The Silver Lining

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Chapter 28 - Zoe

The next day, Jesper bought the excuse hook, line, and sinker. I knew if Darcey rang at 11 am Clara would be having one of her mid-morning naps, so I would have a reason not to take her with me.

“I’ll take him into town later if you like? Show him and Clara the best York has to offer? You could meet up with us when you’re done,” Caitlyn offered.

Jesper’s eyes shone with delight, “I would like to get out of the house, see the sights.”

“Sounds like a plan. You guys go ahead without me, and I’ll just call you when I’m done.”

Guilt rose from my gut, making my throat dry and metallic tasting. This was the first outright deceitful thing that I’d done in my relationship with Jesper. Everything else was an avoidance of the truth but this was a pure lie.

I kissed both him and Clara tenderly, trying my best not to cry. I was deceiving her too, abandoning her for selfish reasons. Reasons that I had to remember were valid and righteous.

“I love you,” I murmured as I left the house, focused on the task in hand.

*

My house was a dishevelled shell of its former self. Plants were overgrown, paint was chipping, and the curtains were shut. My once happy family home now felt so uninviting. The key rolled over in my fingers. I debated whether to knock, but I didn’t want to risk him closing the door in my face. Letting myself in was the only sure-fire way of guaranteeing an entrance.

The jagged metal slid into the lock and turned. I paused momentarily before proceeding inside. The air was pungent with liquor. Post piled up behind the door as if nobody had lived here for years. I wandered into the lounge and searched around for any sign of life. Empty glass bottles littered the floor. The bin in the kitchen was overflowing with rubbish. Pots, crusted with the remnants of takeout grease, stacked high in the sink. What had this place become?

I made my way up the stairs, glancing at the dusty photographs of my mother hung on the wall. She was so house proud when she was alive. She’d be turning in her grave if she could see the dire disrepair of her home.

I poked my head into the stale bathroom, then my untouched bedroom. No one. The last room was their bedroom.

“Dad?” I called as I entered, the word devoid of sentiment.

There, surrounded by scrupled, dirty sheets sat my father. Or a shadow of my father. Overweight, bearded, and sallow he looked like a complete stranger.

He turned his head to face me, with a glass look in his eye.

“Zoe? Is that you?” he croaked.

“We need to talk.”

Like a retired ex-boxer, he looked defeated. His head hung in shame. He pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and struck a match. He lost himself in the glow of the flame for a moment, before igniting his cigarette and taking a deep inhale.

“Ask me anything.”

I wasn’t expecting him to be so open. Looking at this pathetic man in front of me, it was hard to imagine him capable of killing someone. I inched closer, as close as I could stand, making sure I spoke as clear as possible.

“I need to know; did you murder Vivienne?”

He took another long drag and blew the smoke away from me. “I heard you had a baby.”

How on earth did he know that? Had Aunt Caitlyn told him? Darcey?

“Don’t avoid the question. Did you kill Vivienne?” My voice an octave higher now.

“Can I meet her?”

“Dad, I’m not playing this game with you. You said I could ask you anything, so let’s talk.”

“I want to see her before…before I confess.”

Even though I knew he was guilty, the impending conversation filled me with dread. I knew I had to stay strong, but the rage was building inside of me.

“Confess to what?”

“I did it. I killed Vivienne.”

This was good. He’d spoken so matter of fact. The police couldn’t discredit this proof.

“Why? Why did you kill her?”

He closed his eyes and mumbled under his breath.

“Speak up!” I stood tall over him now, my chest heaving with adrenalin.

“You’ve grown up to be so beautiful, Zoe. Just like your mother. I bet your daughter is just as lovely.”

“You don’t get to talk about her. Either of them, not after what you’ve done. I’m only going to ask you this one more time, and then I’m going to leave and I’m never going to come back. Why?”

He covered his face with his hands, and for a second, I thought he was about to cry.

“She was ruining everything. She was coming between us…when the police interrogated me about those murders, I was so shocked. I asked where they had gotten such a stupid idea, and they said they’d had an anonymous letter, incriminating me.”

So the police didn’t tell him it was me who passed on the letter.

“I’d been to your house, to see if you knew anything about it. When you weren’t in, I went to the only other place I thought you could be. That’s when I saw her.”

I imagined Viv setting her eyes on him as she left her house, just metres away from me. How different this day would have played out if I had only gone with her!

“I asked her what was going on and she started shouting about the murders. I didn’t want anyone to hear, so I asked her to sit in my car so we could talk. Just talk. I never intended to…to…”

My fists clenched. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I wanted to hurt someone. I wanted to hurt my father.

“And then what happened?”

“We drove, I don’t know where, I just wanted to find somewhere quiet, secluded, where we wouldn’t be interrupted. Vivienne was so angry. I’d never seen her like that. She kept telling me I’d never see you again – that I’d die alone. My whole world was falling apart. I just wanted her to stop. That’s when I struck her.”

This can’t be the full story.

“The police said she died of knife wounds.”

“She came around and wanted to get out of the car. She kept screaming and shaking the car handle, but I couldn’t let her leave in that state. I knew she’d run straight back to you or the police and make me look even worse! I…I…had my tools in the back. All the talk of killing with the police earlier, kept going round in my head. I caught sight of a silver hacksaw. That’s when the idea popped into my head…and…when things got ugly.”

I saw an empty spirit bottle on the side, and an unwelcomed thought crossed my mind. I could strike him. Old and decrepit as he is now. He’d be easy pickings.

I shook my head profusely. No. I would never stoop to his level. I am nothing like this man.

“Did you murder those other women?”

“No, Zoe, I swear on your mother’s grave I had never killed before then.”

“Why would you kill Viv if you had nothing to hide? I don’t believe you!”

His cigarette was burnt down to the stub, but he continued to hold it. “I guess I wouldn’t believe me either. I really am sorry, Zoe.”

“I’m not. This time, you are going to get what you deserve.”

I turned on my heel abruptly and bounded down the stairs, scared that he’d chase after me. As soon as I made it outside to my car, I locked the doors. Pulling out my phone I hit STOP, then dialled 999.

“Police…my father just confessed to a murder and I have recorded every word of it.”

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