Profile: Joyce Berendes
one-time winner of
She and her husband travelled
Joyce lives with her husband,
dog and peacock on a beautiful 50-acre property in tropical
The Fourteenth Day is her first published work.
the grandson of one of Switzerland’s prominent merchant bankers, Josef Emile
Sturm, the baby Emile Anton Sturm entered a world of wealth well beyond the
comprehension of the average pedestrian. Tucked warmly in the arms of his mother
in a shawl of the finest wool, he gazed benignly into the eyes of his father,
Josef Junior, as she proudly handed him their baby son. Free-wheeler,
free-thinker, adored by the affluent society of
Indulged and spoilt as an only
child and son by his doting mother, Josef Junior – having so far been the
cause of immense disappointment and distress to the shrewd and powerful genius,
Josef Emile Sturm – knew beyond a doubt that this was going to be the first
and only worthwhile deed in his life that would meet with his father’s
Forced by his father into
marriage, Josef proposed to the talented young concert pianist Gabrielle Meili.
Though she wasn’t in love with Josef – in fact she didn’t even like him
and knew him to be gay – Gabrielle Meili was lured by the fortune surrounding
him. She had accepted the proposal on the understanding that, as soon as they
had fulfilled their obligation to the Sturm dynasty, she would go back to the
concert platform and live the life she had chosen to live. Josef Junior had
agreed expeditiously. And here in his arms he held the result. This baby would
become what had been beyond his father’s capability. This boy would be
brilliant, quite outside the common mould. He would be the apple of his
grandfather’s eyes. He would follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. He would
be sure to receive his grandfather’s intellect …
Emile did not disillusion the
Sturm family; his father’s predictions at his birth turned out to be
providential. Tested at six years of age, he was proclaimed to be highly
intelligent and gifted, well within the top one percent. At four he could read
and write tolerably well and was an absolute whiz at the computer. His very
impressed and doting grandfather envisioned Emile as one of life’s high
achievers and engaged a private tutor for his grandson. This stern, taciturn and
conscientious man gave the boy a thorough general grounding, far beyond his
years, but no love or affection. These feelings were outside the reach of this
clever but very lonely man, who had never had the opportunity to experience them
Emile quickly learned to
prefer his own company, or the voice within, which often spoke to him kindly and
seemed to know his innermost feelings. He neither loved nor hated his parents.
Neither loved nor hated his tutor. He tolerated them. He knew how to manipulate
them. The closest young Emile came to affection was through the adoration and
admiration of his parents’ many associates. From the age of three, guided by
his mother, he performed for these friends. Smiling his angelic smile, eyes wide
and beguiling, he commanded and controlled their attention, playing Chopin or
The only one who provoked his
emotions was his grandfather. Without knowing why, he felt a great aversion and
hostility towards him. For all that Josef Emile Sturm spoilt him to distraction
and granted him his every wish, the boy perceived him to be the one person who
stood in the way of his wants. Yet he admired his grandmother, who hardly knew
he existed, the focus of her devotion marshalled towards her one and only child.
Still it was she who realised that between them all they were destroying a human
life. She managed to convince her husband that, if he ever wanted Emile to join
the bank and follow in his footsteps, he should be allowed to join the human
race and encounter the ups and downs of everyday reality.
Young Emile was six when he
started primary school along with several other reluctant beginners. It was a
lamentable disaster. At the end of the first year, with all concerned reaching
their wits’ end, he was given another test and with the school’s approval
was moved a year ahead.
The change was remarkable.
Challenged, he applied himself to his studies with fervour. With grace and great
charm, he set out to change things, quietly using his superior intelligence to
his own benefit. He manipulated and controlled his peers, while those not up to
his expectations were tossed aside.
Study became his life for the
next four years. In that time he learned the craft of charm, he learned how to
use it to his advantage, recognised the fact his angelic smile would get him
nearly anything he wanted, both at school and at home. It was expected that he
would top the class in everything but sport, in which he liked only two
activities, walking and skiing.
