This Is The Day:Chapter 29

Danny

 

 

            It made him feel physically sick every time he thought about another interview with Caroline Haskell.  “You don’t have to do it,” Michael had told him more than once.  “You don’t have to do anything.”

“The police have nothing,” he had shrugged in return.  There was a part of him that wanted to do nothing, sit back and give up, let them do their worse, whoever they were.  Roll with the punches, he had mused, just like the old days.  There was another part of him that was increasingly tempted to deal with it all by just getting hammered.  He thought about this a lot.  He could get drunk and do the next part of the interview.  He could roll around to Jack Freeman’s, out of his face, and see where that led them all?  He could dive into a bottle and pretty much never return.  And then there was the part of him that missed Lucy.  The part of him that saw her face every time he closed his eyes.  The part that missed her with a searing physical pain and did not know what to do about it.

Anthony wanted him to call her.  Anthony thought they should stay friends, and keep talking.  Michael wanted him to sleep with more women.  Anthony wondered if all the harassment had died down, because nothing had come his way for a time.  Danny and Michael knew this was because he didn’t know what they were planning next.  Jack Freeman.  The big one.  The name tasted sour and thick upon his tongue when he spoke it.  They didn’t tell Anthony what was next on the agenda, and they didn’t tell him about Dennis Howard, and they didn’t tell him that Kay had received another nasty letter, just hours after Danny had left her flat.

It wasn’t over.  Danny knew it in his bones.  He told himself to be strong and stick to the plan.  At least they were doing something.  It was horrible but it was better than just sitting there, waiting to be attacked. He had thought starting work for Terry would be a welcome distraction, but in fact it just brought its own worries. He found himself scrutinising nearly every customer who entered the shop.  Who were they? Were they in there to spy on him? How long before Terry got a brick through the window for employing him?  The worry of it all was exhausting, so two weeks after he had slept with her, Danny sent a text to Caroline Haskell, telling her he was ready for more questions.  His phone practically exploded into life in his hand.  She wanted to know when and where and how had things gone with Dennis?  Danny told her to come to Michael’s flat, and left it at that.

While waiting, Michael busied himself with tidying and sporadic cleaning.  He was both concerned and amused about Danny seeing Caroline again.  “Maybe I should hang about, you know, just in the kitchen?  In case you need me?”

“I’m not drunk this time,” Danny reminded him from the sofa where he was relaxing with Kurt.  “You can leave me to it.”

“You won’t shag on my bed will you?”

“Fuck off Mike.”

“Okay, okay, I’m going.  Going to Jenny’s.”

“Yeah?”

“She’s doing my lunch.”

“Lucky bastard,” Danny grinned. “Off you run then.”

 

Alone in the flat, Danny closed his eyes and used the time to try and clear his head.  He had known he was going to lose it with his mum as soon as he had set eyes on her.  Maybe he had subconsciously gone there for that very reason.  Better to act like a shit around your mum, than anyone else, he supposed.  That’s what they were there for, weren’t they?  He felt a chill though, when he thought about how he had looked up into her face, how the same thought had pounded through his mind ;it is all your fault, it is all your fault, fucking everything is all your fault!  He had said it to her, and he had meant it.  Now he just felt numb and confused again.  He told himself she hadn’t known, he hadn’t told her, so how could it all be her fault?  Lee had practically brainwashed her from day one, he remembered.  Had he ever tried to tell her again, had he ever sat her down and explained what was happening to him?  No, he thought now, encased in the silence and blackness of his own mind, he hadn’t.

Jack Freeman.  He didn’t want to think about him, he didn’t want to go and see him, but he had to.  He toyed with the idea that Jack would know nothing about who was harassing him, that it was Jerry Howard and a few hired hands.  But there was something that niggled at him now, more and more after meeting Dennis.  Maybe Jack Freeman was behind more than he realised.  Back then he had seemed to be just this bumbling, shuffling sidekick of Lee’s.  Just this smoking, whiskey-sodden loner, who barely spoke a word.  He had seemed so harmless.  Going to his flat had been cool, he thought, remembering how he had felt the strange and useless urge to make Michael and Anthony understand this.  He’d had all these cool old books for one thing. Danny had sat and read them when he was alone.  If he’d gone to Billy and his dad for his music fix, then he had gone to Jack Freeman for his literature fix.  There had been an odd unexplained peacefulness at his place.  No questions were ever asked.  No comments were ever made, unprompted. 

