I TAPPED the paper with my finger as if hoping to scare the depravity away. Transcribing it had brought back my migraine and the tension behind my eyes was almost as blinding as the conflict I felt inside. Should I throw the file away? Or should I put it into my own words and share it with the world?
My scrawly shorthand had been replaced with even, easy to read black type. The words stared at me, judging my every move, reaching into my soul and twisting. If I give publicity to a monster like this, am I going to be a great journalist? Or a horrible human being?
How will people interpret my account of the meeting? Will they think I’m condoning his actions if I give voice to his unspeakable darkness? Or will they see it as a warning? “The person next to you might be the devil?” Will they heed my words or will they brand me as a sensationalist?
Tap. Tap. Tap. In sync with the throbbing of my headache, I tap away at the blue manila wallet. But the questions just pile up and I find no answer in the midst of my quiet suffering. I open the flap and take the few pages out. I read through again, hoping that I will find the right answers between the lines. I read, although his words still haunt me, rendering me unable to forget.
LIAM JEFFERSON, 21st August 2015, Belmarsh Prison
Liam walks in. Eyes – sunken, face – scruffy. Seems tired in comparison to previous appearances. Sits in the specially made plastic cell. Warden tells me it was to avoid him hurting me and others. Chair is uncomfortable, walls are grey, overall mood of room is dark and oppressive.
3:04pm: Interview begins.
“You’re pretty, how old are you?
“Same age as me then. Lovely. You wanted to ask me questions? Ask away. I have time.” Cheeky grin.
Q: Do you want to tell me about your first victim?
“Susie. She was a petite thing, like you. But she had red curly hair, sultry lips. I really didn’t want to hurt her but she was so irresponsible – so I felt I had to punish her for being so naive. She thought she had all the time in the world… But I told all that to the police, and in court, you want to know juicy details, don’t you?
“You want to know if I forced her, right? I didn’t force anyone ever, they all slept with me because they wanted to. Some of them even came, without realising they are fucked for life. Haha, that’s a nasty pun, isn’t it?”
Q: Your last victim claims you raped her?
“I didn’t. But I will get to that. You were asking about Susie.
“So Susie and I met in Corsica Studios. She was a science student, you probably know that. Can’t remember what though – maybe physics? Or chemistry? Anyway, she seemed both smart and stupid.
“I have a way with ladies so we started dancing and by the end of the night, I was walking her home. And we get to her dorm, start making out and she suddenly says: ‘I don’t have a condom.’ I don’t either, so I tell her but I also reassure her I’m clean. I say I hope she is too. She says she’s clean and that she’s on the pill. I don’t feel great about using no protection at that point, but I really want to get inside her so I shove those thoughts away and we do it.”
Q: Did you tell her the truth then?
“No, I saw no point. She found out a few months later.”
Q: She died last month, did you know?
“I know. Sad story.”
“No, I don’t feel any guilt about what happened. It was her naivete that killed her, not me. She should have been more careful. She was dancing around life like it would never end. But time is a bitch.”
Q: Why do you think that?
“Ah, this is probably the bit you’re most interested in: how I became this way in the first place. It was another meeting like this, same place. Her name was Sarah. I’m talking past tense because I hope she’s dead. I lost her tracks after our night together. This is my only regret from the whole thing I pulled off – that I couldn’t see Sarah just one more time. Then I would’ve snapped her neck and maybe I wouldn’t feel so angry.
“Yes, it is all because of anger. They make me see a psychologist here and he says that my anger is misplaced fear. Load of bullshit, that is. My anger is just pure anger. She lit a cigarette in bed, although the fire alarm was just above our heads, and she told me everything. I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying, and as I was about to ask her to explain again, to repeat what she had said, the alarm blared like it was the end of the world. And believe me, for me it was. The end of my world, I mean. She disappeared in the ruckus and left me confused, hurt and angry. So if you have to blame someone for the monster I’ve become, blame Sarah. Hell, I don’t even know her last name. Fucking bitch.”
THAT WAS the first page. I don’t know why I decided to read it again, I remember it very clearly. For that particular interview, time hadn’t dulled my memories. Just behind my eyes I could still see him clearly. His attitude of a bad boy who knew he could pull because of his good looks, and how his index finger kept scratching the top of his broken wrist watch while he was talking.
