The Inheritance

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Chapter 10

Johnnie sent me inside for my mobile phone. I walked back out and silently handed it to him. He used it to photograph the new garden. Shows how hopeless I was, I hadn’t even thought about using the phone for pics. If I’d known what to do, like every other person my age on the planet, I could have taken a photo and sent it to Johnnie. And to DS Martin, come to that. He took photos from every angle and passed me back the phone. “That’s for you to show your local plod. I hope they’re taking this seriously.”

I sank down on the grass beside him again. “Johnnie, what does this mean? Does it mean that I don’t own the house? He didn’t leave it to me? Did he even die?”

“Good questions, but yes, you legally own the house. I don’t know whether he actually died or not, because my mates can’t find any trace of him. It seems that a letter on a false letterhead was sent to your law firm, a firm they knew wouldn’t ask too many questions. They’re known to the police for skirting the law and they defend some pretty shady characters.”

“Well, just the two people I wanted to see.”

We spun around at the sound of the voice and found DS Martin coming through the gate. I stood and pointed back at the garden. “Look! Look what he’s done. He’s made me a garden. That wasn’t there when I left for work.” Even I could hear the brittleness in my voice, the underlying panic. The garden and fake lawyers were getting to me. “That was a tangle of shrubs when I left for work. How did he dispose of them? He must have had a trailer or something to take them away. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Unless, he lived near by.” DS Martin walked over to the garden and gave it the same once-over that Johnnie had done. “That would make it easier to take away the rubbish. He’d just need a wheelbarrow and wheel it home.”

“Alternatively, he could’ve had some large rubbish bags he dumped in his boot.” Johnnie added.

You could have cut the tension with a knife. We were all looking at the garden but I knew that DS Martin and Johnnie were using it as an excuse to not look at each other.

Johnnie stood up next to him. “We took pics with her phone. And, by the way, the letter from Germany with instructions on the will….”

“I know, it’s a fake. That law firm doesn’t exist.”

We stood there, looking at the garden. DS Martin was the first to move. “Have you checked the rest of the house? Has anything else been touched or tampered with?”

“No, I’ve looked. Nothing. But I’ve set traps.” I didn’t miss the glance between them and out of nowhere, I saw red. “Well, what do you want me to do? Sit around and allow him to wander around my house. I want to know when he’s been here and where he’s been!” My voice was getting perilously high and I was close to tears.

But it was DS Martin, not Johnnie who took over. “Sam, why don’t you go and put the jug on? I want to have a chat with Mr Wills for a moment. And then I’ll come in, you can make me a coffee and I’ll bring you up to date on what we’ve found.”

From the kitchen, I could see the two of them and it didn’t seem like a friendly chat between colleagues. DS Martin was doing the talking and Johnnie’s body language was stiff with hostility. I saw him make one comment and then turn and walk away. DS Martin took one last look at the garden and walked back across the lawn.

“What did you tell him?”

“Just to let us do our job and stop asking his mates to do favours for him. He’s not in the force now and he needs to leave this alone. Although, it is good to know that you’ve got someone close by who’s looking out for you.”

I nodded. “Tea or coffee?” I was feeling drained and too exhausted to be polite.

“Coffee thanks. One sugar.” He walked further into the kitchen. “What was he doing here?”

“He called me to tell me about the letter being a fake, just after I found the garden. I asked him to come take a look.” I turned to face him. “Don’t tell me that you still seriously suspect him of doing this!” Could he really be that inept?

“I find it interesting that he should call at exactly the time you found the garden, that’s all.” He held up his hand as I was about to interrupt. “He didn’t have the best reputation as a cop, that’s all. I’m just keeping an open mind. It’s your safety at stake here, and I’m not ruling anything out.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. But I don’t want you to waste your time on checking up on Johnnie. So, what have you found?” I put his coffee on the table and sat myself down to listen to what he had to say. But I found my eyes straying back to the garden. And I realised something. “Do you know, that when I sit here and have a coffee, I can see that garden? Do you think he planned it that way?”

