Authors: Nikki McWatters
Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers
Two hundred dollars lighter, I watched the two shadows walk down my driveway. Those teenage vultures had swarmed into my life a couple of months ago and were back now to finish me off and pick clean my bones. I had the very revolting feeling that this was not going to go away in a hurry. The small scrap of paper with the girl’s phone number was in my pocket being kneaded by my sweaty fingers. But one phone call would be the beginning of a spiralling situation that could see me lose my entire life and everything I held dear. I knew that. I’m not proud of myself but to be completely truthful, I considered running after those girls and strangling them. If I’d thrown them from the escarpment, it would all just dissolve into a meaningless threat. Of course, I wasn’t serious. It was just a fleeting thought. My next, was suicide. But I couldn’t do that to the girls I
love, Olive and Meg.
I knew I was responsible for my own selfish and hedonistic behaviour. I took some cocaine that night and drank too much and put up very little resistance when that blonde seduced me. Who was ever going to believe me when I told them how predatory those two young things had been? Not in any way, shape or form had I ever considered for even a second that those girls were teenagers.
I felt sorry for myself. The thought that I might have a child growing in the womb of that child was horrifying. This would destroy Meg. This would be the end of my marriage, the end of my career.
I hurried back to the bathroom beside the laundry and threw up, cheesy vomit pooling in my nostrils. My life, my career, my family, it would all go to hell if this girl opened her mouth and I sensed that she was trouble. To be completely honest, I didn’t even remember having sex with that girl. The blonde. Yep I did vaguely remember her bouncing about on top of me and she was no novice that’s for sure. And I remembered the two girls putting on some tawdry act…. but the brunette? I was struggling hard to recall that. She’d been there but as I remember it, she’d been peripheral not overly engaged. I’d woken from a haze at some stage to find her going down on me. I didn’t want her to but my body was reacting like it usually does and I didn’t put up as much resistance as I should have. But for the life of me I couldn’t remember having had sex with her. I was going to have my life turned upside down for a casual tumble I didn’t even remember.
I know I should have gone to my lawyer or approached the girl’s family to make some arrangement. But the horror of the situation paralysed me and I did the worst thing I could have done, short of hanging myself or killing the girls. I did nothing. On some infantile level, I hoped that if I pretended the girls had never come to my door, that maybe it could all be pushed away and forgotten, like a bad dream. Like I’d done at the end of tour when I totally erased that night and tried to convince myself that it had never happened. I was in denial. But the problem didn’t go away. Of course it didn’t.
‘Honey, can you bring me a cup of tea?’ I called out from bed.
I was feeling totally exhausted that day. I didn’t feel like writing any words. Nausea and haemorrhoids are not the greatest for inspiration. I was still waiting to hear back from my agent about what she thought of my last manuscript and waiting on word from the children’s publisher about my ‘Detour’ novel. So, I was justifying a lazy, non-work day in bed. No point writing more while the other projects were treading water. I swear I can write a novel quicker than a publisher can read it. The publishing industry moves at a glacial pace.
Arghh. It was so nice to have Chris home again. I hated him being away on tour. I worried about all the air travel although I know that’s stupid. Rock stars and plane crashes. Yeah, stupid! And it wasn’t good for Olive. She missed him terribly. They had such a good father-daughter bond. I was eight months pregnant and felt like a zeppelin dragging myself through the days. It was tougher than my last one. When I say last one, I mean Olive’s pregnancy. The last one that got that far along. I try hard not to think about the other times. The ones that didn’t last. But while I was tired and achy and generally schlumpy, everything was looking good. We had a little boy on board if the ultrasound was correct. All systems going strong. He was an active little bugger. Kicked the hell out of me.
‘No sugar,’ I yelled out, as if Chris might have forgotten my attempt to be a picture of health during this pregnancy.
Autumn in the mountains was a beautiful time of the year. The corn-flaked leaves drifted through the cooler breezes and the air was thin and crisp. I liked to take in a bush-walk at least every other day. But with Chris home it was easier just to hang about, lazing, snuggling and talking about life, the universe and everything.
