“Water, water!” The voice from the baby monitor upstairs croaked loudly. I heard it but continued to play with the new monopoly set that I had got for Christmas.
I was sat on the kitchen floor that very hot August summer afternoon engrossed in a game that I always won at, that is when I played it all on my own. Mum and Dad had long since closed the shop for the afternoon and gone out shopping to the wholesalers, leaving me free to eat and drink whatever I wanted. The only downside was that I had been left home alone with that old hag upstairs.
“Water, water!” The sound of the voice became more urgent. It was punctuated with several phlegmy coughs this time. I ignored it again and counted out the play money slowly and carefully, so that I wouldn’t miss a single note. I even put the fake notes up to the light as I had seen Dad do in the shop to see if the notes were kosher. They were. Dad always slipped in some real money for me to play with.
“Keith! Water!” The voice was more high pitched and desperate this time. I growled angrily on hearing that witch call my name. I got up abruptly from my play seat, went passed the dripping tap and noisily picked up a long blue glass from the rack. “Silly cow” I muttered under my breath as I filled the glass with water from the water cooler.
I then went to the fridge and I took out a bottle of strawberry cordial and put a too generous portion of it in my glass of water. As the thick viscous red liquid infused the water, I slipped in a few ice cubes and a little parasol on a stick decoration to top off my creation. I took a sip and shuddered at its coldness. Perfect, I sighed satisfactorily and then went back to my monopoly set with my long cool drink.
Ten minutes later as I reached out for another handful of chocolate treats from my Mickey Mouse cereal bowl, I could only hear thankfully gurgling sounds coming from the monitor. With my face stuffed with honeycomb, raisin and chocolate, I continued to cheat my way through the pretend game that I was having with my pretend tycoon friends, oblivious of the fact that my parents had just driven into our driveway in their Volvo car laden with crates of pop and boxes of even more chocolate treats.
As their key slipped into the lock I dropped my fistful of notes, got up and limped to the door as fast as I could and brushed past Mum and Dad to the open boot of the car. I salivated greedily and exclaimed “Marshmallows!” as I saw boxes and boxes of my favourite sugary snack.
I tore into the nearest box I could find, obliterating the packaging of the largest bag. With marshmallow pieces falling from my mouth, I lugged the open box to our front door, which was now wide open. And then I just stopped. Crumpled on the floor, at the foot of the stairs, with her mouth wide open and her wide eyes staring right at me was my grandmother in her tatty nightdress with her long hair covering her tear stained wrinkled face.
By the cries and wails of my mother who had knelt down beside her and the loud words of my father who was desperately trying to get through to the emergency services, I knew that at long last, my grandmother, my nemesis was finally well and truly dead.
Why did I hate her so much back then? As an adult looking back at her death twenty years ago, all I can remember was that the whole family felt liberated by it, so it wasn’t just me. Although like a dutiful daughter in law my mother wept and mourned for her, the end of my grandmother meant the end of her mind games and the terrible physical violence that she had inflicted on my mother from the very start of her marriage.
It had all started before I was born. This strong and intimidating force for evil had started her campaign of terror, when my mother came to live with her and her son as a newlywed young woman. In her deranged possessiveness over her son her daughter in law became the sole target of her aggressive and abusive manner. She was her punching bag; slave and was always at the mercy of her volcanic moods. While in my mother’s womb, I witnessed this wretched woman kicking my mother’s belly so hard that I not only felt the convulsions in her body for hours, but as a consequence of that kick I was born prematurely, with my right leg slightly deformed. You could say I came into this world limping, mewling and puking determined to seek revenge on the woman who had destroyed my mother’s life.
As a child I shuddered whenever she called my name, in her sugary, sentimental voice. I ran away from her arms laden with expensive golden bangles, which she would hold wide open to catch me in. I winced whenever she would plant her hairy kisses on me. Although I knew that my behaviour hurt her I felt she well and truly deserved it. She could angrily berate my mother as much as she liked for poisoning my young innocent mind deliberately against her, I was never going to be her loving grandson.
