Friday, 29 May 2015

What would you do if you were charged with your boyfriend's murder, but you knew he wasn't dead?

That's the situation Nancy Kerr finds herself in in Don't Come for Me. 

Here's an extract -

You're in the bathroom late at night when you hear a noise coming from outside the door, and there's this tiny part of you, the product of centuries of genetic programming designed to make you fight or flee, that thinks there's someone inside your house. 
Somebody waiting for you outside that door.
Panic sucks the air out of your lungs.
Your dread of what's outside that door places an icy hand on your shoulder.
All kinds of scary thoughts are going through your mind. Different permutations of what's outside the door.
Has someone broken in and they're going through your stuff?
Is someone there determined to do you harm as they have in the past?
There's this tiny voice inside your head telling you not to be so silly. You're imagining things. After what happened before that's understandable, but you can't let fear rule your life. Be the boss of you.
When you open that door, you'll feel ridiculous when you see that nobody's there.
There is no bogeyman waiting.
You open the bathroom door, confidently to prove you don't care; that you've mastered your irrational fear. Not tentatively like you want to, so you can turn on your heels and slam the door shut. Just an inch so you can get a peek at what's out there.
In a few seconds, you're going to be laughing about this. To feel a fool.
With your heart beating in your ears, the door swings open and right away, you see that you were right to be worried.
Both chairs are upturned in the living room and the TVs been pulled out of its brackets. Your boyfriend's nowhere to be seen.
You go into the kitchen and there's a knife on the floor and a pool of blood. You're trying to take all this in as your heart thumps against your breastbone on stereo.
That's when the police turn up, threatening to break down the door if you don't open up.
Surveying the scene you know that they're gonna think you killed him...
My name is Nancy Kerr and I'm not a murderer. Since my parents were murdered I've come close a few times, but I've never done the deed.
I did tattoo the world RAPIST across the stomach of one of my parents' killers. But to me that was justified, righteous revenge because when I walked in on those monsters that’d killed my parents, they raped me and left me bleeding to death on the kitchen floor of my childhood home. What happened caused me to have a breakdown and I ended up in a psychiatric hospital where I was in the land of the zombies for fourteen months. I have no memory of most of what happened there. When I was released, I tracked down the men responsible for my parents’ deaths and discovered I had an aptitude for detective work. Since then, I’ve helped track down the madman responsible for abducting sex workers from Glasgow’s streets.
But, hey, that's another story.
Accused of my boyfriend Tommy's murder, I need to prove my innocence. It won't be easy. Confronted by the same scene as the police, I would think I was guilty too. And, Tommy's still missing, presumed dead; murdered by me.
The clock's ticking.

