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Chapter Three


Three o’clock already.  The night was flying by, which was surprising seeing as they had been sitting in silence since the service station.  Rachel had been mulling over her ‘relationship’ with Ryan and whether it would be a good time to tell Denise.  Initially, it seemed logical to tell her now – it paled into nothing compared to a corpse.  But it could be the thing that tipped her over the edge.  Denise was obviously rather keen to lash out and Rachel didn’t wish to rock the boat.

            She wondered what Denise was thinking.  Trying to get into the head of the mother of a murderer must be something psychologists crave.  Ever since Freud had laid out to the world details of how your family could truly fuck you up, a certain amount of blame would need to be apportioned to the parents.  And this parent was still desperately trying to think of a moment in Ryan’s essentially uneventful upbringing that could have turned him into a killer.

            He had caught her and Trevor in bed once.  He’d wet the bed and woken up, interrupting his parent’s ‘quiet time,’ and had been somewhat alarmed by the vigorous grunting that they had been making.  Trevor had said they were play-acting whilst Denise hid herself under the covers, torn between laughter and tears.  It had been a bit embarrassing - especially as he only discovered the truth about what he saw years later and the night was relived in painful technicolour after his school sex education sent him home with a harem of questions for mummy and daddy – but it wasn’t something that could shape someone’s adulthood, surely.

            The people he’d known at school had been fairly straight down the line.  He’d lost contact with most of them as the years had gone on, even though he remained in Manchester for university.  Once the common bond of school had ceased and they had tried to work out who they really were and often found that they weren’t the same, a gradual drift occurred, each of them finding their place in adulthood away from each other.  Even his university friends seemed like positive forces as opposed to what you would call ‘a bad lot.’  Denise had met his friend Ripley on several occasions, and although he was rather pretentious, he had seemed of good nature.  He didn’t seem like the drug taking sort, but then you never could tell these days.  There were others that had come round, and they had all appeared to be astute young adults, promising hopes for the future.  And his work mates – well his work-mates had to be well-behaved didn’t they?

            There was nothing about his peers, or his background, that would in any way suggest that they would be making that journey tonight.  It made Denise wonder whether it wasn’t a social issue.  But then, if it were genetic, there should be a long line of murderers in his ancestry.  But that wasn’t true either. 

            He was a normal man, from a normal family, with normal friends.  Yet, they were currently no more than an hour away from finding out why he had killed someone.

            Trevor didn’t have any guilty secrets in his family either – throughout their years of marriage she’d found them nothing but respectable.

            “Trevor!” Denise suddenly yelled, and Rachel swerved, relieved that there was little traffic on the motorway – in rush hour there could have been dire consequences.  It had been so long since anyone had spoken that Denise’s shrill exclamation scared them both.

            “What’s wrong?” Rachel asked, having recovered her composure, but looking at her friend shiftily, wondering if the shock had somehow been on purpose.   The past four hours had seriously strained their friendship, and Rachel couldn’t help but be a little bit paranoid.

            “I’ve not even told Trevor.  He’s away at the moment.  I completely forgot!”

            “Do you wanna use my mobile?”

            “I don’t know.  Maybe I don’t want him to know.  Maybe I did it for a reason.”

            “Denise, don’t be stupid.  He has a right to know. Whatever’s happening between you-“

            “You think that’s why Ryan did it, don’t you?”

            So that’s what a mother thought about in these conditions, Rachel thought.

            “I would seriously hope not,” Rachel nearly smirked, but managed to control the urge.  “Besides, Denise, we don’t even know he did it yet.”

            Denise was mortified – how could she have let something like that slip out?  She should at least have the good grace right now to protest her son’s innocence – just a little bit.  Silence was threatening to consume the car again, even more imposing than before.

            “I don’t think this is the sort of thing you can control,” Rachel reasoned.  “Denise, I can see you’re eating yourself up over this right now, but we know nothing about what’s gone on tonight.  The radio is feeding us misinformation.  We’ll be there soon.  You’re a good mother.  He’s told me.”

            Too much information?  As far as Denise was concerned, there was no direct link between her and Ryan.

            But Denise took the compliment, and some of the tension was swept out through the window, left behind with the road-kill and cigarette butts.

            “I just don’t know what to think,” she confided.   

            Rachel decided that now would be a good time to break the speed limit and hurry events along a little.  They were trapped in limbo until they got to London, not that either of them wanted to get there.  It wasn’t a choice, it was necessity. 

            And now definitely wasn’t the time for revelations.