The Monster Man of Horror House (10 page)

BOOK: The Monster Man of Horror House
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Plaster
and dust rained down on me and I braced myself to take his full weight when he
landed on top of me, but he didn’t pitch up as expected. Instead, he got
himself waylaid up near the light bulb as the attic sought to hang onto his
middle age spread for ignoring its planks these past six years.

My
father kicked violently, ripping jacket, shirt and skin as he fought to drop
free and at last I had my chance to escape. I crawled out from under the tall
boy and jumped to my feet, racing for the stairs and the front door when my
conscience got the better of me.

What
was I doing?

I
was running from an assault on my life by a homicidal maniac, that was what I
was doing?

But
seriously, what was I doing?

If
I left now I might well get away. I might escape my father, escape the police
and escape all this horror to live a long and fruitful life, but what of the others?

What
of Shandy?

What
of Juney?

What
of the girls whose names I didn’t even know?

And
what of the girls yet to come?

I
was in the unique, if unenviable, position of being able to do something about
this – but not if I ran. If I ran, I could undoubtedly save myself. But if
I stayed to confront my father, I could save others. And who knew, maybe even
my own soul.

So,
halfway to the front door, I stopped on the stairs, turned back and sprinted up
and into the attic once more.

My
father was still there when I arrived – just about. He’d managed to claw
most of his jacket away from the splinter that had snared it and was now just a
rusty nail from freedom. In that instant I knew what I had to do and snatched up
the discarded hammer from the dust-covered pile of boards.

My
father saw me approaching and struggled yet more frantically, barking at me to
desist and tearing all sorts of new pockets in his mid-week working tweed.

“I
am your father! I am your father!” he was shouting, as if this counted for anything
these days. He held up a hand to shield his head from the dreaded blow, but
continued fighting with the timbers as he channelled his mania towards
self-preservation.

It
was at this moment that I finally saw him for what he was – a pathetic,
marauding beast who’d fuelled a lifetime of depravity on the deprivations and disorders
of his own formative years. It was sad, but even up until the last day or two,
I’d still looked up to my father because of all the obstacles he’d overcome.
But it was here and now that I realised he hadn’t overcome any obstacles at all.
He’d just chosen to take his place amongst them.

With
one final yank of cloth my father was suddenly free, but he wasn’t about to
escape his responsibilities a moment longer. I brought the hammer down,
smacking and smashing with all my might until I’d driven several brass tacks
into the central joist, pinning to it my father’s regimental tie – the
one he was still wearing.

“What
are you doing?” he choked, suddenly dangling over an eight-foot drop with only six
inches of silk to play with.

I
tossed the hammer through the hole and watched it clatter into the tall boy
below.

“I’m
going now father. I’m leaving,” I told him. “I should hate you for what you’ve
done, but I’m not going to – because I’m not like you; you or the
Reverend. So I’m going to go and I’ll leave the Fens Strangler to one last
strangling – his most worthy of all.”

“No
wait, you can’t do this. God, help me!” he appealed, but God and I were on the
same page as far as this particular lost sheep was concerned, and we bid him
adieu and left him to his contemplations.

I
don’t know how long he clung on to that beam for; a few minutes or a few hours,
but his strength would have eventually left him and the drop he’d cheated for
more than twenty years finally caught up with him in a snap.

 
 

Chapter 4:

The flicker
of interest

“That’s cold, dude. You killed you own dad,” Farny commented.

“No,
my father killed himself,” I reminded them, knocking my pipe against the drum I
was sitting on and digging a match around inside the bowl to scratch out the
last of the sticky ash. “I just coppered his tie against a joist. He was the
one who actually let go and that’s what hanged him, not me,” I said. This was
admittedly a somewhat sticky legal point but one to which I’d clung to for nigh
on fifty years. After all, it’s triggering the trapdoor that kills a condemned
man isn't it? Not the looping a noose around his neck.

