Carly, p.2
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       Carly, p.2

           D. M. Wolfenden
 
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  “She said she saw my neighbour buying a puppy when she was getting her kitten at the local pet shop. I couldn’t believe he’d lie about something like that..”

  “Was she sure it was him?”

  Carly nodded her head. “He’s pretty…unique. The way he looks.”

  “Yes, I suppose he is,” Vanessa simpered.

  “The next day, or it could have been a couple of days later, I was leaving my house. I was just outside our gate, when he scared me half to death. The puppy yelped, and James was all of a sudden right next to me. I nearly jumped out of my skin. He didn't apologise for scaring me; he just smiled. It was creepy. He did something to the puppy, and she yelped again. I didn’t see what it was, but he hurt her. I’m sure of it.” Carly swallowed hard, squeezing her eyes shut.

  “The evil prick started fussing over her, talking to her like she was a baby, and giving her a brisk rub on the head. I bent down and stroked her.” Carly’s face lit up as she opened her eyes. “The puppy got all excited, jumping up, licking my face.”

  Her jaw tensed. “He asked if I wanted to take her for a walk with him. I told him I was busy. His body went rigid, and he kinda glared at me. It was only for a moment, but there was definitely a flash of anger, like he wanted to throttle me. I’ll never forget that look, pure evil.” She shuddered. “It was such a crazy reaction. A second later, he smiled and said ‘Another time then.’ And walked off, as if it was nothing. I was like, what the hell!”

  Vanessa pushed some of her golden curls behind her right ear. A few wayward strands found their way out and framed the right side of her face.

  She’s quite pretty, Carly thought, in a corporate sort of way.

  “That must have been intimidating for you?”

  Carly scoffed. “Damn right it was, little did I know how much of a bleeding psycho he really was.” She leaned back and dragged heavily on her cigarette. “I think it was about a week later, I came home from work, and he was painting the fence in the back garden. I asked my mum what the hell was going on with him painting our fence. I think she said he offered, and went on about how hard it was for her with these little jobs since Dad died.” Carly shook her head. “Dad had been dead for ten years.”

  She gave a little hoot of laughter. “Our Mum could play the damsel in distress at the drop of a hat, but she was as tough as old boots.”

  Vanessa grinned and nodded encouragingly.

  Placing both elbows on the table, Carly rested her head in her hands, she remembered one of her mother’s more fearless acts.

  Carly, Lisa, and Billy were cowering in the park behind a tree. Carly had her arms locked around her brother and cousin, a large black dog, bearing its teeth, growled at them. The hairs on the back of its neck were standing on end. Her mother took her shoe off and ran at the dog, waving the shoe about and growling back at it. The dog looked at her, and then turned tail and ran.

  The kids all raced towards their heroine, high-fiving her.

  “Mum, you’re a nutcase.” Carly grabbed hold of her shaking mother. “But you’re my nutcase.”

  “Hey, she’s our nutcase,” Lisa shouted. “A brave nutcase!”

  “Mum’s a bad arse!” Billy laughed.

  “Yes, well, she’ll go bad arse on you, if you don’t stop swearing,” she said as they all looked away, trying to hide their giggles.

  Vanessa cleared her throat.

  Carly shook her head, momentarily confused. “Where was I? Oh, yeah…Mum invited him to stay for dinner. And she asked him about his family while we were eating. God, I hated having to look at him and those teeth; it really put me off my food. He told us he didn’t have anything to do with any of his family, apart from his twin brother, Tom. They were identical twins, and even dressed the same. His father used to beat Tom up, sometimes so bad he ended up hospitalised. He actually had me…well, all of us, feeling sorry for him.”

  Carly looked down at Vanessa’s hands when she heard the rustle of papers being shuffled.

  Vanessa gasped and squirmed in her seat. She looked down and started flicking through her notes. “I don’t have a record of him having a twin.”

  Carly’s face tightened and her eyes narrowed, “Really, I wonder why that is? It was in the police report.”

  Vanessa face flushed.

