Chapter 1 – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
The man slapped her hard across the face and grabbed her by the hair, throwing her onto the bed.
Helen could taste the blood spurting from her lip, and though she was aware he had slapped her hard, she felt no pain. She struggled to pull away and tried to curl her body into a ball for protection, but he was too strong for her. She was like a rag doll in his hands.
He easily overpowered her and ripped the clothes from her body. The sadistic bastard was enjoying her pain, especially when he penetrated her. He thrust into with such force she cried out. Fortunately, he had no stamina, and it wasn’t long before his body slumped on top of her.
She pushed him away in disgust and jumped up from the bed. “Get out, Addie,” she screamed. “Get out.” She pulled a sheet around her naked, trembling body.
Addie laughed. “I’m not going anywhere until you give me what you owe me,” he said as he sat up on the edge of the bed and got dressed. “Now, where’s my fucking money?”
She licked the blood from her bottom lip. “That’s rich. The punters usually pay me, not the other way around.”
“But I’m not a punter. I’m your fucking pimp, and don’t you forget it, you little tramp.”
She knew what he had just done to her was a punishment because she hadn’t handed over his share of the money. She worked the streets, and he was her controller. Helen also knew one of his roles was to protect her from others, but he wanted his share of her earnings. His expectations were always high. She held out a wad of notes.
Addie grabbed the cash from her hand and pointed his finger in her face.
“If you try to keep anything from me again,” he growled, “you’ll be fucking sorry.” With the threat hanging in the air, he walked to the door and slammed it behind him as he left.
She lay on the sofa feeling ill and sorry for herself. Since Addie’s visit to the bedsit over a week ago, she had decided her life had to change. She knew the first thing she had to do was quit heroin, so she had started to wean herself off the drug. It would not be easy.
It was her fifth day, and she wasn’t coping well. To take her mind off her cravings, she thought about the way her life was turning out. At 20, she realised it was getting worse instead of better.
Her entire life revolved around drugs and prostitution. The more she prostituted herself, the more drugs she could score. It was a cycle she wanted to stop, something that had never been her choice in the first place. Sometimes she blamed it all on Addie, at other times she blamed people from her past.
If I hadn’t run away from the care home to find Ash, I wouldn’t have met that bastard Addie!
Ash was an older boy she had befriended when they both lived at Cranston Hall. She had felt safe and cocooned in their relationship. Unfortunately, this had come to an end when he had left the home to live with a family somewhere in Gloucester. She had remembered looking for it on a map of England.
She was only 14-years-old when she ran away from the home. Addie had promised to look after her. The Good Samaritan. Instead, he had taken advantage of her and had helped turn her into the wreck she had become.
Gripping pains interrupted her thoughts as she felt her stomach doing somersaults. She made a grab for the basin at the side of her bed and heaved last night’s pizza into it. She groaned aloud as she felt the stomach cramps take hold. Aches and pains were ravaging her body – and not for the first time. Her insides felt as if they had knotted together.
Feeling like shit, she thought a little hash might help her through the pain. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve and rose from the sofa. She frantically searched around. Helen hoped to find some she may have left lying around.
“God!” she cried out. “How the fuck is anyone meant to find anything in this shithole?”
What had once been a homely room was now a tip. When she had first moved in, she had cleaned it up. Over time, though, she had lost interest in it. Now, the bedsit looked worse than when she’d first set foot through the door.
She remembered the first time she had met Addie. He had promised her a palace, and she had ended up in his dirty bedsit. Addie had found her sleeping on a park bench, slap bang in the middle of Gloucester. It had been the day after she had run away from the care home in Edinburgh.
He had offered her a bed, and she had accepted. She had told him it would only be for the one night. Addie had to hide his smirk from her; he knew she wouldn’t leave. He was something of an expert when it came to grooming vulnerable young girls.
