Late Spring 1914
In the darkness of the woods, seventeen year old Charlie Davenport gripped the knife tightly in his right hand and threw himself at the large, shadowy figure leaning drunkenly against the tree. The man had been completely unaware of his presence until now, and, taken by surprise he stumbled and fell backwards, hitting the ground with a thud that took all the breath from his body. Before he had chance to react, to fight back or shout out a protest, Charlie forced the knife deep into the side of his neck with all the strength he could summon, his rage total and uncontrollable.
He felt the blade scrape against vertebrae and sensed warm, sticky blood shoot out of the man’s neck, and up and over his arm, soaking his shirt and the ground beyond them. He pulled out the blade and continued to viciously stab and hack, letting out all his frustration, the years of suppressed rage now releasing itself into this one violent act, until eventually he fell to the side, both mentally and physically exhausted.
His victim had stopped moving after the first two or three thrusts of the blade, but Charlie had continued stabbing anyway, desperate to finish this nightmare once and for all.
After a few moments he noticed that it was very quiet, the only sounds he could hear being his own heavy breathing and the occasional hoot of an owl deep inside the woods as it searched for food in it’s nocturnal hunting.
Charlie could not tell at first if his father was actually dead. He could not yet understand what it was that he had done, the sheer enormity of it. He turned to where his father lay and put his face to the man’s mouth to see if he could feel any breath upon his cheek and to listen closely for any signs of life, but on finding none, he knew that the man was gone. He knew that he had killed him.
He had murdered his father and for that brief moment, as he realised it, he had never felt so happy about anything in all of his life.
He heard movement in the trees behind him and stood up. Turning around he saw his brother approaching in the darkness, the light of the moon silhouetting him clearly through the gaps in the trees.
‘Charlie,’ said Harry, as he slowly walked towards him. ‘What the hell has happened?’
‘I’ve killed him, Harry.’ He could not believe how simple it sounded, how easy it was to say the words. He was shocked at how calm he felt. He had repeatedly plunged a knife deep into his father’s neck in the darkness of the woods and at that moment he felt nothing, only a small sense of regret that he had not done it sooner. This was his only emotion.
‘Jesus Christ,’ said his older brother as he got nearer to him, the shock of what he was witnessing slowly hitting him. ‘What in God’s name have you done?… Charlie?… What the hell have you gone and done?’
‘I couldn’t help it,’ said Charlie, stepping away from the body, leaving his dead father lying on his back on the ground behind him.
He turned to look at the corpse. In the low light he could see the large pool of blood that had spread from the gaping wound in the dead man’s neck soaking into the ground around him.
‘I had to stop him, Harry. He’s an evil bastard. He had to be stopped… It couldn’t go on any more… you know that of all people… The things he’s been doing to her. Don’t tell me you didn’t know.’
Charlie realised he still held the bloody knife in his hand and dropped it to the ground where it landed in a small pile of leaves. His brother did not seem to notice.
Harry sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree a few yards from where his father lay. He felt that this was like a scene from some Shakespearean play. But he knew that this was not make believe, this was very real, and unlike the actors in those plays the man lying in the undergrowth was not about to get up and take a bow for any audience.
Harry took a few deep breaths, for the moment ignoring his brother, as he tried to comprehend what had taken place a few short minutes ago. If only he had been quicker, he thought, he may have been able to prevent it from happening. He may have been able to stop his brother from having to face the hangman’s noose.
‘I don’t care that he’s dead,’ said Charlie defiantly, causing him to look up. ‘I’m glad I killed him. I don’t care what they do to me. They can hang me for all I care. I’m glad he’s dead.’
‘Shut up!’ shouted Harry sharply. ‘Shut up you stupid little bugger. Let me think… For Christ’s sake give me a minute to think. But just shut up will you!’
Charlie sat down on the trunk next to him and placed his head in his hands. Despite his bravado, he started to sob, the shock of what he had done now starting to affect his body and he began to shake.
It was now eerily quiet. Charlie’s sobs, and the owl, the only noises to break the silence.
‘What should I do Harry?’ he whispered between sobs.
‘I told you. Let me think,’ Harry snapped viciously. ‘You’ve landed us in a right mess, so you have. Now let me think about what we can do about it.’
‘They’ll hang me, Harry,’ sobbed Charlie, the enormity of what he had done now dawning upon him. ‘I’m old enough now. They’ll kill me for it.’
‘Oh shut up blubbering, will you,’ replied Harry. ‘I can’t think with you bawling like that. It’s done now. There’s nothing we can do about him,’ he added, nodding towards their dead father. ‘But we have to think.’
Charlie suddenly jumped up.
‘What about mother? What about Lucy? Are they all right?’
‘Mother is fine,’ replied Harry. ‘She was out cold when I got home but I’ve left her lying on her bed. She won’t tell me what happened.’
‘And Lucy? What about Lucy?’
‘I saw her leaving the woods. She looked fine, Charlie. I told her to go home and to go to bed. I’m not sure that she understood me but she was headed in that direction. At first I thought I was seeing a ghost, her all white in her nightdress and all.’ He sighed, ‘She’ll be all right, I think.’
‘She’ll never be all right,’ whispered Charlie, tears rolling down his cheeks. ‘After what that piece of shit has been doing to her all this time, she will never be all right.’
Harry did not argue with him. Charlie may have had a point and they both thought that their young sister, still barely a child, may have been being violated by their father for a long time now. Harry almost felt a sense of jealousy that it had taken his younger brother to finally do something about it. A feeling of inferiority and guilt almost, that he had let it go on for so long and it had taken Charlie to finally put a stop to it. He looked over to the corpse of the man he had once loved but had gradually grown to despise and had to admit to himself that that was exactly what Charlie had done.
‘Right, my lad,’ he said standing up and looking at his brother. ‘There’s only one thing we can do… You’re right, if they find him and see what you’ve done to him then they might just go ahead and do that. Hang you that is… Hang us both in fact, come to that. We have to get rid of him and clear this area up. There’s nothing else we can do.’
‘Oh shit, shit,’ whispered Charlie, who had now stood up and was hopping from foot to foot.
‘For God’s sake, pull yourself together,’ said Harry, standing up to face him and slapping him sharply across the face. ‘You can’t panic, lad. You look like you want to piss yourself. Now get a hold of yourself before all this comes crashing down upon the both of us.’
‘Yes, yes,’ sniffled Charlie, the wetness of his cheeks shining back in the moonlight.
‘Right,’ said Harry, taking charge of the situation. ‘Help me carry him. We’ll take him deeper into the woods and bury him. Help me carry him and then go back to the barn and fetch a couple of spades. Make sure no-one sees you.’
‘What about mother?… And Lucy?… What about mother?…’ stammered Charlie before being interrupted once more by his brother.
‘Just do as I say and stop your bloody blubbering. Now come on. Grab hold of his legs and let’s get this thing done.’