Cymru Culture

Articles / Erthyglau

Search, part 5; Steve Lamb

(December 01, 2017)

Previous chapters of Search are available here:
     Part 1; Chapters 1 and 2
     Part 2; Chapters 3, 4 and 5
     Part 3; Chapters 6 and 7
     Part 4; Chapters 8 and 9

by Steve Lamb

Chapter 10

I put the phone down without speaking and covered my eyes with my hands, pressing my palms to my closed eyelids. The noise in my head was rising to a crescendo when again the outside world intruded, this time Jane was banging sharply on the living room window and calling me. I tried to wipe my face and clear my throat as I let her in. She hugged me like a child and held me until my shoulders stopped heaving and I could stutter an explanation. I showed her the first pages of the document and as she learned what I already knew, I read on to the end.

My love for Bethan blinded me to the slow change of atmosphere in our Bristol home. It came to a head at Christmas time when she was not yet one year of age. Your father never drank but that year on Boxing Day he went to the football and came back hours later. I thought he would be happy after letting his hair down for once. After all he worked so hard to keep us all and he had been such a trouper through difficult times. Instead he came home raging. Everything was wrong and it was my fault. The house was too hot; the room was too messy; the food was too bland: he threw his untouched dinner into the kitchen sink and went to bed.

I knew that disaster was about to strike again. Nothing that he had complained about was true. Something else was causing the friction. I could not see what it was and I was scared that he was looking for an excuse to throw away what we had. Maybe I valued our life together more than he did. I did not move from the living room until Bethan woke at six the next morning. I did not sleep. Instead I struggled without success to imagine a way forward for the two of us without the man who had made our contentment possible.

The morning was cold and cheerless. It did not improve. Your Dad did not deal with his hangover well and stayed in bed all morning. He did not touch the cups of tea I made every hour and only grunted when I spoke to him. When I put Bethan down for her nap after lunch he finally appeared. What he had to say was cruel but it was also honest. I didn’t know what to say. If the clock was turned back I still wouldn’t know and I cry in my sleep because I never will.

He told me that he could not carry on living with another man’s child getting all my love and attention. He did not want to be jealous of a baby but he was. He tried to like Bethan but the more he tried the more something was growing inside him that was poisoning his happiness. Either he or she would have to go. He wanted children but he wanted them to be ours. He knew he sounded like a spoiled child but he could not change the way he was. Something else would have to change.

I told him I was sorry, that it was my fault that I had shut him out and that I could change. I would change. We kissed and we were both in tears. Our kisses led to a sweet reconciliation but all too soon Bethan started crying. I felt him tense in my arms but I knew I had to go to her. I left him in bed curled up like a helpless baby himself.

We struggled on for another three months. We had good weeks and bad weeks. Bethan started to talk and then walk. Her babbling and her baby steps should have been our entertainment and our wonder but instead were greeted by my anxiety or his irritation. I made my decision when the doctor confirmed that I was pregnant again. Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room I had seen the notice about adoption services and had memorised the telephone number.

At work that day your Dad was told that the Bristol works were closing and that he could choose to be moved back to Cardiff or on to Birmingham. After I had put Bethan down for the night he told me that he could go to Birmingham and live in digs there from Monday to Friday. Perhaps a bit of distance would help him to come to terms with things. I shared my news and we sat in silence. We should have been so happy. I almost screamed when he got up from his chair and stood over me. I don’t know what I expected but he just held me close to him, so close I could feel his heart racing. I whispered to him then about the adoption services notice and my intention to ring from the phone box by the post office the next day. He did not say a word but the process started and did not stop.

Our move and my giving up Bethan were arranged to coincide so we arrived in Birmingham as we had in Bristol. To all appearances we were a young married couple expecting their first baby and starting a new life together. Today I would have had counselling for the depression that overcame me before and after your birth. There was none of that in those days and you were the only medicine that helped me. You could not save me from pain. Nothing could do that. My hurt was self inflicted and doomed to continue.

You know nearly all of it now. When your father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given such a short time to live we decided to get married quietly. I had never put my name to anything but on his death he wanted me to be protected from legal difficulties. We should have told you. We loved you too much to risk your disappointment.”

When I finished reading I passed the remaining sheets to Jane and sat back with my eyes closed attempting to rationalise all this new information that tore through the foundations, so sure and secure as I had thought, of my life. Then the phone started ringing again and I could see from the display that it was Julie. I stared at the handset unable to press the answer button, unable to do much at all. Jane took it from me and I went to the kitchen not wanting to hear her account of the story I had to believe was true but which I could not face again.

Like an automaton I made a pot of tea, poured two mugs and went back into the room.

He’s here now and he’s looking a bit brighter. Do you want to speak to him? Okay.” She held the phone to me as I put the teas down on the coffee table in front of the electric fire.


Chapter 11

The bar of the Sporting Chance was old fashioned in the best way. A coal fire burned cheerfully and bunches of customers sat on the bench seats or facing them across scarred but well polished tables. The choice of real ales with their curious names provided a focus for drinkers’ eyes when they looked at the bar. The stone walls were dotted with fading black and white photos of village scenes from the years between the world wars of the twentieth century and no other decoration. Brian Jones and Bill Faulkner were sitting together to the right of the bar in an alcove on the wrong side of the room to benefit from the fire’s warmth. This suited them as the corner was empty and they could speak freely without worrying that they would be overheard.

Has Dave called today?” asked the younger man putting his pint down before him.

