The air in the school room was rich with the smell of hormone infused vomit and the sickly sweet smell of ripening meat. The victim, Melanie Wharbutton was only fifteen years old, with that birthday only having been the week before. She was wearing the standard school uniform for all students pre A-Levels, Her hair was tied back in a ponytail, a subtle hint of lip-gloss glinted on her lips and her cheeks were gregariously rouged with blood. In her hands she held her own intestines.
Susan Greenfield covered her mouth to stifle her disgust. Also hoping to contain what was left of her lunch. The girl stretched out of the science lab desk still twitched as Riga Mortis set in, stiffening her body, trapping various nerves along the way.
The perpetrator of the crime was in no better shape. The gruesome event, which had transpired during a biology lesson, had been a very public suicide.
Each student in the class, along with the teacher – Susan checked her notebook – a Richard Perkins, had been taken to hospital suffering from various degrees of shock. Some brief statements had been taken, and to Susan, an experienced if low-level police officer it seemed a simple case.
Halfway during the lesson, the girl had simply decided that the time was time and had taken a scalpel from the tray, then sliced herself open, crawled onto the table and began to disembowel herself. Pulling on whatever she could grip, spreading herself over as great of a distance as was possible.
While the events had different greatly from student to student, the one fact that remained and Susan couldn’t shake from her mind was that, the all said the victim never screamed, worse than that. . . . She didn’t make any sound. Instead she chose to lie quietly, playing with her insides as if merely passing the time.
The room was now buzzing with life, crime scene tape covered every opening, the blinds had been pulled down to keep the summer heat away from the body as best as possible, with the added bonus of shielding the scene from prying eyes and trigger happy photographers.
There were people busy taking notes of the room, the position of every chair, even the thickness of the pen being used on the white board. Police photographers were snapping away and uniformed police were guarding the doors and generally standing in the way looking almost as out of place as a rich boy in the back streets of Glasgow. The activity had started over an hour ago and had steadily grown, yet still, Susan was the only person looking at the victim. She was looking at her, studying her as a person rather than a statistic, or nut job depending on the rank of the people involved.
She saw a girl that was trouble, one that was beautiful but never got a chance to realise it. Without warning she began to cry, not so much out of grief but simply because she could. Looking at her, Susan saw in a harshly real vision her own face in place of Melanie’s. For that is the way it very nearly was.
What had at first glance been a simple case, was quickly become something more to Susan. A flame had been lit inside her, only it felt as though the gas had been leaking for some time, this incident was merely the flame added to the mix. The emotions flooded through her body, and she only just managed to hide her tears from the other people in the room. She looked carefully at Melanie’s arms and saw them littered with scars, thin silver lines, hardly visible when the correct make up was applied. They looked remarkably similar to hers. Susan rolled up her left sleeve and traced her finger along a deep scar that ran from her wrist towards her elbow.
The coroner’s assistants unloaded the body from the car, and wheeled her down the long corridor that passed under the hospital and into the mortuary area. It wasn’t the normal route they took, but the back door and parking area was being remodelled to make way for an extension to the main building. Susan had arrived at the same time and so chose to follow the body through the tunnel. It was tight and claustrophobic; the round walls were plain brick and reminded Susan of being in the sewers.
“Whose on call tonight?” She asked which ever of the two men felt like answering. Her voice echoed down the tunnel and it wouldn’t have surprised her to have the answer come reverberating back towards her from the other end.
“Doc Rose” Charlie McCrawley answered. He was the longest service assistant at the hospital and was always amiable enough whenever he had worked with Susan. The first time they had met he had asked her out, instantly attracted to her blonde hair, and vivid green eyes. She had turned him down and he had accepted it and never bore a grudge.
Sometimes Susan wondered if the offer was still open for discussion. She was closer to 40 than any good numbers, her blond hair was beginning to loose its appeal and numerous lines and crevices had appeared on her face pulling the attention away from her eyes. She lived alone and even the cat she had bought ran away. Twice.
“Nice. I like Rose. He’ll give me the answer I need without humiliating the poor thing more than necessary.” As always her thoughts were with the victim. She had worked with some pathologists who just liked to pull organs out or cut bits off with no regard to the subject.
“Yep.” Charlie’s response ended the conversation. He was obviously uneasy in the tunnel, which had been the death tunnel connecting the hospital mortuary to the church. Nobody really used it anymore and the air was stale and tasted of death.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Jesus, you look like shit.” Captain Arthur Yeland stood behind his desk, he had just arrived and still wasn’t fully dressed. His tie was loose around his neck and the top buttons of his shirt were open.
Susan had been sitting in his office waiting for over an hour already, and had been in the station since the early hours of the morning. Just reading, and then re-reading the post mortem results, checking through some of the statements that were then beginning to filter through from the various officers that had taken them.
