Authors: Kerry Wilkinson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Psychological Thrillers, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Psychological
WHEN ROAD RAGE FOLLOWS YOU HOME
by KERRY WILKINSON
Dougie Jamieson is a pillar of the community. He’s won awards for his work with children, his brother is a chief inspector and he runs the neighbourhood watch scheme.
But Esther Pooley sees him differently.
After a road rage incident, she’s convinced he’s the person terrorising her and husband Charlie at their suburban dream home.
As the stakes begin to rise, they must decide if bricks and mortar are worth more than their relationship, with Charlie left with the toughest of all dilemmas. How far will he go to protect his wife?
Copyright © 2013 Kerry Wilkinson
All rights reserved.
Esther Pooley was unable to stop smiling as she carried the box across the threshold of her new home. She clipped the front step for the fifth time in a row, stumbling but righting herself just before falling. The step was something she was sure she’d get used to quickly enough. When Charlie had first started to visit her parents’ house regularly, he would constantly forget to duck as he entered, smacking his head on the solid lampshade and then trying to stop himself from swearing in front of her mum.
With the dexterity of a ballet dancer and the hopping ability of…an ant – did ants hop? – Esther opened the kitchen door with the tip of her toe, bounced inside, and then put the box on the side.
Then she read the label.
Esther picked the box up again with a sigh and headed back through the door towards the stairs.
‘Whoa! Where are you going with that?’
The voice came just in time to stop Esther from walking into her husband. She adjusted her grip on the box so she didn’t drop it.
‘It’s bedroom stuff,’ Esther replied.
Charlie grinned in the way that had made her fall in love with him. With his height, messy blond hair and blue eyes, he could have been like one of those gormless catalogue models who stared aimlessly into the distance. It was his smile and drive that made him something far more interesting.
‘So why did you take it into the kitchen?’ he asked.
‘Because your handwriting is awful.’
Charlie grimaced a little, trying to adjust the box he was carrying. ‘Can you let me through?’
‘Awww… is it a too heavy for you?’
‘Not heavy, just awkward.’
‘You say awkward, I say heavy. Potato, po-tah-to.’
‘Are you going to let me through?’
Esther stepped backwards, rebalancing her own box and shunting the door open with her backside, using significantly less skill, dexterity and dancer-like grace than before. Charlie rushed through and half-lowered, half-dropped the box on the floor. It landed with an ominous rattle.
‘Have you just broken our plates?’ Esther asked, half-seriously.
‘It sounded like it.’
Charlie was wringing his hands from the harshness of the cardboard but smiling again. ‘Wrong, actually. It sounded like
bowl or something. Singular, not plural, which, considering you packed them, means it’s approximately eighty per cent your fault.’
Esther hooked the door open with her foot. ‘Blah, blah, blah. I’ve got no intention of spending an entire Sunday unpacking boxes – so if you can stop throwing them around and get on and help, it’d be much appreciated.’
She returned to the hallway, beaming to herself.
She didn’t look back. ‘What?’
‘I love you.’
Esther turned at the bottom of the stairs, box resting on her knee. She met her husband’s eye as he left the kitchen. ‘So you sodding well should. My mum always told me you were going to be a bad influence, so it’s a good job I ignored her, isn’t it?’
‘She didn’t say that.’
With a wink, Esther continued up the stairs, feeling the awkward creak of the wood underfoot. ‘No, she didn’t.’
The estate agent’s advert had said the house ‘needed modernising’, a polite way of saying there was a hole in the living room wall where there used to be a fireplace, and an upstairs bedroom that looked like a wallpaper bomb had gone off inside. Still, that was why it was cheap – and the only reason they’d been able to afford it.
She put the box down in their bedroom, the only room they’d had time to furnish completely, and then headed back downstairs, where Charlie was wobbling his way through the front door with another box.
,’ Esther teased.
She followed her husband into the kitchen where he plonked the box down on the side with a grunt. He stood, arching and stretching his back with a yawn.
‘That’s age,’ Esther said.
‘All right, kick a man when he’s down.’
Esther crossed the room and wrapped her arms around his midriff, peering out to the back garden, where the sun blazed high from the cloudless azure sky. She could feel the tissue of sweat through his top. ‘This is actually happening, isn’t it?’
‘It’s about time. I don’t think I could’ve stayed living with your parents for much longer.’
‘Me either. My dad’s been telling the same jokes for thirty years.’
‘What’s going to be the first thing you do?’
‘That’s why we chose this place, isn’t it?’
Esther smiled as Charlie wriggled behind her, putting his hands on her hips and squeezing her gently as she rested her head against his breast bone. The window was sporting a thin film of grease and dust, though cleaning it was just another thing that could be added to the list of tasks that needed doing.
‘First, the grass needs cutting,’ Esther replied. ‘Then I can trim back the hedges and get some carrots, cabbage and leeks in. That way they’ll be ready for autumn.’
‘Can you plant something I might actually want to eat?’
‘If you want to slaughter some poor little lambs, then you can do it yourself.’ She reached backwards and squidged his stomach. ‘I think you’ve had enough cake too.’
‘How many more boxes are there to bring in?’
‘About a dozen. I don’t know where we got so much
Esther turned and pecked him on the chin. ‘We best get on with it then. We should at least get some of it unpacked today too.’
They walked out the front of the house towards the hire van. It had already been a long weekend – too much driving, Charlie complaining about the gearbox, unloading, and driving again. A dozen more boxes and they would be officially moved in.
