There had been five ties attached to the copper rail on the inside of the wardrobe door. Now there were only four. He’d only worn them for those special occasions; work “do”s, family get-togethers, legal situations. Dead two months now and the tie hadn’t been replaced. It would take a novel’s worth of space to do justice to his particular type of depravity. A depravity that had been holed up voicelessly in this seemingly dull family home for over ten years; never leaking out into the further world until those last few weeks. The children’s hell had lain undiscovered within this outwardly hum-drum household.
The ceaseless sexual experimentation to which they were subjected had been tightly locked up in that anonymous pebble-dashed semi-detched. Three children, from their youngest years, the victims of a kind of carnal violence that still shocks the reader of the red-tops: the mind-defying erotic warfare unleashed by parents on their own offspring. Each child, trussed up with his or her own identifying tie, had staggered along the spiteful stations of a cruel and blood-burnished cross; their eyes flashing deep animal fear and a numb confusion. The hands that were supposed to offer them those things to refine their existences now became the callous, cold-skinned tools of a coolly engineered humiliation.
Over that ten year period the two boys and a younger sister had shuddered through slow-moving seasons of domestic agony: penetration, bite marks, bike chains, and filmed encounters with paying “guests”. Only when one of the children had scraped together enough crumbs of courage to break out through the boarded up bedroom window and over to the neighbours did the end begin finally starting.
In school, and other social arena, they had been programmed to put aside their punishment and even feel that it had been their responsibility. That it had been their fault the parents had done those despicable things to them. That their dirtiness, or so it had been repeatedly drummed into them, should be hidden from all outside eyes. Bruises or broken skin had been recast as the result of playground tumbles or falls from inconsiderate bicycles. Other, distant, family members, those uncles and aunts in far-flung industrial towns and cousins on cold-shouldered housing estates, had sighed their wordless incomprehension when the story started spilling into the newspapers and then into their conciousnesses: “but we never had the least idea …”.
Then things seeped out unstoppably, the children taken away to frantic foster-homes, and the investigations began. Without any phorensic certainties it had been next to impossible to prove the allegations: the children’s frail word was ranged up against the robust and indignant denials of the parents. All souvenirs, whether on celluloid or audio casette, had been diligently disposed; tape spooling into the sucking cistern. The house certainly didn’t seem like a twisted theatre of incestuous torment.
During the initial stages of the investigations other names had stained the charge sheet; other stale-sweat scented visitants with pound notes and illegal erections. Don Prince who worked with the father out at the kitchen appliances warehouse. Mickey Trent who played darts with the parents every Wednesday evening at the Prince of Wales. Sid Crossheart who ran the Help The Spastics shop in town. They were all on that short-eyed carnal cast-list, dishing out domestic degradation to those unhidden children; either participating in the brokered fun or else standing on its tear-drizzled fringes smoking Benson and Hedges and fingering the flies of their cheaply tailored slacks.
The police pushed on and then the father hanged himself with his darts club tie. They found him suspended from a 300-year old oak out in the woodlands that bearded the ugly little town. It was registered as a suicide and he was given a shunned funeral service attended only by his wife and a local newspaper journalist. And shortly after the four ties left attached to the copper rail on the inside of the wardrobe door were reduced to four: Don Prince’s body was discovered dumped behind the beer barrels out the back of the Labour in Vain. His thick-fingered hands abruptly bound behind his back, the gold and green striped tie eating into his post-mortem flesh. His throat ripped open with surgical precision; the blood thickening over the exposed flaps like the parodic lips on a secondary mouth. With nothing to go on the police enquiry eventually petered out into a cold-toned indifference. If he was caught up in that paedophile thing then why really bother catching the killer? He got what he needed.
But they knew something sinister was afoot when they came across Mickey Trent’s frying-pan solid corpse stiffening quietly in a pigsty, arms baled back behind him with another tie. No concrete connection could made between the ties. The tie that the father had used to hang himself had been lost somewhere after the affair had been classed as self-slaughter, and no police officer had ever troubled to examine or even count the father’s ties hanging up there in that wardrobe. Everything else had been persistently sniffed through, but not the ties.
Sydney Crossheart turned up in an out-of-town house, derelict for years and used by glue sniffers. His face caved-in determinedly and eyes long since relocated to a stone marten’s stomach. And again a tie tugged about his stiff wrists. It was only when they discovered the mother that they realised that all the deaths were lovingly linked. She’d hung herself from the bannister rails using the last of the ties; the one that had been bought by the younger daughter as a Christmas gift for her father. She revolved lifelessly above the carpeted stairs, droplets of urine dribbling down onto the foot-worn fabric.
She’d wanted to use the same instruments that had been involved in her children’s torture on those who had been its authors. Using a tie to dispatch both herself and her other hideous confederates was a guilt-wired attempt at redemption. The children, now inserted into adopted families, would always see a windsor knot as a compacted escutcheon of their excruciations: family ties had been long undone.