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A single beam of light rotating through the curtains told me my brother had just pulled into my driveway. When I walked outside, the first thing I noticed was that Michael’s left headlight was out. The second was the blood. The moon had gone, the sun yet to rise, but even in the dark I knew exactly what the dark spots were, flecked on the shattered headlight and smeared alongside a hefty dent in the wheel arch.
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book by Benjamin Stevenson
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I’m not normally a night owl, but Michael had called me half an hour before. It was one of those phone calls that, as you blearily read the time, you know is not to tell you about winning the lottery. I have a few friends who occasionally call me from their Uber home with a roaring tale of a good night out. Michael is not one of them.
That’s a lie, actually. I wouldn’t be friends with people who called after midnight. ‘I need to see you. Now.’ He was breathing heavily. No call ID, from a pay phone. Or a bar. I spent the next half hour shivering, even in a heavy jacket, wiping circles in the condensation on my front window to better see his approach.
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I’d given up sentry duty and retired to the couch when his headlight flicked the back of my eyelids red. I heard a growl as he brought the car to a stop, then killed the engine but not the electrics. I opened my eyes, savoured the ceiling for a moment, as if I knew that once I stood up my life would change, and went outside.
Michael was sitting in the car, head on the wheel. I cut the lonely spotlight in half as I walked in front of the bonnet to knock on the driver’s window. Michael got out of the car. His face was ash grey. ‘You’re lucky,’ I said, nodding to his busted headlight. ‘Roos’ll mess you up.’ ‘I hit someone.’
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Reader, you and I already know it’s actually two hundred and sixtyseven grand, but it still struck me that while he hadn’t had time to call an ambulance, he’d had time to roughly count the cash. Otherwise he’d have said two-fifty, a round figure, if he was guessing. He’d also said it like an appeal.
I couldn’t tell from his tone if he was offering me any, or if he was just stating a fact that he thought was important to the decision. ‘Listen, Ern, it’s our money . . .’ he started to beg. So he was offering. ‘We can’t just leave him here like this.’ And then as firmly as I’d ever spoken to him in my life, ‘I won’t.’ Michael thought for a minute. Nodded.
‘I’ll go check on him,’ he said. He walked over and crouched by the body. He was there a couple of minutes. I was glad I’d come; I still believe it was a good thing to do. An older brother doesn’t listen too easily to his younger brother, but he’d needed me here. And I’d made it okay. The man had been alive the whole time, and we’d get him to the hospital. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book
I couldn’t see much, Michael being tall, but I could see his squatted back and his arms, stretched out towards the man’s head because he knew to cradle the neck in case of a spinal injury. Michael’s thin shoulders moved up and down. CPR, kick-starting the man like a lawnmower. I could see the man’s legs.
I noticed one of his shoes was missing. Michael had been there a long time now. Something was wrong. We’ll get to my story, I have to tell you about some others first, but I wish I’d killed whoever decided our family reunion should be at a ski resort. I am normally resolute in declining any invitation that comes with an Excel spreadsheet attached.
But over-preparation is a specialty of my Aunt Katherine’s, and the email invite for the Cunningham/Garcia Family Reunion, complete with animated pixel snowflake, listed attendance as mandatory. I’m well known in family circles for being ready with an excuse – not that people have really minded my absence for the last three years – be it a sick animal, a busted car, or a time-sensitive manuscript. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book
Katherine was taking no chances this time. The invitation promised a fun and secluded weekend where all of us could catch up. She’d bolded the words all of us, as well as the word mandatory. Evasive as I am, even I can’t argue with bold type. And while all of us didn’t mean me specifically, I knew who it did mean, and that meant I was going.
Besides, in between filling out the spreadsheet with my allergies, shoe size, how I like my steak cooked and my car numberplate, I’d allowed myself the fantasy of a snowcapped village and a weekend filled with crackling fires and log cabins. Instead, I had cold knees and was an hour late for lunch.
I hadn’t realised the road would be unploughed. It was a clear day with a weak sun breaking up the pack snow just enough to slide the tyres of my Honda Civic around, so I’d had to double back and rent chains for an exorbitant price at the bottom of the mountain, and then kneel in muddy slush on the shoulder to wrestle them on, snot forming stalactites out of my nose. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book
I’d still be there if a woman with a snorkel on her Land Rover hadn’t pulled over and given me a mildly judgemental hand. Moving again, I watched the clock creep forward as I alternated between heating the car and using the air-conditioning to defog the windows, but, with the chains on, I couldn’t go above forty. I knew exactly how late I was – thanks to the Excel schedule Katherine had emailed around.
‘I mean, it wasn’t him. And I’m probably the only one here that looks like him, and I think I’m still’—I patted myself down theatrically to assert I was still alive—‘yep, I’m still standing. Listen, Sofia’s just got us scared. Shall we find out what she’s on about?’ I held up my phone. Lucy had been the only other one at the breakfast table who hadn’t known what the Black Tongue was.
