“The Road to Abaddon” is one of nineteen short stories from the anthology dubbed “A Fistful of Diamonds”.
“The Road to Abaddon” surrounds one man’s battle to come to terms with the death of his wife and daughter at the hands of a famous cricketer.
Arthur Levy was probably the saddest man in the prison system. Having spent ten years of a life sentence for premeditated murder, Arthur had another five years to serve before he would be considered for any form of parole.
The circumstances surrounding Arthur Levy’s incarceration were stuff of legend. In Wakefield Prison, his fellow inmates respected any man who stood up for his family, but Arthur had completely broken the mould. His standing was akin to his being idolised as a top footballer for his favourite club Manchester United. In this respect, Wayne Rooney’s fame would have paled into insignificance compared to the bright star of Arthur Levy’s status.
Over the years, Wakefield Prison had gained a reputation for being the home to many a hardened criminal. It was very simple! If you were sent to Wakefield you were not expected to be released anytime soon.
Every evening, just before lights out, Arthur would recline on his bed staring at the two pictures of the loves of his life. Being on the bottom bunk of two beds, this led Arthur to have them neatly taped to the underside of the top bunk. This nightly ritual would always cause him to shed a tear for his daughter, Emily, and his wife, Constance. Both women were long gone from Arthur’s world, but not from his thoughts.
Arthur’s long journey to Abaddon (the Hebrew word for hell!) began in the summer of 2003. The year had started well for Arthur with him celebrating his fiftieth birthday in February. Four months later, his beloved Emily graduated from Cambridge University with an honours degree in political science. Great things were expected of Emily and no one was more proud than Arthur.
On the commercial front, Arthur had parlayed his sporting goods company into one of the foremost chain stores in the country. The flotation of “Sports Express” on the London Stock Exchange had his company being valued at nearly two hundred million pounds.
Arthur and Emily, besides their mutual love for each other, had one thing in common. Cricket! Arthur never understood where Emily’s fervour for the game came from, but every summer they would enthusiastically support England against whomever they were playing in the summer tests.
Constance, Arthur’s childhood sweetheart and loving wife, could never fathom their infatuation with a game she associated with watching paint dry. “How can you watch a game that takes five days to play and more often than not ends up with nobody winning?” She always asked before they embarked on another summer season of watching test cricket.
Arthur would wink at Emily before taking Constance in his arms and engaging her in a loving embrace. “That’ll get you nowhere, Arthur Levy. I’m always the one who has to look after the business while you and little Miss Daddy’s girl slope off to watch the cricket.”
Arthur and Emily had this part of the charade down to fine art. Their downcast eyes would always win the day. “Just be gone the two of you, and I hope England get stuffed!”
Constance Levy also knew how this game was played and as Arthur’s trusted financial advisor she could not wait to implement some of the business policies Arthur always put on the back burner. There were never any confrontations, because when Arthur returned to work everything was in place and running like a finely made Swiss watch. Constance called it her “Spring Clean” and it continually worked for “Sports Express”.
Cadal Williams had announced his arrival on the cricket scene with a commanding series for England against the West Indies the previous season. Pundits were comparing him with Ian Botham and Sir Garfield Sobers as the next great all-rounder in world cricket.
Cadal could flourish his bat like a maestro. His bowling arm was a mystery to all, since no cricketer had worked out his unique spin bowling. It was associated to a Pandora’s Box of wicked deliveries that never failed to bamboozle opponents.
There was one flaw, however, and that was the fact that he made Ian Botham look like a choirboy. Cadal Williams had had so many brushes with the law that odds were regularly offered by the leading bookmakers on what his next misdemeanour would be.
Cadal was fortunate though. He was blessed with a likeness to the actor, Colin Farrell, and a cricketing talent that maybe comes along in once in a hundred years. This was the overriding factor that put him head and shoulders above everybody else. Many a time he would party the night away, come out the next day with a raging hangover, and flail his opponents’ bowling attack to all parts of the ground. Cadal Williams was without equal and sadly he knew it!
England’s summer series would pit them against South Africa, who were being touted to give them a stern test on home soil. Arthur and Emily were relishing the prospect of watching all five games over a two-month period. Emily was due to start her working career in the autumn as an assistant to a well-known political correspondent for the BBC. So it looked as if it would be her last time watching test cricket for a while.
Before the first test commenced, Arthur Levy had one last duty to perform. “Sports Express” were opening a new megastore in Oxford Street and Cadal Williams had been booked to headline the opening.
It was one of those rare occasions where Cadal was on his best behaviour, wowing fans with copious autographs and personal photo calls. His fee of fifty thousand pounds more than likely had something to do with it, since it was his biggest promotional payday ever.
