The couple next door

Chapter 1

Clare and Mark had been together for three years. They had enjoyed a whirlwind romance and married after ten months of dating. Everyone thought they were an amazing couple. Both the same age, attractive and genuinely pleasant people. Their family members were delighted. Both Clare and Mark had endured a trail of broken romances, even a couple of engagements. Some of their more cynical family members were amazed that they had even found each other.

Both had been working together and hadn’t really noticed each other until Mark accidentally spilt coffee on Clare as he was rushing past her desk and tripped on her designer hand bag. At first Claire just thought Mark was clumsy but he was sincere and apologetic and offered to take her to dinner. Not bad given that the coffee only splashed her arm and the blouse she was wearing wasn’t a favourite. Mark did offer to buy her another but she declined.

Anyway, three years later everyone still thought they were a happily married couple. Clare had suffered two miscarriages but they seemed positive about being able to have a child eventually. Beautiful wedding pictures graced their elegant home. Both had worked for the same media company and Mark now did contract work which paid so well that Clare worked part time at the local animal shelter. She also did wardrobe makeovers for those who collapsed under the weight of their clothes, or had issues on how to dress in a flattering way. This kept her busy for several hours each week. They appeared to be a well adjusted and loving couple. But they were nothing like they seemed. In fact it was surprising they had remained married.

Chapter 2

Although Mark appeared to be caring and sensitive towards Claire, this was only when there were people around them. Privately, he was cold and dismissive. Claire knew that if she were to tell anyone, they wouldn’t believe her. She had tried talking to Mark about why he had become like this and he always said it was because she hadn’t become pregnant. Claire enjoyed reading historical fiction and noted that King Henry the Eighth had often become upset with many of his wives for not becoming pregnant. Claire told herself that Mark wasn’t a King who needed an heir to the throne, and that was the fifteenth century!

In spite of being a practical and objective woman, she couldn’t believe that she had been stupid enough to be fooled by his impeccable chivalry prior to their marriage. People always said that things changed after marriage and complacency set in, but this was like a character change. How did she not see any clues to this odd behaviour earlier? Claire didn’t want to confide in her family, they had been so happy for her when she finally met Mr Right. Her friends would constantly complain about their husbands, but they were such minor annoyances. She wouldn’t care if her husband became lost in a TV programme or on his computer. Or forgot to do the lawn or the rubbish. Claire wished that was all she had to moan about!

The only time that Mark would be kind was for their baby-making nights, as he called them. So ridiculous. Claire kept telling him that she would prefer to just relax but Mark would approach these nights as if he was an Olympian athlete! Eventually, Claire would start laughing and not be able to stop. This angered Mark and he would then leave her alone for weeks. This suited her well so she would just use this as a tactic and would sleep in another room. When she was unable to sleep she would plan a different life for herself.

Chapter 3

Claire resigned herself to the fact that her life had become fake. She was so sick of friends telling her that she had the perfect life. They had no idea. They were caught up in their designer label lives and all seemed desperate to prove they were happy and living the dream. Clare felt no connection with them. The nights were the worst as she seemed to have no desire to sleep. She would feel tired during the day but would just drink coffee to keep going. A friend at the animal shelter commented one day, “Clare, you look like crap babe, what’s going on?”

That day was amazing for Clare. She burst into tears and told this girl everything. It was cathartic. The relief was incredible. Fortunately this girl, Donna, was open minded and didn’t seem at all surprised. They became friends and Clare was relieved she had someone to confide in. Over the next few weeks she invited Donna to the house and she eventually met Mark. Of course Mark behaved impeccably and was charming and chatty. He said to Clare afterwards that he was pleased she had invited a friend over, as he often worried about her. Clare didn’t believe his lies anymore. She knew she would be better off without him.

Clare visited her doctor and explained she wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t sleeping. She became upset and started crying. Her doctor was a much older man and used to dealing with emotional women. He spoke in a soothing tone and prescribed a short course of sleeping tablets. Clare returned home feeling happier. She phoned Donna and they arranged to go to a movie. Over the next weeks they went out a lot. Clare started to feel positive about the future. She didn’t use the sleeping pills but managed to sleep for two or three hours each night and that made her feel better.

Chapter 4

Clare and Donna became inseperable. Mark noticed and didn’t appear to mind until Clare started coming home late and not having any dinner prepared. He became annoyed that she was enjoying a carefree life and not looking after him as she had done in the past. She seemed to have her period a lot and used this as an excuse to prevent baby making nights. Clare told Mark that she was probably having some sort of hormonal issues and would talk to her doctor about it.

Clare learned more about Donna’s past. She had lived in a bohemian environment while growing up and her parents had met at a rock concert. Donna was a free spirit who lived week to week on her wage from the animal shelter. She lived in the basement of her brother’s house and owned a small car, a colourful wardrobe of clothes, books and music – all on compact discs. She had only recently purchased a smart phone. Clare felt that Donna had reluctantly left the last century and didn’t really fit into the twenty first one with its emphasis on technology and social media.

Clare and Donna were a perfect balance. Clare could be tense and nervous about new situations and anything she perceived as a problem. Donna was super relaxed and didn’t find anything to be a problem. Claire told Donna that if Mark were to die, all her problems would be over. She could use his life insurance to pay the mortgage on their beautiful house. She suggested to Donna that they could then live together in luxury and both enjoy a carefree life. Donna thought this sounded awesome, although she barely thought about the future preferring to enjoy each day as it unfolded. Of course Clare thought constantly about the future, imagining the worst things that could possibly happen.

Clare arrived at work a few days later with bruising over one side of her face. She seemed nervous and frail. When Donna asked what had happened, Clare said that she had fallen in the bathroom and hit her face on the vanity. Two days later she burst into tears and said that Mark had hit her because she hadn’t become pregnant and was still avoiding intimate contact with him. Donna was horrified that her friend was enduring this soul destroying relationship. What made it worse was that Clare seemed to be making excuses for him. Donna suggested they attempt to remove Clare from the house but Clare was adamant that she needed to stay in the house. Clare told Donna that she needed to remove Mark, it was the only way she would be able to recover and have a life where she wouldn’t be fearful.

Chapter 5

Claire cooked a delicious dinner for Mark which genuinely surprised him. She hardly ever cooked and she made his favourite comfort food – Shepherds Pie, just like his Mother used to make. After dinner, he felt strangely tired. Claire wanted to take Mark for a romantic drive. They went out West to the Waitakeres. Mark struggled to stay awake and Claire kept talking about how she wanted a fresh start. She said she wanted them to fall in love again.

They stopped down a remote track and by this time Mark was asleep. Claire was pleased she had crushed all of the sleeping pills in his half of the pie. His body was so heavy to drag out though. It took her almost 30 minutes before she got him to a space where she could cover his body with branches. Before this she tied an old t-shirt tightly around his neck. Didn’t want him waking up and somehow surviving. It was a bitterly cold night in July and Claire was thankful for her woollen jumper and hat.

Claire only left when she was satisfied that she had covered Mark’s body so that it couldn’t be seen from any angle. She then drove home feeling relaxed and at ease. She thought about the amazing life she would now have. That beautiful home, all hers, and Mark’s life insurance! She could be a lady of leisure for the rest of her days. Arriving home, she unlocked the door and unset the alarm. She locked the front door and then went around the first level making sure the back door was firmly bolted and all windows were closed and the shades were drawn. She then went upstairs where she had left the bathroom light on all night, and ran a hot, fragrant bath full of bubbles. Undressing and piling her hair on top of her head, she sunk into the bath and luxuriated in the hot water. After the blissfully relaxing bath she sunk into her bed and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

When she awoke the next day, the sun was high in the sky and it was almost midday. No wonder she was hungry. After eating eggs on toast with a coffee, she phoned the local police station and reported her husband missing. Claire said she hadn’t seen him for twenty four hours but was now worried as they’d had a fight and she wanted to make up.

Strangely, when the police input Mark’s name into their system, a notation came up from three weeks previously. Mark had called into the station with a recording on his phone of his wife talking to her new friend about how she wished he would die and then her life would be perfect. He seemed to think she was serious but the police officer who took his statement reassured him that it was just idle talk from a dissastisfied wife. Now things were looking suspicious.

Claire was incredibly surprised when the police called to see her and seized her car GPS. They were led directly to where she had covered Mark. Claire had been arrogant and believed that she didn’t need to delete the GPS records. The police remanded her in custody and started to build their case. They spoke with Donna who was remarkably candid about the plans Claire had told her. Claire was put in prison, she showed no remorse. Her only regret was that she hadn’t been more careful, and now her home was a small cell. It felt barren and uncomfortable. Even when she eventually served her time she would have no home and no life insurance. She would need to start afresh and probably live on welfare for a while. This was not how she imagined her life would turn out.

 

The cat next door

Chapter 1

There were many cat friendly houses in the street. Lucky knew this because he was usually petted when he visited, and some people even gave him food. Lucky belonged to a family who had picked him out at the SPCA when he was just eight weeks old. A small boy called Herman had been asking his parents for a cat. Eventually they gave in when he turned five. Herman was an only child. He had been named after the guy in The Munsters. His parents had loved that show. His Mother had hoped for a daughter so she could call her Lily but when their little boy arrived with his slighty square shaped face they knew he had to be a Herman.

Herman doted on Lucky for the first year and then slowly lost interest once Lucky had been sent to the vet to be neutered. Lucky had been an active, adventurous cat but had become more settled and hung around home sleeping a lot during the day. While the family was sleeping Lucky would become more lively and head out through his cat door to explore the neighbourhood. There were no dogs in this street, probably due to the very small gardens and subdividing of land that had been happening in recent years. Houses were crammed into small spaces as people were constantly trying to make money and keep up with inflation. None of this mattered to Lucky, he was just happy there were no dogs. There were two female cats but they tended to be aloof and didn’t seem interested in him. So Lucky explored alone. He found out a lot about the different residents of these houses. He enjoyed exploring on the hot summer nights when people would leave their windows open and he could easily get into the house and roam around. This was Auckland in the 1980’s and on the North Shore where Lucky lived, there were no issues with burglaries or intruders. It also helped that most of the families on the street got on well and operated an effective neighbourhood watch.

None of this mattered to Lucky, he just enjoyed exploring. He figured out who had children, which husbands and wives slept together, which male flatmates were actually more than friends, and who the insomniacs were. There was one girl in particular who would stay up most of the night. Even on hot nights she didn’t have her larger windows open, probably because she lived alone. Her small kitchen and bathroom windows were always open though, so Lucky would be able to squeeze through and explore her house. For a small house it was untidy. Lucky loved this. He had to manoeuvre through clothing left on the couch and piles of magazines on the floor. It felt cosy and there were places he could have snuggled into and gone to sleep. The girl would go to bed around 4am and that’s when Lucky would enter the house. He would leave around 6am because that’s when his family would be getting up and he would get breakfast.