He took a sip and looked thoughtfully out the window. “I’d say that was a reasonable assumption.”

“So, what kind of a person scares me to death, locks up my cat and then plants me a flower garden?”

“Not your average burglar, that’s for sure. To be honest, I really don’t know what we’re dealing with here. But I do know that you’re the target, he’s patient and organised and so far, doesn’t seem to want to hurt you. But that doesn’t rule out any possible danger in the future. We don’t know who it is or why he’s doing this. And we don’t know what might trigger him to a level which could involve violence.”

I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “So, what do you know then?”

’We know that letter was a fake and we are following more leads both in Germany and locally. We know that Frederick Hopmann in all probability doesn’t exist here in New Zealand but we suspect he did exist in Germany. We think he changed his name when he came over here and he may very well have followed your family. I think I know why there is such a long gap but I’m waiting on confirmation of that information.”

I was gob smacked. “Are you saying that this may have something to do with my childhood in Germany? Does that mean my brother is in danger as well?” My head was spinning with questions. “Do you think it had anything to do with….”

He held his hand up to stem the flow of questions. “It’s early in the investigation and we do have some leads we are following up so I can’t tell you anything more than that at this stage. I’m sorry. At least, you know we are taking this very seriously and we’re working on it.” He smiled at me and I relaxed a little. He seemed so trustworthy. I couldn’t help comparing him to Johnnie. Johnnie who seemed…. edgy was probably a good word for him. But once again, DS Martin surprised me. “We’ve also had a chat with your husband and I would suggest that you stay away from him a little bit longer, too.”

“Are you seriously suggesting that he may have something to do with all this?” I was horrified and for the life of me, I knew he was wrong. I knew David, even though I didn’t know the new David.

“No, I doubt that he has anything to do with any of this, but I do believe that he could be a threat to your safety at the moment. Did you know that he has been to both the bookshop you used to work for and to the solicitors who dealt with Hopmann’s will? He’s searching for you and he’s quite…” he searched for the right word, “intense about the fact that you have left him. I don’t think he’s used to being embarrassed and that’s how he sees the fact that you have left him. He finds the whole separation thing embarrassing.”

“Embarrassing? Is that what he said?”

He nodded. “He wasn’t particularly complimentary about you as a wife or women in general, come to that. But as I said, he’s quite intense and very reluctant to talk about it. He can be quite aggressive. I’d stay right away for a while.”

I realised I was staring at him and quickly took a sip of my coffee. “I also found out that there has been someone else asking after me at the bookshop.”

He looked at me, measuring what I knew or how I would take it. “Yes, someone with an accent.”

“You know?”

“Sam, it’s my job to know. We interviewed Moira and she told me the same thing she told you on the phone when you resigned. I am doing my job, you know.”

“Is there anything else I don’t know?” My voice sounded small, even to me.

He smiled, drained his coffee and stood up. “I suspect quite a few things and I’ll tell you about them when I know for sure.”

I walked him to his car and noticed that before he got into it, he stood for a moment looking down the road at the group of trees which hid the house down the gully. I looked over but couldn’t see what he was looking at. He waved as he drove off and I found myself smiling, what a nice guy he was. Let’s hope he is a good copper too. And then I remembered the papers that Brian had. I took a few steps forward and tried to get his attention, but he had gone. I went inside and took his card out of my purse, calling him immediately. He answered and I quickly told him about the box of papers my brother had. I suggested that he could go and pick them up and then give them to me when they had finished looking through them.

“But DS Martin, you won’t tell my brother where I live will you? He’ll go straight to David. He really wants to be in David’s good books.”

There was a slight silence. “You know, you really could do with some trustworthy people in your life.” Then quickly he added, “Don’t worry, I’ll collect those papers for you.” And he hung up.

I smiled, it was nice to have someone so capable concerned for me. And I felt quite triumphant. I would get the papers picked up but without revealing where I was living and without any danger of bumping into David.

