Home > The Good Samaritan(13)

The Good Samaritan(13)
Author: John Marrs

It was the buzz I got from listening to snapshots of others’ lives that had first drawn me to offer my time to End of the Line. I recalled how Alice, then four, was in the living room scribbling pictures of farmyard animals on sheets of paper spread across the coffee table. Effie was nine and doing her maths homework. I was on the sofa, supposed to be watching over them, but admittedly more interested in checking my messages on Internet suicide message boards. It used to be exciting knowing how much I was helping people by encouraging them to end their pain. And over time, I gained a reputation in certain dark corners of the web as the go-to girl for no-nonsense, detailed advice on the best and worst ways to do it, based on research I’d collated. I even gained a nickname, the ‘Helpline Heroine’. It made me feel necessary.

But online posters were transient and anonymous. They were scattered far and wide and when they ceased leaving messages, I’d never know if it was because they’d carried out their threats to kill themselves or if they’d just changed their minds and stopped posting. Rarely would I learn of their outcome, and eventually it wasn’t enough for me.

What message boards lacked was a human connection. Reading typed words was not the same as hearing pain in a person’s voice. I needed to suck up their angst, their uneasiness, their desperation and their confusion. So when I read in the local paper that End of the Line had a shortage of volunteers, I wondered if I could take my skills and knowledge in an important new direction.

Curiosity made me call their number to learn first-hand how their advice differed from the frank and honest encouragement I gave online. I made up a story about feeling desperately lonely and that I was seriously contemplating taking my own life. Except there was no advice. Instead, the woman on the other End of the Line offered calm, caring words and the time and space to talk and break down my problems. Mary still has no idea that I was the one she’d answered the phone to.

There was something habit-forming about making that first call and hearing her awful, non-judgemental, anodyne response. So, over the next two weeks, I called again and again and got the same perspective from multiple Stepford volunteers. I tested these poor misguided souls under various guises, citing debt, rape, a cheating husband, childhood sex abuse and the horrors of war as reasons for my woes. I was curious as to how long they could maintain their saccharine-sweet words before their masks slipped and they told me what they really thought. But they never did. Not once.

And that was precisely why End of the Line needed me – someone who could offer their callers an alternative viewpoint, a truthful take on their predicaments. I would be willing to go that extra mile for the right candidates and, where necessary, offer them a gentle nudge over the finishing line.

A clock on the wall in the café chimed and I opened my eyes. I put my empty mug back on the counter and received a weak smile from the boy. I looked at his name badge. Thom, it read, and suddenly the penny dropped – I’d found his pictures on Effie’s phone. He’d been encouraging her to send him photos of her semi-naked body.

My mood darkened as I walked through Northampton town centre and towards the office. With my head bowed and my phone in my hand, I logged in to my daughter’s Facebook account. This time her inbox contained a naked and aroused photograph of Thom he’d sent her – and by the look of the decor around him, it had been taken in the back of the coffee shop. I was furious at him, and just as angry at her for not deleting it. He was a seventeen-year-old man sending a fourteen-year-old child pornographic images.

If I reported him to the police, in all likelihood he’d receive a slap on the wrist. So I took matters into my own hands.

Nothing was confidential anymore when it came to young people and social media. So if Thom was so eager to share and be validated by the world, let’s see what he thought when they started judging him by his less-than-impressive genitals. He’d been foolish enough to keep his face in the shot, so I screen-grabbed the picture and tweeted it using my anonymous account to the international chain of coffee outlets that employed him, stating his name and the branch where he worked and had taken the picture.

Then I logged on to the fake Facebook account I’d created to investigate candidates’ profiles if they gave away enough of themselves. I posted Thom’s picture to his own timeline for all to see, then to the timelines of anyone in his friends list who shared his surname. I posted it on the school’s own Facebook page, plus all those set up by parents for each individual year group. Then I logged back into Effie’s profile and posted it on her page. Finally, I changed her password so that she couldn’t take the picture down.

By the time I reached the office, I was satisfied that it was going to be the End of the Line for Effie and that boy.


The corridors leading away from the high-dependency unit at Northampton General Hospital were eerily quiet for mid-afternoon.

I’d just missed visiting hours, but that hadn’t stopped me from turning up unannounced to check if there’d been any improvement in Olly’s condition.

We’d been in this building many times over the years, for various conditions common to the homeless. Hepatitis B, bronchitis, infected foot calluses, gum abscesses and, more often than not, his early-stage cirrhosis of the liver stemming from frequent alcohol abuse. Now tuberculosis had poleaxed him, a direct result of the damage to his immune system caused by his HIV. Each disease was speeding up the progress of the other, leaving his body in constant turmoil.

His NHS records listed me as his emergency contact. Tony didn’t understand my need to stand by Olly no matter what the predicament or self-inflicted ailment that was knocking nine bells out of him. My husband had urged me many times to ‘do myself a favour’ and wash my hands of him. But I could never do that.

The doors to his ward were locked to prevent the spread of infection, so I peered through the windows that stretched across three sections of the room, but still I couldn’t locate him. Last time, he’d struggled to breathe, so – while he was heavily sedated – a noisy machine did the hard work for him. A plastic mask had been taped to his mouth and a pipe inserted into his throat, making his chest rise and fall. It had been heartbreaking to watch.

Living rough, he’d wear layer after layer of clothing. He’d told me it was easier to carry them on his back than risk leaving them somewhere and having them stolen. I remembered how emaciated and angular he’d looked in just a blue, paper-thin hospital gown, barely making a dent in the bedsheets. I’d remained by the side of his bed for the best part of a week, like I had when Henry battled pneumonia, and I wondered how much of my life I’d spent willing someone I loved to fight for their life.

I scanned the room again; perhaps I hadn’t recognised Olly because the nurses had cleaned him up. He’d likely have been scrubbed and bathed, his beard trimmed and his hair cut short. He’d hate that. He hated any resemblance to the boy I’d shared a foster home with.

Our foster mother, Sylvia Hughes, was the greatest manipulator I’d ever met. The only positive experience from my time spent living under her roof was learning how to convince the world you are one thing when, inside, you are someone altogether different.

She’d convinced everyone of importance that she was providing a safe haven for the dozens of foster children she’d welcomed over the years. But to those of us in her care, we were there to serve a purpose.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» The Good Samaritan
» The One
» Surprise Me
» Melt for You (Slow Burn #2)
» Burn for You (Slow Burn #1)
» In This Life
» War Storm (Red Queen #4)
» How to Walk Away