2. The Doorbell Rings

2. The Doorbell Rings

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



Amelia Armstrong had spent her working life as secretary at the school where she’d been taught the three r’s in her younger years, and in her work she’d been respected by one and all for the accuracy of her typing and the neatness of everything she did. She had been an exemplary secretary, everyone said so.

After retirement she spent the last decade as a member of the Brumpton Drama Society where she’d been a hit both on and off the stage. She was particularly fond of comedies where she demonstrated a fine talent when it came to the precise timing of her funniest lines in many memorable performances.

It would be quite right to suggest that these were the happiest years of her life. She’d never married, largely, she said, because she’d never found the right man, but the truth was she never looked for a man, either right or wrong, and it was only in this last half of her life that same sex marriages had become possible. Her younger years had been tarnished by a series of hidden relationships that had all been stained by a sense of wrongness, of shame even, before reaching a torrid peak and then fizzling out before having a chance to become permanent.

But back to her dramatics. Her finest hour was when she was Lady Bracknell in The Important of Being Ernest and her enunciation of the immortal couple of words a handbag was referred in The Brumpton Gazette as being as fine as any on the professional stage, and never failed to bring the house down. She owned the stage. Her years as a school secretary faded in her mind into insignificance as she strode through dramas and farces with the aplomb of an expert.

Then came something she had never expected.

It started as a note, handwritten on plain paper. “You saw me back then and you’ve said nothing since. Keep your silence if you want to keep your life,” it said. That was all, and she was stumped.

What had she seen? And back when? At her secretary's desk at school? Had she seen something then? Mr Johnson, say, touching Mrs Grimm on the bottom and she giggling, which encouraged him? She’d see that all right, lots of times but then, hadn’t everyone else? It was even joked about by children too young to have to be exposed to such blatant behaviour, and giggled about by their parents who knew full well that Mr Johnson was a fine upstanding gentleman with a heart of gold and Mrs Grimm, contrary to her married surname, was so filled with the joys of life that stroking her bottom came quite naturally to Mr Johnson. But she could think of nothing else.

If that note had been all she would have put it down as someone’s attempt at humour, and left it at that. But more was to come.

The blood-stained knickers that were pushed through her letter box, followed by the note that warned her that dire things would happen to her if she mentioned such a thing as bloodied clothing to anyone, ever in her life. The past, it said, was dead.

And that sparked a memory, dragged it back from a recess where it had been buried for years.

There had been that girl, years ago, when she had been a kiddie at Junior school, who had been stabbed through the heart in the area reserved for dustbins just off the playground. It was a sight that had plagued her in dreams and nightmares for years. All that blood, bright red it had been, and what was the girl’s name? Rebecca. That was it. Rebecca Rowbotham, a really pretty girl with beautiful long hair that never got nits. That was how things had been remembered back then. She herself had suffered from head lice at least half a dozen times, but it was rumoured that Rebecca never did, and her hair always looked and smelled so clean as if it was washed every single day of her childhood.

Until she was eleven, that is, when she was killed.

The boy who found her, what was his name? No, it was gone but she’d remember it when she least wanted to remember it, names were like that these days, he’d said a man had slid secretly against the wall, leapt in and done the dreadful deed, and gone away as secretively as he’d come leaving death and carnage behind him.

Who was that boy?

She remembered he’d been bloody himself. Red smears on his grey school shirt. Even on his grey shorts. He’d been trying to save her, he explained, trying to staunch the bleeding until her heart stopped pumping her life-blood out and she was dead. He was brave, but what was his name?

But the man who killed poor little Rebecca. They never found out who that was though an uncle of hers had been suspected but had an alibi the police couldn’t break, and the boy seemed to have been the only one to have seen him.

The story went round and round for ages and no girl felt safe being on her own.

We always went around in pairs after that,” she whispered to herself, “and I still did until I was grown up!” And now, is this someone trying to breathe life into something she’d all but forgotten?

Is it someone who could remember the death of pretty Rebecca?

Was it the killer, still living in shame? But no: it was all, what, sixty years ago and any man with a blade who was murdering back then with it would have died of old age a long time ago, surely, or become hopelessly infirm, in his nineties?

But what if the killer had been young?

What if he had been the same age as she herself? What if he’d been eleven, and covered in blood?

What if he’d been the boy who had so bravely tried to bring her back to life? What if he’d been … what was his name?

She put the sheet of paper down with an angry tch. Her imagination was running wild! It had all been such a long time ago, and what was the blasted boy’s name?

There was a ring at her front door. Normally she quite liked having visitors, mostly lasses who liked to share a coffee and a half secret memory with her, titillating memories, what-could-have-been recollections from over the years. But now she felt uncertain, holding a bloodied pair of pants.

What was the blasted boy’s name?

She opened the door, but it was the vicar. And wasn’t it about time he retired, thinking as she had been of the age of folks.

What is it?” she asked. She didn’t particularly like vicars. She didn’t have a particular dislike of this one, but to her mind the church and its spokesmen had done a great deal of harm to her own happiness over the years, making out that what her heart said was good and right and beautiful was actually quite perverted.

I wonder if I can ask a favour?” he asked, and pushed past her, into her house.

© Peter Rogerson, 07.01.21

© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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You added a strong character. I do like this woman. I liked how you gave her life and purpose. I liked she remembered and she decided to research the forgotten girl. Thank you Peter for sharing the outstanding chapter. I wanted to know and read more.

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Added on January 7, 2021
Last Updated on January 7, 2021


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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