The Butterfly Catchers

The Butterfly Catchers is inspired by three brutal murders which took place in the Old Farmhouse on my street, in 1932. Those murders weren't solved - but in my story, they are...

Joel Tremethick is found cradling the bodies of Robert Herwood and his wife Antigone, his best friends since university. Their tiny newborn child lies with them.The justice system, along with Robert and Antigone's friends, are quick to assume that he is guilty. Only Elise, Robert's sister, realises that he isn't guilty of the murders, and sets out to find out what really happened.

The story plays in and out of Joel's memories and the present, and gradually unravels how he was caught and held in their obsessive, unhealthy relationship. Little by little, the horrifying truth emerges, and it isn't what any of them expected. Well, any of them except one...

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1. Prologue

Sunday the 22nd of February, 1931

 

It was cold out there in the early hours, and the front step grew harder and harder as the chill of it worked its way through the bones of his pelvis. He hung onto that. The step was a real thing, which had existed before he had and which would go on existing after he was gone.

            He spent a while imagining old men and women who, having sighed out their hold on life in the ancient four-poster upstairs, were carried out of the house in weighty, ornate coffins. And then he tried to think of the new; of the young couple taking over from the old, new life starting again in the sandy bricks. But his mind kept following those old men and women along the road to the churchyard and into the ground.

            He started shivering somewhere towards dawn. For a moment, his mind having drifted, he wondered why he was so cold, and held out his numbed arm. He saw where the thin shirt was soaked through and sticking to him, making his skin look scarlet underneath, and then he remembered it oozing out onto him and who it was he held in his lap. It stopped his breathing for a moment. He tried not to move, but the step tilted beneath him and a cracking noise deafened him as the flower-bed to his side opened up its frost-hardened soil on a great gaping blackness.

            But it was nearly sunrise. He looked away and up at the horizon, watching it furiously until everything else faded away, blotted out by grainy brown patterns.

            It was around then that an elderly woman flickered into his vision as she walked her dog past the gate and he knew he wouldn’t sit there for much longer. For a moment it looked as though she might walk straight on without seeing, but of course the dog, a highland terrier which looked grey in the half-light, stopped to sniff at the gatepost. His mistress, waiting for him to mark his own scent, had time to glance around.

            She gave a small start when she saw him, and he saw her eyes strain to see what was half wrapped around him and lying in his lap. And then her reactions played out the way he had already imagined, her eyes widening and her legs starting to move all of a stumble. The dog hung back, and was dragged along sideways for a moment before he began trotting to keep up.

            He knew where she was going but couldn’t hang onto that. He only wished she hadn’t made the horror which lay in his lap into a real thing.

            He couldn’t help but look then, at the golden hair which had turned a rusty red colour all along one side; at the parted grey lips; at the absent eyes. His heartbeat became a slow-dying creature inside him, spasming and juddering but somehow still continuing onto the next convulsion. He tried to stare hard enough at the blue-white face that the brown patterns would return and block it out, but before it could happen a soft breeze rose up, and he saw flesh and skin rise and fall, opening to reveal an achingly vivid red, only to be covered once again. In his mind it was a butterfly, revealing and hiding its beauty only to him, and so gorgeous in its flirtation that he leaned down and pressed his lips to it.


 

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