Home > The Good Samaritan(20)

The Good Samaritan(20)
Author: John Marrs


‘Why don’t you tell me what brought you to where you are today?’ I asked Steven over the phone.

I gingerly took a sip from my steaming mug of peppermint tea and sank my hips down into the chair, making notes in the book I kept hidden in my bag. I listened quietly as Steven filled in the blanks of his story.

He hadn’t been a victim of physical or sexual abuse, he was addiction-free and he wasn’t in debt – the most common reasons for suicidal thoughts. Instead he was, like a quarter of the British population at some time, suffering from depression. It had begun in his teenage years with occasional depressive chapters. Gradually those episodes became a series until they took control of his life, affecting his studies, ruining his exam results and leading to a career of unfulfilling jobs. When he found me, he’d been struggling for two years with psychotic depression that had led to hallucinations and paranoia.

To give Steven credit, he hadn’t just given in and accepted his fate; he’d battled against his own brain with therapies and an alphabet’s worth of drugs. Some had brought him temporary relief but made his world a blurred, false reality. And none of the professionals he consulted could help him see how the next twenty-eight years of his life would be any better than the first. He was taking up space in this world and offering nothing in return.

‘What do you get out of our arrangement?’ asked Steven suddenly. ‘You’re going to all this trouble to help me, and in return all you’re asking is for me to tell you about myself. Is there nothing else I can do for you?’

I was touched by his thoughtfulness. Nobody, not even David, had asked me that.

‘No, there’s nothing,’ I replied. ‘Your faith is all I need.’

‘Can I ask if you’ve done this for anyone else?’ I asked.

‘Yes, there have been others.’

‘Can you tell me more about them?’

‘Would you like the next person I choose to know about you?’

‘No, not really.’

‘Then you have to respect their privacy.’ I hesitated before continuing. ‘I help different people in different ways. This life is difficult to negotiate alone. Some people fall by the wayside and need help in finding their way back onto the right road. Others want to stay off the road completely, and that’s where I come in.’

‘You called me David before. Was he someone like me?’

My skin prickled as if it had been brushed by stinging nettles. ‘Yes, I did help David. You remind me of him a little, which is why I might have said his name in error.’

I took a cursory glance around the room at the rest of the team. Two of them were gossiping by a boiling kettle in the kitchen, one was on a call, and Janine was in her office staring hard at her computer. The glass in a picture frame behind her reflected the image of a moving roulette wheel on her screen. Her expression told me it wasn’t moving in her favour.

‘Now, let’s get back to what we were talking about earlier,’ I continued, and detailed where the noose should sit on his neck. ‘If you don’t do it correctly, your instinct isn’t going to be to just remain there until you pass out, you’re going to claw at that rope and try to stop yourself from being strangled. You’ll be in a huge amount of pain and it’ll take five minutes to lose consciousness and a further twenty to die.’

Hearing him scribbling notes satisfied me. I was quietly making a to-do list of my own, reminding myself to search his house after his death to ensure he’d left no evidence linking us. No stray notes screwed up and tossed into a bin, and my name not written on a pad anywhere. I’d also need to take the contract-free pay-as-you-go mobile I’d asked him to buy to call me once I’d agreed to help him. And I didn’t need the police sniffing around his actual phone and finding End of the Line’s number on there again like they had with Chantelle.

‘Can I ask you for something before . . . it happens?’ he asked.

‘Of course.’

‘I feel almost embarrassed saying this, but could you . . . hug . . . me? We don’t need to talk or anything and it’s not some kind of sexual thing, it’s just that I can’t remember the last time I felt anyone’s arms around me.’

My mouth opened and then wavered ever so slightly. ‘Yes,’ I replied, trying to gain control of any sign of emotion. But I knew exactly how he felt.



I woke from a dream with a sudden jolt, confused but aware I’d just yelled the word ‘no!’

I sat bolt upright in my darkened bedroom and turned to Tony for reassurance, momentarily forgetting he no longer slept in our bed. I used some breathing techniques cribbed from my yoga classes and thought about Henry’s beautiful smile until I felt calm again.

Since I’d agreed to be present for Steven’s death, it was nigh-on impossible for me to enjoy more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time without waking up and thinking of him. I attempted to tire myself out in the early evenings by signing up for Zumba and body-pump gym classes, but all they did were make my endorphins skyrocket, leaving me wide awake into the early hours.

I began to think about the five rules I gave my candidates and what amendments I’d created specifically for Steven. After all, this was the first time I’d ever been invited to the scene to supervise a person taking their own life. While I trusted him as much as I could trust anyone in his position, I’d need to protect my safety and ensure I knew where I was going and in good time. I told him that at no point must anyone join us. Also, everything in his house would need to be exactly where he said it was. If I had the slightest inkling something was out of sorts, I would leave.

The alarm clock read 4.27 a.m. I couldn’t shift my anxiety and needed comfort from my husband. So I padded quietly along the landing, passing the girls’ ajar bedroom doors where it was too dark for me to see inside. The curtains in Tony’s room remained open, however, and an orange streetlight cast a tangerine glow against the wallpaper. It was as I moved to slip silently between his sheets that I realised his bed was how I’d left it that morning, unused and with four decorative cushions propped upright by pillows. He had not returned home.

I moved both hands in front of my mouth, as if in prayer. Where was Tony? And more importantly, who was he with?

Entering the kitchen, I poured myself a glass of water from the dispenser in the fridge, and tried to repress my unease. I unplugged my phone from the charger and checked to see if he’d texted me or left a voicemail after I’d gone to bed. But there was nothing.

I looked at the suicide message boards on my tablet, because reading people’s misery and answering questions often helped to relax me. But not this morning.

Eventually I gave up, defeated, and headed upstairs to change my clothing before leaving the house.

The wind hit my face like a sharp slap before circling my head and blowing my ponytail in all manner of directions. I’d learned from last time how cold it could get up here even in August, so I’d brought a pair of patterned gloves and a matching scarf with me. I stood firm behind the safety railings, two hundred feet above the car park below.

The Hartley Hotel had been a blot on Northampton town centre’s landscape for as long as I could remember; a grotesque twenty-five-storey building that was only impossible to ignore if you walked with your eyes closed. I made my way unnoticed through the mahogany-clad lobby towards the clunky lifts and up to the top floor. There was a musty stairwell to climb, illuminated by a green emergency exit sign, before I reached the door to the roof.

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