Bloodbath at bedtime

An innocent sleepover turned into carnage

Published by: Henry Austin
Published on: 28th January 2010

Losing someone you love is never easy. But when Richard, my hubby of 22 years, died after a year-long battle with throat cancer, I was devastated. He'd been my rock.
He'd helped me run the farm we owned, and always knew how to put a smile on my face.
When he'd become ill, though, we'd managed to find someone to help out on the farm.
Donald, my neighbour's brother, was a godsend. Started early and worked late. If anything heavy needed lifting around the house, he'd insist on helping with that, too.
So, when Richard was tragically taken from me, I knew I could rely on Donald to keep the farm running smoothly. 'If you ever need to talk, just give me a call,' he'd said, kindly. 'I know what it's like to lose someone close.'
Donald, 52, had been a marine when he was younger, even fought in Vietnam. He'd lost plenty of people he cared about.
As the weeks passed, I took Donald up on his offer. We'd sit and chat in my back garden after work, and put the world to rights over a cuppa. He even stayed for dinner a few times. 'It's nice to have someone who understands what I'm going through,' I said.
'I'm here to help,' he smiled, stroking his grey moustache.
Before long, I found myself laughing again. He had a great sense of humour, always cracking jokes. 'Does he ever take anything seriously?' giggled my daughter Chere, 31, when she met him.
'I don't think so,' I smiled, listening to him
belting out the wrong words to a song playing on the radio.
My best friend Mona loved him as well.
'He's so sweet and goofy,' she grinned. 'Reminds me of Scooby Doo.'
That was it - the name Scooby stuck.
But as the weeks turned into months, mine and Donald's friendship grew into something more. I worried people would disapprove of me dating again, but everyone was so supportive.
'Richard would want you to be happy,' Chere smiled.
True, and I knew he'd have liked Donald. He was such a solid, reliable bloke - wasn't even put off
by the shotgun I always kept by my bed!
When Donald proposed a few months after moving in with me, though, I panicked. A year had passed since Richard died. Was I ready for marriage again?
'I'll understand if you need time to think about it,' he said, quietly.
We didn't talk about it again until a few days later. As I lay out my poshest frock on our bed, Donald looked at me confused.
'Going somewhere?' he asked.
'Well, I've got to wear something fancy if you want to marry me,' I winked back.
Donald's face lit up. 'You serious?' he beamed, hugging me.
'Let's not tell a soul,' I beamed. 'It'll be perfect, just the two of us.'
We went straight to the courthouse, where a judge married us in front of the receptionist, who acted as our witness.
'But we don't have wedding rings,' Donald worried.
'Nothing material matters, as long as we have each other,' I assured him.
All our friends and family were thrilled when we told them.
And, for a while, everything carried on as usual. We were happy, mucking out the horses and singing along to the radio out of tune as we cooked dinner together.
But, three months after our wedding, Donald seemed to change. He started putting less time into the farm and staying out at the pub with some new mates.
Suddenly, he wasn't the fun-loving, caring guy I'd fallen for. Instead, he was moody and distant.
When I found out the reason why, I was shocked. He was taking Ecstasy, the drug I'd always associated with youngsters and nightclubs. What was he, some kind of an off-the-rails teenager?! 'It was just a couple of pills,' he slurred, coming home from the pub one night. 'It helps me forget.'
'Forget what?' I frowned. 'Why can't you talk to me?'
'You wouldn't understand,' he
snorted. 'I've started having flashbacks about Vietnam.'
'And you're turning to drink and drugs to ease the pain?' I cried. 'Talk to
me, I can help.'
I tried to get him to stop but, within weeks, he'd completely changed. 'You don't talk to me,
let alone listen to what I have to say,' I worried.
'I'm fine,' he huffed. 'Just leave me alone.'
Then, one night, I woke up gasping for breath. Something pushing down on my throat? Donald's face glaring down at me? He was strangling me! Looked like he was possessed as his grip tightened.
I struggled against the weight of his body pinning me to the bed. 'Please,' I croaked. 'Stop!'
Stars danced before my eyes and the room spun. I was passing out? Suddenly, Donald let go and jumped off the bed.
Using the last of my strength, I rolled off it, forced myself to stand - at least that way I could try to fight him off if he attacked again.
'What the hell's
got into you?' I gasped, coughing.
But he didn't answer, just stormed out of the room. The front door slammed shut behind him - closing the door on our marriage, too.
No way could I stay with him after this.
Next morning, when he came crawling back with his tail between his legs, I told him as much. 'Babe, I love you,' he pleaded. 'I'm sorry, it won't happen again.'
I stuck to my guns. 'How could I trust you after that?' I cried. 'You're not the man I fell in
love with.'
Donald packed his things and left. 'I'm filing for divorce,' I called after him.
A couple of days later, though, I looked out my window to see him sitting in his truck outside my front gate. It sent a shudder through me.
Picking up the phone, I called the police. 'I kicked him out,' I explained. 'But now he's just sat there, staring at the house.'
They agreed to put a restraining order on him, but it wasn't long before I was calling them again.
'He's back,' I sighed. 'Like before, sat outside, behind the wheel of his truck.'