“I was reading over the reports for the High School suicide.” She answered, getting straight to the point. The boss was never much fun to be around before his morning coffee and first few cigarettes.
“Ok, well type up your report and close it down. With this UN Meeting coming up next month I want all of the easy cases cleared from the workloads.” Finishing dressing as he spoke, he poured himself a cup of coffee which was still heating from the night before, and strong enough to clean the engine on the riot van. Sitting down, it was only then that he looked at Susan and saw that she hadn’t begun to move. “Is there something else keeping you?” He was short with his words. He was always short, old school techniques had been how he was taught and how he continued to teach today. It didn’t make him popular, but once his officers adjusted they learnt how to deal with him.
“It’s this suicide. I want to have the people responsible arrested for murder.” Susan’s words were exactly how not to deal with an emotionally unstable Captain.
A shower of coffee blew over the desk, hot droplets falling on the back of Susan’s hands. She wiped it away on her trousers and prepared herself for the response.
“What, What the hell did you say? You want to bring a murder charge into a suicide case?” The question showed how confusing it sounded and Susan knew it.
“Yes. I’ve read through a few statements and this girl was bullied. Terribly so. Even the teachers saw it but did nothing to stop it.” She began, her voice filling with anger, her hands trembling, heart racing. Thankfully her head was clear and moving steadily forward, creating a logical argument for her demands.
“It’s a fact of life; we pick on the ones who don’t fit in. If we start charging every bully with assault or whatever then we would never do anything else.” His face was beginning to redden; a vein had appeared in his neck and was pulsating rapidly.
“This girl was tormented; she was abused and broken down by a few people. Every day of her life, they made it hell for her. I’m not going to let them go unpunished.” Susan spoke from the heart; the words seemed to cut her almost as much as she intended them to cut the Captain. A flood of memories came rushing towards her. She managed to close the door on them just in time. She leant against the door with all of her mental weight to keep them from bursting through.
Arthur rose, grabbed a cigarette from the packet on the table and took a long drag. Calming his anger somewhat.
“Listen Susan. You’re one of the good ones, you understand? I can’t have you running off on some damn crusade because someone called you fat when you were in high-school.” Another drag of the cigarette followed. This one was enjoyed. Susan rose.
“You have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t even know the half of it. I’m going to pursue this even if I have to do it on my own time. Justice. That’s what we are supposed to achieve. These girls, whoever they are bullied this poor kid into the grave. Now she’s gone they wont change. They will just find some new target to move onto. Little Betty whose parents are poor and shop at the budget centre. Or maybe fat Sandra who eats doughnuts for breakfast.” Susan found herself loosing control. She called inside herself for control, but was too busy shielding herself to worry about what her mouth was saying.
“Susan” Captain Yeland tried to intervene, but he was cut off short.
“They will pick on this kid then the next one. They will marry the rich men and lead simple lives; they will have kids that they don’t care about who will bully other kids their age. It won’t stop. These girls are killers. What they did is no worse than locking the girl up and torturing her for ten years and you fucking know it.” Her speech finished, emotions overflowing, sweating running down her back made her shiver while her heart beat like a jackhammer. She didn’t wait for an answer, instead thinking that the best thing to do was leave. She rose and closed the door behind her. Not slamming it shut in anger, but certainly not gently pulling it shut with an apologetic grin on her face like so many others had done before.
She stood still on the other side of the door and looked at the clock. It was 8.30.
She arrived at the school just as classes began. She walked down the hallway, heading towards the head masters office. She knew where it was after it was used as the coffee hub the day before. She walked past the classroom were the tragedy had occurred. Yellow tape still sealed the door and a litany of flowers and hand written letters did its best to hide the scene from view. Susan paused for a few minutes, her head bowed.
“Move it freak.” Harsh words broke the silence of the hallway, drowning out the murmured speech coming from the various classrooms.
Susan jumped; there was something about the tone of the voice. She knew who it was. It was Lizzie Meltzer. Susan turned around and she was suddenly Fourteen years old again. The school hall remained the same, as in the majority of schools over the country. The cold neutral colours, the linoleum chess board flooring. Rows of steel lockers lining the walls, separated by message boards filled with posers and various sports lists. Not forgetting the obligatory trophy cupboard.
“Didn’t you hear me? I said out of my way looser.” Lizzie stood by her locker, late as always, but that didn’t matter when your parents were rich. Her locker was on the top row, while the young girl who now lay sprawled on the floor owned the locker beneath it.
The girl scrambled to her feet. Her uniform dirty from the floor, her glasses crooked on her head, eyes wide with fear. Susan found herself shrinking back against the wall. Lizzie closed her locker and stormed away. She stopped to look at Susan as she went. “What are you looking at Shitfield?” She carried on walking, entering a classroom a few doors further down.
