a short story by
Ian James McAdam 2009

The town’s police station is a nineteen-seventies concrete mess. I had never been inside it before, and was still not sure why Michael Jones had asked me to come along that day. It was a call out of the blue, and we hadn’t spoken apart from the occasional hello and wave on the street for more than twenty-five years. The blue painted door creaked as I entered dubiously.

Was this to be the last lie ever told. before we speak, allow us to clarify. for this the ninth millionth time. no hyperbole. my views. your perspectives.

Michael saw me and walked towards me, ‘This is serious,’ he said, leading me into an interview room where a uniformed woman officer was sitting, taking me in, and writing down her observations.
I said, ‘Michael, I thought this was a social visit…’
‘There’s not the time,’ he said.
‘But there has to be the time. You said on the phone you were fascinated by my civic plans. You’ve never paid them much attention before. I should have known you were up to your shenanigans again…’ My voice trailed off, faint echos taunting me in the enclosed space.

You took another drag from another cheap cigarette, the smoke acrid and over-burnt and sticking to my hair. The air was heavy and stale, getting murkier as the second hand ticked (ticks which rebound to this godforsaken day) loudly and you regarded me stonily, giving everything and nothing away, just as you’d done as a child.

‘I never thought it would be you,’ you said, ‘but everything now points to you. Your way of thinking — and I know how you think and behave better than anyone else. Your intelligence has let you think you are above everyone else. But you forgot me. You forgot your childhood. Do you remember where you first crossed the line?’

You stared at me and all the way through, the air conditioner making the room hotter, hotter. I noticed your sweat moistening your pink shirt’s underarms and chest to a rich crimson hue…blood coursing through… everything at that moment seemed surreal and stayed that way. More in relief, more painted on by the fluorescent light being mirrored down by the up-there suspension. I stared at the fish lines the line was suspended from, next to the rotating fan, up above his head . I willed the gut to snap suddenly, shatter the whole fixture into scissoring shards over his head. I still had no idea for what reason I was there, but of one thing I was certain: I was going to be grilled, and if I remembered him, it would be a long and hard grilling, just like when we used to play cops and robbers.

I still can’t help my childhood. It has passed. I am an adult now, doing adult things.

He asked me: ‘Can you tell me about those dreams you used to have?’
‘Can you please tell me what this is all about, Michael?’
‘Constable,’ he said, ‘Will you please read Mr Barnard his rights.’

This was duly done. Then you and I had a conversation which I cannot for the life of me remember. You stared at me for a good few minutes, smoking your third cigarette, until you cleared your throat and asked:
‘So are you going to tell me about that recurring dream you used to have, Michael?’
He smiled briefly, displaying his nicotine stained teeth, and continued,’ The one you used to tell me about, where you suddenly realized you were a killer, and the police catch up with you.’
‘It was only a dream, for God’s sake,’ I said, unable to hide my exasperation, as much as I wanted to appear calm and collected.
‘Dreams and reality march very closely together, Michael.’
‘Yes, Andrew, they are flip-sides of each other. You dream what you know and what you can tangibly fantasize. The reality is for realizing those fantasies.’
‘Oh, I forgot. I heard that you studied psychology in university. You must have been very taken with the Jungian mumbo jumbo.’

The constable was writing this ridiculous conversation down, seemingly keeping one eye on me and the other on what she’s writing. Michael smokes and watches me, feigning impassiveness while I know he’s trying to reel me in, get me back for hitting his puppy with my dad’s car when we were almost teenagers.

It was my madcap idea — it was getting dark, and Michael needed to be home for dinner in two minutes. My father was busy reading his newspaper with his feet up, drinking a beer, and getting ready for the Arsenal Chelsea match on the telly. There was no way he’d give you a lift home… not in a million years.

I found myself in the past. some kind of time shift, even although I desperately needed to be in the present. too stuck. too unaware of malice. snakes in the grass. I was too taken with memory. memory was not going to save me. just catch me me out and taunt me.

So you coaxed me, as only a more popular boy can coax a less popular one, and we snuck into my father’s car. Your puppy, the dog you’d been asking for since you were tiny, was following us, but we wouldn’t let her into the car because she still had muddy paws from the game of frisbee we had earlier played in the still sodden park.

‘That dream, Michael, was just what it was,’ I said to kill the silence and to stop the silence which was forcing me to reminisce on less than happy memories.
‘It might be, it might not be. Often, people tell you something they say is a dream but it’s actually made up, or is a fantasy they long to live out.’
‘But that was a teenage dream which recurred for three or four years. I don’t even remember my dreams any more.’
‘As you know, you’re here for questioning. The law says I have twenty four hours. But if you cooperate by starting to recount that dream as requested, you might be out of here in an hour.’

An hour! I had honestly expected at least a cup of tea, some biscuits, a chat about this and that. To have been arrested on suspicion of murder… that demanded a five tier cake! I was beyond words as we stared, stared some more, put more bad atmosphere into the smoky room. It was now that I wished I’d never given up the dirty habit. A cigarette would have eased the tension. Only for a moment, sure, but it would have been a very much appreciated moment nonetheless. And again, he was back at it, like a dog with a bone;
‘Tell me about the dream.’

The dream. It recurred for years — even now, I still have hints of it, which bring me instantly to wakefulness and a cold, clammy reality.

‘Remind me on what grounds I’ve been arrested.’
‘You’ve been arrested for the torture and false imprisonment of Gordon Norris. Are you going to tell us this dream?’
‘You’ve heard it before.’
‘And I’ll hear it again.’

I had to give in. my breathing was rapid, poorly controlled. This was worse than the dream had ever been. I had to give in. I wanted out that room so badly.