“But
couldn’t he just take his tie off?” Barry asked, his face a sweet jar of horror
and fascination.

“Not
able to, not hanging all precarious like that by his fingernails as he was. And
he weren’t able to pull himself up either because his tie was stopping him from
getting over the beam – even if he had been strong enough. No, he was just
stuck there, neither up nor down, with gravity pulling at his legs and his necktie
tightening inch-by-inch,” I painted as graphically as I could, stretching my
own neck at the very thought.

“Bullshit!”
Tommy finally hawed, breaking the spell I’d cast over his little mates; “I’ve
never even heard of no Fens Strangler.”

“Haven’t
you?” I asked.

“No
I haven’t. He’s making it all up, it would be in all the papers if he’d done
something like that,” he reasoned.

“It
was,” I said.

“Well
I never saw nothing about it,” he insisted.

“Hmm.
Well what about Ian Brady?” I asked.

“Who?”

“Myra
Hindley?”

“What
are you talking about?”

“John
Profumo?”

“Uh?”

I
continued in this vein for a few more turns, asking Tommy for his thoughts on the
Great Train Robbers, Cliff Richard, Stanley Matthews, Bill & Ben and Doctor
Beeching’s controversial plans for restructuring the country’s railway networks,
winning a series of gormless gawps until it felt like I was quizzing a confused
goldfish.

“Look,
I dunno, do I!” he finally snapped before going on to answer his own question
by pointing out he was only twelve, not some “fucking dinosaur from the olden
days” like
what I was
. “All I’m
saying is that he’s talking bullshit,” he maintained, “that you’re old man was some
sort of serial killer and that you killed him! Why didn’t you go to the police
then?”

“Well
he couldn’t, could he?” Ginger chipped in on my side. “Like he said, he
would’ve got the blame for them other killings just like his dad said.”

“Thank
you Colin, quite right,” I said, rewarding him with his real name instead of
his optional colour coding.

“Well
what you telling us for then, that’s what I want to know, if we could just go
to the police and tell them what you’ve told us?” Tommy demanded.

“I
can hear the conversation right now,” I told him. “‘Excuse me officer, but
while we was burgling this old man’s house last night, he told us that his dad
was a famous mass murderer and that he hanged him. What’s that? Yes, that’s
right, we was burgling his house, why do you ask?’” I hammed, draining the
colour from three out of four faces.

“Yeah,
we can’t do that,” Farny agreed, momentarily muting his mates.

Barry
took the lead from his brother, peppering me with questions, though his were
the questions of a boy wanting to know all, not a cocky little git trying to
pick holes in my story.

“So
what happened to your dad, like? Did he die?”

“That
he did. I ran away to sea the next day and he was found a few days later. All the
papers speculated that he’d gone loopy and hanged himself over this young girl
he was having an affair with.”

“What
young girl?” Farny asked.

“Shandy,”
I told them. “The press put them together with a little help from Lincolnshire
Constabulary and they all figured out she’d either been blackmailing my father
or had quaffed his medal for favours received so that when their business came
to light following her arrest, he hanged himself to avoid the scandal. Well that’s
what respectable folks did back then when they were found out to be not quite so
respectable as first thought.”

“But
didn’t the police wonder why you’d done a runner? Why didn’t they find you?”
Barry asked.

“They
couldn’t,” I shrugged. “As I said I skipped the country a couple of days later,
working my passage out of their reach on a freight liner sailing out of Southampton
and ended up on the far side of the world.” I took a blow on my pipe and looked
back at myself as I was then: young, feckless and unlawfully ugly, much like
the boys in front of me. If only I’d known then what I knew now I would’ve
turned straight back and handed myself into the first Bobby to wander up our
gangplank. But I didn’t. Much to my regret, I didn’t.

“No
I jumped ship when we docked in Jakarta, blew my pockets in the bars and
knocking shops of that fair city and eventually fell in with the crew of a tramp
steamer working their way around the South China Seas.”