Chapter 2

Lucky enjoyed his life. As long as he was able to sleep most of the day and be fed when he wanted he had no issues with his family. So they weren’t so affectionate towards him nowadays? He didn’t care, there were lots of friendly people in the street who would make a fuss of him. If he felt like taking a daytime stroll.

He continued to visit his favourite homes during the night. It was a hot, humid summer and people wanted their windows open all the time. Not like there was a lot of breeze though. Anyway, February was always like this. Lucky noticed that the heat made people behave differently. Some became lethargic and sat in front of fans. Others became tense and seemed uptight over the smallest things. So what if he knocked a glass of water over. It was in his way and not like he could go around it. Seriously! If he could talk, he’d say, “don’t sweat the small stuff!” Instead, he just let out a loud meow which was his way of saying, “Piss off, I don’t care!” No one could say he didn’t have attitude!

He still really enjoyed visiting the insomniac girl’s house. Sometimes she even left food out on the kitchen bench. It was a tiny kitchen and it took a while for him to find a way to get to it without knocking stuff over. Anyway, she didn’t wake up once she had gone to bed. On this particular night he decided to go into her room. He’d only ever seen her at a distance, walking to the local shop and coming back with a chocolate bar or a bag of pineapple lumps. Clearly, she didn’t eat much else. He quietly entered her bedroom. She was a small shape in the double bed. Small house, small girl! Lucky looked around the room. She was messy in here as well. Her open wardrobe door showed few clothes hanging as most seemed to be draped over a chair and spilling out of open drawers. He was tempted to have a sleep on the chair, those clothes looked soft and inviting. Plenty of time for a snooze later. He wondered why she went to bed so late all the time. Maybe she didn’t have a job like most of the others in the street. There was a lot of unopened mail on her table downstairs. Most had red stickers on them. He looked at the light coming through her bathroom window. Must be nearly time to go home and have breakfast. He’d return tonight. He liked this interesting little house.

Chapter 3

Lucky’s family went away for a week. Somewhere up North. Herman’s school holidays and they wanted to get out of the city. An elderly neighbour offered to feed him. He was sad because his dog had recently passed away and he needed distractions. So Lucky carried on as usual, as long as he was being fed he was a chilled out little feline. He continued to do his rounds of the houses at night leaving Miss Insomniac’s house till last.

This particular night her kitchen window wasn’t open enough for him to get in. So he climbed the tree that had a branch right outside her bathroom window. The house had two levels and her bedroom and bathroom were at the top. Lounge, kitchen and laundry were downstairs. The house had been built on a small area of land as the people who lived in front had subdivided their small back section after the financial crisis in 1984. The same year New Zealand took an anti-nuclear stance. Anyway, none of this mattered to Lucky, he just wanted to get into the house and this was the easiest way. When the kitchen window wasn’t an option.

The house was as messy as ever. Lucky padded silently through the bedroom. Those clothes on the chair looked so inviting. Maybe just a little snooze. The old guy who was feeding him got up at 7am and put the cat food out around 7.30. Plenty of time. Lucky jumped up on the chair and sniffed the clothes. They were to his liking and he curled up on them and fell asleep. He awoke suddenly. This was annoying as he had been having a wonderful dream about chasing a mouse through a field littered with colourful flowers. He looked at the bed. The girl was sitting up staring at him. She was talking to him, he couldn’t understand what she was saying but her tone sounded gentle. She got up and patted his head. He gave an obligatory purr and meow. He noticed the sun streaming in, mustn’t miss his breakfast. He ran down the stairs with the girl following him and trying to get dressed at the same time. Lucky sat by the front door and miaowed loudly. The girl let him out and off he wandered back to his house.

Chapter 4

It was interesting that now when Lucky visited the insomniac girl she was always awake and getting up as he entered her house. She must be going to bed early? She seemed to enjoy when he visited and made a huge fuss of him. One morning she even gave him some milk which he lapped greedily. This seemed to make her happy. Each morning after that she would give him a small treat – grated cheese, salmon, tasty treats. Better than the boring tinned food he was given at home!

His family were back from their holiday and seemed relaxed. Herman was back at school now and Lucky felt that his night routine needed a change. He decided to visit insomniac girl earlier, around midnight. He was hungry and hoping to get a treat. Strangely, she was tucked up in bed and snoring lightly. Lucky padded around her bedroom. Something was different? He looked around her bedroom. There were no clothes anywhere. All of the drawers were shut and her wardrobe had clothes hanging up. She must have felt like a tidy up. He padded into the bathroom, even in here things seemed tidier. His nose twitched. Some kind of floral scent, not overpowering, pleasant and fresh. He padded down the stairs and there were no piles of magazines. None of those envelopes with red stickers either. Lucky entered the small kitchen hoping to find something on the bench but it was wiped clean. His nose twitched again. Lemon?

He roamed around the neighbourhood and went back to her house around 6am. He entered through her kitchen window and gave himself a fright. She was in there already, dressed and eating a piece of toast. She looked delighted to see him. He stayed for a while as she gave him some cheese, which he loved. She was sitting in the lounge brushing her hair. She petted him and he purred loudly, winding himself around her legs. He followed her upstairs where she brushed her teeth and put some stuff on her face, which made her look like she had a glow. She picked him up and said something in a soothing tone, went down the stairs and picked up her bag from the small coffee table and opened her front door. Lucky was placed gently outside while she locked the door. He then watched her walk down the road and get on a bus. She then did this every day for what seemed like an eternity, until she had a couple of days off. He visited her regularly and she always seemed pleased to see him.

Lucky continued with his nightly visits around the neighbourhood. He always visited the girl last and spent time with her while she was having breakfast. Sometimes he even visited her in the evening when she was watching TV and eating fruit. Lucky didn’t care for fruit. He knew what he liked and his family saw a lot less of him but they didn’t seem to notice. He didn’t care. He just went where he was wanted, and needed.

The young guy next door

Chapter 1

Brian was a quiet guy who lived with his parents. An only child, he worked as an accountant for a small but prestigious firm. Brian was reserved and fairly lacking in social skills. He did have one thing going for him which appealed greatly to many females. He was extremely handsome with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. He was tall and fairly well built, thanks to daily gym sessions. He first noticed his appeal to females when he was at primary school. Teachers treated him with special care and his female classmates were always offering to do things for him. He didn’t have to ask for anything, there were always offers.

At high school, the other guys would try and beat him up but there were always teachers and groups of adoring girls who would come to his rescue. He dated one girl for almost a year while at high school. Of course she was the prettiest girl at the school. With her flowing golden hair and brown eyes, they made a striking couple. Everyone at their high school assumed they would both end up on television, they were a golden couple. Unfortunately for Brian, this golden era was short lived. His very pretty girlfriend Donna, moved to the North Island with her parents and older sister and never contacted him again. Donna had enjoyed the time, mainly because she enjoyed the envious stares of the others at school. Brian with his exceptional good looks didn’t do much for her. There was nothing going on behind the face and this put her off handsome men. Her boyfriends, and eventually her husband were ordinary looking men who had a sense of fun and adventure, and doted on her, never really believing how they could have got so lucky. She still enjoyed envious stares from other women and disbelieving looks from men, and even managed to avoid having children, so she was happy.

Back to Brian, who never really got over Donna. He believed she would return, seemingly unable to live without him. But there was no contact and as the months turned into years his hurt feelings subsided. Every now and then they would return and threaten to turn him into a sobbing mess. He learned how to push them away and distract himself in any way possible. He also vowed he would never feel for another girl again. He started dating an attractive brunette called Andrea who he met at the gym. She approached him and asked him out. He wasn’t at all interested in her, particularly as he hadn’t even noticed her until she asked him out. However, he needed a sexual release and she was good for that. Always willing to do whatever he wanted, and he liked that. It was easy and after a while he became bored. There was no spark and he became less interested in having sex with her. Andrea noticed this and was not happy. She started to make nasty comments and Brian became angry. One night it overwhelmed him.

Chapter 2

Brian felt the anger build and build. It wasn’t unpleasant, it made him feel powerful. Andrea continued with her nasty comments and then stopped, waiting for a reaction. There was none. Brian had a serious and stern look on his face. She wondered if she may have gone too far. Brian leaned towards her, Andrea closed her eyes and anticipated a kiss. She was surprised. She’d always been careful not to upset previous boyfriends, fearing they would dump her. They did anyway. This was a much better way, she could get anything she wanted. That was Andrea’s last thought.

Brian had wrapped his strong hands around her slender neck and choked her within minutes. Brian carried her lifeless body into the bedroom, undressed her and had sex with her. It was amazing. He wished all sexual encounters could be like this. But now, what to do with the body. They were at Andrea’s flat, a small bedsit at the back of a property. Brian was intelligent. He’d watched many crime television series and movies. He needed to be methodical. He moved through the small bedsit wiping anything he’d touched with a tea towel. He removed Andrea from the bed, onto a chair and stripped her bed linen. He put these into the washing machine and added detergent. Floral, a sickly sweet small attacked his nostrils and he sneezed. Setting the cycle, the machine hummed. It sounded so loud. It was quiet everywhere. He consulted his watch, 12.15. He’d been at Andrea’s since 8pm. They’d watched a movie. He found her gym bag and removed her shoes. Rifling through her drawers and wardrobe he packed some clothes. Probably enough for a week. Then remembered to throw in her toothbrush, shampoo and cleared all the makeup from her bathroom drawer and threw the items in the bag. He found a large towel and wrapped it around the top half of her body.

Brian surveyed the small space to see if there was anything he may have missed. Confident that he hadn’t, he put his phone and keys into his pocket and picked up Andrea’s bag. Throwing her petite, lifeless body over his shoulder, he proceeded to lock her door. He walked slowly out to the street and unlocked his car boot. He put Andrea’s body and her bag in and closed it. He got into his car and slowly drove off, trying to be as quiet as possible. He headed out of the suburbs towards a building site that he knew was neglected. He had prepared the financials for his client as the tax department were preparing to liquidate. As he roamed through the deserted site with Andrea’s body and her bag, he found the perfect place to hide her. In a large bin, full of old pieces of wood. He removed some of this and put her body and bag in, then replaced the wood, covering her up. It occured to him that some people would find this eerie but he felt nothing. He returned to his car and drove home to his parent’s house.

Chapter 3

Brian went to bed when he got home. He slept surprisingly well. He wondered when Andrea would be missed. Probably not until she didn’t turn up for work. She had worked as a receptionist for a cosmetics firm but had recently left that job as she was sick of just working with other females. She’d been temping so probably wouldn’t have made any friends in her current position. He was hoping she wouldn’t have said anything about him to anyone. She had told him that her sister knew about them but she lived in Australia and they only skyped each other once a month due to her sister being busy with three young children. Other than her, he didn’t recall her talking about anyone else. She didn’t seem to have any close friends and didn’t get on with her parents.