I opened the laptop beside me, because it didn’t exactly fit on my lap at that stage and I checked my mail. Nothing. Just spam and junk. I deleted it all, still ever optimistic that I’d hear some good news from my agent or get a royalty statement or a request for an interview or God forbid, a bite from a film company who wanted to film one of my tales. Now, that would be nice. But that morning, it was all just rubbish.
Next I checked my blog stats. I got two looks from Peru. It’s a silly game I played. It became kind of addictive. I kept a list of all the countries of the world and crossed them off as they appeared on my blog stats. Childish. Writers find a myriad of ways to distract themselves from writing. It’s hard when your office is your bed and you sit in your p.j’s all day with no one else about. Just your computer. So the internet becomes your pool of workmates and I checked in to the Sydney Morning Herald for news updates, Facebook, twitter and blog stats and kindle book sales and online reviews of my books in between every chapter of text I wrote.
At school the teachers always tell Olive she needs to learn to
manage her distractions
. What hope does she have when I can’t concentrate without getting some Facebook updates every half an hour through the day?
It’s worse when Chris is away and while he usually calls in everyday and Skypes with Olive for hours, it still gets lonely up here in the big cold mountain house. I miss the city. The rat-race. The friend network, the business lunches and publishing meetings. But when Chris’s last album went global and sold millions, we started getting so much unwanted attention from fans and the media. Even the dreaded paparazzi. Chris is a pretty private person despite the stage persona. At home, he’s a slippers and movie sort of guy. Likes to poke about the kitchen concocting incredible dishes. I often joke that he should start a rock and roll themed cooking show. Maybe he will now.
‘Here you go, gorgeous girl,’ he announced, arriving by my bed, putting down the cup and saucer and kissing the top of my head.
‘You look like shit,’ I smiled up at him. ‘More nightmares? What’s that about?’
‘I don’t know. My guts are all over the place too…I’ve got the runs and then I’m all bound up…’
‘Enough …enough,’ I interrupted, squeezing the image out of my brain. ‘I don’t need bowel updates. Go to a bloody doctor.’
‘Maybe,’ he shrugged.
He must have been getting sick, I thought. It worried me because usually Chris is cast iron healthy. He was great when he got home from tour. He was relaxed and so happy and chilled out but that last week or so before that day, he’d been stressed, not sleeping, bags like black hammocks under his eyes. He’d been snappy and irritable. I even pulled the X-Box out of storage in the garage and he was not even interested in playing that. He jumped every time the phone rang and I thought he was having some kind of psychological adjustment thing after being on the road for four months or so and then back to chilled out Leura with only the sound of crickets and birds to listen to. I don’t think he’d even picked up a guitar or touched the piano since he got home.
‘I listen to you whinge about your haemorrhoids,’ he joked and I threw a pillow at him.
‘With a bit luck that will all be over soon. Thirty-three days to go,’ I said, rubbing my huge round belly.
Chris put his head down on my stomach and listened. I rubbed a hand through his chestnut curls. I loved his hair. It was the first thing that attracted me to him way back in high-school. He played and sang in the school band and he was so shy it was painful but when he was on stage, his voice soared and he lit up like a Christmas tree. He had star quality even back then.
We’d gone to university together, me to do a Bachelor of Arts with an English Literature Major and Chris to do music but I’d fallen pregnant with Olive halfway through my degree and so after she was born we quit and Chris started playing piano bars and did session work until Olive started school in Newtown and then he started up the
Drop Dead Gorgeous
band and the rest, as they say, is history. Three years later they’d been on the
supported U2 and stayed chart-toppers for months on end. Shy little Chris became one of the biggest rock names in the world.
‘I think I heard him hiccup,’ Chris smiled back up at me and I patted his warm, hairy cheek. He’d let his beard grow in after going off tour. If he left it much longer he’d be looking like a Wookie.
‘You’re going to shave that face before you meet your son, you know?’ I grinned. ‘You’ll scare him and make him feel inadequate because chances are he’ll be pretty hairless.’
