My life had gone from the mundane existence of a suburban housewife, to a life of uncertainty and fear. I had moved from an unpredictable husband to an increasingly threatening intruder. It was totally weird and I craved normality. I sat sipping coffee, remembering how my life used to be. Some would have said it was boring, I would have said stable. But I desperately needed some of that stability back and that lead me back to David. What was he doing? How was he coping? Was he getting any help and had I brushed him off too quickly? I’d never experienced anything threatening in my life before. That I can remember, I added. So had I overreacted? Or had I been too passive? I had gone along until I couldn’t take it any more, but it didn’t take long for me to decide that. Maybe, I needed to set boundaries sooner. What would have happened if I had said no to him when he first started to change? But when I searched through my memory, it was easy to see how aggressive and threatening he’d been. And how nasty he’d become since then. I had no way of knowing what he would’ve done if I’d stood up to him. I had to admit that there was definitely the possibility that he could’ve become violent. I had no way of knowing and I’d never had to handle this type of aggressive behaviour before. Instinctively, I’d gone into survival mode. Go along, don’t fight, stay quiet but at least I had the sense to get the hell out later. But even then, it had been with such anguish. I’ve discovered that marriage is a hard habit to break. He’d frightened me and he had changed, maybe he was ill, but since then I’d only had one conversation with him and I still felt I owed him more than that after all these years of marriage. But I had no desire to pick up the phone now. Common sense said I needed to be in a very strong space to talk to him, to prevent him manipulating me with guilt and regrets. Because now I could see quite clearly, that David was a manipulator. He was subtle, he let my sense of duty do the job for him. But he planted the seeds, made it clear how he wanted things to happen and I just allowed it, thinking that he knew what was best for both of us. But looking back, there was no discussion, no consultation, no exploration of what I wanted to do or what might fulfil me, it was all about David. What was so obvious now, was that he was a control freak. And what was exciting and frightening at the same time was the fact that I didn’t know who I was without him.
My life was full of mystery now. It seemed like every day brought more puzzles, more unknowns to my life. My early life in Germany, the move to Australia and the death of my Mother were unknown to me. I had always simply accepted that everyone would have done all they could to solve her murder. What had happened? Why was that part of our lives so completely wiped from my memory? And Frederick Hopmann, the name was heavy with menace for me now. Was he somehow connected to my intruder? Or was this just an unhappy co-incidence? Was this all connected to the house rather than me? I needed answers but I didn’t know where to start looking. Every time I discovered some information, something else pulled me in another direction.
I knew that Johnnie was trying to find answers for me, too. He was trying to track down the German lawyers who had acted for Frederick Hopmann. What else could I do? How do you go about researching? The internet! That’s how everyone else does it. I felt so stupid. I had been around students long enough, I should have thought about it earlier. I had better get connected. But that would mean buying a computer, finding someone to set it all up for me, finding out if I can get connected at my house. It was just too overwhelming. There were too many questiond, too many barriers. I didn’t have the energy to attack such a big task. It’s like it’s not a big task to begin with, but first you have to do something, and before you can do that, you have another thing to do. And I didn’t know enough about it to try to work it out on my own. David would’ve known what to do.
The phone rang, startling me with its shrillness. I looked at the number before I answered it. Anita. She would be wondering about Marmaduke. I didn’t feel like answering it but I had called her when I needed her. I owed her. I took the call but didn’t want to explain what had happened. I just told her Marmaduke was back. She could hear how listless I sounded, and she knew that I wasn’t right, but I explained I’d had a restless night and I was just tired. I didn’t add, tired of everything. She told me to take a nap during the day and rang off. I could hear that she wasn’t totally convinced with my tired story, but the good friend that she was, took the hint and left me to it. She had rang off with a “When you’re ready.” When you’re ready. When was I going to be ready? And ready for what?
I took a deep breath, I needed to take stock and start taking responsibility for my life. I got a pad and pen from my bag and sat down to make a list. The house, it was my house now, what would I like to change about it? I can’t believe that I hadn’t asked this question earlier. What did I like and what would make me happier? I looked up from the pad and looked out the window into the garden. Jungle was more like it. It scared the living daylights out of me. Why not create a garden I loved? What if I cleared the overgrown shrubs and created a plan of a garden, which would give me pleasure every time I looked out the window, every time I came home. After all, this was home now and the only person I had to please was myself. A new garden, which I can see from my window was added to the list. Which meant a plan for the garden. I felt a thrill of excitement. Creating a garden from scratch would give me pleasure.
