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THE FOURTEENTH DAY

When Helen Gwenmar regains her memory having suffered from post-traumatic amnesia, she relives the pain of rape. Reliving again the knife’s mutilation of her body, she recalls the murder of her flatmate Jean, who was left bleeding, dying on the floor calling out Helen’s name. Terrified when she remembers the steel grip of the killer’s arms preventing her from going to her friend, Helen is convinced she was the one he intended to murder, and not Jean. In desperate panic Helen flees from her hometown and keeps on running. Three men follow her, determined to find her. All three love her yet one of them needs to kill her …  

Told first in the victim’s words, then from the killer’s point of view, merging in the third part to The Fourteenth Day, this is a fast-paced psychological thriller/romance that explores the darker corners of the human mind and a person’s need to be loved and accepted.  

As the story – set mainly in Australia – moves from Brisbane to Cairns , to the tip of Queensland ’s Cape York and briefly to Switzerland , it is also a story of breathtaking adventures.

In Store Price: $AU32.95 
Online Price:   $AU31.95

ISBN: 978-1-921240-32-4
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 405
Genre: Fiction/Thriller 

Cover: Clive Dalkins

 

 

Author: Joyce Berendes
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2007
Language: English

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Author Profile: Joyce Berendes      

A one-time winner of Brisbane ’s Twelfth Night Theatre’s Best Actress award, Joyce came to Australia as a fully qualified ballet dancer. In Australia she studied speech and drama for two years, then taught drama and dance, and started a Children’s Operetta Group, for which she wrote the book and lyrics of two children’s musicals and one play that were later performed by schools and local amateur theatres. As a member of the Queensland Writers’ Centre and treasurer of the Kuranda branch of the Queensland Arts Centre, Joyce was involved in organising conferences, art exhibitions, workshops etc, as well as doing the choreography, directing plays and teaching at drama workshops.

She and her husband travelled throughout Australia for four years, with Landcruiser and caravan, experiencing many adventures, some of which she has incorporated into her writing.

Joyce lives with her husband, dog and peacock on a beautiful 50-acre property in tropical North Queensland .

The Fourteenth Day is her first published work.

Prologue          

As 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 Zurich as their bon vivant, Josef, looking down into the angelic face of his offspring, saw light, grey-green eyes set wide apart, a sweet curved red mouth, and soft light gold down covering the tender scalp. Little Emile, Josef Junior realised, would grow into the image of his famous mother, instead of inheriting the swarthy devilish good looks of his father.

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 approval.

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 himself.

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 Mozart’s sonatas.

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 …

 

As 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, amongst them Russia and India . At fifteen years of age she was a year older than most and two years older than Emile. Short and dumpy, her appearance was uninspiring except for her extraordinary eyes. Large, almond-shaped, mauve-green in colour, surrounded by spiky eyelashes, the irises caught in a band of black kohl, her gaze probed the core of one’s being. A superb raconteur, she held them all in the palm of her hand with fascinating and bizarre anecdotes of her exploits in those faraway alien lands. She also introduced them to mind-enhancing drugs as well as wild and wonderful parties.

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.

‘Du bist mein kleine Jungfrau ja? My little virgin?’

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 sweat.

‘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.

 Chapter One

Helen’s Story        (part sample)

T

he 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 dreams.

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.

 

Roberto 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.

 

Preparing 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 blank.

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 alive.’

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 about Jean.

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 care.

‘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 promise?’

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 depressed.

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 concerned.

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 than good.

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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