Escape

 

On a beautiful autumn afternoon, Sheila Mulhardy was feeling an unusual light-headedness while walking nervously along the High Street. The town clock struck once. The interview with her solicitor was soon to take place, but made difficult by the repeat prescription for her depression pills already having been collected. The pharmacist had been satisfied that the person collecting the pills was in possession of the appropriate authority. This had worried her and may have been one reason for her heightened anxiety.

A car suddenly stopped in the road just in front of her with a screech of tyres. The rear door was pushed open and a hand thrust out grabbing her by her right wrist. "Get the bitch inside," a manÕs gruff voice commanded as she was forcefully dragged into the car. Sheila had instinctively tried to put out her other hand in a futile attempt at resistance, though it had ended up being awkwardly bent backwards against the door frame. The noise of the town traffic had made it impossible to hear the voice clearly, but there seemed to be something familiar about it and as a sack was pulled over her head, she remembered thinking: "What's that smell?" Then that awful feeling of smothering. The difficulty in breathing. The claustrophobia. The last thing Sheila remembered was the car swerving out into the traffic with the sound of horns blaring.

Sheila opened her eyes to be met with gloomy surroundings suggesting it was early evening somewhere and, even though her left wrist seemed to be on fire, the cold autumn air made her feel shivery. Cold fingers seemed to reach out and touch her very bones. The sack had at some time been removed from over her head so at least she could breathe properly. Despite the distraction of pain she almost immediately recognised the galley of her own yacht and familiarity with the gradual increase in intensity of pain of bone fractures made her realise she probably had a broken wrist. This must have happened during that brutal entry into the car. She realised that her injured wrist was tied by a short rope to the steel tube encircling the bottom of the single leg of the galley table, bolted firmly to the floor making it impossible for her to sit up. Flowing in regular ripples, and noticeably getting deeper, water began to wash over her legs.

Fear gripped her, and as she fully grasped the seriousness of her predicament, said out aloud, "My God! The tide must be coming in."

 

The lack of any movement on the water made her think that the yacht had been holed or something as it couldn't be floating. The tide relentlessly came in and the water inevitably got deeper. She threw herself into frenzied action even though it was an effort to move and managed to reach out and grasp with her free right hand the handle of a nearby drawer. She pulled it completely out of the cabinet and as it slipped into the deepening water with a "sploosh" she could see that it was empty. The sudden movement had wrenched her tethered broken wrist against the binding rope and the sharp pain made her wince. Sheila strained to reach higher and managed to pull out the middle drawer. It too was empty.

"These drawers should be filled with all sorts of kitchen utensils," she mumbled through her tears and with a tremendous effort frantically reached up to the top drawer. She yanked it outwards a couple of times, but not quite far enough. She could only look upwards at the underside of the wooden drawer, but with one final effort and a scream in pain, the drawer fell out. Of the few items that spilled out into the deepening water a plastic knife floated up to the surface. Only plastic maybe, but with a serrated edge. Holding the knife in her good hand, panic drove her on with the effort of a woman possessed and she began to cut the rope with a sawing action. During the short time it had taken to cut through, the tide continued to flood into the cabin and had Sheila not managed to sit up properly the water would have covered her completely.

One of Sheila's legs had gone numb caused by the position she'd been forced to lie in and this made standing up particularly difficult.

A bottle of vodka with its cap removed watched over a partly filled drinking glass. A nearby brown-glass jar stood on the table and, picking it up, she shook it then read the label displaying her name and today's date showing that it was the fulfilled prescription for SSRI anti-depressants.

Sheila climbed up on deck and in her dream-like daze just jumped over the side and down into the warm water. It came up almost to her thighs as her feet sunk deep into the sandy ground so she couldn't move her legs. Her fear intensified. Out of one grave and down into another. With a great effort she managed to free one of her legs, then the other and swam awkwardly towards the harbour wall, totally focused on the intense pain in her left wrist. Sheila reached the wall and started to climb the stone steps as a distant clock sounded several times. She didn't count the chimes, but nobody was about at this time in the early evening and, although tired, felt strangely exhilarated and euphoric. The whole situation seemed surreal.

"Hello, Sheila."

Peter's voice came from behind her as she reached the topmost stone step and began to walk along the deserted harbour wall to a nearby pub. She stopped, quickly turned around and nearly fainted.

"I'm so glad you're all right. I saw you attacked and I managed to turn my car around and follow you through the streets. I couldn't believe it. Broad daylight and in a busy street too."

