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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Knife Attack

Christine Lawrence

Carol stood up, doing up the buttons on her coat, and got off the bus at her usual stop. She walked hastily along the street, without a glance to either side, her stiletto heels tap-tapping on the shiny paving slabs. All around her was dark and glistening, as though the city had been cleaned especially for this moment.

She turned the corner away from the High Street, and bent her head against the weather, the rain like needles piercing her skin. Her mind was full of what was to come. 'Oh, God,' she whispered to herself, 'Let it be easy. Please let it work.'

Maybe because she was so pre-occupied, she missed the warning signs, didn't see the man in the doorway, his face turned away from the road. Whatever the reason, she was not on form that night. Suddenly a face loomed into hers. It was too late to do anything other than make a stand.

'What the hell do you think you're doing?' Her voice was high and squeaky, hardly the voice of authority.
'Yer bag. Gimme yer bag.' His breath was fetid, and sweet, like fermenting apples in a compost heap.
'Not my bag. No, please. I'll give you the money. My purse'. She groped in her bag, trying to find her purse, panicking.
'Gimme yer fuckin' bag. Slag!' He spat in her face.
Carol held tightly on to her bag, a feeling of anger rising to the surface. Realising that he seemed to have no weapon, and was, in fact, quite a skinny guy, she decided to call his bluff. After all, what did she have to lose?
'How dare you! Go away! Help! Help!' She cried.
A flash of metal glinted in the gloom of the dimly-lit street. 'You stupid bitch,' he growled.
Carol felt the knife slash across her face. A short, sharp, shocking pain, a feeling of disbelief in her stomach. She heard his footsteps running away, splashing in the puddles of the uneven footpath, as the paving stones slid up to slap her in the face. She remembered the cold underneath her, and thinking, 'my new coat, it'll get wet if I lie here.' Then, sweet darkness.

'She's coming round,' a voice in the distance seemed to be shouting across a void.
'Carol. Hello, Carol, are you alright?' The voice was getting closer. She felt
the pressure of a hand on her shoulder, gently shaking her awake. But Carol didn't want to wake up. She had a feeling that whatever had happened, it could only get worse. Bright lights were trying to force their way into her eyelids.
'Is she conscious? We need to speak to her.' A different voice, harsh and urgent.
'Would you please wait outside.' The first voice, taking control of the situation.
'I have authority to speak to her as soon as she wakes up.'
'Well, when she wakes up, I will let you know. Now, please wait outside.'

Carol held her breath until she heard the door swing open and close again. She was afraid to open her eyes to the reality of this situation. If only she could stay unconscious for a little longer. She remembered that trick she used to do when she was a kid. You could open your eyes just a fraction, and still look as though you were asleep. It had fooled her parents.

She lay still, listening, heard the other person in the room move away from her bedside. She decided to risk opening her eyes, and as she did so the light almost blinded her, even through the tiny gap between her eyelashes. She turned her head slightly, but even that small movement was too much. Too much for the pain in her head, and too much for the nurse not to have noticed.

She was at Carol's bedside within one blink. 'Hello, Carol. Now don't try to move at all. You've had a nasty shock, your hands are cut and you've had a bump on the head. You must try to rest. You are in hospital.'
'My bag; where's my bag?' Carol tried to keep her voice to a whisper, but it sounded too loud, like someone shouting in her head.
'All your things are in a black bin liner beside your bed. Do you want me to see if your bag is there?'
The door swung open again and before the nurse could stop him, a stockily built figure had entered.
'I told you that you should wait outside. This is a hospital, and I am the nurse in charge here. Now will you please leave.'
'Look. I really need to speak to Mrs. Parker. Urgently! Mrs. Parker, DC Barnes.' He flashed a badge near to Carol's face. She shuddered.
The nurse looked at Carol questioningly. 'O.K., I'll be alright,' she said in reply.
'Well, just a few minutes, then. And then you must leave her to rest.'
She stood by the door, like a sentry guarding a precious jewel, glaring at the man.

