The Thirteenth Station - Part 1
By Sue Simpson
Johnny Walker was a normal little boy with an unfortunate
name. His mother knew little of whiskey, be it red or black. She had never
tasted it, but had smelled it once on the breath of a bad man. She hadn't
recognized it for what it was, she thought that the awful, bad smell oozing out
of him was something fettered lurking within his core, just waiting to pass
from his vile mouth to hers. Oh she fought. "Don't let anybody tell you I
didn't mamma, I tried to make it stop mama." Mary had fought her attacker long
and hard. "But it said in the paper that he was a 'Notorious Sociopath' what
could I do daddy. Don't look at me like that, tell me daddy, what could I do?"
Notorious Sociopath. Mary read the two words several times, doing the best she
could with her limited vocabulary. She didn't quite know what it meant of
course, but she knew it was a reason. She knew those two words gave her a
valid, cast in stone, tied in the dye, rolled in clover reason for not being
able to fight that evil man off her. Some evil was just too strong to be
Mary took some pills when she was five months pregnant. She
just wanted to die. The shame of it was just too much for her long suffering
parents. A sin almost as heinous as letting yourself get raped by a Notorious
She had been in the papers. Her startled "Rabbit in the
headlights" face looming out from the front page. Her last school photograph.
Not a good one. Teeth too big, eyes too big, face too sallow. She was not a
pretty child, not the sort of child it was easy to take to.
There had been other photographs too. Naked pictures. Deep
shameful pictures. A second rape, feet in stirrups, body spread. Ugly pictures
which came back to her often in the night. Came back to make her body burn with
shame. Pictures of her hurt face, her small blue/black breasts. The right
breast with the chunk of flesh bitten out. Her abdomen bitten, kicked and
bruised. Her genitalia, one outer labia not just bitten off but eaten. Chewed
and swallowed. Her entire body photographed. The second rape.
She had been poked and prodded, sutured and swabbed. Tested
for disease, and for pregnancy. Demoralized and humiliated.
Her parents, strict Catholics, hadn't wanted to listen to
the doctors when they mentioned termination. Mary didn't hear the words, they
floated above her in the tall white room. Circling her head like so many
trapped birds. Mary didn't care anymore what happened to her. The worst had
been done. She craved only the sweet relief of death.
The suicide attempt had been the turning point. A month in
an institution for the mentally ill. Therapy, counseling. She was allowed to
get angry. She was encouraged to get angry. A man dressed in black, fat with
padding. She beat him. She beat him. She beat him. That was the last time she
beat herself. She wilted to the floor of the gym, and vomited in the corner,
retching up the fire of shame. She came out of Willow Glade stronger. Older. On
the front steps, she hugged the staff who had become her friends, and promised
them she would never be back.
Charlie, her father could never look at her without his
upper lip curling slightly at the right hand side. He tried to conceal his
disgust but never quite succeeded. It showed in the warmth that was missing
from his eyes.
Her mother Betty couldn't look at her at all, kept her eyes
averted. Couldn't face the sullied product of her womb. All Betty could do for
her daughter now, was increase her daily visits to church from two to three
times a day, and maybe say a couple of extra soul saving Hail Mary's.
One day Betty walked into Mary's bedroom. Her daughter stood
in her underwear in front of the tall brass mirror. She was muttering soft
words of love to her gestating offspring, and running her hands in soft gliding
circles over her swollen belly as she looked at herself in the mirror. "You
JEZEBEL, flaunting your obscene growth!" Betty was incensed. She flew into a
rage the likes of which she had never felt before. "You enjoyed it didn't you?
Feeling that animals rod inside you. Accepting his seed. Spawning one of his
evil brood. You whore. You disgusting dirty whore. You tempted him. Flaunted
yourself and tempted him into sin. You will rot in hell!" Mary had covered her
stomach with her arms. Protecting her beloved baby from hearing what was being
said. She had tried so hard to bring about forgiveness in her parents. Had gone
to mass twice a day until her stomach had shown the signs of her pregnancy. She
had gone to confession at her mothers insistence, and had even done her mothers
bidding. Sitting cowed in the confessional, admitting to tempting a man beyond
endurance. Yet inside she felt no more shame. Only love for her unborn innocent
She was five and a half months pregnant when she left that
day. At six months she was due to be taken into an institution for unmarried
mothers anyway. One run by severe judgmental nuns. She closed the door quietly
in the early hours of one cold morning and walked down the street swinging her
carrier bag full of clothes. Having emptied her bank account she had the
princely sum of twenty two pounds in her pocket. She was sixteen years old.