Somehow Sheila regained a little composure as she faced Peter.

"What are you doing here, Peter?" Sheila asked.

"You don't seem pleased to see me, Sheila. You are all right aren't you?"

"No, of course I'm not all right," Sheila managed. "How long have you been here? You got here and didn't even bother to look for me? That must have been hours ago. Our yacht is over there. You know very well where it's moored and you couldn't possibly miss it," she said angrily.

"Don't worry about that. Let's just get you home."

"What about the police?"

"I'll see about all that later. Anyway, how's your hand?"

"Why do you ask?"

Peter said nothing, then in an authoritative voice, "Just get into the car and I'll take you home."

"What about my hand, Peter?" Sheila persisted. "Why did you ask about my hand?"

"You hurt it didn't you? It looked like that when you were attacked."

"How could you possibly know that? You were on the other side of the street and couldn't have seen what happened. You had to turn your car around. You said so, yourself. And how did you know where I'd be at that particular time?"

"Sheila, just get in the car, will you?"

"How did you know where I'd be?" Sheila screamed at Peter.

The sea breeze carried a smell to Sheila that she recognised. A woman's perfume. The same one she had noticed in the car just before the sack was forced over her head and everything had gone dark. Peter was in the car all along. In a flash Sheila understood everything. This had all been planned. Sheila had discovered well after they had married that the dashing and flirtatious Peter was a serial womaniser and had a vivid flash of that moment of rage when she'd originally confronted him about Sarah. And Susan, Vivien, Tracy. She knew Peter had connections with the criminal underworld in his business affairs and that she could probably help send him to prison for years. Although she wasnÕt na•ve, Sheila was still stunned to realise heÕd planned her murder?

"Get in the fucking car."

"Not a chance, you bastard," Sheila spat at him, displaying complete defiance.

"Just get into the car you fucking bitch. You're a danger to me and I've known all about your divorce plans for ages. I've always monitored your mobile phone. Ever since you first had one."

"That's three years," Sheila said incredulously through her daze. "You've been spying on me ever since we got married?" Her eyes widened and her mouth stayed open when she had finished speaking.

"Before that, you stupid cow. You havenÕt worked out yet how you'd appear to have committed suicide in a fit of depression by opening the sea cocks and overdosed on your pills? YouÕd even have sea water in your lungs. Everything would have all been tidied up when you were dead, bitch. Now, you're still alive. Fuck."

In desperation, Sheila pointed out that it would be discovered that she had no pills in her system.

"Wrong there, sweetheart. I'd saved a few pills from your old bottles over the last few months. You'd never miss the odd pill or two. And you didn't. You had some crushed pills fed to you this morning. Remember those coffees you had? The extra sugar made them a little sweet. You did mention that."

"Go and screw yourself, you bastard."

"No, no darling. It's Linda tonight." Peter said through a laugh as he walked directly towards her.

Sheila was terrified and felt physically sick being totally repulsed by Peter's nauseating presence. As he approached, and fearing the worst, she closed her eyes and beat him on the front sides of his neck with her clenched fists. She heard a blood-curdling scream and opening her eyes she saw Peter clawing at his neck trying to grasp something, smearing blood everywhere. Sheila couldn't understand what was happening until she looked down at her injured left hand and opened it revealing the handle of a plastic knife. Clean, white plastic. Just a handle? At that moment Sheila realised she must have been holding onto the knife. She remembered dropping the knife after sheÕd cut that rope. In her frantic and euphoric state she must have picked it up with her other hand, perhaps subconsciously reluctant to leave it, the tool that had saved her life.

Peter tried frantically to grasp the blade, but there was nothing to get hold of. The broken-off knife blade was buried deep in his neck without its handle. Blood seeping out of the wound and his clawing made his neck into a bloody mess, the look of total shock covering his face, making it into a grotesque mask.

A thought struck her like sheÕd been punched in the face and she felt a strange calm come over her when she said with deliciously heavy sarcasm:

"I bet you didn't know that SSRI antidepressants have been implicated in causing suicides and murders, did you, you bastard? They call it 'homicidal thoughts'. Very dangerous, these SSRI drugs, Peter."

The look in his eyes clearly indicated that he had just appreciated what that meant as he died.

Sheila looked at the collapsed form that had once been Peter, heaped on the cold stone floor and started to laugh hysterically.

 

© Louis Brothnias Rev 3.3 (2006)

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