‘Please, pick up, pick up’
Clarise gripped the phone tightly, her hands shaking. The TV blaring behind her.
‘John, John its him’
‘Clarise, is that you? Its who? Don?’
‘Oh John, it’s him, it’s Timmy’
Clarise was no longer able to hold back the tears, they shook through her body. She crumbled to the floor. The soft pink carpet pressed close to her face as she pulled her body round into the feotal position. The phone cradled between her ear and the carpet she could no longer speak, her sadness over whelemed her.
‘Clarise, Clarise. Im coming home’
John slammed down the receiver, and ran from the office. He was at least a twenty minute drive from home, but knew the roads would be quite,. The school run mums would just be getting in for their mornings cups of coffee. At this time of day he could do it in far less. John felt the rush of warm air, being forced through the car windows as he raced home to Clarise. He was confused, Timmy turning up was cause for celebration not tears. Clarise had longed for this day for fifth teen years. Leaving her son with Don had broken her, so why would she be crying. As the car turned the corner into Maddison Road, John was met with a crime scene.
‘Excuse me mate, what’s happened here?’
Johns voice was full of anxiety, a detour now would add precious minutes onto his journey. A young man in a grey suit, approached the car.
‘Been here twenty minutes already mate, apparently, it’s that serial killer again. Killed the chap that runs the shop up the way there. Of course the police aren’t saying much’
‘Shit, Eddie? No way’
John had known Eddie since him and Clarise had moved here, he had worked for him in the early days. He would grieve for Eddie later, for now he had to get home to Clarise. The cars were backing up and turning the car now would prove almost impossible. So pulling the car over into a free parking spot, John grabbed his phone, and left the car there and walked, or perhaps ran the rest of the way.
As he approached the house he could see the curtains were closed, this was not unsual. Clarise suffered from depression, years of abuse at the hands of her ex husband had left her fragile. Leaving her son behind had tipped her over the edge.
John called her name as fumbled at the door. Slamming the door behind him, he ran from room to room before finally discovering her on the bedroom floor. He wrapped his arms around and gently lifted her onto the kingsize bed.
‘Clarise, my darling what’s happened?’
The TV still blaring out, Clarice reached for the remote and pressed rewind, hands shaking, tears rolling down her tear soaked cheeks she croaked,
John looked at the TV screen, news footage of the recent murder was being played out in front of him.
‘Clarise I don’t understand, that wasn’t Timmy that was murdered.’
The TV began fast forwarding, before coming to a stop . A mans face filled the screen. It wasn’t the blue eyes, or the blonde hair that had caught Clarices attention. It was the vivid birth mark that sat below the mans left eye. The dark brown Eagle shape, that she had seen so many times. John leaned in close and ran his fingers across the brown Eagle that sat on Clarice’s left cheek, he looked back towards the TV. The resemblance was clear, but the man looked nothing like Clarice.
‘Clarice, sweetheart, this man could be anyone. Just because he has the same birthmark as you doesn’t mean it’s Timmy’
‘You mean the same birth mark me and Timmy have.’
Clarice handed John a photo. The young lady and small boy smiled lovingly at the camera. The boys blonde hair and green eyes contrasted alongside the young lady’s brown hair and brown eyes. Their faces so close to the camera the brown eagle shape visible on their cheeks, seemingly the only genetic connection they had.
Clarice reached again for the remote controller.
‘He needs me John.’
A female news reporters voice echoed through the bedroom.
‘An eye witness, has reported hearing the young man that is wanted in connection with this murder, asking for his Mummy’
Clarice paused the TV. The details were beginning to sink in and John sank back into the pillows. He reached over and took the phone from Clarice’s hand.
‘Clarice, we need to ring the police.’
Clarice turned and looked at John, a frown settling above her red puffy eyes.
‘The police? Why would we need the police? You heard them, he just wants his mummy. John we need to go find him. My boy needs me. This is my fault, I never should have left him’
‘Clarice, you had no choice’
John thought back to the day Clarice had turned up at his shop. Her eye bloodied and bruised, her clothes ripped about her body. Days later the bruises mapped out across her broken skin. She had stumbled sobbing into his arms. The most he had gotten out of her that day was that they had to go, now. The car was already packed, their affair had started of innocently a year before, they were friends she could trust him, unlike her husband. John had finally convinced her to leave him, had promised to take care of her and Timmy. But that day, it was just Clarice, no Timmy. John begged Clarice to go to the police, promised they would get Timmy, but she told him simply to drive.
Two years ago, sitting beside the Christmas tree, wrapping another present Timmy would never open, Clarice told John about that day. Timmy’s green eyes had opened in shock as the cold barrell of the gun was pressed hard against his temple. He was only five, fear paralysed him as pee ran down his legs onto the kitchen floor. Half dragging him, Timmy had slipped, Don not expecting it had lost his grip, Timmy had landed face first in his own urine. Clarice raced over to him, Don held out his arm, hitting Clarice, he beat her again and again for daring to try and leave him, for trying to take away his son, for embarrassing him, for so many reasons. Timmy cowered under the kitchen table watching as his mum was beaten. Don reached under and dragged him out holding him in his arms he pushed the barrell of the gun into Timmy‘s small mouth. Blood was filling into Clarice’s mouth and for a second she wondered if the metallic taste was similar to what Timmy was tasting.
