Chapter Nine

Mercy consulted the GoogleMaps App, she was in Strafford in East London. She rarely ventured to the east side of London and couldn’t remember getting there with Fabian.

Her blackouts were becoming more frequent, and she wasn’t sure what was trigging it. She tried meditation, changing her diet, and more exercise but none of these worked, if anything the blackouts were no longer confined to just late nights. She was doubting who she was, no longer able to fully trust herself. To be truthful ever since her father’s murder, she hadn’t been the same. She and her mother both had bereavement counselling following his death, but she found the whole process condescending. Her counsellor insisted that her memory following the bang to her head would return given time and application to the process, but after six months the door to her memory remained firmly shut. According to her counsellor this was her fault because she wasn’t fully engaging with the process, but Mercy insisted that she had no reason not to remember. Her condition was labelled as dissociative amnesia which occurs when a person blocks out certain events, often associated with stress or trauma, leaving the person unable to remember important personal information. Mercy overheard the counsellor explain to her mother that the guilt from arguing with her father, which led to his subsequent murder was taxing her memory. If she couldn’t remember what happened, then in some part she wouldn’t be complicit in the event. The more the counsellor dug around in her memories, the more rage she felt inside, like a caged tiger looking for escape. She still harboured anger towards her father, because even though he was gone, her plans to travel the world with Cameroon during her gap year were ruined. Her father got his wish even from his grave.

The underground station was a short walk from Costa. It was nearly lunchtime, and the roads were getting busy with people and cars. She really didn’t like being amongst crowds and the thought of a packed tube carriage was undesirable. Secretly she had enjoyed the lockdowns, people were restricted to their homes or chose not to go out. Even now there was still reluctance by some people to return to their former lives.

The platform was mercifully quiet and when the tube pulled into the station and there were plenty of seats in the carriage. After a thirty-minute tube ride, she arrived at London St Pancras train station and traversed the long corridors and footpaths to the station concourse. Her train back to university was an hour and a half long, which gave her plenty of time to read or think. She sat in a seat that faced backward to the direction of travel and played a coffee house chilled playlist on her iPhone EarPods. The train left the station and started gathering speed as it left the city centre. Soon the houses and trees whisked by, until the houses were replaced by fields and gardens.

She recalled taking the same train journey a few months before she was due to start university. It was an opportunity to see her digs and tour the university and town again. She undertook the journey alone, wanting the freedom to explore as much or as little as she desired. The student accommodation for freshers was pretty basic, and the money she had saved from not going travelling with Cameroon, meant she could afford somewhere just outside of campus. She had put down a deposit on a small, unfurnished studio flat and one of the reasons for her visit was to take measurements so she could buy some essential furniture. The university grounds were sprawling and confusing, she would definitely need a map to get to her classrooms.

She was exhausted from her visit and on the train journey home she was lulled into slumber by the rhythmic movement of the train. In her sleep, she was transported to the night of her father’s death. She saw her father through the eyes of the perpetrator, he was angry, shouting, ‘This is my house,’ as he moved closer. The perpetrator stepped backward in the face of such aggression and stumbled on knives that had been scattered on the kitchen floor from when Mercy had smashed the knife block into the Crittal windowpane. The perpetrator bent down on one knee and picked up the nearest knife. Her father paused and looked at the eight-inch chef’s knife that was wielded toward him.

Her father raised his hands open palmed to chest height, ‘Put it down, it doesn’t have to end like this.’ He took a small step forward, broken glass crunched from underfoot. Her father was between the perpetrator and the hole in the glass door, blocking a means of escape.

The perpetrator outstretched the hand with the knife in it, gesturing for her father to step back.

‘Ok, ok,’ her father said, ‘we don’t have to get the police involved.’ He backed off a little, creating a small opening to the hole in the glass.

The perpetrator instilled with confidence, took a step forward, still brandishing the knife towards her father.

Her father took another step backward and saw the perpetrator’s eyes dart towards the hole in the glass. ‘Ok just leave what you took, and you can go,’ he tried to reason with the perpetrator.