But underneath everything, I felt hollow. David was embarrassed. Eight years of marriage and that’s all he was, embarrassed? And what did aggressive mean? I know he was a private person, but did he really resent queries enough to become aggressive with the police? Again, my foundations shifted. What hope was there for me as a judge of character when the man I had lived with for eight years, wasn’t who I thought he was? What did that say about my trusting Johnnie or even feeling that DS Martin was like a new friend? How did I know any more? It was blatantly obvious that I was deficient in the judgement of character department.

The next morning, I reluctantly left for work. Marmaduke was locked inside with his litter tray and all my little traps were set. But I didn’t want to go, I wanted to stay home and look after my house. I wanted to sit and wait and catch him in the act. But most of all, I wanted desperately to find out who he was. But in this cat and mouse game, he was the winner. Nothing happened for days. It was like the weather. Every day rolled out the same grey sky, day after day. We had some wind, the mornings were cold and frosty, but there was no respite from the gun-metal grey cloud ceiling. If you could afford it, this was the time of year that you took a trip to Fiji or Samoa, anywhere that had sun and sea. The greyness seeped into you, even more draining because we were already weary from the colourless winter. Like the sky, people became wan and pallid, tempers frayed as another day was forecast as dreary and overcast.

None of my traps were triggered. I didn’t hear from either Johnnie or DS Martin and instead of being lulled into feeling more safe and more secure, I just got more jumpy. A week later, I couldn’t stand it any longer and rang DS Martin. As soon as I was put through to him, I blurted out, “So, did you pick up the papers?”

“Good morning, Sam, nice to hear from you again. Yes, we did, thanks. We’re going through them now.”

“And?”

“And, they’re in German. We’ve got someone going through them but so far, they are pretty much domestic papers about the shift. But we’ve got a few more to go yet. I’ll let you know what we find. I’m sorry Sam, but you’re going to have to be patient. Nothing else has happened, has it?”

“No, nothing.” I felt miserable and powerless. I almost wished something would happen which would ease the tension building in me. However, I couldn’t resist one more question before I hung up. “So, what did you cook for dinner last night?” He did bring out the cheeky side of me.

That surprised a laugh out of him. “Actually, I did a new twist on Oss Bucco and whipped potatoes. The boys were pretty happy. They think they got meat and spuds. Turned out pretty good. And you? Burned any more pots?”

“No and no, I haven’t been out and bought any new ones either. Personally, I can’t really see what difference it would make.”

“Heathen. You wait, one day I’ll cook you something amazing and you’ll be so impressed that those horrible old pots will go straight into the bin.”

I hung up grinning, feeling flushed. The image of having dinner cooked for me by DS Martin left me a little breathless. However, it still didn’t ease the tension I felt waiting for the next thing to happen. The only thing I could think of was to take out my frustration on the property. I ordered a big garden waste bin and attacked the mess in the garage. I read every piece of newspaper in that garage, some of which dated back for years, but they were just local papers stored in the garage. I examined every tool for signs of initials scratched in them. Unlikely I know but I was starting to clutch at straws. I painted the wall above the bench and hung the tools on the nails which had obviously been put there for that purpose. Some nails had fallen out but there were enough left to tidy up the tools strewn around on the bench. It was a thankless and exhausting job. Every time I went in there, I hoped I would find something that would explain everything. And everyday I came out filthy, tired and empty-handed. The dust-covered junk in the bin got higher and higher and once I had finished with the garage, I turned to the garden.

I started with the shrubs which pressed against the lounge windows first, sawing and cutting until I had removed all the branches which scratched against the windows. The end result wasn’t pretty but it did the job. I could see out from the inside and, with the ungainly branches removed, light flooded the room making it less eerie. And it certainly made me feel much better. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but I was bitterly disappointed that I hadn’t seen anything of Johnnie since we discovered the garden. I wondered what DS Martin had said to him that had annoyed him so much. I could see the resentment in the way he turned and left without a backward glance. Had he wiped me from his life? Not that I was even in it very much. But at least he had been an interesting neighbour. I ripped another clump of weeds out of the garden, using physical activity to mask the disappointment that he hadn’t been around. I sat back on my heels and admitted that he was nice to have around. The students at the Uni would have called him eye candy, he was a bit of a hunk. But I had never been interested in hunks, so why now? Well, I had never been on my own, single either. And I did like having him around. And I liked the way he called me Babe.

