1. The Kiss of Death

1. The Kiss of Death

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



It was sixty years since Rebecca Rowbotham had been killed and the murder had never been solved and was lingering in a dossier of unsolved murders under the sub-heading of “historic”.

Her last remains had been mouldering for that sixty years in Brumpton Cemetery. The simple gravestone gave her dates of birth and death should any passing stranger care to look, and if they did they no doubt shook their heads because it was sad that she’d only lived eleven years, but no details of her murder were etched into the cold stone, so they had no cause to pause and ponder further.

Yet she had been murdered, and one person knew who’d done it because despite the passing of over half a century that one person was still alive and well and resident in Brumpton. And for sixty long years that one person had been tormented by a mental image that time had neither erased or distorted.

Five little girls had passed him by as he plunged the blade into Rebecca Rowbotham in a fit of absolute fury and violent temper, and they must have seen him do it but in all that sixty years none of them had so much as whispered what they had seen.

It had happened like this.

The boy, the killer-to-be, was only eleven but he had been dared by Gregory Smith, now deceased in his sixties, to kiss Rebecca. Not just kiss her, but kiss her properly: that had been the bet, and a very special conker was the prize. Soaked in vinegar and baked in the oven along with Mrs Smith’s cakes, it had battered at least a dozen other conkers to smithereens and the boy wanted it. Gregory was quite happy for him to have it, if he kissed Rebecca for it, because then he would have something as leverage. After all, the boy about to kiss the girl was only the Headmistress’s son, and he would hate it if his mother found out what he’d been up to. That sort of knowledge was true leverage and Gregory Smith loved leverage.

And the boy had cornered Rebecca in a tiny stub of a corridor that led off the playground with a couple of doors that led to the bins off it, and demanded a kiss.

If you let me kiss you I’ll tell my mum to let you off the next punishment,” he said.

Don’t be so daft,” Rebecca had responded, “because I absolutely never get any punishment, and if I did your mum wouldn’t take a blind bit of notice of anything you told her to do.” Which was perfectly true on both counts because Rebecca was one of those girls that doting parents are justifiably proud of and the boy’s mother knew that he was less than perfect.

I’ll give you a gob stopper,” he promised, “for just one kiss on the lips.”

Urgh! I’d not kiss any boy and certainly not a boy like you!” rejected Rebecca, haughtily.

Not even for a gob stopper?” he wheedled.

Not even for a dozen gob stoppers! Now let me go!” she almost shouted.

He didn’t like her shouting. Others would hear because it was a busy playground and the little corridor they were in was hardly private.

The boy had a penknife in his pocket. Quite a lot of boys had penknives back then because they were useful for sharpening pencils and whittling useless bits of wood into things that might prove to be useful. So, being less than pleasant, in fact, being a great deal less than pleasant, he took the penknife from his shorts pocked and opened the blade out and held it under her nose.

A kiss!” he ordered.

You’re nothing but a nasty boy!” she shouted, “thinking you can threaten me into kissing you!”

He hated being called nasty because it was rather too near the truth for his own liking, and he jerked the knife threateningly.

Sixty years later he could almost feel himself jerking that knife, and then losing balance, and then lunging unintentionally towards Rebecca. And with sickening clarity he could feel her sort of jolt and the blade sunk into her, and although it was only a small penknife, and not particularly sharp at that, somehow, by some flaw in nature and some fluke of chance, it found its way to her heart, pierced it, eventually stilled it, and there was blood seeping everywhere.

There was even blood on him.

He had fallen just about on top of her.

Kiss me!” he urged, but the dead don’t reply, not even to that kind of desperate plea. And because she was so still and because her eyes had a sudden glazed look to them and because he had blood on him, her blood, her precious Rebecca Rowbotham blood, he knew she must be dead.

He looked around him, anxiously, to see a line of girls doing handstands against the wall. They were always doing that, were the girls, tucking their skirts into the elasticated legs of their large navy blue knickers and doing handstands, and he could see, clear as day, five girls all sort of looking his way. They couldn’t see him, not in that tiny alcove, but they knew he was there all right. They would know he was there and they’d know what he’d done.

In indecent haste he pushed his penknife back into the pocket of his grey shorts and created a most convincing drama.

Help!” he shouted, “it’s Rebecca! Someone’s hurt Rebecca! Help!”

And then people gathered round, boys and girls, the handstand girls, the cowboys and Indians, the whispering groups of giggling girls, the whole lot, gathered round and stared at the blood.

Who did that?” asked one of them, he remembered that it was Amelia Armstrong, and thought there was a look in her eyes that suggested she knew exactly who had done it.

Blood!” screamed another.

She’s dead!” howled a third, he was sure it was Paul Pritchard fresh from being an Indian.

Now then, what’s going on?” demanded Miss Glum, the teacher on playground duty.

Then the boy told his big lie. His huge great self-preserving lie.

It was a man!” he said, “I saw him sneaking in when he thought nobody could see what he was up to. It was a man! I tried to help her, I tried to save her…”

And now, sixty years later, he could see clear as day in his mind’s eye that little row of girls who had been handstanding close enough to say they saw him there.

But they had been silent for sixty years. But what if they shamed his whole career as a kind of gift to the dead before, they too, died, choosing at the eleventh hour of their lives to do the right thing?

What if they did that?

© Peter Rogerson 06.01.21

© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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This is storytelling my friend. You allowed the reader to see and feel every action done. I like the thoughts of the once boy, now man. I wish I could write description like you. Each part of the story. Understood. Thank you Peter for sharing the outstanding chapter.

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Added on January 6, 2021
Last Updated on January 6, 2021
Tags: sixty years, past, murder, fear


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

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