In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The Nun’s Story
He exhaled a deep sigh of relief as he turned the car on to the M40 motorway. After the snarling aggravation of the M6 and the irritating road works of the M42, this road seemed to flow gently like a chuckling blue stream towards the sea. David’s body relaxed and in response he switched on the radio, and tuned to Radio Four. The Test Match had finished the previous day, or the radio would have been on already. He half listened to the news and heard the announcer say “And now, ‘Play for today.’” He thought about switching off, but changed his mind. It night distract his thinking for an hour and that would be welcome.
“Today’s Play is ‘A Fatal Passion’, by Mary Francis.”
Mary Francis? Mary Francis? Where have I heard that name before? It hit him like a heavy blow in the face. That was her name, Kate, when she was in the convent, Sister Mary Francis. It was her nun’s name, or whatever they called it. He turned up the volume. What a coincidence, except, as he quickly realised, it was no coincidence. David by now was drifting along in the inside lane at about sixty miles per hour. As the story unfolded, he realised that it WAS Kate’s story. Well, Kate’s and his, the piece of fiction they had put together at writing class. God, even some lines of dialogue were identical and the two main characters had the first names he had suggested, Siobhan and Richard.
It was a simple story, with a clever, complex plot involving a rich woman, bored with married life, who begins an affair and then decides to murder her husband and begin a new life with her lover.
David pulled into a service area, parked in a fairly empty corner of the car park and heard out the play. There was a heaviness in his stomach and he was aware that his face was flushed. No, no, it couldn’t be, but just suppose the crazy bitch had really gone and done it.
He and Kate had met the previous September when both had enrolled at a writing class. He had noticed her, of course, as she was, by some distance, the most attractive woman there. At coffee break she came to where he sat alone reading some adult education brochures.
“Hello, I’m Kate Burke.” She extended her hand, cool and slim
David stood up. “Hi, David Drew.”
“Yes, I know. May I join you?”
Flustered, he pulled out a chair for her. She sat down. “It’s really Kate Nicholls, but I like to use my maiden name for this sort of thing.” She waved vaguely towards the others in the small tearoom. Her voice was lilting, musical and Irish. Not the guttural tones of Bob Geldorf’s Dublin, but probably from the west of Ireland. She also sounded like she had received a good education as her speech was beautifully modulated.
He was unsure what to say; her physical presence and habit of looking directly into his eyes disturbed him. It had been a long time since he had been close enough to any woman to feel disturbed. She smiled and continued. “I did like the piece you read earlier; I thought it was excellent, very thought provoking.”
Despite himself, he flushed with pleasure. “Well, thank you. I thought it was a bit ordinary.”
She pursed her lips and shook her head. “No, no, I think you have a talent for writing.” He smiled a little, wondering if she was joking. She wasn’t and continued. “David”, she reached across the table and touched his hand, increasing his awareness of his reaction to her presence. “David, I know we have only met, but I wondered if you could help me with a story I am trying to write?”
David knew he was being set up, but was unable to resist saying, “Of course, I’d love to.”
And that was how it began. On week three they went to a nearby pub when the class finished. Kate told him how unhappy she was with Edgar, her husband. “He doesn’t treat me very well.”
He glanced at her SLK 190 Mercedes parked on the roadway outside. “He doesn’t seem to treat you too badly.”
“A woman needs more than a Mercedes, you know, David.” She looked him directly in the eyes and he looked away, uncomfortably. He thought he knew the messages she was passing, but David had never been good at reading the female mind, something his ex wife had never failed to tell him. Since his divorce, his relationships had been staccato and unsatisfactory, on many levels. He had also determined never to get mixed up with a married woman, but his resolve, his conscience was weakening.
On week five she invited him to her home for their drink.
“What about your husband? Will he be expecting me?”
She dismissed that easily. “He’s away in France, or Italy or somewhere on business.”
They didn’t have a drink, but started tearing off each other’s clothing as soon as the front door closed behind them. Their lovemaking was thrilling and he was satisfied in a way that had never happened before. “My God, Kate, you’re incredible. Where did you learn all that?”
“Well, I know where I didn’t learn it. In that bloody convent”
“You were educated in a convent?” He laughed. “I’ve never slept with a covent’s girl before.”