Chapter 1
Detective McAskill pounded a meaty fist into the table, but I barely blinked. He'd done it so many times before it’d lost its dramatic effect. He was a short, dough ball of a man with ruddy cheeks that looked like a kid had scribbled them on with a colored pencil. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, revealing pasty, podgy arms more used to lifting pints than weights. Sweat came down in rivulets from his brow and his nostrils flared like a racehorse’s every time he hit the table. Apparently, the police aren't allowed to beat confessions out of suspects these days, but I can tell McAskill hankers for the good old days.
I was seriously worried about his state of health, and I was the one accused of murder.
”We will find him, you know that, Kerr. No matter where you've put his body."
This time it was Detective Cullen who up until now had been playing the good cop, who spoke.
Cullen was a tall man with a fine head of lustrous black hair and steady eyes. He was the one I needed to watch because everything he did or said was measured unlike Cullen who was one step away from being a knuckle dragger.
Not for the first time, I gave them my spiel. "I didn't put his body anywhere, because he's not dead and I certainly didn't kill him. And while you're wasting time with me you could be out looking for him."
Convinced I'd killed him, they were doing nothing to find Tommy. Instead, they were checking out possible burial sites, including my parents’ garden and allotment. I still hadn't been able to sell the house I grew up in. Nobody wanted to buy a house where two people were murdered. Or maybe the rose bushes in the garden put them off, as mum always said they took a lot of looking after all. Whatever the reason, in a way I was glad: all I had left of my family were memories and most of them were in that house. Sell the house and I would be giving away another part of them and I didn’t have enough parts of them left. They say you’ll always have your memories as if that should console you, but it doesn’t. All you want is the impossible – you want your loved ones back.
The police were wasting time; precious time that could be the difference between finding Tommy alive or chopped up into pieces and packed into a suitcase, then dumped in the River Clyde.
The last time I'd seen him he'd been in the living room watching TV and I'd gone to get a shower, expecting him to come in and join me. I heard banging and when I came out there was a puddle of blood and a knife and he was gone. Then the police showed up.
Of course I'd told them my story many times, but they weren't buying it. The police thought they'd met a killer dumb enough to kill someone, hide their body and then lay in wait for them with the murder weapon. If this wasn't such a nightmare I'd have been insulted.
Even when my lawyer Drew Bennett put it in the same terms, the line of questioning hadn't wavered. This wasn't so much a whodunit as a shedunit. My reaction strayed between astonishment and bewilderment. Part of me wanted to cackle at the absurdity of it all, whilst the other half wanted to demand to see the hidden cameras. Well, this had to be some fly on the wall TV show where any minute now an over made up host would jump out and say "Gotcha" and everybody would laugh, except me.
Detective McAskill shoved his gargoyle face within inches of mine. "You do know we can charge you with murder even without a body?"
Rather than move away, I moved my face closer to his. I was tired and scared, but I refused to be intimidated. "I told you, Tommy's not dead. I didn't kill him. He's missing. And we're wasting time here. You need to find him."
I couldn’t hide the desperation from my voice.
McAskill scrunched up his face. "Not the same old story. It's getting boring. Go on, hen, tell us the truth. Get it off your chest."
He lowered his eyes when he said chest. His colleague gave him a nod and he sat down.
"Look, Nancy," said Cullen, clasping his long, slim hands together the same way a bank manager does before he turns you down for a loan. "We know you and your boyfriend argued. He lied to you about his past. It's understandable you'd be upset. That you'd want to give him a piece of your mind, but things got out of hand. Hey, it happens. We've all been there. Haven't we Pete?" He glanced over at McAskill who smirked.
"You were in the kitchen chopping up some carrots, or maybe you were using the knife to clean the food from the plug hole. My wife makes me do that." He made a face. "Damn annoying I can tell you. Maybe he made a sudden movement and you put out your hand, forgetting the knife was in it. Accidents happen, don't they, Nancy?" His gaze was steady. "And that's what happened. Isn't it? You didn't mean to do it. A court will understand. They'll be on your side, especially considering what happened to you in the past."
He sounded so convincing he almost had me believing what he said was true.
"Now's the time to speak up, Nancy. Continue to deny it and you could get 20 years when you’re convicted. Tell us everything and we'll put in a good word with the judge. You could get less than 10 years. Be out in less than five." His voice was low, seductive. “Get on with your life.”
I took a deep breath, something I'd been doing a lot since they'd arrested me. Losing my cool wasn't going to help me or Tommy, but we were wasting time here. "I told you what happened. Someone took him. They must have because he was gone when I came out of the shower. He wouldn't leave me; not without telling me where he was going."
I gave Cullen a despairing glance. "It's just as I told you. When I came out of the bathroom, there was blood on the floor and the knife. He was nowhere to be seen."
