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The notorious second man

You have to believe me when I say I'm a fundamentally good person. I have a good reputation in the neighbourhood and am Chairman of Keep West Kenbury Tidy, I’m considered an all-round good egg.

My only flaw is my tendency not to own up. For example when I started a new job I scraped the bumper of another vehicle in the car park visibly marking it, but because no one was looking I then drove off to another space. When the person whose car was damaged issued an e-mailed plea for whoever was responsible to come forward I ignored it. On another occasions I accidentally flooded a pub toilet before swiftly exiting via the beer garden rather than telling the landlord.

You must all know about the “Kenbury Christmas murders” of 1994? The gruesome crimes of David Anthony Linton are the subject of a channel 4 documentary, a Netflix series , a Serial podcast and at least 6 true crime websites.

I won't therefore, go into the gory details.

You may, even if you are the vaguest student of the case, have an inkling of what it i am about to say.

Yes it’s true, I was the wearer of the blood splattered flip-flop! The blood that was spattered was also mine. Before you gasp in horror let me tell you what happened.

When I was a student I had sex with a girl who then admitted she had a large rugby playing boyfriend who would be coming home soon. Unable to put my shoes on in the dark and panicked by noises I slipped my feet into a cheap pair of flip-flops in the hall and made off, real shoes in hand.

I don't know about you but I find flip-flops hard to walk in and I stubbed my toe on the path as I left, getting some blood on the flip flops which I then tossed over the nearest garden wall.

They landed in the garden of the house where David Anthony Linton was at the time, murdering Paul and Angela Phelps and their 3 year old Molly.

As a student you are sort of cut off from the real world and while I had heard of the murders I wasn't following them and hadn't looked at the Phelps' address. Nor did I read anywhere that a man had been released because his blood didn’t match that on the flip-flops.

By the time of Linton’s re-arrest he had brutally wiped out two more families.

It was only then that I saw the flip-flops on Crimewatch and heard the words “possible accomplice”.

I wish I'd come forward at this point I really do, But the "second man" in the blood spattered

flip-flops quickly became a notorious figure on an infamy par with Linton himself. My identity has been the subject of constant conjecture ever since.

Several times I nearly set off for the police station but was put off thinking of the threats made to The second man on the internet. Once I reached the station only to see someone reading The Sun’s front page featuring the local postman and the headline "Face of a monster?".

For years I’ve lived in fear of discovery, I don't give blood, I gave up cycling in case I should end up in hospital and every time my GP orders me to have a blood test I make an excuse to miss the appointment.

Recently I’ve come to think that I’m enjoying this situation, becoming strangely rather proud of my unlikely identity as the notorious “second man” and at my ongoing success in evading capture.

Especially for you

Johnny was on his way to Snoozeville, and today’s conductor, the Right Honourable Duke of Wellington (the first). Did they know that it was an honorary title, created specifically for Arthur Wellesley, commander of the British troops charged with the defeat of Napoleon?

Johnny was almost away. There was something about the tone of the Prof’s voice when he was in full on lecture mode. Was it the timbre? The drone? He’d told the Prof he should record himself, sell them through a website, make himself a fortune he would. The Prof had been well puffed up at the thought of that. Johnny had told no one he’d meant as the world’s greatest sleep app.

Then a chair fell with a clang, ill piled books slipped to the floor as the low table jerked below Johnny’s feet. The Prof continued gamely. The Duke of Wellington, Britain’s foremost solider general, an actual Irishman, could they believe that?

Johnny was fully awake, but he kept his eyes closed. He listened as the noisy newcomer shuffled in his flip flops into a spare chair and then wheeze and puff as he tugged it just so.

‘Hey, how’s it going, Kenny?’ Johnny said, and only then did he open his eyes.

Kenny grinned, shaking his head in disbelief. ‘How do you always know? I was sure I was quiet today.’

‘You were catlike,’ Johnny said. ‘I’m just magic. What’s it you have to show us today?’

Kenny puffed out his chest. ‘No. This is magic. I got them from a man selling them in the street.’

‘Oh goodness,’ the Prof said. ‘Please, not beans.’

Kenny’s forehead wrinkled. ‘Huh? No, I get them in Iceland. I get the four pack, the big tins, and even if it’s just me, I put half the tin in a tub in the fridge.’ He turned back to Johnny and shoved an arm inside one of his bulging carrier bags. ‘Are you ready?’

‘Edge of my seat.’

Kenny eyed the whole group of them sitting around their table, and when he was satisfied he had their full attention, he said, ‘Tada,’ and pulled out a big bunch of roses. Only, these weren’t soft and pliant, errant petals fluttering to the carpet tiles. These roses rattled and bopped against each other, and the stems, though green, were stiff and unyielding.

Johnny took his feet off the table so he could sit up and get a closer look.

‘Are those…wooden flowers?’

Kenny beamed at him. ‘Yep! They were a tenner. Aren’t they brilliant! She is going to love them.’

‘What’s the occasion?’ Johnny said.

‘Every occasion. That’s the beauty of them! She’ll have them for her birthday now, then it’s Christmas, then Valentine’s. I never have to buy flowers again. She’ll always have flowers.’

‘I’ll say it again,’ Johnny said. ‘You are a genius.’

The Prof rolled his eyes and leaned over so he could speak only to Johnny. ‘There’s a news headline for the new year,’ the Prof said. ‘Christmas morning, man found battered to death, a blood-spattered flip flop stuffed down his gizzard.’

