The Widow-Maker

Contributor: Amy Cornelius

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I have seen unspeakable things in my life. People always say you are the master of your own destiny and that you can’t blame anyone else for your life. That if you want to change it, you can. But those people haven’t met my dad. He was born and raised on the streets of Detroit and he was tough as nails. He came to Australia when he was in his twenties and, now that I’m older, I suspect it was to escape his violent past.
Of course, all he did was bring it with him.
I never understood why my mother married him. All their years together I never can remember her looking at him with anything close to adoration. But then, I reckon it was more fear than love that made her agree to his proposal.
She died when I was only eight years old. I don’t recall that night all that well. All I know is that she went into their room after screaming at him that he was a cheat and a murderer and was going to rot in hell. He followed her in shortly after. He came back out. She never did.
Things were never the same after that—not like they were really that good to begin with—and it was like I saw my father clearly for the first time. Before then I had only had assumptions. Doubts. Niggling, creeping feelings that something just wasn’t right. But as a child you never want to believe it. Your parents are supposed to be these amazing people who always take care of you whenever you need them.
Not Thomas Harooma.
And it was after Mum died that he decided I needed to grow up, immediately. No longer shielded from the dodgy dealings he was connected to, I was surrounded by a swarm of men as low and deceitful as him. They were nothing more than the scum of the earth, rising up from the sewers to participate in any and all activities that could and would be classed as illegal. And Dad ran it all.
I would sit in the corner of the room as he would talk to this filth that were somehow classified as men and I would watch. I had nothing else to do. Dad had pulled me out of school once he realised the hassle it would be to take me in and pick me up each day. So instead, I stayed with him. And not a single client of his commented on the fact that he had a child present during their interactions. None of them cared.
My childhood was ripped away from me as easily as my mother had been. Within the first twelve months I had witnessed so many things that made me realise the rumours about my father were all true. And I discovered quickly that he deserved—whole-heartedly—his nickname: the widow-maker.
He had a short fuse of a temper and the smallest thing could set him off. I had seen the evidence with Mum, and then seen the proof up close and personal with countless associates. I dreamed of turning him in, but he fed on my doubts by claiming I would be an accomplice to anything he did because I had done nothing but sit and watch as he carved his name into the souls of those he killed.
So I bit my tongue and bore the pain of those horrid men and their uninformed families.
Dad never demanded anything of me except for my silence and the occasional serving of food and drinks—all of which I would never touch, knowing the likelihood of an arsenic cocktail was always high. That changed the day I came of age.
The police were a constant presence in my life, yet I could never confide in them like I wanted. And then it was too late. They would bring me home in the back of their cars, their lights and sirens blessedly off, and tell my father the next time they would charge me for solicitation. But they didn’t realise that he was the one sending me out and telling me to earn my keep.
I knew the cops wouldn’t actually charge me. They simply used bringing me in as an excuse to check on Dad. They hoped that one day they would find him doing something, anything, wrong. Enough that they could charge him. Enough that they could get a warrant. They knew all his dirty laundry would be found if only they had a reason to look in the first place. They didn’t know Dad had set up an alarm system at the front gate. The drive was so damn long that he had at least five minutes to hide whatever he needed to before anyone arrived at his doorstep.
The cops asked me questions as we drove toward the flimsy weatherboard house that was supposed to be home.
But nothing felt like home anymore.
Not the house. Not this life. Not even my own body.
Yes, I’ve seen unspeakable things in my life. No one could blame me for deciding enough was finally enough.

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Amy Cornelius is a freelance writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She enjoys writing a variety of genres—including horror; romance; and fantasy—and loves spending time in her own imagination with her characters (otherwise known as “those voices in her head”).
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