When Josef and Gabrielle
finally divorced, it was a relief to all and no great hardship to Emile, for he
saw very little of either of them. He had long ago outgrown his parents
intellectually, and preferred to be by himself. He was also aware of his
grandfather’s expectation that he would eventually join the bank. He knew it
would mean fortune and probably great prestige and power, yet he knew equally
well that he never could nor would live that life. There was no doubt in his
mind what the future held for him. They had discussed it thoroughly, he and his
mate within …
his life thus far had not been one to encourage easy relationships, Emile was at
first cautious, and not quite sure how to cope in his first year at the Freies
Gymnasium Zurich. However, at the end of that first year at college he was well
and truly immersed in a new group of students who were to be known as his
‘set’. Like most students their age, they had endless discussions about the
problems and nature of life. They went for long walks together, shared skiing
holidays, smoked the occasional companionable joint (drugs not being high on
their list of priorities), and saw themselves unrivalled. Bit by bit, without
actually being conscious of it, Emile yielded to the touch of happiness and
opened up to the friendships so casually offered. That is, until three months
before his thirteenth birthday when Estelle Pearson joined their clique and
Emile fell in love.
The daughter of an English
diplomat, she was well travelled and had lived in several exotic countries,
Still a virgin, scarcely used
to the new timbre of his voice, Emile had little understanding of what was
happening to him. Too engrossed in his studies and his special group of friends,
sex so far had been of little consequence. The occasional half-hearted
masturbation left him more often than not unable to reach a climax and curious
as to what all the fuss was about. However, now he lay at night imagining slowly
unbuttoning Estelle’s blouse, his hands lifting those full, heavy breasts to
his mouth, letting his tongue slide and suck, visualising those awesome eyes
gazing longingly into his.
One Sunday afternoon, with the
crowded party going strong, the opportunity arose. He was somehow flung against
her and high on dope and cocaine his usual reticence left him. He slyly
pretended to steady himself and put both hands firmly against those lovely
breasts. Estelle, feeling the small bulge of his arousal pressing against her,
was immediately annoyed. Estelle didn’t like Emile, she thought him still a
child and she couldn’t stand the intolerable superiority he showed towards his
friends. She thought of him as a precocious little shit who needed to be taught
a lesson, and here right now she was being given the chance. Seeing the yearning
in Emile’s eyes, she knew this was what she had been waiting for, and bringing
her lips close to his ear, the whisper throbbed with emotion.
mein kleine Jungfrau ja? My
Her left hand at his bottom
Estelle pressed him tightly against her groin, then squeezed her right hand to
his crotch and carefully, taking her time, started to undo the zipper of his
jeans. She then gently took hold of his penis and with a sneering little titter
pushed him away from her to expose the half-grown puerile erection.
Shocked, still giddy with
desire, Emile stood; he couldn’t move, his gaze transfixed on Estelle, his
eyes boring into hers. Listening to the other’s laughter roaring far off in
his ears, the shame and humiliation of rejection washed over him with ice-cold
‘Stay cool, it doesn’t matter. It won’t make a scrap of difference
in the scheme of things. Just accept, take charge. It doesn’t matter.’
For a long while the spiky
eyelashes and the silky curly ones never moved as Emile, obeying the voice
within, calmly adjusted his clothes. To her shame it was Estelle who blinked
first and turned away laughing, oblivious of the fact that with that small
blink, she had released in Emile Anton his first sweet taste of power. Laughing
still she walked away. Never to know that because of that small blink of her
eyelid she would die, and with her, three other women.
journalist noticed the rider first. The man was half hidden by the branches of a
flowering oleander bush, a few metres apart from a couple of other blokes with
motorcycles. He was sitting astride a BMW motorcycle dressed in full leathers:
black leather trousers and boots, black leather jacket, and still wearing his
full-faced black crash helmet, darkened visor down. Only much later would the
journalist remember that he’d found that strange on such a hot day. But just
then the journalist noticed that the bike was a K1200Lt BMW, in his opinion the
ultimate in comfort and elegance for any seriously touring motorcyclist.
So with a backward glance at
the hospital entrance, and finding all was still as it had been for the last
half-hour, the journo, eyes half closed with admiration and envy, his podgy hand
dipping constantly into a packet of chips, walked slowly towards the bike of his
What would it be like, the
grubby obese little journalist mused, drooling, to own a treasure like that?
Scrunching the chip packet into a ball, he carelessly tossed it aside. He had
eyes only for the man and that bike.
Marchiori didn’t see him approaching. He was feeling hot and was about to
remove his helmet, then thought better of it. Helen might recognise him; it was
always possible, even though he was a fair distance away from the entrance.