Michael had never liked it, he remembered, sucking in his breath and rubbing the heel of one hand deep into his eye.  Michael had never been comfortable there.  Even when they were alone.  He would always seem restless and fidgety, and make suggestions about other places to go.  Danny recalled how sad and desolate he had always felt when Michael did leave, to find some real fun elsewhere.  He hadn’t had the words to explain to him back then, what made him stay.

He considered it now.  He remembered the books, and how it had felt to go rustling through them all, pulling them out by their dusty spines and then spending unknown hours lost among them.  He remembered taking all his music there, because Howard complained about it at home.  He could put his albums on, as loud as he wanted, and just sit back on one of the battered old sofa’s and just get lost in it.  All alone, he would close his eyes, feel the beats reverberate through his bones, as the lyrics scorched through his soul.  He would feel alive.  He would feel like he was surrounded by hidden secrets. 

Then there were the drugs.  He hadn’t realised, at first, that Howard was in on it, so at home he lived in a constant state of fear about his little tin being discovered.  He hid it in his sock drawer for a while, then grew paranoid about that and moved it to the top of his wardrobe, and then after that stuffed it under his mattress.  The thought of Lee finding out, was enough to make his skin sweat.  But at Jack’s place, he could just relax.  He would set up his stuff, roll a joint and not worry.  Not even give it a thought.  Jack had introduced him to Jaime Lawler, the local drug dealer, who had introduced him to speed, and uppers and downers.  He had been searching for some kind of oblivion, some kind of way of living that would make him shut down, forget, not care, and he had found it.

At Jack’s place, his stomach would unwind.  The pain of it would ease and flow away.  He didn’t have to give a shit what he said, or what he did.  Lee was impossible to please.  Something you did right one day, done the same the next day, would be completely and unforgivably wrong.  Danny recalled, how some days, when in a rage he would demand that Danny look at him.  It would incense him if he so much as glanced away, or even blinked.  He would have to keep his eyes on Lee the whole time he was speaking, or else.  Then another day, this would be wrong.  Another day it would be don’t look at me, don’t you fucking look at me unless I tell you you can! And he would have to stare at the floor, or the wall, or anything.  You could never win, he remembered with a sigh, as the buzzer in the hall sounded loud and angry. 

He got lazily and reluctantly from the sofa, and half regretted not being drunk again.  He pressed the buzzer and let her in, leaving the door propped open with the brick so that he could return to his sofa.  Caroline Haskell came purposefully and curiously into the flat.  She nudged the brick out of place with her foot, and let the door slam shut behind her.  Danny nodded at her from the sofa, with Kurt pulled back onto his lap.  He lit a cigarette.  He had put ‘Nevermind’ on not long before.  She stopped, shaking her hair back over one shoulder, and frowned slightly at the song playing, as if trying to place it in her own mind. 

“Nirvana,” he helped her out, folding one arm casually back behind his head and crossing his legs up on the sofa.  Caroline made a face of recognition and dropped her shoulder bag onto the nearest chair.  He noticed she was wearing a slim fitting pencil skirt, knee high boots, and a tight fitting shirt.  She looked like she had made an extra effort, he thought lingeringly. 

“Oh yes, of course it is,” she said, of the music, slipping her coat off and arranging it carefully on the back of the chair.  “I take it you’re a fan?  Or were?”

“Just taking a trip down memory lane, on your behalf,” he explained to her with a smile.  She frowned in question.  “To put me in the mood, for your questions,” he explained with a roll of the eyes.  She nodded and sat down, pulling her bag back up onto her lap.

“Ah, I see.  A big fan as a kid, were you?”

“They were my first love,” he mused.  “In terms of music, I mean.  The first music I ever got properly, totally obsessed with, you know?  I used to lie down with my head between the speakers at my friend Billy’s house.  Wouldn’t give a shit what I looked like.  Just wanted to hear the music in my brain.  Every word, you know?  Everything.  Every part of it.”

“Wow,” Caroline raised her eyebrows at him.  “You really do like your music.  I was never into this stuff, personally.”