When she had entered the room and Addie had flicked the light switch on, she had regretted taking him up on his offer. A single naked bulb barely lit the room, and she had to draw in her breath because of the nauseating smells assaulting her senses. The stench, from rotting food, empty beer cans and dampness, had been overpowering.
Addie was right; she didn’t stay just ‘the one night’. Instead of moving on the next day, she had cleaned up the bedsit and took pride in it, but all her good intentions didn’t last long. Addie began to introduce her to hard drugs and groom her for prostitution.
Luring her onto drugs was easy, but he had to work harder preparing her for her life of prostitution. To begin with, Addie had a mate by the name of Pete Baxter rape her.
On several occasions, Baxter had beaten and raped her, before throwing cash at her. Addie would take the cash, using it to cover the cost of her digs and drugs. They treated her like a prostitute; until she started to believe it herself. It was a partnership the two men had mastered well in order to groom young girls. Addie dragged her into a dark, seedy world.
The cramping in her stomach was getting worse, and she began to rifle the room. She searched high and low, tipping carrier bags, emptying the drawers and lifting the corners of the bed. Helen left no place untouched, but it was all to no avail. She didn’t find a thing. The stomach cramps were getting worse. Her own body was punishing her.
“Shit! Shit! Fuck the hash.” She shouted aloud, there was nothing else for it. She decided she’d have to give her dealer a call. Within five minutes she made the call and within ten, she had dressed and arrived at the usual meeting place, a corner on Barton Street.
She snuck into a shop doorway and as she did, Helen caught sight of herself in the glass. She already felt a mess and her reflection confirmed it.
“I’m 20-years-old,” she murmured. “Shit, I look like I’m going on 40.”
The clothes she wore were old, shabby and dirty. The few decent items of clothing she possessed came from second-hand shops or stolen from people’s washing lines. Long gone were the days when she had sported designer labels like Vivienne Westwood and Diane Furstenburg. Items bought by her father to buy her silence. Whatever decent clothes she had, she kept for her night work on the streets.
She peered closely at her reflection in the mirror. Her long auburn hair was greasy and uncombed; her complexion was deathly pale. She looked, and felt, terrible. The need for a fix was becoming stronger, and her body was screaming out. She craved the rush, and she wanted it now.
“Bastards,” she said as she turned to the window and looked at passers-by. She believed everyone was staring in her direction, but they were oblivious to her very existence. Paranoia was one of the side-effects of feeding her habit. She huddled her slim frame further into the doorway, promising herself yet again that this was the last time she would score. It would be the very last time she would hang about waiting for a dealer.
She had been promising this to herself for six years since her second hit. By continually telling herself Addie had forced her into a life of drugs and prostitution, she convinced herself it wasn’t her fault. Most of all, she blamed her childhood abusers.
“When the fuck will I stop being a victim?” she whispered, as if voicing her concerns would help her solve her issues. Mentally, she continued to point the finger of blame.
It’s no wonder I’m messed up. If only they’d stopped Dad from abusing me in the beginning, I wouldn’t be here now. If only they had believed me and taken him away instead. Things would have turned out differently.
The more it preyed on her mind, the more she convinced herself it had been those who should have cared, but didn’t. They had caused her life to take such a dark turn. The longer she stood thinking about all those heartless and useless bastards, the deeper her hatred for them grew. Sometimes in the dead of night, she dreamt of the chance to get even.
She kept watching out for her dealer. Her eyes were darting anxiously from left to right, searching for him, praying for him to show up. She became aware of her own body trembling involuntarily as she moved out from the shop doorway to get a better look along the street.
She couldn’t see him, but she could hear a conversation between two women. They were standing somewhere behind her and not far away. She froze when she recognised the voice of one of the women. It was a voice she thought she would never hear again.
“Tina!” The woman called. “It’s so good to see you and just at the right time too.” The lady paused and allowed herself a little laugh. “I’m leaving for Scotland in a few days.”
