Tag Archives: thriller

Getting the job done

4:30 pm

Tony sits behind the executive desk in his office, perched on the edge of the high-backed leather chair. He is silhouetted against the drawn blinds, head bowed, his only movement a gentle motion of the hands, as if counting the rosary.

A police siren passes on the street outside and the trance is broken. Tony’s hands stop moving; he sits upright, conceals something beneath his jacket, then leans back and pulls the cord that opens the blinds. He blinks, his eyes suddenly caught in a horizontal shaft of sunlight.

The light reveals brown eyes with thick brows; a long, high-bridged nose and dark hair cut fashionably short.

It also reveals a sprinkling of grey hairs at the temples, heavily pitted skin, and a deep, y-shaped scar on his left cheek.

Tony carefully folds up the monogrammed handkerchief he is holding and returns it to his breast pocket. He stands up and walks over to the mirror, where he adjusts his tie. He looks at his Rolex. It’s time.

 

4:45 pm

Tony’s in the back of the Jag. He’s sitting with his legs together and his hands on his knees. Occasionally his right hand reaches across and pats his suit just beneath his left breast pocket. A black trench coat lies neatly folded on the seat next to him.

His upper lip is moist with sweat. He runs an index finger around the inside of his collar and loosens his tie a fraction.

Tony takes his wallet from his coat and pulls out a photograph. It’s a picture of a young woman in her late twenties, maybe early thirties. Only her head and shoulders are visible. Behind her is a shelf full of hefty, leather-bound books. She’s wearing a black gown and a white neckpiece. Her red hair, which peeks out from underneath a short, curled wig, is cut in a chin-length bob. She’s smiling. Tony studies the photograph for a long time.

 

5:00 p.m.

It’s getting dark on Chestnut Avenue. The broad, tree-lined street is deserted and its well-kept houses are shadowed and lifeless. About now, its residents will be collecting their BMWs from their reserved spaces on the company car park and preparing to do battle with the rush hour traffic.

Tony’s standing in the shadows behind a sprawling rhododendron that forms the border between park and pavement. He stands perfectly still, breathing slowly and deeply. He’s watching a house across the street. It’s an expensive-looking detached house set back from the road behind a sweeping gravel drive, bordered by mature trees. The drive is empty but a light is on upstairs. Tony reaches into his jacket and pulls out a mobile phone. He dials a number then holds the phone to his ear. Across the street a phone rings. After twenty seconds Tony hangs up and the ringing stops.

 

5:15 p.m.

It’s almost completely dark now.

Tony’s breath hangs in the air. He pulls up the collar of his coat. A black Mercedes slides into a drive four doors down. He can’t put it off any longer. He eases out of the shadows and crosses the road.

 

5:20 p.m.

Inside the living room the curtains are open and the yellow light from a street lamp casts leafy shadows onto the opposite wall. There is a single door in the room. It’s open. Tony waits in the darkness behind it.

 

5:30 p.m.

A key is turning in the front door.

Tony holds his breath.

A light comes on in the hall followed by the sound of the front door closing. Tony hears keys being dropped on the hall table. Then, so faint as to make him wonder whether he’s just imagining it, he hears footsteps on carpet, getting closer.

Tony catches a waft of her perfume, fresh and zesty like crushed lemons. Through the crack in the door he catches a glimpse of black fabric and a flash of red hair.

Still he waits. Timing is everything.

 

5:35 p.m.

Now he can hear her in the kitchen. The tap is running. Tony makes his move. He slips out into the hall, onto the deep pile carpet, which muffles his footfall. He inches along the hallway, pressing his back against the wall. He looks through the chink in the kitchen door. The black gown is lying on a stool. There’s a bunch of flowers on the counter. She’s at the sink, her back to him. She’s wearing a grey suit with a short, tight skirt. Tony edges closer.

She’s right in front of him now. If he were to reach out he could tap her on the shoulder. Instead, he reaches underneath his jacket.

She turns around.

She gasps, letting the vase drop to the floor. It smashes, splashing water over her legs and across the slate tiles. Then Tony does what he came to do.

“Laura, will you marry me?” he says, holding out the ring in its box.

