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Authors: KC Acton

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BOOK: WHYTE LIES
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36

The brutal murders of Isabelle English and the Gleesons sent shock waves through Killarney. The tight-knit community prided themselves on their hospitality and delighted in making visitors feel welcome. The murders were a personal affront to their reputation, and a betrayal of the trust that guests had placed in them and their town. Doors, which had always been on the latch, were shut and bolted. People retreated into themselves, not knowing who to trust.

Journalists and paparazzi descended on Killarney. The town, which had always been associated with beauty, generosity, and hospitality, was portrayed as a wild, savage place where innocent people weren’t safe, and where a crazed serial killer hid among  them.

A tangled web of rumour and intrigue emerged. Neighbours eyed each other suspiciously, wondering what the other was hiding, as the murder investigation uncovered secrets that were better left forgotten.

A poisonous atmosphere permeated the town in the aftermath of the murders. Faith was well aware that the stain of the murders would blot the countryside for as long as the killer roamed free and remained unpunished. The unsolved murders and the presumption that the killer was local made it impossible for the community to grieve. They would not have the small comfort afforded by justice and retribution until he was caught. The fact that he was out there, somewhere, only exacerbated their pain.

Music no longer flowed from the pubs. Idle banter and chit-chat dissipated. Darkness pervaded the town, and the condemnation within the silence was deafening.

 

37

“That’s not my Isabelle,” whispered Peter English. His brown eyes were bloodshot from crying and lack of sleep. His short, white hair stood on end, uncombed. He and his wife had caught an overnight flight from New York to Shannon, and then driven the hundred miles to Killarney. “That’s not my daughter. It can’t be her.” The shattered remains on the cold morgue table bore little resemblance to his beautiful girl.

“I’m so sorry,” said Faith. She didn’t know what else to say.

Molly English clung to her husband and wept. He rested his head on her short blonde curls.

“I want you to find the bastard who did this,” said Peter.

“I’ll find him,” promised Faith. “Whatever it takes, I’ll get him.”

 

***

 

Faith stormed into the incident room and slammed her bag on Reilly’s desk. He almost jumped out of his skin. Silence descended on the team as they turned to see what was wrong. “Would someone like to explain to me why Isabelle English’s family had to learn about her murder on the fucking news? I’ve just had another ear-bashing from the Super. She’s not impressed, and quite frankly, neither am I.”

Reilly flushed as he stammered an explanation. Faith was intimidating at the best of times, and downright scary when she was in a full-on rage. She towered over him, her blue eyes blazing.

“I informed our American counterparts of Isabelle’s murder, but they hadn’t spoken to her family by the time a news bulletin reported her death,” stuttered Reilly. Beads of cold sweat broke out on his forehead.

“Her poor mother tried calling us here at the Station, but the officer she spoke with said he didn’t have the authority to confirm the name of the deceased. She’d been dead almost twelve hours at that stage. Who was the moron who said he didn’t have the authority?”

“That would be me, boss,” said Reilly. He looked like he was about to pass out.

“Why didn’t you tell her?”

“I…um…this is my first murder case, I wasn’t sure.”

“Why didn’t you ask one of the others?”

“I…”

“It’s done now,” she said, relenting. “Use your head in future, Reilly, okay?”

“Yes, boss.”

“Another murder, that’s all we need,” said Faith, turning her attention back to the rest of the team. “The press is having a field day with the fact that we have a serial killer on the loose and we’re still no closer to finding him. As if this bloody case isn’t difficult enough, now we have another body thrown into the mix.” She pinned Isabelle’s photo to the whiteboard, along with photos of Peter and Molly English.

The team exchanged glances as Faith continued to rant. Their boss’s moods were legendary, and no one wanted to be in the firing line when she got going. “What’s the story with Isabelle’s boyfriend — Rory Fitzpatrick?” Faith demanded, hands on her hips. “Has anyone managed to track him down?”

Plunkett cleared his throat. “Mr Fitzpatrick said he didn’t want to see her body. He prefers to remember her as the beautiful woman he knew and loved. He said, ‘I don’t want her mutilated face to obliterate my memories of her smiles’.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Faith. “He’s a real charmer, isn’t he? Does he fancy himself as a poet?”

“Actually, boss, he’s a writer,” said Plunkett.

Faith silenced him with a glare. “So he gets to live with ‘the memories of her smiles’, while he leaves her poor, unfortunate parents to handle everything. Charming. How long were they together?”

“Three years,” Plunkett replied, checking his notes to be sure. “He claims he was going to ask her to marry him on her birthday next month.”

“Good for him,” said Faith. “Find out where he was on the night she died.”

“He says he was at home in New York, boss.”