Straddled on his bike, he undid his jacket, tension building up within. What
would she look like? He couldn’t wait to see her. He gazed with distaste at
the scrum of media, grouped together near the steps, waiting to pounce on her.
They were obviously in high good spirits, if one judged by their laughter.
His eyes still on the
paparazzi Marchiori got off his bike and put it on its stand. Removing his
jacket altogether, he felt the sweat trickle down his armpits. Needing to be
closer to her when she came out, he began slowly, almost reluctantly, to move
towards the hospital entrance.
He longed to see her. She was
so lovely with her mane of golden hair. So like his … No! Must not think like that …
Why was he here? He shouldn’t be here.
Again he changed his mind and
went back to the bike. He’d look strange wandering around with his helmet on
in this heat.
‘Hey! You’ve got some
motorbike there, mate.’
Startled, Marchiori swung
around, stepping back from the fat guy admiring his bike.
‘A K1200Lt Tourer, hey?
It’s a beauty, mate. I love BMWs, used to do a bit of racing once. Never did
much good. Still love bikes though. Unfortunately, I can’t afford anything
like this! Are you waiting for Helen Gwenmar too?’
What could he say? He would
have to remove his helmet now, the guy would think it odd if he didn’t.
The journalist turned his face
away when Marchiori finally removed his helmet. For just a moment, he’d been
quite taken aback by the depth of misery showing in those dark doe-like eyes.
to leave the hospital, Helen Gwenmar was not to know that some small distance
away, waiting anxiously to try and catch a glimpse of her as she emerged, was a
man the police would be very interested in questioning.
In the process of getting
dressed to go home she had started to collect her things from around the hand
basin. Then she had stopped to study herself in the wall mirror. The bruising on
her cheeks had disappeared, leaving her skin so pale as to be virtually
transparent, highlighting the huge blue eyes that dominated a thin, melancholy
face. The scar, still glowing a bright pink, ran in a thin straight line from
her left ear down to her throat, from where it zigzagged to her right breast
that still showed the stitch marks of what had been a deep wound. It was there
that the knife had deflected on her breastbone saving her life. In spite of
several skin grafts it had become a mish-mash of unsightly crimson scars.
‘I hate you,’ Helen
whispered as her hand reached out towards the mirror; it felt cold like the cold
fear within her. She didn’t want to go home. She wanted to stay here, in this
room, where the staff were accustomed to looking at cripples, where she could
hide and refuse to see people. In the mirror, her eyes fell on the half-packed
suitcase lying on top of the bed behind her, a bed in which she would not be
sleeping tonight. Beside the bed the chest of drawers still held the book
she’d been reading, her tissues and flowers. This room had been her home for
thirty-seven days, the first five lost in a coma from which, apparently, she had
struggled hard to escape. Now, as she examined the hateful skinny stranger
facing her, she wondered whatever for.
Without warning a fierce flush
of apprehension ran up along the scar in her neck to stain her cheeks and shadow
her forehead. As it spread across the myriad of scars on her chest, the rational
part of her mind tried hard to fight the sudden panic attack but couldn’t win.
Oh God! If only she had died!
Gasping for air Helen covered
her chest with the lapels of her dressing gown and quickly turned her back on
the mirror. Inexplicably panic turned to anger. As unreal and as unlike her as
that strange repulsive creature hidden in the mirror behind her back. The depth
of this feeling of hatred scared Helen; she couldn’t remember ever having felt
such a rage. She turned to once more face and confront the woman. She wanted to
scream at her, do something violent and extreme, tear the basin from the wall
and throw it at the ugly creature. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the
devastating image in the mirror. He must’ve been mad, stark raving mad,
whoever he was, this man who had attacked her, raped her and left her to die …
As quickly as the rage came,
it vanished, leaving Helen drained and upset, the familiar soul-destroying
depression gnawing deeper into her mind. Her hands balled into fists, she
pressed them hard against her thighs to try and stop them from shaking. Her
knees were trembling so badly, she barely managed to struggle to the bed. As she
gratefully flopped down on the bed, she wondered again why she couldn’t
remember anything of what happened. The urgent scramble to the operating
theatre, the long operation – she remembered none of it. It was all a total
Post-traumatic amnesia, Dr
James had told her. ‘Don’t try too hard to remember, Helen,’ he’d said.
‘One day it will all come back to you, just like that, out of the blue, when
your body is healed and healthy again.’
Oh, how she hoped and prayed
that Dr James would be wrong.