She turned slowly to see where the voice was coming from; she didn’t have to look far. Helen matched the voice to a face that was still recognisable, even after maybe nine or ten years. It was the voice of her old English teacher: Miss Gloria Bryson.
As she stared at the woman, she noticed Miss Bryson hadn’t changed much since she’d last seen her. Her hair was still short and dyed blonde, and her clothes were as drab and dowdy as they had been years ago.
She wondered if Miss Bryson would recognise her.
“Shit,” she whispered and almost smiled. “Even my mother wouldn’t recognise me now.”
The voice from her past overtook her need for drugs; she listened intently to the conversation.
“You’re leaving here, Gloria? Why?” The other woman asked.
“I have a new job. In a school in Edinburgh,” Miss Bryson said. “I start in a few weeks, but I need to furnish my new house first, so I’m going up there early.” She fumbled in her bag. “Here, I’ll write down the address for you.” As she wrote, she said it aloud. “Rose Cottage, Ferry Road, Edinburgh.”
The two women continued to talk for a few more minutes before going their separate ways. She felt a buzz. This woman was one of the people she would sometimes blame for the way her life had turned out, and Miss Bryson hadn’t even recognised her.
She smiled. She knew Edinburgh well, and she was confident she wouldn’t forget a name like Rose Cottage. For some strange reason, she felt for the first time that she was in control of her own life. Fate had dealt her many bad hands, but perhaps her destiny was not to end her days selling her body on the streets of Gloucester after all.
She told herself ‘knowledge is power,’ although she had no clear idea what she would do with the information she’d just overheard. She considered maybe, just maybe, she might be able to arrange payback for Miss Bryson.
“Here’s your gear,” a voice said. The voice made her jump; it was her dealer. She paid for the drugs and hurried back to the bedsit.
She didn’t know what she would do next. A change was taking place within her and she couldn’t fathom it out. Her thoughts were racing, and she was having difficulty arranging them into some order.
Every nerve in her body was tingling with the thought of confronting her old teacher. The tingling soon turned to stomach cramps, bringing her back to reality. She quickly went through the ritual of preparing her fix.
As she rolled up her sleeve, she convinced herself that the flesh on her arm was looking better. Helen didn’t think the old needle scars looked so red and fresh. She smiled as she watched the plunger slide slowly down the syringe. It was feeding time, and she was so hungry. She lay down on the bed to let the heroin work. The cramps soon disappeared.
A little while later and back in the land of the living, she could think more clearly. She made herself a mug of tea and sat down in the smelly, rickety armchair. Helen needed a plan. She looked across the room and focused on a fly as it feasted on a crumb on the grubby worktop. She imagined the insect puking onto the morsel and then eating it.
She knew she needed a plan. Her mind had wandered for so long that when she took a sip of her tea, it was stone cold. Her brow furrowed, and she screwed up her eyes. She bent forward and spat the brown liquid back into the mug and then licked her lips.
“I know,” she told the fly on the worktop. “I’m done with this fucking life and this place.” She smiled and felt relief wash over her because she had made a decision. “I’m going to Edinburgh.” Helen stood up and placed her mug of cold tea on the worktop. “You can have that too,” she said to the fly as it buzzed around overhead.
She went over to the window and stood looking down at the passing traffic on the street below. She decided she would catch the National Express coach up to Edinburgh, and once there, she would find herself a bedsit somewhere in Leith.
Helen knew Leith was a rundown area situated to the east of Edinburgh. The port town is known for its cheap flats and rooms, sleazy bars and ladies of the night. It would be a home from home, but she didn’t have any intentions of being one of those ladies again.
She knew she could pay for the bus journey with the money she’d been able to keep hidden from Addie. She had no idea how much it would cost, but she knew she had to go. She didn’t understand why it felt so compelling; it just did. Helen felt confused. She didn’t know why, but she did know something was driving her on.
Any further planning would have to be made on the journey up to Scotland. While she was feeling positive, she gathered together some of her meagre belongings and stuffed them inside her duffle bag. Packing took less than ten minutes.
