'Pretend you're deaf and seek to listen with your eyes
For the silent scream of vengeance your fractured heart denies'
A dark, contemporary family drama of a man seeking reconciliation with the family he abandoned sixteen years earlier.
'Believe me, there is nothing bold or courageous in taking the decision to sacrifice everyone and everything you have lived and worked for since you were a young man in exchange for the uncertainty of a new life thousands of miles away, with a woman you have convinced yourself you love, but, in truth, you hardly know.
Don’t kid yourself. All it takes is a heady mix of bravado, false conviction, cowardice and a total lack of conscience.
I should know. I did it.
Sixteen years have passed and an opportunity comes out of the blue to make amends, to rekindle the bonds of family I once too easily discarded. Or so I hoped.
But I was naïve.
I thought that words could heal. They can’t. All they achieved was to distort the pain of rejection that feeds the prospect of revenge. Nor could I foresee the treacherous path that lay ahead as I stumbled into the bitter secrets of all our pasts and the trail of lies, deception and murder that would lay bare secrets for so long hidden.
But I do now.
The deaf may not hear the swish of the assailant’s blade but they still feel the pain of the cut.
My name? It’s Gilbert Hart, but call me Gil. Some people know me as Hartless.'
Madrid - 2019
He had sat in the car since four that morning. The fake Rolex showed it was now almost ten. That would make it eleven Spanish time. He adjusted the dial. It would always be Spanish time from hereon in. After today, he doubted he would ever need to turn it back to Portuguese or UK time. They would never release him. They would take the watch. Just as well. It was a miracle the fucking thing hadn’t stopped working years ago. What kind of fake keeps going? Him, perhaps?
He had kept the windows closed whilst the early morning chill in the city persisted. His stale breath had misted up the windscreen. The interior of the ageing Astra carried the faint smell unique to the aftermath of a takeaway McDonald’s hamburger meal and tinged with an aroma of ground coffee beans from the café con leche to accompany it.
He clasped his fingers around the cuff of his jacket, moving forward in his seat to clean the windscreen with his arm. The finished result was worse than when he started. Leave it. As soon as he saw them, he would start the engine and put on the heater blower. That would clear it. No point in drawing attention to a parked car with the engine running, especially one with UK plates and no road tax or insurance, and a driver with no licence.
It hadn't rained overnight, so the car was still sparkling from yesterday’s car wash. It had taken a mix of Castellano and sign language to convince the attendant he wanted the super-duper wash with the wheel polish, special waxing and underbody sealant treatment. The man had looked bemused. The paintwork on the car was faded and pitted with age, rusting in points where it had been standing for too long. The wheels were encrusted with dirt and burred where they had been scraped against kerbs.
‘¿Estás seguro?’ the man had asked, looking at his colleague with a sardonic smile on his lips. Crazy English. More money than sense.
‘Perfectly sure,’ he replied. ‘Sí.’
He couldn’t be angry. The attendant had his best interests at heart. The man wasn’t to know.
He half-opened the window and brushed the remains of a cobweb off the wing mirror. Tenacious things, cobwebs. With all those whirring brushes, streams of water and hot air to contend with, they still hung around, seemingly indestructible. Lucky humans weren’t built that way.
He felt he owed the couple that much. If he was going to accelerate into two people and get blood and twisted limbs all over the paintwork, at least he would show them the courtesy of making sure they were killed by a clean car. It was the decent thing to do.
The front door of the apartment block opened. These people were creatures of habit. The man checked he had the keys in his pocket, ushered the woman down the steps and closed the door.
He started the engine, turning the screen heater to maximum as he did so. The car spluttered into life. Traffic was light along this residential street. He knew exactly how long it would take him to reach the crossing. Two days of watching and practice. You know what they say: practice makes perfect. The car rolled forward.
Some people never did the sensible thing. Ridiculous! The pastelería was on the other side of the road, twenty metres before the marked crossing. The sensible thing to do was walk further along, cross the road safely and stroll back to the café for their morning solos y pasteles. But no , they crossed as soon as they were directly opposite. What would they save? Two minutes? Lazy. Plain lazy.
Why was he getting uptight? On or off the crossing, he was going to kill them anyway.
He pushed down on the accelerator, his arm accidentally jerking on the windscreen wipers. He slowed slightly as he looked to cancel them. Shit! The windscreen was all smeary on the outside now. Damn! He fumbled to locate the screen washer control. At the very last moment, they had to be able to see him, to recognise their executioner.
They were looking around to see if it was safe to cross. Give me another few seconds, he said under his breath.
The car was doing sixty. That was miles per hour, not kilometres. He didn’t need to look at the speedometer. The tracking wobble began at sixty, the steering wheel trembling under his unyielding grip.
They had started to cross and he was closing fast.
They were in the middle of the road, no man’s land. Not far enough across; too far to turn back.
One thing he hadn’t foreseen. As they saw the car advancing, they halted, unsure of whether to continue. He was fifty metres away.
A car was approaching in the other direction. Hurry on or turn back? What would they do? He pushed the accelerator to the floor.
They began to turn back, all the time looking straight at the Astra. Had they seen him? Did they recognise him? It wasn’t just terrorists who drove vehicles at innocent people; not that these evil bastards could be described as innocent.
The oncoming car began to slow down, giving them the opportunity to turn and walk back.
It was now or never. He swerved across the road, picturing in his mind the moment of impact. With any luck, once he hit them they would be propelled backwards into the air and crash into the other car. Thankfully, the other car looked fairly clean.
He aimed and closed his eyes tight. He could not look. ‘Here I come. Die, you treacherous bastards!
‘For God’s sake, someone, tell me,’ he screamed. ‘How has it come to this?’
LOVEREADING VIEW ON DEAF WISH
'Deaf Wish' by Geoff Cook is an intriguing, well-constructed, suspenseful thriller, which has everything from drug dealing, explosion, homosexuality and adultery to blackmail, incest, suicide and murder, culminating in an act of violent revenge. The story is narrated by Gilbert Hart, who, after 16 years, attempts an ill-fated reconciliation with his ex-wife and two sons, when he unexpectedly receives an invitation to a wedding in Portugal. His sons, however, have a dark and sinister ulterior motive for inviting him. The narrative moves seamlessly between multiple locations and dates, as we learn of Gil's affair with the family's Spanish au pair in 1992 and their subsequent move to Spain together. The ruthless and unnatural nature of the family he has become an, at best, tolerated member of, gradually becomes apparent. After a violent end to the relationship in 1996, Gil returns to the UK, where, in 2008, he decides, with expert manipulation from a former family friend, to attend his son, Albert's, marriage ceremony. It isn't long before this scenario also turns bitter, violent and treacherous. The story begins and ends in the present day, when Gil, now completely broken and betrayed by everyone he once cared for, wreaks vengeance on those he believes have got away with their contribution to his mental state and the crimes that caused it. The movement backwards and forwards in time and location has the potential to confuse the reader but the necessarily large cast of characters is so well drawn that we think we know them individually. However, they all guard secrets of a more or less unsavoury nature and only the children are actually what they seem to be. A very enjoyable and stimulating read.
Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador