Christmas Takeover 22: Michael Bray: With These Hands

With These Hands

A Story by Michael Bray
5,788 words

Helen was dead.

Brixton felt the scream coming from deep in his core and unleashed it into the warm December Tobago night. He had been thrown clear of the car when it had rolled and escaped with a few cuts to his hands and face. Some might call it a miracle until they saw the pulpy mess that still sat in the passenger seat of the mangled Mercedes. He struggled to believe that the lifeless pulped meat was once his wife. A woman he had loved, a woman who he had shown his innermost self, the one normally hidden away from people he knew. He sat in the road, vaguely aware of the growing crowds, locals mostly, their rusty, old-fashioned cars abandoned as they surveyed the scene. It was a clear night, and glass shimmered on the ground, miniature diamonds of artificial light surrounding his dead wife and the remains of their hire car. He stood up, unable to believe the contrast in their fortunes and hating the bitter cruelty of the trick God had played on them. Christmas abroad, a way to repair the fractured foundations of the relationship. He looked into the car, blonde hair split, brains exposed to the humid night, and was dimly aware there would be none of that. No bickering, no compromises to find common ground. She was now a shell, a lifeless thing made of flesh. A puppet without strings, a marionette without its master. Everything that she had been was now gone. He clenched his fists, looked up into the cloudless star littered sky and screamed again.

“What happened?”

Brixton looked across the table, locking eyes with the police officer. His name was Peters, and he was a large man, narrow sloping shoulders giving him an apish appearance. His skin was dark, eyes curious and unsympathetic. Brixton glanced at the man’s hands and the gold wedding ring on his finger. He, at least, would go home to someone at the end of his shift. For him, it would be business as usual.

“Mr Brixton?” Peters repeated

He blinked, and tried to focus his attention on the officer and his questions. There was a noise, an annoying buzzing irritating him. He glanced at the strip light overhead, the foggy ghosts of long dead flies inhabiting its outer casing. “We were on holiday,” he croaked, forcing his attention back to the officer. “Christmas in the sun. We thought it would be good to leave the cold of home behind.”

“We recovered your passports from the car. You’re English?”

Brixton nodded.

“Mr Brixton, I need you to verbally respond for the benefit of the recording.”

He glanced at the tape recorder on the table, then at the Peters, who was unreadable. “Yes, sorry. We – I’m from England. Both of us are. Were. This is so hard.”

“I understand how difficult this is, but I need to know what happened, Mr Brixton.”

“I know you do. I’m trying.”

It wasn’t the answer expected of him, but it was the best he could manage. He knew that he would have to discuss it, and as much as he was desperate to put it off, knew it would only work for a while.

“We were arguing,” he said, placing his hands flat on the table, marvelling again that the few grazes and scratches were his only injuries from the crash.

“Go on,” Peters said, shifting position.

“We’d been out for a meal on the other side of the island. We’d been having problems at home, and this was supposed to be us getting back on track. Funny thing is, she didn’t even want to come here. She wanted to stay closer to home, go to the coast maybe. It’s all-“

“Mr Brixton.”

Brixton stopped speaking and stared at Peters, trying to make him understand how difficult it was for him. “Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked.”

“I understand. Please, tell me what happened with the accident.”

Brixton cleared his throat, and then stared at his hands. Unable to handle looking at how little pain he suffered from the crash, he moved them under the table out of sight. “We were arguing. I get jealous, paranoid sometimes. Anyway, I thought she had been having an affair with a guy she knows at work. That was why we came out here. A last ditch attempt to fix things. Anyway, I was sure she had been looking at this guy in the restaurant. I lost it and we were asked to leave.”

“Which restaurant?”

“I can’t remember the name. Does it matter?”

“We need to know. For the investigation.”

“I wasn’t drinking if that’s what you wanted to check. I didn’t have a drop.”

“We know. We tested you at the crash site. Do you not remember?”

Brixton frowned and looked at the table top. “Of course. Sorry, I forgot.”

