Mark Billingham: Lazybones

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Mark Billingham Lazybones
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Mark Billingham



13 March

Dearest Dougie,

I'm sorry about this being another typed letter, but as I explained before, it's difficult for me to write to you from home, so I do it at work when the boss isn't looking, or in my lunch hour (like today!) or whatever. So, sorry if it seems a bit formal. Trust me, when I'm writing to you, the last thing I'm feeling is formal!

I hope things with you are OK and even if they're not brilliant, I hope that my letters are making you feel a bit better. I like to dream that you look forward to them and that you think of me sitting here, thinking about you. At least you have the pictures now (did you like them?), so you don't have to use your imagination too much… (wicked grin!) I know that it's really horrible in there but you must believe that things will get better. One day you will be out, with a bright future. Is it silly of me to hope that perhaps I can play a part in that future? I know that you are in there when you should not be. I know that you being in that place is unjust!!

I should sign off now, because I want to get this in the post before the lunch hour is over and I haven't had anything to eat yet. Writing to you, feeling near to you, is more important than a cheese sarnie anyway (she sighs!).

I will write again soon, Dougie, maybe with another picture. Do you put them on the wall? I don't even know if you have a cell all to yourself or not. If not, I hope whoever you are sharing with is nice. They are very lucky!!

It will all be over soon and when you are out of there, who knows, perhaps we can finally get together. I'm sure the wait will have been worth it.

Please look after yourself, Dougie. Hope you're thinking about me.

Yours, VERY frustrated…

Jane xoxoxoxo

Part 1

Births, Marriages, and Death

10 AUGUST, 1976

He inched himself towards the edge, each tightening of the sphincter muscle moving him a little further across the narrow breadth of the banister's polished surface. He twisted his wrists, wrapping the towel once more tightly around them. Not giving himself the get-out, knowing his body would look for it. Knowing he would instinctively try to free himself. His heels bounced rhythmically against the banister spindles below him. The blue tow rope that he'd found at the back of the garage was itchy against his neck. He smiled to himself. Scratching it, even if he could, would have been stupid. Like dabbing at the skin with disinfectant before slipping in the needle to administer a lethal injection.

He closed his eyes, bowed his head, and let his weight tip him forward and over and down.

It felt as if the jolt might take his head off, but it was not even enough to break a bone. There hadn't been time to do the maths, to set weight against height. Even if there had been, he wasn't sure he'd have known what the relationship between them was. He remembered reading somewhere that the proper hangmen, the Pierrepoints or whoever, could do the calculation, could figure out the necessary drop, based on nothing more than shaking the condemned man's hand.

Pleased to meet you – about twelve feet, I reckon… He clenched his teeth against the pain in his back. The skin had been taken off his spine by the edge of the stair rail as he'd dropped. He could feel warm blood trickling down his chin and he realised that he'd bitten through his tongue. He could smell the motor oil on the rope. He thought about the woman, in bed, not ten feet away. It would have been lovely to have seen her face when she found him. Her liar's mouth falling open as she reached up to stop his body swinging. That would have been perfect, but of course he would never see it. And she would never find him.

Somebody else would find both of them.

'He couldn't help but wonder what the authorities would make of it all. What the newspapers would say. Their names would be spoken, would be whispered again in certain offices and living rooms. His name, the one he'd given her, would echo around a courtroom as it had done so often before, dragged through the mud and the filth that she'd spread before her like an oil slick. This time they themselves would be mercifully absent as others talked about them, about the tragedy, about the balance of their minds being disturbed. It was hard to argue with that, now, this very moment. Him waiting to die, and her upstairs, thirty minutes ahead of him, the blood already soaking deep into their mushroom-coloured bedroom carpet.

She had disturbed both their minds. She had asked for everything she'd got.

Half an hour before, her hands reaching to protect herself. Eight months before that, her hands reaching, her legs spread, on the floor of that stockroom.

She'd asked for everything…

He gagged, spluttering blood, sensing a shadow preparing to descend, feeling his life beginning, thankfully, to slip away. How long had it been now? Two minutes? Five? He pushed his feet down towards the floor, willing his weight to do its work quickly.

He heard a noise like a creak and then a small hum of amazement. He opened his eyes.

He was facing away from the front door, looking back at the staircase. He shifted his shoulders violently, trying to create enough momentum to make himself turn. As he spun slowly around, seconds from death, he found himself staring down, through bloodied and bulging retinas, into the flawless brown eyes of a child.


The look was slightly spoiled by the training shoes. The man with the mullet haircut and the sweaty top lip was wearing a smart blue suit, doubtless acquired for the occasion, but he'd let himself down with the bright white Nike Airs. They squeaked on the gymnasium floor as his feet shifted nervously underneath the table.

'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I'm really, really, sorry.'

An elderly couple sat at the table opposite him. The man's back was ramrod straight, his milky-blue eyes never leaving those of the man in the suit. The old woman next to the old man clutched at his hand. Her eyes, unlike those of her husband, looked anywhere but at those of the young man who, the last time he'd been this close to them, had been tying them up in their own home.

The trembling was starting around the centre of Darren Ellis's meticulously shaved chin. His voice wobbled a little. 'If there was anything I could do to make it up to you, I would,' he said.

'There isn't,' the old man said.

'I can't take back what I did, but I do know how wrong it was. I know what I put you through.'

The old woman began to cry.

'How can you?' her husband said.

Darren Ellis began to cry.

' On the last row of seats, his back against the gym wall-bars, sat a solid-looking man in a black leather jacket, forty or so, with dark eyes and hair that was greyer on one side than the other. He looked uncomfortable and a little confused. He turned to the man sitting next to him.

'This. Is. Bollocks,' Thorne said.

DCI Russell Brigstocke glared at him. There was a shush from a red-haired squaddie type a couple of rows in front. One of Ellis's supporters, by the look of him.

'Bollocks,' Thorne repeated.

The gymnasium at the Peel Centre would normally be full of eager recruits at this unearthly time on a Monday morning. It was, however, the largest space available for this 'Restorative Justice Conference', so the raw young constables were doing their press-ups and star jumps elsewhere. The floor of the gym had been covered with a green tarpaulin and fifty or so sets had been laid out. They were filled with supporters of both offender and victims, together with invited officers who, it was thought, would appreciate the opportunity to be brought up to speed with this latest initiative.

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