How would you react to coming home to find a dead body in your flat, spending the night in a cell, labelled as main suspect in a murder enquiry?
In ‘An Unfamiliar Murder’, Anna, a secondary school teacher, faces exactly this dilemma. This excerpt from chapter two details what goes through her mind. Enjoy:
People show an amazing array of different reactions to a dead body. Some are frightened, afraid that the dead corpse will return to life and try to get revenge on their attacker, like in a film; some are horrified at the scene, the circumstances in which a person lost their life; some are sad, they grieve for the victim, think of their friends, their family, the lost years of life and opportunity; others are matter of fact, like the emergency services who are more accustomed to such sights and whose senses have numbed over the years as a result. Anna hadn’t felt any of these emotions. In fact she hadn’t thought about the body at all; until now.
As she finished talking to her solicitor and watched the cell door bang closed, she realised that so far her mind had focused on her incarceration, consuming her with anger, tainted by the fear of being imprisoned. It had blocked out all earlier events which felt like a blur, a whirlwind; an extraordinary out of body experience.
She closed her eyes and recalled the blood splattered all over her lounge. It was like a scene from a horror film. Who would have thought that one person’s body could contain so much blood? She thought for a moment – a person. This blood had belonged to somebody. An overwhelming feeling of shame engulfed her. She had been consumed with the incomprehensible inconvenience to her life. He had lost his….. Her stomach churned, but this time her bladder did not call out to her – it seemed to have frozen.
Anna forced her mind to push further into its depths. A lacerated body had sat facing her on the floor. The eyes…. She shuddered, physically shaking as she recalled the eyes open wide, staring at her, eyes that had belonged to someone. Panic pulsed through her veins as realisation set in; the victim of this atrocity belonged to someone. The brutal truth of this fact made the pain in her head seer until her brain felt as if it were splitting in two. This was somebody’s father, brother, husband, son…
Somewhere, some family would be disturbed this evening. Possibly watching a film, or putting the kids to bed, or maybe sitting down to dinner – a normal routine family evening, ruined by a knock at the door.
As they answered the door and saw the police officers wearing their hats, speaking in a solemn tone, – “May we come in?” – their minds would race, overwhelmed with questions. Who was it? What has happened? They would brace themselves for bad news. Maybe they would think that their car had been stolen? But the police officers’ tone would be too serious, their manner too empathetic and, once invited into the sitting room, they would ask them to sit down. Then, they knew it was serious – an accident, maybe even a death. Anna shuddered…
She imagined then that the questions would start. “Was your husband wearing a certain colour jacket when he left home today? Did he leave the house wearing casual, grey trousers?” And this may instil an element of hope in the victim’s family. Anyone could match that description, it was nothing significant. But then the mention of something personal like a white gold, engraved wedding ring would crush all ambiguity – and they would know, there would be no doubt.
The breathing would stop, they would clutch their head and in one moment their world would be shattered to pieces – all because of that knock at the door. And they would gaze up at the clock, reading the time when their life had changed irrevocably.
Tears streamed down Anna’s face, her eyes fixed in space. Would they think that it was her? That she could even be capable of causing such pain, such devastation? The thoughts made her head go hot and dizzy; sweat coursed down the back of her neck as she jumped off the bed and rushed to the cold toilet in the corner, pushing strands of hair out of her face as she retched.
If you enjoyed this excerpt you can buy An Unfamiliar Murder here: