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Authors: Martyn Waites

Speak No Evil

BOOK: Speak No Evil
7.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub






A room. Two seats. A table. A person either side.

‘Just relax. Ignore the recorder.'

She gives a nervous laugh. ‘That's easy for you to say.'

They settle down to start. He gets his notes out. She doesn't need any. She waits.

‘So where do you want to start?' she asks. ‘Prison? Remand home? The escape? The psychiatrists? Fenton Hall? God, there's loads of stuff? She pauses, looks away from him. Another drag. ‘Or what I did in the first place?'

‘Wherever you like,' he said. ‘Wherever you feel comfortable.'

She gave a small laugh, repeats the word, ‘Comfortable.'

‘I don't think this is going to be in chronological order. But don't worry, I'll do all that at the end.'

‘Fine. OK. Whatever you want.'

She sits quietly. He waits.

‘You'll have to give me something to talk about,' she says. ‘Something to start with.'

‘OK. Tell me why. Why you want to do this.'

‘You mean talk to you?'

He nods.

‘I'm gettin' money for this. There's goin' to be a book.'

‘Is that the only reason?'

She pauses, thinks for a minute.

‘No,' she says. ‘I want to talk. I mean, the money's good. It'll come in handy. I'm not graspin' though. Tryin' to get somethin' I haven't earned. I've earned it, all right. But I just want a normal life. For me. Me partner and son. The money'll help, but so will talkin' to you. I want to get rid of it all and move on. Have a better life. A normal life.'

‘If that's the case, shouldn't you be talking to a psychiatrist?'

She becomes angry at the suggestion. ‘No. No. No psychiatrists. I've seen them all my bloody life. No. No more. You. I want you to do it.'

He nods. ‘OK. Let's start from the beginning, then.'

‘Right.' She goes through the ritual of lighting up another cigarette. When she's ready, she begins.

‘I used to be a different person,' she says. ‘And that person used to lead a different life. She lived in remand homes, went to prison and escaped, did her time and finally got let out. And she used to be one of the most hated people in the country. Mothers would scare their children asleep at nights with my name. That was me. I used to be Mae Blacklock. And I was a child murderer.'


The cold kept coming in. And the window couldn't stop it.

Anne Marie Smeaton tugged at the handle, but it just wouldn't settle in the frame. She pulled it close as she could, straining hard to make it fit, get the lock to catch. Then waited, removing her hand slowly, convincing herself that this time she had done it. Then watching, heart sinking, as it crept open yet again. The seal on the ill-fitting uPVC gone, the frame misshapen by years of abuse and neglect. She sighed. The cold never left her, those hard, icy claws rattling the glass, a constant reminder that she could never feel warm, never feel safe. She pulled her cardigan tight about herself, left the kitchen, closed the door behind her.

The living room had all the lights on. Ceiling, wall, standing. Glaring and harsh: making her squint but keeping the shadows at bay. The walls were brightly painted, rich blues and oranges, enthusiastically, but amateurishly applied. She had done them herself, getting bored and impatient with the work, slapping the paint on haphazardly just to be finished. The furniture was cheap, mostly second-hand, but serviceable. The kind of thing she was used to by now. The kind of thing she had always been used to.

The one exception was the gaudily coloured miniature Thai temple on a stand in the corner of the room. The Spirit House, supposedly imprisoning evil spirits, not letting them into the rest of the flat. She didn't believe it but she had bought it, knowing that when people are desperate they didn't believe in nothing they believed in anything. It had travelled with her for the best part of twenty desperate years. It had been battered and repaired but she wouldn't part with it. She didn't dare.

Anne Marie sat on the sofa. In contrast to the brightly coloured walls, she was all in black. Black T-shirt, black jeans, black cardigan, black socks. Her hair was dyed a slightly unnatural shade of red and she was bigger than she would have liked to have been. Like so many things in her life, it was a losing battle.

She looked at the blank face of the TV. There would be nothing on worth watching. Not at this time of night. There used to be quiz shows. She loved them, would sometimes phone in, get herself on air. Sometimes because she had the answers, sometimes just for someone to talk to. But they were gone now. Just foreign films and news. Lots of news. And Anne Marie had had enough of news.

She should be in bed, asleep, dreaming. But she couldn't sleep, couldn't dream. Because, behind her sleeping eyes, the ghosts were massing again. The evil spirits. The ghosts of the dead and the damned, the lost and the left behind. Ready to ambush her dreams, control her mind. Push through to the waking world, dragging their evil and madness with them. Making her do bad things. Wrong things. And she wouldn't let them. She couldn't let them.

They had visited Anne Marie before. She knew the signs. The headaches, niggling at first, building to pounding and smashing the inside of her head, like warring drummers. The blackouts. Coming round, not remembering where she had been, what she had done. Widening gaps in her memory, the voices taunting her with dread possibilities.

