Authors: Diney Costeloe
A man murders his wife and goes on the run. In the most dangerous decision of her life, a lonely young mother takes pity on him and offers him refuge. The man is Jimmy Randall, who, in
The Throwaway Children
, murders Rita and Rosie’s mother, Mavis, before disappearing. This is the story of what happened next, as he borrows his father’s army uniform and masquerades as a soldier, fooling lonely Elsie Tarrant into thinking she has found a wonderful new lover, little knowing that he is a wanted man and a murderer.
She was dead, no doubt about that. She lay on the kitchen floor, her eyes staring up at him, the blood still pooling round her neck. She was dead and he’d killed her.
Jimmy Randall looked down at his wife, Mavis, and was suddenly consumed with fury.
Stupid bitch! Stupid, fucking bitch. She was dead on the floor and he’d killed her, but it had been her fault. All... her... fault! He hadn’t meant to kill her, silly bitch, but she shouldn’t have grabbed the knife. He was only trying to take the knife off her! She shouldn’t have pushed him away neither, screaming that she’d never let him touch her again. Never touch her again? She was his wife, for Christ’s sakes. He was entitled. So what if he had been to the pub with Charlie and had a few? No harm in that. He’d had a hard day and earned a drink or two. He hadn’t spent the day moping at home with only a baby to look after. Mavis should have had his tea on the table when he got in. What good was it being tied to one woman if she couldn’t even have his tea ready when he came home? If she pushed him away when he was in the mood for a good fuck? It was all her fault.
Any man would’ve lost it, any man who
a man and boss in his own house. No man would want to come home and find his wife drooping at the kitchen table, wailing and dripping tears. Any man would be tired of her miseries, moaning on and on about stuff that had been decided between them months ago.
Jimmy strode up and down the tiny kitchen muttering imprecations. ‘Stupid bloody cow! Stupid fucking bitch! All your fault... and now you’re dead.’ He reached down and grabbed the knife, pulling it free with another gush of blood and tossing it away so that it slithered across the floor and disappeared under the gas cooker.
He turned his back on the rag-doll body and for the first time looked down at himself. He was covered in blood where the first spurt had sprayed him as they’d struggled for the knife. It was all over his clothes; he could feel it sticky on his face and when he held out his hands he saw it on his palms, bloodied again when he’d pulled the knife free. A faint sound came from the body, like the exhalation of a sigh, and Jimmy spun round, terror in his eyes. Christ! She wasn’t dead! Mavis wasn’t dead after all! But then he saw that she was, still lying in a crumpled heap on the floor, her eyes still staring up at him, the wound in her throat still leaking blood out onto the lino.
Think! He had to think! Still fuddled with drink it was difficult, even more difficult with Mavis staring up at him like that, and he turned abruptly away. What happens if somebody comes knocking at the door? There’d be no escape if he were found here, with Mavis dead on the floor and him covered in her blood.
Shit! he thought. I gotta get out of here before someone comes.
He looked at the clock on the kitchen shelf and saw that it was barely nine o’clock. Still, it was unlikely anyone would come calling at this time of a winter’s night. Surely he had time to get himself cleaned up and escape into the darkness. With luck he’d have disappeared and be well away before anyone found what was left of Mavis.
With one final glance at his dead wife, he resolutely turned his back and walked out of the kitchen, closing the door firmly behind him.
His heart was beating fast, but he made himself breathe slowly and deeply. He needed to calm down while he decided what to do next. He had to get out of the house and away, so he had to get cleaned up – his face, his hands, his clothes. Yes, clean clothes were a must, and Jimmy went upstairs to find some. When he reached the bathroom and saw his face in the mirror, smeared with Mavis’s blood, he shuddered. He had to get it off, to clean every vestige of her away. He shed his blood-stained clothes, leaving them in a stinking heap on the bathroom floor, and turned on the taps. The geyser woompfed into life and he climbed into the bath, scrubbing himself all over in an effort to remove every speck of blood. The water swirled pink around his feet as he sluiced Mavis’s blood down the plug-hole, cleaning his body as it hadn’t been cleaned for many a day, and when he stepped out, dripping, onto the bathroom floor, pink droplets still dripped onto his discarded clothes.
Wrapped in a towel, Jimmy hurried into the bedroom. He opened drawers and pulled out the carefully ironed shirts Mavis had laid there. In moments he was dressed in freshly laundered clothes from the skin out. He grabbed his grip, cramming into it some more clothes and his de-mob suit. He’d have to travel light and travel fast. He’d need money, though, and reluctantly he picked up his discarded trousers, delving into the pockets to retrieve his wallet. Having done so, he tossed them aside and went back downstairs.
He switched off the lights before cautiously opening the front door and taking a quick look along the street. The night was cold, frost sparkling on the pavement, with a new moon and a sky bright with stars. The street was empty and without a backward glance at what he’d left behind Jimmy Randall stepped out into the night.
He walked along the road, his feet echoing on the pavement in the night-time stillness. His heart was pounding as he fought the urge to run.
