From the author of masterly crafted psychological thrillers, I bring you this intriguing short story, A Lawful Killing, which made me feel cold shivers down my spine…
Introduction: Dark Minds
Dark Minds is a collection of 40 crime and thriller short stories from renowned authors including Louise Jensen, L.J. Ross, Steven Dunne, Betsy Reavley, M.A. Comley, Anita Waller, plus many more, published by Bloodhound Books.
Two years ago, the Dark Minds Celebration of Crime Fiction for Charity was published. All the proceeds of this wonderful collection of 41 exciting, thrilling and at times touching crime stories go to Sophie’s Appeal and Hospice UK.
If you want to know more about this fabulous collection, do check out my review of Dark Minds. Beware though: once you’ve read my review, you will want, nay need to own this unique and superb Crime Anthology Collection!
To purchase Dark Minds: viewbook.at/DarkMinds
To give you a taster of Dark Minds‘ wonderful stories, I’m delighted and happy to share with you Ross Greenwood’s story A LAWFUL KILLING. Enjoy!
A Lawful Killing
Someone needs to die. No, they deserve to die. That is absolutely clear to me, but nothing else is. I am at the point of waking, yet sleep still has me in its warm buoyant grasp. Almost as if it will never let me go. I feel I should struggle more, to try and escape, but the thoughts of death are taking up every piece of energy I possess. As I sink into oblivion once more, I wonder who is doomed and whether I am the man to fulfil the task.
I bob up to the surface once more but am no more conscious than last time. However, my thoughts instantly return to the killing. Yes, that person will leave this life by the hand of another. I let my mind wander to my past. It is murky and swirling, but the main players loom large, like phantoms judging me. It can’t be my parents; they have always been good people. My mum is still mowing old people’s lawns for them, yet she is eighty-two herself. My dad is still driving folk to hospital, even though he has long since given up putting claim forms in. They always wanted the best for me. There is certainly no malice there. Yet, their faces in my dreams are contorted. They seem distraught and let down. Their eyes bulge as their visages whoosh in at me, but they are contortions of pain, regret and remorse. Not anger.
My childhood was happy I think. Certainly, the beginning was. Pictures of summer vacations at caravan parks and snapshots of regular trips to McDonald’s light up in the front of my mind. OK, so we never got to go abroad, but my dad was a lazy sod and hardly ever worked. Some bullshit about his back I think. Actually, now I remember, I was only allowed a hamburger while he chewed his way through a massive quarter pounder. The holidays were good though.
However, as the pictures curl up and wither, the emotions I feel are boredom and mischief. There is sadness too, but not mine. Well, my mum was always crying, so that isn’t anything new.
My brother comes next, locked in a cage. Now he could be the one. A wicked life of waste and gluttony if ever there was. He is rotting in jail for stealing from charities. It’s his third time there and won’t be his last. Oh, how I wished for his brains when we were young. Never suspecting that inside him a lust for money and respect would blossom and corrupt, leading him to bulldoze his way through the Ten Commandments. Not all of them of course. He hasn’t killed anyone yet, but the rest have been crushed beneath his lawless feet. He would not be missed if he were dispatched.
I suppose that mistake with the air gun didn’t help. I thought it would just sting. Still, my brother has done worse since, so in a way he deserved it. I always thought the eye patch suited him. He didn’t like me before that, so what did I lose?
Then, there is the one. A she-devil in flames. It must be her. She would deserve a bad end and I would be glad to provide the deadly blow. She has made my life a misery yet it started so well. The visions clear and I see the folly of our youth. The glorious bright wedding where it began. Happy parents on both sides and our friends looking up at us and smiling. For the first time in my life, I could see a happy future that I belonged to. One with children and holidays, careers and potential. If you had told me, just five years from then, that I would gladly crush the life from her with my dying hands, I would have laughed tears of disbelief. Yet it was her who took it all from me. I gave her all that she wanted and she still took everything I owned.
Blurred images of my children flash quickly by. It’s hard to focus, surely it hasn’t been that long? She stopped me from being around, made it so I can’t see them. Spiteful cow. After all she said about children needing both a mother and a father too. She is the focus of my rage.
There are others too. All those who have made my life difficult deserve my wrath. There are so many. The teachers with their understanding eyes and lying hearts. I hate all those interfering social services fools too. They never understood, always took her side, and never helped me. What could I do, it wasn’t my fault? The man from the council, well he deserves pain, and as for the police, well they were never my friends.
The blackness returns and again I am gone.
It’s her voice that stirs me this time. It comes from a long, long, way away. As though I am hearing it from one end of an enormous dark tunnel. I can smell her too which is weird in a dream. A mixture of Dove soap and the cigarettes she could never give up. The voice is quiet, whispered even, yet I can hear every crystal word.
‘I hate you, despise you. You are the embodiment of everything that is wrong with a human. I married a man and lived with a drunken tyrant. I hope our children forget you because I already have. The pyres of hell are too good for your twisted soul, you evil bastard.’