I sat back and looked around. Ripping out the over grown shrubs was a start to getting the house the way I wanted it, but I was restless. I was working my butt off during the day and ending the day physically exhausted. But I’d had enough of filling my evenings with music. My mind needed more stimulation than music and books could now satisfy. All right, I know that doesn’t make logical sense but it was the only way I could justify buying myself a TV. That weekend, I cleaned up and took myself off to one of the cheap discount stores which sold electrical goods. I knew there was an aerial in the lounge and, if they would tell me how to attach it, I didn’t see why I couldn’t get it working myself. I bought a very un-trendy, small, cheap TV. Much cheaper than I had expected. It seemed that in this lower socio-economic neighbourhood, they had a giant appetite for giant screens. I wondered how long it took some of these families to pay off their TV on a benefit. And I was amazed to see one family pull up at the store in a taxi. I couldn’t help watching to see what they were going to buy. Sure enough, the whole noisy family headed straight for the largest of the flat-screen TVs.

In the end, the most difficult part was getting the box from the car to the lounge. It wasn’t so much heavy as it was bulky. Once I got it inside, I moved the coffee table over against the wall and it was quite a simple operation to plug it in, attach the aerial and get it working. The guy at the shop told me it was pre-tuned, whatever that meant, and when I switched it on, it worked! Now if David had done that, I would have assumed that he had done some technical fiddling which was beyond me, to get it to work. Maybe this was the myth that men created to keep women dependant on them. To make us think we don’t know things which in fact, are not complicated at all. Maybe we didn’t need them as much as we think we do and they simply perpetuate the myth that they have knowledge and skills we don’t.

You can see that getting the TV working had made me cocky. I felt powerful, bullet proof and in control of my destiny. Nothing could stop me. Today the TV, tomorrow the rest of my life. That evening, I cooked myself a tasty dinner lifting my glass of red wine and cocked a snook at DS Martin. Just because I didn’t have any fancy recipe books, doesn’t mean I can’t cook a nice meal when I put my mind to it. Mind you, I made a mental note to check out the recipe books in the shop to see if there was something which took my fancy. I’d look for something simple and quick to cook and with ingredients which weren’t too difficult to find. Perhaps I could learn new recipes to go with my new lifestyle. I hummed along with my favourite CD and then settled down to watch a bit of TV. This was how life should be.

But I couldn’t shake a feeling of doubt. And I couldn’t help but add, but for how long? How long before the next thing happened? And in that instant, I realised that I knew it hadn’t finished. It wasn’t over even though nothing had happened for days. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the next thing happened. So be it. I raised my glass again. “Here’s to you Frederick. Whatever.” I didn’t say any of the bravado things like, “Bring it on” or “Do your worst” just in case there was a Greek God listening who had some input into my destiny. Let’s not tempt fate regardless of how unlikely it is that fate can be tempted.

I started with the news and watched a North Island Maori tribal group receiving the news that the New Zealand government had designated intellectual property rights of the Haka as a part of a compensation deal. Ka Mate, commonly known as the Haka, had become internationally famous as the All Blacks’ war cry. I wasn’t interested much in rugby but when New Zealand’s national rugby team started their rendition of the Haka, literally in the face of their opposition, not only did I stop what I doing to watch. It was a much anticipated event, even more important to some expatriates than the game itself. It was a powerful celebration of the warrior and created a psychological advantage before the game even began. It had been known to bring tears to the eyes of the most hardened characters.

The newsreader said that the Ngati Toa tribe was not able to claim royalties from the agreement but would be officially addressing grievances over its inappropriate commercial use. TV commercials had outraged Kiwis by underestimating both the knowledge of what the Haka stood for and the ‘rule’ over who can perform it by releasing a television advertisement of Italian women giving a slap-dash rendition of the haka. Every kiwi knew the Haka was only performed by men. It was a sacred ceremony and a symbol even for the whites or Pakehas in New Zealand. That advertisement had opened a can of worms of which this compensation deal was just one of the results. I watched the past and present merge as the tribe performed an impromptu Haka in collar and tie outside the courthouse.

