Authors: Paul Wallington
Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Crime, #Romance, #Thriller, #Adventure, #killer, #danger, #scared, #hunt, #serial, #hope
|Shaping the Ripples|
|Andrews UK Limited (2010)|
|Tags:||Mystery, hunt, danger, scared, killer, Crime, Romance, Suspense, Adventure, serial, Thriller, hope|
Jack Bailey’s life wasn’t worth living – until someone tries to take it away. Scarred by his childhood, and working as a counsellor at a domestic crisis centre in York, Jack Bailey often thinks of ending what he sees as a worthless life. But when he is targeted by a ruthless serial killer, who seems determined to destroy every aspect of his life, he finds that maybe it is worth fighting for. With the police suspecting Jack is responsible for the gruesome killings, he is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse. Can he unmask and stop the killer before it is too late? Operating as both an exciting thriller and an exploration of to what extent we are shaped by our childhood experiences, this is a gripping and thought provoking read.
SHAPING THE RIPPLES
Shaping The Ripples published in 2010 by
Andrews UK Limited
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published, and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
The characters and situations in this book are entirely imaginary and bear no relation to any real person or actual happening.
Copyright © Paul Wallington
The right of Paul Wallington to be identified as author of this book has been asserted in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyrights Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This book is dedicated to my darling Lindsey – my inspiration, my strength and my joy – and my three amazing children Emma, David and Beth.
Thanks to everyone who read the early drafts of this and gave me so much encouragement, especially Dave and Liz.
A beautiful evening to die, he thought idly, pressing firmly on the doorbell. He arranged his face into a look of anguish as he saw a shadow move behind the door. As expected, her eyes showed an instant recognition, then confusion.
“I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I know.” He made sure his voice had just the right note of anguish. “I’m sorry to turn up like this, but something’s happened. I really need to talk to you now, just for a few minutes.”
She hesitated, clearly undecided. Then, as he’d expected, she moved back.
“Alright then, but only for a couple of minutes”
He nodded gratefully, and followed her through the house.
In the room, he sat facing her, and began to talk.
“The things you said last time I saw you, really made me think. I’ve realised what I need to do.” He hesitated for a moment and then jumped to his feet. “This is so hard!” he cried, pacing in feigned distress about the room.
As always, she stayed sitting, trying to reduce his agitation by showing that she was calm and in control. It was the easiest thing in the world to walk around behind her. He slid the knife from his pocket and leaned forwards to draw it across her throat.
He walked back around and pulled his chair right up to her. Her hands were up to her neck, trying uselessly to stop the flow of blood.
“No wise sayings to suit this particular occasion?” he teased, savouring the pain and terror in her eyes. “Cat got your tongue, maybe?”
He raised the knife again and took his prize. Then he stood and walked over to her filing cabinet. It only took a few moments to find what he was looking for and he turned back to look at her. Her eyes were already wide and glassy, but one hand still drummed convulsively on the arm of the chair.
Ten minutes later he left the house, very satisfied with his work.
As a child, part of every Christmas Day’s tradition was watching Julie Andrews telling a group of improbably perky children to “Start at the very beginning”. It’s probably good advice but in real life, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Life’s much more messy, and the moment that really signifies the beginning of a whole chain of events is almost impossible to spot.
I could start with the instant that I realised my life had passed through the looking glass and into a deepening nightmare - the day I discovered a friend’s dismembered body. I suspect though, that the real start came some days earlier, a much more unremarkable day. In ways that I couldn’t even have imagined at the time, it all started with Jennifer.
Jennifer Carter opened the door to her house, smiling. “Come in, Jack,” she said, standing aside to let me precede her down the hall and into her small counselling room.
The room was simply furnished, with three comfortable single armchairs set into a triangle shape and facing each other. The windowsill was covered with photographs of her family, a husband and two grown-up daughters; the only exception being a basket of different types of stone , which sat at the centre of the windowsill. Some months ago she had asked me to pick the stone which I liked the most and explain why I had chosen it. My choice had been pale and very smooth with a few jagged ridges which seemed to mean something to her but she didn’t explain what. I never asked, in case I didn’t like the answer I got.
I waited for her to sit down in the chair next to a small wooden table, on which were two things; a brown folder with the words “Jack Bailey, age 34” on the front cover, and a box of tissues. I’d managed to avoid needing the tissues during my regular visits to see her, but the file had got noticeably thicker over the two and a half years that Jennifer and I had been working together.
