Epidemic

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Indulgence

I parked my car in the churchyard, out of sight and separated from exposure by the graveyard. It’d terrified me to walk through graveyards at night ever since I was little, and burying my dad at twenty two hadn’t helped. Two years had passed since then and my fear had only grown, partly because I now expected to find dad’s spectre haunting the hallowed ground.

Tonight, however, I crossed the wet, mournful yard with ease. No shadows made me jump, no noises raised the hair on the back of my neck and my imagination kept its apparitions to itself. By the time I left the dead, my fear had all but resolved itself for future visits.


The house was exactly where Saeed said it would be – a modern masterpiece, bigger than a family of three could ever need, lit up like a firework about to explode in the sky. Two cars were parked in the drive. The dog was barking; I could see it in the kitchen through the frosted glass of the back door.

The knife felt like ice in my hand. There was no desire in me to harm an animal, not when my pain wasn’t a result of her actions, but if she stopped me from reaching Jack, I wouldn’t have a choice. The only thing I could do for her was to make it quick – a courtesy Jack would not be getting.

Since everyone inside the house knew I was coming, I forsook stealth and knocked on the back door. The husky went insane, slamming itself against the glass, barking ferociously at me. A shadow, tall and stocky, soon joined it, but it didn’t open the door. I knocked again, this time with a gentler hand, but no key turned in the lock, and the figure gradually moved away.

Not happy with that, I launched a plant pot from their pretty garden into the pane of glass and shattered it. The shadow stopped in the kitchen doorway, and only as my eyes adjusted did I notice that he was armed, and the gun was pointed straight at me.

“I know what my son did to you.” Jack’s father said. “He told us everything, and I’m sorry, but I’m not going to let you hurt him. Think about your mother. Would she want you to do this? Hurt people? Kill them?”

“My mother’s dead.”

“Her memory isn’t, and right now, you’re disgracing it.”

“You know nothing about what my mother would have wanted.” Although to be fair, she’d have been horrified by what I’d done to Saeed and his girlfriend, and by what I was contemplating doing to Jack. I had no excuse to fall back on, not like when I’d blinded Cole. I couldn’t seek forgiveness for petty spite.

It was in that moment that I realised I wasn’t pursuing her killer for justice, or for peace, or to lay her memory to rest. I was doing it for myself. He’d taken something precious from me, and like a child mourning the loss of a favourite toy, I wanted to do the same to him.

I appraised Mr Hearne with new eyes. Satisfaction lay in killing him and his wife: I was sure of it.

Something sinister must have shown in my gaze because his grip tightened on the gun, his knuckles red, and his hands steady.

“I was in the army, little girl. I know how to shoot a gun.”

The husky, which stood in front of his feet, guarding its master from the nasty home invader, bared its teeth at me and snarled as I rolled up my jacket sleeves, broke off a shard of glass from the back door and drew it, with force, across my forearm. Burgundy blood swelled from the wound, and soon my entire lower arm was stained. I did the same to the other arm, schooling my expression into one of agony.

By the time I dropped my makeshift weapon, Mr Hearne had unlocked the front door, lowered the gun, and was attempting to stem the blood flow, the husky at his heels, peering at me suspiciously from behind its master.

“You stupid girl,” he said.

I could feel lethargy sinking into my muscles. I let my body flop into his arms and feigned unconsciousness. He scooped me into his arms, carried me into the kitchen and lay me down on something hard. A dining room table from the feel of it. He disappeared, then quickly returned. A box thumped onto wood. Catches disengaged.

“I need an ambulance.” He rattled off the address and asked them to hurry, then his hands were back on my arms, putting pressure on my cuts.

“Robert?” A mousy, terrified voice called from somewhere in the distance. His hands fluttered, as if he were torn between helping me and going to his wife, but he stayed by my side. I’d known he would – people with training usually couldn’t stop themselves from saving someone if they knew they could. Ma had demonstrated that to me, even after she’d been forced to give up her nurse training.

“It’s ok, Morgan. She’s not going to hurt anyone. You can come downstairs.”

The stupidity of bringing both my targets into one room, within easy reach, obviously hadn't occurred to him. He thought I was powerless; that blood loss had crippled me. I’d need the element of surprise to take him down, but I was far from harmless. The knife was still in the lining of my coat, within easy reach. The minute he left my side, I’d draw it and sink it into his back, and I’d keep stabbing him with it until he dropped. Or I’d use the gun he’d abandoned in order to attend to me. There was a nice symmetry to killing Jack’s parents with the weapon he’d used to kill ma. It seemed…right.