Brian sorted his laundry and dry cleaning and proceeded to go about his usual Saturday chores. He liked living with his parents, mainly because he was saving so much money, but also because they seemed uninterested in him and just did their own thing. His parents weren’t happily married but stayed together because of their lifestyle. Well, at least that would have been his mother’s thinking. A former model who peaked around age twenty-two, her career had subsided before she turned thirty. She hadn’t worked a day since then, either paid or unpaid. Brian didn’t care that she was vain and self absorbed, at least she left him alone. His Father was always at work, although Brian suspected that his Father was romancing his personal assistants. He seemed to be getting a new one every few months so was probably having to pay them off when the romance soured. Especially if they threatened to tell the wife. Brian knew his Father would not want a divorce and the subsequent division of assets.

Brian had always been amazed at how quickly females were lured by romance. They spent so much time watching their ridiculous romantic movies and reading self-indulgent novels that bore no resemblance to real life. They watched television shows where a bachelor would apparently date a variety of girls only to choose one at the end to live happily ever after with. On Valentines Day their whole month would be ruined if they didn’t get a gift. Most had been raised on Disney ideals and failed to see that these were fairy tales and nothing more. Brian had contempt for most females. If he didn’t need them for a sexual release he wouldn’t bother with any of them. It still annoyed him that his first girlfriend hadn’t let him do anything more than kissing. She was well aware that her virginity was a precious commodity. She had always told him that she admired Lady Diana for waiting until she got her prince. Look at how that turned out! What a mess. Brian forced the image of Donna from his mind. The last thing he needed was melancholy and regret over what may have been.

Chapter 4

Brian didn’t sleep well that night. He had strange, dismal dreams from which he awoke feeling sad and fearful. He lay awake wondering when Andrea’s body might be found. Eventually he fell back into a light sleep but woke when he heard his parents talking to someone outside his bedroom. A knock on his door prompted him to get up. When he opened the door his parents and two policeman stared at him. One of the police asked if they could have a chat with him. Rubbing his eyes, Brian said he would put some clothes on and be out in a minute. He went to his ensuite bathroom and used the toilet and splashed his face with cold water. Went back into his bedroom and grabbed a T-Shirt which he threw on. Sprayed deodorant under the shirt and ruffled his hair with his fingers. Surely the cops couldn’t be onto him already!

Walking into the lounge, his Mother was handing out coffees. She didn’t ask Brian if he wanted one. His parents moved into the kitchen and Brian sat down in a large chair. The cops sat on the couch. They introduced themselves. The larger of the two said, “we just need to ask a few questions about Andrea Dennis, when was the last time you saw Miss Dennis?”

Brian answered their questions for the next fifteen minutes. It felt longer. He wasn’t worried, he’d covered his tracks well. Seems that Andrea had made a friend at her temorary job and had given this girl his full name, where he lived, and where he worked, along with details about their sex life. The cops said to him that a neighbour had heard Andrea’s washing machine start after midnight that Saturday night, and thought it to be a strange time to be doing laundry. The police had searched her small bedsit and said it looked as though she had gone away as there were a significant amount of clothes missing and no makeup anywhere. Oddly, her hair brush, contraceptive pills and mobile phone remained. Brian felt peturbed, he wished he’d gone through everything now. How could he have missed those? The police told him they also didn’t understand why her bedding needed to be washed at that time of the night, and why it would then be left? Not like she had a dryer so was she going to hang it in the middle of the night, and if she’d gone away, why not wait until she returned home to do it? Brian shrugged and slouched back into the chair. The police then said they’d located Andrea’s body as some guy had been walking his two dogs around the area. The dogs had led him enthusiastically to the site of the dead, decaying body. Brian felt his throat get dry as he started to feel drops of sweat trickle down his back. He felt like he might vomit.

Chapter 5

The two policemen were staring intently at Brian. He’d never felt so uncomfortable in his life. Thank God he’d used condoms with that female. Wouldn’t know where she’d been, it was all about protecting himself from all those disgusting STD’s. But now he was feeling a whole heap safer. With all the testing they could do, they wouldn’t be able to pin anything on him! He regained his composure and wiped his eyes. Decided to play the compliant guy. “If that’s all for today I’d really like to get to the gym guys,” he smiled. “Sure, we’ll be in touch if we need anything else,” the large one said as he stood up. Brian walked them to the door and closed it after them. Decided the gym would be an excellent way to get rid of his tension.

The gym was quieter than he would have expected on a Sunday. It was a sunny day, one of the first good days this Spring, so perhaps more people were out and about. He felt so much better after his workout and a long, hot shower. Visited Subway on the way home and enjoyed the drive back. After he’d eaten he settled in his room to watch a few episodes of Criminal Minds.

The following week the police called him in for questioning two more times, and he made sure he had a lawyer present. Brian knew they were trying to wear him down but he didn’t care. He knew they had nothing on him and just relaxed about the whole thing. Eventually, it just became another unsolved murder. Brian spent a lot of time looking for a girl who resembled his first girlfriend. She needed to have that long, blonde hair and brown eyes. He knew he would find one just like Donna, and he knew he would murder her and have sex with her afterwards. It was really all he thought about, and it just made him feel so good.

The old lady next door

Chapter 1

Eva Marie was a pleasant old lady with a soft, feminine nature. She lived in an affluent suburb of Auckland called St Heliers. Her house was small and unimposing. The houses around her grew bigger as their residents added decks, swimming pools and extra levels. Eva Marie lived simply. She was content with her superannuation and her husband had an extra British Retirement pension. They had no issues with surviving as they had a vegetable garden and kept their meals simple. They had savings which they used for rates, which seemed to increase with alarming regularity. They had issues with their children, now with their own partners and children. These seemed to stem from the fact that Eva and her husband Jack had been married before. They had met later in life and their offspring never learned to appreciate their relationship. Because they married in their sixties, Eva and Jack felt grateful that they’d met each other and didn’t have to endure old age alone. They didn’t care anymore about their annoying kids. They just focused on each other and enjoyed themselves. They didn’t really need anyone else, and they weren’t interested in drama, especially not at their age.

Chapter 2

Eva Marie walked to her local supermarket each day. Jack always stayed home because he was unable to walk far. Eva would leave the radio on for him so he wouldn’t be lonely while she was out. Eva enjoyed her walks, she enjoyed seeing all the people in the streets and would have liked to stop and chat to everyone passing her. But it was usually just a case of saying Hello. Everyone seemed so busy nowadays and looked like they were in a rush. Even the joggers were serious, constantly consulting their wristband things. One nice man had explained to Eva that they measured fitness by providing all sorts of fitness tracking information. All this technology stuff seemed like a have to Eva Marie. Why not just go for a walk each day, who cared about how fast you were going or how long you’d been walking. Even small children were hurried along by their parents. She had always enjoyed small children, they looked at the world with such fresh eyes. They seemed to embrace everything with their trusting innocence assuming everyone would be kind to them given they were so small and needing help from big people. Eva liked how they stared, unlike many adults who would look the other way and avoid her as she approached.

She reached the supermarket, lost in thought. She nearly crashed into a man coming out the door. He muttered something about annoying old people. Eva Marie ignored this and entered the supermarket. Everyone was so friendly, all the people wearing the uniform anyway. The shoppers looked in a hurry, their faces tense and unsmiling. She didn’t buy much, just enjoyed wandering up and down each aisle looking at what was on offer. She bought bread, butter and a small packet of toilet rolls. Eva still used cash much to the impatience of the other shoppers. She would carry her gold coins in a small purse which was attached to a belt around her waist. She didn’t carry more than twenty dollars at a time. Firstly, the coins were too heavy, and secondly, she had a strict budget to keep to. It felt good to pay for her items and feel the weight of the purse lighten. She had a long walk home. It started to rain on the way and she enjoyed the feel of the water trickling down her face and through her hair. Her feet were so tired as she reached her home. Unlocking the door she called out to Jack. The radio said it was midday and the news came on. She had left the house when the nine o’clock news was on. It always took so long to get the few groceries but she refused to go to the local dairy and pay four times as much for what she needed. She chatted to Jack while she put fresh water down for the cat who looked unimpressed with his blank stare.

Chapter 3

Eva Marie had a rest that afternoon. Nowadays she always needed to after her long walks. But she was okay with this, each new day took a toll on her body and mind. She was in her eighties now. When she had turned 79 she had stopped thinking about how much older she was getting. Something had happened that year that turned her world upside down. She couldn’t really remember what. All she knew were her feelings about it. Despair and overwhelming sadness. Loss. A horrible feeling that nothing would be the same again. Tears started to run down her face, her body slumped, and she fell asleep.

Her dreams were strange. She dreamed that Jack died. They buried him. She was inconsolable. A good friend of hers from their church helped her to clear out his belongings. Eva didn’t want them donated but her friend said it would be a good idea for someone else to get some use out of them. She woke feeling panicked, looked at the clock beside the bed. She had been asleep for over an hour. She slowly got up, she had so many aches in her body now. It was tiring. If it wasn’t for Jack and puss cat, she’d like to just go back to sleep and never wake up. She moved slowly out of the bedroom and down the small hallway to the kitchen and lounge. Jack was still sitting in the same place as before still reading the paper. That’s all he ever does nowadays. She told him about her dream. He smiled but didn’t say anything.

Chapter 4

Eva had a quiet evening. Jack listened to the radio while she looked at old photos, making comments as old memories came flooding back. Near midnight she was tired and went to bed. Jack had gone to bed long ago. She had a restless sleep. The next morning it was Sunday and she dressed in her favourite outfit for church. She opened the front door and was hit by a soft breeze and warm sun. As she walked down the short path she admired the flowers. She had a sensation of falling. Nothing else.

Two hours later a small girl was walking past with her parents. The little girl squealed, “Look at that lady!” Her parents walked up to where Eva lay. The father pulled out his phone and called an ambulance. Eva had died. A heart attack. When the paramedics arrived they put Eva’s body into the ambulance. They then went into the house to see if anyone was in there. No one was. It was a small, messy house. A stray cat was in the tiny back garden. It ran under a bush when it saw them. They secured the house and completed some paperwork. Some of the neighbours were curious but they were just talking amongst themselves. The ambulance left. Eva’s funeral was small. Her three children attended with their spouses and children. One of Jack’s daughters attended. They were all crying. But they weren’t crying for Eva, their mother, step-mother and widow. They were crying for themselves and wondering when it was that they’d stopped caring. It was too late now for such thoughts. Nothing they could do would change anything. It was too late. As they got into their cars and travelled back to their homes they felt a sense of disgust. At themselves.

 

The teenager next door

Chapter 1

The laptop image showed an array of sites. All of them seemed to be about slimming and diet aids. Moana walked into the room, “Mum, get away from that! Why are you always in here looking at my private stuff?” Moana’s mother walked out of the room without a word. She couldn’t be bothered with her daughter’s moods today. At least this was a step in the right direction. She’d been trying to get Moana interested in losing weight and nothing was working. Lately, Moana had been watching a lot of reality tv and it seemed to be having the desired effect. Nothing like perfectly slim and artifically enhanced females to put the pressure on a less than perfect fifteen year old girl. She smiled to herself. She’d been through the same thing in her teens, worse though, as her Mother was a well known model who had worked extensively in Australia and NZ. If she hadn’t married and had children she could’ve had a long and prestigious career. Or at least that’s what she’d said all her life. Not really a maternal woman, and shockingly self absorbed. Moana’s Mother looked at herself in the hall mirror. She still looked good for her age, although difficult to keep the skin looking youthful when it was stretched tightly over a body that was kept so slender. Oh well, after 35 you had to choose between the face or body. At least that’s what her glamorous Mother always said.