It was very indicative of the environment in New Zealand, the returning of the land to the tribes. Unlike Australia where the Prime Minister was unable to even say sorry to the Aboriginals for the taking of the children, the stolen generation it was being called. At least New Zealand was recognising the injustice of the past and was trying to right the wrongs. Even if the tribes were totally unprepared for the management of the land and the large sums of money that came with it. The past, it was always the past that created the present.

After the news, I flicked through the channels and found I had the choice between a cop show, a true life crime show on a serial killer, a political documentary and sport. After my second glass of wine and bored with the choice on TV, I picked up my phone and impulsively called Johnnie. I had no idea what I was going to say or even why I was calling him, but I didn’t have to worry as it just rang out.

I turned back to the TV and scrolled through the channels once again. Nothing appealed to me, and it only took a short time of watching the serial killer show to make me nervously change the channel. It was too close, too similar in some ways, quite different in others. But so scary and so close to home, that I couldn’t bear watching it. Again, I wondered, was he out to harm me? It didn’t seem so, but then again, DS Martin had said that he didn’t know if might escalate to another level. Was I the target of a deranged mind? A deranged mind which made me a flower garden. It just didn’t seem that it could really be so bad, until I reminded myself of Marmaduke and what he had done. I had to remind myself that if I hadn’t gone hunting for Marmaduke, he may not be alive today. Or had he been counting on me finding him? The fact of the matter was, he had been prepared to use Marmaduke as a pawn in his game, whatever that was. That meant that he was prepared to risk Marmaduke’s life. It had been of no consequence to him and I needed to remember that.

Just to be sure, I tried Johnnie’s number again, but again it rang out. Either he had gone out and left his mobile at home, or it was in his pocket and he couldn’t hear it ringing. I didn’t want to consider the other alternative which was that he could see it was me calling and didn’t want to pick up.

I was contemplating my third glass of wine when my mobile rang. He must have left it at home when he went out. “Decided to check your calls have you?” I started cheekily. There was silence at the other end. I waited and ice flowed through my veins as I realised it wasn’t Johnnie. He would never leave me hanging like that.

“So, who were you expecting to call then?”

I’d know David’s voice anywhere, even if the tone was new to me. “David, how did you get this number?” My newly found confidence drained away completely and I trembled, as fearful as if he was in the next room.

“Don’t think you can hide from me. I’ll find you. Sam, when are you going to understand that I love you? Why won’t you meet with me? Can’t we get together just to talk? I miss you.”

The old David took me by surprise. I felt so unreasonable shutting him out so completely so quickly. “I don’t think that’s a good idea at the moment David, I ….”

“Not a good idea,” his voice a high-pitched mockery of mine. He laughed, a cruel laugh. “You’re going to make this difficult for me aren’t you?”

I was breathless at the speed of change in him, from caring husband to mocking tormentor in an instant. I didn’t know what to say, what to take seriously, what to answer. “Make what difficult?”

“Finding you, getting you back.”

“David, you don’t really sound like you want me back. You don’t sound like you really like me much any more.”

“Like you! What’s that got to do with anything? You’re my wife. Do you hear me? You’re my wife!” He was almost yelling now. “You are mine! You belong to me! Do you hear me?”

I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. DS Martin said he was intense. This sounded insane. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I tried. “David, we can talk about this, but I don’t want a meeting. Perhaps we can discuss this now.”

There was silence and I could hear him breathing heavily, as if he had been running. “Just a cup of coffee. Is that too much to ask? You’re still my wife, I have a right to have a coffee with my wife!”

“I don’t think that would work.” I felt like an idiot, these seemed meaningless phrases, but I didn’t know how to talk to him anymore. I wanted him to calm down so we could talk, but every time I opened my mouth, I triggered more anger.