The perpetrator shook their head then jabbed the knife in the air towards her father and took another step forward, making him back off a few feet. The perpetrator with eyes constantly on her father was now positioned with their back to the hole in the glass. The perpetrator lifted their left leg back into the air and placed it through the hole in the glass, straddling the kitchen and the garden.

Her father stood there with a calm expression on his face, pupils dilated. He was calculating, he knew there would be a moment when the perpetrator would have to shift weight fully onto their back leg and tuck their body in order to get through the hole. At that point, the perpetrator would be vulnerable.

It happened in an instant. The moment the weight shift occurred; her father dashed forwards. The perpetrator, now tucked with their backside through the hole and their right leg suspended in the air, felt her father’s hand grab the wrist holding the knife and began pulling them back into the kitchen. With their spare hand, the perpetrator braced against the other side of the glass door, creating a tug of war between them. Her father sensing the momentum shift in his favour, lowered his stance to get better leverage. The extra force was too much for the perpetrator’s hand which was positioned on a pane of glass, the smooth surface of the glass damp from the cold night air meeting the warmth of the kitchen, yielded and the hand slipped sending the perpetrator lurching forward. The perpetrator’s left shoulder smashed into the metal frame. The vice-like grip that held onto the perpetrator’s arm holding the knife slackened. Suddenly everything became still.

The perpetrator looked at her father, his facial expression was one of shock, and then his head tilted downwards looking toward his chest. The perpetrator followed suit and they both saw that the knife had plunged into the left side of her father’s chest. The perpetrator released the knife and her father reeled backward clutching his chest before collapsing to the ground. His body was on its side and his head had flopped to the floor. His eyes were still open but unfocused.  He was mouthing something inaudible, ‘I love you, Laura…forgive me, Mercy.’ The perpetrator watched the life leave his eyes, his body relax, and his arms drop to the floor.

The perpetrator stepped back into the kitchen and still had the presence of mind to wipe the handle of the knife, retrieve what they had taken, and exit via the hole in the door wiping the windowpane of fingerprints in doing so. Before leaving the perpetrator took a final look at Mercy’s father, and then looked up catching a reflection of the perpetrator’s eyes in the glass door. Eyes that Mercy didn’t recognise but would never forget.

Mercy woke up on the train startled, breathing rapidly, and tears rolling down her cheeks. A concerned passenger sitting across from her asked if she was all right. She nodded, clutched her handbag, and moved to the empty part of the carriage. She wiped the tears from her face and from her mobile placed a call to DCI Anderson.

His phone rang a couple of times before he answered, ‘DCI Anderson,’ his voice was deep and soothing.

‘Hi, it’s Mercy,’ she said quickly, the anxiety in her voice was transparent.

‘Is everything all right?’ he enquired.

At this point Mercy hadn’t worked out what she was going to say, she just knew she had to tell someone who could do something about her vision. ‘I’ve seen my father’s murder,’ she started.

‘Did you say you saw his murder?’ he responded skeptically.

She felt tears rolling down her cheeks again. ‘Yes…yes it was like I was there, the kitchen, my father, his killer. I saw what happened, you got to believe me.’

DCI Anderson was left speechless, it had been over a year now, where did this come from? Perhaps she was regaining part of her memory.

‘Where are you now,’ he spoke authoritatively.

‘I’m on a train on the way home, well my mother’s home,’ she replied. ‘I should be home this evening.’

‘Ok, I’ll meet you at your mother’s home at 19:30. Try and write down what you can remember I find that it helps,’ he said reassuring her.

‘Thank you, thank you,’ she said and ended the conversation. She stared at her phone; in the screen’s reflection, she could see her mascara had run. She reached into her handbag and retrieved a small pocket mirror and some tissues. With her mind engaged in fixing her makeup, she reflected on what she had just experienced. It felt so real, but how could she have known all these details unless she was there? The question daunted her, was it a memory or was it really a vision? This wasn’t the first time she had experienced something like this in her life. It happened when her grandfather passed away following a heart attack while at dinner with his wife. Even though Mercy was eight at the time, and not present at the dinner, she described the scene in an unerring way several days later, right down to the colour dress her grandmother was wearing and what dessert they had been sharing.

