I Escaped, But Only Just - Part 20: A Drastic Solution?
Naively, I assumed the attacks would stop, but in the weeks that followed Bob would appear out of nowhere on the streets, yell at me to get in, his car, drive me to a secluded place and force me into the same sordid act, usually hitting me afterwards while making familiar death threats. I ran from him only once, but he soon caught up and sank his teeth into my ear.
By now, friends and family could see that something was wrong, although they didn't know what, and I certainly didn't feel I could tell them. Mostly, I kept hoping that each encounter would be the last, but perhaps, deep down, I sensed that another would follow.
A couple of months went by, and the situation took a new turn. Bob cornered Sam and me on a street corner and took us to an abandoned building where he attacked us and forced us both into sado-masochistic role plays.
'Meet me by the bus stop at three o'clock on Friday afternoon and bring your swimming trunks,' he said afterwards. 'Because we're going for a little swim.'
I couldn't swim and he knew that. He sneered at me. 'I want cash,' he said. 'If you bring me some, I'll leave you alone for two months. If you bring me cash and a piece of gold or silver, I'll leave you alone for three months. But if you say a word to anyone I'll put a contract out on your life.'
Finally, he let us go. Sam and I sprinted away, hoping he didn't call after us and order us to return. When we reached the traffic lights, we glanced round. There was no sign of Bob.
'I think he's gone now,' Sam said.
We crossed over in silence.
'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?' I said.
'About the swimming trunks and the cash?'
I nodded. 'This is never going to end. Even if we pay him off, he'll come after us again.'
I lay in bed in the morning, thinking and rehearsing, reinventing an ugly situation I’d lost all control over. The house crept to life, the sounds pushing their way through to my thoughts. Cupboard doors opening, shutting. Taps, cutlery.
As I lay there, I considered Bob's latest threat. If you bring me cash, I'll leave you alone for two months. If you bring me a cash and a piece of gold or silver, I'll leave you alone for three months. But if you say a word to anyone, I'll put a contract out on your life.
And I believed him – and still do.
Shifting position, I shut my eyes and visualised myself in a stolen car, driving over Bob’s body, killing him. I imagined him and my mate Sam together in a quiet street off Cheetham Hill…Sam throwing pepper in Bob’s eyes to distract him before knifing him in the chest.
I wanted Bob dead. As in dead for good.
Later that day, Sam came to the college during my lunch break. We took a walk to the local chip shop, ordered and ate our lunches on a bench opposite the phone box.
‘I called Pete this morning,’ he said. ‘You know, because he’s got loads of hard mates.' Pete, a friend of sorts, had connections to an organised gang in the area, made up of men in their late teens and twenties. 'We could get Bob hammered and he’d be out of action for six months or more.’
‘And what did Pete say?’
‘Says he's not getting involved. His bird's told him to stay out of it.’
‘I don’t think we should turn up tomorrow.’
‘Bob will come after us if we don’t. And anyway, I thought we were meant to be killing him tomorrow.’
‘Don’t go tomorrow afternoon,' Sam said. 'I’m not.'
Friday, day of the planned swimming expedition, I arrived at college, barely able to concentrate.
‘The principal wants to see you at once,’ a teacher informed me.
I made my way to the principal’s office. Sam had dropped out of college the previous term and was regarded as trouble. When I reached the office, Sam was there, looking serious.
‘Sit down,’ the principal said. ‘Now I expect you know what this is all about. The mother of a student here overheard a telephone conversation yesterday morning and she’s extremely distressed. She’s visited the police, and I suggest we do the same.’
Pete's mother, I guessed.
‘What’s going on?’ the principal went on.
‘Some guy keeps asking me for money,' I said. 'I haven’t got it.’
‘And so you thought you’d arrange for a group of men to put him in hospital. That’s against the law.’
‘It isn’t college business,’ I said.
‘When a parent of one of the students here contacts the college in a distressed state, then it becomes college business.’
‘The guy’s picking on me.’
‘Have you talked to your parents about it?’
‘They won’t understand.’
The principal glanced at the clock on the wall. ‘We should go to the police station now.’
The police didn’t seem interested. They dealt with local gangs on a regular basis and had no real inkling of the true nature of the problem with Bob, since I wasn’t revealing his secret.
‘Can a person give evidence anonymously?’ I said.
‘Okay, I don’t want to take matters further then.’
‘Now what?’ I said when we left the station. The principal had gone back to college, leaving Sam and me in a rough area full of crime.
‘I’m going home,’ Sam said.
We caught a bus back, neither of us saying much during the ride Sam hurried to his house on the other side of the railway track and I ran to mine, hoping Bob didn’t spring out from one of the hedges on the street and attack me.
At home, I stayed in the dining room. One o’clock. Two o’clock. Three o’clock.
The doorbell rang. I perched against the main cabinet where the sacred books were kept, holding my breath as the front door bell continued to ring. Long rings. That had to be Bob, since no one else would persist in ringing in such a way. The dog barked and barked. After a while, the ringing stopped.
I imagined Bob climbing over the back fence and creeping over to the dining room window, placing his face against the glass to stare in at me. Calling my name in that mocking voice of his. Making his way to the kitchen door, singing perhaps, as he once had done. Smashing a window, getting in.
The bell rang again. He chanted my name through the letterbox.
My heart was pounding. I crouched down and willed him to go away.
The images kept replaying: Bob standing in the back garden and staring in at me, grinning through the window at me as he observed my fear.
Did he sense that I was hiding from him?
I don't know, for the ringing stopped.
When I finally dared to peep out through the dining room door, there was no one there.
As told to police in 2017