“We can get the details of the location later. What I want to know is what happened that caused you to crash.” The officer said, still calm and patient.

“We had argued in the restaurant about her looking at this guy. We were asked to leave, and the argument continued in the car on the way back to the hotel. It got heated. She was screaming at me, I was screaming at her. I suppose I must have been speeding. Maybe because I was angry. Anyway, I lost control of the car on a bend. It happened too fast for me to react. I felt it start to flip over, then…nothing. Next thing I remember I was lying in the dirt surrounded by people.”

“Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“I don’t know what else I’m expected to say,” Brixton muttered. “Will I go to jail?”

Peters shook his head. “No. You were sober, of sound mind to drive. This looks like nothing but a tragic accident. You are free to go Mr Brixton.”

Brixton made no effort to move. He stared at Peters, trying to force out the words.

“Was there something else?”

“Can I see her?”

For the first time, Peters looked uncomfortable. He shifted position and looked at the clock on the wall. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mr Brixton.”

“Please, I just… I need to see her.”

“Don’t put yourself through it. Perhaps it would be better to remember your wife the way she was?”

“I can’t,” he choked on the words, and felt the hot sting of tears. “Whenever I think about her, all I can see is her sitting the wreck, all broken. That’s not her.”

“Mr Brixton-”

“I can’t remember her. Don’t you understand what I’m saying? I don’t remember what she looks like.” He wiped the palms of his hands under his eyes and stared at Peters.

“I understand, Mr Brixton. But trust me when I tell you I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s better for you to remember your wife as she was in life, not in death.”

“Are you saying I can’t see her?”

“Legally I can’t stop you, Mr Brixton. All I can do is offer advice. Will you please get some rest first? Go to the mortuary tomorrow? Much better to do such things with a clear head.”

Brixton considered for a moment, turning his attention inward. He was exhausted. The problem was, he couldn’t imagine where sleep might come from. “Okay,” he said, slumping in his seat. “I’ll go tomorrow.”

“Good idea. Would you like me to have someone take you to your hotel?”

Brixton shook his head. “No, I’ll walk for a while then get a taxi.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes. I’m sure. Can I go now?” Brixton said. He couldn’t breathe, was too hot, and didn’t enjoy being so close to Peters. He hated the shifty way his eyes moved like he was always looking for a lie.

“Go ahead, Mr Brixton. We will need to speak with you again before you leave. Are you happy for me to hold on to your passport until we speak again?”

Brixton was hardly listening. He was only concerned with getting out of that tiny room. “That’s fine. I’m here for another two weeks anyway, or at least, I was supposed to be. I don’t know what will happen now, or where I’ll go.”

“It takes time, Mr Brixton. Horrible things like this do get better. I know it’s a cliché, but it is true. Go get some rest.”

Brixton was hardly aware of anything as he was led out of the police station. He stood outside on the pavement, the harsh white glow of the lights inside at his back throwing his shadow into a waif-like skeleton across the road ahead of him. It was a warm sticky night, and even though it was late, people still went about their business. People whose lives hadn’t been destroyed in one crazy incident. He started to walk, aimless and without purpose. Staring at his feet and trying to untangle the knots in his brain. He didn’t return to his hotel but found himself on the beach staring at the pale white moon and listening to the gentle lap of the ocean on sand. It should have been beautiful, but for him, such things would always be associated with horror.

He didn’t remember moving, but when he next became aware of his surroundings he was standing outside a low yellow building with cracked and peeling paint. A tired door with a grubby window pane between him and the dark and shadow-shrouded space beyond. He stared at it, the ghost of his reflection staring back at him with just as little idea about what to do or where he was.

“Are you all right?”

Brixton blinked and looked at the boy beside him. He was in his mid-teens, dark skinned and skinny. He had kind eyes and an old faded scar on his right cheek.

“I’m fine,” Brixton said or thought. He still wasn’t sure.

“The mortuary is closed, sir.”

“I know.”

Brixton sensed the boy’s confusion and felt obliged to elaborate. “My wife is in there.”