Moana ruminated in her bedroom, with the door closed. Her Mother was a pain, always sneaking around and pissing her off. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. If only she was a lot taller she’d surely have the perfect body. Moana, Mo to her friends, wasn’t overweight. A bit heavy around the thighs and butt, but some of those reality stars made a career out of their curves. Maybe she could get one of those exercise machines that would target those areas and then she could still enjoy eating what she wanted. It was so annoying being hungry all the time. How to limit the food? There were all sorts of weird ideas floating around the net. Even her girlfriends had given her some weird tips, but nothing worked.

Chapter 2

Mo quite enjoyed school. She found the work was fairly easy. She did wish she could study stuff she was into. She could spend hours studying her Mother’s dietary guides, she enjoyed knowing how many calories were in food and what things were considered high fat and high GI. She loved figuring out what she could eat each day that wouldn’t put on more weight. Fortunately, there was nothing at home that could be considered tempting. Her Mother lived on power shakes with the odd plate of fruit and vegetables thrown in. Just so she could practice chewing. Mo was sick of her Mother always making comments that seemed directed at her. Saying people who were thin are happier, confident, and more desired. Blah, blah. Didn’t seem to be working that well for her Mother who seemed to be a hot mess when it came to all her insecurities. She was always thinking Mo’s Dad was having affairs with the women in his office. Whatever. Mo knew her Father wouldn’t be into that shit. He may like to look but he’d never take it any further. She had an older brother but he was from her Mother’s first marriage. He was working in Australia as a mental health worker. He earned well and always seemed happy. Didn’t seem like he’d return to New Zealand in a hurry. So it was just her with Mommy dearest and a Father who was kind of absent when he was at home.

Mo had a group of friends at school that she could tolerate well. She wasn’t one of those girls who needed lots of people around. She was happiest when she was on her own, listening to her music and thinking about how awesome her life would be when she could leave home and start living her own life. She was happily thinking about her future when her Mother’s annoying voice interrupted her carefree thoughts. Something about buying new clothes. Stuff that would be flattering while she lost weight. Whatever. Mo was happy wearing her casual, colourful stuff. She dressed for comfort not to make her thighs look small.

Chapter 3

Mo had endured a tedious trip to K & K. Her Mother said it was the best shop for full figured females. The shop assistants were only too happy to put together outfits. Mo sensed it was a great place for people who couldn’t put their own clothes together. Her Mother spent a few hundred and seemed to feel better. Mo had to admit that she quite liked the clothes. They suited her casual vibe and did make her butt and thighs look better. Awesome. No need to lose weight just wear flattering clothes. Super easy.

She thought her Mother would ease off but no such luck. Mo’s friends were lucky. Most were slender and ate what they wanted. Great metabolisms! Only Kelly was a similar build to her. Difference with Kelly was that she loved herself. Mo wasn’t sure what Kelly saw when she looked in the mirror but it wasn’t reality based.

Mo went to the mall with her friend Angela. She was one of the slim ones who could eat anything. After they’d looked around the shops they went to the foodcourt. Both ordered heaps of food. When they’d finished they went to the toilets before heading home. Mo was sure she could hear someone throwing up in a nearby cubicle. Weird. She was washing her hands when Angela came out. Angela washed her hands and then cupped water to her mouth and rinsed.

Chapter 4

Angela was fairly chill about the whole thing, “It’s how I manage to eat whatever I like and not get fat,” she offered as a seemingly reasonable explanation. Mo thought it was disgusting, especially when Angela said she would vomit several times each day. Mo asked her if she was worried about her teeth rotting. Angela just smiled and shook her head. They returned home and Angela’s Dad picked her up shortly after.

Mo lay on her bed thinking while listening to her Ipod. She thought about a lifetime of controlling weight by throwing up. Yuk! Why not just eat fairly healthy and do some exercise. She thought about Angela’s skin, always blotchy and breaking out. Also, her moods. Up and down and crying over seemingly little things. She’d hate to be like that…

She got up and went downstairs. Her cousin Rangi had arrived and was talking to her Dad. Lots of stories from the Marae at Hokianga. Her Dad was laughing, he looked relaxed. Weird, he never looked like that! Rangi was trying to convince her Dad to go visit the whanau. “Well, I do have a lot of leave owing, maybe a break from the big smoke would do me good!”

Mo’s Father arranged to have four weeks off, starting the following month. He suggested to Mo that she go up there with him. “Ew, don’t they have communal showers and toilets?” Her Father laughed, “it’s amazing how quickly you get into a routine with that stuff, you’d probably enjoy it with that laidback vibe you have.” Moana grimaced and went back to her room with a bottle of water. Whatever.

Chapter 5

Moana did end up going to the Marae with her Father. He swung it with her school so that the time off from school could be considered educational learning. Fortunately, Moana was well ahead of her class in her studies anyway. She was just so sick of everyone at school. They were all caught up in their shallow little lives, worried about their weight and popularity. It all became so trivial.

Moana enjoyed the trip to the Hokianga. They eventually reached the Marae and were led into the meeting house after waiting for the older lady to do the singing thing. Moana vaguely remembered this process from when she was really young. It was fun seeing everyone, they were all so much older. It must have been around eight years since she’d been up here. She quickly fell into the Marae routines. She loved the meal times, everyone eating together and chattering away. She was eating more than she’d ever eaten but her clothes were still fitting well. Must be all the activity each day. Moana had never felt better. It was good to see her Dad looking so relaxed too.

The time went so quickly. There were lots of tearful goodbyes when they left. The trip had a lasting impact. Her Father and Mother separated and Moana went to live wth her Dad. She finished school and went to Tech to become a Kohanga Reo teacher. She enjoyed learning Te Reo and didn’t call herself Mo anymore. She also ate what she felt like and barely looked in mirrors anymore. She didn’t get fat but she did feel content with her life. Every single day.

 

The Boy Next Door

Chapter 1

Bryce is an only child. People assume that he is spoilt as his parents invented a system for a popular television game show. They now have lots of money and they are very generous with their son, buying him any toys he wants. They are not generous with their time. He is left with a nanny who is very young and not really interested in him. She likes the regular holidays to the UK and USA. So Bryce has an imaginary friend. He’s a little older and very naughty. That’s why Bryce likes him. He’s exciting and always tells Bryce not to worry about getting caught. Of course Bryce doesn’t tell anyone about his friend. He just says he’s talking to his toys, if anyone asks. But they usually don’t.

Bryce calls his friend Carlos. He saw a cartoon with a boy who had that name, and it suits his friend. Carlos is always around, especially when Bryce is on his own, which is much of the time. Next year Bryce will start school and he hopes that Carlos will go with him. He’s not really looking forward to it. He doesn’t like other children much. They just want to play with his toys. He’s told his nanny and his parents that he’s worried about going to school. His nanny said, “You’ll be fine, you’ll get used to it.” She’s annoyed because she has to look for another job. His Mother tells him, “Just make friends with the other boys and girls.” Fine for her to say, she always talks about how she hated school. His Father tells him, “Suck it up son!”

So Bryce just talks to Carlos. He understands. He tells Bryce that he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to. This makes Bryce feel so much better. Helps him to sleep too, instead of lying awake worrying what’s going to happen. The days tick by quickly. A trip to the theme parks in Australia is happening next week. His nanny is excited as it’s her last trip before she finishes at this job. His Mother is happy because she loves the Gold Coast and will go shopping every day. His Father is happy because he’ll get to look up some old mates and relax. Bryce is sort of looking forward to the theme parks. He went when he was two years old, but doesn’t remember it. When they return to New Zealand he’ll start school, so he doesn’t want the time to go too fast. Carlos hasn’t been around so much lately. Bryce worries where he’s gone. He misses his friend but he’s been busy with his Mother taking him shopping for a school uniform and stationary supplies. He hopes to talk to him soon.

Chapter 2

Bryce is now at school. He hates it. He talks to Carlos every night about how much he hates it. Carlos is understanding. He even suggests all sorts of things to make it more fun. Some of these things are mean but Bryce finds them funny. He plays all sorts of tricks on his parents and teachers. Some of the boys at his school are really mean anyway so they deserve what they get. Bryce is really sneaky and doesn’t get caught.

Bryce wishes there were girls at his school. They’re nicer to play with, and not rough like the boys. There are no female teachers either. It’s a very exclusive school. His Father told him it’s very expensive and always says to him, “Don’t screw up kid!”

If he didn’t have Carlos life would be unbearable. The weeks speed by and it’s time for a holiday. His parents take him to Australia. This time they’re in Melbourne. His parents are doing business with some guy. It’s so boring. The guy has a son who is two years older than Bryce. They don’t get on at first. After a couple of days they find they have some stuff in common. Mostly because they both hate school. Also, parents who treat them like an inconvenience.

When Bryce gets back to New Zealand he talks to Carlos. He doesn’t enjoy talking to him. He seems so young and annoying. He tells Carlos to go away. He doesn’t see him again. He has a new friend called Brian and he’s much more fun. Brian is older and very daring. He even convinces him to steal money from his parents. Bryce’s Dad leaves cash in his bedside drawer because he prefers to use his cash card. His Dad forgets it’s there, which is lucky for Bryce. He buys lollies and fizzy drinks on the way home from school because his parents won’t allow them in the house. His parents are health nuts and the whole kitchen is a no fun zone. Bryce loves the feeling he gets from doing something forbidden. He always disposes of the empty packets and bottles before he gets home. Brian has repeatedly told him to cover his tracks.

Chapter 3

Bryce enjoys talking to Brian. He understands him, and he listens. No one else does. His parents ignore him. His after school nanny is more interested in her phone, and Facebook. His teachers are disciplinarians. The other boys at school are wankers. Bryce’s Dad calls everyone wankers as well. Bryce is starting to put on weight due to eating bags of lollies every week. He feels lethargic and moody most of the time. He convinces his nanny to pick him up from school in the car. He can’t be bothered walking home and meeting her there. His parents pay her for an extra thirty minutes a day because they don’t really care as long as their son is not bothering them. Brian is always giving Bryce clever ideas. Life wouldn’t be worth living if it wasn’t for Brian. Bryce’s parents have started arguing a lot. Bryce’s Mother is a cold woman. At least that’s what his Dad calls her. That’s why he’s been using prostitutes. Bryce doesn’t know what a prostitute is but according to his Dad they’re not cold. Bryce doesn’t really care. His main concern at the moment is that the cash in his Father’s bedside drawer is fast running out.

