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March 2012 Volume 14 , Issue 3 submit to us!

by Mark Tunstall -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

 . . . and I saw both sides of the story . . . when I heard what she had to say, I saw both sides of it.

Usually that's not my way, I stick with what I think and then I power through.

Strong mindedness some call it, pig-ignorance others call it. Sticking with a gut-instinct is more fitting, I think, but then I'm bound to be bias. Usually and more importantly I'm mostly right. I felt I was right when I interviewed Mr Strang and decided he was the killer, even though he was so convincing I could have sworn he wasn't lying, could have if I hadn't seen him strangle the boy myself.

When she sat down in front of me and told me that it wasn't him, I believed her. I believed her, because as any proud Father likes to think, his daughter, when it really comes down to it, would not lie to him. Not about the important things. Even though all things stacked against it, even though I saw Mr Strang throttle that boy with my own eyes, I still saw the little girl who couldn't lie to me about her Mother. Even with her Mother shaking her head at her and scaring her with her eyes. The same little girl who admitted that her Mother had another man at the house while I was at a seminar in Scotland. Admitted it to me in front of her Mother. The little girl of eleven, at that time, could not lie to her Father. So how can I doubt her now?

So my report will read that the man I questioned is not the killer. My eye-witness account will read that a man very similar in looks killed the Mitford boy and ran. I shot at him, hit him and he ran. I gave chase through the multi-storey car park and he disappeared. The man was a similar build and colouring to Mr Strang, but that is all.

This is how it will read, because I believe my daughter.

As sure as her Mother is now married and living in London. As sure as my daughter is engaged and living with Abel Strang, I will testify that, in my professional opinion Abel Strang did not kill that boy. Could not have killed that boy. Abel Strang is not a killer and besides, he was with my daughter on that night. I believe this, because she told me.

Abel Strang twisted his way through the eight o'clock herd of unfamiliar faces who added to his morning anxiety every day. Not touching or brushing anybody on his way into work was second nature. As sirens blared and tyres screeched, as people walked almost blindly into the morning rush hour traffic, Abel Strang made no eye contact. Abel tried not to deviate from the crossings. Abel paid strict attention to all signals. Abel wondered at how a woman on her way to work could text on a mobile phone and cross the road without looking up and sure-footedly arrive at the other side without noticing the beep or the angry shout, but instead hold her phone up and squint her eyes at it. More concerned with the lack of signal one could get in the city area of London at 8.15am.

On a cold autumn morning Abel, not for the first time wished he didn't have to arrive at the office covered in sweat. If Abel did make eye contact with any of the other commuters, work rats and pedestrians or even look at one for more than a strangled moment's hesitation as they crossed paths, or tried to, he might have noticed the other tall, dark haired man that brushed past him at the entrance to Cannon Street station. He might also have noticed that the only two differences between both of the men were that the stranger was not covered in sweat and that also the stranger was smiling.

The latter was something that Abel Strang had not done for a long time. The former was something the stranger had never done.

Abel Strang reached the gateway to the offices at Blackfriars Bridge and once again felt that almost desperate need to turn around before he reached the door to the reception, but as usual he swallowed once and pushed open the doors and did the thing he had been dreading since Saturday morning and in fact had started dreading every Saturday morning until the hell of Monday morning for the last five years. He went in.

5pm was a brief reprieve. Abel filled with some optimism. There was dinner. There was alcohol. He would have Grace's company for the evening. She would be at the flat a little after him. He would have time to get across to the tube station. Get on the tube. He could read that book for five stops. He could leave the station at Stepney and walk to the supermarket. He could pick up the meat, the wine, that birthday card, the stamps, his dry-cleaned shirt and trousers for tomorrow. He could do all of this on auto-pilot, he needn't deviate from his well-trodden daily route. So why then on this Monday in autumn at 5pm was Abel Strang opting to walk down the stone steps at the start of Blackfriars Bridge and down onto the walkway by the river Thames?

A route to the station that would add at least ten minutes to his walk. And why was he looking for someone? Why was he hoping to see someone? Why was he slowing his walk and stopping at the bench overlooking a Thames beach that had recently been made due to the lack of rainfall? Why was he crossing his leg and waiting? And why was he not at all surprised when the stranger sat down next to him and put his hand on his knee?

"Hello Abel".

Not surprised that is until he looked at his face and saw his own, except no . . . his eyes were green.

He bolted up in shock and the man gently, but firmly pushed his knee back down, forcing Abel to sit once more on the bench.

"Don't stand up Abel."

Abel remained seated as a group of girls walked past, chatting while lighting cigarettes.

"You know this town never ceases to amaze me. Two good-looking men, well dressed, sitting on a bench and not one of those women looked at either of us. Good-looking and . . . well let's face it, identical. Except maybe my suit is a little nicer. But then a tailored suit does make a difference, doesn't it? I mean, don't get me wrong, I like yours, but it's not tailored is it?

I can tell. It's your body you see. I know it so well, every bit of it. I could tell if your suit was tailored. It isn't."

Abel stood again, the identical ‘stranger' saw the familiar sweat run down Abel's face.

"Sit down Abel Strang. That's better. Now let's see what we can do about this anxiety, yeah?"

To all intents and purposes Abel Strang killed the boy without any real personal motive. As he pushed his thumb into the wind-pipe of the crying boy he reflected on his Grandmother. The same beautiful blonde, almost white hair.