Deep in thought, the rest of the train journey passed quickly. She decided to catch a taxi from London St Pancras to give herself time to prepare for DCI Anderson’s visit.

When she arrived at home, her mother could sense something was wrong.

‘Darling, what’s wrong,’ she questioned when she saw Mercy’s flushed cheeks from crying.

‘I had a vision, or I think it was a vision of father’s death,’ she uttered choking back the tears again.

‘Mercy, are you sure? You haven’t had one of those since you were eight,’ her mother said alarmed.

‘I think so, it was so real, I saw every detail,’ Mercy insisted.

‘Ok, let me make some tea and you can tell me all about it,’ her mother answered in a slightly patronising fashion.

‘No,’ replied Mercy, ‘I spoke to DCI Anderson on the way home, he’s coming over this evening. So, I can tell you both at the same time. I need to freshen up he’ll be here in an hour.’

Mercy picked up her rucksack and traipsed upstairs to her room without saying another word.

Mercy was brushing her hair when DCI Anderson rang the doorbell.

‘I’ll get it,’ she shouted to her mother and quickly descended the stairs. She could see DCI Anderson’s silhouette through the frosted glazed panel in the front door. As she approached the door, she could make out another silhouette lurking behind the first. Maybe it’s his partner she thought to herself.

DCI Anderson was how she remembered him, tall and stoic. Although he had more grey hairs now and his skin was slightly jaundiced.

‘Mercy, how are you? It’s been a while,’ he greeted her.

‘Yes, it’s been a while, I wish it was under different circumstances,’ she replied, allowing him to step through to the hallway. From behind him appeared the second person whom Mercy instantly recognised.

‘I took the liberty to ask your counsellor, Dr Paterson to attend,’ DCI Anderson announced. Mercy felt a great deal of indignation that her counsellor was there, as though DCI Anderson didn’t believe her story.

‘Well, you better come through to the lounge. Mother is waiting in there,’ she said allowing them both to pass and cover the short distance to the lounge. Dr Paterson smiled and nodded at Mercy as he walked past.

‘Laura, how are you?’ said DCI Anderson as he greeted her mother, ‘I’m sure you remember Dr Paterson.’ Dr Paterson had also worked with Laura in bereavement counselling. They spent a few minutes exchanging pleasantries.

‘Well, shall we proceed,’ Mercy said impatiently. They all took seats facing Mercy as she recanted her vision. She described the kitchen, what she could of the intruder, the kitchen knife, the stand-off, the rush by the intruder to escape via the hole in the door, the ensuing fracas, and the grave blow to her father. Finally, with tears in her eyes, her father’s last words and the intruder wiping the eight-inch chef’s knife of fingerprints.

When she had finished, they all sat in silence save for the snuffling from her mother as she blew her nose from crying. Mercy looked DCI Anderson deep in his eyes, searching for a reaction. When none came, she looked at Dr Paterson who was clearly analysing in his mind what she had said, and when she looked at her mother, she was looking at DCI Anderson out of hope and guidance.

DCI Anderson spoke breaking the silence. ‘Mercy, did you say a large chef’s knife?’

‘Yes, about this big,’ she held out her hands gesturing about eight inches.

‘You’re positive,’ he questioned, looking at her through his brow.

‘Yes, I’m extremely positive,’ she yelled and stormed off to the kitchen. She returned with an eight-inch chef’s knife similar to the one that killed her father.

‘May I?’ DCI Anderson held out his hand to take the knife. He carefully examined it and then addressed Mercy. ‘Mercy, the knife that fatally wounded your father was a pairing knife, much smaller than this with roughly a 3.5-inch blade.’

‘No, it can’t be, you’re wrong!’ Mercy barked, clenching her fists in anger.

‘Mercy, it’s on the autopsy report,’ he calmly responded trying to take the tension out of the situation.

‘I…I don’t understand, everything was so vivid,’ she said shaking her head as if her whole world was collapsing around her.