Susan stood for a while, shaking, frozen in place. Her vision cleared in a blink and she was back in the real world. It was just your mind Susan. She told herself.
She checked the halls, they were empty. She turned and left without seeing anyone.
It wasn’t until she was in the car that the lunacy of it hit her and she began to laugh. A half hearted laugh that she didn’t truly believe but had little option but to accept.
She started the car, she didn’t know where she was going, but soon found herself heading towards the suburbs. It was a hot day but she kept the windows rolled up, she drove in a trance. She only realised where she was when she parked the car.
She had no memory of the journey, the last thing she remembered was leaving the school. Now she found herself standing at the end of a slightly inclined driveway leading up to a picture perfect family home. A well cut lawn, bicycles resting against the wall, a station wagon in the driveway. Blinds hung in the window, and inside Susan could see the Melanie’s parents sitting on the sofa, holding each other. There was at least one other person there. Quite possibly the funeral director.
Susan paused. Are you sure you want to do that Shitfield. I mean, what are you going to do with it. You will only mess it up anyway. Nobody can count on you can they A voice spoke in her mind. It was loud and clear like the reception on a satellite radio. Susan turned. The voice was one she hadn’t heard in years. Nathalie Caldwell.
She was alone. Swallowing the hard lump that had risen into her throat, Susan walked up the drive and run the bell, admiring the beautiful hanging baskets that hunk on the edge of the porch.
“Thank you so much for this. I just want you to know that I am going to make sure something happens because of this.” Susan gripped Mrs Wharburton’s hand lightly inside both of her own, while Mr Wharburton watched on from the doorway into the living room.
Under her left arm Susan had a diary clamped firmly against her ribs. It had been given to her with very few questions. Not unsurprising given the shock the family had suffered. Their two other children were still sleeping off the effects in their respective bedrooms upstairs.
“I’m not sure I follow you.” Mrs Warburton’s tear swollen eyes looking searching towards Susan.
Susan tightened her grip on the hand she held, and before speaking looked from one parent to the other. She ignored the funeral director who had appeared in the doorway as soon as he had heard the introductions. “I am going to make sure that the people who tormented your daughter are brought to justice. I promise you.” Her words were serious and seemed to somehow steady the tears in Maggie Wharburton’s eyes.
“It’s a nice statement to make Miss Greenfield., but it’s fine. You don’t have to offer us false promises.” Andrew Wharburton spoke for the first time since Susan’s arrival.
Susan looked at him, she understood his disbelief and felt like crying with him. “I can assure you that there is nothing false about my words. I will find out who is responsible and I will see them punished by the law for it. I promise you.” She held his gaze. His eyes were sunken; the skin around them sagged like the hanging stomach of an elderly elephant. Tears glistened in the sunlight making his eyes sparkle.
Having thanked them for their time and accepted an invitation to attend the funeral, Susan left. The diary placed on the seat next to her began to call her. She ignored it until she got back to the station. The captain was waiting for her.
He wasn’t happy, but after a brief albeit heated discussion he conceded and allowed her to investigate things. Under the strictest of guidelines, he made it clear that once the press heard and began to make light of the case she would take a step back and let it drop. Susan agreed.
TUESDAY 14TH APRIL
‘I hate them all, those fucking bitches. I wish I could just curl up and die. Why do they have to be like that. Couldn’t they at least give me a few minutes to breath before they attack me. What have I don’t to deserve this?’
Susan sat in her flat reading through the diary. She wondered if Melanie’s parents had read through it before or after her death. She hoped not. She only skimmed from page to page. Each word was filled with such emotion that she couldn’t bring herself to read more than a few lines at a time. She already had a headache building and a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach.
THURSDAY 28TH MAY
‘She was sick today. Rachel, but the others were there. Didn’t really speak to me much, which was nice. By the time English had finished my hair was covered with bits of paper. They covered it with glue before they through it. I had to cut some of them out when I got home. I didn’t go to the sports field this afternoon. Told Matron I had a bad knee. I cut myself with a blade from the science lab to show her. I couldn’t take with any more beatings. They still tried to push me into the showers. Ripped my shirt. It was the only one I had left. Mum was mad at me. She doesn’t understand.’
When Susan opened her eyes, having clamped them shut to hold back the tears, she was a child again. She realised soon that she was dreaming, simply because her mother was still alive and sitting before her.
Her mother was a gargantuan woman who quite literally occupied the entire volume of whatever room she was wheeled into. The only memories Susan had of her were of her lying naked in her bed, covered only by a thin sheet. A smell hung over her which Susan now realised was the smell of death. Her mother had been decaying for years before her obese frame had finally given up. Skin would peel away from her body in thick black lumps, her legs were often covered with her own urine or faeces, a task which Susan was given to clean off.