“From the crash earlier?”

Brixton looked at the boy. His gaze was met without fear.

“Yes. How did you know about that?”

“Everyone knows, sir. This is a small island. Also, my father owns this business. He attended the accident earlier.”

“What’s your name kid?”

“My name is Kendon, sir. Can I ask you why you are standing out here at night? I thought you were a robber, not that there is anything to steal inside.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not here to rob anything. It’s just… This is the only place I feel close to her. I just wish I could tell her how sorry I am. How much I regret being so paranoid and causing the crash.”

“Guilt is not an easy thing to live with.”

Brixton looked at the boy. He seemed too young to deliver such a statement. “Not much I can do about it now.”

“What if I said I could help you?”

Despite the stifling heat, a chill swelled inside Brixton. He stared at Kendon, who was looking right back at him.

“What do you mean?”

“Do you have money?”

“What kind of question is that?”

“Just answer,” Kendon said.

“I do.”

Kendon nodded. “Bring five hundred American dollars here tomorrow night. Midnight.”

“Now it sounds like you’re trying to rob me.”

Kendon shrugged. “I’m not. I’m trying to help you.”

“Five hundred American is what, three grand over here?”

“That’s the price. If you want my help, that’s what it will cost.” Kenyon was flat and calm as he said it.

“To do what?” Brixton said, wondering why he was still even having the conversation.

“You will find out if you come back. It’s up to you.”

“Midnight tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Kendon repeated. “Bring the money and I will help you.”

There were questions that Brixton wanted to ask, but before he could, Kendon slinked away into the night, gone like some kind of apparition.

There was no sleep. He had sat in his hotel room, surrounded by Helen’s things, constant reminders that she was gone. The lipstick on the dresser would never be used again. The new clothes she had bought for the holiday which were still in her suitcase would never be worn. Brixton had sat on the bed, watching night fade into day, and then back to night. He made the decision that he would meet Kendon sometime before dawn. The money didn’t matter to him, nothing mattered to him. Already Helen was fading from his memory, she was becoming distant, a ghost from his past. Whenever he tried to think of her, all he could see was the bloody mop of blonde hair slumped in the passenger seat of their mangled rental car. He reached the mortuary just before midnight. As it had been the previous night, it was shrouded in darkness. A flicker of something in his belly, nervousness, or maybe even fear almost deterred him and caused him to turn back when Kendon appeared from the side of the building.

“Did you bring the money?” he asked, looking beyond Brixton towards the street. Unlike the previous calm demeanour, Kendon was tense and appeared nervous.

“I did.” Brixton pulled the bundle of notes from the oversized pocket of his shorts and handed them over. Kendon counted it, then shoved the notes into his own pocket.

“Wait here,” He said, then moved back into the shadows behind the building.

Brixton waited, dimly aware that if this had been some kind of scam, he had fallen for it. He was psyching himself up to follow Kendon into the shadowy darkness beyond the building when he reappeared.

“Come on. This way,” he said, then retreated into the dark. Brixton looked back at the streets, and then followed Kendon into the dark. He followed the teenager down the alleyway, past dumpsters piled high with garbage. They came to a recessed door at the rear of the building. Kendon knocked on it and waited. The door opened, spilling a dim yellow light out into the alley. A man came out, tall and slender, and obviously some kind of relation to Kendon.

“This is my brother, Richard,” Kendon said.

Brixton held out a hand, but Richard kept his own in his pockets. He looked at the offered appendage then turned to his brother. “Come on, inside.”

Brixton followed the two brothers into the back door of the mortuary. As it was closed and locked behind him, he wondered if he had just made a huge mistake.

The back of the mortuary was a workspace office. A dull yellow lamp cast an eerie glow around the room. In one corner, an old wood desk, its surface pitted and stained from years of use, held a computer, its screen dark. In the opposite corner, a Christmas tree laden with lights and tinsel which seemed out of place in such a building devoted to death. Separated from the front of the building by a heavy cloth curtain, the back office was also the functional area of the mortuary. A row of rectangular drawers was set against one wall, a familiar sight to anyone who has ever watched a police television drama. In the middle of the room sat a stainless steel table, its bed recessed, a drainage hole at its foot leading down into the floor. Brixton stared at it, then at the two men.