  Carly tilted her head to the side as she watched Vanessa’s reaction. “He said his punishment was to watch his father beat his brother. And, his mother did nothing to help. How could a mother just let that happen to her kid? He was so messed up, he created a twin brother, so he could pretend it never happened.”

  Vanessa’s jaw tensed, she looked down at the floor.

  Carly drew the photos out from her pocket. “I couldn’t imagine letting someone hurt my kid if I had one, having to watch that happen.” She placed her family pictures on the desk.

  Vanessa lifted her head, her face had paled as she looked at the pictures.

  “That’s Lisa. And that one’s me with Mum and my kid brother, Billy. Not so little, five-foot-ten at fourteen-years old, and a good-looking kid, too. The number of girls who would call on him…”

  Vanessa glanced up to her left, her lips slightly parted. Carly thought her eyes looked watery for a second.

  “Sorry, I’m getting distracted,” Carly whispered and paused, trying to compose herself. “I remember Mum having a go at Billy for shouting some swear words. Probably, ‘Holy shit! What an arsehole!’” A tear trickled down Carly’s left cheek, she looked up and smiled. “He was always getting in trouble with Mum for saying that.”

  Vanessa reached inside her briefcase and brought out another packet of tissues. She held them out to Carly. “Teenagers.”

  Carly took the packet, but did not remove a tissue. Her knuckles grew white as she squeezed it in her hand. “He started coming around every few days, offering to do the odd little job for Mum. We were seeing less and less of the puppy. When I asked about her, he said she was becoming a bit of a biter, and he didn’t want to take the chance she would nip any of us.”

  Vanessa looked amused. “She didn’t seem like a biter to me.”

  Hmmm, really. Carly thought. “Did you get to spend much time with the dog then?”

  Vanessa stiffened. “No…I er, just assumed with the family having a little girl.”

  “She wasn’t a biter, but telling us that gave him the justification to hide her. You know what I think? I think he got her as an excuse to spend time with me, when it didn’t work, he had no use for her. He would have to spy on me instead.”

  Vanessa raised her eyebrows. “When did it get to the point you knew for sure he was watching you?”

  “About two months after he starting coming around, I found a camcorder hidden behind the toilet rolls on our bathroom shelf. I blamed James Andres. There was something about him that gave me the creeps. Besides, his curtains were always twitching. Mum wouldn’t have it. She said it was probably one of Billy’s mates, they were ‘at that age.’ ”

  Taking a cigarette out of the packet, Carly held it in front of her mouth. “She may have been tough as old boots, but she was gullible as hell.”

  “Lisa came to the house later the same day. When I told her about my suspicions with James, and the camcorder, she reminded me how he lied about buying the puppy. She said he was a born liar. And the video camera was sick, something only an odd-ball would do. And he was definitely an odd-ball.” Her fingers caressed the glossy image of Lisa. She remembered Lisa continually telling her to toughen up, be more assertive. I’m trying, Lisa!

  “Lisa said I should call the police, or at least tell Uncle Alan, but I didn’t have any proof he’d done anything wrong. I didn’t think they would believe me anyway?” She lifted her hand and started biting her thumbnail. “I kept hoping I was wrong, maybe it was Billy’s friends, and not that scumbag. Deep down, I knew it was him.”

  Carly watched Vanessa; she had become so tense she had to pry her own fingers apart.

  Somehow, Vanessa managed to ma
intain a level voice when she asked, “Did you ever question him about lying to you?”

  Carly exhaled and shook her head. “What could I say? I couldn't just go up to him and accuse him of lying. ‘Hey, you lied to me about buying the pup?’ and ‘Have you been planting camcorders around my house?’ How crazy would that have sounded?”

  Vanessa lifted her elbows off the table and crossed her arms. “But you believed he had been watching you.” Her voice monotone.

  “I thought I was being paranoid.” Carly busily chewed on her lip. “Well, I wasn’t, was I?”

  Vanessa lowered her head. “No, you weren’t.”