She carefully cleaned her drug kit and wrapped her needles in a piece of muslin, placing it among the clothes in her bag. Helen was proud of herself. She had stuck to her plan of cutting down her heroin habit over the past five days. It was a start.
It hadn’t been easy, but she felt a lot better and more alert. She knew her body had missed the euphoria she usually felt. She was also well aware of the punishing symptoms of withdrawal, but for now she was able to keep her hands steady and her mind focused.
Helen washed and changed into the cleanest clothes she could find. Her jeans looked okay, but her blouse was grubby. She was glad it was cold outside, so her coat would hide the sorry state of the blouse. She looked around the bedsit one last time promising herself that the next room would not end up like the shithole she was leaving.
It wasn’t long before she headed for the bus station. Her time for boarding should have been 9pm, but the bus was late, and she eventually boarded at 9.30pm. She did the simple math and realised she would arrive in Edinburgh at approximately 8.30am in the morning. She smiled to herself because she had a strong feeling her life was about to change.
When she boarded the bus, she looked about at her fellow passengers. The bus wasn’t full, so she made her way up the aisle to the back seats. An elderly couple were sitting half way along the bus. The older woman beamed at her.
“Hello, dearie.” the elderly woman had a thick Scottish accent. “Plenty o’ seats eh? Here’s a seat beside me and ma Tam.”
“Jeanie, let the lassie sit where she wants,” Tam said as he gave her a wink.
She smiled politely. “Oh, thanks, but I like leg room. I’ll stretch out at the back. Thanks, all the same.” She turned and continued moving to the back of the bus.
“Or better still, sit here with me,” a man’s voice suggested.
She turned to see where the slurred voice had come from.
“Just like old times!” the same man said when they made eye contact.
She looked down at the dishevelled drunk.
Why me? You always get one on a bus. I’m like a magnet, and I attract all the bloody nutters.
The man seemed familiar to her, and then she realised he had been a punter in the past. Once she had lost her youthful looks for the ‘money men’ Addie sent to her, she had to take the dregs. This drunk was one of them. He reviled her as much now as he did then.
She leaned close to him so no one could hear and she whispered. “Get to fuck.” She bent forward so that her face was even closer to him. Her breath caressed his face. “You come near me or bother me, and you’ll be fucking sorry.”
The man’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped, but he didn’t speak.
Helen whispered, “You’ll be so sorry you’ll wish you were never fucking born.” Her eyes remained narrowed as she glared at the hapless man.
The aggression she had shown had scared him. He cowered away from her and leaned towards the window. He had picked up on the vicious intent in her voice.
She saw him squirming down into his seat.
I could get used to making people afraid.
She became aware of a tingling, like a mini-rush.
The man held up both hands defensively. “Sorry lass. I was just trying to be nice.”
The old lady said, “Ah hope that man issnae botherin’ ye’? Ma Tam here’ll hie’ a word wi’ ‘im, won’t ye’ Tam.” Her browbeaten husband sat shaking his head at his wife’s needless meddling.
She giggled and replied sweetly. “There’s no bother. He was just asking me the time, but thanks for your concern.”
The old lady nodded and smiled. She nudged her husband. “Ye’ ken Tam, she’s lovely, just like oor Sue.” Turning to Helen she explained. “That’s oor granddaughter, so bonnie and nice just like you.”
She nodded to her and couldn’t help smiling. It was the first nice thing anyone had said to her in a long, long time. As she made her way to the back seat, she gave the drunk man one last glare. He seemed to know by the look on her face it was best to leave her alone.
He sat back in his seat and covered his face with his hat. “Fucking psycho,” he mumbled.
She sat and placed her bag beside her. Helen was cursing herself for not buying anything to read for the journey and stared out of the window. She watched the hustle and bustle of travellers checking tickets, saying their fond farewells and boarding buses. She felt a pang of loneliness as she watched family members embrace their loved ones.