She tried to bribe me to love her, constantly reminding me of the fortune that awaited me when I turned eighteen. I should have toed the line as I was the sole heir to her not so insignificant fortune that she had clawed together through manipulation and scheming. But this did nothing for me as every time my bruised and cut mother cried secretly in her small room after a particularly bad beating, my heart burned with the kind of uncontrollable anger which no promise of material possessions could put out. Although my father should have been her protector the only words of comfort he could give his wife were that she should forgive and ignore his mother, like he did. This was the only way he said despairingly that he had managed to keep sane all these years.
When I reached the age of ten, I decided that something had to be done to rid this family permanently of this menace. Following a particularly fierce attack on my mother the old battle axe had suffered a debilitating stroke that confined her almost permanently to her bed. She had now become a whining, helpless burden on all of us. My father couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything. He was just an embarrassing coward to me. Anyway he was too busy looking after his thriving grocery business to have the will to do anything. As for my mother I just couldn’t fathom why she was always busy fussing and nursing and caring for her evil tormentor. So I made a vow on my tenth birthday that I had to by any means possible do the dark deed myself before I turned eleven.
I was not going to physically harm her, I decided. No that would be far too obvious. However through deliberate neglect whenever she was in my care, through depriving her of the very food and water, she had so often deprived my mother I was sure that I would see her off in no time. And that is exactly what happened. Mum went out in the late afternoons and helped Dad out in the shop until the late evenings.
I was left to feed and water her with pre-prepared meals and drinks left in the fridge. Day after day whenever she was left in my care, I would withdraw my attention. Not all at once, however. No I didn’t want to arouse any suspicions, but by caring a little less and then eventually not at all, my grandmother, the bane of our lives was finished off, starved to death in a few months without me touching a hair on her matted silvery head.
I remember how I felt on the day of her funeral. It was attended unsurprisingly by only very few of her friends and family. Only those whose affection she had managed to buy throughout the years with gifts and money were in attendance. I was nevertheless the only one smiling among the mourners who were all shedding crocodile tears. As they lowered her bespoke mahogany coffin into the ground I delighted in the image that I had created in my head of her burning and screeching from a very painful death in the fiery depths of an inescapable hell. I laughed when I thought of fiendish mind games Lucifer had ready to play with my granny, dearest. Whether the old bat liked it or not.
Needless to say for all her promises the old woman never left me a cent in her will. She had had the trust earmarked for me wound up and all the funds transferred during her lifetime to my father’s brother. My uncle once the black sheep of the family, despised for running off to set up a bar in Phuket with money stolen from his mother, was no doubt astounded to receive such a large cash injection from a woman, he thought had hated his guts. He now had the funds to continue his partying lifestyle well into his retirement which ironically she had severely disapproved of when she was alive. Although I was bitter about that, what really left a nasty taste in my mouth was that she didn’t spare a single thought for my parents, especially my mother who despite all her abuse had worked tirelessly for her welfare. This grave injustice made me hate old people even more with a vengeance.
I trained as a public finance accountant straight after studying economics at university. The exams were rigorous but coming from a commercial family, which boasted a string of stores now throughout the city; I had the commercial nous to find these not too difficult to pass. Why didn’t I choose the private sector, or start my own accounting firm or even just manage my father’s successful businesses? My family would say to me. How could I make them understand the thoughts going on in my hate-filled mind? These could never be viable options as long as I had only one aim in my life, to milk those people dry who intentionally and maliciously made younger people’s lives miserable by their incessant unreasonable demands. I loathed the way that citizens, who we were obliged to respect by using the term “senior”, always used the trump card of “life experience” to dictate and influence the course of young people’s lives and so often for the worse. I loathed that we were obliged to take care of them in their old age, when they in their youthful stupidity were themselves responsible for ruining their lives through their reckless living. Most of all I loathed their domineering behaviour and the foul language they used to demean and undermine the hopes and aspirations of the young.
So when I joined the local authority’s social housing department as the principal budget holder responsible for monitoring and authorising expenditure on housing for the elderly funded by the taxpayer I was ecstatic. Here was the opportunity that I had been waiting for, for years to make these dribbling fools suffer. If I siphoned off the money allotted for building housing for them, they would not only have to wait much longer on the waiting list for their homes but who knows many of these old critters might die in the long arduous, frustrating waiting process for shelter. I would also, more to the point be banking lots of lovely money so that I could finally give my parents and myself the kind of luxurious life we should have had, if we had not been conned by my witch of a grandmother.