No, not today but I’m not surprised. There’s lots to do when there’s a funeral to arrange. It’s good really as it fills your time and stops you getting maudlin. You can’t help thinking about whether things would have been different if you’d been better in some way. That’s how I was when I lost my Mam. But having so much to do pushes that stuff to one side. Good luck to him up there in Birmingham.”

I remember my Dadcu saying that guilt was a large part of bereavement even if there was nothing to be guilty about. I was only a teenager when Mamgu died and I had no idea what he was on about. I’ve seen it loads of times in the job of course. I wish the people who should feel guilty suffered some of the pain the innocent know about all too well.” There was silence for a moment as both men sampled their drinks. “Does he know what’s been happening here? Did he see the news conference?”

Every time I’ve spoken to him he’s wanted to know chapter and verse: one because he’s a copper and two because he’s a dad. He’s as puzzled as we are but he can also see that we’re been made to look like clowns. Talking of clowns are you still involved with Rudge and Savage?”

Come on, I’ve never been more involved than anyone else on the force. I’ve just been in the wrong place at the right time so to speak. I wouldn’t want to be them. This stuff is out of their league.”

What’s next then? More kiddies with their eyes cut out?”

For Christ’s sake Bill – how can you even say that?” Brian stood abruptly shaking the table and spilling beer across its surface.

Hey! What’s the matter with you? Sit down and be sensible. You know I’m as determined as anyone to stop this going any further but you can’t treat it differently to any other crime. You’ve got to distance yourself from it all, however grim it is. If you don’t you’re buggered and you might as well chuck it in now. I told you when you first joined us; you need an iron box in your head where you lock in the worst stuff. Keep the poison in there by any means which suit you. Come on, drink your pint and I’ll get you another. HPA is it?” While Bill was at the bar the younger man rubbed his hands fiercely over his face and straightened his shoulders as if on parade. Bill looked him over from the bar and when he returned with fresh pints asked another question. “Are you coping okay with what’s happened?”

What’s that supposed to mean Bill? I saw both kiddies. I don’t know what coping means. I’m going to work. I’m doing my job. But I’m not sleeping tidy. You wouldn’t, whatever you say, if you’d seen the mess he’d made of them. Catrin is bearing the brunt of it I know. She’s gone back to her Mam’s for a few days until I get myself straight.”

I didn’t know that. I’m sorry. How serious is it? You know you can get help don’t you.”

Oh yeah and you know that would be the end of the fast track. Catrin’s alright. We’re alright, I’m sure. Like you said I’ve just got to get distance.”

So how are you going to do that?”

Do? I’ll do what my Dadcu used to tell me when I was a screwed up adolescent. Use my brain. It’s what I’ve got see. I can think things through better than some. I’ve seen what’s been done remember. But you’re still a callous bastard.” He grinned sardonically as he drank from the second pint. “It’s the results from the post-mortem next. I guess a lot of hope is being pinned on that but I’m not sure it’ll take us further. If you ask me they’re hoping the clever bugger who’s making us dance will put a foot wrong. Until he does that they’re flummoxed, up shit creek without the necessary.”

Is that what you think or haven’t you been thinking, just feeling?”

I have got some thoughts but I haven’t given them much brain space until now. I should have listened to Dadcu’s voice in my head. I was at both scenes, in the forest and on the common. I know exactly what happened in the news conference in the Club, everyone does. I tell you what has been niggling away at the back of my mind. This might sound stupid and that’s why I’ve not given it much thought. For all the anger at vicious attacks on innocent kids I’m not sure how much passion there was about the deaths.”

That’s crackers. This maniac can’t help himself. He was in a frenzy. It’s obvious isn’t it?”

I think that’s how we are meant to react. There’s a lot of… I don’t really know how to put this. Look I did English Lit for A Level and we had a great teacher. One of the things she used to say to us was try to work out what the writer wanted of us, the readers. What was the intention? How were we meant to react? And then what techniques were being adopted to get us to react as he or she intended? She was trying to get us to stop just being readers enjoying the books but to have a different relationship with them. Well that’s what I want to do if I can grab moments of objectivity about the things that have happened this last week. But then the nightmare begins to close in again. You see Bill… it’s like this, just bear with me. I can’t get over how like scenes from a play or from a graphic novel it all is.”

I don’t get you at all. That don’t make any sense.”

Look – we, the police, would never have been involved if we had not been alerted to where the bodies had been left. They were close to being perfect crimes. Bodies hidden so well they might never have been found and least not until a long time had passed and never consecutively. Who alerted us and how? The news conference was stage managed from who knows where by someone unknown. There was nothing accidental about those crime scenes. They were carefully staged like well designed images of horror. That’s what I’ve been thinking without really acknowledging it. There was no mad passion in the murders. It was all cold and purposeful, meant to shock and disgust. Immediately we started reacting instinctively – everyone not just me. Nothing was done as it should have been. There was an evil bastard about and he had to be stopped. Even if someone in charge had said just wait a moment and think, that would have been disrupted by directions to a second body – another horror show. It was the same in the Club apparently. We keep trying to impose order and routine and somebody else orchestrates disruption and creates chaos. What’s it all about?”

There was no obvious answer to the question and the two men sipped their drinks as cushioned sounds of laughter and conversation provided contradictory background music to their thoughts.

To be continued...

Steve Lamb, December 2017

Previous chapters of Search are available here:
     Part 1; Chapters 1 and 2
     Part 2; Chapters 3, 4 and 5
     Part 3; Chapters 6 and 7
     Part 4; Chapterp 8 and 9

cylchgrawn Cymru Culture magazine
Published by/Cyhoeddwyd gan: Caregos Cyf., 2017

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