She did remember coming home
from work. Jean had been busy in the kitchen, cooking some exotic concoction for
her partner Joel, who was coming to dinner. It had been some Turkish dish. Helen
remembered laughing as she popped into the shower, shouting, ‘No thanks’ to
Jean’s invitation to join them. And that was all she could remember, until
after being in a coma for days, she woke up from some terrifying journey, where
dark hostile eyes followed her everywhere, to see Peter and Sister McCormick
sitting next to her bed smiling at her and Peter saying, ‘So you’ve decided
to come back, have you?’ She remembered that, she remembered feeling safe
then. ‘You were so lucky,’ Sister McCormick had said, ‘so lucky to be
Lucky? What would she know?
‘And how is the packing
going?’ Elisabeth Mead, Helen’s favourite nurse, face flushed and eyes
flashing, burst into the little room like a whirlwind. ‘Guess what?’
She instantly judged the mood
of her patient, who was once again deeply depressed she could see. Elisabeth
chose to ignore it. ‘There are some pesky journalists at Reception trying to
get to you, Helen. I’ve been arguing with the sods but they wouldn’t take my
no for an answer. How do those ghouls know you are leaving today?’
‘Oh no!’ Helen sprang up
from the bed and ran to the window. Her room was situated on the first floor of
the red brick building, from where you could see the steps leading up to the
hospital reception area quite clearly. It was not the first time the press had
tried to contact her. Lengthy articles had been written about the attack; some
of the journalists had even managed to get into her room and offered to pay, pay
her well, for an exclusive in-depth story.
‘Why can’t they leave me
alone? I hate them!’
‘And so you should.
Parasites …’ Elisabeth had come to stand next to Helen. ‘Don’t worry,
Sister is with them now, she will sort them out.’ She gave Helen a nudge.
‘She’s giving them the sharp end of her tongue. Imagine it, they won’t
know what hit them.’
In spite of her black mood,
Helen could not help but smile back at Elisabeth. They’d all been so kind, so
gentle and compassionate; Elisabeth, Dr James and Sister McCormick, of course
Peter, and even Sergeant Newley. It was the sergeant who’d told her about the
assault, about being sexually molested and left to die. He had spoken very
quietly, and had tried to help her remember her assailant, hoping to find a link
between the killer and his victims. It was also the sergeant who had told her
Jean had been one of her
friend Lucy’s workmates. Helen had only known her for a few weeks, letting her
share the flat while Jean and her boyfriend looked for a suitable place of their
own; jolly, amiable Jean, who was now dead.
‘I’m so going to miss you,
Liz.’ Helen forced her mind away from Jean. Thinking about Jean would only get
her deeper into the dumps. ‘I wish you could come with me.’
‘Oh yeah, that would be a
fine turn-up for the books. I was just starting to look forward to having some
peace and quiet again.’
A well-built, solid girl with
a friendly, round freckled face, Elisabeth had been Sister’s better half
helping to look after Helen. The job had almost become an obsession for
Elisabeth. She was the same age as Helen and they’d become good friends.
She’d given Helen a lot of her own spare time, talking Helen through sleepless
nights, and doing all the private and intimate tasks this required with loving
‘Come on, let’s get you
dressed and packed.’
Elisabeth took a pair of
slacks and T-shirt out of the narrow wardrobe and handed them over to Helen,
after which she went to the bed and finished Helen’s packing. She turned when
she heard Helen’s gasp of despair and couldn’t help bursting out laughing.
‘God help me, Helen, you are a bony scarecrow. I wish I could give you some of
my fat. Here, this might help.’ Elisabeth produced a large safety pin from one
of her pockets and pinned the slacks, which were now much too big, a bit tighter
around Helen’s hips. Then, seeing her patient’s downcast face, she drew her
close. ‘Hey, come on, things can only get better from now on, can’t they? I
thought we decided on that strategy last night. Get Rose to fatten you up and
your admirers will come flocking back in droves.’
Helen hugged her hard. ‘You
will come and visit me, won’t you?’ she pleaded, a catch in her voice.