‘Okay, Michael, I’ll tell you, if only to get out of here sooner. I think this dream started when puberty began, just after I had turned twelve years old,’ I said, my voice trembling against my best efforts to stop it from doing so.

The fan above our heads spun lazily, wisping your cigarette smoke into a horizontal plane, blue-grey, hazy.

I continued…

In this dream, which recurred almost nightly at first, then petered downwards slowly until the age of seventeen, I was a fully grown man having a flashback to something I’d done on the cusp of manhood. I don’t remember the details exactly, but it goes something along the lines that I was living as home help for an old guy who needed me to help refurbish the property, re-landscape the garden and cook his evening meal, which we’d eat together every weeknight. For a no reason at all, I killed him and buried him deep beneath the landscaped rockery. I then left with a briefcase of cash I’d found under his bed (only after I’d murdered him). The dream then flashes forward a substantial amount of time — fifteen years, at most. At that time I was running my own landscaping business. I had mentally blocked out the memory, and had no idea I’d done something so terrible in my past. One day, my business partner — Jimmy, and I were working on a garden which needed its rockery redone. As we got there I had a flashback to all those years before and my head spun. I said to Jimmy: “I know this place.” When I first had the dream — and I remember this very clearly — I woke up at this point. I was shocked and horrified because I woke up with an erection (I told you about this, Michael), but as soon as I caught up with reality, it flattened like a dropped souffle…

At this point I stopped, my mouth dry from the overbearing heat in the interrogation room. It’s a waiting game, I was aware, and you had to offer me a glass of water before I asked for one.

‘So that was how it was the first time you had the dream?’
‘The first time I remember having it.’
‘And you were how old at the time?’
‘About twelve and a half.’
‘Earlier you’d said you’d just turned twelve.’
‘For God’s sake, Michael. I was about twelve, around there, that’s the best I can remember.’

I flashed back again to that day with you dog, me behind the wheel of my father’s car while you ran around trying to catch the muddy dog so that you could hold her and prevent her muddying the upholstery.

We didn’t get very far, I didn’t get the chance to get out of reverse. As I turned the key I accidentally pushed on the accelerator and for a reason we never managed to understand(both mom and dad refused culpability), the car was already in reverse gear and moved backwards until there was a crunch and the car stopped. I heard a high pitched mewling noise and jumped out of the car, and there, under the real wheels of the car, was the dog, and Michael was holding her head, stricken with grief…

as I looked into his eyes in that tiny interrogation room, I saw grief unresolved. To grieve forever for a dog, surely impossible, I thought. The situation was clarifying inside my head. This was revenge, And revenge is a dish best served cold, I’ve always been told.

Our friendship, after the dog had been buried at the back of your family home (mum had sent me along with a box of Milk Tray, which I’d been temted to eat along the way. That afternoon, after rose petals had been sprinkled over the mound of earth marking where the dog had been buried. Later that night, after his parents had gone to bed and we were up for high shenanigans, I told you about my dream and you made me repeat it, time after time, just like you’d asked me to do that other thing we’d started to do when puberty was hinting.

I knew in your bedroom that night that our friendship was spent. My conclusions were proved right when you called less and less frequently after that night, and ignored as far as you could at school. It wasn’t long before were off to different high schools, and lost contact, apart from the occasional meeting on the street (we only lived three blocks away from each other) where we’d update each other on our progress.

In that small, enclosed interrogation room, the blood was rushing to m,y head, making my nostrils flare and my eyes, I’m sure, appear manic. I broke the silence.
‘It’s about the fucking dog!’ I said, with venom, I hoped.

The constables expression remained deadpan, almost as if she had botox injections. You, too, remained impassive

Lazily, you said: ‘The dog? You mean Fudge, the Jack Russel you squashed with your father’s car when we were twelve? Come on, that’s more than twenty-five years ago. You think I’d hold onto something for that long? I’m a police officer, not your local madman effing and blinding this and that.’

I was speechless. I’ve never been as dry in the mouth as I was then, utterly aghast at how hopeless things seemed.

‘Are you ready to tell us the rest of the dream, Andrew?’
‘I’ve told you the crux of it. The remainder of it is very much like what is happening to me right now.’
‘You could just summarise it.’
‘Fine, then let me summarise as briefly as I can. We dig up the rockery, find a body, the police interrogate me and finally, it’s DNA which gets me convicted of the old man’s murder.’

“Ah, yes, talking of DNA — you don’t mind giving us a sample, as every arrested person has to do?’

The constable brought out a cotton swab, just like the ones I’d seen a thousand times on the telly.
‘If you’ll just open your mouth,’ she said, and I complied, knowing I had nothing to hide.

Nothing to hide! It was after I’d given the DNA sample that Inspector Jones(he’s had a meteoric rise through the local police force) let me back out onto the street — I’d been in that room for almost three hours, and the bright summer sun hurt my eyes. A heated room in the middle of summer, and him smoking despite the smoking ban! Something very fishy was going on, and I walked down to the library to take a look at the newspaper archive. In retrospect, if I had a choice of what do do then over again. I’d be trying everything to find a criminal lawyer.

When I googled Gordon Norris, an article in the day before’s issue our local paper caught my attention (I curse now my strange ignorance of local issues, seeing as I worked for the local council).

Police in Shirley have a new suspect in the murder of Gordon Norris, who was murdered in 1994.
Mr Norris, who was a retired architect, was found under his garden rockery in 2005 when his family was re-landscaping the garden. Up until that time he had been missing.
This is the first suspect the police have found, but they will not release his name until a DNA test clears or incriminates him.

Two days later, as I was driving my children to school, Jones drove up behind me with his siren blaring. I knew the game was up.

My lawyer tells me my appeal has little chance of succeeding.