“Still a classic album,” he argued.  “Always will be.  You know, at the time this was out, to me, it was like every fucking thing it said, every single line of every song, meant something to me personally, you know?  Really, I am serious.  Every line of every song.  Can you say that about any albums that you own?”

Caroline had pulled out her familiar notebook and recorder and organised them neatly on her knees.  “No,” she admitted after a moments thought.  “I can’t.”

“Well I can.  I was fucking devastated when he died.”

“Oh God, yeah, I’d forgotten about that!  That was awful.”

“Suppose you shouldn’t really have heroes,” Danny remarked, reaching out from the sofa to tap his cigarette against the ashtray.  “For that reason, I mean.”

“So this music brings back a lot of memories for you?”

Danny looked up and caught her eye.  “Have you got your recorder on yet?” he asked her shrewdly, thinking he would not put it past her.  “Is that your first question?”

“No, of course not!” Caroline laughed, waving a hand at him, but her cheeks had flushed an instant shade of red.  Danny chuckled.

“Don’t you want to know how it went with Dennis?” he asked her. 

“Yes, of course I do, how was it?  What was he like?”

Danny found himself examining her through narrowed eyes.  It did help having the music on, he realised then.  It somehow transported him back to another him, a braver him, a stronger him.  A kid who had broken every rule there was but didn’t know why.  That was good, he thought, that would help, that memory of who he had once been.

“Did you know he was a retard?” he asked Caroline brightly. She looked surprised and confused, but he was pretty sure she was faking it.

“A retard?”

“Yeah, you know, backwards?  Probably not meant to say retard these days, are you?  Simple, you know?  Don’t know how he’s allowed to live alone actually.  He was like a five year old.”

“Was he really?”

Danny nodded at her.  “So he wasn’t too much help anyway.  Well, he was in some ways.  But I don’t think he’s got anything to do with the harassment.  So I need the next address don’t I?  I need to know where Jack Freeman lives these days.”

“Ah, of course,” Caroline opened her notebook, pulled the lid from her pen and began to scan down her open page, her brow furrowed. “Which leads us to our questions then.”

“I should probably have offered you a drink or something.”

“What are you drinking?” she looked up and asked him.  He grinned.

“I’m having a day off.  For my liver.”

Caroline grinned and lifted one eyebrow.  “Okay.  I’ll get started then, shall I?”

“Fire away.”

He watched her as she gathered her hair in one hand and flung it behind her shoulder, as her expression changed the way it always did when she got down to business.  “You were telling me before, about how and when the violence from your stepfather began.  Can I ask who else knew about it, at the time?”

Danny sighed and crossed his arms over his chest.  “Ooh look at you, getting right to it.  Anyone would think you were one of those people, you know, who slow down to look at car crashes?”

Caroline’s eyes jerked up to meet his.  “Pardon me?”

“Just a joke,” Danny laughed, enjoying his position.  “Michael and Anthony knew after a while.  They figured it out.”

“Why them, and no one else?”

“Is that number two?” he checked, grinning at her deviously.  She pressed pause and looked confused.

“No of course it’s not, I was just pressing you, that’s what journalists do!  Can you answer it please?”

“Oh Jesus Christ, you’re taking the piss you are.  If I added up all your questions there’d be about ten by now, you know.”

“Danny, please.  Come on.”

“Okay, okay then.  Why them?  Probably partly because they were the people closest to me, and partly because their dad was rough on them too.”

Caroline opened her mouth to say something, but thought better of it and looked back down at her book.  “Okay,” she said, obviously getting onto question number two now, “Can you tell me specifically, some of the memories you have of those years, before you killed him?”

Danny stared at her in confusion and pity.  He smoked the last of his cigarette and stubbed it out. “This is some article you’ve got planned isn’t it?” he asked her with a faint smile.  She pressed paused again, and he saw her steady herself, clenching her teeth ever so slightly, and smiling a brittle smile. “What angle are you doing it on?” he asked.  “I mean, what’s the theme?  What’s the title even?  Let me guess; when kids kill or something dramatic like that?”

“Danny,” she said, her tone as patient as her eyes were fierce. “I did explain to you before, that after I have asked all the questions, I will write the article and then show it to you before I do anything with it.  If you don’t like the angle, or the theme, you can take it up with me then.  Can we just get on with this now?” She made a show of checking her watch. 