“Take a seat,” Richard said, pointing to the desk in the corner.

Brixton did as he was told, his legs feeling heavy. Richard took a small stool and set it in front of him. Brixton noticed that he was wearing gloves, which he found strange considering the heat.

Richard sat down, his face a flickering mass of shadows in the dim light. “My brother tells me you recently lost your wife.”

“Yes,” Brixton said.

“He also said you had certain regrets. Things you wished to communicate to the deceased but were unable to in life.”

Brixton nodded, his eyes drawn to the gloves on Richards’ hands. Everything else in the room seemed to fit apart from those. They had no place there.

“I can help you achieve this. I can pass on those messages.”

Brixton sighed. “Look, no offence, but if you’re some kind of spiritualist, you can forget it and give me my money back. This isn’t what I had in mind.”

“No this is nothing like that.”

There was a calm assurance about Richard that made him willing to listen for a little longer.

“So what is it?”

Richard leaned closer, banishing some of the shadows from his face. “I have a gift. A real gift. Something that has been passed down through my family.”

“What kind of gift?” Brixton asked, unable to ignore the change in atmosphere within the room.

Richard said nothing. He removed his gloves and held his palms up to Brixton. “I can communicate with the dead by touch.”

Brixton stood. “I’ve heard enough. People like you should know better than to prey on people who are grieving. It’s sick.”

Richard seemed unaffected. He didn’t argue or try to fight. “Please, sit down. I understand belief isn’t something you can take on faith. A demonstration perhaps.”

Brixton sat down, still angry but also curious. “What kind of demonstration?”

“A question. Something specific. Something only your wife would know the answer to. If I could get the answer to such a question, perhaps then you would believe in my gift.”

“All right, I’ll play along,” Brixton said.

There were a lot of things he wanted to ask her. Things that still nibbled away at him. Questions like if she had really had an affair if she had been unfaithful to him. For the purpose of this, he wanted to think of something trivial. Something minor. He knew all about mediums and the way they would cold read their targets. Although he wasn’t certain it was the same scam, he wanted to be sure. Something came to him, something that nobody else in that room other than him could know.

“All right,” Brixton said. “As a test. During our flight over here, something happened on the plane. What was it?”

Richard nodded and got off the stool. He seemed different somehow. Taller, longer. He walked to the drawers at the back wall. Brixton knew what they contained. He knew his wife was in one of them. Richard stopped beside one of them and stood, hands folded in front of him. “Come closer please,” he said.

Suddenly he wanted no part of it. He wanted nothing to do with whatever Richards’s gift may be, however, he was still curious enough to go along with things for now. He stood and crossed the room, his legs heavy yet feeling like they would give out at any time. He stood in front of Richard, the steel drawer between them.

“To do what I have to do, I need to put my hands on the body of the deceased. It will not be intrusive; I need only touch an arm. I need your permission to do so.”

“Why, I don’t understand what you’re saying to me.”

Richard spoke patiently, like a man who has had to explain this same procedure countless times before. “To connect the world of the living with the dead, it becomes necessary to form a physical bond. I am a conduit, a bridge between the two worlds. I channel this through my hands.”

“And you can ask them anything?” Brixton asked, unsure why he was so willing to believe such craziness.

“There are different levels. It depends on how willing the person is to divulge the information. A question such as yours can be answered by a simple touch. Some questions require a deeper reading, which is something, as a rule, I do not do. For your purposes, none of that will be necessary. I just need your permission to proceed.”

Brixton looked at the steel drawer in the wall that stood between them, then at Richard. His throat was dry. He glanced at the Christmas tree in the corner of the office, then looked away. He couldn’t bear to think about it just yet.

“Okay, you have my permission.”

Richard nodded. “I’m going to open the drawer now. Please do not be alarmed. I did the best I could to fix her after the crash.”