He confides in Brian who comes up with a great plan. Bryce approaches his Father and says he wants to buy something for his nanny because it’s her birthday next week. His Father thinks this is a good idea but returns from the master bedroom looking perplexed, “Someone has swiped all my cash, I’m sure there was around a hundred in there!”

Bryce has an innocent look on his face, he’s been perfecting it. “Maybe Mummy needed some shopping money. She likes to buy clothes a lot,” he offers as an explanation for the missing cash.

“That wouldn’t even buy your Mother a pair of knickers. She has expensive taste! I really don’t have time for this shit! He fumbles in his wallet and finds a plastic card, “there’s a couple of hundred left in this old account, pin is 4321.” He hands the card to Bryce. He can’t wait to use it. How exciting. His own cash card and he’s not yet six.

Chapter 4

Bryce is happy for a while with his cash card. He stopped buying lollies because the boys at school were teasing him about being fat, and his Mother threatened to put him on a diet. His nanny was so pleased with her present, shower goodies from Lush, that she decided to help Bryce. Now she makes him a healthy lunch to take to school and makes a healthy snack when he gets home from school. She also takes him out for walks on the weekends. Bryce’s parents are more than happy to pay her for an extra four hours every weekend as it gives them more adult time. Not together. Just to pursue their own interests.

Bryce hasn’t talked to Brian for a while. He’s getting used to school and although he hasn’t made any friends, the other boys leave him alone. The school work doesn’t seem to be an issue and when he needs help, his nanny Sara helps. They understand each other well. Sara wants extra money all the time as she’s a student. Although she lives at home she enjoys all the feminine stuff, and it costs. Bryce knows he can talk to her about anything and she seems to understand him. She’s nice to talk to and really pretty.

Bryce’s parents are trying to get on better. He overheard his Father talking to one of his mates, “I don’t want to have to pay her half, and support for the kid. At least I can keep some control of her spending while she’s with me. Lazy bitch, she still won’t help pay her way though.”

He heard his Mother talking to one of her friends but didn’t really hear it all as she has started being careful and lowering her voice when he’s around. Sara hears more because she’s perfected the bored, vacuous look when his Mother speaks. He enjoys his talks with Sara, she has some cool ideas about how to manage his parents. They make a good team.

Chapter 5

Bryce feels comfortable with his life. It feels like its taken a while, but now he’s ten years old. His school life is settled and he doesn’t find the work to be too difficult. He gets on okay with the other boys but still has no close friends. His parents are still together but only because his Mother enjoys the trappings of wealth. His parents still do their own thing.

The important part of his life is Sara, his nanny. She’s still studying. She keeps changing her mind about a future career and seems to like studying different things. She had started with Psychology but found it too difficult so now she’s studying Early Childcare. Bryce doesn’t care as long as she keeps looking after him. Sara still lives at home with her parents. She’s an only child as well. Over the years she’s become even prettier and Bryce still enjoys buying her lovely presents that make her eyes light up.

The summer holidays and Christmas were fast approaching. Bryce was very excited. He’d been thinking about what to buy for Sara. But, the week before Christmas, Sara told Bryce that she would be leaving as she had been seeing her boyfriend for a year now and they were going to the South Island where he had been offered a job. He was a lot older than her and was a doctor. Bryce was horrified. He didn’t even know she had a boyfriend. He thought she would look after him for as long as he wanted her to. He felt like he couldn’t speak, it was like being in a horrible dream. He wished he would wake up. Sara was talking to him, “…don’t worry. I’ll stay in touch with you. I’ll miss you a lot too.” She gave him a hug but Bryce pulled away and ran to his bedroom. He slammed the door and lay on his bed. He could hear his Father talking to Sara. Then he heard the front door open and then shut.

His Father knocked on the door and walked in. “Don’t worry mate, we’ll get you another nanny. You’re finishing school in two days and then we’re off to Oz for a holiday. You’ll be right,” he slapped Bryce on his thigh and walked out of the room. Bryce looked at his thigh, there was a red mark where his Father had slapped him. He felt empty inside.

He didn’t see Sara again. He felt so let down. Adults. You couldn’t trust them. They all talked a lot of crap. Bryce withdrew into himself. He didn’t enjoy the holiday. It was sunny every day and he hated it. He wished it was raining and cold. He felt cold and empty inside. Nothing was fun anymore. His parents kept spending money on him. Always the same. They had no idea what he really wanted. They were just caught up in their materialistic world where life was measured by what they owned and trying to be better than everyone else. No wonder people couldn’t stand them. His Dad was probably okay when he was a lot younger but his Mother was just a whore essentially. Or at least that’s what his Dad called her. He had stopped calling her Caroline and just called her other things. She ignored him and just poured herself another drink and took another pill.

Bryce didn’t come out of his withdrawn state. He told his parents he didn’t want another nanny. He lost interest in everything. His Father wanted him to talk to someone about his problems. Bryce didn’t feel like it. He wished he still had his other friends, the ones no one ever saw. He had nothing in his life that was any good. One night he went to his Mother’s ensuite, she was asleep with her face mask on. His Father was a couple of doors down, in his room snoring loudly. Both his parents used pills and alcohol, nothing would wake them. Bryce looked through his Mother’s pill bottles. There were heaps. He took a whole lot with water.

That was the end of Bryce. Hours later when his Mother found him, he had already choked on his own vomit. His parents would always blame each other and that was the end of their marriage. News reports stated the facts coldly. Social commentary and talkback radio discussed how wealthy people have problems too. No one suggested that a lonely boy could find he had nothing to live for.

 