What else would I change about the house which wouldn’t cost too much to begin with. The garage! I would clean out the garage but I would check everything I found to see if I could find some clues. I could make places for the tools, tidy up the workbench and get the place sparkling clean. Well, cleaner anyway. There was more than enough room for my car in the garage once the rubbish had been cleared out. And if there were plenty of tools, maybe I could learn to use some of them in basic maintenance of the house. I could learn to change a washer of a dripping tap, plus other basics. I knew there were courses for women on learning these basics, so a house maintenance course also went on my list.
And I would need to pay for all this. My financial future also went down on my list. I was working part-time and I didn’t have a mortgage. But I needed to earn a bit more if I wanted to get ahead. I was earning barely enough to cover my weekly expenses, and I had eaten into the savings account I had inherited. That would be the next thing, I would not spend any more, in fact, I made a resolution that every payday, I would add some money into the savings account. I would search around and find a higher interest account. If I didn’t have enough to live on, that would spur me on to find a way to make more money. In fact, there was no reason why I couldn’t get a full-time job. I sat stunned. It had never crossed my mind to look for a full-time job. I’d never had one before because David said it was unnecessary. And to be honest, since I had left, I hadn’t really thought about it as there had been so much going on in my life, I needed time out rather than having to be heading off to work everyday. I’d needed some breathing space, but if I was to design my future, I had to work out what I’d like to do for a living. Maybe I could study as an adult student like Anita. But what did I want to do? I needed to think it through and make a plan. I needed a plan for my career and my life, a plan for me, by me.
I was feeling very pleased with myself, kind of grown-up, taking control. There was no one to tell me what to do and I didn’t want to drift any more, I wanted to be going somewhere. I wanted to be independent and feel good about my life. That meant I needed to find out about Frederick. This was the big one. I added him to my list. I needed to know why he had left me this inheritance and, now that I had opened the door to my childhood, I wanted to know more about my early life and my mother. Maybe, I could find some clues on what had happened to her and why. Maybe at some stage, I could take a trip back to Germany and visit Mamma’s grave. This was also added to the list. And looking back now, all I can say is be careful what you ask for.
I glanced across at the open paper on the table. Obituaries. What if I could start by finding out when Frederick had died? That would be a start. How did you do that? But first, I had to go in to the police and report the attack on Marmaduke. Report it all, the inheritance, the intruder, the lot. I know that Johnnie had said that they would take me seriously, but I couldn’t help but feel that I would sound like an absolute goose in the telling of the tale. It would sound exactly that, a tale of fiction. Even I found it hard to accept and I was living it!
Marmaduke brushed against me and I bent down to stroke him, right to the end of his tail the way he liked it. “For you boy, I’ll go in and do this for you.” The hot anger was so strong, it took me by surprise. How dare he! How dare he come onto MY property and lock up MY cat. How dare he threaten me! And that stopped me in mid-stride. I was doing this for my cat? I had a maniac stalking around my house and my cat’s safety was more important than my own? What did that say about me? Decision made, I pushed away the pad, leaving it open on the table by the window.
I was still pondering my self-worth or lack of it, as I pulled up to the police station. Taking a deep breath, I got out of the car and walked into the building. I brightened when I saw a woman in uniform behind the counter. I would prefer to tell my story to a woman. But she put on her polite face when I told her my incident number and showed her the copy of the IR form that I had got last time. I didn’t mention a stalker, intruder and possible cat-killer. I didn’t want to push it too soon. But she asked me if the activities had escalated. When I nodded, she picked up a phone and spoke quietly into it, reading from the form as she spoke. She then asked me to take a seat while she found someone to see me. As walked across the room and seated myself on a bench seat with my back against the wall, a shout of laughter caught my attention. A small group of men were at the far side of the reception lobby. At first, I thought they were also waiting, but as their conversation became louder, I realised they were detectives. And it seemed that the storyteller, had been pulled over while trying to move his belongings into his new flat. The others thought it was a great joke. “What the hell did you have in the trailer? It must have been well overloaded for traffic to pull you over.”
“You know Ted’s trailer? The small one?”
The group all nodded.
“Well, as well as my kitchen gear in boxes in the bottom, I also had the mattress of my double bed. Oh, and my stereo speakers.”