Brixton didn’t reply. He was staring at the drawer, dull steel reflecting the hazy reds and greens of the lights of the Christmas tree. Every sense was alive, every emotion fighting for dominance. He watched as Richard slid the drawer open, revealing the purple body bag beneath. Brixton drew breath. He couldn’t see her yet, but to know he was in such proximity to his dead wife made him feel nauseous. He closed his eyes and saw flashes of her bloody mangled face, which forced him to open them again. Richard had stepped away from the drawer. He was holding his hands up, palms out. It made Brixton think of a surgeon washing up before going to the operating theatre. Kendon moved in front of his brother and unzipped the top of the bag.

“Are you sure you are ready to see?” he asked, looking across at Brixton, who could muster up only enough energy to nod.

Kendon returned his attention back to the bag and pulled it back, resting the cloth just above the chest area of the body.

Brixton inhaled, then forgot to breathe out. He stared as the reality of the situation hit him. There were no mistakes, no confusion. His wife was dead.

Despite the horrors he had pictured in his head from the last time he had seen her in the wreck, Kendon and Richard had done an incredible job of presenting her as she was in life. She looked almost peaceful, eyes closed, skin pale. They had even managed to repair the ugly crack in her skull, and although it was still misshaped, she was still recognisable. The only major difference was her hair. It was brushed back away from her face and looked different. He was about to ask why then realised it was because they had washed it. Probably to get rid of the blood and brains.

“Are you ready to proceed?”

Brixton looked at Richard. Something in him had changed. He was physically the same, yet somehow seemed bigger, more intimidating. Brixton nodded.

Kendon moved out of his brother’s way and took his place beside Brixton. “Don’t worry, he knows what he’s doing.”

Brixton couldn’t answer even if he wanted to. He was both mesmerised and appalled, horrified and intrigued. The yin-yang of emotions screamed around his brain looking for an outlet he could not provide.

Richard stepped forward, hands still held out in front of him. “Tell me again your question.”

Brixton tried to speak, his dead tongue and dry mouth making such a simple thing difficult. “When we were flying out here to start our holiday, something happened on the plane. What was it?”

Richard stepped to the edge of the table. He put one hand on Helen’s forehead, the other on her shoulder, the contrast between the two skin tones something Brixton knew would never leave his memory. He watched as Richard closed his eyes and began to mouth words, his lips moving silently. Brixton looked at his wife. She was a shell, a thing on a table. As he looked at her, he found more new reasons to hate himself. He was about to call the whole thing off when Richard spoke.

“There was a man on the plane in the seats in front of you. He was a large man and was snoring. She says you were both laughing at him as it reminded you of her uncle.”

Until that point, Brixton didn’t believe any of it could be true, but as Richard said the words, he felt his body weaken from the feet up. His legs buckled, and he would have fallen if not for Kendon grabbing his arm and leading him to the office chair.

“It’s okay,” Kendon said as he helped him to sit. “This happens all the time. When people realise this isn’t a game.”

Brixton looked at Richard, then at his wife and finally at Kendon. “What do I do now?”

“My brother has made the connection. Now you speak. She will hear your words through him.”

He looked at the table again. His pale wife’s body unmoving, Richard with his hands on her, eyes closed and waiting. Now that the time had come, he couldn’t think of anything to say.

“You must do it quickly,” Kendon said. “The connection can’t be held for long. To do so will cause the spirit to return to the body permanently and be trapped forever.”

“I… I don’t know what to say.”

“Yes you do, or you wouldn’t be here. Tell her now what it was you wanted to say in death.”

Brixton cleared his throat, and then looked at her, pale face in profile from where he sat. “I’m sorry,” he said, eyes stinging. “I’m sorry for doubting you, I’m sorry for saying those things I said. I’m sorry for not telling you I loved you before you died. I’m sorry for being a bad husband. I want you to know I didn’t mean any of it.”

