Mattresside

Jason Wright pressed on the pillow that smothered his mother’s face until her frail, struggling body had stilled. Sorrow, anger, self pity and shame prompted the tears that followed.

When Jason had composed himself he went downstairs and called the police.

The two officers who called at the house found the front door had been left  open. They entered, cautiously, and found Jason sitting on a sofa in the living room.  He was staring blankly at a blank television screen.

‘You alright,’ asked one of the officers, warily. ‘Did you call us?’

Jason turned to the officer. ‘Yes I did.’

‘What’s the matter, sir? Why did you call us?’

Jason’s tone lacked emotion. ‘I’ve killed my mother. I couldn’t bear it any longer, the pain she was in, I just couldn’t bear seeing her like that.’

The officer took out his notebook and scribbled something down. ‘Where is your mother?’

‘She’s upstairs.’

The officer nodded to his colleague who went upstairs. Shortly afterwards the colleague’s voice could be heard on the radio requesting an ambulance. He came back downstairs and spoke directly to Jason. ‘I’m arresting you on suspicion of murder.’ The crime scene was secured and Jason was taken to the police station.

When Detective Sergeant Jones and Detective Constable Mates arrived at the scene the paramedics were still there. Fortunately, they’d caused minimal disturbance and had handled the body only enough to confirm the old lady was dead. Jones cast his eyes over the bedroom, noting the poor state of the decor and the pillow on the floor that he assumed had been used to suffocate the victim.

He carried out a cursory examination of the body. The woman looked between sixty five and seventy. It was difficult to tell. She was in an emaciated state. Her  grey hair was unwashed and unkempt. It looked as though she’d chopped it with some shears. Jones noticed a tattoo of an anchor with a mermaid draped round it on the back of her right shoulder. It was the sort of thing you’d expect on a sailor and seemed out of place on the frail old body. There were no visible injuries on the woman, no bruises, grazes or cuts . The top of the bedside cabinet was strewn with various medications and on the floor by the bed there were a number of books and magazines. Jones bent down to read some of the titles. They were all on religious subjects, nothing that could be described as light reading. Checks on the police systems hadn’t come up with anything useful. Neither the suspect nor his mother were known to the police. There had been one call relating to the address, about a year ago, a complaint about dog fouling which had been referred to the council.  Jones concluded that the investigation would be a fairly straightforward affair. Looked like a mercy killing. Poor bloke.

When they’d finished at the scene, DS Jones and DC Mates went back to the station and spoke to the custody sergeant.

‘How is he?’ Asked DC Mates.

‘He’s alright,’ said the sergeant. ‘I assume you’ll need forensic samples so I’ve put him in a dry cell on constant watch’

‘Yeah,’ said Jones, ‘we’ll need to get his hands swabbed and probably some nail clippings. I’ll have a word with the SOCO and get back to you. Did he say anything when he was being booked in?’

‘No, he seemed fairly with it, he’s not on any medication, he doesn’t seem to have any mental health issues or any conditions to concern us.’ We’ve put a call in for the doctor to have a look at him.’

This didn’t bother Jones, it was standard practice to have a suspect examined if he’d been arrested for murder. They didn’t want any later allegations about a suspect’s frail mental state being used to challenge any admissions, it was important that the suspect was deemed fit to be interviewed.

‘Does he want a solicitor?’ asked Mates.

‘Yes and he’s asked if his aunt can be told he’s here, I just wanted to check it’s okay with you before I get an officer to go round and tell her.’

‘I’ll do that,’ said Jones, ‘I’ll need to get some information from her.’

‘Oh,’ added the sergeant, more as an afterthought, ‘he asked for a Bible and a pen and some paper. Can’t see any problem with that, got any objections?’

‘No, none at all,’ said Jones. ‘I think his mother was quite religious, he’s probably the same.’

Jones took Mates with him to visit the suspect’s aunt. When they knocked on her door a woman in her late fifties answered.

‘Mrs Wallace?’Jones produced his warrant card, identified himself and  asked if they could come in.

‘Nothing serious, I hope?’ queried Mrs Wallace, as she led them through the hallway and into the sitting room.

‘I’m afraid we have some rather bad news about your sister, Margaret Wright,’ said Jones as he followed her into the sitting room

‘Is she dead?’

‘I’m afraid so.’

‘Oh dear. We’ve been expecting it for some time. I suppose it’s a blessing really, she’s been in an awful state for a while now.’ She shook her head. ‘ Oh do excuse me, I’m forgetting my manners, please take a seat.’ The two detectives sat on a sofa and Mrs Wallace sat opposite them in an armchair. ‘I take it Margaret’s son Jason is aware?’