“Susie Susie. What have you done this time? Why is there blood on your shirt? I told you we can’t afford for you to keep ruining your clothes. What is the matter with you?” Her mothers scolding voice cut her with the skill of a surgeon’s knife. She wanted to kill her mother. She hated her. She remembered the times she had cried herself to the point of vomiting trying to explain the bullying to her mother, only to be told to grow up or toughen up a bit. Her mother though she was weak. “Everybody gets teased a bit Susie. Jesus Christ you don’t think I hear rumours of what other people say about me. Do I let it bother me? No, I get on with things.”
“No, you just eat another pizza and let the fat in your ears block out the sound.” Susan had snapped back. The conversation had never actually taken place, it seemed that in her dreams Susan had much more inner strength.
“That’s enough.” Her mother lashed out at her. Swiping with a giant limb, that quivered violently as it moved through the air. Susan jumped back, easily avoiding the blow. Her mother, left winded by the excessive movement was vulnerable and Susan stepped in and slapped her across the face with the razor blade she had always kept in her pocket. It sliced through her mothers flesh with the same reliability it had when applied to her own arms or stomach. The skin of her mother’s throat slit open, pulling apart easily and spilled burning fat instead of blood. The wave of bubbling heat scolded the remaining skin which turned red and blistered almost instantly. Her mother screamed. Finally the blood began to flow, staining the filthy sweat covered bed sheets and grey pallid skin with its vivid clarity.
Her mother’s mammoth chest rose and fell one final time as the blood poured over her breasts, dripping from her exposed nipple as though lactating. Susan rose calmly and walked out of the room. Looking down at her arms, which had been bloodied in the process.
When she came too Susan was no longer on her sofa, but standing in the bathroom. She felt a rush of relief wash over her. A sense of freedom and floating that she hadn’t experienced for some time. She felt the her blood dripping from the wound rather than the pain it caused. Looking down she saw two long incisions running along each forearm. A pool of blood was beginning to gather in the sink. A the bottom, gleaming through the red pool was the blade she had somehow broken from the disposable razor that had been used the day before to shave her legs.
“Shit.” Susan yelled, grabbing for the towel that hung over the narrow radiator between the sink and toilet which was to her left. She wrapped it around both arms, effectively handcuffing herself and walked back into the living area. Collapsing back onto the sofa. The diary closed and when she opened it she didn’t have the energy to go back to where she was. It was a thick book which seemed to span several years. Some entries were long, spanning several pages, filled with water marks where obvious tears had fallen. Some were littered with stick figure drawings, depicting all manner of self harm. Each figure was accompanied by a label. . .
MONDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER
Mum grounded me today because I left school early. I came home at lunch. I made myself throw up at break. I had to get away from them. They followed me home. Calling me names. They posted the photo of me on the wall of the boys locker room. The on of me getting changed after hockey. I hate them. I just want to die. Nobody understands me. I wish they would just kill me. I wish I could cut their throats to stop their names. Maybe I will just kill myself. What is the point anyway. I mean, they are the beautiful girls, they will get the boys. They don’t even look at me yet. Rachel has boobs already. Big ones. The boys like that. She told them I used paper to make mine. They all just laughed at me. That’s why I came home. I’ve just cut myself. Not my arm now, there are too many scars already. I sliced my belly. I’m fat anyway. They all say it. I just wanted to slice even deeper, pull out the fat. Maybe next time I wont stop. Maybe being dead is the best thing I will ever do. Who would miss me, or even know I was gone. Nobody understands.
A rather gruesome series of stick figures appeared after this insert. Each one depicting a different method of suicide, from gunshots to the head – or face as it looked in the book – to poison and wrist cutting, only in the picture both hands had been removed and lay beside the body.
The pain in Susan’s arms subsided, instead giving way to a dull and all too familiar pulsing. It was enticing in the same subconscious way pheromones are said to attract us to a mate. It was a constant reminder that release was always at hand. It had taken Susan years to conquer her addiction. She had been lucky enough to come out the other side. She fell into a restless sleep as the bandages she had by then applied slowly turned a deep red, soaking up the fluid that continued to leak through the wounds as if being drawn out somehow. When she woke, her body was covered in sweat, but the bandages had dried to a hardened maroon.
In her dream she was wandering through the hallway of her old school. What remained of it at least? In her dream she saw the school as nothing more than ruins. The upper floor was completely removed, and the walls were in a state of advanced decay. The smell of smoke was heavy on the air and smoke poured from out the row of lockers, which appeared to have half melted into the ground.
Susan walked further along the hallway, it branched off like a T-junction at the end, she remembered to the left was the common room, study hall and lunch room, an area she had avoided like a vicar in the lobby of a whorehouse. To the right were the classrooms which were housed in this the largest of three buildings that made up the unusual high school, and the library which was the place she had found most solitude. Amidst the stacks of encyclopaedia’s and reference textbooks was the place she first thought about cutting herself. It was the place where her addiction had started. She remembered the day well, with the same fondness one has for a long dead grandmother, yet also with level of trepidation one felt about visiting the same elderly woman while she was alive.
