Deadlier: 100 of the best crime stories written by women

International Fiction

Funny. I’ve had that knife such a long time, years.

At university I had a boyfriend who was a bit of a foodie; when I gradu­ated, he bought me a knife set. Quality knives, he’d called them. Something about me never having to cut a tomato with a pound shop blade again. I take a moment to count back – nineteen years. And it’s my favourite one out of the block, the eight inch chef’s knife, sturdy, riveted into a black handle. Perfect for chopping the veg.

Not that I’ll get to do that again, at least not with that particular knife. It’s wire-mounted into a cardboard box with a clear plastic window, like a Hallow­een Barbie doll, and the prosecution counsel is waving it at the jury.

‘This is LJJ/1, the knife, now Court Exhibit One,’ he says, giving it to the usher who offers it to the judge and then it is passed to the jury. They hand it solemnly along the row – some of them lingering over their examination of it – then it’s given back to the usher. A bizarre game of pass-the-parcel, with nobody winning a prize.

After this is over I imagine it will be locked away in some evidence storage facility for some indeterminate period of time, never to see a carrot again. I feel weirdly sorry for it. Purposeless. Done with. Incarcerated. A bit like me.

International Fiction

‘She took this knife, ladies and gentlemen, and she stabbed him with it. Not once, but twice, penetrating his liver and causing his right lung to collapse. She missed his heart by a matter of inches …’

That makes me want to smile and I have to suck in my cheeks to prevent it. A matter of inches! Nowhere near, in other words. Although the fact that I managed to nick his hepatic artery causing fatal blood loss was more by luck; I wasn’t exactly aiming. Can’t smile though, can’t do anything; can’t look inter­ested, mustn’t look bored. The only way of coping with all of this is to try and switch off. Blank. Detached.

Here are the things that I remember.

Number One: Cooking a roast one Sunday, the sun shining in from the garden. Looking up because it was so bright; the sunlight reflecting off the rain-soaked patio into the kitchen. Peace in there, the radio on, just me peeling the potatoes. Then the boys coming home from rugby, subdued because they lost. And he had been to the pub of course, collected chem from their game afterwards, drove them home and now here he was stinking of beer, all bright and pretending to be alert, his eyelids drooping.

I had told him, more than once, that Bev had offered to drop them home, but he didn’t like Bev – he wasn’t keen on any of my friends, in fact – and so he carried on regardless.
I remember thinking, at least it isn’t far. Praying to a God I only half believed in to keep them safe on the road home.

Number Two: I remember being afraid of burning the meat. He didn’t like it pink, he liked it well done, but let me tell you apparently there’s a fine line between well done and burned, and chat line is never where you think it is, no matter how careful you are.

Number Three: the last time I held my babies, my boys. Hugged them before they went to school that morning. I’m glad I did it, that for once I wasn’t rushed; glad they let me. They’re not babies any more. Any sign of affection gratefully received. I’m glad I held them because I didn’t plan it, for it to be that day in particular; I was waiting for the next assault, knowing I would, chis time, fight back.

They’re talking about the psychological assessment now. They said I had a dis­sociative disorder, that I was finding it difficult to connect to the reality of what I did. The prosecution lawyer suggests this demonstrates a lack of remorse, that I am a cold, calculating killer and I had every intention of scabbing my husband to death. The defence counters that dissociation is a trauma coping mechanism, brought about not by the incident itself but by the years of abuse preceding it. Look at them both, as if they have any idea.

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to know what to do with my face. I do cry sometimes, quite often in fact, sniffing into my tissue and clutching my hand over my mouth – but it’s rarely as a result of whatever it is they are discussing. It’s the memories that take me by surprise. Things like Ryan’s face when his dad cold him he wished he’d never been born. That one gets me every time. Or having to take the cat to the RSPCA – knowing the likelihood of her finding another home was slim – because she was too old to run out of his way when he was raging.

Funny, the things that make me cry are never the things that happened to me. Perhaps that’s what they mean by dissociation.

The members of the jury look at me sometimes, especially when called upon to do so by the prosecution counsel – look at her, the cold-blooded vicious killer – he hasn’t said that, co be fair to him, just words to that effect – and when they do, I manage to look startled. Afraid.

Or maybe that’s just the way my face is fixed now.

If anyone were to ask me, when all this is over, that simplest of questions: ‘Any regrets?’ I’d answer no, of course not. No matter what happens now, at least I’m free of him, at least my boys are safe.

Or perhaps yes, just one.

I wish I’d used a different knife.

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International Fiction

Agencies Tiger Print

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