‘Of course, didn’t I
In months to come Elisabeth
would regret not having kept that promise. But hospital relationships, like
holiday friendships, tended to wither away once removed from the environment in
which they were nurtured. But for now she had every intention of keeping her
promise. She looked hopefully into Helen’s face, expecting to see a few tears,
but her patient’s eyes still had that burning, forlorn look of the totally
The saddest thing of all,
Elisabeth mused as she kept on packing, was that Helen had still been a virgin
before the attack. She had learned that bit of unwanted gossip from Helen’s
friend, Lucy, one night while they sat talking beside Helen’s unconscious
body. Lucy appeared to be a devoted friend, but it had seemed indecent to
Elisabeth, under the circumstances, to tittle-tattle about that sort of thing.
Particularly the bit about how all Helen’s male friends had challenged each
other to sleep with Helen …
Helen’s thoughts were very
much on the same subject, as she turned back to the window. Elisabeth’s
teasing had brought it all back again. She had thought about it night after
night: what a laugh, chaste, virginal Helen, keeping herself for the love of her
life. She had strongly believed that what awaited her was a man with whom she
would share her life, for whom there was no face or form, but would be
recognised by her whenever he appeared, of that she had been so sure …
Of course there was always
John, she thought bitterly. He would marry her tomorrow, damaged goods or not,
hideous as she now was. She felt immediately repentant. What was she thinking?
John was her friend. She had known him all her life. She liked John. But John
would only ever be like a second brother to her.
Her eyes on a man with a
camera outside, Helen’s hand involuntarily touched the scar in her neck and
she shuddered with disgust. Why couldn’t she
have died instead of Jean?
Elisabeth was about to close
Helen’s suitcase when there was a knock on the door. ‘Come in, Peter,’ she
called out, starting to carry the small case towards the door as Helen’s
brother came in.
‘Here, let me do that.’
Though ten years older than Helen, Peter was the spitting image of his sister.
Tall, the same blue eyes, the same thick thatch of light blonde curls, cropped
short in his case. ‘How are you, Babs?’
‘Oh fine!’ Helen said
sarcastically, still staring out of the window, her back to her brother.
‘Longing to go home.’ She didn’t bother to turn around, her eyes still
locked on the cameraman. ‘What did you expect?’
‘Exactly that, what else?
Haven’t I been slaving like a maniac to get the place liveable?’
Poor Peter. What are you
taking on? Helen thought, observing the cameraman disappear from her sight. She
must stop behaving like a bitch. First John, now Peter, neither of them deserved
that sort of behaviour … even if it was only in her mind as far as Johnny was
It was bad enough for Peter
having his sister come to live with him again, as she had done years ago, after
their parents had died in a car crash. For the last ten years he had been like a
father and mother to her. As soon as he had realised that the thought of going
back to her own flat had petrified her he had insisted she should come and live
with him. He was trying so hard to make life bearable for her and had even
arranged for Sister McCormick’s sister-in-law, Rose, to come and stay with her
during the day as a companion-cum-nurse while he was at work, although Helen
wasn’t exactly overjoyed with that idea.
It was Sergeant Newley who, in
the hope that it might help her to regain her memory, had pleaded with her to
try and go back to the flat. Thank God, Dr James had refused to even think about
that idea. As it was, she already woke up screaming from her dreams. Dr James
was convinced that a visit to the flat at this moment could do her more harm
Evidently the police did not
have a clue. Apparently their evidence at the inquest had been completely
negative. There were no suspects under investigation. The cause of Jean’s
death was stated as ‘A severe knife wound inflicted by a person unknown’.
The knife had not been found. Permission for burial had been given …
As he took hold of Helen’s
small suitcase, Peter felt the usual stab of pity. She was so woefully thin.
Though she stood with her back to him, he didn’t need to see her face to
realise she was deeply depressed again. It showed in the slope of her shoulders
and the way that she held her head. He felt consumed with love for her. In his
opinion it was as well that Helen could not remember anything for a while. It
didn’t bear thinking about. What would have happened if Joel hadn’t arrived
too early for his dinner and found the two girls bleeding to death? Jean had
been so far gone that she had died on the way to the hospital. While Helen had
been given oxygen and life-giving fluids inside the ambulance, her mind by that
time had already drawn deep within.
‘Don’t worry about that
lot,’ he now said, as he and Elisabeth joined Helen at the window, indicating
the media. ‘We’ve arranged for a couple of coppers to keep them away from
you, and Johnny is waiting for you in the car, prepared to take off the minute
we let him know you’re ready to go.’
Disinclined to leave her
private sanctuary, holding tightly onto Elisabeth’s hand, Helen reluctantly
followed Peter out of the room.
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