Mr. Terry Pryce, 19, charged with manslaughter, was acquitted today. Mrs. Michelle Boynton, 38, the widow of the man Pryce was accused of killing, broke down when she heard the verdict.
Last June Mr. Geoff Boynton, 42, objected to Pryce damaging his garden fence with a screwdriver. Pryce allegedly became abusive and stabbed Mr. Boynton in the chest five times. Mrs. Boynton beat off Pryce with a garden rake and later identified him.
After today’s verdict, Mrs. Boynton’s solicitor stated that they would “consider a civil action or other alternatives to get justice”.– The Alverbank Chronicle
Michelle Boynton sat in front of the gas fire, watching with unseeing eyes the antics of the characters in Coronation Street. They’d always preferred the northern soap to the gloom and doom of Eastenders. She could hear Geoff’s deep laughter echoing, it seemed, from his empty chair. The clock ticked reassuringly on the mantelpiece. Even after all this time, the same scenes kept replaying in her mind; stark, frightening, yet unreal. And also the might-have-beens, the alternatives if only Geoff hadn’t felt protective towards his property, their home. Guilt stabbed her in the heart, as it often did when she woke in the early hours of the morning.
In the blue light from the television set, her plain features appeared attractive, the high cheekbones pronounced with shadows, her big eyes glistening, reflecting the red of the fire. But there was nobody to see her. The curtains were drawn, and there was no one to caress her curling, shoulder-length red hair.
Tears rolled over her cheeks, but she didn’t notice them. Before that terrible day in June, when life was normal, she had been amused by the soap opera, her thick lips broadening into a laugh. But the nights were no longer normal. They probably never would be, ever again.
Michelle’s stomach rumbled emptily. Apart from toast at breakfast, she hadn’t eaten all day.
As the advertisements came on, she got up, walked into the kitchen and put on the kettle.
There was a dull ache, deep in her heart, and no Rennies would ease it. She rubbed her chest idly while waiting for the water to boil.
Automatically, she put out two mugs – labelled ‘Geoff’ and ‘Michelle’. She spooned the coffee into both. Only at the point of pouring the water onto the granules did she realise her mistake.
Geoff wasn’t coming back. He’d been taken from her, killed by a callous lout who thrust his fist in the air when he was acquitted.
Michelle lowered the kettle and clutched Geoff’s mug to her breast.
She was still relatively young, with plenty of life in front of her, yet the years ahead that had offered so much promise now threatened to be empty, sad and bitter.
She sat at the kitchen table and lowered the mug, then covered her face with her hands and wept.
Larry Dawson and Frank Ricketts carried the DVD recorder between them, the cable with the plug draped round Larry’s neck. Even devoid of leaves, a broad sycamore tree by the double garden gate still cast deep shadows over them. Nearby was a pile of sand and brick rubble from a half-completed house extension. Frank’s Commer van was parked a few yards further down the Crescent.
“Have we got time to go back, d’you reckon?” whispered Frank, his breath visible in the night air.
“Nah, I did a quick check and there ain’t nothin’ else worth pinchin’.” Larry was older and thicker set than eighteen-year-old Frank, and liked to bathe in the youth’s adulation. “Stick to what you know you can get rid of, Frankie.”
Suddenly a black shape emerged from behind the tree, grabbed the wire round Larry’s neck and twisted and tightened it. “I think you should put that machine back, don’t you?” said the stranger.
Larry instinctively let go of the DVD recorder at once, trying to reach his assailant behind him.
Frank fumbled and let go of the machine, and barked, “Hey! Who the–?”
The recorder, only suspended on the wire round Larry’s neck, slammed into his thighs and groin. A gloved hand wrenched Larry’s face round and rammed it twice into the bole of the tree. Nose streaming blood, his breathing cut short by the wire, he collapsed at the tree’s base.
Frank faltered and his face went pale. He turned and dashed towards the van.
Their assailant released a bolas from a waist fastening, twirled it overhead then let go.
The weighted sections of rope flew after Frank and wrapped around his legs, tripping him up.
“Christ!” Frank fell headfirst into the gutter. As he struggled to unravel the rope, his attacker ran up. Heart hammering, pounding, all Frank could see was the whites of eyes in the black-mask of a face. The punch when it came was surprisingly swift and knocked him senseless.
Their van contained a phone – all the mod cons at their victims’ expense. The stranger in black called the police, gave the address of the break-in, and hung up.
Their assailant then emptied some sand into the van’s oil-sump and quickly melted into the darkness.
A short while later, the police patrol found Frank and Larry tied to the tree. Labels from a hand-held printer were stuck to a pre-printed card and pinned to Larry’s chest: These two men burgled 4 Waterside Crescent. The DVD recorder has their fingerprints on it. Handle with care. The Black Knight. In the bottom corner of the card was a black silhouette of a knight with a shield and sword.
As this is a crime novel, it seems likely that certain individuals will swear. I rationed the strong swearing to four instances.
I’ve deliberately not referred to the vigilante as either ‘he’ or ‘she’ at this stage, which presents its own minor problems in description, since I want the scene to be visual to the reader. [When an author writes about an individual whose identity is a secret and it’s daylight without shadows, I wonder how they’d film that. The actor’s face would be visible – unless it was always a back view…]
Sudden Vengeance published by Crooked Cat website here
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