All around her, Susan could hear the educated walls moaning. Calling out in pain as it was slowly ground down, brought back to its foundations, the place where it first started its well structured existence.
Susan found her way back to the library, it was engrained into her memory the same way the names and favourite tricks the girls used to play on her were.
It seemed like the logical place for her to go. She was pulled there.
The instant she walked into the library the world changed. The library was intact, the air removed of the smoky aftertaste, instead filled with a musty smell. It was a lonely place that felt more like home than even Susan’s apartment did.
She found Melanie in the stacks, the very place Susan realised she would be once she realised that it was just a dream.
“What do you want from me? I’m on your side here.” Susan spoke. Her voice shaking slightly as she did. Melanie was standing before her. Wearing nothing but the shroud that covered her body in the city mortuary. The top of her head had been loosely reattached but as it was a closed casket ceremony the job had been left to an intern. Who in appeared had no stomach for the job. There was a good centimetre between the two section of skull and Susan could see right through and out of the window Melanie stood before.
“I don’t know. You summed me.” The voice of a child in pain spoke. To Susan’s ears her emotional state was obvious, but that was probably the same thing as one alcoholic being able to tell another from they way they order their drinks.
Melanie took a step forward. Her feet made slapping sounds as they moved over the hard floor. They both looked down. A puddle of blood encircled them both. Trapping them on an island of gore. The white sheet was stained a deep maroon shade over Melanie’s groin and stomach. It clung to her skin, the deep pit behind after her organs had fallen out was highlighted. Susan stepped forward while Melanie looked carefully under the shroud gown as if checking her bra still contained the paper she had stuffed it with. When she raised her head she was crying.
“Did I do this?” She asked as if she didn’t remember anything. “Did I?” She screamed. Her white skin was stretched taught over her bones. Even in a dream Riga Mortis kept a slight grip.
Susan stared at the girl before wrapping her arms around her. Hugging her in a parental embrace. Melanie shook, and sobbed into Susan’s chest. “I’m sorry this had to happen to you.” She kissed the top of Melanie head, brushing her hand through her hair as she did.
They separated and stood looking at each other in silence.
“Who was it? Tell me the truth.” Susan spoke. “Don’t lie to me. I can help if you let me.” She was almost pleaded for the information. A technique she had never used before in an interrogation.
“How can you help. What can you possibly do? They made my life hell, and everyone I tried to talk to ignored me.” Melanie wailed. Yet at the same time she stood motionless. The only thing to change was her facial expression, and even that became more rigid as the exchange moved forward.
“Well you got my attention. I’m ready to listen.” Susan tried to make herself as supportive as possible. “Just tell me their names. I know the ones in your diary are fake.”
“I know.” Melanie paused, her mouth open but the words held back by the dead vocal chords. “Maria Archibald, Helen Carter, and Lucy Caldwell. She was the worst.” The last name hit Susan like a Tyson hook to the stomach. She found herself unable to catch her breath. She reached out for support. Feeling for the bookshelf that was just to her left. Instead she found Melanie. The girl was suddenly right before her again, only this time Melanie grabbed her, pulling her close. She whispered in Susan’s ear. “Promise me I didn’t do anything wrong. Tell me it wasn’t my fault” Before Susan could answer a wind burst through the library.
The howling wind wrapped around them, encasing them in a whirlwind, then it was gone, as suddenly as it had appeared. Only it had taken Melanie with it. Susan was alone, standing in the remains of what had been the library. The smell of smoke was heavy around her. Small fires were dotted around the floor where piles of books from disintegrated shelves still burnt. In the distance a fire alarm sounded. Wailing away like an air raid siren.
Susan woke with a start. She was in her bed, lying facing the wall, faced with that feared moment that everyone faces when waking from a dangerous dream. If I turn around and face the room now, it will be there. It will be real. I will see it. So she did was everyone did. She waited, and then suddenly, as if charged by a bolt of pure electricity she spun around to lie on her back.
The room was black, her visibility was zero, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was someone else there with her. After more than an hour of tossing and turning, Susan finally fell back to sleep.
The interview room was cold, it always was first thing in the morning. The time of year made no difference in a police station, they were built to be cold, unforgiving places. Lucy Caldwell sat in her school uniform on the far side of the small table that dominated the room. It was the only item of furniture there was, save for the two chairs.
Lucy had her arms wrapped around her, and was gently rubbing them to keep warm. She was cold with nerves. On the table directly before her was the tape recorder. Susan had placed three tapes into the slots the very second Lucy entered the room. It wasn’t standard procedure for the questioning officer to meet the suspect in the room, but in Susan’s mind this was a special case.