‘Well, that’s really why we’ve come to see you. Jason asked us to. We don’t know the full circumstances but I’m afraid we’ve had to arrest Jason. You see, we believe he killed your sister.’

Mrs Wallace put her hand to her throat. ‘Oh dear God, I can’t believe that. Jason wouldn’t do such a thing, he adored Margaret. What on earth happened?’

‘Well,’ said Jones, ‘Jason rang us and said that he’d killed his mother. He told the officers she was in great pain and that’s why he did it. We haven’t spoken to him yet as we’re not allowed to ask him any questions until he’s seen his solicitor.’

Mrs Wallace’s hand was still clutching her throat, a look of incredulity on her face. ‘How did Margaret die?’

‘Well, I’m afraid we can only speculate at the moment and that’s partly why we’re here. We wondered whether you could give us any information that might help us understand the situation a little better. You know, why Jason would do a thing like that?’

The sister didn’t reply. Her eyes welled up and she began to sob. Jones and Mates waited patiently until she managed to control herself.

‘Forgive me.’

‘No, no,’ said Jones, ‘I’d expect nothing else. Would you like us to come back?’

‘No, no, I’ll be alright.’ She wiped the underneath of her eyes with her forefingers. ‘Margaret has been ill with cancer for over a year, she can only have had weeks to live. She was in a lot of pain, an awful lot of pain. Jason’s been looking after her throughout her illness, it’s been a great strain on him, he’s such a gentle boy.’

‘Where’s Mrs wright’s husband?’ asked Mates.

‘Oh, he died years ago, just after Jason was born. It was very sad really. They’d been trying for a child for years and Margaret eventually gave up. She was forty two when Jason was conceived. They were over the moon. Then Robin, her husband, had a heart attack and died. They said it was myocarditis, it was about a week after Jason was born. It was absolutely out of the blue, so sudden.  Margaret went from euphoria to depression. It lasted a long while. She changed completely. Before Jason was born Margaret and Robin had been the life and soul, they were always out partying, always socialising. They were very popular, full of life. I must admit I was a little envious of her. I had three young children at the time and you know what it’s like trying to stay clean and tidy. Margaret always seemed to be so smart and glamorous, she was always immaculately turned out. Then, when Robin died, she sort of withdrew. She thought his death was some kind of punishment, some kind of retribution. She started mixing with some strange people, religious types. She became a born again Christian. I remember her telling me that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. It was so strange hearing her talk like that. Jason, she said, was a gift, a miracle, Robin’s death a punishment. She thought she’d been blessed and punished, though heaven knows what for. At first I thought the religious thing would just be a passing phase but over the years she’s become more and more devout. She was always very protective of Jason, I think she was terrified of losing him, petrified that God would punish her. She filled him with all sorts of nonsense.’ Aware that she may have caused offence Mrs Wallace quickly added, ‘You’ve probably guessed I’m not very religious myself.’

‘Neither are we,’ said Jones, reassuringly.

‘Fortunately,’ Mrs Wallace continued, ‘Jason seems to have turned out alright. He really did adore his mother. This is so shocking. Poor Jason, he obviously couldn’t stand the pain she was in.’

As Mrs Wallace paused, Mates took the opportunity to ask a question. ‘So tell us a bit more about Jason, how would you describe his character?’

‘Well,’ she began, then paused. ‘I don’t mean to sound unkind but I’d probably describe Jason as a bit socially awkward, a bit of a recluse. I don’t know whether that’s down to his personality or whether it’s because Margaret was so protective of him. But he’s very kind and gentle. I don’t think he’s got any friends as such although I think they go to quite a few church social events. He has a very close relationship with Margaret, or had,’ she corrected herself. ‘Poor boy’s been pretty much looking after her for the past year full time so it’s not really a surprise that he doesn’t get out much. I know they go to the church regularly so he may have friends there.’

Mates asked a few more questions but Mrs Wallace could give no other useful information. Eventually, Jones wrapped up the conversation. ‘I might need a statement from you at some later stage if that’s alright Mrs Wallace?’ She agreed and they left.

‘Tragic, isn’t it?’ said Mates as they got into the car. Jones nodded.

They drove  in silence for some time before Jones broke it. ‘Just a thought,  did Wright have a computer?’

‘I don’t know,’ said mates.