Don’t run! Mustn’t run! he chanted in his head as he strode away from Ship Street. He knew a running man was far more likely to be remembered than a man walking steadily along the road, a man on his way home to his wife and kids and an evening by the fire. Even so, caution kept him in the shadows, his hat pulled well down over his brow, his scarf muffling his neck and the lower half of his face, as if against the cold.
Nothing unusual in that, he thought as he hurried long the nearly empty streets; and he was right. It wasn’t late, not yet ten o’clock, and the few people he did meet paid him no heed at all, each far too intent in getting home out of the cold.
When he’d left the house, he’d had no plan as to what to do or where to go. All he’d known then was that he must put as much distance as he could between himself and the mess he’d left behind. But now, as he walked, he began to give real thought about what to do next. He had some money in the wallet he’d retrieved from his blood-soaked trousers, but there wasn’t much of it. He needed more, much more.
Stupid! he thought. He knew Mavis kept money in a jar on the kitchen mantelpiece, coins saved for the gas and electricity meters – he’d often raided it when he’d found himself short of a bob for a pint or two. Stupid! He should have emptied that before he left, but, unnerved, he hadn’t returned to the kitchen where his wife’s body lay, staring lifelessly at the ceiling. The thought, however, gave him an idea; his dad had a similar jar on his kitchen shelf. So Jimmy turned his steps towards Leyton Street, to his childhood home where his father lived still. He wanted money and he’d get it from his father. He quickened his pace. Time was passing and he needed to get off the streets... away from curious eyes.
When he reached the house he found it in darkness. His dad must be in bed already. Pulling his keys from his pocket, Jimmy let himself in, closing the front door softly behind him. No need to wake the old man – all he wanted was the money. He crept through the dark hall and into the kitchen, only putting on the light once he’d pulled the door to behind him. There it was, the old tobacco jar, standing on the mantelshelf as it always had. Jimmy reached for it and tipped it out onto the table. The coins chinked as he scooped them up into his pocket. Not as much as he’d hoped, only about ten bob in silver. He looked round the kitchen, hoping to see his dad’s jacket hanging on the back of the door, his wallet in its pocket, but no such luck. Jimmy muttered an oath under his breath. The old man must have taken it upstairs with him; he’d have to wake him up after all.
As he turned back to the door, it flew open and there was his father, his striped pyjamas hanging off his skinny frame, brandishing a hefty truncheon, ready to strike.
‘Shit, Dad!’ Jimmy cried, leaping backwards and raising his arms to ward off the blow. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’
Sidney Randall stayed his swing but, still holding his truncheon at the ready, came into the room.
‘Protecting meself.’ He eyed Jimmy suspiciously. ‘What you doing here?’
‘Had a row with Mavis,’ Jimmy improvised quickly. ‘She’s thrown me out. Just came here to get me head down for the night.’
Sidney didn’t believe him for one moment. He knew Jimmy too well to believe that he’d left home because his mousy wife had told him to, but all he said was, ‘And thought you’d help yerself to me gas money.’
‘Didn’t want to wake you, Dad. Just need a few bob for a couple of days. Pay you back, ’course I will.’
‘Yeah, ’course you will.’ Sidney pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, but he kept the truncheon across his knees. He looked up at Jimmy, still standing over him, and said, ‘For Christ’s sake, son, sit down and tell me what’s going on.’
Reluctantly Jimmy sat down and looked across at him. Though he’d aged a good deal recently, Sidney had always been a force to be reckoned with and Jimmy knew he wouldn’t part with the money in his wallet easily.
‘Nothing much. Just the silly cow moaning on about them girls. Nothing new there, is there?’
‘’Spect she misses them.’
‘They’re nothing to do with her no more. We got young Ricky now. He’s the one we have to think about. Them girls is being properly looked after in that EVER-Care home. They’re better off there. They didn’t want to live with me and I didn’t want them neither.’ Jimmy rested his hands on the table and looked across at his father. ‘Simple as that.’
Sidney nodded, but his eyes were fixed on Jimmy’s hands. He could see blood on them. Jimmy, following his gaze, looked down at his hands and saw the blood on his palm, along his fingers and round his fingernails. Cursing inwardly, he snatched them away, shoving them under the table out of sight. He’d thought his hands were clean after he’d scrubbed himself down in the bath back in Ship Street, but he must have got the blood on his hands again when he’d retrieved his wallet from the bloodied trousers he’d left on the floor.
There was a long silence. Sidney was getting on, he’d lived through two world wars and little surprised him any more. He knew, well enough, that his son was a violent man, and he’d had reservations about his marriage to that war-widow, but who was he to tell Jimmy what to do? No point. Jimmy wouldn’t have listened to him. Probably, Sidney had thought, he’d do the opposite out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Now here Jimmy was, blood literally on his hands, stealing Sidney’s gas money. He had to be on the run. He must have injured Mavis quite badly to have lost his nerve and run away.
‘So?’ Sidney said at length, still shifting the truncheon around in his hands. He could be violent too. There’d been occasions when he’d had to slap his own wife around a bit and he recognised the pent-up aggression he could see in his son’s face. ‘What happened?’
‘Silly bitch grabbed a knife. She was trying to kill me. It was self-defence. I tried to take it from her but she wouldn’t let go. Stabbing at me she was. And then she fell, and the knife went into her. Blood everywhere.’