“Memories,” he said then, lifting his gaze to the ceiling and exhaling dramatically so she would think he was thinking it over.  “What kind of memories?  Memories of good things or bad things?”

“Things to do with Lee Howard.  So that we can understand what led you to kill him, you see.”

“Oh of course, I see, of course that’s what you want.  What do you want me to do then?” he looked her sharply in the eye.  “List all the evil things he did for you?”

“Well, basically, I just want to put across your side Danny, the history behind it, you know?”  She was looking back at him expectantly.  Danny half expected her to get out the piece of paper with the next address on it and start to wave it in front of his face enticingly to encourage him.  He sat up instead, lowering his feet to the floor, and splaying the fingers of one hand so he could count off on them with the other.

“Okay,” he said, “let’s go.  Ooh, where to start?  Oh I know, he got Anthony sent back to jail because he tried to warn him to leave me alone.  How about that?  He’d not long come out of prison for stupid stuff.  He has a go at Howard at my fourteenth birthday party, when he tries to drag me home from it.  Next thing some drugs are planted in his house and the cops show up, and Anthony is back in the slammer for another year.” Danny clapped his hands triumphantly while Caroline stared at him curiously.  “That enough for you?  Michael loses the only good thing in his crappy life because of Lee Howard.  He also got rid of my mum by sending her off on some trip to a friends for a few weeks, while he beat the shit out of me and told my teachers and the cops that I fell off my bike at the cliff.  That was good.  That’s a memory for you darling, or do you want more detail than that?  That was the first time I thought I was going to die, you know?  I thought he’d never stop.  But he was very clever, I realise now.”

“How do you mean clever?”

“Well he never put me in the hospital, I mean.  He never broke my bones.  I think he held back, in some way, from what he could have done.  Now, if you think about it, how premeditated is that shit?”  Danny nodded at her staring face.  “Just doing what he needed to do to keep me in line.  Oh hey, there’s another memory for you! I was never in line, you see, whatever the fuck that means.  That was his ambition, his goal.  To get me in line.”

“And did he ever succeed?”

“Stupid question,” Danny replied scathingly.  “Who’s dead, and who’s not eh?  He didn’t get me in line.  I didn’t let him.”

“You fought back?” Caroline asked. “And before you say it, yes that is the next question okay? How did you fight back?”

“I just tried not to let him win,” Danny shrugged in reply.  He got up then, stretched out his muscles and wandered over to Michael’s Cd player.

“Can you be a bit more specific?” Caroline’s voice followed him.  He shrugged.

“I stood up for myself.  When I could.  Even if I knew it would make him angry.  It was fun sometimes.  Sometimes being a pain in his arse was better than being shit scared the whole time, you know?  So I’d wind him up, tell him to fuck off, that kind of thing.  Not all the time though.  Most of the time I did everything I could to stay out of his fucking way.”

“Did that work?  Would he leave you alone?”

“No, not really,” Danny mused, picking up the case to Nevermind and holding it in his hands.  “Because he’d seek me out.  I tried to run away once and he dragged me back.  He got me working in the club so he could keep an eye on me.  He got me going to Jack Freeman’s place for the same reason.  He would come in my room once a fucking day and inspect it, looking for reasons to go mental.  Stuff like that.  Once he married her, he was even worse.  Even more controlling and insane.”

“My final question for today,” Caroline said behind him with a sigh.  He heard her turn the pages of her notebook.  He ran his own fingers down the list of songs on the back of the CD case.  For a moment he toyed with the idea of turning around and telling Caroline Haskell exactly what each song had meant to him back then and why.  How he had found solace and a place to escape to in that music.  How he had grown his hair like Kurt Cobain’s and copied his style of dress.  How just the sound of Kurt’s voice snarling the chorus to Smells Like Teen Spirit had set his heart on fire every time, and how the sorrowful tones of Something in The Way had caused him to sob for hours into his pillow, after he had learnt of his idols death. 

“Go on,” he murmured, not turning around.

“I’d like you to explain Jack Freeman’s part in all of this.  How you met him and when, and what your relationship with him was like.”

Danny turned around to look at her.  “I don’t even know the answers to that,” he shrugged at her. “So how am I supposed to explain it to you?”

