Shabby Victorian terraces make up the notorious red-light district of the deprived northern seaside town, well past its heyday. You peer through the smashed window of the derelict house which you called home twenty years ago and shudder as you remember the ghastly secret you were forced to keep. This was your house of horrors, the scene of your childhood nightmares.
They were both sadistic bullies. We foster kids were consigned to a relentless regime of cooking, cleaning and being cuffed round the head, while he and his partner – Mr and Mrs we had to call them – slobbed on the shabby sofa watching TV and feeding titbits to their dog. The dog was better fed than we were.
But it was the nights we dreaded most. Monday and Wednesday were my allocated days, the rest of the week being shared out between the other two. When a neighbour complained about the crying, they put gags on us and played music. No one contacted social services, there was no one to care.
When Mrs was found at the foot of the bed, hands rigor mortised in a gesture of self defence, hair matted with blood which ran in a grisly shadow around her body, the police found no fingerprints, no murder weapon. But they did find something. A handwritten note in which Mrs had expressed her fears that her partner was going to kill her. That was enough to condemn him. A neat conclusion, you thought.
Your police escort hustles you away from the house and into a waiting car.
‘We know the truth. All we need is to hear it from you,’ they say in the police station.
‘He didn’t do it… you did.’
‘Well, wouldn’t you?’
It was worth it.
(c) Yvonne Clarke