Home > The Good Samaritan(12)

The Good Samaritan(12)
Author: John Marrs

Ah, Chantelle.

I’d spoken to her God knows how many times leading up to her death, but her calls could never be traced back to me. Callers trust us because we protect their anonymity and we can’t trace their numbers. There are no direct lines to us and we don’t have extension numbers. Based on the dialling code of a landline or the GPS of a mobile, calls to End of the Line’s national number are diverted to the caller’s nearest branch. And whichever of us is free to answer will do so. If a branch’s lines are all engaged, the call goes to one of four neighbouring counties. The police must have assumed that because Chantelle was local, we’d get her calls.

‘How many deaths have been linked to us now?’ Sanjay asked Janine.

‘According to the records,’ Janine began, leafing through a printed-out spreadsheet, ‘this new case makes twenty-four in Northamptonshire in the last five years.’

I couldn’t take credit for all of them, as much as I’d liked to have.

‘Hmm, slightly higher than average, then,’ said Sanjay.

Janine was being distracted by her computer’s refusal to accept her password. ‘Bloody thing,’ she snapped.

‘It’s your initial and then surname and your chosen four-digit number,’ Sanjay reminded her. I memorised the numbers she added to a list of notes entitled ‘Passwords’ on her iPad before she slipped it back into her ugly orange handbag.

‘I don’t understand what the police want,’ I said. ‘They know our job isn’t to talk people out of dying or break their confidence. We’re just here to listen.’

‘Thank you, Laura. I am very aware of what we do,’ replied Janine piously. ‘They’re investigating whether they can build a case against a drug dealer she was in a relationship with, and wanted to find out if she’d spoken to one of us about him. I reiterated, anything that’s said in conversation is in the strictest confidence.’

Chantelle had spoken to me about him on many occasions. Had he not constantly eroded her self-confidence and plied her with heroin, our paths might never have crossed. I owed him my silence.

‘How many times did she call?’ asked Sanjay.

‘Nineteen times in the weeks before she died,’ Janine replied, and removed a packet of biscuits from her drawer, emblazoned with the words ‘gluten- and dairy-free’. ‘If she came through to this branch, someone must remember her. And they must know that we don’t encourage callers to be reliant on talking to just one of us. A second volunteer might offer a different mindset that helps them more than another can.’

‘Perhaps you might want to send a memo out reminding people of that?’ I suggested.

Janine gave me another one of her withering glances, so I made my way back to my booth, willing a terminal illness upon her. Not a short one that developed quickly and snuffed her out within a couple of months, but a long, nasty one that ate the bitch alive.

It felt like it had been a close call. As a precautionary measure, I needed to protect myself, so I promised myself I’d take a step back from lining up any future candidates. But only after Steven and I finished our work together.

There are five rules I expect each candidate to follow if our relationship is to prove effective, and Steven would be no exception if he was to make that third, all-important call.

The first rule is that I am the one in control. Ultimately it will always be a candidate’s decision whether they live or die, and there’s nothing I can do about that. But I need to make them understand that without my help, their attempt to leave this world with minimal fuss will likely fail.

I’ll throw statistics at them to prove my point, like how three-quarters of people who try to take their life end up botching it because they’re ill-prepared. Mentally they might be ready, but if they think they can slice into any vein or hang from a tree and ta-da, that’s it, game over, then they’re wrong. Pain-free, romanticised suicides only ever happen in television dramas. When it’s done incorrectly, an attempt can leave a person with crippling, life-changing injuries.

My second rule is that a candidate must trust me because I know best. I am a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to ways and means. I have done my research. I have read up on all feasible methods online, in public libraries and in medical reports. I have attended inquests of suicides and I have learned from the successes and failures of the dead.

I know how to jump from even a relatively low bridge or building and have the best possible chance of a fatal outcome – even a seven-storey plunge has a decent survival rate if you don’t get it right. I know the most effective painkillers and benzodiazepines to combine, and which countries export them with no questions asked. I know which DIY shops sell the strongest, best-quality ropes and I know the angle they need to be knotted. I know how to fatally land in water from a great height, and what length of a barrel to hack from what make of shotgun to stretch from mouth to trigger finger. I even know the best saw blades to use to cut it. I know how to properly secure a pipe to a car exhaust. I know how to suffocate and self-strangulate and the local bodies of water where riptides and sea tides will sweep you away no matter how strong your anchor. I know all of this because I am an expert.

The third rule is that a candidate must agree to do it within five weeks of our arrangement. If they can’t get their affairs in order by then, I’ll know they’re wavering and I’ll cut them off. There will be no second chances. I don’t like wasting my time.

Number four is that they must leave most of the nitty-gritty work to me. I will plan for every eventuality once we agree on a preferred method. I’ll set to work tailoring a package, with attention to detail that is second to none. Time, location, cost of materials, where to purchase them from . . . there’s nothing I won’t have thought of. All they have to do is make sure they leave no mention of me or our relationship anywhere. Under no circumstances must they ever write down my name or that of End of the Line, not on a piece of paper or even in the notes section of their phone.

My fifth and final rule is that I demand just one thing in return for my efforts – transparency. I expect candidates to tell me everything there is to know about themselves before we part ways. I want to hear their most cherished memories, their darkest thoughts, their unreached goals, their biggest regrets, their dirtiest secrets, who they are leaving behind, who won’t care and who they’ll hurt the most. I want to know about their everyday lives and the lives they don’t want their best friends to know about.

I liken it to putting livestock in the lushest pasture, feeding them the best grains and allowing them plenty of access to light and sun – do that and you will always have a better-tasting meat. For me, by really knowing what makes a candidate tick, their last breath will sound sweeter to me than any other sound in the world.



On my return from visiting Henry’s residential care home, and before I started at End of the Line, I made a diversion to a coffee shop in town.

‘Here or to go?’ a disinterested young man behind the counter mumbled. His face was familiar but I couldn’t place him.

I glanced at my watch – I was still too early to start my next shift. ‘It’s for here,’ I replied. He filled a mug with a latte, then rolled his eyes when I asked for a spoon.

I chose a table in the middle of the busy room and sat with my eyelids tightly shut, listening carefully to the conversations of strangers gathered around their circular tables. If I concentrated hard enough, I could block out the rest of the noise in the café, like the cappuccino machine, dishwasher and even the radio, so that all I heard was the communication between customers.

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