Q: IN COURT you said you liked fishing?
“I do. I did. Well I would still fish now but there is nowhere here. Haha.
“It used to calm me down. Back when I was studying, I wanted to be a lawyer but I failed my second year and I was out. Just like that, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I became a driver and I picked up fishing. One of my mates was crazy about it and we would drive the work vans out of the scheduled route and just sit around a pond, any pond, and try to catch something.
“After Sarah, I was too fidgety to fish. I couldn’t calm down, so I stopped going. I told my friend to go fuck himself one day, don’t remember why, but he got offended and I never heard from him again. Good riddance, I say. He wanted things to keep being as they were and I couldn’t keep up.
“Anyway, what’s that got to do with the people I met on my little anger streak?”
Q: How many victims?
“I don’t want to call them victims. Well, they are. But they are not mine. They are victims of fate, if you wish. Victims of their own bad decision-making. And time. Let’s not forget time.”
Q: Even the ones you hurt without them knowing?
“Wrong place at the wrong time, you know. Fate.
“I fucking love Corsica Studios. This is what I’m gonna miss the most. The music, the atmosphere, all the bright futures of the people inside. It was my favourite playground. They don’t really let me dance here. And if I do, the other prisoners call me a twink. Or start singing ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’ which is right annoying as it messes up the rhythm in my head.
“Oh yeah, how many?… I would say anywhere between fifty and two hundred people. Haha, I saw your eyes widen. You guys all pretend to be professional and all, but it gets to you, doesn’t?”
THING IS, it really does. I pinch the bridge of my nose in a futile attempt to lessen my headache. I flip another page but the final decision of what to do with the story is still unclear. A sinking feeling takes hold of my gut and I get an unsurprising suspicion I will not decide today.
Q: ARE YOU not sure how many people you hurt?
“Not really. I slept with about 40 girls. At first I tried to hook up with women named Sarah, to get revenge in a way, you know. To transfer the anger. Then that wasn’t enough so anyone with S could do. I think I slept with a few that were named differently but were very cute. Couldn’t say no, you know.
“Nah, we used protection. It was not all stupid girls like little Susie. I would go for unlucky. I just used my own condoms to get the job done and this is how I pulled it off. They all thought I was so reliable, haha.
“The others? Well I can’t be sure about them because I went round the club tagging anyone I thought would be interesting. And whether it’s taken hold of them after that I don’t know. Don’t care to be honest. I was in it for the thrill, the adventure. I knew what was ahead of them and they were so obviously dancing and having a great time. They didn’t know their lives were already over. The sand in their little hourglass had started draining faster because they were in the same place I was. I’m cursed, you know.
“Yeah, yeah but is anyone truly innocent? They were just happy in the moment and all I did was take all their future happy moments away. Ignorance is bliss, they say, right?”
Q: How are you getting along with the other prisoners?
“Alright. I leave them alone, they leave me alone. They don’t like my dancing.”
Q: Do they know you are a rapist and a murderer?
“I’m none of these things. You are starting to be rude, girl, so I would tone it down a little. You know I can just walk out of here and your exclusive story will go ‘poof’?
“Apology accepted. I’m at best a thief. For some a robber. But I don’t take any of their physical possessions, I just rob them of their future. The moment I tell them what’s ahead of them, the pain they will feel, their faces darken and it’s that moment that I know that I have deposited part of my anger in them. I’ve stolen their time just as mine had been stolen. I took time but gave them anger. I’m not that unreasonable.
“And as I said, I didn’t kill anyone. They died on their own, some of them. Some will soon. But I will go just where they’re going, I’ve set them on the same path I’ve been set.
“I know there were other ways to deal with my situation. But Sarah, the cunt, made that impossible. On that stages of grief chart I only reached anger, the second stage, you know. There was a bit of denial, I still have time, I can still do normal things. But then the anger hit and I knew I had to pass on what had happened to me.
“What is the point in bargaining with time or getting depressed about it? Acceptance? Screw that, my life was slipping away so I knew I had to do something. And it had to be drastic.”