This was greeted with shouts of disbelief. “But that trailer’s really small! You wouldn’t get much on that. Certainly not a double mattress!” Followed by gusts of laughter.
“Trust you, making sure your root box is set up first in your new flat!” Roars of laugher were followed by further muffled comments also drowned in laughter.
It looked like there was more good natured teasing coming until one of them glanced over his shoulder and saw me sitting there, now with my head down, trying not to look like I was listening. The voices lowered, then a code was punched into the panel on the wall, and the group passed through the door which clicked shut behind them. I heard a roar of laughter from the other side. Heaven only knows what was said next. Root box! If that was how they looked on sex, what sympathy would a woman get from them? What if I was a rape victim? Suddenly, I didn’t think this was a very good idea. I imagined those men going through my house looking for clues. What would they think of my ‘root box’? Were they the kind of guys who would think that a woman deserves what she gets?
Mentally, I gave myself a good shake. Surely, that sort of belief was old-fashioned now. Surely, there was more sensitivity in policing today than that. They were just a group of young men, with young men’s interests. You would overhear a similar conversation in a football changing room. But, a small voice asked, in the foyer of the police station? Made by the very group of people who were meant to protect you? Who were meant to teach respect for the law, for women and children?
I sat waiting, swinging between knowing I was doing the right thing and wondering if I had made a mistake in coming. I distracted myself by shamelessly eavesdropping on the comings and goings around me. Maybe I would feel more confident once I saw how others were being dealt with. It turned out to be absolutely depressing. Let me tell you, talk about how the other half live. If you’re feeling unsatisfied with your life, you should go and see the sad individuals who traipse through a police station. How sad are some people’s lives? Most people were either powerless or angry. It was quite sobering. Some had lost property and were trying to be calm and logical while struggling with the undercurrent of outrage at the invasion of their home or their car. Some were signing in, compliant but openly rebellious and resentful. And some were just pathetic and attention-seeking time-wasters.
But when she finally called me and directed me to an interview room, it wasn’t a woman I spoke to but a Detective Sargeant Martin. My first thought was that he didn’t look like a Martin. Still feeling uncomfortable and a little rattled, I was grateful for his friendly smile and cool, but understanding manner. I found that I instinctively trusted him. Telling him about it all seemed normal some how. I took a good look at him while he was reading the IR form. Smooth olive skin said he was part-Maori, but a hooked nose, lean face and high cheekbones made him look more exotic somehow. He had the look an American Indian rather than Maori and I wondered what country his ancestors had come from. Thick, dark hair curled over his collar and I blushed when he looked back up at me as he finished reading. How do you look at someone without staring?
“How about you tell me exactly what has been happening. From the start.” He smiled and I noticed the smile lines around his eyes. He seemed genuine and I felt he was trying to be helpful.
I took a deep breath and started at the beginning. And just like with Johnnie, I was able to pick up the second he mentally sat up and took notice. By the time I got to the point where we were smashing the cupboard to get to Marmaduke, he was prompting me with frequent questions, jogging my memory for small details I wouldn’t have thought important. I had been prepared for all the most awkward questions but not for the ones about Johnnie. And there was even worse to come.
“And who is Johnnie Wills again?”
“He’s my neighbour, he used to be a cop. A detective like you.”
“Did you know him before you moved in?”
“No, I met him the morning after the first night the intruder was there.”
He wrote more notes. “What station was he attached to? Do you know what rank he was?”
I realised how little I knew about Johnnie. I had simply instinctively trusted him as well. “I don’t know, he just said he used to be a cop but he got hurt. Quite badly, so he said. But there’s no need to worry about Johnnie, he’s not the guy.”
“We need to take a holistic view, I’m not going to discount anything or anyone at this stage. We’ll be looking at all people who know you or live around you to see whether they become a particular person of interest to us. It could be anyone. Let’s keep our options open, shall we? Let us investigate these incidents thoroughly without ruling anything out at the beginning.”
