hugging themselves, pulling the sleeves of their jumpers down, trying to keep the niggling breeze from forcing its way inside their clothes. Five minutes later it was too hot and the jumpers came off and ended up tied round their waists, each garment holding tightly on to its owner. Three children walked away from the cottages on the edge of the town towards Berwick Waters. Later that day only two of them came back.

Alice Tully knew the story. She could have written a book about it.

She looked at her cereal bowl and saw that she’d eaten only half of it. She picked up her spoon and continued, chewing vigorously, swallowing carefully, hardly tasting a mouthful. At the bottom of the editorial there was a final quote from an official at the Home Office:

Like any other offender Jennifer Jones has been carefully vetted. It was the considered opinion of all those concerned that she poses no threat to children and accordingly she was released under licence and is currently living in a safe environment. Any talk of revenge or vigilante action is wholly inappropriate and will be dealt with in the most rigorous manner.

Where was Jennifer Jones? That’s what everyone was saying. There were only a handful of people in the country who knew. Alice Tully was one of them.

BOOK: Looking for JJ
9.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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