‘I will. I’m going to the shed to pot those winter herbs and then let out the chickens.’
‘Let Olive collect the eggs,’ I reminded him.
She always got mighty shitty if someone did it before her. Those chickens were like her little babies. She loved them almost as much as she loved Ollie, our old dog. Ollie is a sheepdog with a flatulence problem.
I heard the front door close and went back to my computer distractions. Facebook. I had a friend request. It was Sarah from school. She hadn’t changed. A couple of notifications that I couldn’t be bothered with. No messages. I scrolled through looking at everyone’s updates. I really hate the schmaltzy kitten pictures and bird shots. They’re stupid. .
I stopped at one photo and reached for my glasses. It was a little blurry. It was a link that had been posted on my timeline the night before. Chris’s song ‘Leaving’ and someone had messed with the album cover photo. It was posted by someone called Leisel Franks. Did I know her? I vaguely recalled that we had some mutual friends and that she’d said she knew me from a book launch. I’d accepted her friend request a few weeks earlier. I looked closer and realised what was wrong. It was a picture of Chris, just like on the latest cover, but the other band members had been replaced by terribly cut-out pictures of little girls. Little pageant sort of girls like in redneck America. They looked like dolls and underneath the title of the song had been replaced with the word Paedophile. Shit. That was sick.
Someone had commented on it saying that Chris likes to ….well you know…with little girls. Not funny. So not funny. I instantly defriended that weird Leisel woman, thinking she was clearly a deranged fan. And I looked up the person who commented, who was clearly another troll because ‘Dolly Parton’ was obviously not her real name and she had no friends. I hated this nonsense. It happened every couple of years. Most of the fans are nice but once in a while you find a fruit-loop who can mess with your sanity and topple the equilibrium of your home life. I decided that I wasn’t even going to bother Chris with this. He was fragile and I knew he would be so hurt by it. He doesn’t understand when fans turn psycho.
I heard the door. A knock. He’s locked himself out, I thought. Dufus. He could always come around the back but no, I remembered it was early and the back door would still be locked. Damn.
I rolled out of the warmth and comfort of my bed and waddled to my dressing gown hanging over the door, slipped my ugh boots on and shuffled down the stairs to the front door.
‘You have to press the little lock when you….’ I said as I opened the heavy wooden door but shut-up abruptly when I came face to face with two heavy set men in bad suits. One flashed a badge at me.
‘Detective Simmonds from the Sex Crimes Squad,’ he said, his black moustache bouncing, his voice flat and unemotional. ‘Is Christopher John Bergin home, Madam?’
I felt the blood run from my face and gripped the door way hard.
‘What is this in regard to?’
‘A complaint has been made and we would like to interview Mr Bergin.’
‘My husband is in the chook house. Around the side of the house,’ I said hoarsely, pointing south.
They nodded and left and I felt my bladder lose control and a warm stream of urine run down my leg as I hobbled back to the bedroom, leaving a trail behind me.
Sex Crimes? My blood thickened and slowed into a dull thud. Sex crimes? Not my Chris. I couldn’t believe this was not happening.
Jesus. The guy had some money, I’ll say that much. Whenever we get an allegation against a well-off celebrity, alarm bells will always ring. That’s not to say that where there’s smoke there’s not fire. Quite the opposite. I’ve rarely investigated an allegation of sexual misconduct that didn’t at least have something that smelled bad behind it. Even the false allegations, and I’ve seen a few, even those seem to target defendants that have dubious histories outside the scope of our investigations. This guy was a rock-star, the complainant was a teenage girl. It was pretty cut and dry I reckoned, but my first impression of the girl was that she was a sly one. She was keeping the baby and that was a strange decision for a start, at her age. And she was already talking compensation and that was also a strange thing, for her age.
‘Jeez, check out the view,’ Osterloh said, jabbing me in the arm.
It was spectacular and I gave a low whistle of approval. That view didn’t come cheap.
‘You gotta feel sorry for that wife,’ I said. ‘She looks ready to pop. Talk about crap timing. Bad time to cheat on the missus.’