Arthur was over the moon with the way the opening had gone and thought it was money well spent. The store was mobbed, with tills chiming away all over the large expanse of floor space. Constance had berated Arthur continuously over the previous two weeks as to how much he was paying Cadal Williams. But even she was placated by the success of the opening. Arthur just had a satisfied “I told you so” look on his face while he mingled with his customers.
When things began to wind down, Arthur noticed Emily in animated conversation with Cadal Williams. Walking over to where they were talking, Arthur eased himself in-between the two of them. “Congratulations, Mr Williams. Your presence here today has certainly sent our sales sky high.” Arthur interjected while giving Emily a wary glance.
“It’s a pleasure, Mr Levy, especially as Emily has agreed to a date with me this evening. I was not aware you had such a lovely-looking daughter.” Arthur was speechless while Emily and Cadal walked off together. Emily just gave her father a quick wave and a smile before leaving with Cadal. It would the last thing he would always remember about his lovely daughter. Twelve hours later she would be dead!
When Arthur Levy awoke the following morning to the hysterical ravings of his wife, he was well aware something terrible had happened. Arthur was just hoping his new store had not burnt down overnight. In retrospect, he would have preferred that to what he was about to hear.
Sobbing her heart out, Constance told Arthur that the police had been called to an address in Chelsea where they found Cadal Williams unconscious and Emily dead from an overdose of heroin. She went on to tearfully explain that both of them had been found naked on Cadal Williams’ double bed.
“What in the world are you talking about, woman? She would never touch that stuff,” Arthur managed to mumble.
Constance looked Arthur squarely in the face, before saying: “You had better come downstairs, Arthur. There’s a Detective Inspector Fellows waiting to speak to you.”
The next few hours were a nightmare for Arthur Levy. Constance was continually sobbing while Detective Inspective Fellows explained the harrowing details of Emily’s demise. His theory was that Cadal had given Emily a lethal injection of heroin whilst she was under the influence of alcohol.
Things hardly got better when they had to identify Emily’s body. The media were whipping up a firestorm camped outside Arthur’s house and the hospital where Cadal Williams had been taken.
Constance Levy thought long and hard on the actions she was about to take, but her fragile state of mind finally won the day. Arthur had given her a wonderful daughter and that was something she had been ever grateful for. Nobody but a woman could understand the pain that went with losing a child. It was a pain that simply overrode any other. Arthur had been as supportive as ever, but the fact was when Emily died a part of Constance died with her.
Constance Levy committed suicide one week later under the wheels of a Circle Line tube train. The driver never had a chance to slam on his brakes as he watched a woman jump in front of the path of his speeding train.
Once again, the media had a field day. “Family Torn Apart in Double Tragedy” was the headline in the Daily Mirror, followed by more of the same in all the other national newspapers. Emily’s graduation picture and a shot of Constance standing next to Cadal Williams at the “Sports Express” opening had also found its way onto the front page of the Mirror. If Arthur Levy had been on the edge of the abyss, he was now tumbling in head first.
To compound everything, Cadal Williams, on release from hospital, seemed to have developed selective amnesia and denied all responsibility for Emily’s death. The police, with absolutely nothing to go on bar a charge of possession for Cadal, were grinding their teeth in utter frustration.
When the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) decided on the old adage of innocent until proven guilty, with Cadal Williams being available for the first test against South Africa, something snapped in the far recesses of Arthur Levy’s mind.
The desolation Arthur felt was nothing to what he was thinking. Demons were gathering on the doorstep of his mind. The rage he bore was all-consuming, as though fed by that highly combustible fuel called hatred. Arthur was trying desperately not to panic while his sleeping hours were filled with images of Emily and Constance meeting their end. Every morning he would awaken with a new resolve to exact some form of vengeance. In the end, it would be one that he never thought he was capable of. In another place, at another time, Arthur Levy may have reached another decision. It was not to be though, since those demons had finally overrun the ramparts of his soul.
Thursday the 24th of July 2003 would be well remembered by the cricketing fraternity. Not for the start of the test series against South Africa, but for all the drama that preceded it. Cadal Williams received a lukewarm reception mixed in with a smattering of taunts as he descended from the team coach outside Edgbaston Cricket Ground.
Nothing changed while the England team made their way out for a thirty minute warm-up session before the start of the test. Cadal Williams was loosening up in the company of his teammates, blissfully unaware of an approaching umpire dressed in a style Dickie Bird loved to favour. A white knee-length jacket and flat cap hid the grim features of Arthur Levy as he walked purposefully towards Cadal Williams. Seconds later, four gunshots were heard that left players and coaches diving to the ground and scattering for cover. There was absolute mayhem interspersed with disbelieving screams from some of the female supporters in the crowd.