I searched my memory for any detail that would sound reasonable as to why I trusted Johnnie so much and I found it. The reason I could exactly pin-point logically why I trusted Johnnie. “No, it can’t be him.” To DS Martin’s raised black eyebrows, I added, “Marmaduke likes him. Don’t you see? Marmaduke has been my intruder alarm. He tenses when the intruder comes around and surely, he’d be even more freaked out since he’s been kicked and locked in the cupboard! But Marmaduke likes Johnnie. He trusts him and rubs up against him. I don’t think he would be doing that if it had been Johnnie who had locked him in the cupboard! And he gave this for me to give to you.” I dragged the plastic bag from my bag and pushed it across the table to him. “That’s the padlock from the cupboard. He thought that if we’re lucky, you might get fingerprints from it.” I trailed off.
He grinned at my sudden surge of enthusiasm and made a great show of making a new note. The twinkle in his eye had me smiling in response.
“Johnnie is in the clear because the cat has okay’d him.” He looked at me again, his liquid brown eyes sparkling. “CSI eat your heart out. Good for Johhnie, let’s hope we find finger prints.” His humour lifted my spirits, I had expected to be close to tears going through it all again.
He pulled the plastic bag to his side of the table and then came the next bombshell. “I want you to take me through the change in your husband again.”
“David? No, it can’t be him, he doesn’t even know where I live.”
“Why don’t you just let me do my job, and answer the questions?” Gentle but firm. So I went through what had happened, leaving out the worst details. It was uncomfortable and I felt stupid. And I hated the details he wanted to know. David sounded so cold, so uncaring, it wasn’t a picture of David which came out of this interview at all, it was the profile of a stranger. Someone I had no knowledge of. Again, I was grateful for my foresight in not letting him see the address of the house.
Finally, DS Martin closed his notebook. “This new incident with the cat gives more weight to your complaint, so I’m going to add an IR 2 onto the original incident report. I’d also like to come and have a look at your place, if you don’t mind. Get a picture in my mind and have a look around. Meet your neighbours.”
So you can check out Johnnie, too I bet. “And you’ll get the padlock tested for fingerprints?”
He smiled, raised one eyebrow and I found myself smiling back. It occurred to me that his easy charm would work well in getting people to trust him. Well, women anyway. I wondered how well it would work with Johnnie.
“Yes, I’ll remember to get the padlock checked for fingerprints.” He indicated his pad of notes. “I’ve got it on my To Do list. And I want you to call me if anything happens at all. Here’s my card, feel free to call me at any time. Okay?” As I took his card, I looked into dark brown eyes and just knew I could trust him. I felt like I’d found a friend.
“Do you think I’m in danger?” I put the worst-case scenario to him, the one thing which scared me more than anything. “Should I be moving out?”
He thought for a moment, not a man to rush with his ideas or his advice. Careful. “I think many people would if they could. They wouldn’t want to stay if they thought that someone was hanging around. And it seems like it’s escalating. I don’t like the feel of what was done to the cat. That’s not a good indicator, it takes the whole thing to a higher scale incident. But there is one good thing.” Followed by a crooked smile.
“What’s that?” I couldn’t think of one good thing, either for myself or for Marmaduke.
“Well, he broke into your house or he had keys,” he added as I went to interrupt. “He tried your bedroom door, but he backed off when he found he couldn’t get in. If he had wanted to hurt you, he would’ve simply broken down the door or broken the window to get to you. It’s almost like he wants to frighten you more than anything. For some reason, it seems that he wants you frightened, maybe isolated. But it’s really important that you become observant and more careful about your safety. This may progress to something else or it may not. There are no guarantees about what we’re dealing with here.” He looked down at the letter from the German solicitors. “I’ll check this out.” He looked back at me and I swear it was sympathy I read on his face. “You’ve had a bit of a rough time. Let’s see if we can find out what’s going on so you can get on with your new life.”
“That would be nice. That’s my goal at the moment.”
As he walked me back to the front counter, he turned more formal on me and made a time to come around the next morning and, as I didn’t have to be at work until mid-day, it suited me fine. I liked the idea of having a detective come and take a good look around. At least, I liked the idea of DS Martin looking around. I didn’t fancy the idea of any of the group from reception coming in to my house at all. And also maybe he could give me more tips on security and if there was anything else I could do for my safety.
“There’s one more thing you could do for me, if you would,” he said as he held the door open for me. “Would you start a diary and note down every thing that has happened to you? See if you can start at the beginning and write it all down. You might just find that you remember some more details which may not have seemed important at the time.”
My blood ran cold. “And then if anything else happens, you have a complete record,” I finished for him.
He had the grace to look uncomfortable but he put his hand on my arm. “There’s that too. But, in reality, the more detail we have, the better. And I bet you’ll remember more as you go. It would be helpful. Please?”