‘Nah,’ Johnny said. ‘We’ll see him in the New Year, couple of dozen plasters across his face. I mean, some of those rosebuds look pretty lethal.’

Dinner down under

Have you ever felt blood trickling through your toes? That warm soft ooze sinking into the crack between those crooked bent philanges. In other circumstances it could almost be enjoyable. I slip into my blood splattered flip flops. It just doesn’t feel right wearing flip flops at christmas but it’s 34 degrees. It’s another thing about oz that ive come to despise. I step outside through the sliding doors pulling them to behind me to keep out the flies. And the smell.

I walk over and sit on the pools edge dangling my feet in the warm still water. The chlorine stings my hands as I wash the mess off my flip flops and I see how cut and bruised my feet are. I need a plaster but it’s too hot to move, so I lie down and let the pool wash my feet. There is a radio playing from one of the distant neighbours and I can hear Last Christmas droning out. Even the other side of the world, where they have a bbq on Christmas Day for christs sake, last christmas still plays on. It makes me smile. I feel the ache in my arms and waist. Pulled a muscle maybe at some point. I embrace the warm sun and sleep takes me over.

It’s hard to know what time it is when I wake but the sun has gone down and it’s cool now. I just have been exhausted. My body aches and my feet are burning though the bleeding has stopped. Time to login.

The views are though the roof. It’s horrible what people will watch. Horrible and lucrative. My etherium stock makes for very happy viewing. I don’t know where they come from or why they watch but it puts a roof over my head. Well multiple roofs. The sick fucks.

The bath is pretty much all liquid now so I pull the plug and run the taps. Coming back into the front room I see a small stain on the carpet. Fuck. That’s gonna have to go on the fire now. Happy christmas me. A timer goes off on the oven. Dinner is ready. All the trimmings. Why not just cos I’m not in the Uk doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate. The carpet can wait.

I take the tray out and set to carving. The meat is tender and moist and the knife slices through smoothly and satisfying. My lips are wet with anticipation. And then the doorbell goes. I’m not expecting anyone so cautiously I peer through the eye hole. It’s Carol and Chuck the neighbours on the east side. He’s a fencer or something like that and she’s in property. Shit what do they want.

“Howdy neighbour.” Her voice is strained and overly polite.

“We we’re just thinking you must be lonely over here on Christmas Day on your own.” He seemed to be peering through the doorway as he asked.

“Thank you kindly. But I actually have company.”

They looked at the coat and shoes in the hallway and smiled awkwardly.

“But I do appreciate you stopping over.”

“Of course, we…”

“You have a lovely Christmas Day now.”

“Yes, yes thank yo…”

“Sorry I must be going, meat won’t carve itself.”

I shut the door and waited a moment to check they left. Well now. There was me thinking I wouldn’t get any presents this year and out of nowhere two come along at once. I’ll unwrap them tonight I think. I check my watch and I’m a little late. But not too bad, builds anticipation. A quick check that the laptop feed is running. Excelllent. Now finally. Time to eat.

Last Christmas

The snow is perfect, unbroken, stretching from the window to the edge of the sky. From the window seat, she stares out across it, her breath misting the glass. Kit’s kids are screaming and Jessica’s soft indulgences tell them they shouldn't really, they shouldn’t, but oh, isn’t arguing so much harder?

She slips from the window seat, a silent half smile to tell Jessica that the children are fine, no really, they’re fine, not annoying or in the way, just that she needs some air, some time outside is all. She’ll be back.

At the back door she pulls on a pair of wellies far too big, but it doesn’t matter. The air outside is cold and hard as glass, crackling against the soft skin of her face as she pulls the wool wrap around her shoulders and pressing through the unbroken palimpsest of snow, into the cover of the trees.

Kit is where she knew he would be. She pulls herself up into the branches; she is taller now, her legs grazing against bark, head ducking through the doorway their father built for them twenty years before. They say nothing. So much is different in the familiar trappings of their childhood.

She cracks it, the silence. “Jessica’s tired,” she says.

Kit toys with the plaster on his thumb. He doesn’t speak. When she looks at him, she sees last Christmas smeared across his face; the locked bathroom door, the graze of crimson on the kitchen tiles, the flip flop, incongruous on the carpet of white snow, flecked with fresh blood.

Their father, nowhere to be seen.

She and Kit had had to act fast. Jessica was on her way with the children and the others could arrive at any moment. Kit coaxed their mother from inside the bathroom, calmed her, cleaned the blood from her hands and told her that it was alright, she did what she had to do and now they had to act like it was any other Christmas. He had helped her into a long sleeved cardigan to hide the bruises on her arms and unscrewed the childproof cap on the bottle by her pillow.

By the time the other cars had pulled up, Mum was shaky, but smiling, the lights strung around the tree and the house a picture of perfect Christmas, happy families. By the end of the evening, even Mum seemed to really believe that dad was away for work. The hot, heavy, bloody drag into the woods existed only for Kit and herself now. A crimson secret to preserve Christmas spirit for the family.

“You shouldn’t come here,” she tells him. “We need you up at the house. Otherwise what was it all for?” A brief flicker of a smile behind Kit’s eyes; he knew she was right. He followed her down and back through the woods to the house, the blanketing snow, a co-conspirator, wrapping the story in clean, white magic.