Lucy sat down and Susan rose, placing a fourth and final tape into the small cassette recorder that was positioned on the windowsill behind Lucy. The blinds were closed, wiping out the panoramic view of the downtown area and industrial estate to the east.
That had been ten minutes ago. Since then Lucy’s mother had arrived. She was an arrogant woman whose general aroma was unpleasant. Her perfume was overpowering much like he personality, which she made no effort to hide. Susan stood in the surveillance room three doors further up. Each interview room was equipped with a camera – a fact that was advertised by a large print easily read sign on the wall besides the door. – She had been staring at the two women and lost track of time. She was shaking. Her palms were sweating. She had never expected to meet Natalie Caldwell again. She had dealt with Lizzie Meltzer once a few years back. Lizzie had suffered the fate most deserved by the beautiful high school bitches. She had married a rich businessman who earned his money the illegal way. Once the rug was pulled out from beneath her she had turned to drink. Susan had been the arresting officer when she was caught trying to lift a few bottles of cheap whiskey from the SPAR on the edge of town.
Come on it’s been years. She probably won’t even remember you. Lucky bitch is leading the good life she doesn’t need to thinking about the past. Susan tried to work herself up, but she couldn’t shake the nervous wave of nausea that was bubbling away in her stomach like the contents of a test tube in the made scientist’s laboratory.
Susan opened the door and walked in.
The interview started normally. Both mother and daughter remained silent while Susan read through the rights and asked Lucy to explain her interpretation of them. They remained silent as Susan began to talk about the case.
“I understand that it is tough, what you saw. You’re classmate lying there, holding her own insides, watching as she pulled them out. Do you have any idea why?” Susan didn’t hold back, she attacked the young girl, while never taking her eyes from Natalie, who sat returning the stare.
She remembers you. Susan thought.
“I don’t know. I mean some people are just born crazy. Ain’t they mum.” Lucy looked over to her mother. They looked spookily alike. Especially when they smiled.
“What is the point of this Shi….Susan?” Natalie finally spoke. Slapping her hand on the table. “I have got better things to do than listen to your crap.”
The two women stared at each other. Susan, her hands hidden under the table to hide the tremor that had set in refused to look away. Instead she remained quiet; waiting for the rush of panic – reminiscent of each and every morning of her high school education – to pass before she made her move.
“It’s simple Nat (Susan remembered how she hated that name. It made her sound common.) You’re delightful daughter bullied this girl insufferably. She drove her to suicide; she as good as stuck the knife in herself.” Susan could feel the rage building inside her.
Sitting on the other side of the table the Caldwell women began to laugh.
Susan remained motionless, waiting for the moment to pass. While in her mind she regressed swiftly and suddenly as if being pulled through a black hole. The interview room disappeared and she was back at school. Running from the sports centre to catch her bus, she had one shoe on, the other in her hand, the laces pulled together and tied in an impossibly knot. Her shirt was wet from where it had been thrown into the shower and her hair was flapping in her eyes because from the wind.
The bus was only a few hundred meters away. She could see the drivers face as he welcomed the children onboard, checking out the older girls in the mirror as they walked past. The leg came out of nowhere, stuck out from behind the large bushes that lined the path leading from the sports field to the bus stop. With her momentum being as forward moving as it was, Susan had little chance of staying on her feet. She came crashing down, first onto her knees cutting through the material of her trousers, slicing her skin apart before the rest of her crashed into the ground. She fell into a large muddy puddle left behind from the almost continual rain of the previous two days. Her bag also fell, the zip left open in the rush. She watched as the books spilled out and joined her in the impromptu bath.
“Enjoy your trip Shitfield?” The patronizing voice of a juvenile Natalie Caldwell came from the bushes.
Susan looked up as Natalie ran away and onto the bus. Speaking to the driver before taking her seat, and giving Susan a little wave as the bus pulled away. By the time Susan had picked herself up the bus was already out of sight.
The sudden movement was what ended the flashback. Natalie and her daughter were reaching for the door when Susan sprang to her feet. Forgetting about the tape recorders, they could be taken care of later. “Sit down. I’m not done with this.” She reached out and took a firm hold on Lucy’s arm.
“Get off me, who the hell do you think you are?” Lucy was surprised and shocked that anyone tried to manhandle her.
Natalie wrenched her daughter free and threw Susan’s arm away violently. “Listen up Greenfield. We’re going; I certainly don’t intend to listen to your wild accusations any longer.” The pair squared up to each other. Susan wanted to retreat she shook, her words ran over themselves and came out stuttered and nervous. “You’re going . . . not going anywhere. You . . . Her, she is here to be questioned, she is suspect. I mean a suspect.” Susan saw the hatred flair in Natalie’s eyes. She wants to hit you.