“Can’t have a cup of coffee, she doesn’t like our sex life anymore, just when it was getting exciting. Maybe, you’re waiting for lover boy to come around. Is that why you won’t see me?”

“What do you mean, lover boy?” I was finding it difficult to speak. Terror was slowing my brain, making my blood sluggish and my heartbeat slow thumps. Did he know about Johnnie? Did he know where I lived after all and was just playing with me?

“I could hear the eagerness in your voice when you answered the phone. I’m not stupid. You were probably getting it good as soon as you left.”

I hated his tone, hated what he was saying, hated him for saying it.

“DS Martin is it? He looks like he’d be hot stuff in bed. Is it him? Were you waiting for him to finish his night shift and come and see you? I wouldn’t put it past you, you bitch!” Fear bloomed as he became more abusive, more obscene. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I was gripping the phone too tightly but my voice sounded calm. “David, I’m going to hang up now.” He tried to interrupt but I kept going. “I am going to switch this phone off and on Monday, I’ll be getting a new number. However, I am going to report this call to the police and if you ever try to find me, I’ll drag you through the courts so quickly, embarrassment won’t even cover the public humiliation I’ll create. Do you hear me?” Now it was my turn to raise my voice. “DO YOU HEAR ME?” I hung up, switched off the phone and took the sim card out for good measure. Then it was out to the kitchen to pour myself another glass of wine. I realised that I needed to call DS Martin and tell him about the call but it was an hour before I could bring myself to put the sim card back in and turn the phone on again. As I went to get my bag for his card, the obvious question hit me, how had David got my number? The only people who had it were my new boss, Johnnie, DS Martin and Anita. Anita! She wouldn’t have given it to him willingly. What had happened? How had he got the number from her? I dialled her home number, my hands shaking so much it took two tries to get it right. The phone rang for a while then a sleepy voice answered. “Yes? Who is this?”

“Anita, are you okay? Have you seen David? What happened?”

“Sam, is that you? What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

“Thank God you’re all right.” I had to fight back tears. “Did David come to see you? Did you give him my number?”

“Yes, he came to see me. If he wasn’t such a great case study, he’d be a real pest. He’s called quite a bit and came around several times, both to my home and my office. I’m starting to get a good dossier on his behaviour and attitudes just in case you need it sometime in the future. He’s so changeable, he turns so quickly.”

“Oh my god, Anita, I’m so sorry. I never intended for you to be dragged into this. DS Martin said he was intense but I never for a minute imagined he was becoming a nuisance to anyone.”

“Hey, if I can’t handle it, no one can. In fact, he’s just another case study for me to document. But what were you saying about giving him your number? I never gave him your number. In fact, I lost my phone and I haven’t been able to call you cos your number was in my phone.”

We both made the leap at the same time but a flare of anger made her quicker. “The bastard! He took my phone! He must have just gone through and phoned every number I had called or received because I didn’t have you as Sam in my list of numbers.” She laughed, a harsh sound, not like the Anita I knew. “Well, that must have been an interesting exercise for him. There are a few people in there who would have given him short shrift. But it obviously wasn’t a total waste of time. So what happened? Was he friendly or not? Was it the old David or the new David?”

I gave her a summary of the call and talking to practical Anita put it back into perspective. He was threatening and unpleasant but he still didn’t know where I lived. I was safe. Well, from him anyway. She encouraged me to call DS Martin and to record as accurately as I could in the diary I was keeping. Writing it down put it into perspective and calmed my emotions. But the truth was, when I saw the actual words written down that he had said, and remembered my smiling, supportive David, I was overwhelmed with sorrow. It felt like someone I loved dearly had died. I sat for a while just remembering. Remembering the good times and there were many years of those. We had a lot in common. We had been good together, in the beginning.