“Oh yes, I was educated at St Mary’s in Galway, but I really meant when I was a nun, in St Bridget’s”
David’s hand went to his mouth. “Jesus, I have certainly never slept with a nun before. How long were you there and why did you leave?”
She looked over her breasts at her body stretched like a cat’s over the bed. “Well, you know, God and I didn’t have a lot to say to each other, and I thought he must have given me this body for some purpose. I wanted a man. Those bloody lesbians were driving ne crazy.”
She put her arms around his neck, pulling him towards her. “Right, Mr Englishman. Would you like to make it twice? And convince me I’m not a lesbian?”
Their affair blazed like the sun up to Christmas when the holiday closing of the writing class removed their legitimate reasons to meet regularly. She told him, in his bed on one occasion, “We’ll need to be careful over Christmas, Edgar will be at home.”
“I can’t see you at Christmas, Kate. My son Steven is home from serving with the RAF in the Falklands and I need some time with him, and with Emma, my daughter, who teaches in France.”
Kate exploded. How could he? What about her? Did she mean nothing to her? It went on, a tirade and he was pleased when she stormed out of the house in a fury. He didn’t see her for about two weeks, nor hear from her. Eventually she phoned and talked like nothing had ever occurred and they got back together again. But it was different. David knew it. She had become possessive, obsessive even. She would constantly phone him, demanding to know where he was, what he was doing and who he was with. However they did manage to finish her story.
“Now, David, after the old man is safely disposed of, where should the happy couple go?”
He laughed. “Rio sounds a good place. I have never been there and have always fancied it”
“I agree, and how much money will they need?”
“Oh, £200,000? Let’s say a quarter million”
She gave him a high five. “Done! It’s a deal”
Things got worse as the writing classes came to an end. He thought that Kate was teetering on the brink and that very little would be required to push her over the precipice. It was then he got the contract to work for four weeks in South Africa, in the oil and gas fields offshore in the Western Cape. This started off another volcano and they were not seeing each other when he flew to Capetown. David was relieved. He couldn’t handle this relationship any more. He had been in Capetown for two days when she phoned his mobile. There were four or five calls a day until he told her that he had to go offshore and that mobiles were banned for safety reasons. He closed down his own mobile and hired one for the duration of his visit. He returned home on a pleasant May morning and hired a car at the airport, driving straight to Manchester to make a presentation and report to his clients.
As David drove south he realised he would have to find a way of telling Kate it was over, finished. He had switched on the radio as he turned on to the M40. After the news, it was time for ‘Play for today’.
After switching off the radio, David sat in his car in the service area for some time. He picked up his phone and asked for Directory Enquiries. “Nicholls Enterprises, please. In Acton, I think. Thanks, yes I’ve got that.” He keyed in the number. What was he going to say? “Oh, yes, thanks. I’d like to speak to Sir Edgar’s secretary. I want to arrange a meeting.” He still didn’t know what to say.
There was silence for long seconds. “I’m sorry sir, but Sir Edgar is dead. He died about four weeks ago.”
Oh Jesus, thought David, she has done it. Aloud he stuttered, “I’m so sorry, I have just returned from overseas and haven’t seen an English newspaper for weeks. What happened?”
“Sir Edgar raced classic motor bikes. It was a big hobby of his. He was in a race at Brands Hatch, and he came off. Killed instantly, I believe.”
“How terrible” murmured David.
“Yes, We are all shocked.”
He returned to the motorway, now a raging brown torrent racing him towards what? God knows. At his flat he pushed the front door against the gathered mail, picking up the bundle and frantically tearing through it. There it was, Kate’s handwriting. With clumsy fingers he ripped the envelope apart. The contents were simple; a first class BA ticket for Rio de Janeiro and a bank draft for a quarter of a million pounds. Heavily he sat down and poured a large malt whiskey. How long he sat there he did not know, but it was dark outside when he looked at the empty glass in his hand. He put the glass down and reached for the phone, keying in a number. He knew what he had to do. There was a short interval and the number started ringing. He knew what he must do. A woman’s voice answered.
David spoke quietly. “Yes, police please.”
Written by my Father B.M