The Woman Next Door

Chapter 1
Farrah Marilyn lived in Remuera. She was twenty and quite beautiful.
People who got to know her would comment that she had been aptly named.
Her parents had named her after the legendary Marilyn Monroe and the seventies icon Farrah Fawcett.
Farrah would look at pictures of these women, both dead, and felt they looked too made up, too manufactured.
She preferred a more natural, bohemian look. Flowing dark blonde hair, cut in long layers. A pretty face with small features and large hazel eyes gave her a Disney princess look. She was petite and liked to dress in feminine, floaty clothing. She liked minimal makeup. Sunscreen with a tint, bronzer, mascara and a tinted lip balm.
Fortunately this made her all the more appealing as she looked natural and approachable. Other girls liked her and guys wanted to date her.
Farrah’s parents had died in a car crash when she was seventeen. She had inherited their small house in Remuera. This had increased in valuation over the years and her lawyer had advised her just to stay there and let it increase further. Farrah wasn’t too sure about this. She had no siblings and her parents had both come from small families. Their siblings lived in Australia.
She found the increasing power costs and land rates were hard to meet.
Given her beauty, she had not been gifted with intelligence. School had been a social exercise but she had learned nothing. There was nothing at school that she felt particularly drawn to, and nothing she was particularly good at.
Farrah had left school when she turned sixteen. Her father had asked a friend for a favour and she had found employment at the local book shop. This was ironic as Farrah didn’t read books. She preferred magazines and was fortunate to get the old copies at a very cheap price. Her parents encouraged her to save, warning that she never knew what may lie ahead.
It turned out to be good advice, because following their deaths, her savings were quickly devoured by rates bills. Her weekly income covered her food and bus expenses. She was able to save fifty dollars per week providing she kept her food requirements basic and didn’t buy clothes.
This was hard for a seventeen year old girl. She learned to shop at second-hand stores and charity shops. She found this suited her well, especially as she liked somewhat impractical and floaty styles. She was reasonable at sewing any torn areas and sewing buttons.
So, for a while, Farrah continued on. She felt lonely at times and missed her parents.
Because she didn’t have many friends, or the money to get out and about and do things, she found the nights were the loneliest. She would make dinner when she got home from work. Then, do her dishes, have a shower, do any laundry, and watch tv for the rest of the night. Or read magazines.
The three years since her parents died had gone reasonably fast but there was always the feeling that she was missing out on life. The tv programmes she watched portrayed young girls as being busy with friends and boyfriends. Driving, shopping and living glossy, fun filled lives. With occassional melodrama about insignificant things.
She was so bored working at the bookshop. She applied for a job at the Warehouse store in Newmarket.
She got the job and enjoyed the higher pay, although it was constantly tempting to buy clothes, especially with her staff discount.
One night when she was working late, she was approached by a man while she was waiting for her bus.
He asked her about how much she earned and said he could help her to earn lots of money.
He seemed very nice, if not old. He must have been at least forty!
He offered to take her out to dinner the following night, he said he would pick her up when she finished work.
Years later she would question why she ever said yes.
Chapter 2
Farrah took a pretty dress in her bag the next day. She wanted to make an effort and after work changed into it.
It was a brown and amber coloured floral dress with floaty sleeves and a floaty skirt that went past her knees. Feminine and innocent looking. She reapplied her bronzer and lip gloss and brushed her hair. She used one of the store testers to apply fragrance as she couldn’t afford to buy any.
It was an exciting feeling to be going out instead of staying home as she always did.
The man turned up at 6pm. He introduced himself as Karl and told Farrah she looked beautiful.
Farrah was starving. Payday was tomorrow and she had run out of money yesterday. All she had at home was bread and butter and strawberry jam. So for dinner the previous night and this morning for breakfast she had eaten buttered toast with jam. A male workmate had bought her a milkshake at lunchtime so he could spend some time talking to her. She would have loved a burger and fries but was worried that she’d be leading him on as she wanted the food but had no interest in him.
Karl took her to a beautiful Chinese restaurant just down the road from work. She had never been to a restaurant before and she loved every minute of it. She let Karl order for her and ate an entree, main and a dessert.
She had a glass of wine which made her feel hazy and light-headed.
Karl was very attentive. He kept asking her if everything was to her liking and wanted to know about her life.
She talked a lot while he listened.
He was especially interested in her finances. He offered to set her up in a flat and pay for it all.
She explained about her parent’s small house and said she wanted to stay there.
He said, “I guess you have a lot of lovely memories there, and it would be hard to leave.”
She agreed but actually couldn’t remember a lot about her parents. They were always working or going off on holiday without her. At those times her father’s older sister would move in and look after her. But she never seemed happy about the situation. She once said to Farrah that she only did it to get extra money.
Her name was Rachel and she was an unemployed actress. Her claim to fame was a small recurring role on a local drama called Close to Home where she played the mistress of one of the main characters.
Rachel’s main interest in life was herself, the way she looked and also tracking down people who would smoke marijuana with her. Kind of a drop out, and really lazy.
Farrah seemed to be always washing her dishes and clearing her rubbish out of the house.
Rachel was dead now. Had accidentally killed herself by overdosing on tranquilisers.
The irony was that she had just been offered a part in a movie that an American studio was filming in New Zealand and had been very excited about it all.
Karl was asking her a question and she hadn’t been listening.
He looked at her expectantly.
She frowned, “Sorry I was miles away. The wine has made me sleepy.”
He smiled, “I was just asking whether you may like to come and work for me?”
He went on to say that he owned a small business and needed a receptionist to work between 8pm and 4am from Thursday through Saturday. The pay would be more than working full time at her current job and he would give her a generous clothing and cosmetic allowance each week. He would also pay for a taxi to and from work.
This sounded like heaven to Farrah.
She hated getting up early five days a week and having to work a rostered late night each week. The work was okay but catching the bus in all kinds of weather was annoying.
This new job sounded glamorous and fun.
Karl explained she would just be talking to customers on the phone and in person.
He asked her to think about it overnight and would pick her up tomorrow after work and take her shopping at Smith and Caugheys for a new dress and shoes, then dinner at a new Italian restaurant.
When he drove her home she felt energised. It all sounded so exciting.
He waited until she had unlocked her front door and then drove off.
Farrah prepared a bath. She tipped some Body Shop bubbles in and lit a candle.
Twisted her hair on top of her head in a hair tie and lay back in the hot, stawberry scented water and thought about the night.
She felt tired but so good.
She decided she would take the job that Karl had offered.
After her bath she went to bed and drifted into a relaxed, deep sleep.
Chapter 3
The next day at work went so slowly.
After lunch break, Farrah was just over it all.
She kept thinking about the prospect of this new job, and, getting a new dress and shoes.
The thrill of getting something new…
Finally it was 5.30pm.
Karl turned up smiling. Some of Farrah’s workmates had seen her with him last night.
They had asked her questions today. She had said nothing and just smiled.
Her workmates knew she wasn’t easy to get to know. Very reserved. Cautious.
Karl seemed more buoyant than the previous night.
They walked up Broadway to Smith and Caugheys.
Farrah loved this store. So elegant and beautifully lit.
Many of the sales assistants seemed to now Karl and fussed around him bringing beautiful dresses for Farrah to try on.
Some were just too glamorous and Farrah chose a simple velvet dress in pale blue with soft ruching down one side. It fitted her perfectly and suited her ethereal quality. She felt like Cinderella. Especially when trying on several pairs of shoes.
She eventually chose a silver pair with kitten heels.
Karl talked her into leaving this outfit on for dinner.
Farrah was worried she would spill something down it, so attached a napkin to the neckline which made Karl laugh.
Farrah explained, “I only have three really pretty dresses and all of them are from charity shops.”
“Well, from now on you can have as many pretty clothes as you would like!” he smiled as he said this.
Farrah explained that she’d thought about his offer and would like to take the job.
Karl looked happy. Smiling, he ordered champagne.
They enjoyed a delicious meal and Farrah commented that if they kept this up she wouldn’t be able to fit any of her clothes.
While they were walking to the car park, Karl suggested he take Farrah to his business and show her around.
He explained that no one would be there as it wasn’t open tonight.
Farrah asked what type of business and Karl explained about it being an exclusive gentleman’s club, old fashioned really.
Farrah looked surprised, she had imagined some kind of small, intimate bar or even a motel!
When they arrived, Farrah was surprised that it was a large house, up a long driveway and hidden from the road.
Soft lights were on and Karl explained that these were on a timer.
They got out of the car and he unlocked the impressive wooden door with an ornate knocker shaped like a lion’s head.
Inside it was warm and softly lit.
There was a gorgeous waft of flowers in the air.
Karl showed her downstairs and the reception desk where she would work.
He had a guy who would answer the door.
There was a huge seated area with a well stocked bar. A large kitchen was out the back.
Karl lived here and had a housekeeper who came in for three hours each day. She did laundry and kept the house clean. She also cooked meals for him when he was going to be home.
There was a small bathroom downstairs as well.
Up a rounded flight of stairs and there were six bedrooms and each had an ensuite bathroom.
There was the same floral smell, it seemed decadent and expensive.
Karl showed her into each room – they all seemed feminine and were decorated in shades of soft pink and cream.
Except for Karl’s room which was dark colours and dark wood.
It still had a warm feel to it.
Karl explained that he had some young females working for him and they would bring a man up to a designated room and give him a massage. He explained that a lot of these men were very lonely and needed company.
Farrah innocently thought this all sounded very pleasant.
She decided to resign from her job the next day and start the following Thursday.
She was excited.
The week went fast, especially as Karl took her back to Smith and Caugheys and bought her two more dresses and heels. He instructed her to wear a different one each night of work and have them dry cleaned. He would pay that bill.
Her workmates were interested to hear about her new job.
However she said little.
Her first night approached. She got ready at her home feeling nervous.
She wore a peach coloured satin dress with a fitted bodice and a full skirt, with matching peach coloured heels.
She felt so glamorous. Her freshly washed hair was piled on top of her head in a loose bun with soft tendrils around her face. She had intensified her usual makeup as Karl had told her, given the softer than usual lighting at the club.
The taxi arrived and they set off. It was only ten minutes drive from Farrah’s home.
She closed her eyes and thought about how different her life was turning out.
Chapter 4
Farrah arrived at the house.
The girls were all sitting in the bar area.
They looked glamorous in their pretty dresses.
When she walked in they all looked her up and down and she introduced herself as the new receptionist.
They all smiled and looked at each other.
Farrah remembered Karl saying that they all knew each other well now and were wary of any new competition.
She sat with them for about thirty minutes, listening to them talk about the customers. Most were over sixty, but there were a few who were a little younger.
Farrah thought they all sounded jaded, and interestingly most were only a couple of years older than her.
They told her to take her position at the reception desk.
The men started to arrive after 9pm. It became busy and suddenly it was midnight and Farrah was starving.
One of the girls offered her a fruit smoothie explaining they lived on them as it kept them slim.
Farrah drank it gratefully and rushed to the toilet while it wasn’t busy.
Most of the girls were busy in the rooms and only one was seated in the bar area.
Karl came down from his bedroom to see how the night was going.
He had a chat to Farrah and looked at the reception book and seemed pleased by the amount of men that had been through tonight.
He explained to Farrah that Lori who was the oldest and had been working for him for the longest, earned six hundred per hour and Jackie who was the youngest and had worked there for only two months earned three hundred.
Karl watched Farrah’s face as he talked. He noticed that she looked very interested.
He had already had text messages from some of the men asking about her.
At 3.30am, the last of the men left and the girls were showering for the last time and removing their makeup in the ensuites.
Karl was pleased it had been a busy night and handed Farrah two fifty dollar notes. He explained that on the third night she would get an extra hundred for her makeup and any extra clothing she may like to purchase.
Farrah went home tired but happy. The work wasn’t difficult, in fact it didn’t even really feel like work.
She just had to keep a record of which girl went upstairs with which man so they would be paid accordingly.
Some of the guys would come to her and chat while they waited for their favourite girl to finish but Farrah didn’t mind this. They were easy to talk to and treated her with respect.
The next few weeks went fast. Farrah spent most of her spare time looking for clothes, hair accessories, shoes and makeup.
The competition between the girls was intense. Farrah couldn’t keep up, with what she was earning.
She mentioned this to Karl who quickly suggested she may like to earn a lot of money by doing what the other girls did.
Farrah felt shocked but was also intrigued. He took her into his bedroom and showed her his large tv screen.
He was able to watch what was happening in every room. He showed her the footage from the night before.
It all seemed fairly straightforward, it wasn’t as full on as she would have thought.
Some of the girls didn’t even have sex with the men. They just lay beside them caressing them and talking.
They were naked, but it didn’t seem sleazy in any way.
Karl said if she were to start, he would ensure that she got the easy ones to start with.
He told her to go home and think about it.
The next evening she told him she was ready. He smiled but didn’t appear surprised.
He organised for her to go upstairs with an old friend of his.
His name was Max and he seemed pleasant, and looked at least sixty.
He told Farrah he was sixty-five. He watched her undress and then asked her to lie on the bed beside him.
It felt weird to Farrah. She had only done this with two guys in her personal life and it had put her off. It seemed so over rated. It was always over so quickly.
Max just wanted to talk while he caressed her.
He talked at length about his three failed marriages. Farrah decided that his former wives must have been bored senseless.
The next guy was much the same, he just wanted her to walk around the room while he was talking. Farrah felt self conscious until she realised that he was less interested in her than his own voice.
Farrah didn’t mind. At the end of the week she had made a thousand dollars and hadn’t even put out.
She was delighted.
She asked Karl if he would mind finding a new receptionist. He just smiled.
The other girls told her they had all started doing reception.
Farrah was surprised, and it didn’t take her long to acquire the same expensive tastes as the other girls.
No more skin cleanser, shampoo and makeup at the supermarket.
She spent two hundred on haircare items at a hair salon, and then spent a further three hundred on skincare and cosmetics at Smith and Caugheys.
The following week she spent four hundred on lingerie that had to be handwashed.
Farrah started to lose her innocent prettiness and her face took on the same bored, hard edged look the other girls had.
She started getting men who wanted more and more.
Farrah began to dread going to work.
She talked to Karl who pointed out that she could return to her boring job with low pay.
She realised it would be too hard to go back to that lifestyle so she confided in the other girls who suggested she just take a pill before she went upstairs with anyone who seemed energetic, or had been taking Viagra.
Farrah thought about her Aunt Rachel and her drug problems.
But she was a flake.
She decided it couldn’t harm so long as she was sensible about how much she was using.
She started taking one or two pills each week.
Within a few weeks she was taking two or three per night.
The other girls told her she would need to get her own supply and gave her a guy’s phone number.
It didn’t occur to Farrah that she was becoming addicted. She was swept away in it all, focusing on how much money she was making, and spending.
It also didn’t occur to her how she had gone from being an innocent girl working at the Warehouse to a high priced prostitute in less than six months…
Chapter 5

Farrah became obsessed with how many jobs she was getting each night. She started freaking out if she was left on the couch and other girls were busy. She felt nervous and her heart was pounding, wanted to feel calm and composed. She asked the pill guy if he could get her something calming. “Sure thing honey, anything to help out,” he said in a reassuring tone. Farrah was relieved. She felt weird a lot of the time now. Nervous and feeling like the other girls were talking about her all the time. When she went upstairs with a guy she felt jumpy. The other girls kept telling her to breathe and calm down. Bitches. They were jealous of her beauty and popularity with the customers!

The pill guy dropped off her package and she gave him the cash. “Don’t take more than two in one day, you’ll get too sleepy.” Farrah took one immediately. Thirty minutes later she didn’t feel much different. She took another and went to the couch and sat on it. All the girls were busy apart from one of the newer girls, Caroline. Farrah ignored her. Bitch. Why was she even working here, she wasn’t pretty.

She felt a hand on her, shaking her. “Wake up!” It was Karl. He looked angry. Farrah felt disorientated. She must have been asleep, how did that happen! Karl took her into the kitchen and made her a cup of coffee. He talked to her about her pill habit and suggested she try to come off them if she wasn’t able to use them appropriately. Farrah barely heard him, she asked him for a loan as she had run out of money. Karl explained he couldn’t do that. He suggested she stop spending on luxury items and pills. She gave him a hard stare. Bastard. She had been getting less jobs lately. It must be his fault. She accused him and he explained to her that the customers were finding her strange and opting for the other girls who had it together.

