How did things ever get so out of hand? One minute I’m a happily married man with three children, the next I’m reviled as a cold-blooded murderer shunned by those dearest to him. Those I tried to protect.
My wife, Clare, barely speaks to me, nor does my eldest daughter, Rachel, around whom this terrible thing evolved. My teenage son Jamie looks at me with indifference, which now I come to think about it, isn’t any different to before… the murder. Only my youngest daughter Katie, refuses to shun me; I’m still her hero. Too young to understand, I guess.
I’d come home from work a little later than usual that night and was exhausted. All I wanted was to have dinner and crash in front of the television.
Instead I was greeted with the type of news that all fathers with daughters must dread – Rachel was being stalked. Through a torrent of tears, she had explained that she had glimpsed him several times over the last few days but had not wanted to say anything in case we thought she was being paranoid. However, that evening’s sighting had frightened her beyond her doubts, shaken her to her very core, and she had blurted it all out to me and Clare. She had been alone in her bedroom getting ready to go on a date with her new boyfriend, Greg, when she had heard a car pull up. Assuming it was him, she had nonchalantly pulled back her curtains to see if he was waiting outside, but instead had come face to face with the stalker.
Terrified, she had screamed and rushed to find her mother and by the time they both got to her bedroom, he had long gone. Despite her mother’s reassurances, Rachel had not wanted to be left alone and had stayed in the lounge until she heard me come home. She was so upset; she had even cancelled her date with Greg. Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess. I’m not a fan. She can do better.
She had seen her stalker three times before and all of them had been of an evening or at night. Each time he had just been skulking in the shadows, watching her like the coward he is…was.
Her description of him was vague. Big, dark, hairy and mean looking. Not a lot to go on. I flippantly made a comparison to Greg. That hadn’t gone down well.
My wife said she hadn’t seen him nor had my son, who suggested it was just a figment of Rachel’s imagination or one of Greg’s weirdo friends. The same thought had crossed my mind.
In an effort to win my daughter back I promised to make sure the house was secure and that he wasn’t still in the vicinity. I told her that because he was hanging around longer and longer, he was clearly becoming more emboldened and this over confidence would be his undoing. Rachel seemed happy at this thought and after hugging me, she nervously followed me to her bedroom window.
The stalker wasn’t there. Nor was he anywhere else for that matter. I conducted a thorough search, but I never saw him either that day or indeed over the next week, but I did see him the following Tuesday. Everyone except me was out at the cinema. It was football night and I’d been looking forward to the big match, instead I’d fallen asleep in my favourite armchair with the light off and the TV on.
I don’t know what woke me other than an overwhelming sense of being watched. I had got up, perturbed by my own sense of unease and had flicked the light on and there he was, bold as brass over by the window. I had screamed more out of surprise than fright, at least that’s what I like to think, and had scrabbled around desperately searching for a weapon. By the time that I had armed myself and turned to confront him, he was long gone. Brave in the shadows not so much in the light apparently. Coward.
I was still shaking when everyone came home. Clare was worried, Jamie was uninterested, but Rachel seemed relieved that I had finally seen him. Katie was asleep in her mum’s arms. Probably for the best. Clare asked me to describe him, but in my panic, I had only caught a fleeting glimpse, but I had seen enough to know that Rachel was right - he was big and mean looking. I wasn’t looking forward to tackling him, but it was clear to me that I would have to at some point. Nobody slept well that night, because although nobody said it, we all knew that if he could get in and out so easily, he could reappear anytime, anywhere.
There were several more sightings over the coming days, even Jamie mentioned in passing that he thought he had seen him, but he didn’t seem bothered. The bravado of youth.
I saw him twice more before the night of - the murder – I still think that’s harsh, and gave chase both times, but he was able to outrun me on each occasion. He seemed to know all the exits and hiding places and had clearly been casing the joint. That and maybe I didn’t chase as fast as I could. But a pattern had begun to emerge and over the next couple of days I formulated a plan. I felt I could now predict when he was next likely to appear. So, on that fateful night, with the family safely asleep, I lay in wait in the dark lounge, armed and ready. This time I would have the element of surprise.
I wasn’t disappointed. Within a few minutes he appeared. At first, I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me, perhaps only a shadow. I was only going to get one crack at this, and I had to get it right. He was mean, cunning and fast. Grasping my weapon tightly, I switched on the light, leapt towards him screaming like a banshee and swung my weapon. He was clearly taken by surprise and never saw me coming and I doubt he felt a thing. Judging by the amount of blood on the wall, the first blow probably killed him, but I hit him another two times just to be sure. Blood rage the Vikings called it. Berserker.
My family came running at the commotion and looked firstly at me with my look of triumph and then at the blood stain on the wall. Slowly their gaze dropped to the mangled and lifeless body on the floor. That’s when the recriminations started.
Why did I have to kill it, it was only a helpless spider? Why didn’t I just capture it and put it in the garden? I was speechless with disbelief. No amount of pleading on my part over the next few days reconciled me to my family. To them I was a cold-blooded murderer. A killer of harmless animals.
(c) Jeff Jones