'Now, Mrs. Parker, I need you to tell me what happened last night. How did you get in this state?'
'I don't know. Some man in the shadows. Didn't see his face.'
'A man in the shadows? Let's start from the beginning.'
'I got off the bus, and was walking up the High Street. I turned the corner, along The Avenue, and he was there, I think, in some doorway. He had a hoodie on. I couldn't see him. My mind was on other things.'
'Did he speak to you?'
'I don't think so. Yes, he said "Give me your bag."'
'And did you?'
'No. I thought he was bluffing. He had no weapon, I thought.'
'So what did you do?'
'I called for help. Told him to go away,' Carol laughed nervously. 'How stupid was that, eh?'
'Then what happened?'
'I can't remember. I think he cut my face.' Carol's left hand flew to her face, where she'd felt the sharp blade slashing her.
'There's no cut on your face now, Mrs. Parker.'
'There must be.' Panic was setting in, as Carol's hand scanned both her cheeks. There was nothing, her skin as smooth as it ever had been.
The nurse moved away from the door. 'That's enough now, DC Barnes.'
'Just a few more questions.'
'I said, enough. You will leave, now!'
'O.K., I'm going. But I will be back. This is a murder investigation. I will need to speak to you again, Mrs. Parker, and a police officer will be on duty outside this room at all times.' He turned and left the room. She could see him through the glass observation window, talking to a uniformed police woman.

Carol's head was awash with questions. 'Murder investigation? Who's murder?' She didn't realise that she had spoken out loud.
The nurse was by her side once more. 'They found his body in a doorway, I think.'
'What do you mean?'
'He was dead.'
'Who? I heard him running away.' Carol's mind was spinning, trying to remember. 'My bag; please can you find my bag.' She watched desperately as the nurse rummaged in the bin liner, and felt relief wash over her as her bag was revealed, intact, just as she'd last seen it.
'There you are.' The nurse placed the bag on the bed, carefully avoiding the bandages on Carol's right hand. Carol relaxed into the pillows, clutching her bag to her chest as she drifted off to sleep.

Her oblivion was short-lived. Within minutes the doubts in her dreamlike state niggled her awake again. Her bag was still there, held tightly in her hand. She brought it closer to her face and clumsily opened it with her good hand. A quick peak inside, just to put her mind at rest, but nothing prepared her for the horror that was waiting there. The bag dropped from her hand. Carol heard something clatter on the polished floor. She tried to raise up from her pillows to reach over the side of the bed, but there was no strength left in her. Then she realised that the nurse was beside her again, but this time there was fear in her eyes.
'Please...' Carol began, but the nurse had already pressed the call button. The door opened with urgency and another nurse appeared at the door.
'You'd better get that police woman in here,' she indicated the object under the bed. 'Don't touch it. Just get the officer in here.' She looked at Carol apologetically. 'I am sorry, but I have a duty if I think you are a risk to yourself or others.'
'How pompous that sounds,' Carol thought. 'I really don't know how that got in my bag,' she said. 'Please, help me.'
Too late. The police woman was already in the room. Taking a plastic bag from her pocket, and donning a pair of gloves, she carefully picked up the bloody
knife and placed it in the bag.
'It was in her handbag,' the nurse said, glancing apologetically at Carol.
'I don't know how it got in there. I've never seen it before,' stammered Carol. 'You have to believe me.'
'Now, just calm down, Mrs. Parker. I'm going to call the DC back. He'll want to have another chat with you.'

Carol's mind was racing. How had it come to this? The evening had started exactly as she'd planned. Her night out with Alison as usual. Then it had all gone wrong after she'd got off the bus. The knife in her bag; the same knife that the man had in the street. Attacking her was not part of the deal, and she could have sworn that he slashed her face, before running away, but now he was dead, instead of....?
'Nurse, I need to see Tom, my husband. He'll be worrying about me.'
'Of course. I'll get the phone trolley.'
'Don't you worry about your husband, Mrs. Parker,' the police woman interjected. 'An officer will have been to your house. We've got all your details from your wallet. It was in your coat pocket.' She looked at the nurse. 'Don't know how we missed your bag, though. Should have checked the contents as soon as you came in. Wasting police time,' she grumbled.

Carol was shaking inside, wondering what the police would find when they got to the house. Before she could think the situation through any further, the door opened again.
'Hello, Carol.' It was Tom, followed closely by DC Barnes.
Carol closed her eyes in despair.

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