‘Better pop back to the house. If he’s got one it’ll be worth having a look just to make sure he’s not been visiting any of those weird sites about assisted suicide. You never know, it might have been premeditated, he might have been planning this for a while.’

When they got back to the CID office Jones called the  custody sergeant. ‘How’s our suspect? Has he seen the doctor yet?’

‘Yep,’ said the custody sergeant, ‘the doctor’s okayed him for interview, there’s nothing to concern us.’

‘How’s he been behaving?’

‘Oh, he’s been as good as gold, been beavering away reading the Bible and scribbling notes from it.’

Mates returned to the house where he found a computer in Wright’s bedroom. He called Jones to let him know.  The computer would need to be examined and they would need the result of the post mortem before they interviewed Wright. Jones decided to call it a day and went home to get some sleep.

The following day the post mortem confirmed that Mrs Wright had been suffocated, ‘Asphyxia – death caused by mechanical occlusion of the mouth and nose’. And Mates updated Jones with the results of the computer examination. ‘Nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual type of stuff for a young man; YouTube, porn sites, E Bay, Amazon. The only weird ones, for me, are all the religious sites he visits. I find it a bit creepy but there you go, each to his own. Apart from that, nothing out of the ordinary.’

Jones was satisfied. Their enquiries were complete. As far as he was concerned, the post mortem result, along with the suspect’s admissions to the officers who arrested him, were enough to get Wright charged. Interviewing him would just round off the process. Jones called Wright’s solicitor and told her they were ready to interview her client.

When the solicitor arrived DC Mates took her into a consultation room to explain the circumstances of Wright’s arrest. He reappeared about forty minutes later and spoke to Jones who was chatting with the custody sergeant.

‘Right, she just needs to have a consultation and then we’re ready to interview. I’ll go and get him.’

‘I’ll get him,’ said Jones, ‘it’s about time I spoke to him.’ Jones followed a custody assistant down the cell corridor and was let into the suspect’s cell. Wright was lying on his front on the cell bench, pencil tip in his mouth, engrossed in the Bible. Jones introduced himself. ‘Your solicitor’s here, she wants to speak to you before we ask you some questions. If you follow me I’ll take you to her.’

Wright replied, meekly. ‘Thank you, sir.’

When Jones had first seen Wright on the custody CCTV system, sitting forlornly in his cell, he’d been struck by how young and inoffensive the boy looked. This was even more apparent in the flesh. Wright didn’t have the cocky resentment that characterised many of the young men he dealt with. He was polite and respectful.

Jones took Wright to his solicitor and then, accompanied by Mates, returned to Wright’s cell. He picked up the notepaper on the cell bench and read through the biblical quotes that had been scribbled down.

You have heard the commandment that says, ‘’You must not commit adultery.’’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Mathew 5:27-28

And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed. Corinthians 12:21

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. Revelation 2:21-23

Jones passed the notes to Mates who read them and shook his head. ‘I’ll never get all this Bible stuff, it’s not normal is it? How old is he? Twenty five? And his head’s full of all this crap? It’s not normal is it?‘                                                                                                         ‘Who are we to judge?’ said Jones, his tone faux reverential.

The interview was painful. Wright admitted killing his mother, but he’d plainly loved her. When asked what had happened he’d broken down and given an account, between sobs, of how his mother had been diagnosed with cancer about a year ago and how he’d washed and fed her but she’d continued to deteriorate. The doctor wouldn’t increase her morphine doses and, despite Wright’s prayers, she continued to be in excruciating pain.  On the night he’d been arrested she’d been crying out in such pain that he’d just snapped. At that stage Wright had buried his face in his hands and as the two police officers and the solicitor looked on uncomfortably, he kept repeating how much he loved his mother. Jones was relieved when the interview ended. He was used to sympathising with victims not suspects.                                                                                                                                       ‘Poor sod,’ said Mates, when Wright had been returned  to his cell. ‘I felt really sorry for him when he started blubbering. He’s a bit of a mummy’s boy isn’t he? God help him if he goes to prison.’

Wright was charged with murder. He was remanded in custody and taken to the magistrates court the next morning. His aunt was there to support him. He entered a guilty plea and the case was adjourned for sentencing. Not surprisingly, the case had made the headlines and did so again when Wright reappeared at crown court to be sentenced. The judge, in his summing up, described the case as a tragedy. Wright, he said, was clearly a son who dearly loved his mother, he’d cared for her unstintingly during her illness. There was a general consensus that his actions were carried out with no other intention than to relieve her constant pain which had made her life a living nightmare. The Judge’s deliberations went on for some time but it was no surprise to anyone when Wright received a suspended sentence. Both Jones and Mates felt the verdict was proper.