  “I didn’t think they would have believed me anyway. If I had known for sure, maybe he could have been stopped. Maybe they would still be alive!” Her breathing became laboured. She roughly rubbed the back of her hands into her eyes, fighting back her tears.

  “It wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known…”

  Sudden anger flashed in Carly’s eyes. She jumped up. Her chair flew backwards, clattering on the floor. She slammed her hand onto the table. “Wasn’t it? If I had done as Lisa asked…”

  The prison officer came rushing into the room. “Calm down, Carly!” His dark eyes bore into hers, his chest puffed out.

  She turned to face him, shaking her head. “Calm down?” she shrilled, turning to Vanessa. “He, that animal…killed my family. I have to live with that!”

  Vanessa sat up straight, her eyes unblinking. The crease that had appeared on her forehead deepened. She held her hand against her mouth and swallowed. She looked from the officer to Carly, and back again. “I’m sorry, Carly. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you.”

  Carly’s nostrils flared. “Hope you never do.”

  The prison officer picked the chair up, and stood it back on its feet. He put his hand on Carly’s shoulder.

  Carly tensed, but stayed quiet.

  “Carly,” the officer nodded at her, “sit down.”

  Carly sat down and fumbled with the broken cigarette in her hand.

  The officer walked to the other side of the open door.

  “I’m not sorry for what I did to him. He’ll never hurt another family, ever. I don’t care if they lock me away for the rest of my life, he deserved to die.”

  “The law would say otherwise,” Vanessa said, her voice modulated, controlled.

  Carly didn’t look up from the mangled cigarette. “The law would say my family deserved to live.”

  “Yes, I’m sorry. Please, carry on with your story.”

  “Things started getting even weirder. He started showing up at the pubs and clubs I was in.”

  “He started following you?” Vanessa asked.

  “I think he was stalking me online. Every time I checked in at a club, or someplace, he would show up a little while later. I mean, only three or four times, but it did begin to freak me out. Lisa was convinced he was stalking me. She confronted him one night about it.”

  Vanessa’s brow furrowed. “What happened when she confronted him?”

  “We’d all had a few drinks. She went over, and demanded to know why he was following me. He told her he wasn’t, and that it’s a free country, and to get lost, I think. Anyway, Lisa lost the plot, began shouting, and slapped him across the face.” Carly rubbed her temples with her fingers. She released a long, steady breath. “When we left the club, she got a taxi home. That’s the last time anyone saw Lisa.”

  Vanessa pulled out a copy of the police report. “That was August the twelfth. You made the missing person report on the fourteenth.” Her finger quickly went from one side of the paper to the next as she scanned it. “You didn’t mention the incident at the club to the police?”

  Carly’s head jerked back. “Yeah, I did. We all had quite a bit to drink that night. The police didn’t take it seriously, she hit him, not the other way around. Anyway, I didn’t think he could have murdered her, then.”

  Vanessa put her left elbow on the table and lent on her hand.. “But you do now?”

  “What do you think?” Carly stared down at the photos. “After everything he’s done, of course he killed her!” Carly glared at Vanessa, her jaw tense.

  Vanessa inched backwards, her arms crossed her chest

  “Carly?” Officer Hammond said sternly, stepping into the room.

  Carly took her time to acknowledge him. “What?”

  “Take it easy,” he replied and stepped back out.

  “You don’t know for sure he had anything to do with her disappearance.”

  Taking a deep breath, Carly ignored Vanessa’s comment, and continued where she left off, “About a week, or so, later. I came home from work. He was sat in the kitchen, having a brew with my Mum. All I could think about was Lisa hitting him. The more I thought about it, the more he seemed the likely suspect in her disappearance.” Carly’s chest heaved. She straightened her back, and rolled her shoulders to try and ease the tension in them.

  “I asked him what happened between them, and if he was annoyed at Lisa hitting him. Did he see her after she left the club? Mum told me to behave myself, I kinda apologised. I, then, added I’d let the police handle it. I asked if the police had questioned him yet. He went white as a sheet. Said he’d just popped around to let Mum know he was going away for a few weeks.”

  Vanessa jotted something down on her notepad.