Dr Paterson cleared his throat gaining their attention. He had been silent so far but now chose to speak. ‘I think I can explain. You have something akin to what we clinically refer to as false memory syndrome, where your father’s murder has caused severe psychological trauma and you have elicited some of your own experience, as you were also in the kitchen before the attack and that of the police incident report. Your memory has entwined the two. The reason it feels so real to you is because of another clinical term called Confabulation, where you are not intentionally being deceptive and sincerely believe the information you are sharing to be genuine and accurate.’

Mercy remained silent; she understood his words but deep down refused to accept them.

Dr Paterson continued, ‘This is not unusual in cases where there has been a homicide in close situational proximity. It can manifest immediately after the event or years later.’

Dr Paterson turned to her mother, ‘I think it would be best if we resumed Mercy’s counselling sessions. With some specific exercises and patience, we can certainly reduce the occurrence of such memories.’ Laura nodded in agreement.

DCI Anderson stood up and in turn, so did Dr Paterson. ‘Mercy, I’m sorry you had to experience this, you can always call me if you have anything else you want to discuss about the case,’ said DCI Anderson. Both gentlemen thanked Laura and gave Mercy a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder as they left.

For many months later Mercy would have recurring nightmares of her father’s death, and each time the details remained the same. She attended weekly counselling sessions and was prescribed drugs – which dulled her mind – but reduced her anxiety. Dr Paterson was right, in time the nightmares ceased, and she could come off the drugs. However, shortly after the blackouts started seemingly independently of the nightmares, but she didn’t want to mention this to anyone for fear of more counselling and more drugs.

The train jolted as it came to a standstill. Mercy’s reverie was broken, and she looked out of the window to see that they had arrived at her station. She had very few options but to take a taxi to her studio flat near the university.

As she entered her studio she was overcome with weariness. It had been a long journey, but the fatigue was mainly associated with recovering from the blackout. The studio looked the same as she left it, there was a half-drunk glass of wine on the coffee table and a soft furry blanket was dishevelled on the couch. She threw her keys and mobile phone onto the coffee table and headed to the bathroom. She needed to soak her tired body. She ran a hot bath and found pleasure in relaxing in it while trying to forget about everything that was possibly troubling her. It took her a while to relax, but she did. She finally climbed out, dried herself, and quickly dressed in her comfortable pyjamas. She poured herself a glass of wine and retired to the front room where she melted into the sofa and read a chapter of a book.

She must have nodded off, as she found herself surrounded by trees and shrubs. In the distance, she could hear water running and the sun was low in the sky. Confused she walked forward toward the sound of the water, where she saw a man staggering ahead of her. As she approached him to ask where she was, she saw dark maroon liquid oozing from the base of his neck. She screamed and ran in the opposite direction.

She ran until she was out of breath, but she was still deep in the woodland, ahead she saw a figure lying on the floor and another shadowy creature with no identifiable form hovering above it. Appendages that looked like arms held aloft a large rock and then let it come crashing down, the head of the figure laying on the floor buckled and turned so that she could see the crumpled face torn and battered. She could just about identify the figure as a white male in his late forties, one eye so devastated by the force of the rock it was nearly out of its socket. She screamed a silent scream and the trees dissolved like whispers of smoke and whirled around her.

As the air cleared, she found herself on a riverbank, the river was swollen, and the sun was setting. She heard the sound of grunting coming from behind her. She spun around and was confronted by the same dark shape pulling the body of the man along the woodland floor with what looked like his rucksack. When they reached the river’s edge, the shape rose and obtained a large branch. It positioned the branch under the body of the man and used it as a lever to plunge the body into the cold river water. Mercy saw the body slowly sink into the river’s depth. The shape turned and two eyes she recognised from her nightmares of her father’s killer pierced her soul.

She awoke on her couch screaming and dripping with sweat, she sent the wine glass crashing to the wooden floor splintering shards of glass across it. Without hesitation, she reached for her mobile phone. Those eyes, the same eyes as her father’s killer, what had she witnessed? It couldn’t have been a coincidence. She found the telephone number in her contacts and dialled the telephone number.

The phone was answered almost immediately. Before someone could speak Mercy demanded ‘DCI Anderson?’

‘I’m afraid DCI Anderson has retired due to poor health,’ a young female voice answered. ‘Can I help you? I’m DCI Donovan.’

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