She shook her head. ‘I looked it up already. It’s a while ago, but it seems it was big news at the time, plenty of press, and so of course they had to come up with a catchy killer’s name. Someone murdered an elderly couple in Brisbane. And another woman in Sydney.’ I realised why I hadn’t heard about it. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book Download
For the last couple of years I hadn’t been able to stomach the more gruesome news stories, since I became a part of one. ‘What are their names?’ I asked. ‘Ah.’ She scrolled her phone, skim-reading an article. ‘Alison Humphreys and . . . I dunno. Oh. Williams for the couple – Mark and Janine.’
‘Sofia said they suffocated? Like . . . torture?’ ‘It’s a slow way to die. I’d probably just’—she made a little gun with her fingers and flicked it against the side of her head—‘rather than go through that. People are worried it’s a kind of serial killer. They’ve only done it twice. Well, I guess there was a couple, but does that count as one or two?
Like, obviously it’s two victims, but in terms of making the killer a serial killer, what are the guidelines?’ ‘It’s not my area of expertise.’ ‘Don’t you write these things?’ Admittedly, this was not so big a revelation as to warrant a chapter break. We’d all known who was in the driver’s seat. Of course we had: Lucy had already arrived. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book Download
And as if Katherine would leave something as important as picking Michael up to improvisation. It was not a surprise to see Erin, nor to see her with Michael. Before you accuse me of dragging out the reveal of her exiting the truck, I’d suggest that Erin simply had an innate sense of suspense or, more likely, she hadn’t wanted to make Michael’s arrival even more awkward.
So had hung back in the truck until he’d finished his royal line of greetings. I’d found out about them six months after Michael went to prison. I think I was first, and then it trickled through the rest of the family. Though I’ve always pictured Lucy finding out at the same time as me: in her dressing gown, excitedly opening a large yellow envelope, knowing it was prison mail from the fact that it had been torn open.
Plundered and taped back up, just as my wife said to me over an otherwise uneventful breakfast that she was planning to spend more time with my brother Michael. Okay, I did drag that out. If you’re wondering about my choice of words, most of my breakfasts are uneventful; I have simply never found meals with that much milk involved to be dramatic. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book Download
I have only had three eventful breakfasts in my life. You know about two of them. The other involves sperm: we have to get to know one another a bit better before we get to that. People accuse marriages of losing their spark. Like they have a supernatural zap of energy that can be mishandled, misplaced.
And perhaps the case could be made that if my wife was able to cultivate a relationship with my convicted brother exclusively by phone and email (because he didn’t have visitors) without me noticing, our marriage was already over. And don’t allow me to paint her as the bad guy here, because she isn’t and it was – over, that is.
The night Michael visited, body in the back of his car, we were already in separate rooms. Otherwise she might have seen the money when I threw it on my bed. But it wasn’t the spark that was the problem. It was the lighter, the flint, the matches. And they weren’t lost, they were taken. It wasn’t that we lost our spark, it was that we didn’t have the tools to make it anymore. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book Free
‘Well, you know how Katherine feels about alcohol. And she’s called you out a few times. At first, I thought she was annoyed at you ruining the weekend with your murder theories, but now I see she’s painting you as some unreliable, swaggering drunk, which we both know you’re not. It seems she’s taking it personally.’
Sofia took a breath to answer, but I changed my mind. ‘No, sorry. Look, I’ve clearly got to figure out how to interview people without accusing them at every turn. All I’m saying is, you know she’s entrenched with AA since the accident – she’s well respected, knows it inside out. She’d actually be a good ally. If anything like that were the case.
We’re here for you.’ Sofia snorted. ‘She’s high and mighty, isn’t she? You don’t remember very well if you think that’s when she got cleaned up. Oh, sure, for a couple of weeks maybe. She was wild, man. Dad and Audrey had to cut her off completely for her to turn it around. I’ll take my advice elsewhere.’ Katherine’s accident and the consequences and rehabilitation all rolled together for me. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book Free
It was a surprise to hear they were spread out. ‘You didn’t answer my question though.’ ‘I had one glass of wine,’ Sofia said, putting the spoon down at last. ‘Eight hours before, at least. With food. But when something like this happens, they start turning over every stone. And if some intern says they saw you at a bar – which was a restaurant, by the way – the night before.
And they can’t be sure, but it looked like you were really putting it away, that doesn’t help. Maybe the intern didn’t see it right, or maybe they’ve got a grudge, or maybe someone’s gently encouraged them’—she rubbed her thumb against her fingertips—‘to embellish things . . . People have things to gain from this. It’s all political.
The lesson is, don’t go for dinner at the spot all the med students use as a boozer. Saying you’re there for the food, which I was, is the same as saying you read Playboy for the articles.’ ‘Ian Fleming’s been published in Playboy,’ I said, not sure it helped her point. I thought for a second, plucked something from my memory. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone PDF Book Free
‘So’s Atwood, actually.’ ‘Exactly! Like I said, I had a meal. I wasn’t impaired. It wasn’t a mistake. And, look, they don’t test doctors like they test athletes. So, what are they going to say?