  “Why are you writing things down, if you’re recording this?”

  “I just want to make sure I don’t miss anything.” Quickly, Vanessa tilted her head to the side and back, and gave a small smile. “Did he say anything to you regarding your threat?”

  Carly leaned on the chair arm. “It wasn’t a threat, Miss St. John.”

  Vanessa frowned at her. “It sounded like one to me.” She stretched her neck from side-to-side. “What did the police say?”

  Carly’s eyes narrowed, her nostrils flared. “They said they were looking into it.”

  “And did they?”

  “No. Strange thing, the next day I got a text from Lisa, saying she had stopped off to get a kebab and met a guy. They were at the Lake District, and she would be home in a couple of days. I tried calling, her phone was switched off. That wasn’t normal. And, she would never just go off with some guy she met in a kebab shop.” Her hands clenched into tight fists. “I am positive he had sent that text. Too much of a coincidence, straight after I told him the police wanted a word with him, don’t you think?”

  Vanessa blinked rapidly. “What did the police think?”

  “They didn’t believe me. I was so angry. Maybe I sounded like a deranged idiot. I definitely flew off the handle at them. Guess that didn’t help. That’s the same day I got the flowers.”

  “Flowers? Ah yes, the lilies that came with the letter.” Vanessa shuffled through the papers and slid a photocopy of a letter in front of Carly. “This one?”

  Carly glanced at it and nodded.

  Vanessa picked it up, and began reading it out aloud. “At night, when I close my eyes, your image haunts me. Your mysterious smile, your enchanting eyes. We’re connected, but so far apart. My desire to touch, you before you fade, drives me close to madness. Soon, we will never be apart, my love.”

  Carly took another cigarette out of the packet and lit it up.

  Carly imagined Vanessa was watching her closely, probably remembering the times when she needed the self-same crutch, when it seemed to be the only thing that would help calm her nerves.

  “I called the police. While I was waiting for the cops, Mum came home. She was a little freaked when I showed her the letter. When I said it was him, she didn’t believe me. She actually thought he was gay.” Carly laughed sharply. “Gay! Boy, do I wish he’d been gay!”

  A pulse throbbed in Vanessa’s temple. “Are you now saying he sexually abused you?”

  Carly picked up on the bitterness in her voice. “I never said that!” She thrust her finger in Vanessa’s face. “Why would you even ask that?”

 
Vanessa swallowed. “With you wishing he was gay, I thought he…Well, you know.”

  “I think you should go. You’re not here to listen to my side of things! You want a story, one where you can slip in your own little twists and lies, make it more appealing to your readers.”

  Vanessa appeared to inch back from the table.

  “You don’t give a shit about the truth. Don’t you think I went through enough? You don’t have to start adding your own bits to it.” Carly thumped her fist down hard on the metal surface. “I lived it, love. You didn’t. So, piss off!”

  “I’m sorry. Please. I was a little perturbed at what you said, and jumped to conclusions. I won’t do that again.” Vanessa reached her hand out towards Carly.

  Carly flinched, and she quickly pulled her hand back to her side of the table. She slowly folded her arms across her chest, her ice-cold eyes fixed on Vanessa’s. “I told you to go.”

  “Please, forgive me. I’m aghast at my statement. My thoughts were that your ordeal was even more execrable than what I was led to believe.”

  Sighing, Carly relaxed a little. “Okay, but only if you start talking plain English. Ex, excra…whatever you said.”

  “Execrable.” She nodded slowly. “It means, more horrible and sickening.”

  “We’re now getting to the…sickening parts.” She rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “Mum called me at work the next day. It was around two-ish. She’d sprained her ankle at work, and wanted me to pick her up from A & E. And, of course I did.” Her hands started to shake, and she clasped them together, taking a deep breath.

  “When we got home, I settled Mum on the sofa, made her a brew. After that, I went upstairs to get a shower.

  I was in the shower and I could feel eyes boring into the back of my neck. But when I spun round there was nobody there, I even tried wiping the shower door with my hand to make sure.”

 
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