“So to answer your question, I’ve told them it’s because of stealing that I’m here. Some of them were a bit confused because this is obviously the section for the really bad people but when I told them I had stolen something priceless from more than a hundred people, they got off my back. Some even started respecting me more.”
Q: Did you not have any family for support?
“They are all dead, dearie.
“No, I don’t want to add anything else. I would’ve still ended up here even if they were around. It’s all Sarah’s fault, I keep telling you.”
Q: How did you get caught?
“Sophie ratted me out. In a way, it was all good because my health has been getting worse and I wouldn’t have been able to evade the police for long. You also lose all pleasure in doing stuff when you’re in constant pain and bedridden, you know?
“Yeah, I can tell you now about Sophie. My last victim you called her. You know what, I will agree with you this time. She was lovely. I almost didn’t do it with her. We had gone on three dates and she wouldn’t sleep with me. I appreciated the challenge.
“I think I got attached to her. I kept messaging her about random stuff and I even felt a little guilty about robbing her of her future. But when it came to actually being with her, I lost my composure again and all I could see was a clone of Sarah.
“She has the same small red curls. Different eyes, though. Sarah had ice cold blue ice like the bitch she was. Sophie has warm brown eyes. Like a doe.
Q: You raped her?
“No, I didn’t. We were making out and then she got on top of me. I rolled one of my condoms on and we started doing it, then I felt the condom break. She obviously didn’t so she was just jumping up and down on me happily. Then I grabbed her arms and pulled her closer to me. I sort of hugged her with my whole body and then I told her what I am.
“She stopped moving for a second, then went absolutely crazy. It was like trying to ride a bull. I mean, I imagine. We don’t really have those thing here, do we? It would be nice to ride one if I ever get to the USA.
“I know, you don’t have to remind me. I’m here for life. Anyway, she was flailing, trying to get off me but I held her close. She is only about five feet so it was super easy. This is the difference from any of my other partners – I would tell them later, while we’re cuddling and I would play the victim. I would be apologetic.
“But with innocent, cute Sophie that I think I genuinely liked, I let it all out. I told her what was about to happen, what I’d done in the club, how many other girls there have been before her. She begged me to let her go, to stop, just on and on. This is probably why she said I raped her, although I didn’t – she climbed on top of me all on her own.
“She started crying and it was at this point that I knew it was game over. For me and for her. I don’t mind. It turned out ok, as I said. I don’t blame her for telling the police about me. I should have told them about Sarah when my anger was in its early stages. But I told you, I don’t even know her last name.
“Sad thing is, she is still out there, making monsters like me. I’m locked in here but you never know who the next Liam Jefferson will be, you know.”
Tapping watch with finger. Watch – expensive, has a crack, seems broken but might be working.
Q: Tell me about the watch.
“Oh, this? It’s not important to anyone but me. Maybe you will like the story that goes with it. You’re all about the stories, aren’t you?
“I broke it on the day Sarah broke the news to me. In the panic to get out of the building because of the fire alarm, I had put it on too fast and hadn’t secured it properly. It slid from my wrist while we were going down the stairs and I stepped on it. Quite viciously, I might add. It cracked and stopped working. 11:47pm. The day my time fractured.
“Well, I hope it starts working again when I die. It will be quite poetic, don’t you think?”
THAT’S ENOUGH This is not a decision to be made on a Friday afternoon. I’ve been telling myself this for weeks now but I know I can’t face taking a chance either way. I shove the papers back into the document wallet and slide that under a huge pile of other documents. All I hope is I get a weekend without nightmares because for some reason, the last few sentences Liam and I exchanged that day keep haunting me.
“ARE YOU proud of what you’ve done?”
“Not proud, just angry. You have no idea how little support there is for people like us. Nobody wants to touch you the moment they hear you’re different. I keep telling you, the moment you get it, your time stops. Whatever you liked doing, whoever you loved, that doesn’t matter. You become a husk of yourself. I put some anger in that husk and voila, I started taking over other people’s time and looking at what they became. I was a pioneer, not a martyr.”
“You were a normal person just a few months ago. How did you leap from that to taking premeditated actions that will hurt hundreds of people?”
“The answer is going to be the same no matter how many times you ask.”
“Can you repeat it, please?”
“It all happened because Sarah gave me AIDS.”
By Polina Ganeva