fame at any price?
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

by Andrew Lee-Hart






“Your wife, did you murder her then?”


“Well you said that she was dead.”

Mr Cooke looked at him baffled, but was that a twitch of fear in his eye, or just confusion?

“Sorry, just my sense of humour. Probably why I was always better with a script.  Let me buy you a pint.”

“No, no, I came here to see you. Same again?”


Mr Cooke had appeared at his care home that morning.

“A visitor Tommy” said the red-haired nurse Sinead, and a middle-aged man walked in closely behind her; smartly dressed and with a cautious smile, Tommy noticed his visitor glancing at Sinead’s bum as she walked away.

“One of the perks of retirement.”

Mr Cooke looked blankly at him, “beautiful nurses, not much else to think about”, Tommy explained to his visitor.

“I am Cooke” the man claimed as he shook his hand, “I wrote to you. A pleasure to meet you Mr Field. I used to love you on the radio when I was a lad, I have always wanted to meet you, I hope you don’t mind me bothering you.”


Tommy Field had not had a fan visit for many a year; even his children and grandchildren rarely visited, the care home (Bridsworth House, “a retirement home for those formerly in the entertainment industry”) was many miles away from where any of his family lived, although even when he lived close by, they had rarely bothered. He sat up straight at the thought of some excitement and someone to talk to; even the charms of Sinead and her colleagues were rarely enough to ease the boredom of his life, and he was aware that his compulsive joke-telling and attempts to shock were becoming more and more wearisome; he really would need to talk less and not scare away his visitor.


“Call me Tommy”, he said, and Mr Cooke shook his hand again; his hands were warm but not sweaty, a hand to inspire confidence, not like many of the businessmen that he had dealt with over his life and who had taken his money and controlled his career.

“Thank you for letting me visit, but your show “Tommy’s Bits and Bobs” was a highlight of my childhood, I always listened to it before bedtime, and when I found out where you were here, well I just wanted to pay my respects.”

“Very kind of you I am sure, most people have forgotten me, lovely to meet someone who remembers me.” He paused for a minute, wondering what was expected of him, and wishing he had dressed more smartly. And then inspired he suggested they go out and visit a pub.


Within ten minutes they were driving out of the gates of Bridsworth, the first time that Tommy had been outside the grounds for several months. It was February and icily cold but the sun shone brightly and he enjoyed looking at the life going on around him; he could not remember any letter from Mr Cooke, but perhaps the staff had hidden it from him, but he was just glad to be outside and with company. The car smelt of Mr Cooke’s scent, a little pungent for his taste, but already they were drawing up outside a pub, and he was having an adventure.


“Do you do this a lot?” Tommy asked him as they sat drinking; he was feeling a little befuddled now, he had been a heavy drinker back in the day, but now his lifestyle was more abstemious, and the third pint was beginning to hit him. He was tempted to ask for cigarette, another vice that he had had to forgo, but then he would have to smoke it outside and he did not want to leave the warmth of the pub.

“After my wife died I took early retirement, I was a doctor you know, and so I have been travelling meeting heroes of my youth.”

“You look young to be retired.”

Mr Cooke laughed, “I made enough money to live comfortably, but it can be a bit dull, so I decided to do all the things that I never had time to do when I was working.” He looked at Tommy carefully “You look a little tiddly, I am sorry, we shouldn’t have had all that beer, perhaps it is best if I take you back to Bridsworth.”


It took awhile for Tommy Field to realise they were going the wrong way, he had fallen asleep in his visitor’s Volvo almost as soon as he put his seatbelt on, lulled by the sound of the engine, and Mr Cooke’s regular tapping on the steering wheel, Tommy wasn’t sure of the way, but knew that they were taking far too long, and he did not recognise the countryside out of the window.

“Shouldn’t we be back now?” he asked, feeling queasy, Mr Cooke’s aftershave was very strong now and the car stifling, he wanted to be back in bed in cool sheets with a window open and Sinead on hand in case he needed her.

“I thought that we would go for a little drive. Bet you don’t get out much.”

“I just want to get back home,” he murmured, but he was not sure if Mr Cooke had heard him, he certainly gave no sign of having done so, and then Tommy fell back into a doze.


He dreamt he was on stage; he realised that it was The Royal Albert Hall, the place was packed, and he started to sing; not his usual comic songs but opera, his first love, singing as Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and there was an orchestra in the pit and he could see the conductor’s baton frantically moving in front of him, but there was nobody else on stage, just emptiness. And as he sang he realised that the audience were laughing, as if he were singing silly songs and telling jokes, and the better he sang the more they laughed and shrieked.

“This is serious” he shouted to the audience, but they continued to roar with laughter, and then to his horror he realised that he was weeping, and that his face was covered in his tears.