My marriage to Liz had finally come to an end just over three years ago and the nightmares had started almost immediately afterwards. Awful dreams of being a small child suffering at the hands of a giant, they woke me up violently each night. Before the nightmares started, I had no memories at all of being a young child (my first memory being my Grandfather’s death when I was eight years old) but a flood of images soon followed. Suddenly, a whole lot of things fell into place. Put as simply and unemotionally as I can, my early years were disfigured by systematic and sustained sexual abuse, which only ended with the aforementioned death. Somehow I’d blotted out the memories and got on with life as best I could. I know there’s a lot of debate about repressed memories, but count me as an exhibit for the case that , at least sometimes, they’re real.
Trying to come to terms with this new reality was what had brought me to Jennifer. I made the decision that something which had such an adverse effect on my life and which unknowingly had contributed in a fairly major way to the breakdown of my marriage, needed to be addressed. As someone who spends a fair amount of their own time counselling others, I’d like to be able to say what a great help it was, but most of me thinks I’d be lying. Certainly I understand myself a lot better now, but I sometimes wonder if I wasn’t better off when I was living in ignorance. The Bible claims that Jesus once said “The truth shall set you free” but in my experience knowing why you’re the way you are and actually being able to change it are two very different things. So far, it’s a gulf I’ve been unable to leap.
None of this is in any way a criticism of Jennifer who is as warm and sensitive a person as you could hope to meet. I guess she’s in her early 50’s and usually manages to make me feel momentarily better while we talk. She sat down in the chair now and began with her standard opening,
“So, how are things for you at the moment?”
Even though I always know that question is coming, I’m never quite sure how I’m going to answer until I open my mouth.
“Not so bad.” I managed somewhat unimaginatively. “ Work’s very busy at the moment, which obviously isn’t a good thing, but it keeps me occupied.”
I stopped with a slight shrug.
“What about outside of work? How are you filling your evenings and weekends?” Jennifer probed.
“I’m usually on call at the weekends, so I tend to stay around the house. I do have the faithful companion of divorced men across the country,” I paused with a slight smile then continued, “- all the sports channels on digital TV. And I go to the cinema quite a bit.”
“Well, yes. But I don’t mind. And as long as I don’t go to any really rude films, I don’t get too many funny looks!”
“So, apart from work, you have almost no contact with other people.”
I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the way this particular session was going. Since Liz and I had split up it was true that my life outside of work was mostly solitary, but with my job taking at least 60 hours each week I really didn’t have a problem with that. Besides, being on your own was safer, which I suspected was what Jennifer was trying to get at.
“That’s mostly true.” I agreed fairly reluctantly.
“Are you happy with that?” she asked more gently.
“It’s not a case of whether I’m happy with it or not, it’s how it is. I put all my time and energy into helping others through my job. Away from that I just want to shut down.”
“But don’t you need more than that? For you?”
I could tell that she wasn’t going to let this one go, but could feel myself getting increasingly defensive on the subject.
“I’ve managed like this for the best part of three years, so obviously I don’t need anything more”
“Then don’t you deserve more?” Jennifer pressed on.
My answer came rushing out from somewhere deep within. I tried to bite the words back as they came, but too late.
“All I deserve is to die.”
There was a deep silence after my exclamation. I did my best to remove some of the sting from them by adding,
“Look, I know that’s not really true in my head. But I haven’t managed to lose the gut feeling that in the end that would be the best thing. I’m not going to do anything about it. I’ll just carry on as I am and hopefully one day I’ll feel differently.”
Jennifer’s soft brown eyes were filled with compassion. “But that’s exactly the point I was trying to make. You live your whole life like you’re doing penance for your childhood. You’re wearing yourself out trying to rescue everyone else, but you don’t think you deserve to be rescued. Your life is one long self-inflicted punishment. Haven’t you already paid enough?”
She stopped, obviously torn what best to say next. Then she continued, “What your Grandfather did to you was horrific, but it wasn’t your fault. I know you know that, at least up here.” She tapped her forehead “but somehow you’ve got to find a way to stop living as if it was, to stop hating yourself. You need a life for yourself, as well as for others.”
The fact that what she said might be true didn’t make it hurt any less. “That’s easier said than done.” I managed in response.
“I know,” she said even more gently “But deciding to try would be a fairly good start.”
