Exclusive extracts from OxCrimes – On 15 May, Profile Books will be releasing OxCrimes, a special anthology that includes 27 short stories by some of the world’s best crime authors. To support the launch of the book, we’re working with Profile to bring you extracts from some of the stories in the book. Last week, we posted an excerpt from The Ladder by Adrian McKinty and today we’ve got the beginning of Diagnosis: Murder by Martyn Waites (pictured).
Waites is a hugely popular and prolific British writer, and his most recent book is Angel of Death, a sequel to Susan Hill’s gothic thriller The Woman in Black. He also makes up half of the writing team known as Tania Carver, and you can read our review of The Doll’s House here. Other authors in OxCrimes include Walter Mosley, Stella Duffy, Stuart Neville and Alexander McCall Smith, plus there’s an introduction by Ian Rankin. It’s all in aid of the charity Oxfam, which fights global poverty.
So, once you’ve enjoyed this piece by Martyn Waites below, don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of OxCrimes – £9.99 in paperback or £7.99 as an eBook, or we shall be very disappointed!
Diagnosis: Murder by Martyn Waites
Cancer. Such a big word for such a small amount of letters. Cancer. Two syllables, six letters – two of which recur – four consonants, two vowels. Cancer. Small word. Big impact.
I didn’t take in anything else the doctor had said once he had said that word. He was still talking, leaning across the table, giving me his most humane, sorrow-filled gaze. Empathising. Sympathising.
Fair enough, I thought, you really want to empathise then you have it instead.
Stage four, the doctor said. Inoperable.
I sat silently, listening. Or looking like I was listening. All I really heard was white noise. Eventually he went silent and I thought that silence must mean it was my turn to speak.
‘How long have I got?’ I had to say something. I hated myself for using such a clichéd question. But thinking about it, I suppose that the reason phrases become clichés is because of situations like this one.
‘A few weeks, a month? Couple of months? Hard to say. It’s aggressive, metastasising fast. The best thing you could do now is go home. Put your affairs in order. Spend time with your loved ones.’
Those words made me think of clutching my family towards me and sitting in the cellar until a tornado passes. Only I won’t be going upstairs again to inspect the damage once it’s finished. There were more apologies, more attempts at empathy from him, but I didn’t hear them.
I walked out of the surgery in a daze. If I was honest, I had known what the lump in my chest was, the shortness of breath, the incessant coughing. The pain like a magician doing a knife trick in a Chinese cabinet. Known straight away. But I’d still held out hope. Some last minute Hollywood reprieve, a mix up with the results, some entirely innocent and innocuous explanation. But no. This is the real world. It doesn’t work that way. I knew what it was. Had always known.
I walked back to the car, got in, drove off. When I thought back afterwards I didn’t remember making the drive home. I could have ploughed into a bus stop full of people and not noticed. All I was thinking about was how this wasn’t right. Cancer was something that someone else got. Everything was something that someone else got. Death was something that someone else got. Or should get. Not me. I felt the anger then. Welling up. Familiar and hard. Not me. Not me. Why was it always me that things like this happen to? Why have I never had the luck that other people have had? Karen, my wife, always hinted, in that passive aggressive way of hers, that things often didn’t go my way because of my attitude. Too aggressive, she said. Too full on. It puts people off you, she said. Bollocks, I thought. Too aggressive, my arse. You get nothing in this world unless you fight for it, I always told her. Fighting. That’s what I had to do. Even now.
When I pulled the car into the drive, I didn’t realise that I’d been talking to myself out loud. My chest was hurting again from the exertion. I sat for a few minutes until I got the strength up to get out.
I looked over to the next door neighbours. Felt that anger again, but a different kind this time. When we moved in we were nothing but nice to them. And they responded to our kindness by being a pair of lying, duplicitous evil cunts. They reported our dog, a puppy at the time, to the council for being a nuisance. Out all night, they said. Barking all night. What a load of fucking lies. We got the council round. Checked the dog out. The council woman asked us if we wanted to report our nuisance neighbours. We didn’t. Not then.
Then they took our hedge up. A fifty-metre hedge. Told us it was theirs. We asked to see the documentation. We’re still waiting. They took a country hedge down and replaced it with a fucking ugly laurel hedge. Laurel. Dull, ugly, unimaginative and suburban. Just like them. We told them, you don’t come to live in the country and try to change things. That’s the trouble with the countryside. Getting full of suburban shits like them.
Then they took our trees down. Full grown elms, been there god knows how long. Border between the two houses. And most importantly, on our land. They did it while Karen was out and I was away on work. We came back to nothing. Then they tried to take us to court, saying we were trying to take over their land. The land the trees had been on. Our land. That’s still ongoing.
And that’s not to mention the incessant complaints they make to the kids when they play in the garden.
Hate them. Fucking, fucking hate them.
When we tell people about them they think that they must be old. Intolerant. No, the opposite. They’re young. Childless. All they do is work. They have no friends, nothing. They just want to make money and sit in their house in silence. That’s it.
Their car was on the drive. A BMW. I stared at it. Why couldn’t it be them? Why couldn’t they get cancer and not me? They deserved it. They’re utter cunts. Life is really fucking unfair.
To carry on reading click here.
This extract from the beginning of ‘Diagnosis: Murder’ by Martyn Waites is taken from OxCrimes: 27 Killer Stories from the Cream of Crime Writers published 15 May by Profile Books at £9.99 paperback/£7.99 ebook.
Note: With previous books OxTravels and OxTales raising over £250,000 since their 2009 publication, Oxfam is hoping OxCrimes will raise even more, helping to tackle poverty and suffering around the world. Visit Oxfam’s emergency Response pages here to find out more about how you can help.