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By David Gardiner

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I thought Derek and Liana might ask me over to see the new baby but they never did. I wouldn’t have known which sex it was except that I heard them talking in the garden when Derek’s mother came around. It seems the baby was a girl. I never knew its name. Probably some strange pop-star thing like Mistletoe or Popsicle. People don’t give their children ordinary names any more.

I’m not complaining, you understand. Derek was a decent enough bloke most of the time. Always wished me the time of day in the street or the Post Office and stopped for a little chat. Used to let me borrow his strimmer to do the edges of the lawn. Been a bit down lately, mind you. Quiet, not as chatty as usual. But then I suppose a new baby’s a big responsibility. Takes a bit of adjusting to.

I never felt that Liana liked me very much. She never said hello when Derek and I were having a chat over the garden fence. Just her personality maybe. Shyness or something. Not everybody wants to socialise I suppose.

I noticed that the new baby cried a lot. I suppose all babies do, but there’s something not quite right when it goes on for hours on end. When the weather’s hot like this I sleep with my bedroom window open, and they did too, just across the side-alley, so I got a fair idea of everything that went on. If I lay quietly and listened I could almost hear what they were saying to one another sometimes.

It wasn’t really any of my business but I noticed that on the first two nights after she came back from hospital, the baby started to cry shortly after midnight and didn’t stop until Derek got up and tried to comfort it about an hour later. I always thought that young babies like that needed to be fed every four hours or something. Breast-fed, presumably. It seemed strange that it was Derek attending to it and not Liana. I could hear him saying things to Liana, trying to get her to wake up and feed the baby I suppose, a bit of an edge to his voice, but I couldn’t make out the actual words. It could have been this post-natal depression thing that you read about, couldn’t it?

The night before last was different. First the baby started to cry, then Liana, and I heard Derek raise his voice to her too, which I’d never heard him do before. It took a long time for the baby to stop crying that night.

It’s hard to know what you should do in a situation like that, isn’t it? Other people’s relationships, other people’s babies, other people’s lives. It’s not as if we were best buddies. Not as if he was hitting her, or they were mistreating the baby. Just a little domestic tiff, really. Everyday human misery. Best not to get involved, most people would say.

I was able to make out a few of the things that Derek said to her when he had his voice raised. It was about her expecting him to look after her bastard. That made me sit up and listen hard. Obviously Derek didn’t believe that the baby was his. Intriguing to say the least. I tried to remember if Liana had been having any male visitors while Derek was at work, or anything suspicious like that. I couldn’t think of anything but then presumably she would have hidden it from the neighbours. The chances are I wouldn’t have noticed anyway. Whatever you may think I’m not one of these old codgers who’s obsessed with watching the neighbours and listening to gossip.

Strange to think of her having an affair, or even a life of her own that I knew nothing about. Whatever this other life contained, it didn’t seem to make her very happy. Dead miserable lately. I wonder how Derek put up with her when I think back.

Of course we shouldn’t judge. People aren’t unhappy because they want to be, there are always reasons. None of my business, really.

Funny thing, I met Derek by accident yesterday morning, putting out his bin at the same time that I was taking the dog out for his walk, and he looked straight at me and opened his mouth and stood there for a moment as if he was going to say something. Oh yes, he reached out with his hand too, as if he was going to touch me… I’d forgotten about that. And then he just turned and went in again. Maybe he was embarrassed about the shouting match they’d had the night before.

And last night was when it happened. You’ll have seen it on the TV news. I suppose he just snapped, all at once. The funny thing was, I didn’t even hear the row. The night was a little bit colder and I had my window closed. They probably had theirs shut as well. It was the single gunshot that woke me up. He strangled the other two they said, and then… well, it was all on the news.

I suppose all the details will come out now, who the father of the baby was and so on. This street is going to be famous for a while.

Goes to show, doesn’t it? He seemed like such an ordinary, pleasant man. Just like the rest of us.

There wasn’t really anything I could have done, was there? I mean, the police probably wouldn’t even have come out for a married couple having a little go at one another. Hardly national news, is it? But I can’t help wondering if there was some way I could have stopped it from happening. I half blame myself, even though I know I shouldn’t.

The house will probably go up for sale now. I wonder what the new neighbours are going to be like?