Dr Death calling

An axe-weilding killer was on the loose...

Published by: Jai Breitnauer and Will Stewart
Published on: 31st March 2010

Blue lights flashed outside, and I peered around my curtains trying to find out what was going on. Just then, the front door went.
‘Mum? What’s happening?’ called my daughter’s voice.
Tanya, 24, a trainee doctor, had just got home from a shift as a nurse. She did the extra work because, as a single mum, things were pretty tight. I helped all I could, though, and stayed at home looking after her son Max, four.
‘Don’t know, love,’ I sighed. ‘The police and an ambulance turned up an hour ago. They’ve been talking to the neighbours, but they’ve not come over here yet.’
‘Whose door did they go to?’ she asked, peering over my shoulder to have a look.
‘Poor old Paula’s at number 39,’ I said.
Suddenly, I froze.
‘Oh, no…’ I whispered, as two paramedics carried out a stretcher with a body bag on it.
‘She was old,’ Tanya reasoned. ‘Probably a heart attack…’
‘Since when did the police get called out for that?’ I scoffed.
‘I’m going to put the kettle on,’ Tanya said, rolling her eyes. ‘Fancy a cuppa?’
‘Uh-huh.’ I turned my attention back to what was happening outside our block of flats.
Behind me, I heard Max’s bedroom door open, and his footsteps patter into the kitchen.
‘Mummy, Mummy!’ he squealed when he saw Tanya.
‘Baby bear!’ she cried, giving him a huge hug. ‘I’ve got you a pressie.’
Max’s eyes widened as his mum rustled in her pocket. ‘It’s… a… lollypop!’ Tanya grinned, presenting him with it.
‘Orange! My favourite!’ he cried, pulling off the wrapper and running over to his beanbag to settle down with a picture book.
‘It’s been days since I’ve seen him,’ Tanya smiled sadly, pouring hot water into two mugs.
‘Even last night when you were out, I was desperate for him to wake up and need a hug, but he slept straight through.’
‘Such a good boy, that one,’ I sighed, smiling.
When his dad Denis died a few years ago, I’d made Tanya a promise – I’d look after Max while she finished her medical studies.
Tanya’s dad had died when she was a kid, too, and I’d struggled my whole life to bring her up, feed and clothe her. I also knew how hard it was being a single mum.
Denis had been such a lovely man, and had really looked after Tanya and Max. But then he caught flu, went into hospital, got a secondary infection…
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door – two police officers stood on the other side.
‘Can we come in?’ one asked. ‘We’ve just got a few questions.’
‘Sit down,’ I said, pointing to the lounge. Tanya hovered in the kitchen with the drinks.
‘As you’ve probably realised, the lady downstairs didn’t die naturally,’ one began. ‘We believe she was murdered.’
Max looked up from his book.
‘What’s murgured?’ he asked, orange staining his lips.
‘Come on, Max, let’s go to the park,’ Tanya said, grabbing his coat, and trying to hurry him out of the flat.
‘Hang on, did you hear anything last night?’ the policeman said. ‘Glass smashing? Any screams?’
‘Stop it!’ I hissed at them, flicking my eyes toward Max.
They stopped, looking at each other uncomfortably.
‘It’s okay,’ Tanya sighed, ushering Max into his room. ‘They’re just doing their job. I was home alone last night, but didn’t hear a peep.’
‘Okay, well if anything comes to mind…’ one said, standing.
‘What sort of punishment will they get?’ Tanya asked, as the policemen walked out the door. ‘The murderer, I mean.’
‘Who knows these days,’ one said, as they wandered off.
I turned and looked at Tanya.
‘What sort of a question was that?’ I frowned.
‘I was curious!’ Tanya replied.
She wasn’t the only one. Max was full of questions about murder and evil men afterwards. He hardly slept a wink that night.
A couple of days later, Tanya had just got back from a night shift when I heard her talking at the door. ‘Who was that?’ I asked.
‘That bloke from a couple of doors down, the one who is always asking me to look at his bunions,’ she screwed her face up. ‘He’s going away for a few weeks, wants us to keep an eye on his wife.’
I nodded. This had always been such a nice estate, none of the trouble you read about in the papers. But since Paula was killed, everyone had been really jumpy.
No sign of forced entry, the news had said. She knew whoever it was, and they’d sunk an axe into the back of her head. Terrifying…
‘I’m really busy the next two weeks,’ Tanya sighed. ‘But I’ve got this afternoon off. Thought I’d take Max for a picnic. Want to come with us?’
‘Of course,’ I beamed. She doted on that lad, I knew she couldn’t wait to finish her studies to spend more time with him.
I didn’t see Tanya for a few days after that – she was either at the library or work. Meanwhile, the flat was filling with an awful smell.
‘There must be a rotting milk carton in the fridge,’ I said to Max. ‘Or did you hide a slice of pizza behind the radiator again?’
He shook his head, holding his nose and giggling.
But I couldn’t find any old rubbish. It didn’t matter how many times I cleaned the place, the smell got worse.
‘I can’t stand this stench,’ Tanya said when she finally came home. ‘Let’s take Max for a walk.’
When we got back from the park an hour later, though, our whole building was crawling with police.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked one of the neighbours in the street.
‘Another granny killing,’ she hissed. ‘Some bloke came back from two weeks away to find his wife’s rotting corpse on the floor. She’d been hit over the head with an axe eight times.’
Oh, my God – this couldn’t be happening! My blood ran cold. We were supposed to watch out for her… I’d been so busy, I’d forgotten, assuming Tanya had.
Suddenly, I felt Max clutching my leg.