“Of course I will. I’ll put it all down. It’s probably a good idea for me anyway, it may put it in perspective.” Or scare the living daylights out of me, a small voice in my head added. “I’ll give you a copy of it when it’s done.”
“That would be great, thanks. And again, please be watchful and be careful. I don’t want to scare you but this isn’t a random intruder, you appear to be specifically targeted. For what, I can’t say yet. But I don’t like it, I don’t like at all. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I controlled the desire to skip back to the car, still feeling his hand on my arm. Someone in authority believed in me and supported me! I felt so reassured but I had to wonder how much was natural charm and how much was designed to make you feel reassured and trusting. I thought about his hand on my arm and thought that they weren’t supposed to touch you. I had seen that on TV often enough, touch a cop and they could have you for assault. Perhaps it didn’t count the other way around.
I had gone to the station expecting to come away feeling reassured and confident. You know what they say about great expectations. While I had real faith in in DI Martin, I still felt unsettled and conflicted. There was no doubt that I lacked confidence in the police I had seen at the station. And yet I trusted DI Martin. But the situation I was in, and my experience with the male scenario I had seen, added to the layers of confusion and fear. However, I was no longer alone in this. Someone in authority knew what was happening and was on my side. Somehow, that counted for a lot.
On the way home, I started thinking about my safety. Someone must have been watching me. That was the only way they would know when I was home and when I went out. I shivered, the thought of someone watching made me feel vulnerable and exposed. So much for my little list and feeling in control of my life. But, why? Who was threatening me, trying to frighten me? Or was it all over? Had it run its course? Was locking away the cat enough to satisfy their nasty sense of humour? Or would they hang around to see the results of their little stunt?
What could I do to protect myself? Should I get a flatmate? Would having a strong, male bodybuilder around make a difference? That’s what logic would suggest but now that I had found independence, I didn’t want anyone else living in my house. I wanted my own space and I wanted my privacy. I didn’t want to share. And so, I decided I would try to tough this out on my own.
DS Martin came around the next morning. I heard him come up the drive, so I was waiting at the door for him as he walked up the path. There was something easy and graceful about the way he walked that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He was taller than I remembered. He looked around the garden then walked right around the property outside. He examined the lock on the back door and went through the house checking all the doors and windows. I almost walked into the back of him when he stopped dead in his tracks in the kitchen. “You could save yourself a lot of hassle here you know.” He indicated my sink. I had a pot soaking, I’d boiled it dry the night before and burnt the potatoes to the bottom. I find it difficult to stay focused on cooking when I’m worrying about things. “I’m sorry?”
“If you had good quality, non-stick pots, you wouldn’t have to soak them like that.” He grinned. “You’re not a foodie, are you?” He glanced around the kitchen, a rueful look on his face. “No cookbooks, you’re using old pots, cooking’s not your thing. Not even a cappuccino machine. Not addicted to Master Chef, are you?”
I laughed, “A cappuccino machine! At the moment, I’d probably burn that too.” No, cooking’s not really my thing. But it’s obviously yours. You like to cook?” An exotic-looking detective who liked to cook? I don’t know why that surprised me so much except it didn’t fit with the traditional macho image of the male cop. Such as the ones I’d seen talking outside the police station.
“The kitchen’s where I like to wind down and forget what the rest of the world is doing to each other. And what comes out of my kitchen is usually pretty good, so I’m told. I like to cook for my family and I like good food. We have a big extended family with lots of kids. I like cooking for the kids. I’m just not a meat and spuds kind of guy.” He grinned. “The kids struggle with that sometimes.”
“You have a lot of kids?” A bit obvious I know, but I was curious.
He grinned. He didn’t miss a thing.
“Not my kids. I have brothers and lots of nephews. There’s always a lot of people around and usually a few stray kids as well. And if you like cooking, they let you. But you have to use big pots.”
I didn’t know what to say. The image of him in a kitchen bustling with lots of people and kids racing around, seemed amazingly right. Even though I got the impression that he was quite a private person, I could also picture him as a relaxed, big family kind of man. That warmth ran deep and it was real.
“And do you cook with a beer or a wine in your hand?” Couldn’t help myself, could I.
“Red wine man while cooking. But don’t object to a beer after a run or hard work.”