‘Get the fuck out, or I kill him, you hear? Now fucking go, don’t ever come back come back. Don’t bother going to the police either, cos by the time they get here, little Timmy’s guts gonna be covering the walls’
‘Don, please, please’
Don took the safety latch of the gun and pulled back the trigger. Clarice stood up and ran as fast as she could, she hid amongst some bushes on the deserted road, afraid of every bang she heard, before finally leaving and heading towards the shop.
John wondered if the 22 calibre gun being used by the serial killer was the very same gun that been forcefully pushed into his mouth when he has just a small boy.
‘Clarice, he needs help. We must tell the police’
‘No John. No police I have to go to him, he needs me’
Clarice walked over to her dresser and through some clothes onto the bed, she was muttering under her breath and moving solemnly around the room. John placed his hands over hers and begged her to reconsider.
‘He might be dangerous Clarice.’
‘He wont hurt me John, he needs me’
‘Clarice he could be anywhere.’
‘Oh no John, I know where he will be. By the lake, under the old oak tree, it’s where we always went to escape’
‘Please Clarice we have to call the police.’
Clarice was no longer listening. She hurriedly dressed herself, and placed the bag into the back of the car. She wrapped a cardigan over her shoulders, the summer sun was hot, but she knew next to the lake the cool breeze and over grown trees would offer no warmth. She looked over at John who was standing by the front door, colour having drained from his face he was looking hurt, confused and scared.
‘John, you can either come with me or stay here. Either way I am going to get my son back. Every boy needs his mummy’
Her face was filled with determination, her brown eyes large and scared looking had taken on a lease of life as the excitement of seeing her son again sunk in.
‘Ok sweetheart, you’re right. We failed Timmy before, not this time. I need to ring work let them know I wont be back, and let me grab a few things. Can you wait that long?’
‘Sure, but be quick’
John walked over to Clarice and pecked her on the lips, smiling into her beautiful face he rubbed his thumb along the birthmark. He hurriedly went back into the house, his heart thumping, all he could think was that he failed Timmy and Clarice once before he couldn’t fail them again. He picked up the phone and dialled the number. The conversation was quick, and he replaced the reciever, wondering if he had done the right thing.
The bags sat neatly in the boot, anyone looking would think they were heading away on holiday. Looking back at the house, a small tear raced down John’s cheek. The two bedroom house had never heard the sounds of children’s laughter, it was mean’t to be a family home, but John wondered how that would ever be possible.
‘Why don’t I drive sweetheart, you rest’
John stepped round to the drivers side, all the while smiling at Clarice. He reached for the sat nat and punched in the postcode that even after fifth teen years he could still remember, as they got closer he would ask Clarice for further directions.
It had been maybe 3 hours since the murder in Maddison road and John wondered if that would be enough time for Timmy to have travelled back to his home town. The trip would take roughly an hours driving, assuming Timmy could drive.
Clarice sat back in the seat, the leather seat felt cool against her skin. The strawberry air freshner that hung from the mirror was new and the smell was intense. The blue skies above filled her hope of a new day. The shock of seeing her son on the TV this had all but gone, she saw now that she could save him. For the first time in fifth teen years she felt truly happy, like she had a reason for living. She looked over at John and smiled. Her saviour, he had saved her, and now he was going to help her save her son.
‘Turn left at the next road John’
John’s palms were sweating and his hands were slipping around the steering wheel. Looking out from the window, all he could see were trees, and the long deserted dirt road that led to the house Clarise, Don and Timmy had shared.
‘Pull over, we have to walk from here’
John nervously pulled the car over, and stepped out. Whilst Clarise rummaged around in the boot of the car, John looked around them in all directions looking for signs that they had been followed. The walk was short, far shorter than John had been expecting. Recent rainfall had left a slightly damp smell of moss in the air. The thick brambles, foliage and bushes looked impenetrable, but Clarise glided through cutting from left to right as if remembering a well worked route. John fumbled with some torn up paper in his pocket, idley ripping small pieces and dropping them, for fear of never being found out here. John was reminded of the child hood story Hansel and Gretal, walking towards the mouth of evil.
‘Stop, John. It’s him’
John looked over at the young man sitting at the edge of the lake. His eyes red, his body visibly shaking. The young man was talking rapidly into his hands, looking all around him, the gun lay at his side. Timidly Clarise stepped forward into the clearing, the sun shone down on her, crowning her in light.
‘Timmy, it’s mum’
Her voice sounded angelic, soft and caring. The young man looked up at what he believed was an angel in the disgiuse of his mum. Standing up slowly, tears rolling down his face, he stepped toward Clarise.
‘POLICE, FREEZE, you are surrounded’
Clarise looked over at John, the hurt so clearly etched on her face.
‘John, what did you do?’
‘Im so sorry Clarise, im so so sorry’
What happened next is a blur. Timmy reached into his pocket. The police assuming him to be armed, open fired. Clarise, well John wondered if he had ever seen Clarise move as fast as she had that day. Then the deafening silence, followed by a soft wimpering.
‘Oh no Clarise, Clarise’
John held Clarises bleeding body in his arms. Clarise whispered to John.
Did I save him, John?’
John looked over at the bleeding body of the young man. His bare arms on show, cigarette burns littering along the mottled skin of his arm. The young mans face looked relieved. John wondered whether Clarise had saved her son, death surely was the only escape the torture this boy had surely endured over the years, a boy so broken he had turned to evil itself to find sanctuary.
‘My beautiful angel Clarise, yes you saved him.’
Clarise let her heavy eyelids closed, s small smile sat lovingly on her lips, as she took her last breath.
Karen Hayward 2017