It was five minutes before the driver sat at his wheel, and another fifteen for him to check his passengers and fill out his paperwork.
Come on, she urged him mentally. She was becoming impatient and wanted her journey to begin. For her it was a new journey, a new beginning; time to confront her past.
As the bus moved, she settled down into her seat. It had been six years since she had arrived in Gloucester. She thought back to that day and wished she had turned around and headed straight back to Cranston Hall. Hindsight is such a brilliant thing. She’d heard it said many times, but now she knew it to be true.
She thought about her past, especially Miss Bryson. Although she blamed several people for her demise into a life of drugs and vice, she hadn’t given them much thought in recent years. When she did, it was to point the finger of blame.
Since seeing her old school teacher again, she realised she was still full of hatred. She despised those who had abused her and all those who had turned their backs on her, choosing to ignore the truth. Even after all these years, the hurt and the hatred she felt had never waned. If anything, it had deepened and now festered within her. The pressure cried out, like a boil that had to be lanced to release the vile contents.
Over the years, she had tried to forget about the sexual and physical assaults inflicted upon her by her father and his friends. Since having seen Miss Bryson again, those feelings and memories were refreshed and felt just as raw as the day she was removed from the family home by Miss Walker, the social worker.
Miss Walker was another person she had confided in. Walker had refused to believe her.
She tried to put the memories behind her for a while. She closed her eyes and hoped she could sleep the rest of the way to Edinburgh.
Not long into the journey, Jeanie turned around and saw her asleep. She nudged her husband. “She’s sleepin’ like a baby, bless her.”
The old Scottish lady was right. For once she was having a good sleep. No demons were chasing her; no tormentors were trying to maul her.
For years, she suffered horrific nightmares; in them she saw demonic faces emulating people from her past, her father being the main tormentor.
The demons had taunted her, their frenzied faces twisted, swirled and spiralled around her head as they hissed and screeched at her face. She would try hard to outrun and escape from them, but no matter how fast she ran, she remained in the same place.
Their faces would be so close to her she could feel their hot, fetid breath on her face. Their knife-like, razor-sharp tongues protruded from somewhere deep within them, and they would lash out at her, whipping her face, her body and her soul.
Now, with her head against her bag, she was deep in sleep. She dreamed the opposite. She was the tormentor. She was the one trying to catch the demons. Their ear-splitting screeching had stopped. They were silent and in retreat.
All she could hear was laughter; her laughter. The more she chased the demons, the louder she laughed. Surprisingly, the demons disappeared, as if into thin air. She stopped and looked around for them. There was no trace of them whatsoever. The dream continued.
A heavy mist appeared, and she tried to peer through it. Maybe the demons are hiding, she thought; lying in wait for me. She didn’t see any sign of them, but in the distance, something caught her eye. A solitary figure stood watching her, but she couldn’t make out whether it was male or female.
As she walked towards the figure in the dream, it ran and she gave chase, but the figure vanished like the demons, as if into thin air. She saw another shape in the distance, but it looked like a large stone, perhaps a pillar?
She peered harder, straining her eyes to see through the mist. Still unsure of what the object was, she moved cautiously towards it. As she closed in, she could make out a grave. She moved forward, edging her way towards the final resting place of whoever it was. The area she looked at had been freshly dug; she could smell the newly disturbed earth. There weren’t any flowers upon or near the grave.
Although it had been recently dug, it had an old crumbling headstone. Helen edged closer and tried to read the inscription, but the mist was still too thick to see through. She walked around the headstone. Helen looked about for other graves, a church or people, anything. She realised she wasn’t in a cemetery.
There was nothing, nothing at all apart from this solitary grave. The mist cleared. She knelt down. Fresh moss and spider webs covered the stone. She carefully removed them with her sleeve. Gradually, she made out the inscription.
“GLORIA BRYSON” and beneath the name, “PRODITIO.”