It didn’t all quite add up. “Why did you become a cop? I mean, you seem so friendly and you seem to like having people around. Don’t you become disillusioned? As a cop, you must have to deal with the horrible side of life.”
“Maybe that’s why I like to cook, to make things more savoury.” He grinned. “Actually, I just wanted to do something practical and see if I could help keep kids stay out of trouble. You know, mediate instead of just locking them up. I have a boys group…” He stopped. “Perhaps we should carry on with the job at hand and I can tell you my story another time.”
“Can I ask one last thing? I mean I don’t want to be nosy, you can tell me it’s none of my business but..”
“Just ask is always best, I’ve found. You can always apologise later if you have to.”
“I know you have Maori in you, but what other blood is in your family?” And as he looked at me, I realised how often he must have been asked this. “I’m sorry, I’ve got German parents and I… It’s really none of my business.”
“Not a problem. If I didn’t want to answer, I wouldn’t. My dad’s family was Dalmation. There’s a large community of them up in Dargaville, that’s where I come from. Only now it’s known as Croatia. Now, shall we get on?”
I followed him out the garage and to the cupboard, which had been Marmaduke’s prison. He checked the garage door, opened it and commented, “He had to get Marmaduke during the day because you would hear this door opening at night.” Again, I hadn’t thought of that.
After a thorough search of the garage, he stood looking down the road to the other side of the valley at the group of trees which hid the house on the other side of the hill. Then he walked down the drive, looking over the fence into Johnnie’s place. But in the end, it seemed to me that he’d not learned anything new nor gained any further idea as to what was going on. However, he did ask me one significant question. “Why did your father change your name by deed pole?”
“Wow, you have been doing some digging. How did you find that? Is there somewhere you go to….”
He smiled and shook his head and raised his eyebrows. “Can you please just answer my question?”
“Sorry, I’ve been trying to do some research and most of the time, I don’t even know where to start looking. We left Germany after my Mother’s murder and my father changed both my brother’s names and mine. I actually only just found that out myself.”
“And his own. You all had the same surname.”
“You know, I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, we all had the same surname.” I stepped closer to him. “Will you tell me if you find anything out? I mean, about my background or my Mother’s murder?”
“I’ll keep you up to date with anything I learn about this enquiry. But you must keep me in the loop if anything else happens,” he reminded me. “And don’t forget to let me know when you have finished writing everything down. I’ll call by and pick it up.” He walked down the path and then turned back at the gate. “That’s something we do have in common. My Grandfather changed our names by deed poll, too. He thought the family would get ahead faster and it would be easier to do business with people who’s name you could pronounce.” And he turned and walked through the gate to his car.
While I was no further enlightened about what was going on, I felt I had someone minding my back. And I had to admit, it was nice to think that he would be calling by to get the journal, I didn’t think they did that either. The thought gave me a warm feeling.
As soon as he had gone, I packed up and went to the library before work to see if I could find Frederick’s obituary in the paper. But as I didn’t know the exact date, I ended up trawling through pages and pages of newspaper, without getting anywhere. I didn’t have a date, a location or anything which would help pinpoint where to begin searching. So I started noting in my little notebook, what I didn’t know.
Frederick Hopmann – what date did he die? Where did he die? What did he die of? I suddenly realised a contradiction. If he died in Auckland, why did the instructions come from a lawyer in Germany? That was a bit strange. Did he die in Germany? Then why did I inherit his house in Auckland? None of it made sense, but writing it down certainly helped find my way through misconceptions and assumptions. It was quite sobering to look at it in the cold light of just facts. However, ultimately, while it just created more mystery, at least I felt I was identifying the mysteries. Now I knew what I didn’t know, so to speak. It was a relief to deal with facts or even a lack of them, instead of the rolling emotions and the endless circle of thinking and trying to work it out, which always got me nowhere.
I was starting to fall into a routine. I loved my new job. It was soothing to once again be around books, help people find the books they were looking for and not to mention, have the time to look through the books for myself. The shop was consistently busy once school had finished for the day. Mothers and children looking for books to read, books for school and books for projects or birthday gifts, but we had quiet times between lunchtime until after school. This allowed me to get through my work of shelving and dusting and also gave me time to flick through the books I was interested in.
