Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Misconception

David Callinan

When the baby she prayed for is taken, revenge is all she has left... Jess thought inheriting a fortune would finally help solve her biggest problem: infertility. But having more money just seems to bring more problems, and it’s not long before Jess finds herself in some deep trouble that will only end in pain and suffering…but will it be hers, or someone else’s?

Age Rating: 18+ (Kidnapping, Suicide, Surrogacy)

Start reading
Galatea logo

Unlimited books, immersive experiences.

Galatea FacebookGalatea InstagramGalatea TikTok
Misconception - Book cover
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Misconception

David Callinan

When the baby she prayed for is taken, revenge is all she has left... Jess thought inheriting a fortune would finally help solve her biggest problem: infertility. But having more money just seems to bring more problems, and it’s not long before Jess finds herself in some deep trouble that will only end in pain and suffering…but will it be hers, or someone else’s?

Age Rating: 18+ (Kidnapping, Suicide, Surrogacy)

1: Chapter 1

APRIL, 2016

Punishment for the three-year-old could come suddenly and without warning.

Her heavy footsteps were a signal for the child to shiver with uncontrollable dread.

The boy gazed out through the barred window at the manicured grounds bordered by a small stream, fronded willows, and golden laburnums.

It was one of those long shadowed afternoons, and the elegant garden lay still and empty under a watery sun.

The boy’s hand curved against the glass pane as he pretended to cup the swaying branches that edged the flowing water.

He was listening to the voice as he always did.

Not the voice of the one who took care of him. No, this was a sweet voice that covered him in warm, blissful breath. He loved the voice.

It called him something, but he could not hold on to the memory of it.

He tried to understand, but the world was like a soft pink cloud. He whispered a song to himself, enjoying the feeling of sound on his tongue.

He heard her approaching.

He began to tremble. He longed to escape through the window.

His wheelchair was yanked from the window and spun around to face the room. He gazed at his toy soldiers, teddy bears, and bouncy ball for help while chattering a string of meaningless, fearful sounds.

A trickle of warm saliva slid from the boy’s open mouth and descended in a slimy rivulet toward his chin.

He blinked in frustration while he tried to close his drooling lips, but his facial muscles would not fully respond.

The three-year-old tried to wipe the spittle away. He raised his hands to his face, but the nurse got there before him.

She dabbed his mouth with a clean tissue. “There, isn’t that better?” she whispered.

The boy shifted his gaze but gave no indication that he understood or even heard the nurse’s voice.

The other voice had gone, and he was sad. His head lolled forward, and a lock of blond hair fell onto his forehead.

He tried to move his head as the nurse patted his hair back into place and then rested her hands on his shoulders.

“Daydreaming again, were we?” The pitch of her voice was more strident. “No time for that today, young man. Today is a big day, and we’re going to be busy, so no playing up.”

From somewhere behind them, a radio was playing, soft and muted in the distance. Karen Carpenter’s velvet voice, aching with the pain of unrequited love, soared effortlessly.

The boy felt the nurse lower her face until her moist lips were close to his ear. She then sang softly in a husky contralto.

The boy tensed and tried to move his head away from the nurse’s warm breath. She giggled, and he felt the pressure of her hands leave his shoulders.

Her touch was gentle as she stroked the soft downy hair at the nape of his neck. His breath caught in his lungs as he watched the nurse’s expression harden.

He heard her say, “We understand each other, don’t we? In days gone by, children like you were locked away and forgotten, left to die.

“But we live in so-called enlightened times, or namby-pamby times, as I call them, with all that child psychology nonsense.

“You’ll be leaving here today for a new life. But what kind of life will that be, given—” She silenced herself abruptly and bit her lip.

He felt the nurse’s fingers encircle his slender throat.

He made a faint croaking noise and blinked away a tear. It trickled over her knuckles. Her fingers reacted by momentarily stiffening like talons.

The boy wriggled and jerked his head. He placed his small hands on hers.