It was so easy to buy my fake company online. It only cost me a couple of hundred pounds at the most, which given that I was about to rake in hundreds of thousands was a small price to pay. Anyway my yearly salary as a top executive of over a hundred and fifty thousand pounds could take a small dent without me feeling the pinch. It didn’t take me a long time to think about the name of the new company. I called it “Chelsea Construction Services” after my mother. Chelsea because the name sounded posh and legitimate and also because it served as a necessary reminder to me of the reason why I was plumbing the depths of morality with this fly by night operation.
Once the company was formed all I had to do was submit invoices from the fake company for non- existent construction services rendered. As it only required an okay from me and the director of finance for the department, who I had already eating from the palm of my hand, I thought it an absolute cinch. I must admit however when I drew up the first invoice on my laptop, using the snazzy company logo which I had spent hours creating my hands were trembling very badly. But I calmed myself down quickly with self-reassurances that as I was the principal budget holder with the expert financial knowledge, I could very easily hide the invoices among the department’s accounts. My boss, who was too drunk at work most of the time to care what I did had even foolishly given me his rubber stamp to speed up the payment of invoices. And boy was his signature easy to forge. So when I got the first cheque for £97,998, I was totally delirious.
Oh how I remember the joy of the big spend! My first purchase was the newest BMW X5 which cost me nearly all of the money I had creamed off. It was a dream to drive around town while looking for a town house for the family to live in. After I received a cheque for £550,000, for the second invoice that Chelsea Construction Services had raised, I splashed out on small pad just outside the city in an up and coming area, which was not too far from the finest restaurants and bars. So not only could I go dining and drinking with my friends just like I was popping out to the local shops but if I came home totally stinking drunk which was more often than not I could crash in my own pad close by.
By the time of the arrival of the third cheque I had acquired a new stunning girlfriend, who was not like the dowdy, bespectacled girl-next-door types who I had dated before. All these lasses had been picked up at the many public finance meetings which I had been forced to attend as a young studious executive. No, to be seen with these women now was a serious embarrassment. Only the best that money could buy was good enough for me. So as the cheques came flying in I hooked up with not only a steady foreign glamorous girlfriend who I took home regularly to my parents, but the money also paid for my regular custom of escort services for the elite. I would pamper all these dolls silly with classy opera and theatre nights out and weekends away at the most exclusive of country houses. These were all courtesy of Her Majesty and at the expense of some doddery old grandma and grandpa, who should have saved harder in their youth so as not to be a burden now on the State.
Alongside Chelsea Construction Services I had set up Shelby Electrical and Plumbing Services and Ruby Interior Design and Furnishings, named after my father and girlfriend respectively. My property portfolio now included a fine palatial estate in the Hertfordshire countryside and the town house in the suburbs had been replaced by a fine apartment in Kensington and Chelsea. The last purchase was the most satisfying of them all, as my mother Chelsea, father Shelby and girlfriend Ruby who I brought to live in their new luxurious surroundings were so proud of their son and boyfriend who was now the high flying director of finance of the department and the recipient of many fat bonuses for his exemplary work. Or so they thought.
All these claims were all false of course and it didn’t take too long for the crooked truth to unravel itself. In my stupidity I had not counted on my girlfriend Ruby being more than just arm candy. She wasn’t as thick as two planks as I had always thought she was. It turned out that she was a very good detective and good at numbers too. After seeing the many exclusive shopping bags from top end department stores on her bed evening after evening miraculously disappearing without her seeing any of the expensive items inside, she had of course become mightily suspicious as well as jealous. As this had happened on more than one occasion, she did what any right thinking woman would do, she started looking into my paper work and finances. As I was careless enough to leave my laptop strewn around our bedroom one evening, this turned out to be a relatively easy thing to do.
Two days before Christmas, over very expensive port and cheese, I remember telling her for the umpteenth time that I needed to pop out for a few hours to attend an urgent evening board meeting in Canary Wharf or somewhere suitably commercial sounding. This was all she needed to take the bull by the horns. Ruby sweetly saw me off at the door wearing the expensive silk dressing gown I had just gifted her. Purring she wished me a happy meeting and asked me to bring her back some chocolates from Fortnum and Mason. As she blew me a little kiss, and gave me a little wave, little did I know that as soon as she closed the door, her investigations into my finances would begin in earnest. Ruby must have had her suspicions that I was really seeing Saskia or Tia, or whoever my flavour of the month was, for quite some time. Either that or she must have been kinky enough to think that her burly beau liked dressing up in beautiful expensive women’s clothing in private.