I started by skimming through real life crime books. It may have been a bit morbid but I searched for murders and killings of women. I stayed away from the rapes and unsolved violent crimes but found interesting reading in many of the stories of women’s murders. Except for the poor prostitutes who seemed to be targeted by the sickos, many of them were crimes of passion. The common theme seemed to be a lover or jealous husband who took the law into his own hands. And I had to wonder now that I knew that that my mother supposedly had a lover. I wondered how much the neighbours had seen or heard. Brian said that they suspected it was a younger man, someone who was fun-loving like herself. Surely, the police would have investigated this lead. If there were anything to be found about this angle, wouldn’t they have found it?
The next day, I went to the library again and settled myself at the computer to search for unsolved crimes in Germany. I came across the heading, Unsolved crimes in the UK examined for link to German sex killer. Had she been the victim of a random killer? I carried on reading. “New DNA evidence obtained by French detectives on a sex killer from Germany, is leading to the re-examination of many unsolved rape and murder cases in Britain, police in the UK said today.” My heart missed a beat. I read on, desperate to find the name of the killer. Ulrich Muestermann was his name.
But that got me thinking. I would imagine that my Mother’s murder was too long ago for new DNA testing, but as a child of the victim, I wondered if there was a website which would help you find out more information about the case than would be released to the general public or the media. Again, I ran out of time and had to head off to work. But it had got me thinking. I needed to find out as much as I could about my Mother’s murder, and especially about her lover. Surely, there would have been papers from when we moved, all the official forms and copies of papers which is required in moving countries. And records of changing your name by deed poll, even just that exercise would have left a paper trail. I started to wonder what my Father had left behind when he died. I wondered if Brian had kept any papers and, as I’d never seen any of his belongings, I didn’t have any idea what had happened to all his stuff. He had suggested that I leave it all up to him and it had just seemed easier that way. And yet, my Father had lived in a flat on his own after we’d both left home, so there must have been quite a bit to go through and dispose of.
I got on the phone to Brian again. When he realised it was me, he dropped the friendly tone. “So, Sis, spent all your money yet?”
“Brian, do you have any of Dad’s papers or belongings?
Silence. “What the …… Why would you be asking that? What’s going on? I thought you and David were….”
I cut over the top of him. “Brian, I need to find out more about Mumie’s murder.” It just seemed to be natural to call her that when talking to Brian. “There’s so much I don’t know.”
“For God’s sake Sam, why would you be wanting to drag all that up again? It was a long time ago. Let it alone.”
“But Brian, do you have any papers from Dad’s flat after he died?”
I waited, and I could imagine him evaluating whether he should co-operate or not. “There were some. I tossed them all into a box and shoved them in the garage.”
The fact that he had kept them all these years, meant that he cared about them. Even if he had ignored them, he had kept them. They were a part of his memories. Not mine, I had no memory now of my early childhood, but Brian could remember. “Brian, what else do you remember about the murder? I know the police didn’t find who did it, did they?”
’No, there was a suspect, but they released him. Apparently, the police were convinced that he had done it but they had no proof. It was when he was released after questioning that Dad decided to move. He couldn’t live with the thought of Mother’s murderer being free and being around us. He moved us away.” There he was again, my big brother.
“Can I go through the box? I need to know more Brian. I need to know.”
I heard a new tone of voice. “What’s it worth Sis? You want me to do you a favour, what are you going to do for me?”
“Brian, I didn’t inherit a lot of money, you know. I got a house. I’ve still got to work to pay my way, no one’s paying my electricity bills or paying for my petrol. It’s not been easy, leaving David.” My voice wavered, and horrified, I realised I couldn’t go on. But it worked in my favour.
“Alright, alright, don’t go soppy on me. You can go through the box. When did you want to come and get it?”
That stopped me. If I arranged a time to collect the box, what would stop Brian from telling David when I would be there? And I knew I wasn’t strong enough and independent enough to have a face-to-face with David yet. “Listen, Brian, I have to go. I’ll call you back and organise a time to collect it. And Brian?”
“Yea, what else?”
“Thanks, I knew I could depend on you. You’re still my big brother you know.”
“Yea, well I wish you’d listen to reason. David’s …..”
“Thanks, Brian. I’ll call you back when I get myself organised.”
It’s a lot harder to stay under the radar than I had realised. I sat in the car thinking it through. I desperately wanted to see what was in that box but how was I going to collect it without the risk of them letting David know? I could swear them to secrecy but to be honest, I didn’t trust Brian not to tell David. Brian would do what he thought would be best for Brian. And it would make his day if David owed him a favour. I could take someone with me, but I would still have the unpleasant situation to go through. I just wanted the box without any confrontation in the process. Was that so much to ask?