Five and a half months pregnant and alone. She had to return for the trial. It
was an ordeal, but she had suffered worse. She sat in the hard straight seat of
the crown court. Her belly distended, the little one kicking harshly. Visible
to all as she gave her evidence. Noticeable even through the corduroy material
of her maternity smock. A point in her stomach would suddenly protrude,
sticking out in a knobby lump, before retracting back to relax in the warm
The eyes of Barry Holmes burned into hers. No remorse. No
guilt, just a biting hatred.
Other victims of Holmes came forward. They looked at Mary
with a deep sympathy and a "There but for the grace" look. They didn't know how
blessed she was to be having this child.
Holmes was given three life sentences to run
Mary walked out of court a free woman. She faced the trial,
but not alone. She faced giving birth, but not alone. It was long. It was
painful. It was Jonathan. Her sweet innocent Johnny.
She found herself living in Eccles. Home of the cake, land
of the impersonal. Those first years hadn't been easy. A young girl with a
bastard child. She was barely literate, had no skills and no money. What Mary
did have though was one hell of a fighting spirit. "Little Mary, plain and
leery" was gone. Her body after giving birth had become that of a woman. Her
mind after giving birth had become that of a woman. Her spirit after giving
birth had become that of a strong and courageous woman. She found work and
lodging on her first day, with a woman in the form of an angel who ran a small
bakery. The gods were smiling down on all of them that day.
Jilly had been struggling to keep her business afloat since
her husband had died two years previously. Things were not good. She was up
every morning at four AM to bake the bread and crust the pies. She was knocking
sixty and feeling tired. Having not been blessed with children of her own, she
had nobody to help ease the workload.
One day a young lass, heavily pregnant and obviously down on
her luck had come into her shop. The girl had a defiant glint to her eye. A
look that said "Yes by god I'm down, but I'm not out yet." While Jilly was
wrapping her bread the girl had fainted, falling lightly onto the shop floor.
Jilly had taken her in. Made it her business to care for the girl, feeding her
with nourishing soup and plying her with common sense caring. Mary had been
grateful when offered the chance to stay on and work in her new friend's
She had happily accepted the woman's kind offer of home and
work. She was a good worker, and although heavily pregnant soon became fit and
strong, taking on more and more of the elderly woman's burden. They both rose
at six and a pleasant routine was soon established. They worked side by side in
the shop and then made good company for each other in the evenings. Mary worked
until the moment her water flooded the shop floor and washed Jilly's feet. Then
laughing the older woman had put a sign on the shop door that said "Closed for
hard Labor, back when we have a new worker!"
The relationship between the two women grew strong and sure.
Mary's story came pouring out one night a couple of days before Jon was born.
Jilly held her to her huge bosom, in a way that her own mother had never done.
She made her feel safe. Later she came to feel loved. Jon was the apple of both
women's eye. He grew up secure in the knowledge that his mum and his nanna
Jilly loved him fiercely.
Ten years past. Ten years of happy Christmases. Ten years of
being a happy family. The business thrived. Mary had a knack of breathing new
life and fresh enthusiasm into the tired and weary old shop. The women were
popular with the locals, and it wasn't long before they had even been able to
take on a couple of extras so that Jilly could take more time off. She would
sit with Jon, helping him with his homework when he came home from school. Mary
would hear the pair of them laughing in the flat above as she served customers
in the downstairs shop. She counted her blessings, and blessed her Jilly every
Jon had gone off to the park to play. "Be in by five now
lad," Jilly admonished him with a stern voice. "Not a minute after or I'll tek
the skin of yer backside with the sole of me shoe!"
