My girlfriend, Jess worked for this couple. They had two kids and a few problems – nothing serious, just that the mother was a little flaky and she needed help with the kids ‘cause the dad was away on business a lot.
Jess knew I had my own problems but she loved me anyway. I suppose she was a natural carer and I knew I was really lucky to have found her. She knows my dad’s an alcoholic and my mum can’t stand me seeing her being used like a punchbag – I swear to god I’ll kill that bastard before I’m done. So Jess had a spare key cut for me and I would visit her when the kids were asleep and their mom was asleep – yeah, ‘asleep’ is what she was. It’d be easier to wake the dead.
I tried calling Jess one afternoon but she wasn’t answering. Sometimes she couldn’t, it was one of those things and I had got used to it. It didn’t stop me feeling frustrated when I wanted to talk to her, but I got used to it.
I still couldn’t contact her even after the kids’ bedtime had passed and that never happened. I got worried.
I let myself into the house and nothing seemed right. It was silent as the grave. I went in through the kitchen, that’s where Jess usually spent her time. She has a TV in there, laptop, kettle, food.
Jess’s laptop felt cold to the touch, she’d not used it that evening. The TV in the living room was off and Jess’s room was dark and empty – she wasn’t there.
I’m not usually the adventurous and curious sort, but I had to find her. Dad had been on a bender again, he’d put mum in a headlock because she didn’t have any money for him and she’d legged it. He was probably going off to find some mug to loan him some money. It never ceases to amaze me that people will still lend him money. It also amazes me that I am so far removed from him and his way of living, what were they thinking when they named me after him?
I crept up the stairs, past the glass display cabinet Jess loved. It gave me the creeps, filled with kids’ pictures, casts of their hands and feet, their first pair of shoes… Not my taste of ornament at all.
The first door was the kids’ bedroom. They were quite young and didn’t mind sharing yet. It made Jess’s job easier when she had to get up in the night to sort them out because the mother is always out of it. No kids in their beds.
The next door was to the parents’ room. I was really careful as I opened it. The mother lay asleep, but there was something wrong, her breathing was way too deep, I could hardly hear her. I knew it was unlikely that she’d wake up, and I was really worried.
I snuck into the room, quiet as a mouse and listened to her. On the covers in front of her were bottles of pills. I didn’t touch anything but I knew she was in deep trouble. I wiped the doorknob as I left the room but that damned display cabinet! Who puts a glass monstrosity at the top of the stairs? I rushed out of the bedroom in a panic, the woman needed help and she was obviously home alone, where the hell was Jess? The bloody case went over and smashed all across the landing.
I called the emergency services as I ran out of the house. I hoped she would be ok but I couldn’t stick around because I didn’t want to get Jess into any trouble with the family.
I ran into my dad as I made my way home. We walked in together.
“Where’ve you been, you little bastard?” he slurred at me.
“Don’t start, dad,” I said with a sigh. I’d forgotten Mum had gone to stay somewhere else for the night.
“Shame you weren’t in, the cops have been looking for you,” he said with a sly half-smile.
“Already?” I said in a panic.
“Already? Whaddya mean?”
“Nothing. Why did they want me?”
“I dunno, I’m not your seck…secretary…” He mumbled something else and slumped onto the sofa. He fidgeted and pulled something from under his back as he tried to lie down. He dropped a games console onto the floor. We don’t own any games consoles.
“Have you been out thieving again dad? You are such a bastard.”
I found the card the police officer had left for me and rang the number. When I got straight through to the guy, it surprised me because you usually have to go through a combination of numbers before you get put through.
I told him who I was and he told me to sit down. This wasn’t good.
“You know Jessica Murray?” he said.
“She’s your girlfriend?”
“I’m really sorry to have to do this over the phone, son. Jessica has been killed in an accident. She was trapped by a car when it skidded out of control avoiding a pedestrian. The children’s mother has been informed, they were also killed.”
“Oh…” that was all I could say. It explained why Jess wasn’t answering her phone. It explained why she and the kids weren’t home. It also explained why their mum had taken an overdose. What a mess!
“Are you still there?” the police officer said.
“Yeah… still here,” I said.
“It’s a coincidence, but your name is the same as a bloke we’d like to talk to about some of our inquiries into a series of burglaries in the area.”
“Yeah, that’s my dad.”
“Your dad? The bloke I spoke to earlier?” he said.
I could tell by his voice he realised he’d missed his quarry by a whisker. Dad can play it really cool when he’s sober. The cop must have caught him at just the right time and he’d blagged his way out of it because the cop was distracted and not looking for him.
“Yeah, I was named after him. It’s become very inconvenient, people are always assuming they’ve found him when they ask me my name,” I said.
“You might want to get that changed, son. One day mistaken identity could get you into trouble.”
“Don’t think I haven’t thought of it,” I said and hung up.
That was last night. This morning, I think I hit my head because I can’t remember how I got here, naked, tied to a chair in someone’s cellar…
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