Leaving my car parked in front of the garage, still deep in thought trying to work out how I was going to get that box, I opened the gate and headed for the back door. I could hear Marmaduke calling from inside, waiting to be let out and unlocked the back door and stood back as he shot out into the garden. I watched him cautiously cross the lawn and looked up into the garden and froze. Someone had been in my garden. I walked slowly across the lawn and stood looking at the change. Someone had made me a small garden, a flower garden. Just a small patch in the middle of the wilderness, but the soil had been turned, it had been weeded and there were small plants with one flower on each. I dropped to my knees and sat looking at it, trying to work out what he was up to. Flowers should be warm and loving, not chilling and frighten you to death. I remembered the small bunch of posies left on my doorstep when I had first moved in. And a strange thought struck me for the first time, was he giving me a gift? Had that bunch of poses been a welcome gift.
And then I remembered writing on my list that I had wanted a garden. Had I spoken it out loud? Was my house bugged? Was he trying to give me what I wanted? I got to my feet and went back across the lawn, through the back door and looked at my kitchen table. My little pad with my list in it was sitting on the table next to the window. But when I had finished making my list, I had pushed it to one side to read the paper. Or had I? I walked over and picked it up but it had no visible signs of having been touched. But surely that was too big a co-incidence. But, logic shot back at me, I changed the locks, he couldn’t have got in. but just to make sure, I went around and checked every window, every door. Nothing was out of place. I was standing at the window still looking at the garden when my mobile rang making me jump. I reached into my bag with a shaking hand, even though only three people knew the number. It was Johnnie.
“Babe, I’ve got some news. Are you sitting down?”
“What now? Cos I’ve got something to tell you. And I’m telling you now, you won’t believe me.”
There was a pause, “Has something else happened? You okay?”
“I’m okay, but are you at home? Can you come over?”
“No, I’m in town but I will be home in half-an hour. Will you be there?”
“Yes, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. Just sitting here looking at my garden.”
“Babe, are you okay? You sound a bit….”
“I’m okay. What’s your news?”
“Tell you what, I’m on my way. Sit tight and I’ll tell you when I get there.”
By the time Johnnie got there, I had gone around the property setting up little traps which would tell me if someone had been around. So that every time I came home, I could go round my property, probably with my heart in my mouth, scared to look and scared not to look. It would be a bit like looking for cancerous lumps in your body. Scared to look in case you find something. But I had to take a stand, take back some form of control. At least if I knew he had been there, he didn’t know that I knew.
I decided I would put a thread across the base of the gate, so it would break if anyone walked through it. I raked the garden outside the windows so they would show up footprints and it would show if someone had tried to hide his footprints. I locked the garage and put the keys in my handbag. But I had also set a little trap in the garage in case he also had a spare key the way he had for the house. I hadn’t changed the lock on the garage. I was wondering how you might be able to set up a camera when the gate opened and Johnnie arrived.
He walked up to me and with a crooked grin, raised his hand and moved a lock of hair back off my face. “Hey Babe, what’s new?” Tight blue jeans and a t-shirt looked great on him. Faded was irrelevant, tight was perfect. I looked at him for a moment, enjoying what that did to my heart rate and indicated the garden. “Well, there’s my new garden for starters.”
He glanced over, “You’ve made a start then.”
“What?” I looked at him startled. Had I told him I wanted a new garden? Did he know?
His eyes narrowed. “You said the garden frightened you. You’ve started to tame it.”
“No, not quite.” I took a long breath. “I didn’t put that garden there. It was a mass of large shrubs when I left for work, but this is how it was when I got home.”
He walked over and crouched down in front of the garden. I could see him scanning the area for footprints or any sign of who had been there. I walked over and sat on the grass next to him. We looked at it in silence.
“He’s made you a garden, planted flowers for you.” He turned to look at me. “He’s giving you a gift. Just like the Posies.”
We looked at the garden, somehow it didn’t seem quite so scary with Johnnie next to me. Definitely weird, but not so frightening. And then I remembered. “So, what’s your news?”
He glanced across the garden again and turned to look at me. “The letter from the German solicitors which gave the instructions about the will, it’s a fake. There is no such firm in Germany.”