11 March 2008

a new life - part 14

His appearance was very different from the time of the crime. Yesterday he had shaved his head leaving a neat goatee. Since Black’s visit he had been cultivating a convincing Manchester accent, a Bolton dialect to be precise and Francis was precise. Jane had been fooled time and again by his mastery of voices. He had often called pretending to be her brother from Glasgow, or her workmate from Newcastle. Ha-way bonnie lass...


The payphone smelled of stale cigarettes.
“Black? Never mind who this is, I have information for you man.” Francis’ Caribbean lilt was very convincing.
“ I sold a gun to a girl called Sue. The word is man, she did something silly with it.” He hung up while Black was still stuttering.

You’ve got the gun Sue, not me. His mind was razor sharp now. He felt jubilant. The clouds of the last few months had well and truly parted. His perspective was clear, his memory complete. That last decision had been a masterstroke. Sue was holding a murder weapon and it was covered with her fingerprints. She worked for a bank that had been robbed. Good luck to her when Black started nosing around asking where she had buried Francis and his wife. Pick the bones out of that lot, he smiled wryly and set off on foot for the car park.


Francis swung his old Ford out of a nondescript South London long term parking lot. He gunned it across Waterloo Bridge and headed west out of town. It was a cool, late October afternoon and he rolled down his window inviting in the chill breeze to keep him awake.

He drove through Knightsbridge, Kew and Twickenham in twilight before reaching the Motorway and building to a comfortable cruising speed. Illuminated blue signs slid overhead, “Hampshire and the West.” Every mile pushed his old life further behind. He glanced at his watch, it would be dark when he reached his old father’s farm.

Checking his pocket for the twentieth time, he felt his passport and wallet. He settled back and summoned thoughts of a far-flung continent, imagining a palm-fringed beach with the whitest sand, the bluest sea and an impossibly tall glass of iced water.

Steppenwolf thundered from the stereo:

“Get your motor running, head out on the highway,
Looking for adventure in whatever comes our way.”

Behind him on the back seat a shovel rolled in time to the beat.


08 March 2008

a new life - part 13

Go on! The dust has settled. If you let it settle any more you’ll forget which spot the “X” marks. Francis pulled on his brown leather jacket and slipped out of St Agnes Home, walking quickly towards Waterloo Station in the late autumn chill. There was something he should collect before disappearing for good.

The station was dense with travellers and echoed with mumbled announcements from the public address speakers. Francis wormed his way across the gigantic concourse, with its long snaking queues. He liked the anonymity of a large random crowd.

This time he approached the long line of grey metal lockers with a slow measured tread, zeroing in on his own. Glancing once over his shoulder he dialled 791 into the lock. Cautiously he opened the door a crack but already it was obvious… the gun was gone. He wiped the interior with his hand and pulled out a typed note.


He crumpled the note in his trouser pocket and closed the locker. Sue… bitch!

He flipped open his wallet and thumbed out Black’s business card. Call me anytime, whenever you begin to remember anything. Anything at all. Francis sauntered to a row of phone booths, slid into one and lifted the receiver.

03 March 2008

a new life - part 12

“You’re okay son, “ the impossibly young paramedic grinned at him. “The bus came off worse, you should see it!”

“You were running out of Waterloo Station as if you had the devil on your tail,” said his even younger partner as she shone a pencil beam in his eye.

“… at least I got rid of the gun, didn’t I?” Francis muttered. He felt sick. Had he just woken from a very real nightmare? There were details he could remember easily, like the gun and the 3 shiny keys. But other details hovered maddeningly at the edge of his mind, like niggling thoughts about Jane and her share of the money. Perhaps if he concentrated less directly more details would return… like what the hell had happened to Jane? Memories started swirling in mist. He thought he heard a muffled gunshot and saw a pillow explode. He saw a ghostly shadow digging furiously in a field. Then a veil descended and his mind became blank.

“What’s my name. Where am I?” He was panicking now and trying to stand.

“Whoa, you’re in shock son. Lie still, we’ll get you to hospital pronto. Right, let’s get him in the wagon. One, two, three… lift.”

Francis’ breathing became slow and deliberate. He was falling deep, deep asleep.


For seven days he lay on his back on starched hospital sheets. Faces came and went, talking to him sometimes in scolding voices, sometimes pleading and then in gentle, soothing tones. He rose from profound sleep and remained suspended just below waking. He heard and saw but could not control his thoughts.

Sue had been his most frequent visitor. She had taken some time off from the bank after the robbery. Francis’s sudden departure took on new meaning when Detective Black had asked her to view some CCTV footage of her handbag being lifted in the supermarket.

“Yes, that’s Francis,” Sue had confirmed when Black showed her the Supermarket surveillance tape.
“Thank you,” nodded Black. “That’s all I need to know. Oh, and best not to talk about this with any of your work colleagues okay? And certainly not to Francis. We don’t want gossip do we,” he added.

“No officer, I shan’t be talking to anyone,” Sue promised.


She was no sleuth but trailing him had been ridiculously easy. Her target was oblivious to his new shadow. The day after he had murdered and buried his wife she had been following him. Even when he had bolted across the crowded thoroughfare at Waterloo Station he had looked back at her without a flicker of recognition. He seemed to be running blindly from everyone and everything.

Unknown to Sue, D.I. Black’s men had been pursuing Francis too but rather more discreetly. However Sue kept running and was in time to see a small backpack being hurled into a locker. She watched from behind a pillar, memorising the lockers, counting up and along the rows. The police gave away their presence with sudden sharp whistles and Sue had watched incredulous as Francis took off again spurting out of the station into the path of a red double-decker bus. Immediately there was a howl of rubber and a sickening thud.