 

5:45 p.m.

In the living room the curtains are closed now and the lamps are on. Tony and Laura are snuggled up on the sofa, drinking wine and listening to Chopin. Her head is resting on his shoulder. He’s stroking her hair.

“How did you know?” she asks.

“Francesca,” Tony replies.

Laura sits up. “So that’s why she was quizzing me about my sexual fantasies last week. I thought it was a bit odd.”

Tony raises an eyebrow in mock surprise. “And a barrister fantasising about an erotic encounter with an intruder isn’t odd at all, is it?” he says.

Laura elbows him playfully in the ribs.

“Anyway,” Tony continues, “I thought women told their best friends everything.”

“Don’t you believe it,” says Laura, reaching across to the coffee table and putting her glass down. She moves closer to Tony and places a hand on his thigh. “Now then, Mr. Intruder,” she says, “I think it’s about time we got on to the erotic encounter bit.”

 

© Helen Lewis 2011


Dead man falling

Angelo’s going to die.

Of course, we’re all going to die some day; it’s just a matter of when and where. And how. For Angelo, the when, where and how have already been decided. As for when, he’s going to die today. Let me fill you in about the where and the how. It’s a story I’m uniquely qualified to tell.

I met Angelo when I was fourteen. I was a weedy kid with terrible acne – a magnet for bullies. One day I was lying on the ground in the foetal position while a lumbering troll from Year 11 kicked me repeatedly in the ribs, when suddenly the onslaught stopped and my assailant started making a choking noise. I looked up to see a muscular, dark-haired boy standing over me. He was lifting the bully up by his school tie so that his toes were scraping the ground.

‘If you beat him up again, I’ll kill you,’ he said. From the look in the bully’s eyes, I’d say he believed him. The stranger let go of the bully’s tie, and the bully ran off in the direction of the science block, without looking back.

The dark-haired boy helped me to my feet. ‘Are you okay?’

‘I think so…thanks…’

‘Don’t mention it,’ he said, handing me a business card.

Printed in white gothic lettering on a black background were the words ‘Angelo Morris’. I turned the card over. There were no contact details.

‘What -?’ I began, looking up, but Angelo had gone.

After that I often saw Angelo around school, and we’d nod to each other when we passed in the corridor, but we didn’t hang out together. I never mentioned the incident to anyone, but word must have got around somehow, because bullies never bothered me after that.

I bumped into Angelo again about six months ago. I was sitting in the lobby of City Computer Services, waiting to be called in for a job interview when Angelo walked in, wearing a white suit, black shirt and white tie.

‘Hi,’ he said, ‘long time no see. How’s life treating you?’

I mumbled something non-committal. The chair next to me was free and Angelo sat down in it.

‘Here for an interview?’ he asked. I nodded.

‘Snap. What time’s your appointment?’

‘Three thirty.’

‘Really? Mine’s at three. I’ll put in a good word for you.’ He winked.

About a week later I opened my front door one evening to take delivery of a large quattro stagioni with extra olives, to find Angelo standing on the doorstep, dressed in an Eezee Peezee Pizza uniform and carrying a pizza box.

‘Congratulations on getting the job,’ he said.

‘Thanks,’ I said, ‘but how -?’

‘Do you mind if I come in?’ asked Angelo, walking into my flat.

And he’s been here ever since. On the plus side, he always pays his rent on time, and the extra money comes in handy. It’s also good to have someone to talk to, and someone to look after the flat when I go away, although one weekend not long after Angelo arrived I went to visit my parents, and I got back to find that Angelo had decorated the entire flat while I was gone. He’d painted the off-white walls in vivid colours: lime green in the living room, fire engine red in the kitchen, fluorescent yellow in the hall, bright turquoise in the bathroom and flaming orange in the bedrooms.

‘But the terms of my tenancy agreement!’ I spluttered.

‘Relax,’ said Angelo, putting his hand on my shoulder.

On evenings when he’s not working Angelo brings people round to the flat and they hang out talking, laughing, drinking and smoking until the early hours of the morning.

