Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Voice of Reason: Part I

The first part of a new short story by George Neame


Date: 25/02/2001
Station: Garamont Road
Detainee Reference Number: 1058930

The following is a statement written by Mr. Blake (b.1987) following the murders of Joe Shipman and James Parker on Swanville Road. Mr. Blake was found at the scene when police arrived and wrote this statement at Garamont Road Police Station the evening of the incident:

    I should start by telling you about my best friend, Jonathan. He is a murderer. The psychologists at the prison declared him to be ‘deranged’. ‘Psychologically unstable’.
    It was Monday night that he told me about his parents. The road was full of police cars and the ear-splitting wail of fire engines. The night was dark and there were few streetlights in the area, so the houses on either side of the road were lit up only in the quick flashes of red and blue that pulsated from the emergency services vehicles. I could smell burning, what’s more, I could smell the burning of human flesh, a horrendously warm and bitter stench I’m positive I will never forget.
    Jonathan was being engulfed not in flames, but by the tight, constricting grip of an overly-protective policeman. He was trying to console the poor boy, to reassure him that everything was going to be OK. I could tell that Jonathan above all people could tell that it was not going to be OK. His house was being sprayed relentlessly in jets of water from the fire engines, his eyes were bloodshot and his cheeks still wet with tears.
    ‘It killed them,’ he said, the words barely struggling from his mouth. But he stayed strong. ‘The fire. It killed both of them.’
    ‘Your parents?’ I asked, though this was almost certain by the fact that he had no brothers or sisters. He nodded. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I told him, and embraced him in a childish, consoling hug. Of course, childish would not be too inaccurate. We were only fourteen.
    He sobbed onto my shoulder. I could hear his titanic sniffs even against the background of the pandemonium and cacophony of noises echoing around us. I asked him when it happened. How did he find out?
    ‘I came home from school at five like usual. The house was already in flames; I could see the smoke and light a mile away and ran home, praying it wasn’t our house. But when I got here there was already a fire engine outside, and the fat policeman who told me they were dead.’
    ‘I’m really sorry,’ I said again, starting to cry myself. ‘Hey!’ the policeman shouted to Jonathan. ‘Don’t go wandering off on your own!’ But he wasn’t alone, he was with me. We stayed in each other’s arms for about five minutes, until the water cannons ceased and the policemen started ushering the gathered crowds back to their own homes.

    Wednesday. Jonathan’s grandmother’s house. He and his parents often had intense arguments (who could blame them? They had a child who was ‘psychologically unstable’) that usually led to Jonathan staying with other relatives until things had cooled down. For this reason, he had his own room at his grandmother’s house, a permanent place where he could keep his belongings, for whenever the next time arose that he would have to stay with her. We sat on his floor as he told me the news.
    ‘I found out who did it.’
    ‘What?’
    ‘I found out who set my house on fire and killed my parents. It wasn’t an accident, someone murdered them.’
    I was shocked, astounded. Who did it? Why? How did you find out?
    ‘It was Scary Joe and JP; the college boys that hang out near the chippy on Swanville Road. Danny told me, said he saw them running up to the windows of my house and pouring petrol in from those bottles you have in the back of your car. Then they got a lighter out and ran away, before it all started burning.
    ‘Why did they do it? Have you told the police?’ I was full of questions; they were rolling off my tongue like blessings off the lips of a priest.
     ‘I don’t know. I’ve only seen them once or twice. I’ve never even talked to them. Have you?’
    I told Jonathan that I’d seen them before, that I’d had a conversation with them just days ago.
    ‘I was coming home from school with my books tucked under my arm,’ I said. ‘They spotted me and started calling me names, saying I was a geek and calling me “four-eyes”’.
    I had always been the more academic of the two of us. Jonathan was more practical, I was more intellectual. My books were precious to me, whereas I don’t think Jonathan has any books. I looked around the room. I was his only friend, so I visited a lot. I even had my own corner of the room. By the window there was a desk, with pictures of the friends I had at my old school, a pile of books, stationary neatly arranged and my school work tidily ordered by subject title, A-Z. A ray of light peered between the black curtains, shining on my cactus plant. Jonathan agreed to water it and keep my corner of the room clean, provided I visited him regularly.
    The rest of the room was dark and dismal, the room of a 14-year-old tyrant. There was no sign of life, no books, just a disturbing array of stuffed animals, fake skulls and half-eaten sandwiches. The food was going mouldy, clothes were strewn across the floor, everything was a mess. It’s no wonder the people at the prison thought he was strange.
    ‘What happened?’ he asked.
    ‘I started shouting at them, I told them they were nothing but uneducated delinquents who weren’t going to get anywhere in life’.
    Jonathan swore. He had a vile habit of swearing that always bugged me. ‘But I still don’t get why they would attack your house. I guess they probably saw me going there a lot and presumed it’s where I lived,’ I insisted.
    Then Jonathan told me his plan. He hadn’t told the police about Scary Joe and JP, he was worried they wouldn’t believe him, and he would never get revenge. I tried to talk him out of it.
    ‘Don’t do it Jonathan, seriously! You’ll get arrested, you’ll get locked away for life!’ Tell the police!’
    ‘They killed my parents,’ he said bluntly. ‘I’m going to kill them, I don’t care if I get arrested.’
    ‘Please Jonathan! You’ve got to understand, you can’t become a murderer! What will I do?! I’ll lose my best friend!’
    Jonathan smiled, that cold, sadistic smile I knew all too well. ‘You’ll get arrested as well,’ he said. ‘Because I’m going to kill them, and you won’t be able to leave me. You’ll stay with me the whole time, trying to persuade me not to’.

    He was right. Night swept over the city as if a giant hand had brushed across the treetops and extinguished the light like a candle, and Jonathan prowled the streets, a sharpened kitchen knife in his right hand that he had stolen from his grandmother. I trailed behind him, trying to stop him all the way. ‘Please Jonathan,’ I begged, ‘I’m begging you Jonathan,’ I pleaded. But his mind was set. Tonight there would be blood; there was no doubt about that.

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