I opened my eyes a crack so I could get my bearings. I was in a dining room, spread out on a tablecloth, now more red than cream. A green first aid kit was on the left near my feet, and the gun was on my right, placed at a similar distance. I’d have to be quick when I grabbed it, or they’d have a chance to get the drop on me.

The husky was on my left, its nose resting on the tablecloth and blowing hot air onto my skin. I stared at it, hoping to impart my authority, but it didn’t move. I couldn’t convince it I wasn’t a threat, but it could also smell my blood, and that made defending against me all the more difficult. Was I prey or another predator?

A petite brunette, wrapped in a blue dressing gown, appeared in the doorway and gripped the frame. She looked like a gust of wind would knock her over.

“She’s a kid, Robert. What did you do?”

“I didn’t touch her. She did this to herself.”

Her eyes widened dramatically. “Is she going to be survive?”

“I’ve phoned an ambulance.”

“Will it get here in time?”

“I don’t know, sweetie.” He looked down at me. “I hope so.”

I sat up, palmed the gun and aimed for straight between his eyes. The bullet burrowed into his cheek and travelled upwards. He dropped to his knees, one hand clutching the edge of the table as if it’d give him the strength to get back up.

I released two rounds into Morgan before she could escape, catching her in the thigh and in the throat. She fell, draped against the wall, her breathing rapid and her blood spreading like paint on the wallpaper at her back.

A clamping sensation locked onto my forearm, and I glanced down to find the husky biting my arm.

“Sorry, honey.” I told her.


I didn’t bother checking the house for Jack – I knew he was somewhere in its walls, and it was enough for me to know that he’d creep downstairs when he thought I was gone, and he’d find his parents dead.

I left the gun in the dog basket. The first aid kit, on the other hand, I closed and took with me. And I retrieved my knife.

Sirens created the soundtrack of my escape as I slipped out the back door, and flashing lights, blue and red, dyed the house an interesting myriad of colours. I allowed myself a smile before bee-lining for my car.


Five minutes later, three miles from the house and two miles down a narrow, dark, dirt road, hidden on both sides by a deluge of trees growing by the verge of two dykes, I cut the ignition and headlights, and turned on the interior light.

My arms were a grizzly mess. The brown stain of old blood was muddled with fresh red, and broken skin. I’d been outrageously lucky not to die from the blood loss already, although my head had never before felt so light-headed. Things were blurring in and out of focus, the sky outside seemed to be falling and I was losing seconds every so often.

The first aid kit, thankfully, boasted a small pouch with a needle and thread, and there were twenty or so packets of antiseptic wipes, which I used to clean the cuts. When I was finished with them, I contemplated rolling down my window and throwing them into the dyke, but if the police happened to search the area, I’d be leaving physical evidence of my crime right in the open for them to find, so I stashed them in the glove box instead. I’d burn them at the first opportunity. Nobody would get DNA from ashes.

When I’d gone through twelve wipes, and my arms were as clean as I was going to get them, I threaded the needle and started sewing. My left arm was first, since I was right-handed, and I made quick but messy work of it. The black line of thread went diagonally across the wound, but the stitches were close enough together that they all but stopped the bleeding. I re-enacted the process on my right arm, this time with less desirable results. The stitches were wonky and unevenly spaced, and while most of the blood was staunched, some still managed to leak through. I cleaned them both again, and wrapped a sterilised bandage around each forearm, securing them with safety pins from the bottom of the kit.

It was hardly a perfect solution – I needed a blood transfusion and medication, but I couldn’t admit myself into hospital, not with these wounds. On the off chance Robert or Morgan had survived, they’d tell the police what’d happened. And even if no one told the police how I’d tricked Morgan into letting down his guard, the gun remained at the crime scene, and it was teeming with my DNA. They’d probably blame me for my mother’s death as well as Robert and Morgan’s. A serial killer with parental issues.

The thought should have upset me, being accused of murdering my mother, but it didn’t. The dead were dead – nothing I did would bring her back, and grief was such a stupid emotion. Vengeance, revenge, anger - those were tangible. They had consequence, and substance, and reward. Why cry when I could fight? When I could make others pay for the suffering they’d caused me?

My right mind, my moral mind, yapped somewhere in the back of my brain, probably in the same place fear and pain now resided, but it was buried too deep for me to make out its complaint. It wanted me to surrender, no doubt. To hand myself in and to atone for what I’d done: three accounts of murder, assault, bodily harm, self-mutilation. None of it was socially acceptable, and certainly not morally acceptable.

