Walk a Crooked Road

Part One

Chapter One

Maggie Tailor

February 2021

Day 1

I am quite enjoying being ‘dead.’ I have started a new life with a clean slate. I have no guilt, no regrets, no baggage. My life in Dublin has ended and there is no looking back. Roisin  Doyle is dead. RIP.

   Having said that, I was naturally interested in what people had to say about me shortly after my ‘death.’ Naturally, a house inferno in which the charred remains of two people were discovered was certain to attract media interest and indeed it did, with stories in the papers and local TV. An enterprising photographer had even managed to get a picture of my mangled, charred, corpse lying on the sofa in front of the fire. My husband’s body, also much charred, was found in an adjacent room.

   The story went into some detail saying how the police had no difficulty identifying me, saying how my wedding ring and a bracelet with my name engraved inside was found in the ashes. They also discovered my handbag which had been in the hall with my cards, driving licence and other ID inside. It had escaped the conflagration because the explosion propelled it out into the garden. If they needed any convincing about the identity of my corpse, that certainly would have clinched it.

   There was also no difficulty identifying the cause of the blaze. A gas leak in the kitchen was set alight by the coal fire in the sitting room causing a fireball and explosion. It was all an unfortunate accident, the stories said.

   Naturally, police talked to our neighbours in Harold’s Cross Road in what the papers described as a close knit community who told them how we were a lovely, popular, couple. Why do the newspapers always call it a close-knit community? That was nonsense. It was anything but. It is a very wealthy area. The police were told how Graeme Doyle was a successful literary agent and I an academic at Trinity College. When asked what I taught, they would no doubt have looked uncertain.

   It would not have taken them long to discover that I was 36 and Graeme 52. I read with some amusement how the neighbours described me as attractive with long copper hair down to my shoulders and how we were ‘devoted’ and how everyone was ‘shocked’ at the tragedy. I snorted with laughter when I heard how Graeme’s family were ‘grieving’ and there was more grim amusement when I imagined them attempting to locate my family. They won’t find any because there is nobody… alive.

   All that was three months ago. None of it was even close to the truth, apart from what I do for a living. I am, or rather was, a lecturer in applied maths and psychology at Trinity. That may appear to be a curious combination but as with all sciences, psychology is partially based on a mathematical foundation. Hypotheses need to be tested, and statistical analysis provides a means of determining whether treatments appear to be effective or not.

   But I digress. The truth is that Graeme’s family despised him because he treated them with contempt and as for us being a ‘devoted’ couple, nothing could be further from the truth. The image of us being loving and caring was an act, a façade for the benefit of his literary and showbiz glitterati as well as the neighbours.

   In fact, ‘loving and caring’ Graeme was a total bastard. He lived a Walter Mitty life in which people were simply pawns to be manipulated. And as for being loving, maybe he was, but it wasn’t with me. A bout of pure stupidity must have beset me not to have realised sooner what he was up to. I am almost embarrassed to admit that it took a while for the realisation to sink in. I think I was simply reluctant to confront the truth of what kind of man I was married to. Once I discovered, I simply didn’t care.

   It was later that I discovered just how extensive his cheating was. No, I don’t just mean that kind of cheating – I had become quite indifferent to his sordid and squalid affairs. He could have slept with whomever he liked as far as I was concerned. No, his guilt was far more venal; he had been systematically stealing from me for months, no doubt to finance his affairs. At first, I didn’t notice because I am a reasonably wealthy women thanks to a bequest after my dad died and I wasn’t in the habit of going through my bank statements every month. Well, who does?

   It was a routine meeting with my bank manager that brought it to light when he casually mentioned that my expenditure would appear to have risen quite considerably of late. That stopped me and when we studied my statements it became clear that hundreds of euros had been leaving my account every month, withdrawals I knew nothing about. The manager wanted to call the police because it was a clear case of theft, but I prevailed upon him not to and that I would deal with it.

   The following day when Graeme and I had our habitual pre-evening meal drink, he was full of false bonhomie, throwing out meaningless complements and other small talk which I had wearily become accustomed to. I really wasn’t interested in how successful his clients were or what book was heading for the best-seller lists. I knew it was all a smoke screen. Well, I decided I had listened to enough of his garbage and it was time to confront him. I fixed him with a gimlet stare and a thin smile. That should have put him on guard, but it didn’t. He continued with the stream of ineffectual nonsense until I interrupted by quietly asking him how long he had been stealing from me.

   That did, at least, stop the flow of verbiage. He stared at me with a pained, puzzled, expression and I knew he was about to vehemently deny it and so before he could, I told him that the bank manager wanted to call the police and that I stopped him. A smile of relief on his face was about to be accompanied by bluster but I cut it short by telling him that all my bank details have been changed and he will longer have access to it.

   He cleared his throat noisily and started telling me that his agency had been experiencing financial problems which is why he did it. I knew that was pure boloney and I told him that if the agency was that broke, he should close the doors and look for a job. I could tell from his expression that it was not a prospect he relished. No doubt the probability of his sex life suddenly vanishing was also something that was uppermost in his thoughts as he stared at me, confusion and contrition slowly becoming replaced by anger.

   I stared at him, amused. If he thought that shouting and gesticulating could disguise the fact that he was a crook, he was bananas. Did he really think I would go on financing his agency when it was no doubt his profligacy that had led to its problems? I decided that now was the right time to deliver the coup de grâce. I stood up and told him, in measured tones, that I wanted a divorce and then walked slowly out of the room. As I was about to leave, I said that it might be better if he found somewhere else to live.

   He greeted that announcement with a look of disbelief but did not respond. He may have thought I would change my mind. If that really is what he thought, he was wrong. I didn’t.

   After that, he behaved as though nothing had changed. Neither of us walked out. We still lived under the same roof but not the same bed. We still had a communal meal of an evening, albeit in a stony, charged silence until I decided to play music – loudly! I was aware of him casting furtive looks at me from time-to-time, but I made a point of ignoring him. It was a toxic atmosphere and then it became toxic in a very different way.

   I think it was perhaps two or three weeks later that I began to feel unwell and wanting to sleep all the time. At first, I thought I had caught one of the bugs doing the rounds. I was fairly certain it wasn’t Covid because I had both jabs a few months ago and, in any case, I had none of the symptoms. I just felt ill, so decided to see my GP. He examined me thoroughly and put it down to food poisoning and suggested I monitor what I ate and drank and amend it to see what effect it has.

   So, I did, and it took a couple of days for me to smell a rat, in a metaphorical sense, of course. The ‘rat’ turned out to be the bourbon Graeme poured me as a nightcap every night. It was a process of elimination that led me to the discovery. He rarely makes any meals but pours me a drink of an evening, something he still did despite our estrangement. Maybe he thought that the problem would just go away if he ignored it and continued as before.

   It was a process of elimination really. Leaving out coffee at home made no difference and I switched our plates at meal times now and then which made no difference either, but pouring the bourbon away of an evening did. I began to feel much better after a couple of days, but I let him think I was still drinking it and pretended to be ill.

   It was then that the realisation hit me. You can accuse me of me of being a bit slow on the uptake if you like but to admit that your husband is slowly poisoning you is not something you would expect to have to do.

   So that was how Graeme intended to solve the problem of a troublesome wife, was it? I suppose I should have considered myself lucky he did not resort to more violent solutions. I realised I had to do something. I could have gone to the police, I suppose, but the evidence would have been weak, and he would probably have walked.

   There was only one answer. I knew I had to murder him.

*The next chapter of A Walk on the Wilder side will be published on Monday and every Monday thereafter.

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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