CHAIN REACTION by Marion Twyman.

I was beginning to dread the postman calling, there had been four of the letters over the past fortnight, and I was very, very frightened. They were all the same, a plain white envelope with a typed address label stuck on it, containing a sheet of plain white paper with a short typed message. “I know you lied – Danny is Innocent” .
I knew it was wrong, but I honestly felt I had no option at the time, and my lie under oath meant that an innocent man was in prison for fifteen years for something my husband had done. I have regretted it since, oh how I have regretted it, but what could I do about it afterwards without being charged with perjury and maybe ending up in prison myself?
My life seems to have been based on lies since I married Ed. At first he was the ideal husband, but he gradually changed. The first time he hit me was about six months after our wedding. He was drunk, and he was so sorry the next day, pleading desperately for forgiveness and promising never to do it again. Some hopes. I began lying about the bruises, saying I bumped into things, hoping people believed me. Then when Ed began stopping me going out to meet my friends I lied about why I couldn’t go. If he was invited it was a different matter, he was the life and soul of any party, everyone liked him. Except me. When he had had drink he was an absolute beast, and I was too scared of him to even think of leaving, besides which, I had nowhere to go. He controlled all our money, I had to account for every penny I spent, and he constantly condemned me for being wasteful. My life was intolerable, and I didn’t think it could get any worse. Until the accident, that is. Danny, Ed’s business partner, said he had been with a married woman at the time someone driving their
transit had run down and killed three teenagers then fled the scene, but she didn’t come forward in support of him, and he refused to name her. Ed of course, had me,
and under threats that he would kill me if I refused, and promises of this being the watershed in his life, after which he would be a changed man, I stood up in the witness box and said he had been indoors with me all evening. There were only two sets of fingerprints in the van, Danny’s and Ed’s, so if Ed was with me, and Danny had no concrete alibi, Danny was assumed to have been driving the van, and the jury convicted him.
I was two months pregnant at the time of the accident, and Ed’s promises lasted three weeks before he came home drunk and beat me up so that I miscarried. Another lie, telling the paramedics I had fallen downstairs to account for my bruises and a cracked rib.
The trial took place last summer, and life had carried on since, me stricken with guilt, and with all spark gradually beaten out of me, hating Ed for what he had made me do, but unable to think of any way out of it for me or for Danny. Ed still hit me regularly, and I had spent many a sleepless night trying to think of a way out of it for all of us. Now these letters had started to arrive. Danny, Ed and I are the only people who know the truth, so who could be sending them? Perhaps Danny has managed to persuade someone of his innocence and they are trying to punish me, I just don’t know.
I had yet another sleepless night, caused mainly by the pain in my leg following a brutal kicking. Next morning I was limping so badly I rang in to work reporting sick. Another lie, I’m sure they don’t believe me any more, but don’t know
how to confront me about it. It happened to be Ed’s birthday, and as he left for work, he said “Just because it’s my birthday, don’t expect to be taken out for a meal, you

can cook me a bit of fillet steak instead.” No mention that I might have some too, he’d expect me to sit and watch him stuffing himself.
I’d bought him a card, but spilt some tea on the envelope as I wrote it, and I knew that would cause trouble, so I went into his office to see if I could find a replacement. I was not allowed to touch his computer or paperwork, but knew he wouldn’t notice an envelope missing. I found some in his desk drawer, and took one carefully to make sure I didn’t disturb anything. My blood ran cold at what else I found in that drawer – a sheet of labels, quoting my name and address – and there were four labels missing ! It was him, Ed, the hateful, evil brute, who was sending me the letters, not satisfied with breaking my body he was now starting to play mind games with me. I couldn’t believe that he would do such a thing, whatever could he expect to gain out of it? I lifted a few more envelopes to see what else was in the drawer, and –horror of horrors, there was a letter from the Prudential regarding a policy he had taken out on me three months ago for £50,000, including suicide cover after two years. If he hadn’t engineered an accidental death for me by then, he was making sure I would be ready to kill myself so that he would get the insurance money. Just how low could he sink, what an absolute mug I had been all these years, putting up with being his punchbag. Well, as the saying goes, even a worm will turn, and as I went back into the kitchen, I determined that he had hurt me for the last time.
It didn’t take me long to come up with a germ of an idea, and by lunchtime a plan had solidified in my mind. I felt very calm and collected, and confident it would work, and Danny would be released from prison. Of course I would be answerable for