“Start at the beginning,” she advised patiently, staring right back at him, unflinchingly.  Danny tapped the CD case against his palm.  He forced himself to think back, just to satisfy her, just to get the address of the man in question.  He wondered again what the hell he was doing with this woman.  Was this helping, in any way?  People sometimes said that the way to escape from the past was to talk about it, to figure it out, in order to close the door on it.  Danny had always found that the opposite was true.  He had not spoken a word about it to anyone inside prison.  He had said as little about it as he could get away with.  He had kept silent, and kept his head down, and somehow he had survived.  Since he had been out, it seemed like the past was all around him again, impossible to shut away.  Not only the harassment from whoever thought he should have been inside forever, but from his mother, from Lucy, and his friends, from the area, and the music, and people like Caroline Haskell, people who wanted to know all the juicy and gory details. 

He blew out his breath and stared once again down at the CD case.  ‘Come As You Are’, had just started.  Was the music painful to listen to, he wondered, frowning at the track list again?  He had thought it would be; the amount of times he had curled up under his duvet with this album on in his room, pain pulsing angrily through him, pain that reminded him how small and useless he was.  He shook himself out of his daydream then.  Let’s get this fucking over with, he thought, preparing to harden himself once more, do what she wants, get the address, sort this shit out and let it all be over.  For a moment it stunned and amused him that there was still a large part of him that faithfully believed that a normal, decent life lay just around the corner.

“Freeman turned up at the same time Anthony was set up and arrested,” Danny told her, watching her brow furrow in interest instantly.  “We’d camped out the night before, I came home and fell asleep on the sofa and woke up hearing two voices in the kitchen.  Howard and Freeman, though I didn’t know who he was then.  I heard them talking about the flat Howard was letting him have, and some kind of job.  Then he left.  I didn’t know then what had happened to Anthony, but I tried to sneak out the back door because I knew he’d be pissed at me, because Anthony had frightened him off at my party and he hadn’t managed to get me back yet, and he did, he caught me and told me mum had gone away for a few weeks.  It was just him and me.” Danny walked slowly back to the sofa, CD case still in hand.  He dropped down beside Kurt and the little dog immediately climbed back onto his lap.  “Just in case you don’t know, I was pretty small for my age when I was fourteen,” he said, not looking up, while the sound of the tape recorder whirred on.  “And Howard was like a fucking giant to me, you know.  So I was pretty scared to think my mum wasn’t there.  He bust me up so bad I couldn’t go to school.  I told you all that already.  And he let me know my friends wouldn’t want anything to do with me now either.  Years later, the night before I killed him, he admitted it to me, that he and Jack Freeman had done that to Anthony.  Jack used to be a copper.  He snuck in and planted the drugs then made an anonymous call to the cops.  Bye bye Anthony, about the only person big enough and brave enough to stand up to him.”

Danny sighed and lifted his gaze to Caroline, who was listening intently, tape recorder on lap, elbow on knee and head in hand.  “So that was the first time I knew about Freeman,” he went on.  “Then I met him in the club, because that period of time was when Howard started making me go with him, when mum was away.  Freeman just looked like this homeless guy or something, you know?  Just unshaven, and a bit grubby, just sat at the bar the whole time smoking and drinking whiskey.” Danny shrugged his shoulders.  “Nothing special.  I didn’t trust him, but mainly because he was Howard’s friend from Essex, so I assumed he was a dick.  He was all right though, after a while.  I wasn’t scared of him.  He’d sneak me drinks and smokes at the club, and it was all like, don’t let Lee know, our secret, you know?  I thought that was okay, at fourteen, fifteen years old.  It made me feel good, I suppose.”

Danny sat forward then, found his pack of cigarettes under a magazine on the coffee table, and pulled one out.  “So you had a good relationship with him, for a time?” Caroline prompted him.  He stuck a cigarette between his teeth, located a lighter in his pocket and lit up, nodding.

“Yeah.  Sort of.  He didn’t say much, you know?  He was the silent type.  He didn’t have a go, or criticise me, like Howard did.  He started letting me come over his flat. That was nice, just to get away from Howard. Mike would come over too, sometimes.  That was when we started doing speed.”

“Who gave you the speed?” Caroline was quick to ask him.