She always was over-dramatic. I hardly drank until I married her. Well, the odd Saturday night maybe, and I always loved Sunday drinking. Sunshine and beer gardens, combined with fags and cold lager. Perfect. Her constant digging made me look for escapes, admittedly vodka was one, but it was her that sent me there. A man has the right to have sex with his wife, surely that’s what it’s all about? She used to like it rough to start with, how was I to know things had changed? Her spite is electrically charged, like a malevolent thunderstorm, yet I still slip away.
I hear my brothers voice now; it seems like many years since we spoke. There are no images this time, just swirling clouds, grey and white. Again, he talks from a remoteness; a million miles, but the words are clear.
‘I forgive you, I hope you know that. I always did and I will do now. We were just children and the choices we made after were our own. That day’s madness affected all of us. I’m a changed man, and in a way, I feel free. You have released me from the bars I built around myself, so for that, I am grateful. You were always the best and worst of us. You should have been a soldier as you were relentless. I have a picture of us; two laughing boys in a race to get a Sparkle. Me straining to catch up and you laughing over your shoulder urging me onwards. You got there first my friend, and I will see you again.’
I am pulled once more from the abyss. Somehow I know this will be the final time. It is my mother, I’m sure, but she sounds older now. Her voice is quiet, husky almost, the strength all gone. I’ve missed her so much, but I saw her last week. I remember the rage that seemed so important and know that is now gone. It will never return as it has been replaced by love. That is how it should be and I am almost at peace.
‘Oh son, what did you do to yourself? To us. I just don’t understand.’
‘Come now pet, it’s too late for all that. It’s hard for you, it always would be, but maybe it’s for the best.’
‘I know, I know. I just want to know why. Are we to blame? Did we do something wrong?’
‘No, I don’t think so. He was always wild, you know that. I don’t think he was ever going to be sat on his reclining chair, smoking his pipe, content in his dotage.’
‘He was still my boy.’
‘Yes, but maybe it was better this way. At least no-one got hurt.’
‘Except him of course.’
A final vision appears and suddenly I know. That terrible day. I was arrested at the school gates, sodden with vodka. I was eventually released with dire warnings of the consequences of harassment. I would have to go back to court for breaching my restraining order. I’d been given too many last chances and knew I would be sent to prison. I can’t face that as inside I am scared. It’s was a front to hide a lost boy. I’d be no better than my brother too, and I couldn’t live like that. The evil spirit told me to go out in glory and I turned to cocaine, my one remaining friend, to get me out of the door.
There she was at the end of the street, pushing my children in that double buggy I hate. It never worked for me, like many things I guess. I never felt normal or that I belonged in this world, except for that day, with my lady in white.
With screeching tyres and burning smoke, I hammered towards them with retribution in mind. In the end, it was the council who had their revenge as a giant pothole jolted the steering wheel out of my hand. The next thing I was parked in someone’s lounge. I wasn’t sure who was the most surprised. They were sat on the sofa, enjoying a pizza as the walls collapsed on me.
‘It’s time pet.’
‘It feels like yesterday we saw them chase after that ice-cream van. Remember the picture you took?’
‘Aye, I do. That was fifty years ago. They never did get their lollies.’
‘No, I’m still a little surprised, all this time later, that he stopped to help his brother up and see if he was okay. There was good in him, wasn’t there?’
‘Of course, of course.’
‘Are we ready?’
‘He cried a few months back Doctor. Is there no hope?’
‘I’ve explained that, numerous times. This is the right thing to do.’
‘Pet, we’ve been through all this. The courts don’t make these decisions lightly. Of all people, he wouldn’t want to be like this.’
‘But I read about people waking up after all this time.’
‘Again, we have discussed this. The percentage who do wake is very, very small and recovery has been to a state of exceptionally severe disability. We believe your son is brain dead now and we, and the court have agreed it is the right decision to withdraw life support.’
‘Yes Doctor, we are ready. To all intents and purposes, we know he died five years ago.’
‘It’s done now. I’ll leave you. Take as long as you like.’
There was a beeping sound, all of this time. It seems I only just heard it, but now, it dolefully slows. The night draws swiftly; the darkness complete. And then, contentedly, I am nothing.
About Ross Greenwood
Ross Greenwood was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was 20, attending The King’s School in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world. Ross found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually, so he says “when things had gone wrong.” It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. And, according to Ross, he is “still a little stunned by the pace of it now.” All the author’s books are thought-provoking and told with a sense of humour. Ross Greenwood hopes you enjoy reading them.
Books by Ross Greenwood:
Lazy Blood – getbook.at/LazyBlood –my review
The Boy Inside – getbook.at/TheBoyInside
Fifty Years of Fear – getbook.at/FiftyYearsofFear –my review
Abel’s Revenge – getbook.at/AbelsRevenge – my review
Shadows of Regret – getbook.at/ShadowsofRegret – coming Jan 2019