“That’s what he says. Look into it. What was Isabelle doing in Killarney alone if they were so in love? Surely, it would have been a romantic holiday together, unless she travelled across the ocean to get away from him.” She stuck a pin in Rory’s face as she attached his photo to the whiteboard. She studied his round, smirking face with his black floppy hair hanging into his grey eyes. “I don’t like the look of him.”

38

Nothing in Rita’s life had prepared her for this. Her mind whirled with conflicting thoughts and emotions. Outside, the sun shone, but inside was utter horror.

Why had she suggested it? Because she was a weak, jealous drunk paralysed by her own inadequacies. Now she was an accomplice in his sick game.

She’d agreed to it in a moment of drunken madness, never thinking he’d follow through. She was afraid of him, wondering if she’d be next. He’d been obsessed with Isabelle English, ever since she’d arrived in Killarney. Jealousy had clouded her brain.

He talked about her all the time. Soon, she realised that it was more than a passing flirtation in his mind; his interest in her was sinister. When he was at work, she checked his computer and found hundreds of images of the actress.

She was afraid of where his mind was taking him. Now, there was no way out, and she was stuck in this living nightmare with him. She should have left him years ago, escaped when she’d had the chance, but fear dominated her life, and he’d convinced her that she was nothing without him.

The night he killed Isabelle
, he returned to their house shortly before dawn. He stood in the middle of their bedroom, a shadowy figure in the moonlight. She pretended to be asleep, praying he’d leave her in peace. Her heart pounded as she listened to his every movement, wondering what he would do to her.

He crawled into bed beside her, his sour breath hot against her neck. His rough hand cupped her breast, and she flinched at his touch. His hands moved under her nightdress and he pressed himself hard against her bare skin. She could feel how aroused he was.

He pulled her close, searching for her mouth. Forcefully, his lips met hers. He kissed her urgently. Then he pushed her legs apart, making her cry out. He watched her as she pretended to want him too. Then with one last thrust he released and let go before collapsing on top of her. He groaned and rolled over onto his side of the bed, quickly falling into a deep sleep.

She closed her eyes, praying for sleep to rescue her. Her mind was full of plans to escape, to get away from him, as it had been for years, but somehow she could never bring herself to leave. Instead, he had left her. It didn’t matter now; she had nowhere else to go. She didn’t have any friends; he’d made sure to ostracise her from everyone. At first, she’d been flattered by his attention, but eventually she’d seen it for what it was: controlling obsession. She tossed and turned for hours before succumbing to her troubled dreams.

Slowly, she opened her eyes. Bright light streamed through the window, and for a moment, everything was perfect. The fear, the loneliness, and the disappointment had melted away, but the sound of his snores beside her brought her back to reality. She drew back the duvet and tiptoed into the bathroom, desperate for a few minutes of peace before he woke up, and she had to worry about his mood.

The sight of her reflection in the mirror stopped her in her tracks. Her skin was smudged with blood. Panic set in as her thoughts raced: Had he hit her? Had she passed out? She sat on the edge of the bath and tried to steady her nerves. Life had been so out of control recently that she often confused the past and the present.

Then she saw it. She started to shake. The bath was full. Trembling, she stood up and pulled back the shower curtain. His clothes were in the water, stained red. Terror gripped her. She ran from the sanctuary of the bathroom and stared at him as he lay peacefully sleeping in their bed. Blood matted his hair; she had smelt it on him the previous night.

“What have you done?” she whispered. “What have you done?” Her voice grew louder each time she repeated her question. He stirred. “What have you done?” She screamed at him, too horrified to care about his reaction.

He struggled to sit up in bed before squinting at her. “I killed her, just like we planned.”

“WE? That was stupid drunken talk. I never meant a word of it! I was jealous. I never thought you’d kill her.”

“It’s too late now.” He shrugged. “It’s done. There’s no going back.” He leaned against the pillows and studied her. “Come back to bed.” He smirked.

The thought of him made her skin crawl. “I don’t want you anywhere near me. Get out! Get out of here now before I call Faith Whyte!”

He was out of the bed in two quick leaps, his hands tight around her neck as he pressed her against the wall. “Shut your mouth,” he hissed, “you won’t call anyone, especially not that stupid bitch. You’re as guilty as me. We’re in this together.”

“Please.” She tried to pry his fingers away. “Please.”

He released her and she fell to the floor, gasping for breath.

“Why did you do it?” she asked.

“Because I could. Because you wanted me to.”

“I don’t want any part of this.”

“It’s too late for that now, love.” He grabbed her wrist. “I got you a little something — a memento.” He dangled a silver charm bracelet in front of her face.

“Where did you get it?” she whispered.

“From her.”

“I don’t want it.”

“Put it on.”

She tried to pull away from him, but he yanked her closer. “Put it on.”

“No.”