“What’s
a tramp steamer?” Barry asked.

“It’s
a boat,” I said. “A cargo boat of no fixed route, it goes where the money is and
makes its own schedule.” I reached into the darkest recesses of my brain and
felt for the name I’d not uttered in some forty-eight years. “The
SS Almayer’s Folly
.”

Just
saying her name again brought back a torrent of memories that whipped me like a
Force Eight squall. Horrible images pressed forward from whence I’d buried them
many moons ago, unleashed by my utterance of that accursed name to chill my
blood and remind me why I was still here to recount this tale: Freddy Bolton’s dying
screams; Rupak Singh’s desperate lunge into the waters; Captain Schmitt’s selfless
bravery. These images shook me to the core and over-shadowed what had come
before and what had come since. But through them all, the worst memories of all
were the ungodly howls of Tran Van Khan as he paced the decks and reduced our fine
crew to chum.

The
lads looked at me quizzically when they noticed I’d turned to stone.

“Are
you alright?” Barry asked several times before I finally heard him.

“Mmm?
Oh yes, sorry. Just remembering something,” I said, as I took another blow on
my pipe and lifted my eyes again. “Bad seas they were boys.

“Bad
seas.”

 

PART 2:

THE KILLING
MOON

 

i

The
SS Almayer’s Folly
was listed out
of Colombo but it hadn’t seen the place in years. It was a four-hundred-foot-long
floating barnacle sanctuary with rusted masts and a crooked stack in the centre
of its deck that belched out blackness night and day.

Her
Captain was a Dutchmen, or at least that’s what he claimed to be, but the mistrust
of strangers and Waffen-SS Luger he carried about him at all times suggested an
alternative heritage. The rest of the crew were made up of Indians, Thais,
Chinamen and No-Fixed-Aboders. There were eighteen of us in all. Freddy Bolton was
the only other Englishman on board and he brought me onto the ship when I tried
tapping him up on the dockside after I’d done all my silver on brem.

Captain
Schmitt wasn’t keen to take on another new face at first, not even one as young
and as bloodshot as mine, but I guess I won him over when I failed to answer a
single question during my interview.

“Running
away from something are you boy?” he deduced.

“No,
I just… can’t go home for a while,” I more or less admitted.

The
Captain nodded, as if he knew the situation only too well. “I can promise you only
hard work and poor pay, ” he said, just as my headmaster had done several years
earlier after my eleven-plus results had been posted. “These are my terms, take
them or leave them.”

“I’ll
take them,” I agreed, wondering if I should ask for half my wages in brem,
seeing as that’s where they were going to go anyway.

“Okay.
Go stow your stuff below and sober up. We’re casting off in five hours.”

*

The Captain was as good as his word; the work was backbreaking in and around
port, loading and unloading our payloads, while at sea the mop, bucket and
barnacle scraper never left my hands. And it was skilled work too; scrape off
the wrong barnacle and we could’ve ended up at the bottom of the ocean, so I
had to get to know her knocks and dinks well enough to run up the side of her
in bad weather, but get to know her I did, and little by little I began to earn
my good Captain’s trust.

Freddy
had been on the
Folly
for almost two
years and despite being less than twenty-two, he was as salty a sea dog as ever
to weigh an anchor. I guess it was only natural that it was to he I grew the closest
because of where we were from, but still there was something I didn’t entirely trust
about him. He was open and jolly and generous with his tobacco, but he had a
temper too and could bawl me out over the slightest of things without warning.
At nights, we’d lie in our bunks slating the rest of the crew and smoking
ourselves to sleep, but rarely would our tattle ever venture near England. I didn’t
notice this at first, I guess I was just relieved not to be pressed on my own
particular problems, but after a couple of voyages I became acutely aware of
the lack of personal histories floating about the ship. Of course I wasn’t
about to rock any boats, least of all the one I was working but it did teach me
to sleep with one eye on the door.

BOOK: The Monster Man of Horror House
4.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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