Esther climbed into the back of the van and picked up the nearest box. This time, she checked the writing on the side – ‘BOOKS’ – and figured that was something Charlie could carry. He could also take ‘PANS’ and ‘TOOLS’. She opted for the one labelled ‘CLOTHES’.
As Esther walked back along the drive, she noticed a woman standing on the driveway next-door, watching over the top of the waist-high fence. She looked like she was in her mid-forties, with greying long hair and pinched, slightly burned skin. She smiled, catching Esther’s eye. ‘Lovely day, isn’t it?’
Esther crossed to the fence and put the box down. Behind, she could hear Charlie grunting as he returned to the van for another box.
‘Not so lovely when you’re lugging boxes back and forth.’
‘I saw you going in and out yesterday but didn’t get a chance to come out and say hello. I’m Liz.’
They shook hands and Esther introduced herself, before turning just as Charlie tripped on their front step. ‘That lump over there is my husband, Charlie.’
‘Are you from around here?’
Esther shook her head. ‘No, we’re both from the south coast but Charlie was offered a hotel management job up here. I was only doing a bit of admin work, so we figured it was now or never.’
Liz’s eyebrows rose in surprise. ‘Oh – so you don’t know anyone here?’
‘No, it’s all a bit new. We looked at a few local areas – places with decent schools and so on.’
‘Do you have kids then?’
Esther had revealed a little more than she meant to. ‘No…well, er, not yet…’
Liz nodded towards her own house, apparently unaware of Esther feeling awkward. ‘I’ve got a six-year-old and a four-year-old. Both boys…’ She leaned back slightly, pushing her stomach out. ‘…another one due at Christmas too.’
‘What are their names?’
‘Gary and Mark.’ Liz wiped her brow, flicking the sweat onto the ground. It really was an uncharacteristically beautiful day. ‘It’s not a bad area for kids and it’s generally quite quiet. My husband’s been clearing out the garage for God knows how long, so our garden’s a mess, otherwise the boys would play football out there. The park’s only a short walk and there’s a swimming pool about a mile away.’
‘That sounds nice.’
Liz nodded towards the house. ‘What’s it like inside?’
Esther smirked, knowing what she was implying. ‘Not as bad as you probably think – well, not any longer.’
‘If it’s any consolation, I don’t think William died in there. He couldn’t look after himself near the end, which is why everything was a mess. We saw his sons clearing out all sorts before it went on the market.’
That sounded in line with what Esther and Charlie had been told about the place they were buying. ‘There’s still a bit of work to do but it’s not awful,’ Esther added. ‘At least the heating and the taps work, which is more than can be said for our old flat.’
‘What was that like?’
Esther shuffled on the spot, uncomfortable in the heat but warming to the conversation. She could talk about
flat all day long. ‘Well it was condemned, which should tell you something! We both finished university in the same year but had no money. We ended up moving into this house that had been converted into two flats – but hardly anything worked. Half the electrical sockets would crackle, there were random switches that didn’t control anything, but then the landing light would only work if you left the living room light on. The water would go on and off, and the boiler always broke, so you’d have to boil the kettle to have a shower half the time. We’d get onto the landlord but he was useless. He’d just say, “yeah, yeah, I’ll look into it” but then nothing would ever happen.’
‘How long did you live there?’
Esther peered away towards the van, where Charlie had just picked up another box. She laughed because she couldn’t do anything else when she thought of that hell-hole. It was that or cry and she had long-since gone past that. ‘Almost five years. We lived on the ground floor but they found asbestos in the attic and had the entire place knocked down.’
‘I know. It wasn’t just that, though. The entire plumbing system came from Victorian times and the electrics were described as “an accident waiting to happen”. They knocked down the whole terrace.’ Esther nodded backwards towards the house. ‘Compared to that, re-papering a few walls and doing a bit of painting is nothing.’
Liz’s wrinkles deepened as she cracked into a smile. Her skin was more sunburnt than Esther had first thought, white worry lines eating into the peeling skin around her eyes. ‘I thought my place was messy. I suppose this is a big step up, then?’
‘Yes and no. We’ve been living with my parents for a couple of years. Their house is huge and really nice but we’d been married for two years by the time we moved in with them, so it’s not been great.’
Liz let out a low whistle, before adding: ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean it quite like that. No wonder you’re happy to be moving here.’
‘Pretty much anything would’ve been a step up.’
There was a boyish yelp from Liz’s house and she turned towards the slightly open front door, shaking her head. ‘Don’t have boys,’ she said.
‘Ha! I’ll see what I can do.’
‘If you’re free next week, feel free to pop over for a brew and a natter.’
‘I might just do that.’
Esther picked up the box of clothes and was about to turn when she heard a doof-doof-doof-rhythm thumping from a speaker at the far end of their street. With an engine’s roar and a squeal of tyres, a small hatchback pounded its way along the road. The two women watched as the squat car screamed past, accelerating into the distance and howling around the bend.
‘Isn’t it a twenty mile-an-hour limit around here?’ Esther asked.
Liz shrugged. ‘I suppose that’s the only problem with living here. It’s generally quiet but because we’re sandwiched between two main roads, loads of people use this as a cut-through.’ She nodded towards her house again where a young voice was calling for her. ‘I always tell my boys to be careful – but someone’s going to get hurt one of these days.’
Esther fiddled with the radio trying to find a station with a playlist that didn’t make her want to tear her own ears off. If it wasn’t the thump-thump-thump of a headache waiting to happen, cunningly disguised as ‘music’, then it was some auto-tuned pre-pubescent warbling about love. Either she’d grown old or, far more likely, no-one had recorded a decent song at any point in the past decade.