committing perjury at his trial, which was only right, but I was hoping to plead mitigating circumstances.
When Ed came home, as usual he had a quick wash, then sat down and ate his fillet steak with all the trimmings, I had made a good job of it, and he was in a good mood. He even thanked me for my card!. I suggested as it was his birthday, he had a glass or two of the special Wild Turkey bourbon he liked so much, instead of his usual Bells Whisky. The bourbon is 101% proof, against the 43% proof Bells, and I was banking on him becoming very drunk very quickly. I poured him a large measure, and when he had downed it, topped it up. I did this four times, knowing that his mood was becoming blacker the more he drank. Hoping I had judged it right, I said I would go up and run his bath. He glowered at me, and as I passed his chair he lashed out and punched me hard in the ribs, winding me. I sobbed as I went upstairs, but inside I knew the bruises would help me this time. As I ran the bath, I tipped in most of my precious bath oil, which I knew he liked the smell of. I called him upstairs when the bath was ready, and he staggered drunkenly up, carrying the now almost empty bottle and his glass. I took the key out of the bathroom door so he couldn’t lock it, and went into our bedroom. I heard him blundering about, and the splashing as he got into the water. I crept downstairs, took my rubber gloves from the kitchen, then went to his office, where I typed a quick message on his computer, leaving it switched on. I went back upstairs and there was the welcome sound of regular heavy breathing coming from the bathroom. Peeping round the door I could see Ed was asleep. The glass was in the water and the bottle on its side on the floor. He was slumped down in the bath
with his mouth open, the waterline just below his shoulders. Standing at the end of the bath I took hold of his ankles and lifted his feet as high as I could into the air. Due to
the bath oil he slid down easily, but of course when his head went under the water he woke up and started to struggle. He couldn’t get a grip though, the bath was too slippery, and all my released pent-up hatred gave me the strength I needed to hold his feet up. He gradually stopped struggling and lay still. I counted to a hundred before I let go, and I started to sob with relief and hysteria. I stood looking at him for another couple of minutes to make sure there were no bubbles coming from his mouth, then I took off my wet clothes, put on my dressing gown and went down to the kitchen, where I calmly washed and dried the dinner things, putting the rubber gloves back in the drawer when I had finished.
I had to go back into the bathroom to put my wet clothes back on, and much as I hated him, I couldn’t bear to look at his body. I went back down, and phoned for an ambulance, yelling hysterically that I had found my husband drowned in the bath.
Everything went by in a bit of a blur after that. The paramedics and police arrived, and they spotted the message on the computer. It said “I can’t live this lie any longer, Danny is innocent, I was driving the van at the time of the hit and run. I forced Angela with violence and threats to lie under oath and give me an alibi. Please be lenient with her.”
At the inquest into his death, the conclusion was that Ed had drowned while under the influence of drink, unable to save himself because of the slippery bath oil in the water. The amount of bourbon he had consumed had rendered him unconscious. It would have been accidental death if he hadn’t left the message but that showed that he intended to do himself harm.
The message was also treated as proof that Danny was innocent, rather than the police just taking my word for it. I don’t know if they actually believed the
drowning story or just felt extremely sorry for me when I showed them my bruises, and told them what my life was like. I was supported by hospital records and my workmates, who had long ago worked out what was going on, but no one knew what to do about it. I even told the police he used my bath oil to spite me. It was lie after lie, adding to the long chain, and the lies all came so easily, I had been used to lying for so long. When I was charged with perjury, the judge took everything into account, and I received a suspended sentence, as I had hoped I would, it was much more preferable to a life sentence for premeditated murder.
When Danny was released from prison he was a changed man, naturally, and although he understood my reasons, he wasn’t prepared to carry on our affair where we had left off, because I had betrayed him by swearing I was with Ed when in reality I had been with him. He will never know about his child that I miscarried. I sold Ed’s business and gave him half the substantial proceeds, and yesterday he came to say goodbye before he flew off to live in New Zealand. I wished him well and I truly meant it, there would be no more lies, the chain was at last broken. After all, I have a wonderful new life, it’s only right he should have one too, it’s just a pity they will be along different paths.

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