For the rest of the session Jennifer tried to turn the conversation to rather less awkward areas. We talked mostly about my work, but it still felt as if the rawness of the early conversation was there like a barrier between us. It was a relief for both of us when the end of the hour approached.
Right at the end Jennifer paused, hesitated, and then spoke,
“I have another client who had very similar childhood experiences to you, but other than that the two of you are complete opposites. You see your job as saving everyone else, no matter what the cost is to you; he’s just full of rage and hate about what happened to him. Some days I’m not sure which is more damaging.”
She smiled a very sad smile and continued,
“I was saying to him only yesterday that if I had a magic wand I’d swap a bit of the two of you over. Help him to love people a little bit more, and let you love them a little bit less. It’s all right for you to have a life of your own, you know, even to put yourself first occasionally. Why not just give it a try?”
We made an appointment to meet again in a months time, and she got me to promise that before then I’d try to have had at least two evenings which weren’t spent working or alone.
The front door shut behind me and I walked down her garden path, my head down as I tried to work out why the conversation had made me feel so threatened. As I stepped out onto the street, a silver car pulled up outside and a tall man with dark hair hurried out towards Jennifer’s front door.
Next customer, I thought, and began my walk to work.
Jennifer’s house is in a tree-lined avenue, about a quarter of a mile outside the centre of York. I set off walking towards the city centre, vaguely registering a middle aged woman in a brown leather coat on the opposite pavement and a smallish well-dressed man a little distance behind me. Both were walking the same direction as me, heading for the heart of the city that has been my home for the last five years.
My mind was churning frantically as I replayed in my mind the meeting that had just finished and tried to work out why Jennifer’s questions had upset me so much. There was no doubt that my levels of discomfort and anxiety were completely disproportionate to what was being said. In essence, all Jennifer was trying to do was to tell me that I “should get out more”, which was a point that my boss George made most weeks.
I’ve learnt though in the last few years that one of the scars abuse leaves you with is unpredictable emotions. Some time ago I found myself in a very heated argument about Thomas Harris’ book “Hannibal”. I quite enjoyed the book right until the end, which I totally hated. Trying to explain why to someone who had liked the whole book, I found myself getting more and more angry about it. Later on, when I’d calmed down, I managed to work out why it mattered so much to me so, for what it’s worth, here it is;
Clarice Starling’s whole motivation in the first book was to do with atonement. In childhood she had failed to save the lambs from being slaughtered, but felt that saving other women from a psychopath might make amends. All of us who live our lives trying to make up for our perceived childhood sins know deep down that we never will, but our curse is to have to keep trying again and again. For Clarice to give up the quest and live with an inflictor of pain – no matter how charming or charismatic they are – is to betray everything she is. It makes no difference that it’s fiction, it threatened me and how I’ve come to make some sort of sense out of my life.
Children who have been abused have to create their own sense of reality, to give themselves a way of going on, and they get very agitated when that’s challenged. Clarice Starling’s about face had done that for me, and now Jennifer’s questioning had done the same. My life was in a form of equilibrium, albeit a fairly empty and isolated one, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to have that shaken up – now or ever.
Looking back now, I wish I’d carried on reflecting on how easy it is for someone’s foundations to be disturbed. Then some of the horror which followed might have been avoided. But then life’s always a lot easier with hindsight. In reality what I did was resolve to keep my promise about the two evenings, and then put it all out of my mind.
One of the best things about living in York is the way that the city still manages to feel so ancient. It’s been around for nearly 2000 years, since the Romans set up a camp there, and up until the Industrial Revolution was England’s second most important city. Perhaps because it hasn’t been so prominent in recent centuries, it’s somehow held on to its past, so at times you can imagine you are in the Middle Ages. Totally enclosed by the old city walls, you get into the city centre by passing through one of the ancient gates. Coming from Jennifer’s house I got to use probably my favourite route; walking past the cinema and through the old stone Micklegate.
Even though it was November, the city centre still had a fair number of tourists wandering around as I crossed over the river into the heart of the city. At the other side, I turned down the stone steps and walked along the waterfront.
The Domestic Crisis Centre, where I work, was set up about ten years ago in part of an old converted warehouse. Then they couldn’t give it away, while now every old building is being sacrificed to the never ending demand for apartments for the up and coming. Fortunately, George took it on a twenty-year fixed-rent lease, before the area became so trendy. The issue of what we’ll do in ten years time is a subject that’s carefully avoided.