“Freeman did.  He did all sorts.  Right in front of me.  One of the first nights I was there, without Howard, he lit up a joint and passed it to me.  I’d already tried it, because Anthony let us smoke some at the party I’d had.  And then it was speed, stuff like that.” Danny sat back in the sofa again, hand dropping onto Kurt.  “Anthony would only touch pot and booze, that was it.  I know it sounds mad, if you’re anti-drugs or whatever, but they were the only two he said were safe, and only if you were sensible.  And he was right too.  Speed was not safe.  Nothing else was, but when someone is just handing it to you, at that age, and you hate your life and you’d do anything to escape, you kind of go along with it right?” He looked at her and she stared back silently.  “Anyway,” he went on, “so that was that.  Soon I was into all sorts.  Right off the rails I was.  He made out the whole time that I shouldn’t tell Howard, that he’d go mad at us both, that kind of thing.  So then one day in the club he introduces me to this drug dealer guy, Jaime Lawler, and says I have to buy stuff from him from now on, because he was worried Lee would find out.  So I did.  I had no choice.  The guy was okay.  He kind of became a friend in the end.  He was the one that gave me the coke, the night I…” Danny raised his eyebrows at her questioningly and she nodded right back in understanding.  “Anyway, again I had no idea Howard was behind all of this.  All of it.  He’d called Jack and got him down here because he needed someone to help him get rid of Anthony.  He knew the guy was a fucking….pervert or whatever….” Danny sucked in his breath with a hiss and looked longingly at the door.  He had to hurry this up, he thought then, this was getting more unbearable by the minute.  He smoked the cigarette hungrily, barely stopping for air. What else would she want to know?  “He knew he was dealing me drugs, even though on the surface he would have killed me if he’d caught me doing them.  He knew I was at that flat all the fucking time, not seeing my mates much, and my mum thinking Jack was so nice and sweet, and he knew I was off my face the whole time I was there.”  He smiled sadly at Caroline and shrugged again. “He knew what could happen.  He held the strings, you see.  He owned Freeman because he knew his past.  He used him to control me when he couldn’t.  Fucked up mind games.  Fucked up shit however you look at it.  He knew.  He controlled it all.  I truly believe it gave him a sick thrill, putting me in that position.  It taught me my place, one way or another.  He was the boss and I should never forget it.”

He fell into silence then.  Stared at the door and craved a drink.  Caroline Haskell flicked through her notebook, checked things off with a biro and waited for him to go on.  When he didn’t, she tossed back her hair and smiled a sad smile at him. 

“Danny?  What happened then?”

“I don’t know,” he answered her, and it was the truth.  He didn’t know for sure.  He only knew the feelings of disquiet and unease he had woken up with back then, and the strange images that had sometimes rumbled through his hungover mind, and how he had briefly thought to question things, but then halted his mind, because his mind was so young, and so fucked, and could not cope with much more.  So he had pushed things aside, ignored memories or convinced himself they were dreams or drug induced hallucinations. “One time I know I woke up and he was sat there in the dark…staring at me, then I fell asleep again…but woke up another time and he was stroking my hair.  I just slept.  I was always so fucked when I was there.  I didn’t let myself remember anything, if that makes sense. I didn’t want to.  I had this safe place to go, because I tried to stay away from my friends so Howard wouldn’t fuck with them again.  I went there to escape him.  To be left alone.  I knew something was wrong, but I don’t think my mind could have dealt with it if I’d questioned it, or thought about it.” He shrugged again, and looked at her expression, wondering what he saw there.  Was it pity, like he saw in so many other faces?  Was it distrust and accusation, the other emotions he picked up from people who knew what he had done?  Or was it just plain morbid greed?

“When did you know for sure something was wrong?” she asked him, her voice hard to read.  Danny sighed.  He almost reminded her that her questions were up, but then he thought fuck it.  What did it matter?  He was still probably selling his soul, one way or another.

“Anthony found out,” he told her, taking a sick kind of satisfaction in the sudden widening of her eyes, and the frantic flying of her pen across the pages of her open notebook.  He nodded at her.  “Bless him for that.  He paid Jaime Lawler to keep his nose to the ground at all times, to be on our side if you like.  He worked his arse off in a sweaty pub kitchen, was the only parent Mike had at that time, when he got back out, and he risked it all again to help me, to get them away from me.  He scrimped and saved to pay Jaime to find stuff out.  Jaime even had to bribe a copper he knew to do a check on Freeman, and that’s when he told me and Mike to stay the hell away from him.”