“It would be so easy, so, so easy. You weren’t expected to live, after all, were you?”

The boy didn’t understand the words, but he heard her sigh with regret and felt her hands grip the handles of the wheelchair; she pushed him away from the window and over to a low desk.

She locked the wheels, then sat down in a chair beside him. On the desk in front of them was a photograph album. The boy waited for her to speak.

“Today is a special day. And you look the bee’s knees, you really do. I wonder where that expression came from, the bee’s knees. It’s funny, isn’t it?”

He flinched when she touched the scar on his temple.

“Let’s look at the photographs again, shall we? I know you understand.”

The nurse opened the album and turned the pages. The images seemed to reflect in the boy’s eyes as they both stared at the ghostly figures.

“There,” said the nurse pausing at a snapshot of a handsome man and a pretty young woman holding a baby.

They were sitting on a grassy hillock amid sand dunes. A seaside town shimmered in washed-out tones below them in the distance.

“There you are, darling, with Mummy and Daddy.”

The boy moved his tongue. “Mu…” he muttered.

“You can’t remember, of course you can’t. You were a baby.”

He hated it when she tweaked his ear. He wanted her to stop talking.

“You could at least try to say a few words. I’ve been teaching you your sounds and letters, but you won’t make the effort. I’ve heard you chattering to yourself when you thought I wasn’t there.”

She flipped one page after another.

“That’s you again on the garden lounger, and there you are being carried on mummy’s back. And that’s you at Blackpool Tower. You look so contented. That was before…but we mustn’t speak of it, must we?”

The boy stared at the page. The photograph on display showed the same tall, good-looking man. Beside him, a different woman held the baby.

“It gets a little complicated, darling. That’s your other mummy. Aren’t you a lucky boy?”

“Aahh!” he wailed. The boy became agitated, jiggling up and down in the wheelchair.

He saw the nurse’s expression change when she noticed the damp patch spreading across the front of his groin. The boy trembled and fluttered his hands.

The nurse closed the album and put it back on the table. She squeezed her eyes and inhaled a deep, calming breath.

“Oh, you haven’t,” she said crossly. “Those are your new going-away clothes. You’ve been out of nappies for ages. I’ll have to change you now.”

The boy whimpered when she reached out, took his earlobe in her fingers, and twisted it.

“You know what you get for doing that, don’t you? I pull down your pants, put you over my knee, and smack your bottom, don’t I?

“Only when you deserve it, though. I thought you’d grown out of that kind of behavior.”

The boy tried to speak, but his mouth could not translate his thoughts.

He heard the nurse say, “Well, as this is a special day, I’m not going to chastise you. I’ll fetch some fresh clothes for you, and we’ll get you looking smart and lovely again.”

The boy watched as she went over to a large chest from which she selected fresh underwear, a pair of striped pants, and a pale-blue shirt.

She undressed him, and he began to wriggle. The nurse checked the wheelchair and dabbed it with a tissue.

She cleaned and dressed him, her movements slow, deliberate, and well-practiced.

“There, that’s better, isn’t it? Not long now, and you’ll be leaving here for the last time. I know you can walk a little, and soon you won’t need the wheelchair, but I need to strap you in for the journey.”

The child said goodbye to his posters and mobiles, his bed with railings, his box of toys, and his stuffed bears scattered on the floor as he was pushed around the nursery.

He waved at them sadly. It was a light, airy room with a pale carpet patterned with images of cartoon characters.

The nurse knelt by the boy and peered into his eyes. He tried to look away.

“All those tests and all those experts. Still, you have made progress. The doctors have high hopes for you. I shall miss you, darling.

“Even though I punished you sometimes, it was for your own good and much better for you than all those drugs. Some old-fashioned methods are still the best.”

The nurse glanced at her watch and sighed. “It’s time.” She leaned in and kissed the boy’s cheek. He regarded her with a glassy-eyed stare.

The nurse’s heels click-clacked on the porcelain tiles as she pushed the wheelchair out of the door and along a brightly lit, whitewashed corridor.

