Malcolm Selden wasn’t listening to a lecture about Electronic and computer engineering at Widnes university. His mind was elsewhere. Perhaps if the lecturer was saying something interesting, he would still be in a world of his own, as he had come to try and take his mind off his concern, but it was no use. He was sat at the back of the lecture theatre, slouched in a chair, his arms folded, staring at the back of the chair in front, but not seeing it. He was 27 years old, single, wore casual clothes that always bordered on old-fashioned, and had a ‘business man’s cut’ hairstyle. He was studying for a first degree with honours in Information systems development. His friend, Tom Parker was sat in a seat diagonal from him. He was watching Malcolm with curiosity.
“You still worried?” he whispered. Malcolm looked at him, breaking from his stupor.
“Worried?” he said. “I can’t stop thinking of it. It just doesn’t make sense. My dad isn’t like that. He wouldn’t just kill my mum like that. I’m sorry. It doesn’t add up. I know he did it. He admitted it, and all the forensics have confirmed that it was him who strangled her, but it just doesn’t make sense. He was never violent. As far as I know, he never lifted a finger to her. I don’t remember him even shouting at me. He just would not suddenly decide to kill my mum like that”. He clicked his fingers, and noticed that the theatre was quiet. He saw that the lecturer had stopped speaking, had folded his arms, and was staring up at Malcolm. Other faces looked in his direction. His face went red and he went back to staring at the back of the chair.
The lecturer continued:
“After their establishment, both systems become peers”. Malcolm and Tom exchanged glances, which basically said: ‘I’ll speak to you later’.
The building was a modern structure, with orange bricks and oddly angled windows, reflecting an attempt to come into modern society by basically resembling what was probably a student’s architectural design project. In the foyer, where there was always a constant stream of students, coming and going, and standing outside, smoking, Malcolm and Tom walked slowly to the exit, their day over in the place. It was 12:00 noon.
“So what are you going to do?” asked Tom. Malcolm was deep in thought.
“What can I do? Tell the police I think my Dad just had a moment of madness? He won’t do it again, promise”. Tom had no answer.
“I’ll have to go and see him” Malcolm continued, “There’s nothing else I can do. I have to understand why”. They walked outside. Tom was 25, three inches shorter than Malcolm, always wore clothing that was white, or cream, with a cap that seemed perfectly suited to him. He was one of those people that easily suited headgear.
“Hey, there’s that girl you fancy,” he said, looking in the direction of a group of girls, chatting near a metal bench. One in particular had long black hair and was wearing a dusty pink sequin neck dress. She had her back to them.
“Where? This uni’s is full of girls I fancy. It must be a prerequisite of entry. All girls must be fit,” said Malcolm. He saw her.
“She’s with her mates,”. Tom frowned, and said:
“I bet even if she was on her own, you wouldn’t talk to her”. He smiled, but Malcolm’s sour expression reminded him of what was on his mind, and it vanished. They both walked away.
When his father appeared, he looked as though he had just woken up. He had a stubble and his hair was dishevelled. Sitting down opposite Malcolm, and folding his arms, he regarded him like an unwelcome stranger.
“What?” he asked. Malcolm leaned forward on the desk.
“Dad! What are you doing? Why d’you suddenly decide to kill mum? It doesn’t make sense. That’s not like you at all, now what where you thinking? Why Dad, why? Tell me”. Peter Selden’s expression did not change. He took a few moments to answer, and shrugged.
“I wanted to”.
“Is that it? You just felt like. Suddenly you just decided to strangle my mum, drive her out into a field, and bury her. From the moment you put your hands round her neck, you knew exactly what you where doing. What I don’t understand is why. What did she do? 38 years you’ve been married. 38 years, and now you just decide to kill her just because you felt like!”. Peter nodded.
“I just killed her. That’s the way it is. It’s what I did”. His expression became introverted, thinking back to the event.
“Yep,” he nodded. “I killed her, I drove her out into the field, strangled her, buried her, drove back. Then I watched that soap opera that I like”. He smiled, thinking of that.
“Bobby started an affair with the bar-maid. When it finished, I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, but while the kettle boiled, there was a knock on the door. I answered it, and…”. Peter’s face changed to one of concern, with a slight hint of fear.
“Then I…I don’t know”. Malcolm shook his head.
“That’s not a reason. You just wanted to. You just decided to kill her! Come on dad, tell me. Make me understand. It’s not like you at all. You wouldn’t kill her for no reason, just ‘cos you felt like. It doesn’t make fucking sense”. Peter just sat there, as though he wasn’t listening.
“What happened Dad? What happened? Why didn’t you just tell me to mind my language? The Dad I knew would have done”. Peter shrugged. Malcolm quickly stood up, the plastic chair clattering backwards. He banged both his palms on the table.
“For fuck’s sake Dad, tell me why?” Malcolm felt hands grab his arms and pull him backwards.
“Time’s up, son” someone said to him. Peter still looked introverted. He wasn’t looking at Malcolm.
“She had to die,” he said, “She had to die”.
Malcolm was sat in a paved shopping area, on a bench, staring at a few scruffy pigeons searching for food. It had begun to rain slightly, and his face and hair was covered in light drizzle. All he could think of was his father’s words: “She had to die”. What did he mean by that? and why did she have to die? He had no answers, but knew he could not function properly without knowing, without understanding. It was no use in persisting with Dad, he was useless, he thought, but what else can I do? Maybe it would be worth trying him again though, and the police are going to grill him anyway. They should be able to prise a proper answer out of him. Then I’ll have to get the answer from them, he thought. It wasn’t simply a case of just walking into the police station and saying: ‘So what did my Dad say? Why’d he kill my Mum?’. It might be even harder to get an answer out of them. Still, it would be worth going back again sometime, just incase he’s gone back to being the Dad I once knew.