The End of an Error

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Monday 12th January

I wake up feeling free. That was a really good night’s sleep. Crazy how small things can make the biggest impact. I don’t know why I didn’t block her before. The only problem now is that I won’t be able to get any evidence against her.

I just want to forget the whole thing. I hope she takes the hint.

While I’m in the kitchen making myself some toast, I look through the back window and see something that I couldn’t see last night. If I had seen it I doubt I’d have had the good night’s sleep I had. It’s a pool of what looks like blood at the bottom of my garden gate. It’s quite big.

Feeling shitty again, I get my shoes and head outside. The cold air hits me as I do, biting across my skin. Mei and her mother are in the living room. ‘What are you doing?’ Mei yells. ‘It’s cold.’

I don’t answer her and head over to the back gate. I try hard to avoid the pooled blood on the ground. It’s coming from the other side of the gate and seeping underneath. I open it and nailed to it is a dead rabbit. Its limp body is loose and floppy like it’s empty. The blood has seeped out in lines along the gate to the ground. I feel sick.

I’m angry now. This is revolting. Enough is enough. I take a picture on my phone and head back inside. I don’t take off my shoes as I march through the house and head for Alan and Bret’s home.

I pound on the door. These bastards need sorting out. As I knock I realise I may be knocking on the door of a murderer.

Bret answers. Or is it Alan? No. I’m sure Bret is the short fat one.

He says, ‘What the hell are you doing?’

‘Is she here?’

‘Who?’

‘Amy. You know who I mean.’

He looks me up and down like I’m a piece of shit. ‘She told me about you.’

‘I don’t give a shit what she told me. There’s a dead rabbit nailed to my back gate and I know she’s the one who did it.’

‘You need to back off,’ he says. Alan appears behind him.

I retreat to their gate. ‘This isn’t over.’

I march home and call Constable Smith. I tell him he needs to get down here before something bad happens.

When I get to work I’m seething. Mei has today off so I left her alone to deal with Smith, something I didn’t want to do. Harold is there helping. I went to see him before I left for work. He’s as disgusted as I am. I took another photo of the body before I left. I am so fed up of that bitch.

For the entire shift I’m in a bad mood. If Agatha starts today then she will know it. I feel a little like I did when I found out Mrs Mellor was being terrorised by the kids from the school. I miss Mrs Mellor.

I try to check my phone when Agatha isn’t looking or when she goes to the toilet, something she does a lot. The police still haven’t arrived by one o’clock. I feel tense and I can sense that I’m showing it.

‘What’s up with you?’ Agatha asks me.

I don’t want to tell her; she’s just after some gossip. ‘Nothing.’

She shrugs her shoulders.

Finally at three o’clock when it’s time to go home, Mei texts me to tell me Smith is there. It’s about time.

I race home in record time and find Smith’s Corsa parked in my spot which leaves me no choice but to either park outside Bret and Alan’s or park beside Amy’s Fiesta, which is still in the carpark. Has she moved in or what?

There’s another police van parked on the kerb opposite Smith.

I park on an adjacent street to avoid any more contact with any of those three.

I walk briskly through the cold and walk inside almost before I open the door.

He’s in the living room with a cup of tea on his lap while his friends are at the back gate taking their own pictures and collecting samples I guess. I don’t actually know what the hell they’re doing.

I don’t even say hi to him before I start. ‘If you’d done something about her when I first told you then this might not have happened. It might be just a rabbit but it’s a step up.’

He stands up. ‘Lee, please calm down.’

‘What a mess this is.’

Mei and her mum are watching me have a breakdown right in the centre of the living room.

‘I’ll go and talk to her with a colleague. We don’t actually know it was her that did this.’

‘Who else could it be?’ I snap.

He sighs. ‘I’m just saying that it’s not always the most obvious person. Don’t forget you accused Jason of stealing Harold’s lights when it wasn’t him.’

I shake my head. ‘Speaking of Jason, while you’re at their house, you might want to ask about his murder, and that of Emma.’

He warns me that those are wild accusations.

‘Mei is pregnant!’ I yell. ‘I don’t want my child to grow up having to put up with this shit. I just want a peaceful life,’ I plead. ‘You have to do something!’

We spend an hour going round and round in a circle. Mei also states how insecure she feels with Amy there. I show Smith the messages on my phone that I didn’t delete after I blocked her. The ones she sent when we were in Scotland. They weren’t nudes but they’re just as menacing, if more mundane to look at.

Smith calls the guy from the back to come inside and take a picture of my phone. He tells me to forward any more messages I get from her to him. She might use a different phone. I say I will.

Eventually they piss off and leave me in the worst mood I’ve ever been in. It’s one thing to torment me with text messages; it’s another to nail a rabbit to my gate. She’s stepped up her game.

I need to calm down. I want to get some fresh air. I tell Mei I’m going out for a walk. She asks if I’m okay and I tell her I’m not, because I’m not. She offers to come with me but I want some time alone for an hour or so. She tells me not to do something stupid.