Natalie raised her hand and smiled as she saw Susan cower, it was only a slight movement but it told her enough.
“Shut up. How dare you accuse my daughter of something like that? You always were crazy; I’m surprised it wasn’t you who killed yourself. I mean you always like to cut yourself didn’t you. I remember, little cry baby Susie Shitfield. You disgust me, and I don’t intend to waste any more of my time looking at you. You pathetic, pathetic woman, now get out of my way.” With a slight shove Natalie pushed Susan backwards and into the wall.
The pair left, Susan remained, shaking almost uncontrollably. Tears were falling freely down her face. Beside her she could see Melanie standing beside her. She felt her slip a ghostly hand through her won and intertwine their fingers.
“You said you would help me. I need you’re help.” The spirit spoke. Susan looked around, tried hard to wake herself up. She had dreamt enough for one day. The harder she tried the more she began to realise the she wasn’t dreaming. She was still standing in the interview room. The tapes were running. The tapes, Without thinking Susan snatched all four tapes from the payers and charged out of the room. She went straight to her car, an old beaten up Volvo with more miles on it than a London taxi, but it had a tape player, and that was all that mattered. As she drove through the quiet mid morning streets, heading out of town she opened the windows all the way and tried to let the breeze blow her head clean. Also hoping that the blood covered young girl sitting next to her would also take the chance to leave.
“Why are you ignoring me? You promise me you would help me. I know what we can do. I see what you see, you know that don’t you. I have seen you for a long time. You are the girl from the library in my dreams. The burning school.” Susan brought the car to a sharp halt, pulling off the road just short of the wooded picnic area that was a popular retreat for holiday makers and horny teenagers at this time of year.
She stared at the girl, she was so lifelike, her chest didn’t move, and she still wore the stained shroud, but her face now had colour to it. Make up. Despite the closed coffin a body should always be buried looking their best.
“What did you say?” Susan was now the paler of the two, if there really were two of them in the first place.
“Read it.” Melanie reached forward. In her hands she clutched her diary. The very book that Susan had left beside her bed when she left for work that morning. It was already open, on a page towards the end. It was dated only a few weeks ago.
TUESDAY 28TH MARCH
I dreamt of her again. She has no face but she always come to me. Last night we were in a library. I don’t know where. It was burning. I think I set it on fire. We spoke, she knows all about me. She looks as me as though I am a ghost. She is white; I think she is a ghost. I don’t think she knows it. Maybe I am supposed to help her.
We don’t speak, she has no face, I don’t think she can speak. I don’t understand what she wants, but I like her. I think she is old, maybe 40.
Susan closed the book. She had no intention of reading any more. “You’re dead. You killed yourself. I don’t think there is anything I can do to help you.” As she spoke Susan remembered the tapes. With shaking hands she fished one out of her back and slipped it into the player, looking in the rear-view mirror as she did, suddenly paranoid that the Captain would be chasing after her for stealing evidence or something. She saw nothing but her own surprisingly old face. She had foregone make-up that morning, and now was paying the price for it. There was no colour, other than a sickly grey, even her eyes seemed to have been infected with it. Deep crow’s feet gathered by her eyes looking like rolling canyons of flesh in the small magnified mirror.
Voices burst through the car’s speakers, deafening Susan who never used the player and had no idea the volume was turned up so high. On the tape Susan heard herself speaking, She had just sat down. I need you, you have to help me, She will only find someone else. The voice was distant and filled with static, but there was no mistaking where it came from. Susan looked to her left but the chair was empty. Melanie had gone. The realisation dawned on Susan that she was just tired. The best thing would be to go to bed and sleep it off.
Backing slowly back into the road as she tried to turn the Volvo round in one smooth motion Susan glanced in the mirror to check the road was clear. All she saw was Melanie’s face staring at her from the back seat. She sat calmly, the seatbelt fastened like a child being driven to school. Her face was sad, her eyes sunken. There was no life to them, and while Susan knew why, she also knew that they had looked that way before she died.
“You are the only one who understands me. Why else would you promise my family you would help me?” She asked pleadingly.
Susan slowly the car to a stop once more, never breaking eye contact with the girl. It was then that Susan noticed her clothing had changed. She was no longer covered by a sheet but a delicate summer dress. The red straps that rose from the white body hung gracefully over her slender shoulders. Only the very tips of the long reaching arms from the Y-incision were seen poking out from the sides of the outfit. The last she would ever wear.
“What does it matter to you? You’re dead. You’re not even here. Jesus Christ I’m loosing my mind. Come on Susan, get a grip.” She slapped herself across the face hard enough to for it to sting her palm. It woke her up but Melanie remained fastened in the back seat.