But I didn’t care, because it felt good.


It was almost seven am when I cruised past my street on the lookout for police cars. There were three, each arranged haphazardly in the middle of the road, and the lights in my building were all on. Either Jack had given them my name (I wasn’t sure he even knew it), or they’d pulled CCTV from the hospital and recognised me.

I carried on driving, and headed straight out of town.


I kept my foot on the accelerator until I couldn’t see straight, which was for about six hours give or take, and only then pulled in to the next layby on the road I’d found myself on to sleep. I crawled into the backseat, made sure the doors were all locked and the keys were in my hand, and covered my arms with my jacket, just in case a Samaritan happened to look in and phone an ambulance, thinking I was in death’s throes.


Night had fallen again by the time I awoke. There was a car parked behind me with its headlights on, and I could see two figures sitting in it as I poked my head over the backseat. It looked like there was luggage in the overloaded boot too – clothes I could change into, toiletries I could clean myself up with, food I could eat.

My knife was in my jacket, trusty as ever. It would be as simple as knocking on one of the windows and asking for help. Maybe my tire was flat. Maybe I was lost. Maybe my sick mother was in the backseat and I needed help treating her. They’d see a petite, pale girl with dirty, shaking hands and sincerity in her eyes (I’d learnt how to fake that when my dad died, and nobody would stop asking if I was ok until I made them believe it).

I climbed out of the car, using the door and the roof to drag myself up. It took an exertion of will I wasn’t sure I could repeat, and provided an unpleasant reminder of how weak I actually was.

Would I be able to wield the knife, with my strength at an all-time low? I could kill one of them by surprise, but I wouldn’t win in a fight, and the second one would hardly lie down and submit to having their throat slit.

Before I decided to leave well enough alone, their driver’s door opened and a middle-aged man with glasses, dressed in a polo shirt and dad jeans, quickly got out. He put an arm around my shoulders and led me to the bonnet of their car.

“What happened?” He asked urgently as I sank down onto it. “Are you hurt? Can I phone somebody for you?”

I showed him my arms, and he hesitantly unwrapped one of the bandages. My amateurish attempt at sealing my wounds shocked him; his face drained of colour, and his mouth opened and closed. His uncertainty and horror gave me the confidence to pull a story out of my butt.

“This guy kidnapped me. I’ve been with him for months, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to end it, to free myself, but he found me. Stitched me back up as if nothing had happened. I let him think I was broken, and then when he least expected it, I jumped out of the window and stole his neighbour’s car.” It was undoubtedly the worst load of crap my brain had ever conjured, but it worked.

Dad jeans rested a hand on my shoulder. “You’re safe now. We’ll phone you an ambulance and get you home. I’m sure you have parents waiting for you? Or a husband?”

“Nobody’s waiting for me.”

I palmed the knife and stabbed him in the stomach, and while he stared down at his new wound in shock, caught in that second before pain and realisation, I tried to stab him again. His hand stopped me. He grabbed my wrist and pinned it to the hood of the car. The knife tumbled to the floor. Instinct kicked in, and I lunged at his face, at his eyes, with my free hand.

And he punched me! In the face!

“It’s not polite to hit girls,” I informed him as I spat blood onto the floor.

“What did I do to you?” He wheezed, pressing a firm hand to his wound.

Someone moved in the passenger seat, and I could see a phone screen illuminated, but he intercepted me before I could investigate.

“Why would you want to hurt me? I don’t even know you. I got out of my vehicle to help you.”

“I don’t want your help.”

“Then why did you get out of your car?”

“Why not? We’re alone out here, and for all I knew, you had stuff I could use in that car. Clothes. Food. Money.” I peered into the windscreen. “Phones.”

“If you’d asked us for help, we would have given you it. You don’t need to take it.”

I smiled. “But it’s so much more fun to take what I want,” and I went for the knife.

Smart man that he was he ran to the car, threw himself into the driver’s seat and employed the central locking system. I battered at the glass with the handle of the knife, but nothing happened. No cracks, no splinters, no obvious sign of impact.

I glared at him through the glass as he turned on the ignition.

It was only as he pulled away that I noticed the kids in the back seat: a snoozing baby in a car seat and a pig-tailed toddler, garnished head-to-toe in pink, staring at me with enormous, walnut-coloured eyes. Ma’s eyes.

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