At the far end, a corona of light blazed from an open door to the street.

The boy’s head lolled to one side as he stared at the silhouette of a tall man haloed in the doorway, his image flickering in the heat haze.

The man didn’t move. The light behind him made him appear as a solid black figure, framed in the doorway with no face or features.

The man took a step forward.

***

EAST SUTTON OPEN PRISON, KENT

The red brick Elizabethan mansion overlooking the Weald of Kent, complete with a working farm, might, to the casual observer, have been owned by an internet mogul or a reclusive rock star.

The stonework glowed in the May sunlight as a Ferrari purred along the drive and parked in the visitor’s sector.

“Two years, four months, and seven days,” said Jess as she prepared to leave her cell. Prison Officer Miller regarded her with an expression verging on respect.

“Anything you don’t want to keep goes in the black bag,” she said, keeping her voice stern but neutral. “Time off for good behavior. You should be grateful.”

“Grateful?” said Jess as she tied up the string on the garbage bag.

“You’ve done all right here,” said Miller. “It wasn’t all bad, was it?”

“I’ll miss the gardening,” Jess admitted. “I never thought I’d like growing anything, let alone vegetables.”

“You’ll be a big loss to the drama group,” said Miller. “Then, some say you gave your best performance in court.”

“Is that what they say?” said Jess. She looked around her cell. “I’ll miss them too. We put on some good shows.”

“And you only lost privileges a couple of times,” Miller reminded her.

“The bitches were jealous, that’s all.”

“You’ve got some guts, I must say. Taking on the nastiest lady in here and almost winning.”

“It was a draw,” said Jess. “And she’s no lady.”

“We had to pull you off Cronin.”

“She deserved it.”

“It still cost you.”

“Yes,” said Jess. “But once a few palms were greased…”

“What’re you insinuating?”

Jess smiled at her. “The governor was very pleased with the donation. Let’s leave it at that.”

“Come on,” said Miller. “Let’s go.”

As she left her cell for the last time, the farewell cacophony began.

“Good luck, Jess.”

“You did the right thing, girl.”

“Piss off, baby snatcher.”

“Shut the fuck up, Cronin.”

“I’d have done the same, Jess.”

“You won’t need support on the outside,” said Miller as she escorted Jess out of the main cell block and along the corridor. “They’ll be collecting you, will they?”

“Yes, they will.”

Jess turned her head away from the prison officer as they walked down the puce-colored corridor with its high windows and quarry-tiled floor.

But she was going to behave herself to the last. Only a few minutes to go.

“I’m surprised he’s still around after what he did,” said Miller.

“He’s come to his senses,” said Jess, but her voice lacked conviction.

“Still not sure, are you?” said Miller.

“We’ll have to see, won’t we?”

“He knows which side his bread’s buttered on.”

“He’d better.”

“What about—”

Jess stopped, pinned the officer with a dark look, and cut in.

“That’s only while I’ve been inside. We’ve had all the assessments and tests they could throw at us. There’s nothing more they can check. It’s behind us now.”

They reached an open area with storage rooms and offices. Jess collected her belongings and changed into her own clothes in a nearby anteroom.

She glanced at herself in a mirror. Her hair was shorter but, other than that, she showed no ill effects from her incarceration.

Finally, after going through the release process, she gripped a plastic bag containing her few belongings and walked out through the imposing black doors onto the circular gravel drive that ran around a central flower bed.

Jess smiled into the sunshine. Then she turned back to take one final look.

Before she went to meet them, she reminded herself that nine years had passed since it all began. It was appropriate to think of this now as she stood outside the prison gate.

She wanted this special moment imprinted on her mind when a new chapter of her life was about to begin.

It was like walking into a new life, a new her, transformed, assertive, and in control of her destiny.

She heard car doors open and close and footsteps on the gravel.

And then they were there.

Next chapter
Galatea logo

Unlimited books, immersive experiences.

Galatea FacebookGalatea InstagramGalatea TikTok