He waited and watched. Richard opened his eyes and looked at Brixton. “She says you shouldn’t feel bad about the accident. She says you are to go on with your life and remember how things were before everything changed. She says she is also sorry. She says there are things she should have told you. Things you ought to have known she wished she had said.”

“What things, what kind of things?” Brixton said.

He frowned, and shifted position, now placing a hand on each of her shoulders. “She said it doesn’t matter now. She loves you and that’s all that matters.”

“I want to know. Tell me what it is.” Brixton said, unable to control his anger. He watched as Richard moved again, this time pulling one of her arms out of the side of the bag. He lifted it to his face, smelling it, pressing his cheek against it. Brixton tried to stand, but Kendon put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. Both of them watched, waiting for the answer. Richard lowered her arm, opened his eyes and took his hands off her.

“It is done. Finished.”

“What do you mean finished? She didn’t answer my question?”

Richard went to the sink and started to wash his hands. “Trust me, Mr Brixton. Some things are better left unsaid. Sometimes, the secrets of the dead are better left that way.”

“What secrets? What did she tell you?” he was angry and upset as half-forgotten suspicions and accusations started to creep back into his mind.

Richard finished washing, and squirted some antibacterial gel on his hands, rubbing it into the skin. “Our time here is done Mr Brixton. I agreed to let you speak to your wife and tell her how you feel. It is not my place to get involved with other matters of your life.”

“But you know don’t you? You know?”

Richard once again pulled on his gloves. “I can relay only what they tell me. The dead bury their secrets deep. I am not one to go digging for them.”

“But you could?” Brixton said as Kendon returned to the body and sealed it back into its bag then closed the drawer.

“Please, say no more about it. We are done here.”

“She was hiding something. I’ve known it for a while, she denied it but… she wants me to know.”

“Anything your wife wanted you to know would have been said.”

“I’ll pay you. I have more money. Lots of it.”

“I don’t want your money. I just want you to leave.”

“You have no right to hold this back from me. She was my wife. I deserve to know. I-”

“Mr Brixton!”

The room fell silent as Richard approached. He crouched beside the office chair, eyes locked on Brixton, voice a low rumble. “You do not understand how this works. No idea what you’re talking about. Find out you say. You demand to know, you say. Do you know what that would entail?”

Brixton shook his head.

“I’ll tell you what it would entail. For many years, I worked for the government. They would bring me people, bad people, and it was my job to extract from them what they knew. They were unwilling to divulge this information even in death, so I would have to dig deep and extract that information. Do you want me to have to do that to your wife? To tear her apart and find out what you want to know? Do you want her to suffer again even in death?”

“No, of course not, I just…”

“Then let this go, Mr Brixton. There has already been enough pain and suffering. The past should remain so. You now need to concentrate on moving forward with your life. The gift I have with my hands can also be a curse. Sometimes not knowing is better.”

“I was just-”

“Please just go.”

Kendon put a hand on Brixton’s shoulder. “Come on, I’ll show you out.”

Brixton let himself be led out of the same door he came in, too dazed and confused to fight it.

Christmas didn’t apply to those in the death trade. For Kendon and his family, it meant working every day, including Christmas day. Kendon unlocked the door to the low yellow building and flicked on the lights. Rows of display coffins lined each wall, priced according to how luxurious they were. Kendon walked through the silent room of death beds and went through the curtain at the back of the building, almost falling over the Christmas tree, which was on its side. He grunted and reached for the light switch, flicking it on and illuminating the room.

The first thing he saw was the bag. It was screwed up in the corner by the back door, which was splintered and ajar. The remains of the woman were on the table, a snake of innards on the floor, chunks of flesh littering the ground around it. Her eyes had been plucked out, leaving just two glaring hollows. Kendon took a step back and bumped into his brother, who was coming in the opposite direction. The two of them stared at the mess in the room, open-mouthed and disbelieving.

“I wanted to know.”

They both turned towards the noise. Brixton was sitting in the office chair, his arms and clothing covered with blood. There was a three-quarters empty bottle of scotch cradled against his body. His eyes were wild, stubble face pale and gaunt. “You should have just told me. How could I go on and not know who she cheated on me with?”