"Yeah Yeah nanna," The cheeky lad retorted, "You could no
more hit me than hit the sun in the sky!" He was a bright lad with an answer
for everything. Ten going on thirty. Wise beyond his years, with his mothers
quick mind and her thirst for knowledge. Jill had watched both her children
grow over the last ten years. Mary was as much her daughter as if she had given
birth to her herself. She had shed her gawkiness and filled out. Her self
conscious attitude, replaced with an open smile and a jaunty air that exuded
happiness. Although she would never be a ravishing beauty, she was pretty in a
wholesome way. Fresh looking, with shiny brown hair and blue eyes that had long
ago lost their haunted look. It never took much to make her eyes crinkle at the
sides. Mary was always finding something to laugh at. She had her share of
offers from the local fellas too. Jilly was sad that Mary had never felt enough
at ease with a man to become serious about him.
"Ahh Jilly, you and Jon are all I'll ever need. What do I
want with some big soft fella?. When I feel the urge to be slobbered on, I'll
get mesen a dog." She'd laugh. Occasionally she'd accept an offer to go out
with a man. Sometimes more than once. But they never went out more than a
handful of times. Jilly suspected that as soon as the man's fancy had turned to
romance Mary had given him short shrift. She was far from lonely though, she
had lots of friends both male and female, and both women were happy with their
lot in life.
By five fifteen Jon had not returned home.
At five eighteen when Jilly walked into the shop , Mary was
cashing up. "I see our Jon hasn't shown up Mare? Its not like him to disregard
my instructions. I'm a bit worried he's normally in bang on the nose, I'd best
tek a gander out and have a look for him."
"He'll be all right , he's probably just got chatting to
some of those dopey mates of his. Warm his backside for me when you find him."
She grinned fondly as Jilly walked out of the front door of the shop.
By six o clock they had called the police. Mary spoke to a
Sergeant on the front desk. Ahe was patronizing and unhelpful. "Don't you worry
love they always come home when they're hungry, he's probably just lost track
of the time, come on, he's barely an hour late yet. Tell you what, you ring
back in an hour if there's been no word of him, but I'm sure you won't need
"I'm sorry Sergeant I didn't catch your name and would like
to make a note of it for future reference."
"Boyd, Ma'am. Sergeant Melanie Boyd."
"Thank you Sergeant Boyd. Now. You seem to be having a
little trouble understanding me here. I'm not talking about some feral kid,
who's left to walk the streets until all hours. I'm talking about my ten year
old son Jonathan, who has never been late more than ten minutes in his life. If
there was a problem he would have rung me. He has not rung me, he has not come
home. So Sergeant we have more than a problem. I would be grateful if you could
send someone round as soon as possible. In the meantime I will of course ring
you with my apologies if he turns up."
Mary's voice had just begun to loose some of its cool
composure. Jon was now one hour and two minutes late home. She felt the tide of
panic beginning to claim her.
"Miss ... Miss Mary Walker."
"Right, ok. Miss Walker I'm just making some notes about
Jonathan. Tell me his name, address and date of birth please."
Mary reeled off the information, She fought back the tremor
in her voice. Knowing already that something was badly wrong. Realizing that
her best chance of helping Johnny now, was to keep a calm head. "Can you give
us a brief description of Jon, Please Miss Walker, and we can radio it through
to the patrol cars. They will be able to start looking out for him immediately,
and an officer will be round to interview you as soon as we have one free."
"My son is five foot four inches, a tall lad for his age. He
looks older. He has light brown/blonde hair. He needs a haircut." Her voice
broke slightly "I'm sorry," She despised this show of weakness and sniffed back
the tears before they took hold "Johnny has brown eyes. He has two scars. One
running down his right cheek to the side of his nose, it is about an inch long
and one on the back of his right hand, about three inches long."
Melanie was impressed with this one, she could hear the
woman's torment, but was also conscious of her resolve to hold it together. She
believed that this was no neurotic mother and that when she said it was out of
character for her son to be an hour late, she meant it. The woman didn't even
bother to try and justify her son's scars, something that most parents
automatically do as a reflex defense in front of a police officer. Melanie was
having to write furiously to keep up with the description. She told herself
that Miss Walker would make a good witness, "Let's hope that she never has to,"
she thought as her pen flew across the page.
"Jon is wearing a pair of blue jeans, and a blue fleece top
with the stitched logo 100% Radical on the front in large white machine sewn
lettering. He's wearing black non-branded trainers with a blue trim. He's also
wearing a commando force watch." Most parents didn't have a clue what their
kids had on. This lady was thorough.