When the panic subsided, Cadal Williams was seen sprawled on the ground with blood seeping from his bullet-riddled body. Arthur Levy, who was standing a few metres away, slowly placed the gun he was holding on the ground and raised his hands behind his head. Within moments, security personnel had Arthur spread-eagled on Edgbaston’s hallowed turf. England would be fielding that day, but Cadal Williams had bowled his last over.
This was also the day Sky Sports would hit the jackpot! One of their cameramen was doing a testing session and just happened to pan in on the umpire walking towards the England team. What the cameraman filmed would be replayed on Sky News for days on end, and lift his status up into the stratosphere.
Six months later, in the middle of January 2004, Number One Court at the Old Bailey was jam-packed with reporters and briefs waiting for the start of Arthur Levy’s trial. After being remanded to Belmarsh Prison, Arthur had steadfastly refused the advice of his QC, Sir Nigel Brooks. “For God’s sake, man. If you consider pleading diminished responsibility, I can have you out of prison in five years.” Sir Nigel had begged Arthur to contemplate this route of defence, but Arthur was having none of it.
“Bugger all in my life to live for, Sir Nigel. So guilty it will be.” Sir Nigel Brooks gravely nodded his head while he listened for the umpteenth time to his client’s unyieldingness on the matter. It would be one of the shortest murder trials ever witnessed at the Old Bailey. When the presiding judge read out the charge of premeditated murder and asked Arthur Levy to plead, the whole court gasped at Arthur’s reply: “Guilty as charged, M’Lud. Let’s get this farce over as quickly as possible.”
The following day, the judge complied with Arthur’s request by handing down a life sentence of twenty-five years. Sir Nigel Brooks just bowed his head – a beaten man.
As Arthur Levy looked at his pictures every single night in Wakefield Prison, his thoughts would constantly return over and over again to the summer of 2003 until he drifted off into a fitful sleep.
Whilst in Wakefield, Arthur was treated with the utmost respect. He could have easily sat back and wallowed in this, but Arthur was a different animal compared with the norm. Arthur took his standing up to a level perhaps only reserved for the Great Train Robbers of the early 1960s.
He would go out of his way to help any inmate who was having family or legal problems. Many prisoners benefited from Arthur’s wise counsel to the extent that on occasion even a warder would seek his advice.
For several years, rumours had been circulating that Arthur could be released on special permit for time served. Everyone had untold sympathy for his actions, but that still did not take away the fact he had committed murder. It was a sensitive subject that could only be treated with the greatest of care by the authorities. They need not have worried though, because Arthur Levy would make any decision they made redundant.
Ten years to the day of Emily’s death, Wakefield Prison woke up to the daily sound of clanging bells and cell doors being opened by jangling keys. Roll call was always held at seven in the morning before breakfast was served.
Every prisoner had to stand outside his cell until the head count was completed. On this morning there was a conspicuous gap outside Arthur Levy’s cell door.
“Levy! Get your arse outside on the landing before I put you on report,” Warder Parsons barked out in a no-nonsense tone. When nothing changed, Parsons abruptly handed his deputy his clipboard and marched purposely towards Arthur’s cell on the first floor. “What the fuck do you think you’re playing at Levy?” Parsons bellowed as he opened the cell door. The sight that greeted him would stay with him for the rest of his life.
Arthur Levy was slumped on his toilet seat, arms drooping by his side. Two pools of congealed blood told Warder Parsons that Arthur Levy would not be reporting anytime soon for roll call. Pinned to his chest on a small piece of paper were the following words:
The gates of Abaddon beckon, and I’ve no intention
of keeping them waiting. Let no man fear what lies
beyond, since it can only be a far greater place than
here on earth. Go well my fellow prisoners.
Tears were beginning to well up in Warder Parsons’ eyes while he quickly closed Arthur’s cell door. He had been one of those who had sought Arthur’s guidance in a family problem. The advice he received had eased tensions between him and his wife who was threatening divorce. He well knew no prisoner would ever again fill Arthur Levy’s shoes.
Word of Arthur Levy’s death soon reached all the other prisons in the country. In an unprecedented show of respect, every prisoner stood still for two minutes at eleven o’clock on the morning of his memorial service. Every single one of them knew they would have done exactly the same thing as Arthur had done. Family was paramount, but none of them knew if they had the courage to end it the way Arthur had.
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Can a man, who loses his wife and daughter at the hands of a famous cricketer, come to terms with a devastating loss that will stay with him for the rest of his life? "The Road to Abaddon" , and Arthur Levy, will take you on a heartrending journey to its ultimate conclusion.