But whenever police arrived at the house to serve the order on him, he'd disappear, coming back once they'd left. It was creepy.
Donald had turned into a stalker.
It carried on for a month. Then the phone calls started?
Seeing his number flash
up on my mobile, I answered it, shakily. 'Please, let me come home,' he begged. 'I've changed.'
I bit my lip, anxiously.
Flashes of the night he'd attacked me came flooding back. He wasn't the man I'd married. 'No,' I said. 'It's over.'
He kept calling, but I let it ring out. Feeling down, I called Mona for company. If anyone could cheer me up, it'd be my best friend. 'I'll be right over,' she told me on the phone. 'We'll have a sleepover, like a couple of schoolkids.'
We spent the evening watching telly and chatting. The hours flew by and I managed to push thoughts of Donald to the back of my mind. 'This is exactly what I needed,' I thought, sipping a steaming cuppa and relaxing into my chair. 'Some normality again.'
Mona was laying on my bed in her pyjamas while we chatted.
But as I put my mug down on the table next to me?
Crash! 'What the??' I gasped, getting up to see what'd caused it.
As I reached the bedroom door, though, Donald came storming in.
'What are you doing?' I shrieked.
Donald looked straight past me at Mona, his eyes bulging with rage.
Then his eyes slid across the room to the shotgun I kept by the bed. Oh, God? no!
Before I could move, he lunged forward and grabbed it.
'You're in my bed, bitch!' he shouted, pointing the gun at Mona.
His eyes were bloodshot and he slurred his words - he looked drunk, drugged up and out of control. 'Scooby, put the gun down,' Mona said, gently. 'You don't have to do this.'
Donald wasn't having any of it, carried on shouting abuse at her and waving the gun in her face.
I had to do something, distract him somehow?
Stepping between him and Mona, I grabbed his shirt.
'Please, stop it!' I begged.
It worked - leaping off the bed, Mona ran through the door.
But Donald wasn't finished with her yet. Searing pain shot through my head has he hit me hard in the face with the gun. 'You'll never call the cops on me again,' he growled.
As I stumbled back, I heard a loud bang? Coming round, I realised I'd fallen head-first into the chair I'd been sitting in.
Blood gushed down my face, soaking the fabric. Frantically looking round, Donald and Mona were nowhere to be seen. Stumbling through the house, there wasn't a trace of them. Had he got to her? Was she okay? Would he come back?
Feeling dizzy, I made it to the bathroom, and grabbed a towel to stop the bleeding from my head. My right thumb had been split open, too.
Cleaning myself up, I walked into the kitchen, dazed, as if I was on autopilot, and flicked the switch on the kettle.
Maybe it was the shock of what had happened, but all I could think about was making some tea.
Then I'd call the police?
Only, I didn't have to call them. Stirring a lump of sugar into my tea, I heard someone walk up behind me.
Spinning around, a police officer was staring at me like I
was a ghost. 'Oh,' I gasped. 'Would you like a cup of tea?'
His jaw dropped open as a paramedic appeared beside him.
'Mrs Sexton,' he said slowly. 'Do you realise you've been shot?'
'Have I?' I asked. 'But I'm okay, honestly. Is Mona all right?'
'She's fine,' the officer said, still staring at me in disbelief. 'But we need to get you to hospital.'
Before I knew it, the paramedics were fussing around me, checking my injuries.
Then, I was being bundled into a helicopter to take me to hospital.
All the time, my thoughts seemed to go slower and slower, more fuzzy.
Shot?? No, I'd know? It'd hurt? I'm fine?
The next few hours were a blur as I drifted in and out of consciousness.
Waking up in hospital, Chere was
by my side.
'Where's Donald?'
I croaked.
'Mum, he shot you in the head,' she sobbed. 'The doctors say the bullet's still lodged in your brain. They can't remove it.'
In my brain?
'Don't be daft,' I scoffed. 'I think I'd be in a lot more pain if I had a bullet in my head.'
But the doctor confirmed it, showing me an x-ray of my head, the bullet clearly visible in the
left-hand side of my brain.
'There are fragments of bone in there, too,' he told me. 'But we can't operate, it's too risky. 'We'll have to monitor you on a regular basis to make sure the bullet doesn't move. If it does, it could kill you. It's a miracle you survived at all.'
A miracle? And now I had to
live with a bullet in my brain for the rest of my life?
None of it seemed real.
There was still one question they hadn't answered, though. 'Where's Donald?' I asked, shakily.
'After he thought he'd killed you,' Chere's voice wobbled as
she took my hand, 'h-he went outside. Mona had called the police and was hiding when she heard two gunshots.
'She thought he'd shot you
twice so, when the police turned
up, they were trying to coax him out? but he'd already shot himself in the head. He'll never hurt you again, Mum.'
Maybe I should've felt relieved. Instead, a mixture of emotions surged through me - anger, pity, and sadness?
Despite what he'd done to me, I knew he hadn't been himself when he did it, not the man I'd married.
Almost a year on, I'm starting to rebuild my life.
I still get excruciating headaches, though, and I have to go to hospital for scans every three months.
Luckily, the bullet in my brain hasn't moved at all.
I know that I'm living on borrowed time, and I'm not wasting a second of it.
And when things get a little tough for me, I know exactly how I'm going to handle it - black tea, one sugar. Works every time.
Tammy Sexton, 47, Jackson County, Mississippi, US