Caroline Haskell braved a question into the heavy silence that fell. “What had he found out?”

Danny swallowed, brushed back his hair and thought get it over with, get it out, fucking say it, tell her, end it. “When he was a detective, he had this rent boy as an informer, and the kid was fourteen, and accused Freeman of molesting him.  He then dropped the charges, and I don’t know for sure, but I reckon his good friend Howard was behind that.  Because I can just see how he would scare the shit out of a kid that age, you know, and let Freeman get away with it?  That way he has power over them both, as usual, just the way he likes it.  So anyway.  We stopped going to his flat after that.  We started planning our escape, and that my friend, is so the end of the interview for now.  I can’t do it anymore.” He looked at her and forced a smile that felt weak and alien upon his lips. She smiled graciously and he thought that she looked tired all of a sudden.  She clicked a button on the recorder, and bowed her head as she placed it down into her bag with her notebook.  She got up then, smoothing down her skirt and shaking back that glossy hair of hers again.  He watched her coming towards him on the sofa and wondered what the fuck that meant.

Caroline Haskell then hitched up her skirt as much as she could considering how tight it was, and climbed astride his lap, as he stared up at her, both amused and horrified simultaneously.  She stared down into his eyes and he narrowed them back at her, trying to figure her out, and it crossed his mind to wonder if she was not somehow a little bit turned on by his misfortune, and then she picked up his hand and pressed a folded piece of paper into it.  He unfolded it and glanced down at the name Jack Freeman and the address that followed, before pushing it deep inside his pocket and looking back up at her face.  “Good interview,” she told him, her voice becoming a silken purr, “better than last time I have to say.  And you don’t just get a piece of paper as your reward.”

  “I don’t?”

She shook her head at him.  “I can’t seem to stop thinking about you.”  She was staring down at him wonderingly.  Danny thought briefly about turning her down, about moving her gently to one side and getting up.  An image of Lucy flashed through his mind, and he felt the pain stabbing through his chest again, and it was too much to bear.  He let her kiss him, when she lowered her face towards his.  He told himself it was wrong, wrong, in so many ways, but he didn’t stop it.

 

He lay on the sofa and smoked, while she found her things and put her clothes back on.  He pushed a hand through his hair and thought, I can’t even blame it on alcohol this time. He thought of Lucy again, and wanted to cry.  He watched Caroline, and wondered why her face seemed different, when she wasn’t firing questions at him.  Okay, she was naked, and hurriedly pulling her underwear back on, but her face looked softer, and younger.  Did he even detect a trace of embarrassment in her eye, as she yanked up her skirt and zipped it up?  “Your turn to rush off this time,” he mused, deciding to break the ever awkward silence.  She found her bra and struggled into it, smiling weakly.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I really do have to be somewhere quickly.”

“I’m not worried.  You don’t have to apologise to me.”

Caroline smiled again and started to pull on her top.  “When do you think you will visit Freeman?” she asked him.

“Soon as possible,” he replied quickly, knowing it was the truth. “Before I can think about it too much or wimp out.”

“I can’t imagine you wimping out Danny.  You seem incredibly brave and together to me, for someone who has gone through all that.”  Caroline slotted her feet into her heels and smoothed her tousled hair down with both hands.

“Can I ask you something?” he said from the sofa.

“Sure.”

“Why is this really all so important to you? I mean, I get that it’s your job, and you were curious back then, and all that. But why do you want to write this article so much?  Why does it mean so much to you?”

Caroline Haskell slipped her arms into her coat, not meeting his eye, and picked her bag up from the floor.  She came towards him then, hair all messy and cheeks flushed red, and as she leant down to kiss him goodbye she said; “I’ll tell you all about it another day.  But let’s just say you and me have more in common than you realise.  I’ve got to go.  Let me know how you get on.”

Danny watched her turn and click out of the flat in her neat little heels, hair swinging across her shoulders.  He wondered what she could mean by that, as he pulled the note back out from his pocket and looked at the name and address she had written on it for him.  He had been expecting the address to be somewhere in Essex, surely that was where the man had slunk back to all those years back?  But it wasn’t.  It was an address Danny recognised to be about ten minutes away.

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