“I’ll help you.” His voice softened as he fastened the bracelet on her wrist. “It suits you.” He smiled and let her go. She moved away from him, retreating to the far side of the room.

“Why did you do it?” she whimpered.

“I don’t have to explain myself to you!” he roared, his face contorting in anger.

He moved towards her. Instinctively, she curled into a ball, but he walked away without touching her.

 

***

 

Later, he forced her to go to the scene of his crime, as if nothing had happened. A small crowd had gathered at the bottom of the road that led to Isabelle’s cottage. The police were already there.

“Get out,” he ordered when he stopped the car.

He chatted to a few neighbours, his face full of the concern that he was so good at faking. She stood beside him, knowing that her life was over.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” he had said to her many times over the years, but this wasn’t bad, this was evil.

Tears rolled down her face. Isabelle English had done her no wrong. She wanted to join her in death. A sharp elbow from her husband jolted her from her remorse. “Pull yourself together,” he hissed under his breath. She quickly wiped away her tears.

Her head spun. He’d never get away with it, and he’d drag her down with him. She was already involved, whether she liked it or not. What would be his next move? Surely, DNA evidence was everywhere. Isabelle’s blood was all over their bathroom. How could they get rid of it? Never mind the guilt and the soul beyond the constraints of the visible.

She didn’t know what to do. All their time together, living on the edge, he had had the ideas. Maybe there was a way forward. She would listen to his suggestions and agree as she had always done. She had no choice, no alternative; that had been the path of her life with him.

Was it for this that she had stood by him, waiting, and watching, transfixed with trepidation for a sign that he had changed? She was always searching for something, calculating, studying his expressions and his moods. However, the chances of him changing were as good as being born again, or her rising from the grave given her by the dead hand of fate. She’d have to stick by him; he had bound her destiny with his. Now, there was no tomorrow, only certain ruin.

39

“Isabelle English was someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, someone’s lover,” said Faith, studying the photos of the happy, smiling woman with the long dark hair and bright blue eyes. Her death spoke to Faith on a deep level. “Who would have wanted to kill her?”

“Who wants to kill anyone?” Angela sighed. “Some madman took a fancy to her. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know, better than anyone, how random these things usually are.”

“Usually,” muttered Faith.

“Do you think her death is connected with the Gleeson murders?”

“Same MO: gunshot to the head, execution-style, no evidence at the scene, or on the body. It certainly looks that way.”

“Except she was raped,” said Angela.

“We don’t know that for sure.”

“Do you think she knew her killer?”

“Isn’t that what you lot are printing?” said Faith, finding it difficult to hide her irritation. “I’ve heard so much rumour and innuendo about Isabelle English that it’s almost impossible to differentiate fact from fiction.”

“Some of ‘my lot’ have no qualms about printing crap, but I’m not one of them,” snapped Angela.

“Sorry. I think someone’s leaking information to the press, and I know they’d write anything just to have a sensational headline. The Super’s livid about it. I’m livid. The front-page in this morning’s paper claimed that Isabelle had been having an affair with a local married man, so she knew her killer, which was ‘substantiated’ by the two wine glasses found in her kitchen.”

“Is that true?” asked Angela, wide-eyed.

“Two wine glasses were found in the kitchen, yes, but that doesn’t mean she had company the night she died. The killer could have staged the scene, or the glass could have been left there from the previous night. Anything’s possible.”

“Including the possibility that she knew her killer, and she was having an affair,” interrupted Angela. “Maybe Isabelle was in Killarney because she was considering leaving her boyfriend and wanted space to think it through. Why else would she be here alone? He’s a writer; he could have travelled with her and written here.”

“According to her parents, Isabelle and Rory’s relationship was volatile. They broke up for a few months last year. Her parents didn’t know the details, but I got the impression that they didn’t want her marrying him,” said Faith. “And that’s strictly off the record.”

“Of course.” Angela held up her hands. “Do you think Rory’s involved?”

“Not directly; his phone records show that he spoke to her on the phone from New York just hours before she died.”

“Indirectly?”

Faith shrugged.

“Maybe Rory had taken out a life insurance policy on Isabelle. Maybe he hired a hitman to kill her in the same way that the Gleesons had been murdered, so that you’d think it was the same killer.” Angela’s mind raced with all the possibilities.

“I feel so sorry for her family,” said Faith. “Not only do they have to cope with her murder, they have to put up with all the lies and innuendo. What parent wants to read headlines like:
Beautiful but Troubled
?”

Angela had the good grace to look ashamed. “Her family is refusing to speak to the press.”

“No wonder, but that hasn’t stopped the press camping outside Isabelle’s holiday cottage. Her parents are staying there for a few weeks until after the funeral. Isabelle wanted to be buried there.”

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