Reading the words aloud, she felt her body tingle. She read them again, louder this time, and the tingling sensation increased. She shouted them out as loud as she could, and power, fulfilment and satisfaction engulfed her.
She woke with a start when the driver announced that they were stopping at the services for half an hour.
That was some dream!
“I’m fucked if I know what it means,” Helen said aloud. She tried to remember the word on the grave. “Prodi… Prodi… something.”
She looked out of the window and saw a sign above a café: Charnock Richards. The passengers made their way off the bus, most heading for the toilet. Some of them were almost running, especially the older ones. They walked like penguins, and the sight made her chuckle.
She sat waiting for all the passengers to get off the bus – It would be her chance to top up with some heroin. She felt all right, but knew she would need a hit long before the bus reached Edinburgh.
Just a bit that’s all; just a bit.
“Come on, missy,” the bus driver called down to her. “Go get yourself something to eat.”
“No, it’s okay I’ll just stay here,” she called back.
The driver smiled. “It’s better if you go get something to eat. I usually have a cat nap here until they all get back. Go on, lass. Go stretch your legs.”
Shit, I’ll have to chance shooting up in the loo.
She picked up her bag and made her way to the ladies toilets. By the time she settled herself into the cubicle furthest away from the entrance, the female passengers had left and were making their way to the cafeteria.
She opened her muslin wrap and stuck to her word, taking only a small amount. She sat in the cubicle for five minutes. It seemed taking less was doing the trick. Helen boarded the bus before the other passengers, settled herself in her seat and closed her eyes.
Sleep didn’t come as easily this time. The closer they were getting to Edinburgh, the more excited she became. She could feel her pulse racing and her heart thumping. She let her thoughts drift back to the woman who had unwittingly prompted her to take this journey.
When she was about 11-years-old, she believed Miss Bryson had suspected that all was not okay at home. On several occasions at school, the teacher had quizzed her. For example, Miss Bryson asked if her if she was happy, or why she had bruises. The teacher had even asked if her mother was ill again, which conveniently happened with alarming regularity.
With regard to the bruises, she had given the usual excuses an abused child would give, accepting undeserved guilt and covering up for the abusers. She thought back to her reasons.
Oh, I fell Miss Bryson, or I bumped into a wall Miss Bryson.
It would have been apparent to Miss Bryson the bruising around the wrists could not be explained by falling or bumping into things. Her teacher ignored the signs, and all the explanations given by her were too easily accepted.
She would occasionally sport cigarette burns on her arms, back and chest. If Miss Bryson had seen them, she said nothing or alluded to them.
She convinced herself Miss Bryson had suspected what was going on, yet chose not to become involved. She had chosen to ignore the abuse of a child in her care. The woman chose to turn a blind eye, instead of reaching out to a little girl in need of adult help.
As her thought process continued, she remembered her social worker too. She wasn’t any better than the teacher. Miss Walker believed her abuse was a figment of her imagination and treated her – and her accusations with contempt.
When she had first met Walker, Helen thought she was a cold, hard-faced woman. It was almost laughable she had chosen a career in social welfare. She knew in the end that Walker had softened towards her but still didn’t help. Apart from her teacher and the social worker, there were others to blame.
Most of all, she blamed her mother for allowing the abuse to continue year after year. Her mother didn’t want her perfect little world shattered by horrible accusations made by her only daughter. Like the others who should have acted, she too chose to ignore the cries of a child; her own child. Importantly, it was her mother’s acknowledgement of the abuse and the rejection that caused her so much hurt and anger.
Well, those bastards will hurt now. I’ll make them pay. They won’t know what hit them. Hurt? They don’t know the fucking meaning of the word yet, but they’ll find out soon enough. Will I let them know I’m coming or take them by surprise? Should I make them suffer and scream out in pain, just like I did so many times?
She was trying to decide about the tactics of her imminent vengeance.
Helen felt a jolt as the bus came to a halt.