Domini Mortum

By Paul Holbrook

A supernatural murder mystery novel set in late Victorian London.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

An Interview with... Tom and Barbara

I hate my life.  

This is the thought which went round and round in my head, as I sat in the living room of Tom and Barbara Finbarr.  I have had many regrets in my life; I wish I had looked after myself a bit more, before age finally caught up with me and I couldn’t be arsed to do anything about it, and I wish I had paid more attention at school, I know I’m fairly smart, I could have been a somebody, done something with my life.

Many regrets.  But none, absolutely no regret was ever as great as the one which I felt as I sat in the North London home of the dullest couple in the world.  I wish I had never answered the phone last week.  There - just a small wish, nothing that would change the world irrevocably, but one which I knew would never be granted.  I had made my bed and now I was destined to be stuck in it.

I hate my life.  

There it goes again, round and round, never stopping, louder and louder.  This was it, I decided.  I would quit the study starting today, as soon as I got home in fact.  I would ceremoniously burn all my papers, delete the files on my laptop and from this day forward never mention anything to do with the study ever again to anyone.

“..and as you can see in this picture,” Barbara was droning “… here is Tom with the severed head of our fourth victim, look at his lovely smile.  I’m talking about Tom of course not the poor man who we just killed - Ha, ha, ha!”  

More bland laughter from the pair of them, like a pair of insipid twins.

“Of course,” Tom laughed, “he was smiling - before I sliced his head off with an electric carving knife.  Maybe we should have turned up the corners of his mouth for the purposes of the picture.”  More laughter.  Here I was sat in a darkened room watching the slide show of the most inane couple in the world and their viciously butchered victims.  

Like I said, I hate my life, how much more stupid could I get?

What?  I hear you say.  How could I be stupid?

To be sat in the living room with a pair of married serial killers while they showed me graphic pictures of them posing with their many victims.  This was my dream, are you crazy?  Well I suppose the easy answer to that is yes, but then again you don’t know the whole story do you?  You do not know the events leading up to this horrific moment in time.  Let me enlighten you.

Following the apparent utter failure and then resurrection of my study after meeting a little old lady named Edna Bowes, I had attacked my work with a new found enthusiasm. I was desperate to ensure that it was completed and published so that it was able to ride the wave of interest in suburban killers.

My study, which had a fluctuating history, concerned the unseen and unspoken in today’s ‘normal’ society, those supposedly average people, who secretly carried out unspeakable acts of horror behind the facade of normal daily life.  The killer housewife, the retired man who enjoys gardening and the sight of fresh blood or the quiet, polite man who has a collection of heads, that type of thing.  I was convinced, in my own mind, that this happened, that a shadowy underbelly of society lurked, preying on the innocent and naive.

For the most part, my uncovering of these covert activities had been a waste of time, people playing at it, pretending to be something they were not.  With Edna however, all this changed.  Despite my apparent failure at spotting this serial killer in front of my eyes and dismissing her as a batty old lady, I gained new impetus to search out and find these undercover community killers.

I had been undertaking some work for the project at home when my mobile rang.  I was fairly snowed under and thought about not answering it, but it could be another Edna Bowes, another real one.  Curiosity got the better of me and I stopped what I was doing and answered it.

“Hello, can I help you?”

“Oh, hello there,” the jolly voice of a well spoken man greeted me from the other end of the line.  ”I’m ringing in response to your advert; I think we may be what you’re looking for.”

Alarm bells rang in my head ‘we’ what does he mean ‘we’?

“We think we fit the bill, as it were, and wanted to see if you would be interested to meet us, as part of your study.” Considering this man could be a cold blooded killer, he seemed very happy about it.

“You said ‘we’, ‘us’, do you mean there’s more than one of you?”  I asked, anticipation biting at me.  This could be a group of people, some kind of weird coven, kidnapping young virgins in the night and sacrificing them to some demonic overlord.

“Yes, it’s me and my wife Barbara actually, we’re a bit of a double act.”  Thoughts raced through my mind, this is too good to be true, it could be Fred and Rose all over again, Hindley and Brady, Bonnie and Clyde.  I thought that I had just hit the jackpot.

“Well, thank you Tom, I would love to come to see you and your lovely wife, sounds fantastic.  When are you available?”

He gave me their address and we agreed to meet the following week.  They were in Crouch End, North London, ideal, just a short distance from my own place.  It shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes to get there and they would be close enough for any subsequent visits I might have to make.

Why did I answer the phone?  Will I never learn?

As I approached their three storey terraced house I felt good.  Brilliant in fact, this would be the day when I uncovered the secret life of the killer couple.  Who lured their unsuspecting victims to their den of vice, who took turns in killing them in increasingly violent and dastardly ways and who finally came clean to a writer of true crime.

I was made, set up for life and a five book deal at least.  This was my moment, my time to take the spotlight.  

I love my life.

I knocked on the door and waited.  ”Coming,” I heard a shout from inside the house.  They’re probably still cleaning up from their last victim, clearing away any last traces of blood from the kitchen floor.