‘Do all old ladies get murgured?’ Max whimpered. ‘What about you?’
‘Nothing’s going to happen to me, love,’ I told him.
Well, at least I hoped not…
‘I think we should move,’ Tanya whispered. ‘This isn’t good for Max, and I’m worried about leaving you home alone.’
‘Like we could sell this place now,’ I sighed. ‘Who’s going to want to live on an estate with an axe murderer on the loose?’
But that night, when Tanya went off to work, I triple-locked the door, scared of where the granny killer would strike next.
I was in my fifties after all. Could I be next?
‘That should do it,’ I sighed, putting the final bolt across and checking all the windows. I’d never had to lock up in my life, except when we went out.
‘Nanny, I’m hot,’ Max croaked from his room. Not surprising – I was too scared to even open windows, despite it being summer.
‘I know, sweetie,’ I soothed. ‘Let me get you a fan.’
Perhaps Tanya was right. When she started working as a doctor and we had more money, we should move somewhere else.
The next week passed in a blur of Tanya’s shifts and Max’s difficult questions. Every night, I went to bed terrified of hearing a blood-curdling scream – petrified it would be mine.
The granny killer could be living nearby. Maybe even next door for all I knew…
Then, a few days later, I was cooking Max some beans on toast while Tanya hung the washing outside, when I noticed from the window three suited men walking in her direction. ‘Who are they?’ Max asked.
I could see her nodding, then she dropped the washing on the floor, face twisting with shock. One of them gripped her arm as she began to shake and cry…
I ran outside.‘What’s wrong?’ I yelled, Max hot on my heels. ‘What’s going on?’
Tanya was standing, head down, weeping, with her hands cuffed behind her back.
‘Take the boy inside,’ one of the men shouted, showing me his badge. Plain clothes police? Why were they holding my daughter?
‘Mum, please…’ Tanya begged.
I grabbed Max, told him to stay in his room. Behind me, I could hear the police talking as Tanya stumbled back inside.
‘Show us where it is,’ one barked. Walking to her room, Tanya opened a drawer. No! Under some clothes was a small axe.
‘Do you know the murderer?’ I gasped. ‘Who are you protecting?’
She must have got involved with the wrong man, been hiding the weapon…
‘Tanya, tell the police everything,’ I begged, as they wrapped up the axe.
‘Mum, don’t…’ she whispered, staring at the floor.
Around us, police marked off areas. For forensics? Suddenly, one of the officers turned and faced my daughter.‘I’m arresting you on suspicion of murder. You don’t have to say anything, but anything you do say…’
The words drifted over me. It was like everything was in slow motion. I watched as Tanya, tears streaming, turned to me.
‘I’m sorry,’ she mouthed softly.
‘You better kiss your son goodbye,’ one officer said, gently. ‘It’ll be a while before you see him again.’
Suddenly, I snapped back to reality.
‘No!’ I cried, watching Max slip out of his room. Tanya bent down and kissed him on the forehead.
‘This is all a big mistake,’ I blabbered. ‘My daughter is a doctor! Tanya’s a doctor, not a killer!
She helps people!’
My voice cracked, and I fell to my knees as they led her out the door.
‘Where are they taking Mummy?’ Max sobbed. ‘When will she be back?’
But I was speechless.
I wasn’t allowed to see Tanya, and no one told me anything. But I picked up information off the news on telly.
‘Earned the trust of old ladies… Axed them in the back of the head… Watched for hours as they died…’ the news reports said.
No way had my daughter done this. I’d carried her for nine months, given birth to her, watched her grow into a beautiful woman and caring mum. I was proud of her. Didn’t they think I’d know if Tanya was capable of killing someone?
But then the police came around to the flat and said she’d confessed.
‘W-why?’ I whispered.
‘She said it was for her thesis,’ the police finally told me. They’d filmed her while she took them into the victims’ houses and showed them how she’d done it.
‘She needed to know about how people died, and the books weren’t making it clear,’ he continued. ‘So she axed their heads open, then watched what happened as they slowly slipped away.’
He looked me in the eye and cleared his throat. ‘Umm… she said it was an unbelievable view,’ he shuddered.
My little girl had murdered in cold blood. Where’d I gone wrong? The second time she’d killed, she’d even gone back and watched the body decompose. All her complaints about the smell had just been a cover, Tanya knew exactly where it was coming from.
By the time that victim’s husband got home, she’d been covered in insects. They had to bury her in a specially-sealed metal coffin because of the stench.
‘She was planning a third murder at the time she was arrested,’ the officer added. ‘And after the second crime, we realised we were dealing with a maniac.’
All that time we’d lived in fear, the granny killer was actually my daughter. Could I have been next?
Tanya covered her tracks well, it was only her question about the punishment the murderer would get that had raised suspicion.
My daughter had won people’s trust as a trainee doctor, then brutally taken their lives.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over it and, although she’s asked, I won’t go and see her in prison, where she’s waiting to be sentenced.
The neighbours, who once said they’d go and see her when she qualified, call her Dr Death now, and won’t talk to me.
But I still love her dearly. She’s my daughter after all, and I’ll look after Max for as long as I can.
He’s already lost two parents in the most tragic of circumstances – he can’t lose me as well.

Gaynor Bondarenko, 54, Novosibirsk, Siberia