Jason Wright returned home, exhausted. There were cards and letters on the floor of the hallway when he opened the front door. He collected them up and went into the living room and sat where he’d been sitting when the police came and arrested him. He began to sift through the post. There were cards from well wishers and sympathisers, there were cards from those seeking to re assure him that everyone should have the right to die without living in pain and then there were hate messages saying he should have got life, been hanged and that he would spend eternity in hell.

Jason read the cards with a numbed disinterest then got up from the sofa and went upstairs to his mother’s bedroom. He stood staring at the empty bed then sat on its edge and began to cry.

Jason didn’t retrieve his computer from the police. He’d determined to do without one. If necessary he could  use one of the  library’s or one at the church resource centre. He could do his research and access his e mails on one of their computers. Initially, this proved to be a satisfactory arrangement, but as the weeks went by his willpower was increasingly tested. Each time he felt his resolve waning he would remember one of the many biblical quotes his mother used to throw at him. But ,eventually, the temptation became too strong and he bought a computer. As soon as he’d set it up Jason began a search on the internet. And as he searched his mind was tormented by the memory of the events  that preceded his mother’s death.

He’d been viewing porn on his computer, a gift only recently received from his mother after she’d been persuaded  by a church colleague that it was a necessary evil. He knew he shouldn’t watch that filth. He knew it was wrong. His mother had often warned him about the pleasures of the flesh and he’d dreaded her catching him. His viewing was always accompanied by guilt, more keenly felt when interrupted by his mother’s coughing and moaning. He’d prayed and fasted and asked forgiveness so many times but he always succumbed.

When Jason had first watched porn his urges were easily sated. But it wasn’t long before the professionally staged scenes failed to excite. They lacked realism.  Once the novelty of the never-seen-before wore off, Jason trawled other sites and his interest was drawn to the amateur porn where the enthusiasm demonstrated by the participants was more arousing than the scripted grunts and mechanical acting of the professionals.

On that awful night he’d discovered an old piece of amateur VHS footage which promised to be particularly titillating. But it wasn’t long before his viewing had  been interrupted by the sound of his mother’s anguished cries. At first he’d ignored her. Well used to the sounds of her pain there was nothing he could do, she wasn’t due her morphine for a while and so he continued to focus on the screen. The footage opened to a scene in a bedroom which contained two large double beds. The participants were all wearing formal evening dress as though they’d been to some kind of upmarket event. They were wearing those elegant masquerade masks that just covered the eyes and added to the atmosphere of refined and elegant lasciviousness. They seemed carefree, laughing and joking as they undressed, stroked and fondled each other. Jason, strongly aroused by the unfolding debauchery, began to masturbate. His mother’s distressed voice called out to him, dampening his arousal. He thought briefly of stopping the footage and attending to her but, eager to see the action develop, he shouted that he would be with her shortly and put her out of his mind. Jason jerked himself furiously as the debauchery intensified. His mother shouted out again, her groans now louder, providing an irritating accompaniment to the lusty moans of the revellers. He ignored her, his attention now fixed on a particular scene where a woman was enjoying the attentions of three men. She was voluptuous, wanton, lustful. The Jezebel, thought Jason and the biblical reference inflamed his excitement, almost to the point of no return, but he managed to hang on, to prolong the pleasure. As the amateur cameraman panned in on the woman, Jason’s frenzied activity was jolted by a shock that paralysed him. The tattoo of a mermaid, entwined seductively around an anchor, could clearly be seen on the woman’s right shoulder. The masked Jezebel was suddenly recognisable. The shape of the head, the nose and mouth, a younger her; sinful, wicked.  And as the man gripping her hips began to thrust  back and forth the woman’s moans mingled with the moans of the woman in his mother’s bedroom. They had the same tone, the same pitch. Jason’s whole being concentrated on the stereophonic rhythms of his mother’s pain and pleasure as they merged into a throbbing cacophony in his head which felt like bursting with rage, and it was only when he’d finished smothering the whore that he became conscious of his actions.

Jason came back to the present, his heart racing, his body sweaty with the memory of his crime. He focussed on the computer screen. He’d found the website. He hovered the mouse over the link to his mother’s amateur performance. He hesitated. ‘The Jezebel, the filthy whore,’ said an inner voice. ‘The filthy, Godless bitch.’ And as the feelings of guilt, shame, lust and desire overwhelmed him, he clicked on the mouse and began his journey into heaven and hell.