“What a load of crap, you got me here in the first place, you have to give me a loan!” Farrah yelled at him. Karl called her a taxi and gave her two hundred dollars. He advised her not to return until she was feeling better and was off the pills.

When she got home she had trouble unlocking her door. She got inside and slammed the door. Then fell over. Started crying. Karl was a bastard. It was only midnight. She could have had three more jobs! She pulled her dress down and flung it on the floor, kicked off her shoes and fell into her unmade bed. Within minutes she was in a deep sleep.

She woke, sun was up. Her eyes hurt, her head hurt. Felt like someone was hammering her head. She picked up her phone and called the pill guy. Asked him if he could drop off at her house. She gave him the address and said she needed something stronger as much as she could get for two hundred. He turned up an hour later. Farrah wasn’t feeling much better. He gave her two pills and suggested one per day. He said she’d like them. She took both, had to get rid of this sore head. It was driving her crazy!

She started feeling better. Much better. Fantastic in fact. She got dressed and pulled her unkempt hair into a ponytail. Caught a bus to Newmarket to indulge in some retail therapy. Found an amazing dress at Smith and Caugheys, perfect for work. Tight, red and with a short skirt. Found some shoes that were silver and glittery. Total was six hundred. The sales assistant told her that her credit card had declined. Farrah panicked, she wondered if that might happen. She’d been using her card for everything lately. Five thousand doesn’t go very far. She smiled at the sales assistant and put her card in her pocket. As she was leaving caught sight of herself in the mirror. She looked terrible. Smudged makeup from last night and her hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in days. Yuk! Her clothes looked odd too, a tight top that didn’t fit properly with a pair of jeans that looked dirty. She also had odd shoes on for shopping, high stilettoes!

Farrah suddenly felt dirty and ashamed. She would go home and have a bath and wash her hair. But first, back to the clothes section. She found a gold coloured dress and flat shoes with jewels over them. Took them into the changing room and left her clothes in there and walked out wearing the new outfit. She was a good customer. She’d come back and pay next week. She was oblivious to the sales assistants staring at her as she walked through the store. She was walking out the door and felt a hand on her shoulder. The police were called and she told them everything. There was a nice lady cop who talked to her in a soft, reassuring tone. Farrah thought of her parents. The nice lady cop got some woman to talk to her about her addiction problem. Addiction! That wasn’t her. She was ok, just a bit tired lately. No, a bit stressed. She was confused. It was the work. Those horrible men. Horrible Karl. Those girls. Bitches!

Farrah ended up at CADS. With drug users. She kept telling them she didn’t take drugs. They kept her there. She couldn’t leave. She tried but something always stopped her. The staff kept distracting her. She forgot what she was meant to be doing.

Farrah was at home. She had to be at work in an hour. Finishing her coffee she thought about how her life had turned out. She was lucky, she got a lot of help and support. She got off the drugs. Detoxed. Had counselling. Got herself together. Eventually.

Looked in the mirror before she left for work. Lucky she was a checkout operator at the local supermarket. No need to be pretty. All the prettiness had left long ago. The reflection showed a thirty five year old woman, who looked more like forty five. Very thin. Short, fine hair with streaks of grey. No makeup but a lot of lines. The woman in the mirror smiled at Farrah. Those teeth! She didn’t have the money to have them fixed. She’d destroyed all the photos of her younger self. Too painful to see what she’d had, all those years ago. She thought she would always be beautiful.

Farrah grabbed her coat and locked her front door. Caught the bus to work. Put her name badge on. A new guy was being shown around. She introduced herself. “Farrah! Were you named after that babe in Charlies Angels? he asked. Farrah smiled and nodded. That was so mean of your parents!” he laughed at his own joke.

Farrah didn’t laugh, she didn’t smile. Just ignored it. Her name was an ironic reminder of what she’d once had.

The Man Next Door

Chapter 1
Daniel is a forty three year old man.
For the last six years he has been in prison.
Initially prison.
The last four years he has been at the Mason Clinic.
Forensic place for someone who has committed a crime but has a mental illness diagnosis.
Daniel would’ve preferred to be in prison, he hated all that introspective stuff at the Clinic.
Having to return to the age of three and relive his horrible childhood. He had spent most of his life trying to forget the beatings. Tried to forget those long nights under the house when he’d been disobedient.
He had left that home in Otara at the age of fifteen and started working at the freezing works in Mt Wellington.
Always trying to dampen those voices he heard from his parents.
When he committed his first burglary he had heard his father’s voice saying he was useless and would never amount to anything.
Daniel still questioned why he’d done that. The daily grind of his job and nothing else had driven him to it.
And the voices. Those horrible voices who told him he was nothing.
He’d gone on to committing lots of burglaries.
He became good. Had loads of money. Gave up his job and moved to a leafy suburb.
Kept to himself but stayed home most of the day and his neighbours didn’t see him.
He went out at night to get food and alcohol.
The alcohol was his friend. Jim and Jack helped to shut down the voices.
But still there was the emptiness in his life. Money and freedom hadn’t solved anything.
He didn’t want friends. Didn’t want a relationship. Life was easier if you kept to yourself.
No let downs. No arguments. No trouble.
But, there was one thing he’d wanted. Since he was ten and his friend at school had one.
The one thing he craved. That would make his life worth living.
He planned and he thought about it.
It was the one thing that made him feel content.
He didn’t know what happy felt like.
A psychologist at the Clinic said he’d never been happy. Just subdued.
Said he wasn’t capable of feeling a full range of emotions until he’d done a lot of inner work.
He hated examining his feelings. It made him feel worse. The psychologist said that was the breakthough.
He didn’t get that. That was all he’d ever known.
Who would want more of that?
Chapter 2
After Daniel had made all his money he didn’t have much to do. Growing up the way he had there was no room for hobbies.
It was all about survival.
He had older brothers who had all done time.
He didn’t see them anymore.
Had one sister but she’d committed suicide in her twenties.
He was the youngest. His parents always called him their big mistake.
He was born several years after his sister and brothers.
No guidance just beatings.
Hated school, never felt like he fitted in. But, he had street smarts.
He knew how to defend himself. He knew how to blend into a crowd.
And, he wasn’t proud. When he’d been really poor he would just pick a nice looking lady and ask her for money.
He was lucky. Most times they’d just hand over a $5 note, one time he got a $20. Then he’d go to a supermarket and buy food.
There was rarely food at his house. His parents were both on the benefit, even defrauding the system.
They’d spend up large on benefit day and live like royalty for two days.
Then there would be no food, no cigarettes, no booze and no dak.
Those were the times he had to stay out of their way. They blamed him for their lack of money.
When he’d made all his own money by doing the burglaries he decided to go after what he really wanted.
He’d been seeing a girl who had a two year old boy.
Daniel doted on the boy. He was the cutest thing he’d ever seen. Just like his friend at school, he’d had a cute baby brother.
Daniel would buy him toys, he loved watching the kid’s face light up. His name was Jay.
He just had the best disposition.
Unlike his Mother. Jennifer. Spoilt princess. She’d grown up in Mangere but had a fairly well off family. Stable background.
Daniel did everything to try and keep her happy. He didn’t want her to ever leave because then he wouldn’t see Jay.
Jennifer was a full time Mum but didn’t believe that she needed to do anything else.
So, Daniel would grocery shop, cook, clean and do all their laundry.
He didn’t really care, felt like he had a purpose.
Problem was that Jennifer didn’t appreciate any of it.
He knew her parents weren’t keen on him.
One day in December, he remembered because it was his birthday month but he’d been shopping for presents for the two of them. She’d come home from having her hair done and announced that her Dad was buying her a small unit so she and Jay could live by themselves.
Daniel felt numb. He’d dreaded this day. Now it was here.
So, he did the only thing he could think of.
Chapter 3
Daniel stopped taking his medication.
He knew that the voices would return.
But, he needed some guidance and some of the voices helped him to make decisions.
Especially the authorative female.
She reminded him of a very scary teacher he’d had in primary school. He liked her though, she made a lot of sense.
She told him exactly what to do.
Daniel waited outside little Jay’s pre-school centre.
Lucky they knew him and he had signing authority. It had suited Jennifer, especially in winter when the weather was cold and stormy. Jennifer didn’t like getting wet or exerting herself.
Daniel collected Jay and put him in the car.
Jay was delighted and was smiling.
Daniel had already packed two bags for Jay and three for himself.
He anticipated being away for a while.
Driving out of the city and the start of peak traffic took longer than he thought and he started getting nervous.
He took a few swigs from his hip flask and felt his heart slowing.
That’s better.
They reached Orewa. He didn’t want to stop until Warkworth but was suddenly hungry.
He stopped at a fish and chip takeaways and just ordered chips and a milkshake. Didn’t want to come into contact with too many people. Kept his sunglasses and cap on even though daylight was fading.
Started driving again.
The milkshake was creamy and delicious and the chips were hot and salty. Perfect blend.
He enjoyed the scenery and the twilight hues. Everything had a purple and blue tinge.
Had his old Sharon O’Neill cassette playing. He had liked her since the 80’s.
She was singing about an Asian paradise. She must have known how Auckland was going to turn out.
He was sick of the rat race. Didn’t care if he never went back there.
Jay was sleeping blissfully in the back.
Daniel decided to keep driving until Jay woke up.
It was fully dark now.
Daniel started to feel tired. Felt like a coffee.
He was well past Warkworth and didn’t feel like driving anymore.
He pulled into a rest stop to have a sleep. It was just after 6pm.
He figured he’d sleep for an hour and then get going again.
He put his seat back, locked the doors and pulled a rug over him.
He was asleep within minutes.
When he woke, he felt disorienated and his back was sore.
He figured it must have been arond 8pm. It was 11pm.
He was shocked. He’d been out for hours.
Jay was chattering to himself. That’s what must have woken him.
He got a juice box out of a bag and gave it to him.
Jay gurgled with delight.
Adjusting his seat and starting the car Daniel resumed the driving.
He took it slowly on the dark roads. Jay seemed happy to be awake at this time of night.
They found a motel at 2am but Daniel decided to just sleep in the car. Seemed like a waste of money to pay for a motel now. They parked in the motel carpark and Daniel gave Jay a snack he’d prepared early.
Little cheese andwiches. The little guy loved them.
Daniel had some water and lay back to have another sleep. Then realised he needed to urinate so got out and did his thing by some bushes.
Figured Jay’s nappy would need changing. Did that and then settled in for a sleep.
Chapter 4
Daniel woke up to bright sunlight.
His eyes felt sore and it took a while for them to adjust.
Looked at his phone. 8.50am.
So late. He hadn’t wanted to sleep so long.
His back and shoulders were aching.
He looked at little Jay.
He was crying. That must have woken him.
A guy came out of the motel. Looked around 60. Pakeha. Wasn’t smiling.
Daniel opened the car door, said to the guy, “Hey mate, just wanting a room.”
“Sure, follow me,” the older man said. Still not smiling.
The authorative female voice told Daniel not to trust this man.
As he was paying for the room, two police cars turned up.
The motel owner had recognised Daniel’s face from the news report on the TV.
The blonde news lady had delivered the report with a solemn face saying that a male with severe mental illness had kidnapped a small boy. The public were warned that Daniel was extremely dangerous and should not be approached.
The motel owner had phoned the police as soon as he saw Daniel and Jay asleep in the car. He had told police that Daniel was a massive guy.
That was the reason for 2 police cars and four policemen.
Daniel was 5’7 and weighed 85 kgs.
Police were surprised to see this skinny guy emerge from the motel office.
They cuffed him and advised they were arresting him for kidnapping.
Daniel went back to prison and was told he wouldn’t be out for many years.
Jay was put into a CYFS home with a married male and female who appeared pleasant but actually weren’t.
Not abusive, just neglectful.
Jay stayed within the CYFS system until he was fifteen.
He escaped one night and stole his first car.
Now thirty-one, he’s never been out of prison for more than ten days at a time.
You can commit a lot of crimes in ten days.
He progressed from youth prison to adult.
He doesn’t know any other life. Which is why he doesn’t cope on the outside.
One day he’ll get out.
He’s looking forward to it. He’s learned so much being inside.
He’ll never have to work a day in his life.
He’s learned from the best criminals in the country.

