Home > The Good Samaritan(7)

The Good Samaritan(7)
Author: John Marrs

‘No, no, it’s fine,’ he replied.

‘Do you need some money?’

‘Ha! I always need some money, Laura, but you’ve done enough for me already.’

I reached into my bag and pulled out all I had, a £10 note. I was embarrassed by such a poor offering. ‘Please take this. Buy yourself some lunch.’

‘You know how I’ll spend it.’ His eyes watched mine as I clocked his bottle of cider. His addiction was the only one I could overlook. His was present for a reason. His was there because of how he’d saved me.

‘Just promise me you’ll at least get yourself a sandwich.’


‘Promise me,’ I repeated.

‘I promise.’

When he smiled, I noted he’d lost another tooth from the bottom row; they were falling like pins in a bowling alley. Seeing Olly living and looking like this broke my heart, but having rejected my efforts of help in the past, there was little else I could do but watch him gradually disintegrate. I hoped it gave him a little comfort that someone in the world still cared for him.

Behind us, a plume of white and grey smoke from the volume of cigarettes being smoked ascended skywards. I made my way back towards the crowd as the previous party left through the double doors.

I hung behind. I didn’t want to be so close to the front that I was asked who I was, but I didn’t want to be so far towards the back that I missed what was being said about her. Slap bang in the middle of the crematorium would suffice.

By the time Chantelle Taylor’s unvarnished pine coffin was carried inside by four suited undertakers and placed upon the plinth, the Adele song blaring through the speakers was approaching its second chorus. The coffin was adorned with flowers, most likely plastic, including one of those awful-looking wreaths with the word ‘MUMMY’ written in yellow carnations placed on top of the lid.

There were only thirty or so mourners in attendance and most were around Chantelle’s age: single mothers in their early twenties wearing fake gold jewellery and with tattoos on their hands. If proof were ever needed I’d done the right thing in helping her to die, it was right there in the eyes of the walking dead.

I glanced at the flimsy black-and-white photocopy of an order of service with a photograph of Chantelle on the cover. She was holding a pint glass in a pub beer garden and her belly was swollen with pregnancy. I shook my head; even in utero her children hadn’t stood a chance.

Doubtless it was them sitting at the front with a tearful, older woman. She turned her head and dabbed at the over-applied mascara oozing down her face like an oil slick. They were too young to be here – both under four, I remembered Chantelle telling me. By the look of their grandmother, I decided they’d be better off under the care of the local authority. I made a mental note to tip off social services that drugs were being dealt from her premises. I had no idea if they were, but chances were a police search would find something to use against her. I’d be doing those kids a favour. Being a ward of court hadn’t been a walk in the park, but it hadn’t killed me either.

The minister read from his script and I recalled that when Chantelle first started phoning End of the Line, we’d discussed how she was trying to kick heroin for the sake of her unfortunate little ones. It was only with my help that she gradually began to realise that, in sobriety, happily-ever-afters weren’t made for families like hers. I had her back on the stuff within a few weeks.

‘How does it make you feel, knowing your children can’t give you the high that drugs do?’ I once asked her, a couple of weeks into our regular chats. I sensed by her tone that she was in a particularly dark place that day.

‘Like a shit mum,’ she said bleakly.

‘I’m sure your children don’t see you like that . . . They just love you for who you are. They aren’t aware of the life you’ve given them. The mess they’re in is all they know.’

‘What do you mean by “mess”?’

‘That their mum is dependent on drugs or drug substitutes; that she doesn’t have enough money to give them food with proper nutrition; that when they’re old enough to go to school they’ll see that all their classmates have things you’ll never afford. And I know you’re the kind of person who’ll feel dreadful for that, aren’t you?’

‘Of course.’

‘Do you think they might grow up resenting you?’

‘Yes, all the time.’

‘Does it worry you that they might follow in your footsteps and end up addicts like you and their father, too? It can be hereditary, can’t it?’

‘I won’t let them get into drugs.’

‘I bet your mum said the same thing about you, but it’s hard to tell people what to do, isn’t it? It’s no wonder you feel like you’ve let them down as a mum. What else do you worry about?’

‘That they’ll feel disappointed in me.’

‘It’s very easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to addiction, especially when you don’t feel like there’s a reason to stay on the wagon.’

‘I thought I had a reason – for my kids . . . but I’m not strong enough.’

‘And as you’ve already told me, you know they’re probably already disappointed in you for the life you’re giving them. And life away from heroin is hard, isn’t it? Especially when you have nothing else. It must feel like life is never going to get any better than it is now.’

‘What can I do to make it better for them?’ she wept.

It was the question I’d been waiting for her to ask. And I knew that once I talked her back into her addiction, she’d reach the same decision I’d made for her. Everyone would be better off without Chantelle.

When her day of reckoning arrived, she’d purchased enough heroin from her violent, drug-dealing ex-boyfriend to do what was necessary. I closed my eyes and listened intently to the sounds of her feet shuffling along bare floorboards she couldn’t afford to carpet, her curtains being drawn, the bedroom door quietly closing and her body stretching out upon her bed. I heard the flame from a cigarette lighter and imagined it heating up the metal spoon. I pictured the barrel of a syringe drawing up the dirty liquid and Chantelle tapping at her arms and legs, trying to raise a vein that hadn’t already collapsed under the weight of her weak will.

‘You’ll find my kids when they’re older and tell them I did this because I loved them, won’t you?’ she asked.

‘Of course I will,’ I lied. ‘Just keep reminding yourself that you’ve explored every other avenue, but this is the only route that makes sense. You are moving on and allowing everyone else you love to do the same. And I admire that so much.’

Within moments, the needle had penetrated her skin and I listened with blissful satisfaction right until her final breath. That’s the one sound that matters to me above all others . . . that one precious moment when someone breathes their last then slips away. People in pain like Chantelle place themselves in my hands because I understand them better than anyone else in the world can. I know more about what they need than their brothers, sisters, parents, spouses, best friends or children. I understand them because I know what’s best for them. If they place their trust in me, I’ll reward them by going to the ends of the earth to help them. I’ll alleviate their suffering. I’ll bring all that is bad in their lives to an end. I will save them from themselves. That is what I am: a saviour of lost souls.

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