As something burst in the boys left eye, Abel couldn't help but notice the similarity in the colouring. That same beautiful sky blue that he recognised immediately from the painting of the boy's Grandmother. A sky blue, which now washed out, very quickly with a brownish red as something clicked in the boy's throat and his arms that waved and struck for what seemed a very long time, now dropped limp at his sides. Abel took one last look at the boy's eyes, heard the gun, felt the gun-shot, looked round once, dropped the boy to the ground and ran.

No real motive to kill the boy as such. Just really to take away the thing that his Grandmother held most dear. Why kill a woman and let her off that easily? This was better.

No, Abel Strang had no real motive to kill the boy.

Nancy Mitford was beautiful in her day. Too old now to ever be called beautiful again. At most you could say radiant on a good day. Sadly for Nancy Mitford there would not be any more good days for her and sadly also the beauty she had once held so dear, that Arian perfection both she and the Fuhrer had so admired and well, insisted upon, was gone.

Her hair now a steely grey and her once radiant sky-blue eyes now took on a listless tone of just blue.

It's true to say that Grace thought it was odd that day back in Autumn when she sat opposite Abel and ate the duck, that Abel would ever just leave his job and bring up the subject of moving.

Abel had never done anything different. The thing that attracted Grace to Abel most was his stability. He was reliable. He worked hard. They never argued. He was honest. If a little tense at times. He reminded her of her father. He could be trusted.

So when he told her of the house swap, that they would be giving up their cramped one bedroom flat in Stepney and relocating to a four bedroom cottage, surrounded by a forest, on the side of a mountain in South Wales, Grace was more than a little surprised.

She was shocked when Abel stood his ground and did not go in to work the next day or the day after, or from then on. For the first two weeks they had both idled around the house. It seemed important to Abel to just spend time walking around it, around the grounds. Every now and then he would point excitedly at a bird making a nest in a tree. She wandered at his smiling child-like face as he discovered the ruin of a chapel in their grounds and the remains of a few scattered headstones.

It was nice to see him relaxed. Upon reflection Grace noted what the difference was. In London he had been depressed. Out here, two weeks into the move, she had seen a real change and she noted with sadness that this was the first time she had really seen him happy.

She privately hated herself for never noticing this before. Of course she had suggested he leave his job before. Change his career. She knew he had felt trapped at the publishing house, but he had always said no. The money was too good. The hours were okay. It was central. The commute was short.

Abel had at first said that he resigned.

He had left so quickly and so assuredly, she thought he had been fired. She even telephoned the publishing house and asked a clerk on the same floor as Abel if he had heard of a Mr Strang. He had. She asked if he had been fired. The clerk had laughed. The only thing though that had confused Grace more than Abel's sudden change of heart was the fact that the clerk assured her that Mr Strang had definitely not been fired and that he was very much still employed by the Media Publishing Group. When she questioned Abel about this he told her that the company had offered him a consultancy package, he could work from home. He said he had retracted his resignation and was going to surprise her.

To Grace's credit, she wouldn't have minded. If it was making him that unhappy, she would have understood him leaving. But the reassuring monthly pay packet that made its way into their joint bank account at the end of that month was a relief to see. When she saw it again two months after the move, she promised herself that she would never doubt Abel again. A promise it turns out, she couldn't keep.

Abel Strang lay back on the cot in the cell, his hands behind his head. His fingers intertwined. He had always been a pragmatic man. He never asked himself what if...?

He had always accepted his fate in a mature and even stoical manner.

Of course he wished he had never accepted the Fetch's offer. He wished more than anything he had stood up from the bench and walked away. Wait a minute, didn't he try to stand up and walk away? Abel went over the scene again in his head.

"Let's switch."

Abel looked at the stranger and narrowed his eyes. The stranger mirrored his expression.

"What would you say if I were to offer you a trade? My life for yours. I will take over your job. I know how to do it, because you know how to do it. I will continue to work in your place. I don't need money. You will receive your monthly pay. You will accept my cottage in the country. Here's the key, go and see it. I will take your flat in London. You will move out into the country. I will continue here in the city as you."

"I don't understand . . . "

"I am a Fetch, Abel Strang. I am your Fetch.

"A Fetch?"

"Your Fetch."

As Abel lay back he reflected on this conversation and wondered at those two words. They had made his decision clear. Those two words had made up his mind. Even now as he lay in the prison cell and went over the conversation again, it made sense to him that he would agree to this. It was his Fetch.

Grace's father had witnessed the killing of the Mitford boy, grandson to the famous Nancy Mitford. Had insisted that the killer wasn't Abel. Had made a point of the fact that there was no motive. Had begged his superior officers to proceed with further investigations. Said that there was only a passing resemblance in looks between the killer and his daughter's fiancé.

The arresting officers said that Abel had files on his work computer. Downloads of stories from the press featuring Nancy Mitford, her ties with the Nazi party. Her friends, her family.

Even a detailed report on her home life and holidays, including a full itinerary of her and her family's recent trip to London.

The CCTV footage showed Abel Strang following Nancy Mitford and her Grandson from the lift onto the second floor of the multi-storey car park. Saw him run up behind the old woman and knock her to the ground, even as he grabbed for the small child's neck.

Upon detailed analysis of the film, the charging officers might have noticed that Abel's Fetch had green eyes and that Abel Strang's eyes were brown. They didn't.

That Abel Strang was the killer, they were sure of. Just as sure as Abel's Fetch was of how much he hated the Nazi's.

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Features -- March 2012 -- Beginning Month Issue