I couldn’t sit still any longer. I had to get out, I had to move, do something. I locked up the house and just drove. Down through the shopping centre, quiet except for its groups of teenagers milling around, all dressed in the uniform of rebellion, expensive joggers, jeans precariously balanced below their bums, sweatshirts with hoods and full of attitude. Who knows what was hidden in the folds of their baggy tops. I drove through the main street, not wanting to head towards the freeway so drove back around the round-about back the way I came and headed once again for the beach. A little voice told me that it might not be the safest place for a woman alone, but I figured that if I stayed in my car, I would be okay. I just needed to see the ocean, to connect again with that calming current, hidden deep below the swell of the waves. And it was just what I needed. The moon was shining across the ocean and you could clearly see the white curl of the waves, rising from the oily blackness of the ocean. I don’t know why it was so soothing, but it worked.

Much later, the cold started to seep into me and a shiver brought me back to common sense again. I started up the car to head for home. I tired now with more chance of getting some sleep than I had before. Preoccupied, I drove home not really taking much notice of my surroundings but as I turned into my street, the flashing blue light certainly got my attention. My blood ran ice cold as I got closer to find police cars everywhere. It seemed like everywhere, but they were parked on the road, in Johnnie’s drive and on his front lawn. Johnnie! I pulled over and dived from the car and raced up his drive, only to run into an immovable wall.

“Sorry, Luv but you can’t go in there.”

“Where’s Johnnie? Is he all right? Oh my God, what’s happened?”

“Who are you Luv? What’s your name?” The voice was gentle, but the hands holding me weren’t. They were connected to a large, solid policeman with a very firm grip.

“ I’m Sam, Sam Harris. I live up there.” I tried to point up the drive but he still had a hold on my arms. “Is Johnnie all right? What’s happened?”

“There’s been an incident and it would be best if you just took yourself off home. The ambulance woke you did it? Did you hear anything before that?”

“Ambulance?” An electric jolt of fear shot through me. “Johnnie, is he all right? He’s hurt? For God’s sake tell me! You don’t understand!” I took a deep breath, and tried again. “DS Martin wouldn’t be in there, would he? He’ll know, he’ll understand. He knows what’s been going on.”

“What has been going on?”

I had his attention now. I felt like I had regained a tiny bit of power. A very tiny bit. “Is he here?”

“He’s interviewing someone at the moment. I’ll get him to call you shall I, when he’s free?” He released me, probably not because I had become calmer but because he had just moved me firmly back through the gateway.

“Yes, please. Tell him, that I’ll be at home, waiting for his call. He knows what this is about.” I tried one last time. “Can’t you just tell me…..”

“Sorry Luv, if there’s anything to tell you, DS Martin will explain.”

It’s amazing how many scenarios you can imagine in fifteen minutes. I spent most of it pacing up and down the kitchen, pulling back the blinds in the lounge trying to peer down towards Johnnie’s place. I prayed. Please let him be okay. I put the jug on to make a coffee and I must have pushed the button again about three more times as I got distracted and the water came off the boil again. But couldn’t control my mind from running through all the worst-case scenarios of what might be coming. I analysed everything the policeman had said, trying to identify the tiniest piece of information, and then spent time on analysing why he wouldn’t give me any information. Usually, as a neighbour you will learn that there has been a burglary or a heart attack. Nervously, I went around and checked all the doors and windows, for the third time. I was locked in tight.

When DS Martin arrived, he looked tired and preoccupied. But the fact that he looked worried and distracted, concerned me more. He accepted a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. I sat opposite and waited for him to start.

“You phoned Johnnie twice tonight. May I ask why?”

“What? Why does that ……”

“Please Sam, just for once, answer my question.”

He had never been impatient with me before. I answered. “I was having a wine and wondered if he might like ….. to …… I don’t know really. I was feeling good about everything and just wanted to talk to someone, I guess. Why?”

“And you tried to call me earlier tonight. Because?”

This was much easier to explain. I told him about the call, using the diary which was still sitting on the table, to quote from.

“What time did he ring?”

“About three hours ago now. Why? What’s happened? How do you know I called Johnnie? And why does it matter?” Not knowing what had happened to Johnnie was driving me crazy!

“Because at 9.30 tonight, Johnnie was the victim of a really vicious attack. And we’re not entirely sure yet if he’s going to make it.”

19

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