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The Good Samaritan
Author: John Marrs

PROLOGUE

‘Where are you?’ My voice was calm and my tone measured as I spoke softly into the receiver.

‘My taxi has just pulled up in the car park and I’m trying to give away my loose change.’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘Because I don’t have any need for it.’

‘I understand.’ I rolled my eyes. It felt like a waste of time and it concerned me that it might be a delaying tactic. But I couldn’t pressure him. ‘You do what you feel is for the best, and remember,’ I continued, ‘I’m with you every step of the way.’

I heard him mumble something to the driver, then he exited the taxi, closing the door behind him. I assumed it was raining lightly, because every few seconds I heard the rubber wiper blades squeak as they arched across the windscreen before the cab pulled away.

‘How are we doing?’ I asked, purposefully using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ to emphasise that we were in this together, if not side by side then certainly in spirit. It was not my choice of location and I wondered if, once he saw its magnitude, it might give him second thoughts. If that were the case, I’d have to accept his decision. It had taken time for me to get in the right headspace, but now that I was, I wanted him to see it through to the end. And I’d make sure to remind him why he was there and how far we had come.

He read my mind. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘I’ve not had a change of heart.’

I let out a sigh of relief.

‘Really,’ he continued, ‘I’m in a good place and I’m ready for this. Now that I’m here, now that I can see what’s before me, I know one hundred and ten per cent that it’s the right thing to do.’

I believed him. I don’t think he’d ever lied to me, because he’d never had a reason to. He’d told me many times that he was more honest with me than with anyone he had ever known, and I was proud to hear it.

‘Can you see her yet?’ I asked. ‘She’s driving a red Vauxhall Astra. Registration number V987—’

‘. . . THG. Yes, she’s just flashed her lights at me. It feels like we’re in a spy film and you’ve arranged for me to pass her secret documents.’ He gave a nervous laugh and I pretended to laugh back.

‘OK, let me give her a call,’ I said. ‘Stay where you are for now. We don’t want to scare her.’

My number was automatically withheld when I dialled her. She answered after seven rings, too many for my liking.

‘Hi there,’ I began softly. ‘How are we doing?’

‘I’m not sure,’ she replied. Her voice lacked the confidence of his. I’d accompanied enough people in her situation to recognise a heightened state of anxiety. I’d have to tread carefully.

‘It’s good to hear you,’ I said soothingly. ‘Did your journey go well? Did you find the place okay?’

‘I got here an hour ago, so I had a cup of tea in a café up the road.’

This was another red flag. She’d had time on her own to think.

‘Is there anything you want to talk about before we start?’ I asked.

She hesitated. ‘I’m really sorry, but now I’m here I’m starting to think I might not be doing the right thing anymore,’ she replied.

I gritted my teeth. I was not going to let it end like this. I needed to reaffirm her sense of purpose.

‘It’s about the baby, isn’t it?’ I asked gently.

‘Yes.’

‘You’re worried that you’re making a selfish decision.’

‘Yes,’ she said again, this time in a barely audible voice.

I sank back into my chair. ‘That’s perfectly understandable, but you need to realise this isn’t you talking, it’s your hormones. They’re giving you a false sense of what might be possible; making you think that everything could be all right in the end if you just give it time. Listen to someone who has learned from experience. When that child is born, things are only going to get so much worse for you. They’ll up your medication so that your life is even more of a blur than it is now. You won’t be fit for purpose as a mother, and the chemicals you’ve put into your body already are going to have a knock-on effect on your baby. It will grow up exactly like you, with exactly the same pain and problems you have; it’ll be history repeating itself. Do you really want to be responsible for all that? Unlike you, I can see things clearly and I know that is exactly what is going to happen. Your baby doesn’t stand a chance in this world. And deep down you know that too, don’t you?’

‘You’re right,’ she spluttered, no longer trying to fight back her sobs.

I’d been bad cop, now I needed to be good cop again.

‘You know, I’ve been thinking about you all night and day,’ I continued. ‘I know how far you’ve come since you found me all those weeks ago. I’m so proud of you for your courage and strength. You know that, don’t you?’

‘Yes,’ she replied. She didn’t sound as convinced as I’d hoped. It was time to step it up a gear.

‘I’ve been thinking about your family, too. They’re very lucky to have someone in their lives like you, someone who is so selfless and so courageous. These are rare traits and I know that at first, it’s going to be difficult for everyone to understand, but in time they’re going to realise you loved them so much that you put their needs above your own. You’ve told me on so many occasions that you’re never going to be the wife your husband needs. But that’s not your fault, it’s his for putting you on a pedestal. He has done this to you. Just keep reminding yourself of why you came looking for me in the first place. Together, we explored every avenue before you decided this was the only route that made sense. You are moving on and allowing everyone else you love to do the same. And I admire that so much.’

I’d spent so long repeating the same message, week after week, conversation after conversation, slowly reinforcing the belief that there was only one way forward. He, however, had required less work. There was no middle ground with him. Things were either black or white and never grey. He told me once I was like a rope that had pulled him from the quicksand and then set him on the right path.

‘You’re right,’ she sniffed. ‘Thank you.’

‘Okay then. Well, blow your nose, take a deep breath and we’ll do this together. Start by opening the door and walking towards him.’ I tried to imagine I was there with them. ‘Now, can you carefully describe what you’re seeing in front of you?’

‘I think that’s him waiting for me,’ she said. ‘He’s smiling. And behind him the sun is trying to make its way through the clouds. It’s cold, but not freezing.’

I heard the crunch of the gravel under her feet, the pitter-patter of January rain bouncing off the shoulders of her overcoat, and the squawking seagulls above. I could almost smell the salty sea air around them. I switched telephone lines to his.

‘Hi,’ I began. ‘She’s coming towards you now, but she’s a little more anxious than you are. You will look after her, won’t you?’

‘Of course,’ he replied, more assured than I’d ever heard him.

As they came face to face for the first time, I imagined them smiling at one another. I opened up both phone lines and heard a muffled, scratching sound of fabric against fabric, as if they were embracing. I’d told her to wear a coat big enough to hide her baby bump. The last thing I needed was for it to spook him now that we were so close.

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