"Excuse me one moment please Miss Walker. I promise not to
keep you long." Mary tapped her fingers impatiently on the table as she tried
not to listen to the irritating hold music. True to her word Sergeant Boyd was
back within a couple of minutes. "Right Miss Walker" I've personally radioed a
description of your son and what he was wearing to our patrol cars, they are
looking for him as we speak. I'm going to get someone to see you right away.
They should be with you within about quarter of an hour. Please have a recent
photo of Johnny ready to give them, and if you hear from him in the meantime
please let us know immediately and we can all breathe a big sigh of
"Thank you Sergeant Boyd, you have been most helpful."
The two women on either end of the telephone smiled at each
other. One in unseen gratitude, the other in unseen sympathy.
Melanie straightened her pants and smoothed her shirt before
she knocked on the DI's door. She was ready for a fight. She rapped slightly
more urgently than she normally would. "C'min."
Detective Inspector Phil Donnan glanced up from his paper
work as she strode confidently into his office, He knew that walk. Invariably
it meant trouble. "Sir," Mel proceeded to fill him in, giving him all the
information she had. Donnan continued to mark off names on the list of in front
of him. He glanced at her irritated and impatient. "Boyd, why have you come to
me with this?. The kids been missing what? An hour? And you're bothering me.
Can't you see how busy I am? What's the problem? Get Taylor to deal with
Sir I have a bad feeling about this one."
Boyd was his best officer. She had a canny and astute
perception. He trusted her judgment. Now she had his attention. He pushed the
papers away and looked at her properly for the first time since she'd entered
his office. She had that look about her that said, "There's no point in arguing
with me, I'm going to get my own way on this. Even if I do have to persuade my
superior to see sense."
"What do you suggest Boyd?"
"Well Sir, I'd like to put Taylor on the desk and take this
one myself... And as you are going to be taking it in twenty four hours anyway,
I'd like to suggest Sir that you come with me."
"Out of the question Boyd ..."
Mary jumped up to answer the doorbell almost before it had
finished ringing. "Miss Walker? DI Donnan and Sergeant Boyd." Phil held out his
ID and Mel followed suit. "I take it he hasn't shown up?" As Mel stepped over
the threshold she grabbed the other womans hand and gave it a reassuring
squeeze. Mary smiled at her. Some barrier had already come down between the two
women. Mary knew the Sergeant had used her influence to be there. It mattered
and it also brought home again the seriousness of the situation.
Jilly flapped about making tea and producing delicious cakes
that Mel eyed with something akin to lust but resisted admirably. Not so
Donnan, he only managed to stop himself after a strawberry tart and a Chocolate
eclair. They went over and over the course of events leading up to Jon's
disappearance. Had they had a falling out? Was he worried about anything? How
was he getting on at school? They wrote down the names and addresses of all
Jon's closest friends. "And what about Jonathan's father...ER Miss Walker...um
where is he?" Donnan looked down at the crumbs that had fallen onto his knee
and started picking them off one by one. Now he found that he had a handful of
crumbs to deal with. Leaning forward he dropped them onto his discarded side
plate. There was a five second pause before Mary answered. Four seconds too
"Jonathan's father is in jail Inspector."
Boyd snapped her head up to scrutinize the other woman.
"Something not right here, something she's not telling." Mel could feel that
Mary's hackles had risen. "Hmmm. Is there anything. Anything at all, you feel
might be helpful to our enquiries Miss Walker? Anything you haven't already
Mary snapped, then softening slightly "Please call me Mary.
No nothing I've told you everything that I can think of." Mel's instinct told
her that Mary would say if there was any concern over Jon's disappearance, but
still there was something she was hiding. "Hmmm no you haven't lady," She
thought. The two police officers left with Jon's picture and every assurance
that they would soon find him.
Mary was amazed when night turned into morning. Somehow she
thought that it wouldn't. How could things go on as normal with Johnny missing?
To say they had come through the night trivialized it. Somehow they had
survived the night. Somehow they were kept from being driven insane by thoughts
of where John was. Who he was with. How he was doing. Was he all right?