Seated on our extra-large Versailles bed, pen in hand, scribbling notes furiously, while momentarily stopping to tuck that golden lock of hair which always got in her eyes, I could just imagine her having a field day with the contents of my laptop. On my account spreadsheets, which she tallied with my bank statements she now saw everything in black and white for the first time which more than confirmed her suspicions. She also saw the principal budget controller pay slips which my department had emailed to me which were clearly not that of the high ranking and highly paid director of finance. She saw the fake companies named after my mother, my father and shockingly even after her and all the dodgy invoices that I had raised and made payments for totalling not hundreds of thousands but millions of pounds. And then she saw photographs of my escort dates, and our intimate soirees together at home and abroad. There was Saskia in a fur coat outside the Ritz, Tia in her large hat with a glass of champagne at Ascot and Heather looking like the queen of the glen at Balmoral. That was I can imagine well and truly the last straw for Ruby.
Reeling from these revelations I could just picture her rushing in a flurry of silk, down the gilded corridor of the palatial apartment to my parents’ room. After my mother opened the door no doubt gingerly as she still felt like she was living in a hotel, she would have heard Ruby’s frantic requests that they both come urgently into our bedroom to see what their son had done. They would of course have been reluctant at first to enter our love nest, but because Ruby’s continuous shrieking had probably convinced them that maybe I might have actually committed suicide, after not being able to cope with so much money they must have rushed back with her to confirm the worst. Little would they have expected the scene before them, papers strewn everywhere and a laptop I had never allowed them to open, well and truly on and blinking right at them.
By now given that there was no dead me hanging from the ceiling lights, they would have calmed down and wanted an immediate explanation from Ruby as to why she had woken them up just to complain about the state that I had left the room before obviously going to a very important meeting. She, being Ruby would have sat them down on our large Versailles chaise longue by the French window overlooking the park and explained my misdemeanors to them step by step, without missing a single detail. And by the end of her lengthy explanation about my elaborate deception I reckon they were both utterly convinced that their only son who they had thought had done them so proud was in fact a first class liar, crook and fraud.
As for me I was on cloud nine when I came in from a rather successful night at Crown Ashton’s casino in the heart of Mayfair, having just dropped off the luscious Lucy at her home in the Lamborghini. I never expected the reception I got as I soon as I walked in to our sumptuous lounge. Seated on the pure white Fabio leather cinema sofa, were my very distraught parents and a flamingly angry Ruby.
“Where have you been tiger?” Ruby said sarcastically looking me up and down.
“Ruby my love relax. You know I have business meetings in the evenings as well” I propped myself against the drinks bar, pouring myself a whiskey as casually as I could.
Ruby then looked over conspiratorially to my parents who knew what was coming. “How are the girls? Keeping them busy are we?” She didn’t believe in cutting to the chase. She would milk my suffering for all it was worth.
My father put his head in hands. Non-confrontational as usual he just sighed a lot as he ruffled his hair, over and over again.
Ruby got up and sashayed over to the laptop which she had kept deliberately on the bar by the whiskey bottle waiting for me. Now standing right next to me towering over short, bald fat me, this vixen swivelled the machine with her beautifully manicured nails right round to me and glared and smirked at me as she did so. I gulped. She had it open I saw at every single page that showed in minute detail every fraudulent transaction I had ever made through the fake companies. Inwardly I cursed my stupidity at being so careless, but outwardly I tried hard to play it extra cool.
I took out my glasses and put them on awkwardly. “Let me explain. As a highly respected accountant …” I started, trying to look smart with the finger-tips of both my hands pressed tightly together in semi prayer mode.
I was cut off by a livid Ruby. She had by now grabbed me by my shirt collar and was breathing angrily into my face. “Not one word you absolute thieving bastard! What d..” But before she could launch into her first accusation my mother put her two hands squarely on her shoulders and with all her strength forced her off me.
“Now you sit down Ruby” She said shaking angrily. “I’m going to talk to my son.” She motioned a very shocked Ruby to sit next to Dad on the sofa. Dad actually looked up then looking visibly shocked at Mum’s new found assertiveness.