My heart was thundering against my chest. They had to listen to me. He needed their help. The longer they took to start looking for him, the more chance he'd end up dead. If he wasn't already. But one thing gave me hope that he was alive: surely if killing him was the intention of whoever took him, they'd have killed him in the flat and left his body, not set it up to make it look like I'd killed him.
Eyeing each man imploringly, I said, "You've got to try and find him. Please." Maybe I could appeal to their compassion.
While they were wasting time with me anything could be happening to him, especially if his past had come back to haunt him. Tommy had been part of a four-man Special Forces team given the top secret mission of assassinating an Iraqi politician who'd been helping terrorists. The mission failed when they were betrayed by a colleague and Tommy and his remaining comrade, Eric were faced to fake their own deaths after a bounty was put on their heads. Now it looked like they'd found him. Not even being given a new identity had saved him.
McAskill sneered. "We'll find him alright. Wherever you've put him. We'll find the poor bastard and nail you. So, you can cut out the little miss innocent act. Better folk than you have lied to us and been found out."
My hackles weren't so much as raised as standing to attention. I'd had enough of this bullshit. "You can't seriously think that I killed him?"
The way Cullen and McAskill exchanged bemused glances, you'd have thought we were standing as the rain bounced off the sidewalk and I'd insisted it was clear blue sky.
"How could I get the better of someone like him? You must have read his file? He's a highly trained, Special Forces soldier. He's 6ft 2 and even if you stuck Naomi Campbell's legs on me I'm titchy. And I'm not a crack soldier. I design the crappy inserts that fall out of newspapers and magazines when you're trying to read them." I paused, not wanting them to catch them on a lie. "Well, did until they fired me. But, back to Tommy, the guy who's missing, the man you should be searching for because some mad bastards have taken him. They must have because when I went for a shower he was there. When I came out he was gone."
McAskill got up and walked around the small, airless room. There wasn't a bare light bulb swinging from the ceiling but there might as well have been because the heat was oppressive. On one of the hottest summers on record, I'd worked in a hospital laundry and unluckily for me I'd been lumbered with operating the steam press. It was that type of oppressive heat in this room.
McAskill gave me a dirty big grin as he produced an evidence bag. An object I knew very well was inside.
"For the purpose of the transcript, I'm showing Miss Kerr a Taser," said McAskill.
Shit. I'd forgotten all about that.
Since I’d been raped I'd been carrying it for protection.
Cullen eyed me intently, his watery eyes gleaming. "Have you seen this before, Nancy? Answer yes or no."
Damn, what could I say now? Deny it and they'd find my prints all over the thing. Admit it was mine and I was screwed. They'd think I'd used it to subdue Tommy. And, it was an illegal weapon. But denying it was mine might make me look even guiltier.
I turned to my lawyer for guidance. He was too busy examining his expensive manicure. He'd been lumbered with me because I didn't have a lawyer and he was visiting a client at the time and he despised me for it. Apart from one interjection, he'd sat there impersonating a stuffed dog.
I was about to tell him I'd be better off with a stuffed toy as my legal representative, when he finally deigned to speak.
His voice was as smooth as chocolate. "Go on, Nancy; tell these nice gentlemen what you told me. Some kind, considerate individual got you that as a present. You'd no idea it was real and you certainly have never used it, nor would you know how to." He stopped talking and gazed over at each detective in turn, grinning broadly. "Christ, guys. My client's an office worker, not Steven Seagal."
McAskill glowered. "Let your client answer the question, Mr. Bennett. This isn't some tacky TV cop show where you get to butt in and show how smart you are. Save your showboating for the jury."
Throughout this exchange, Detective Cullen sat there with a neutral expression on his face. He'd probably realized a long time ago that his colleague was an idiot and easily riled.
McAskill turned to me, face as red as a Glasgow tourist coming off a flight from Malaga. "Miss Kerr, does this Taser belong to you?"
My throat was so dry I had to sip some water from the paper cup in front of me. The water was lukewarm and tasted like it’d come from a puddle. I genuinely had no idea what I was going to say before the words tripped out. "Yes, it's mine."
McAskill made an hmm noise and I wished I could grab the Taser and make him dance. "I bought it to protect myself after my parents were murdered and I was left dying on the kitchen floor. I was terrified the men who'd attacked me would come back and finish what they started." Then I added to rile McAskill. "Your lot never caught them, you know. They're still out there."
I couldn't hide the venom in my voice. Nor did I want to. I was seething that after all I'd been through, I was the one being treated like I was some kind of lowlife when I'd done nothing wrong. Why couldn't they see that I'd been set up?
Cullen's neutral gaze shifted to something approaching sympathy, whilst McAskill eyed me wearily.
"I'm sorry for what happened to you, Nancy," said Cullen. "I genuinely am. And my condolences for your loss." He sounded genuine. "But Tasers are illegal in this country. We'll have to add possession of an illegal weapon to the list of charges, although I'm sure in your case, a jury will be sympathetic. But, then with a murder charge, that’s the least of your worries.”
That's what I was worried about.

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