The door was opened by a man in his late forties, he was tall, slimly built with thinning gold coloured hair scraped over his head.  He wore small round glasses and a beaming smile.  Behind him stood a short woman of similar age, with dark, shoulder length hair and a smile identical to that of her husband.  ”Helloooo,” they both said at the same time with spooky indenticallity.

“Hi, I think you are expecting me, you called me last…”  I couldn’t finish my sentence as I was pulled into the house by the enthusiastic pair.

“Come in, come in.  We’ve just been getting everything ready for your arrival, lots to see today, we need to get going straight away.”  Tom spoke with the eagerness and fervour of a small child on Christmas morning.  ”Come through, come through.”

Tom led me into a large room to the right of the hallway, whilst Barbara walked behind me giggling with excitement. ‘Oh God,’ I thought, ‘They’re going to kill me aren’t they, I’m their next victim.’  A wave of terror hit me like a brick in the face and my first instinct was to run, to get out of here and head straight to the nearest police station.

But I didn’t, and now I wish I had.  No, I was swept into the room and sat on a chair before I could make any kind of move to escape.  The chair in which I was sat was a kitchen chair, set in the middle of the room.  The curtains were closed.  Visions ran through my head of being tied to the chair and tortured for hours on end until they finally put me out of my misery and made the killing blow, before cutting my body into small manageable chunks and disposing of me over a wide geographical radius.  

‘This is it,’ I thought ‘this is how it ends for me, my time is up.’

Tom had moved into the shadows of the room and appeared to be fiddling with something behind me.  ’Probably getting the cuffs out,’ I thought.

“I’ve been so looking forward to this,” giggled Barbara, doing little jumps on the spot and making quick, miniature clapping noises with her hands.  ”It may take some time, but we really plan to put on a performance for you today … you’ll just …die, hee, hee, hee.”  More laughing, more silly little clapping.  This is how it ends, slaughtered by an over excitable pixie and her bizarre husband.

“I think there’s been some kind of mistake,” I managed to say, “really I don’t think I …”

Suddenly the room exploded with light and colour as the wall, which my chair was facing lit up with a large picture of the pair of them, smiling and holding large knives.  A slide show, it was a slide show.  They were going to show me how they murder, I may not be completely safe yet but at least I could see how I was going to go.

“This is us, two days after our wedding, getting ready for our first joint kill.”  Tom explained whilst fiddling with the focus of the picture to make sure that it was totally clear.

“Ahhh, young love,” giggled Barbara, “we were so innocent then, just learning, weren’t we dear?”

“Mmmm,” Tom agreed, moving the picture on.  ”This is us, about to start the butchery.”  He explained in the dull tone of a teacher showing slides to his class.

The picture showed a man from behind sat in a chair, his hands were bound and Tom and Barbara were stood on either side, holding their large knives aloft in a stabbing motion.  

“We had to set the timer on the camera for this one, didn’t we dear,” droned Tom.  Barbara responded with a little self satisfied giggle.

‘I’ve done it,’ I thought, ‘I’ve finally found my killers.  Job done.”

Tom clicked the projector to move on to the next picture and it was then that my world collapsed.

I hate my life.

That is when the mantra started.  Displayed in front of me was a photograph of Tom Finbarr pushing his knife into the abdomen of the man tied to the chair.  Tom was looking at the camera with a devilish grin and blood was pouring out of the wound covering Tom’s hands.  I had a mental image of the scene playing out in my head, Tom’s demonic laughter as he thrusts in the knife, as his victim screams in pain, whilst in the background and recording the scene for posterity on the camera, Barbara’s evil, pixie like giggle.

Except it wasn’t like this at all.  The ‘man’, who Tom was killing, was in fact a mannequin, a shop window dummy, plastic and inanimate.  The ‘blood’, which was pouring out of the ‘man’s’ stomach and covering Tom’s hands as he drove the knife in, was probably ketchup or some other kind of fake substance.  Yet again, I had been taken for a complete idiot.

I was bereft of feeling, bereft of thought.  The only thing going through my mind at that moment was my mantra.

I hate my life.

I couldn’t even be bothered to speak up, to point out to them that this was not a real killing, that their victim was about as realistic as a four year old’s drawing.  I didn’t have the energy or the will.  They already knew.  They probably thought that it would be ‘a good wheeze’, a funny joke to play.  Maybe they even thought that I wasn’t serious in my work and would laugh along with them.  I couldn’t, my life, as it was, was over, finished, kaput.

Over the next hour I sat motionless, watching an endless stream of their ‘victims’ meeting their bloody and unfortunate deaths.  I didn’t speak, I couldn’t.  My life had disintegrated around me, crumbling into a heap at my feet.  When the slide show was over, I stood up silently and made my way to the door.  I left their house with their laughter and cries following me.

“Did you get it?  Were we any good?  What’s the matter?  Not got a sense of humour?”

I hate my life.


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