I leave the house and head over to the canal. I plan on walking along it to the next bridge and head for Haslam Park. It’s a decent park and it’s usually quiet. Moor park is the one most people take to. This is like my own private getaway sometimes, especially in the week when the kids are at school. Like today.

I cross the bridge and stop at the scene of Jason’s murder. There is no one around. It could so easily be me this time. If I fall in, could I get out? I shudder at the thought.

I continue on. The sun is out but it’s still cold and eerily quiet. I can’t even hear a bird in the sky. The houses on the other side of the canal, the ones that have back gardens that join it, look empty and derelict. I know they’re not but they do look it.

I hear every step I make on the stony ground. The rustle of the bushes beside me remind me that I’m awake and not trapped in a nightmare. If that even makes sense.

I reach the next bridge and turn right and head through an abandoned, overgrown with dead grass, field towards the park. There are all kinds of sounds around me now. I glance back and can’t see anything to my left or right, other than grass. I continue on but that feeling I get of being watched returns. I could die here in this grass and nobody would notice me for weeks. Something spurs me on to walk faster. This light walk to clear my head has quickly turned into something more sinister. My heart races and my head is getting moist, even in the cold. I pull coat my zip right to the top until it touches my chin. The park isn’t so far away now. I hope it’s busy. Never mind all that crap about it being a peaceful haven. I need human contact.

At a small bridge that covers a stream, I turn around. And I immediately freeze. There’s a black figure standing on the path behind me. It’s dressed all in black with a hood and a scarf covering its mouth. The paleness of the grass behind it sharpens the image into something devilish. I’m frightened beyond belief.

I turn and head for the park, fast. I begin with a quick walk that soon turns into a run at almost full speed, not easy on the uneven track. I don’t look back. I feel a tear touch the corner of my eyes. I feel like I’m going to die. I couldn’t tell if the figure was male or female. Something tells me it was female. Something in the way it was standing with most of its weight on one leg. But the body is quite large and bulky so I’m not sure. I didn’t stay long enough to take many notes.

I reach the park and can’t see anyone in this part. The dog walkers tend to be on the field or around it, so I sprint there.

It’s here that I dare to look around. There’s nobody chasing me. I’m trembling. That was the scariest thing I have ever seen. How am I going to get back? There is another way along a dirt track on the other side of the park that goes through some trees and brings me out at the bridge closer to my home, but even that terrifies me.

I head over the grass towards Blackpool Road and decide to walk the long way round. The very long way round. But the staying alive long way round. I could phone Harold. I just don’t want the humiliation. ‘Harold, I was chased by what I think was a big girl to Haslam Park. Could have been a man, though’.

I phone Mei instead.

She answers. ‘Are you all right?’

I tell her I’m okay but she can tell that something’s wrong in my voice. I just want to hear a friendly voice. Nothing friendlier than the wife. Unless I’ve done something wrong that is.

It takes me fifteen minutes just to get to the Crossroads Pub, named because, well, it’s a crossroad for Woodplumpton Road, Tulketh Brow and Blackpool Road. I turn left and go around the pub on the corner. I stop and look at it. I could get pissed again. It would be so easy. I decide against it, not after Edinburgh.

I don’t walk fast and I lose track of time when I reach the bridge where Woodplumpton Road passes over the canal. I stop and look along it, at the calming water rippling with each leaf falling onto it. I see the person dressed in black watching me from the path alongside it. I feel a tingle down my spine. I carry on, faster now, and arrive at the newsagents at Cadley Causeway roundabout. I still feel odd and keep looking around all the time. I think I’m about to lose my mind in all honesty.

I go into the shop and get a bottle of water. I’m really thirsty. It’ll be another twenty to thirty minute walk home from here. There are shortcuts through but I think I’ll stick to the main roads.

When I get home I’m a wreck of a man. The black figure has been going round in my mind the whole way. God it was scary. I think that was the point: to scare me. Well it worked.

When I walk through my door I check every window and door to make sure they’re locked. I also check the back gate, which has been cleaned. I can sense eyes on me again from Bret and Alan’s house just a few doors down.

When I turn around I jump. Mei is in the kitchen doorway. I thought it was that figure again. I won’t tell her about it because it’ll scare her. I don’t know what I’m going to do. The police don’t seem to be much help at all.

The sky is dark and the air is getting cold. Mei turns on the fire. She tells me that she saw Jason’s mum again earlier getting off the bus with some shopping bags. She looks healthy. She was with her daughter and seemed like she was pulling herself together.

I think I’d rather have had Jason running around than what that nutcase Amy is doing.

To try and lighten my mood and change the subject when she does it for me, ‘When do I get my first driving lesson?’

I’ve totally forgotten about that. That’ll give me something to do: search online for the best and cheapest instructors.

I end up calling a few of them. I find one from Hutton who covers all of Preston. He was nice on the phone so we’re going with him and her first lesson in on Wednesday evening.

For the rest of the evening we eat and watch TV. Nothing else of note happens. It’s times like these that I appreciate even more now: the quietness of doing nothing. Tomorrow is another story.

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