It was during one of these impromptu parties that I first met Caitlin. I was making myself a cup of cocoa in the kitchen when she came in, rushed over to the sink, and started dabbing at her chest with the dishcloth. She was trying to get red wine out of her white blouse. When I told her it needed washing straight away, she whipped her blouse off and put it in the washing machine. Offering to lend her one of my shirts, I went to get one from my wardrobe, and she followed me into my bedroom. One thing led to another, and we ended up having sex.

The next morning Angelo noticed there was something different about me. ‘Bloody hell, you shagged somebody last night, didn’t you?’ He thumped me on the back.

After that Caitlin began coming round on a regular basis, and we’d often spend the night together. One evening Caitlin told me she liked to make love in the open air. I explained that when you live in a twelfth floor flat, the only open air is on the balcony. She said that would have to do. As we were lying naked on the balcony after a hot and sweaty bout of sex that must have got all the binoculars in the neighbourhood twitching, I asked,

‘Are we an item?’

She lifted her head from my shoulder and stroked my chest. ‘I think so, Babe.’

About a week later I took Angelo out for a drink and broached the subject of Caitlin moving in.

‘I’m not keen on the idea,’ he said.

‘Why not?’

‘I don’t like her.’

‘But she’s one of your friends!’

‘I know, but she’s not good enough for you.’

‘You’re not making sense, Angelo.’ I tried again. ‘Do you think I’m asking you to move out? Well, you needn’t worry about that. I want you to stay. Really.’

So Caitlin moved in. And Angelo stayed, but I didn’t see as much of him any more. Sometimes, when Caitlin was out at work, he’d poke his head round my door and we’d hang out together for a while, but when Caitlin was around he kept a low profile.

And that was how things continued for several months. Until today.

I had to stay late at work tonight, and when I got home the flat was in darkness. The doors to the balcony were open and the long net curtains were swaying in the breeze. I pushed one curtain aside and saw Angelo and Caitlin going at it like a couple of rabbits.

I’ve heard people refer to rage as a ‘red mist’ before, but I always thought it was just a poetic description. I didn’t realise that when people talk about ‘seeing red’ they’re describing something that actually happens. Until it happened to me. Suddenly, I was in the middle of a thick, red fog – everything was tinged the colour of blood.

‘Caitlin!’ I yelled.

Angelo got up and covered up his genitals with his hands. ‘I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not what it looks like.’

‘Then what the fuck is it?’

‘It’s all right, Babe,’ said Caitlin, who had also got up. She reached out and touched my arm.

‘Don’t touch me!’ I shouted, shaking her off.

Caitlin gathered up her clothes, which were scattered all over the balcony, and stormed back into the house. She delivered a parting shot over her shoulder as she left: ‘You’re crazy!’

I advanced on Angelo, and he backed away, his hands still covering his genitals.

‘Don’t be angry,’ he said, ‘it really isn’t what it looks like.’

‘Oh really?’ I said. ‘Don’t tell me – you were helping her look for her earring. No, wait… you were out here watering the tomatoes. Or were you stargazing? Go on, I’d love to hear your explanation of what you were really doing. I’ll bet it’s fascinating.’

‘It’s not so much fascinating as… well…complicated. And possibly a little hard to believe.’

‘I’ll bet. You know, I used to think you were so brave, so tough. But that was all a show. You’re just a little weasel, aren’t you?’ I advanced on Angelo even further.

‘What are you doing?’ Angelo said, backing up against the balcony railing. For the first time I saw fear in his eyes.

‘I’m going to kill you,’ I said.

All trace of fear left his face. ‘No you’re not,’ he said. ‘Killing me would easily be the most stupid thing you’ve ever done. And you’ve done some stupid things in your time. Like that time you superglued your finger up your nose when you were eleven.’

‘How do you know about that?’

‘Isn’t it obvious?’ he said. ‘Maybe it isn’t, when you’re as stupid as you are.’

And so I pushed him.

And this is how I know Angelo is going to die. Very, very soon.

I know I pushed him. I know it. So why is it me who’s falling through the air, arms and legs flailing, staring at the pavement as it rushes up towards me from below?

© Helen Lewis 2012


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