“I killed myself. They made me kill myself. Now I’m going to Hell and they don’t care. They laugh and joke with each other and pick on someone else. I can hear them all the time. They fill my head.” Susan tried to interrupt but Melanie spoke over her. “I can’t do anything. I can hear them coming for me, to take me. . . . Away. You have to help me.” Melanie’s face still had the same lifeless expression and sometimes Susan wondered if her lips were even moving. She thought not, but couldn’t quite remember.
“I know. Believe me I understand all about the Caldwell’s but what can I do? Bullying isn’t against the law. It sucks but even I can’t really change that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was just being stupid as always.” Susan chided herself. She hadn’t realised that she was still driving. Heading back to the Melanie’s school. “Where are we going?” She asked suddenly, when her mind cleared.
“I’ve got to go to school. You know that. Don’t you?” Susan stared in silence. She felt herself balancing on the edge. One side was her life, one filled with memories and sorrow. The other, was a deep abyss where darkness was so all encompassing it actually consumed the light rather than blocked it. It was an abyss she had been to once before. It was a scary evil place.
“They must be punished to the full extent of the law.” Susan spoke under her breath. Reliving fragments of the conversation she had had with Captain days before.
“Exactly!” Melanie spoke. She reached forward her body passing through the seatbelt which, Susan saw was actually fastened. In her hand something glinted, caught in a warming ray of summer sun.
Susan didn’t look at what it was; only barely registering the gesture. The car was parked in the staff parking area in a space set aside solely for the head of the English department.
Susan walked slowly through the halls of the school. She was alone, Melanie had disappeared the very moment that she crossed into the school. It was as though she couldn’t return to the scene of her death. A strange concept given the general notion of ghosts haunting the place they died, but Susan gave it little thought. She was caught in a dreamlike state. She was light headed and felt as though she were floating rather than walking. Her feet gliding over the linoleum floor, while all around her she could hear the chattering from the various classrooms amplified in her mind. She couldn’t make individual voices out of the general clamour, but that didn’t matter. She knew where she was heading.
The blood began to flow as droplets, leaking from incisions like a damaged tap, but by the time Susan made it half way down the corridor it had become a steady flow. A dark red – black when placed against the dark flooring – trail showing her the way home should she get lost. Chased by the wicked witches she thought to herself as she looked back, checking the hallway was clear.
Elsewhere, across town the small coffin that held the hollow remains of Melanie Wharburton being placed on the runners that would eventually lower it into the ground. Of the people in attendance was Richard Perkins, Headmaster, and Elliot Willoughby the head of the English department, and the one teacher who had taken a liking to Melanie. Who, for all of her faults had show the potential to tell a very vivid and enthralling story when the mood struck her.
Susan found her pace slowed as more blood began to seep through the multiple wounds she had found inflicted upon her. She had no memory of making them, only sitting in the car with a bloodied blade in her hand. It felt good she couldn’t argue that. If anything she was saddened that she had no memory of it. No recollection of that rushing wave of sanctuary that she felt each time.
Forcing herself, she moved forward she braced herself outside the classroom door. She knew that Lucy Caldwell was inside, somehow. She now knew everything she needed to know in order to bring charges against the girl. The room in question was in the Geography area of the building, tucked away at the rear of the ground floor, opposite the history classrooms, whose doors were closed and blinds drawn. A sign was on display in the window. TEST IN PROGRESS. While the window of the room she was about to enter instructed her to be SILENT. DO NOT ENTER TEST IN PROGRESS.
Susan steadied herself, the world was beginning to loose focus slightly, the edges of the world began to blur as the blood continued to drain from her body.
She knocked hard on the door. She could hear the collective gasp as the powerful concentration within each students mind was shattered.
“Police, open the door.” She called, loud enough to disturb even the most unruly of classes. She hadn’t tried the door herself, but she knew it would be locked. Standard procedure used to punish those who arrived late, for whatever reason.
A shadow appeared before the door. The latch clicked and the shadow moved away again. Susan pushed the door open and walked in calmly, not bothering to close the door behind her.
Melanie’s parents stayed behind after their daughter’s coffin had disappeared from view. They moved no closer to the grave, nor did they move farther away. They simply stood arm in arm, their eyes surprisingly dry. A sudden sensation washed over them, and although neither one would admit to it, it could only be described as relief. A sense of completion that they needn’t speak about, for that would be its undoing. Theirs was a silent knowledge.
Susan Greenfields visit to the high school that afternoon ended with Eighteen deaths, including a vicious attack on Lucy Caldwell a student at the school, who had her tongue cut out before being laid on a table and eviscerated. Her intestines were found held to the wall with drawing pins and had been strung in a criss-cross pattern blocking the door like police tape. Susan then turned her weapon on herself and managed to fire twice, removing the top portion of her skull.
She died leaving no note, and no clues behind her as to why she did what she did.