He awoke to find that the car had stopped and that the passenger door was open; he tumbled out and vomited copiously, and then lay in his own sick feeling weak and wretched.  All of a sudden he was dragged up by his coat by Mr Cooke, who pulled him along the ground away from the car; he tried to find his feet, but Mr Cooke was going too fast and was too strong; he tried to shout but he was winded and very ill, and he was bumped and jolted as they went at a gallop.


They soon reached some woods, which meant that Mr Cooke had to slow down to avoid the trees and roots, which gave Tommy time to catch his breath, and then his captor slipped and for a moment let go of him, and Tommy finding strength from who knew where, pushed himself up and ran, ran faster than he had done for years, and for a moment or two he was free and he knew that he had to get away from this madman who was younger than him and fitter.


He would have to head back to the road, and hopefully there would be someone to save him, but just as he turned, he too slipped on a root and fell heavily knocking the wind out of himself, he could smell his vomit and shit, and he wept with self-pity. He tensed to push himself back onto his feet, but there was the sound of footsteps and Cooke’s breathing close by, and then there was an almighty bang and a brief feeling of agony, and that was it.


Mr Cooke, after covering the body with leaves and mud, fastidiously washed his hands and headed back to his car; as he drove off he put on Radio Three and listened to some Dvorak, tapping the steering wheel in time to the rhythm.




Jon governed his life by television, breakfast in front of Lorraine, lunch when Loose Women came on and then his sleep after Countdown had finished. Once he woke up and if he felt up to it, a quick walk to the shops to get food and beer, but more usually he caught a taxi, and then back home for dinner and the local news, and then he watched sport for the rest of the evening on his Sky package, the one luxury that he still allowed himself.


It wasn’t much of a life, but he had become used to it over the years and was content, expecting nothing better; true he was occasionally bitter, for instance when he heard of nineteen-year old footballers being paid millions and set up for life, there was so much more money in the game than when he had been a professional, if only he had been born a generation or two later his lifestyle would be so much better. And yet he had had a good career and even played in the old First Division with Wolverhampton Wanderers for a couple of years, playing against many of the greats; Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Cyrille Regis, Glenn Hoddle and so many others. When he had retired he had had a fair bit of money; enough to buy a hardware shop here in Derby, a good area, but he had struggled; he was no business man and the pains in his legs got worse so that he could barely stand (all those painkilling injections catching up with him), and in the end he had sold up making enough just to live on for the rest of his life, so long as he was careful.


When he had first retired he used to visit Derby County, the club where he had spent the last years of his career, but soon it had all changed, even the Baseball Ground stadium had been knocked down, and nobody was interested in another ex-pro talking about the good old days when football was football, and now he could not even afford to go and see them play, and had nobody to go with. Perhaps if he had married it would have been better, he could have done with some sensible advice and some stability, but with all those girls throwing themselves at him why limit himself to one? Now he was alone with the television and his painkillers, with rarely a visitor from one month to the next.


There was a rap at the door; confident and demanding, presumably someone from the council with another complaint about noise. Jon used his stick to lever himself to the front door, he did not rush, hoping whichever busybody was stood waiting would give up and move on, but when he eventually got there he discovered a man about his own age, but smartly dressed and with a briefcase.

“Jon Taylor? Hello sir, I am Mr Boothferry, I trust you got my letter?”

“Are you from the council? My bloody neighbours complaining again?”

“No, no, I wrote to you a week or two ago, I am fan, I just wanted to meet you.”


Jon shrugged and let the man in, suddenly conscious of the untidiness of the house, and aware that this stranger was his first visitor in weeks.

“Sorry about the mess, I can’t even handle a vacuum cleaner, and I can’t afford a cleaner.”

“Please don’t apologise.”

Mr Boothferry smelt of scent, not something Jon could quite put his finger on, but definitely classy and expensive.

“So you’re a fan?”

“Yes, I remember you playing for Wolves, the terrier in our midfield. You were a great player, never knew why they sold you.”

“That’s football; a couple of bad games and off you go, always someone younger than you ready to takeover.  A lot of it is luck really, but I enjoyed my time there, probably the highlight of my career.”


Sitting opposite his guest Jon talked about the good old days; as he was lonely he did not need much excuse to talk and tell his fund of stories, eventually though, he turned to his visitor.

“But what do you do? Do you do this a lot, visiting old professionals?”

“No lad, I haven’t been entirely honest with you, I am a fan, but I am also a writer, had a few things published; I wondered if you had ever thought of writing your biography?”

Jo laughed, “who on earth would be interested in that?”

“You would be surprised; football is big business now and it is only right you should get your reward. It won’t be difficult; just like this really, you chat to me and then I will write it down. Think we could do well.”