Ruby still stunned by my mother’s sudden manifestation of her hidden strength backed away slowly and like a little girl she did what she was told. As she did my mother grabbed the laptop from her defiantly and came over silently to me with it.
She then touched me on the arm and cocked her head slightly to one side which in her gentle way meant that she wanted answers from me. With her kind eyes looking straight into mine, like she did when I was a child she said in her most soothing voice while gently thrusting the laptop towards me “Tell me son, what is this all about?”
She had got me.
I took her hand in mine and helped her sit on the bar stool by me. I then took her hands again but this time I lowered my eyes with shame.
“Mum, I’m gonna tell you everything. But promise me one thing first. You won’t cry, because if you do it will break my heart and I just won’t be able to carry on telling you.” I looked up at this goddess, and pleaded with her as I said this.
She nodded her head timidly, as her face tried desperately to stop her face from screwing up.
It was then that I confessed to everything, the fake companies, the fake invoices, the fake lifestyle and all the fake women that I had bought with all that money. The only problem was that unlike the monopoly set that I had as a kid, the money I had appropriated was real.
My mother shook her head with disbelief as I rolled off a litany of fraudulent transactions and tried to assure her that the grand total figure of £5.6 million would be paid back in full.
But, my mother wasn’t going to let me off that easily. “But what about all those old people, without a roof over their heads?” She cried, looking at me earnestly. “How could you cheat them after living and caring for grandma all those years?”
I looked over at Dad, who had come to sit by Mum now at the bar. I was going to reveal what I really thought about his mother and I knew it was going to hurt him especially badly.
But anticipating my admission it was Dad’s turn to surprise me.
“I know son.” He said knowingly, this time coming over to me and putting his hand on my slumped shoulder.
“Your grandmother and I knew that you were starving her to death. But that was how she wanted it.” He sighed when he said that. It was as if he was finally letting a huge burden come off his shoulders.
It was my turn now to shake my head incredulously. “So Gran wanted to die? I didn’t kill her?”
I was totally knocked for six that my grandmother had wanted to end it all anyway. All those years of rejoicing at being the cause of her death were for nothing, absolutely nothing.
Like a telepathic Dad sensed my deflated triumphalism and continued.
“Yes son. She had initially wanted to go to Switzerland to one of those euthanasia centres to end her very painful life but because your mother and I wanted her to live longer we insisted on keeping her here.”
“She knew you hated her behaviour towards your mother and that you were cutting down on her food and drink to punish her. But she told me that she would rather die at the hands of her beloved grandson than a stranger in a far off land”. At this moment his voice choked with emotion, as he recalled his mother’s unconditional love for her selfish grandson.
My mother came next to Dad and wiped away his tears with her handkerchief. She looked devastated at this revelation that her boy was a killer as well as a thief and had started to cry uncontrollably.
I had had enough of that evening’s surprises and motioning to all the splendour around us in the magnificent lounge I said grandly “All this was to make up for what she and people like her deprived you of.”
I stared accusatorily at my mother, the woman for whom the silent murder and the grand thefts were all really for. “You know I did it for you Mum. She treated you so badly. How could you forgive that Mum?”
Turning to berate my father, I asked what I had always wanted to ask him. “Dad, how could you have allowed your innocent wife to be beaten daily?” I looked at them both imploringly.
Ruby too was on tenterhooks to find out the secret at the heart of this whole affair. The silence which followed was palpable.
Finally my mother said in a quiet voice “It was because she was a schizophrenic Keith. She never meant anyone any real harm, but her hallucinations often got the better of her. You fool you can’t imagine how much your grandmother loved you and how she left us so much more than money.”
She took out papers from under the coffee table and showed me pictures of vast tracts of land around the Scottish mountains. All I could see was serenity.
So this was my grandmother’s legacy, a beautiful meditation retreat in forty acres of peaceful surroundings, in which a truly lost soul like me could imbibe the kind of priceless bliss that was unquantifiable.
This bombshell crushed my soul. Not only had I killed my innocent grandmother a woman who loved me so much that she let me kill her, but someone who had also made provisions for my lost soul.
I turned round to say something more to my mother. But it was too late. My mother my closest ally was already phoning the police to report a thief.
By Vinita Ramkalowon from the United Kingdom