Richard put a hand on his brother’s shoulder and stepped into the room. Kendon went the other way, back into the front office to call the police.

“I told you to let it go, Mr Brixton,” Richard said, calm despite the destruction.

“I thought I might be able to do what you did. I remember you saying you had to look deep. I tried and nothing happened.”

Richard showed Brixton his gloved hands. “Like I told you, these are sometimes a curse. Not all gifts are ones which are wanted, Mr Brixton. Sometimes they can cause more damage.”

Brixton took a swig from his bottle, then glared at Richard. “You should have just told me. None of this would have happened if you had just confirmed what I already knew. She’d been acting odd for weeks. I needed this for closure.”

“Your wife wasn’t being unfaithful to you, Mr Brixton. She told me that willingly. She had done nothing to go against the vows of your marriage.”

“Lies. Everyone lies.”

“The dead cannot lie, not to me at least. I see through it. Everything I see is the truth.”

“You didn’t know her. She was up to something, I know it. It’s like an itch, one that won’t go away no matter how much you scratch it. Don’t you stand there and tell me she wasn’t lying. You have no right to protect her. Look at what you made me do.” He began to weep and took another drink.

Richard looked around the room and the parts of Helen which were scattered within it. He turned back to Brixton. “Your wife wasn’t being unfaithful to you, Mr Brixton. She was acting strangely because she was pregnant and wasn’t sure how to tell you.”

Brixton couldn’t breathe. He blinked and stared at Richard. “What did you just say?”

“She was carrying your child. That was why she suggested the holiday. She was going to tell you here.”

“But… I didn’t know. If I’d known sooner… I’d have been different.”

Voices filtered through from the front of the mortuary. Peters with his voice loud and booming as he came closer.

Richard crouched by the chair and laid a gloved hand on top of Brixton’s bloody one. “You see now when I tell you that some secrets are better left with the dead? There are some things that knowledge makes worse. I wish you had listened to me, Mr Brixton. I truly do.”

Richard stood and let Peters and his men into the room. Brixton didn’t fight as he was handcuffed and led away. He deserved it. He glanced over his shoulder as he was taken through the curtain. He saw Richard, gloved hands clasped in front of him, Kendon at his side. Behind them, the remains of his wife ravaged and violated at his own hand. It came to him then that somewhere in the room, was also likely the tiny nugget that was his unborn child which he had discarded in his frenzy and quest for answers.

He stepped on something that crunched underfoot, snapping his attention back to the present. He stared at the plastic star which had fallen from the Christmas tree, its glitter-covered surface now in broken pieces. He knew this time of the year would never again be one for celebration or joy. It would always be the day the man he had been had died along with his wife. Something in his mind snapped. He felt it break. It was then that he started to scream. He didn’t think he would ever be able to stop.

Michael Bray is a bestselling author/screenwriter of more than twelve novels and numerous short stories. Influenced from an early age by the suspense horror of authors such as Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Shaun Hutson, James Herbert, and Brian Lumley, along with TV shows like Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. His work touches on the psychological side of horror, teasing the reader’s nerves and willing them to keep turning the pages. Several of his titles have been translated into multiple languages including a major bookstore distribution deal in Japan and his biggest selling title, Whisper, has, on numerous occasions topped the overall horror charts for Amazon titles in both the UK and US with thousands of copies sold.

His work has been featured in anthologies alongside such horror greats as Clive Barker, Adam Nevill, Shaun Hutson, Brian Lumley, Paul Tremblay, Ramsay Campbell, Ray Bradbury and many others and he continues to be an active and popular member of the horror/suspense genre.

A feature film written by Bray based on his co-written novel MONSTER starring Tracy Shaw (Coronation Street), Daniele Harold (EastEnders), and Rod Glenn (American Assassin/World War Z) was shot in January 2018 whilst another of his titles, MEAT is currently with a leading Los Angeles based production company with a view to production in 2019.

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