Jon sat back; he forgot his aches and pains for a moment and pictured the book, it would be his chance to tell his own story and settle a few old scores; his life had been awful the last few years, and now here was a chance to escape; many of his contemporaries were regulars on television or had written books, why shouldn’t he do the same?


“Do you think you could do that?” his visitor asked, looking at him rather curiously, but Jon was too engrossed in his day-dreams to notice.

“Oh certainly, thank you. You are right I have a lot to say.”

“Yes, your life does not seem up to much now, does it?”

Jon shrugged, “I was just unlucky that’s all; injuries and my business failed. But hopefully things will change now, eh.”

“Do you get many visitors?  Any family?”

Jon looked embarrassed, “well my mother is in a home, but it is difficult to visit her and my two sisters just want my money, so I have cut myself off really.”

Mr Boothferry smiled, as if he had heard some very good news.


Jo, looked at Mr Boothferry, and for a moment was perturbed, a gut instinct perhaps, and he realised how helpless he was in his house with this stranger, and all at once he wanted him out of his house, so that he could lose himself in the television. He saw a movement and suddenly Mr Boothferry was standing over him with a look of evil intent, and then he felt a pain as a gloved fist hit him hard on the jaw.

“Jesus” and then he was hit again and again.


Mr Boothferry shrugged and suddenly there was a cushion over his face and he fought, as hard has he had ever fought in his life, but his assailant was too strong and he felt dizzy and then everything went dark and he stopped struggling….



They are pathetic most of these people that I visit and then kill; their brief moments of fame long gone and now they are just hoping someone will recognise them, but nobody cares as they sink to obscurity and death. I despise them and yet I yearn for something similar, and this is the only way; to become their murderer. It is a hobby and in the end it does nobody any harm; getting rid of a few old fools is hardly something to regret or complain about, and for a moment I am in the limelight where I long to be.




She called herself “Mrs Rowbottom” because, legally, that was her name; her late husband being Mr Eddie Rowbottom, businessman and, briefly, local politician, but it was only after her husband had died that she had moved to a quieter part of Sheffield, got a flat and joined the church choir. Nobody knew that in the 1960s she had been Judith Lane the “Leeds Nightingale”.


Classically trained but with an ear for the popular she had been well-known throughout that decade, touring not only the North of England but London and even Europe and then, at the peak of her popularity America. But then on her return she had met Eddie, settled down and had a family. For awhile she had still played the occasional concert, but soon, and without a fuss she retired; finding the constant practicing and travel too much, and then she settled down with her family and taught Singing and the Piano to local schoolgirls, and was as happy as she had ever been.


When she joined the church nobody had recognised her; she was just a respectable widow who talked about her children and her late husband with love and affection, truth to tell she was just one of many such elderly women who attended St. Barnabas Church, although perhaps more self-confident and better dressed than the others. It was when she began to sing in the choir that her class stood out, at least to the musical members of the congregation, and she, albeit a little reluctantly, began to sing solos and organise musical events; nothing grandiose, but the odd concert to raise money for a worthy cause.


“Have you ever sung professionally?” asked Rev. Venables, the church’s musically inclined vicar, who, although he didn’t know it, had a couple of his parishioner’s records in his collection.

“Oh a long time ago I did a bit of singing. Just a few concerts in Leeds, I have put it all behind me although I enjoy singing at St Barnabas.”

“You are very good.” He told her, “we are lucky to have you”.

She smiled slightly embarrassedly and drank down her Earl Grey and managed to surreptitiously change the conversation.


She felt someone watching her during the sermon; it was difficult for members of the choir being so conspicuous during the service especially during the sermon, whilst some didn’t care and felt free to look bored or to doze, most of the choir felt the need to look interested or to read their Bibles.  Mrs Rowbottom was happy to listen and did often learn something, and so for her the look of devotion was genuine, but now she was distracted by the grey-haired man sitting at the back who whilst not staring at her, regularly glanced over at her, as if to check that she was still there. He seemed to be on his own and she did not remember seeing him before; he looked distinguished, but also rather unpleasant and sinister.


By the time she had de-robed and said her goodbyes he had gone but she did not completely forget about him as she got through her week.  Although she was retired she was busy; she worked as a volunteer for The Samaritans and also helped out in a food bank twice a week, but between listening to the sad and lonely and helping the poor, for some reason the man’s look came back to her, curious and yearning, and it made her uneasy.


Somehow she was not surprised when he appeared at her door the following Saturday evening; he was carrying flowers and smelt of an expensive cologne. She looked at him.


“Judith Lane? Did you get my letter?”

“No and I am Mrs Rowbottom. What do you want?”

He was nonplussed for a few moments, “I have got you these flowers, I have been a fan of yours for many years.”

She swiftly shut the door and then put the chain on, from behind the curtains she watched him look puzzled and then slowly walk back down her drive.