Mary thought she was going to break in two the following
morning when she picked up the brown envelope from the doormat. It was
addressed to "Mary Walker" and was in Johnny's neat hand. She ripped the
envelope open savagely and pulled out the single sheet of paper to read what
was written. Reading hungrily through it, as though she were someone starving
who had been given a life saving bowl of rice.
"To the virgin Mary. I am all right. Put ten thousand pounds
in used tens and twenties, in a large brown envelope, put the envelope in a
black holdall. Bring it to the THIRTEENTH STATION at Two P.M. Thursday. No
Police or you'll never see me alive again. You will be given instructions of
what to do next when you get there."
There were three more letters. An I, a space and then Lo.
After the O the pen had been dragged across the paper ripping it along part of
its path, as though the pen were snatched out of his hand. Mary got the message
though. "I love you too Johnny," she sobbed. The kidnapper could easily have
made Johnny re-write the letter on a clean sheet of paper. But Mary realized as
the tears streamed down her cheeks that the kidnapper would have wanted her to
suffer the maximum psychological effect of seeing the cut off "I love you." Of
seeing that her sons hand had been forced with the snatching of the pen from
him. Mary was about to hold the paper to her breast, knowing her baby had
touched it since she had last seen him. She stopped herself in time to drop it
onto the table before she touched it any further. Maybe she had already
destroyed vital evidence from the paper or even the envelope. Though less
likely with the latter, as it had passed through the postal system and would
have been handled by several people since it left the kidnapper's hands. If
indeed he had ever touched it. She told herself that if she wanted to help
Johnny, she had to start thinking with her head and not pandering to her
emotions. There would be plenty of time for tears when Jon was returned to
She managed to ring Melanie Boyd before she fell apart.
The four of them were seated around the dining room table,
endless mugs of hot steaming coffee and plates of untouched cakes were brought
at regular intervals by Jilly. Donnan, Boyd, Mary and Jilly had their heads
bent over the maps and timetables, working out the various connotations. The
officers had taken the letter when it had arrived. They had gone over the rail
routes at the police station. Bringing in experts both in railway travel and
criminal psychology. Now they wanted to involve Mary and Jilly in the
discussion, making them feel part of the investigation. Allowing them to feel
that they were actually doing something other than brewing coffee. Donnan
tapped his pen on the Map of Manchester's Metro link routes. He circled Bury
with red ink "Right if we take Bury as station number one. The metrolink will
take us through to Victoria as station number ten, and ending up at Piccaddily
as station number thirteen. Its straight through the busiest part of Manchester
and its going to be anonymous and easy for him to melt back into the crowd
after the pick up has been made."
"Hmmm," Mel looked thoughtful. "On the other hand if we look
at the metro map. The natural starting point would be Glossop, Now assuming we
by-pass Hadfield as its not a major station anyway, that still makes piccaddily
"What if it wasn't a random kidnapping? What if he knew who
we were all along?" Mary interrupted. Boyd looked at Mary her brow furrowed in
concentrated interest. "Well" She continued. "We are assuming that who ever has
Jon, picked him at random from the park, and that he got our address from
Johnny. What if he didn't? If he had taken Jon purposefully, wouldn't it then
be natural to assume that station number one would be Eccles station. The
closest one to here?" They fell silent, each of them weighing the pros and cons
of what Mary had just suggested. It made things a whole lot easier if
Jonathan's kidnapping hadn't been random. It meant that the kidnapper was
probably someone known to them. Donnan traced the stations from Eccles. That
tracing made station number thirteen St. Peters Square.
"Two stations. Piccaddily or St.Peters, What do you reckon
"My money's on Piccadilly, Sir. I reckon it wasn't a random
kidnapping, but we can't take any chances, its still a gamble, and if we get
the wrong one..." Her sentence trailed off, and she looked down awkwardly.
Jilly reached for the last tissue in the box and blew her
nose loudly. She spoke for the first time.
The other three all looked at her.
"Trust me, whoever took our Johnny, took him on purpose. I
feel it, but whoever took him will still use a larger mainline station. They'll
be counting on total anonymity. The more people there are milling around, the
less likelihood there is of one individual being recognized."
"I agree," said Boyd The three women looked at each other.
Mary nodded her head in agreement.
"It's decided then. Mary, You do the drop at Piccadilly and
we have a back up team in St. Peters Square just in case."
Donnan looked around the table. All were in agreement.