The Girl Next Door

Chapter 1

The fog seemed to be getting thicker. Alison was a confident driver but this was disconcerting. It felt like she was driving into nothing.

After what seemed like an hour, but was in fact only twenty minutes, she reached suburbia with well lit streets helping her navigate her way home. As she drove into her street she let out a long sigh of relief. She felt tired but exhilarated at the same time. Such confusing feelings about what she had done tonight.
Reaching her driveway she parked her small car. Opening the door, the cold air hit her like a slap in the face.
Grabbed her bag and locked the car. Quickly walked around the back of the house to her front door. Unlocked and walked into her flat, closing the door with another sigh.
Suddenly felt really hungry. Realised she hadn’t eaten for hours. Removed her coat and scarf and hung them on the hook by her front door. Walked to her bathroom and washed her hands. Into the kitchenette to view the contents of the fridge. As usual, several pots of yoghurt, a bottle of milk and half a chocolate bar. She opened a pot of yoghurt, grabbed a spoon from the drawer and stood at the bench eating it slowly, looking out the window onto her landlords back garden. No fog, just dark shadows.
She had been living in the small flat underneath their house for almost two years now. She kept to herself and they didn’t bother her.
Threw the empty yoghurt pot in the rubbish bin. Started removing her clothes and put them in her laundry basket. Brushed her hair and stepped into the shower. Turned the nozzle away while the water warmed up. Adjusted the temperature and let the water cascade over her. With her eyes closed and shampooing her hair she thought of the woman in a movie she’d seen. Remembered she got knifed in the shower. Shivered in spite of the hot water, she cleansed the makeup from her face and used a liberal amount of shower gel. It smelt like freesias and reminded her of a time when she was young. When her father was still at home. Before he left her mother. Just didn’t come home from work, phoned that night and told her mother he didn’t want to be with them anymore.
Alison didn’t want to think about that right now. What was the point?
Rinsed the shower gel and shampoo. Turned the shower off and wrung out her hair. Towelled herself and put a cotton top and knickers on. Turned her heater on and sat beside it combing her hair.
She looked around the small room, very tidy and feminine. Much like the image she portrayed to the world.
Scratching noises at the door prompted her to get up. Opening the door, her ginger cat dashed in and ran to the bowl by the fridge. Alison patted his head and tipped some biscuits into the bowl. While he ate noisily she filled the other bowl with fresh water.
She washed her hands again and turned the heater off. Got into bed feeling very tired. Lay down and pulled the duvet up around her. Wondered how long it would be before they found him.
Looked at her phone to see the time. 1.22am, no wonder she was tired. Drifted to sleep.
Chapter 2
Sunlight was streaming into the flat. Even through the curtains.
Alison woke thinking she must have left a light on. Looked at her clock. 11.30am.
She felt disoriented then realised it was Saturday and she didn’t have to go to work. Or be anywhere. Bliss.
She lay in bed for a while thinking about the guy she had been with last night. About a year ago they’d been involved but he didn’t want to commit long term so she stopped seeing him. She had run into him last weekend when she was at her local mall, had just been to see a movie. On her own. They had chatted and he asked her out.
She’d gone out with him last night for dinner. They had a pleasant time and the food was amazing. He seemed okay, a bit down. He’d just broken it off with a girl he’d been seeing. Turns out she had been seeing someone else and liked the other guy better. He told Alison he wanted to make a fresh start and suggested they get together. Alison wasn’t too keen on this, suggested he give it a liitle more time. He agreed, reluctantly.
When he walked her to her car his mood changed. “Come back to my place” he said with a strange smile. Alison lied and said she needed to be up early to help a friend move to a new flat. He gave her a sharp look, eyes narrowed, and said, “You’ve been leading me on this whole time!”
“Going out to dinner isn’t leading you on!” Alison replied. She was surprised. Weirdo. No wonder they stopped seeing each other. She remembered he was always defensive about lots of different things.
As she walked away, he grabbed at her shoulder. She felt his force. She spun around and said, “What’s your problem? I just need to go home so I can be up early tomorrow!”
He looked angry, started raving on about how he’d never gotten over her and couldn’t live without her.
She’d just reached her car, she turned to face him. He still looked angry.
She opened her bag and took her keys out, instinctively wedging one key between her fingers.
He reached out and grabbed her hair, pulling it hard. Her eyes started watering. She swung her arm under his chin and stabbed him with the key. He let go of her hair with a groan, “You bitch” he said as he swung out and whacked her across the head with his arm. He lost his balance and fell to the ground. His head hit the curb with a horrifying crack. He let out a breath that sounded as if he’d been hit in the stomach.
Alison stood stunned, looking down at him. Noticed a pool of blood around his head.
She looked around to see if she could see anyone.
No one, just a large black cat padding across the road. The cat looked at Alison indifferently and carried on down the road.
Alison opened her car, took her steering lock off and started the car. It sounded deafening in the quiet of night. Turned her lights on and started driving. She felt like she was in a daze, calm though.
A Pat Benatar song was on the radio, something about unkept promises.
 Alison shivered in her bed. The memory was sharp. She wondered if he was in hospital. Maybe he was dead. Probably…
Her cat Boris jumped on the bed. Walked up to her head and sniffed her. Started miaowing.
He looked hungry. She hauled herself out of bed and walked to her kitchenette. Got his biscuits and put them in a bowl.
She was hungry too. Boiling the jug she started getting her cereal and milk ready.
Wanted to listen to the news on the radio.
Chapter 3
Alison listened to the news on the radio. The only mention was that a male in his early thirties had been found unconscious and bleeding in a side street in Epsom, near the Lido cinema. Police were investigating, apparently.
Didn’t say if he was dead or if there were any suspicious circumstances.
Alison wasn’t concerned. She’d been down this track before.
No one would ever suspect her – her major skill in life was appearing nondescript and instantly forgettable. Not to say unattractive just ordinary looking and able to blend in.
Of course this was not by chance. Alison carefully thought about everything she wore, always in subdued shades with black. Nothing too trendy, borderline conservative, and nothing salacious.
Hair colour left natural and makeup subdued.
If she had to classify herself she’d say “librarian”.
Anyway, it worked perfectly.
Even her job, sole control Accounts Administrator for a small firm. She worked 8am till 4pm every weekday and was able to work by herself. The radio was her company for the day and most of her dealings with other firms were via email. She took her lunch each day and went for a walk around the area while eating.
Limited contact with people, that’s the way she liked it.
After dealing with her parents and their ridiculous dysfunctional marriage, Alison had no desire to commit to anyone and stuff up her life.
She didn’t even enjoy socialising. Waste of time and always too many questions.
The thing that made her get up in the morning was to find men she could entice, and then remove.
Permanently.
There was nothing wrong with thinking this way, she was doing the world a favour.
Fortunately, the internet dating sites were a haven for her. She knew exactly who to look for, there was always a type.
2.30pm. Where had the day gone?
Boris was back on her bed, fast asleep and coiled tightly.
She put all her clothes from the last week in the washing machine along with a floral scented detergent and set the cycle. The machine hummed to life. Looked in her small fridge and cupboards, hardly any food, or cat biscuits.
She put her coat and boots on, grabbed her phone/cash card and keys. Locked the flat door and unlocked her car.
Donna Summer was singing about bad girls. She had her radio set to a station that played pop songs from the 80’s. Her Mother had loved all those songs.
Chapter 4
Everything was quiet, but there were distant voices. People talking in solemn, subdued voices.
No lights on. Just the light from the moon coming through the window with no curtain across.
Alison always asked for the curtain to be left. She enjoyed the moonlight.
Asked who?
Her mind drifted, she was driving and the fog was getting thicker.
Felt like driving into nothing…
She was in the shower. Remembered the movie where the woman was knifed. In a motel. She’d stolen money.
No she’d never stolen money. Just killed men. Lots of them.
Her Father was leaving and her Mother was crying. Then yelling.
He left when she was a child.
That was a couple of decades ago…
Alison turned her head to look at the moonlight. Her eyes hurt. She felt like she was dreaming.
She was having dinner with the last guy, the food was amazing. She felt hungry, hadn’t eaten much at dinner.
That guy was months ago, the one by the Greenhithe park.
No, the Lido theatre in Epsom. It hurt her head trying to get the details straight.
Just like that day in court with that horrible lawyer questioning her about why she didn’t like men.
Her head was swimming with weird memories. Boris needed feeding, she felt him jump on the bed.
Alison tried to pat him but her hand wouldn’t move. Was caught in something.
She needed to feed him, he would keep her awake otherwise.
Like that cat she saw when she killed that last guy. He must have told the Police.
Cats can’t do that…
No. That last guy told his workmates that he was going out with her that night. They told the Police about her. Said she was a nutjob with emotional issues. They said she had stalked that last guy when she found out he’d gotten engaged.
Of course she had. Men kept leaving her. Just like her Father. She couldn’t let them get away with it.
They all had to die. There was no other way…
That psychiatrist told the court she had no remorse, said she was a sociopath. Said that she needed to be watched carefully. Said she couldn’t be rehabilitated, just subdued.
And watched. Carefully.
Apparently she was very intelligent.
And a threat to society.
The voices were getting louder. A door unlocked.
She felt hands on her undoing things. Her legs and arms felt free. She sat up slowly.
A tired looking older woman in a uniform was holding her head and putting a small plastic cup to her lips.
She felt the bitter liquid fill her mouth. She spat it out, sprayed all over the woman.
The woman yelled at her, “Alison you bitch! When will you learn?”
A man’s arms pinned her arms down & she was back in restraints. Felt the sting of a needle in her thigh.
Her mind drifted…
She was driving in thick fog.
Always fog.
Couldn’t see where she was going.