A fan of her music who had somehow managed to track her down, the first for many years; so that was it.  She made herself a mint tea and settled down to watch television, but even now she could not take him out of her mind; she prided herself on her instincts; you need them to survive when you are a young woman, in a ruthless world, and deep down she was rather tough, which was no bad thing, even if most people did not come across the core of steel underneath her softer exterior. And her instincts told her that there was something rather frightening about him and unpleasant, and he was going to cause her trouble.


“I will call the police if you bother me again.”

She had seen him in Attley Park, sitting reading The Guardian as she made her way to The Samaritans office. There was ice on the grass which had crunched under feet as she walked towards him, her breath dissolving in front of her.

“But you are Judith Lane, all I wanted is to meet you. I recognised your face, and then hearing you sing in the church, it was beautiful.”

She looked at him and sighed, whilst he continued.

“I saw you sing in Nottingham, at the Royal Concert Hall, when I was a child, my mother brought me.”

He smiled as if reminiscing. “You sang songs by Mahler and Purcell, it was my first introduction to serious music. I was captivated, I have all your records, but then you stopped performing and I always wondered what had happened to you.”


She shrugged, as if to say, what happened to me is in front of you.

“I got married, had children and now I am a widow and I am late.”

“I am sorry, since my wife left me I have been at a bit of a loose end, and I wanted just to meet you and tell you what you mean to me.  Could I treat you to a coffee and a cake, I noticed a lovely café at the other side of the park?”

“Gino’s? Yes it is lovely and I am sure they will look after you. You have met me and talked to me, now go away, I am busy and I need to go.”

And without a backwards glance she left him sat in the cold, but unfortunately her pursuer was not so easily put off, and eventually Mrs Rowbotham started to prepare herself.


That summer a car was found in a lake at the end of an obscure country track in the Peak District, and inside was a very badly decomposed body.

“He must have lost control and driven into the lake, and then slowly drowned, God knows what he was doing there though,” said the policeman to the fisherman who had discovered the car, he shivered at the thought of such an unpleasant death, and wished he was back home with his wife, as he arranged for a workman to haul it out.


There was a post mortem, but because the body was in such a bad state it was inconclusive and the coroner left an open verdict, and despite the publicity nobody came forward to claim any knowledge of the dead man, and eventually he was buried at the public expense in a cemetery just outside Derby.  Only the young policeman who had been first at the scene, attended the funeral; he hoped that a mysterious lady would turn up and claim knowledge of the body, but there was no such excitement, and after a brief chat with the vicar who had taken the service he left. 


The police had tried to trace the body; a bank card and a driving license gave an address in Leyton which proved to be non-existent, but eventually the car was traced to a Mr Matthew Purcell with an address in Nottingham, the house had changed hands recently, but he had lived there for many years, and had been a solicitor in the city. P.C. Stephens, a local bobby, interviewed one of Purcell’s former colleagues.

“Matthew was friendly enough, he was certainly a good solicitor, quite sort-after in Nottingham, and then once he had made enough money he retired, and I never heard from him again.”

“Did he mention any family? Was he married? We need to trace somebody.”

“He mentioned a daughter, she lived in Australia I think, I think they had had a falling out. He never mentioned a wife or anyone else, he was quite private, and we did not socialise outside of work.  You would imagine someone as wealthy and presentable as Matthew would have had someone tucked away, but he never mentioned anybody.”

No birth certificate was found or any further clue to who he was or where he had come from, and eventually it was just left as a mystery, after all he had not done anything illegal and as far as they knew his death was accidental.


There was one further clue to the mysterious death of Mr Purcell; a young woman from Newcastle came across an old newspaper which mentioned the mysterious death and went into her local police station and made a statement.

“…I was driving along the B525, I was on my way to see my boyfriend in Leicester, and then I saw a man and a woman by the side of the road. He seemed in some distress, vomiting and clutching his stomach. I stopped and asked if I could help, the man did not answer, but the woman said not to bother, that she was going to drive him to hospital, that an ambulance was on its way. He did seem ill, but she seemed in control. An elderly woman, perhaps in her early seventies. I am sure it was the same make of car that was found. I always thought I should have stopped but I was late, and a little bit lost.”


Mrs Rowbottom continues to sing in St. Barnabus Church choir, none the worst for her brief illness a couple of years ago; she is now back to her usual cheery self and carries on with her good causes.  No other strange men have accosted her, which is probably for the best.


Sometimes at night, she dreams of a man in a car, driving her away and how suddenly he started to gasp as the poison she had put in his tea earlier started to work. And she dreams of a car slowly rolling into a lake, and disappearing completely from view, and then she wakes up with a jolt, ready to begin a brand new day.





Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2019