She knew why it was happening. The book. But the knowledge didn't help her cope with it And she couldn't yet stop.

Anne Marie was usually straight down the doctor's whenever the spirits started talking. Cramming all the pills she could down her throat, taking to her bed, the Spirit House beside her, riding the attack out on a wave of numbness. But she couldn't do that this time. Because of the book.

That fucking book.

Anne Marie listened. Outside the flat, the night was quiet. Or quiet for the area of Newcastle she lived in. Not too many police sirens, screams, shouts, glass being broken. Made a change. She listened for sounds inside the flat itself. Jack was sleeping in the next room but as usual he made no sound. Rob did. Her boyfriend sleeping in her bedroom. Or their bedroom, as Rob had taken to calling it. Snoring and farting, his usual night-time symphony. Drunk from a skinful in the Half Moon, back to hers, grunting and falling into bed. At least he had stopped pawing her. That was something.

No, he was good, Rob, she told herself. She could have done worse. She had done worse.

Her heart starting to speed again, she reached for her barley wine. It was warm. Didn't matter. Tasted better that way. She gulped it down, her self-medication, knowing it would be the last one until the next cheque.

She looked from her empty glass to her watch. Nearly 1 a.m. She should try and get some sleep. She had another session on the book in the morning and she needed as clear a head as possible. Get it all taped and over with. Free herself from it and move on with life.

The cold was coming in under the door. It was never wholly gone, no matter how tightly she pulled her cardigan. Her tin was beside the empty glass. She opened it. Just enough for a spliff. She smiled. That would send her off. Deftly sprinkling and rolling, she lit up, dragged down deep. Her lungs clung to the smoke like a drowning man to a life raft, waited for the waves to wash her away. She stared at the blank screen, the garish walk, bright lights, saw no shadows, no ghosts.

The red light on the stereo. Her other defence, music. Perfect with the spliff. The counsellor had taught her years ago to find something she could connect with, that made her feel safe, and give herself over to it. The CD she wanted was already in the tray. It seemed to be always in the tray. She pushed the volume low so as not to wake up Jack, trapped another mouthful of smoke, settled back and closed her eyes.

The music filled the over-bright room. Scott Walker:
Scott 4.
Not the one about Death playing chess with a knight. The one about angels. Angels of ashes. How something good could come out of something bad. At least that's what the song said to her.

The orchestra played, Scott sang in his beautiful voice about being saved by angels and Anne Marie sighed, tried to hold on to those seconds of contentment, stretch them out to minutes, to hours. The angels could lock the bad spirits away forever. She dragged smoke down deep, let the music wash over her, through her, like a huge wave of comforting emotion. Scott's voice told her not to be afraid, that he had been there too, he had come through it.

She took another deep drag, silently mouthing the words to the song like an incantatory prayer, and wished, not for the first time, that she had that disease some people get, that condition where they see emotions as colours. With her eyes closed and her head drifting, she could shut out the cold, the greys, whites and blacks, let the colours of her walls sway to the music, enfold her, keep her warm and safe.

She pulled the spliff down to the roach, stubbed it, clung to the music, kept intoning, imagining. Kept the ghosts at bay.

With another sigh, Anne Marie Smeaton slipped into warm, bright sleep.

‘They think I got away with it,' she says, dragging deep on her cigarette. ‘'Cos I'm out I got away with it. ‘Cos I'm not in prison. I was lucky.' She gives a harsh laugh. ‘Aye. Lucky. That's me.'

‘Who thinks that?'

‘The media. An' those that are stupid believe what the media said. They think I'm a liar. A manipulator.'

‘Of what?'

‘People. The truth. An' I'm not. I'm honest. They think I don't care about the boy. The boy I killed. But I do. I think about him every day. Sometimes I'll be having a laugh, a good time and then bang, there he'll be. And it's like a cloud's come over the sun, you know what I mean? A huge stone in my heart, puttin' me down. Weighin'. Draggin'. Remindin' me. You can't enjoy yourself any more because there's a boy who'll never grow up because of you.' She corrects herself ‘Because of me.'

‘And what do you do then?'

She shrugs lightly but her eyes show it's no light thing. ‘Just wait for it to pass over. What ehe can I do?'

‘Wouldn't a psychiatrist be better for you? Sort you out?'

‘I'm talking to you. This is goin' to sort it. Anyway, I had enough of them inside. They never believed me. No matter what I said, they never believed me. Because I was a liar. A manipulator. I twisted words, I twisted people. Well I didn't. I told the truth. About what I did. About what was done to me.' She pulls deeply once more on her cigarette. Taps the long tube of ash into the ashtray. Watches it fall.

BOOK: Speak No Evil
7.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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