The Good Samaritan

Page 29


The compressed gas in the fourth can hissed then effervesced when I pulled back the ring pull. I took a long swig but vomited it up almost immediately across the lap of my jeans and the lawn. I brushed Oscar’s head away when he came to investigate the smell, and I remained there on all fours, heaving until every last drop was out of my pathetic body and dissolving into the grass.
‘I hate you, Charlotte,’ I mumbled. ‘I fucking hate you for what you did to us.’
‘Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.’
My eyes skimmed the website Johnny had emailed me a link to. He was trying to be helpful and make me realise everything I was feeling was typical, but instead it pissed me off. I didn’t need anyone to tell me how to feel. According to the experts the site quoted, those were the five stages of grief. But I was struggling to make it past anger. It advised that the angrier you get, the more ownership you take of that emotion and the faster it’ll disappear. Then you’ll be ready to move on to the next stage.
Bullshit to that. I don’t want to move on. I know where I am, I’m angry because I’m grieving the loss of my son, and I loathe his mother who killed him. If I forgave her and accepted what happened, then where the hell would I be? I’m better off where I am now because this has become the familiar. And the unfamiliar scares me.
My bitterness was that sharp I was struggling to even speak Charlotte’s name. And I’d not even started trying to come to terms with the affair she’d been having with another man that led to their suicide pact. I was festering, and with no one but a ghost to blame I directed my anger towards my parents, her parents, our friends, the police investigating her case and a God I’d stopped believing in.
‘We can’t find any proof that Charlotte and that man were friends or in any kind of relationship before their deaths,’ DS O’Connor informed me. ‘So that might come as a relief.’
‘Oh yes, it’s a huge relief.’ I made no attempt to disguise my sarcasm.
He took a sip from his mug of tea and glanced at my parents as if he expected us to be grateful for that small mercy. I hoped I was making him feel uncomfortable, because he could only retain eye contact with me for the briefest of moments. I remained poker-faced. It made no difference to me now whether Charlotte had been screwing that one man she died with or half of Northamptonshire.
We were sitting around the table in my parents’ dining room as DS O’Connor updated us. I thought I could smell booze on him; Dutch courage before facing the angry widower, I suppose.
Widower. Shit, that’s me. I’m a widower. From husband to widower in a heartbeat.
‘So how did they know each other?’ my father asked.
‘We’re still looking into it,’ he replied.
‘You don’t know?’ I said. ‘It’s your job to find this out and you are still “looking into it”? You’ve had almost three weeks. How much longer do you need?’
‘Let him continue, son.’ Dad gave the detective an apologetic look.
‘As you know, we’ve gone through Charlotte’s mobile phone and landline records and there’s not a single call registered to any numbers that aren’t explainable. We’ve also checked her email addresses and Skype calls, and again there’s nothing. She doesn’t seem to have FaceTimed, communicated on Internet message boards or via any other social media with anyone matching his description. We have spoken to her friends and nobody recalls her ever talking about another man. For all intents and purposes, they were complete strangers until the afternoon they met. The only thing of interest that shows up in her phone records is a number for End of the Line.’
‘What’s that?’ Dad asked.
‘It’s a helpline for people with emotional problems, similar to the Samaritans. Charlotte had made multiple calls over the last few weeks to a central number which diverts to the nearest branch.’
‘We don’t know.’
‘How many are multiple calls?’
‘Almost a hundred.’
‘Jesus,’ I replied, and puffed out a breath. I really didn’t know my wife at all.
‘Then a week before her death, they suddenly stop.’
‘That doesn’t make sense,’ my mum said, and looked at me as if to ask how I could have not known about this when I’d lived with the woman.
‘The afternoon she died,’ I said, ‘she was walking towards the clifftops because she’d made up her mind to die with that man. Her hand looked like it was held to her ear. If she died with that phone, then how come it was found after she died in her car? And who was she calling?’
DS O’Connor gave a limp shrug. ‘She must have had two mobiles. The other man also looked like he was on a call.’
‘To End of the Line?’
‘Unless we can identify him or find his phone, we have no way of knowing.’
‘So let’s find out who they were speaking to at the helpline in the run-up to her death,’ Dad suggested. Johnny leaned against the sideboard and nodded his agreement.
‘It’s not as easy as that, I’m afraid.’ DS O’Connor pinched the top of his nose and closed his eyes. Maybe the buzz from the alcohol was wearing off. ‘End of the Line guarantees complete anonymity to its callers. They cannot see or trace anyone. They’re under no legal obligation to report a person who’s suicidal. Even if someone’s about to do what Charlotte did while speaking to them, they don’t have to call 999. Plus, she could’ve spoken to any of their volunteers across five counties. That’s several hundred people and we don’t have the resources to work on that. I’m sorry to say, if circumstances were different and Charlotte had been . . . unlawfully killed . . . then things would be different.’
‘But because it’s a suicide, it’s not taken as seriously,’ I suggested.
‘Honestly, Ryan, we are taking this very seriously. But the difference is there’s no reason for us to think a crime has been committed here. And unless whoever spoke to Charlotte and the other man comes forward, we’ll probably never know their reasons or learn the nature of their relationship.’
‘What about a moral obligation?’ asked Johnny. ‘Surely if they know why you want to talk to them, they’ll be willing to help us understand what happened?’
‘Then it’s up to them to volunteer that information.’
As the conversation continued and more roadblocks were thrown in our way, I became increasingly frustrated. It was like being behind the wheel of my own car but having someone drive it remotely.
‘There is something else,’ DS O’Connor added. ‘We’ve been approached by a news agency. We have a verbal agreement that they don’t normally report on suicides, but this is different as it was seemingly a pact between two strangers. They’ve had a tip-off and they believe it’s in the public interest to report on it.’
‘Tell them we don’t want to talk,’ I snapped. ‘It’s bad enough that our friends know, let alone the rest of the world.’
‘It might work in our favour though. It could help put names forward as to who the stranger might be.’
‘No,’ I replied adamantly, and slammed my hand down on the table.