Lisa found the first note on her desk the day after the funeral. She had spent the morning crying and thinking about the previous afternoon. The police had lined the entrance to the crematorium and, when she had returned home alone, three policemen on motorcycles had escorted her small car. Lisa had thought the policemen intimidating. They were big rough men who had loud voices. She compared them to the son she had cremated. Peter had been quiet and small. But Peter had killed 12 people in the village, which was why she had needed the police escort from the crematorium. Some of the neighbours had threatened violence against Lisa. All her friends had avoided her. Mrs East was the exception but she had made only one telephone call. Lisa told her she did not want anyone at the funeral. She was too ashamed. Mrs East understood.
The note that she found the day after the funeral said, ‘Evil lasts for ever.’
The words were typed in large letters on A4 sized paper. Lisa was not sure how she had missed it before. She was a disciplined housekeeper. In work, she was described as organized and efficient. Peter was the same. His room was tidy and clean and the police said that the files on his computer were well organized.
‘It makes all the difference,’ said the Sergeant. ‘It is so much easier.’
Lisa had smiled at the policeman as if she was being virtuous.
Lisa folded the paper with the message until it was as small as it could be. She put the paper in a drawer below the cutlery in the kitchen. She thought about ringing the police. After the slaughter, the police had questioned Lisa for almost a week. They were still questioning her the day before the funeral.
‘We’re obliged,’ said the consultant who had been hired by the police. ‘The next time this happens…’
‘And it will. Peter is our starting point, even if he did commit suicide. He still has to go under the microscope. Anything to help us understand how he thought.’
Lisa remembered what the consultant had said and took the note out of the drawer. She was certain Peter had typed the note before the slaughter. The house was secure. None of the neighbours had visited to accuse her and no one would sneak into her house to leave insults. What they were saying to each other was something else.
Another note appeared the following day. Lisa had kept herself busy measuring the windows and searching the Internet for new curtains. The second note appeared on her desk in the same place. She found it just after sunset.
The words on the second note said, ‘God’s carnage is endless.’
In the first week, there appeared a note every day. All had short messages. None were cheerful. They mentioned death, evil, God, enemies and heroes. Lisa thought about Peter and how quiet he had been the last two years after he had returned home, after Ruth had told him to leave the flat Peter and Ruth rented. Lisa had fussed over Peter, tried to persuade him that there were comforts at home to compensate.
The consultant had asked Lisa if Peter had been a difficult child.
‘No,’ she said. ‘He was quiet but well behaved.’
‘Was he loving?’
‘I think so. His father left when he was young. There was just Peter and me. If I’m honest, I worried about him.’
‘In what way?’
‘I thought he was too gentle. He met a nice girl when he was fourteen. It worked. But she turned 21 and became restless. He wouldn’t say anything but it hurt him.’
Lisa remembered how his face had changed. He would somehow sneer but remain earnest. As if he was pure but the contemptible was imminent and threatening. She would watch him sit and stare into the space above the television. Lisa remembered his ability to ignore the screen.
At the end of the week, Lisa had wondered about ringing the consultant but she persuaded herself there was no point. They knew more about her son than she did and she was reluctant to discuss notes appearing in a way that she was unable to explain.
In the second week after the funeral, Lisa returned to work. She travelled thirty miles to work in a large office. The first week was awkward but the routine of work soon obliged the others to treat her normally. How long they continued to talk about her and Peter she did not know or care. The notes stopped appearing every day in the third week. They did not disappear completely but now their appearance was random. Some days there would be more than one note in the same day. Other days would be note free. She kept all the notes in the same place, in the drawer under the cutlery in the kitchen. She found a transparent plastic carton and kept the notes together. Lisa imagined the carton becoming full.
None of the neighbours visited. Mrs East never telephoned again. Lisa worked on the house. She hung the new curtains from the windows, gardened and began to think about replacing carpets. She travelled quite far to shop to avoid her neighbours. The trips made her gloomy. Without the food for Peter, the shopping in her basket appeared paltry and so did her life.
The notes stopped when the transparent plastic carton was only half full. A month had passed since the funeral. Lisa was pleased. None of the messages had been cheerful and it was not important to fill the carton. That had been a silly notion. Without the notes, her resolve strengthened. She worked in the office with more purpose and came home and thought about holidays. One evening she left the television turned off and wrote down a list of possible holidays. She imagined a faraway sea cruise and meeting people who would not know that she was the mother of Peter. Lisa avoided alcohol but she had a glass of wine to celebrate. She climbed the stairs and slipped into bed. Some of what she imagined was silly but Lisa thought simple escapism was harmless and probably healthy. She lay in the dark and imagined a future that was different.
This was the evening that the noises began. That first night, they were neither distinct nor loud and she assumed that perhaps the wine was making harmless creaks sound like something else. The next night, the noises became more distinct. She recognized that the noises were made by a human voice. Lisa knew that the voice belonged to Peter. She tried to stay awake but it was difficult listening to words that were unclear. Her brain tired and she fell asleep. The next night the voice returned. Lisa listened and concentrated and could make out the odd word. She was pleased to hear actual words but the concentration required still tired her easily. She fell asleep before she wanted. The words were familiar from the notes that she had put away in the drawer under the cutlery.
One night, Lisa could hear the words so clearly she was able to stay awake the whole night. She heard the phrases on the notes being repeated. ‘Evil lasts for ever’ made her think of that first note.
The next night the noises stopped. Peter appeared in the corner of her room. He sat in the wicker armchair Lisa kept in the corner of the room. Peter said nothing.
‘I understand,’ said Lisa.
Peter sneered but without the earnestness that she remembered.
‘Evil lasts for ever,’ she said.
Peter sat at the bed and said nothing. He sneered and occasionally sighed.
Lisa talked and asked questions. Sometimes she made accusations. But Peter simply sat there and said nothing. He remained quiet forever.
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