The perfect murder

(written in 2015, the first story I took to my writing group)

The cowboy wiped his brow and edged away from behind the tree. Rifle raised, Hank had Joe in his sights. The perfect murder.

It had been so simple. Just buy a few drinks in the saloon, pretend to drunkenly let slip the supposed rendezvous with Ed. A time and place to split the loot and head out of town before anyone suspected who had really been behind the stagecoach robbery.

And now he looked at Joe down his rifle barrel. Joe. He’d given the guy a chance to join them, divide the money up three ways. But Joe, he always wanted to do things his way. Thought he knew better than Hank and Ed. Claimed he had killed that old man over in Lettsville and taken his horses. Strange how no-one had ever found the body. Maybe the old guy had just pegged out in one of his fields and the crows had pecked him to pieces. Joe talked a good story. But Hank had never seen him fire a gun once. Heck, he’d never seen him even throw a punch. And he couldn’t hold his liquor neither.

One thing Joe was good at though. Poker. He’d taken most of Hank’s money over the last year. That’s why Hank had agreed to help Ed with the robbery. And that’s why Hank now had Joe in his sights. It was time to take revenge on that low-life.

Hank adjusted his rifle. It was real quiet out here. Trees and shrubs gave him cover. The hillocks would stop the noise of the one shot needed – Hank was a good shot even if he said so himself – and the nearby loudly gurgling stream would add to the perfect set-up. Hank watched Joe stop, take off his ten gallon hat and scratch his head and stroke back his lank blond hair. He was hot. Hank was hot. But inside Hank was as cool as one of the icicles which hung each winter from his mother’s front porch.

Joe looked around, glanced up at the blazing sun, put his hat back on and walked further down the dusty path. No doubt he was thinking about the best place to hide and wait for Ed. Carry out his own little perfect murder. But Hank was more than one step ahead of him. The rifle he held was Ed’s. It’d

been too easy to sneak into Ed’s rundown ranch house this morning. Hank knew Ed slept till the noon sun was hanging in the sky. Once he’d finished off Joe, Hank would drop the gun just in front of the trees. Even that hopeless sheriff Lorne Bailey would be able to find it. And everyone knew Ed’s rifle. That distinctive scrolling on the metal. Done specially by that shifty blacksmith over in Ridgewell. Hank chuckled to himself as he thought of Ed being woken by Lorne and his posse tomorrow morning. He’d be in jail by nine, tried and condemned within days and jiggling from the end of a noose within the month.

Hank spat out tobacco. He’d wait until Joe came back this way. Up ahead the trees broke into open country again. No place for an ambush. Joe would stroll back, choose a tree or boulder and wait for Ed’s supposed meeting with his gang members. ‘Gang members’? Hank chuckled again. Ed’s only gang member was Hank. But he didn’t want his name linked in any way with this. Joe knew Ed couldn’t have stopped the stagecoach without help. That little mention of a gang had convinced him that Ed really was the man behind the robbery.

Joe had stopped. He was retracing his steps slowly. Hank smiled at the prospect of Joe choosing the very tree he was now standing behind. A sweet shot between the eyes would do fine. If not he’d take out Joe just behind the ear. Hank grimaced. How he hated Joe. Always eyeing up the girls in Ridgewell’s new saloon, pretending he had a big ranch and all. Swaggering around the bar, hands all over the young ladies. He never even bought drinks for the boys. Just a leecher. Like all the Piggots. Yeah, them Piggots deserved this too. Stealing land from the hardworking Clements, rustling cattle from old Miss Bertrum. Hank would be doing the whole town a favour with this little old perfect murder.

Nearly time to pull the trigger. Hank flexed his finger, took his hand off the rifle, made sure his palm was dry and flexible. Just pull the trigger nice and slow. No jerks. No jolts. A simple pull and the money was all his and his poker foe was gone for ever. Hey, maybe he’d even take over Ed’s little outfit. Not much land and only a few cattle but it would be a start. Hank didn’t want to flash his money around town too much. He didn’t need that loopy old sheriff breathing down his neck. Play it cool. Spend a bit here, spend a bit there. Buy a few drinks for those pretty ladies in the saloon.

In front of him Joe adjusted his belt, fiddled with his holster. Hank smiled again. Joe and that belt. He noticed how every time Joe went into the saloon he’d loosened that belt by a notch or two, let the holster hang real low, trying to make out he was some gunslinger. Who’d he think he was? Billy the Kid? Joe draw a gun fast? Hank doubted he could even draw with a pencil. He nearly laughed out loud at his joke and just managed to quietly snort instead. Keep calm, he told himself. Don’t spoil everything now. Hank closed one eye. Lined up the shot as Joe stood making up his final choice of hideaway. Now, just aim and pull this little trigger slowly and…

‘Tea’s ready, Hank.’

Sighing, Hank, otherwise known as Bobby Witherspoon, aged seven and three-quarters, of 77 Barry Road, South London, reluctantly scooped up his plastic toy cowboys, flung them into his tin toy box and headed off to face his destiny with a plate of beans on toast.

 

 

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Slow editing and distractions

I am continuing to edit my novella set in 1950s America, about one episode or chapter a day. As this is the ‘conventional’ version with none of the made-up hyphened words I am finding that the word count is increasing as I rewrite the phrases into ‘normal’ sentences. It already stood at near 43,000 word,s which is long for a novella, but now it is edging towards 45,000 with about a third still to go. I keep thinking about editing out a whole chapter or two but just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe I just have too much in the story. It would be possible to build it up to 80,000 or more by expanding each chapter and adding more detail as the story does zip along but at the moment it’s all I can do to keep editing the short version.

I haven’t watched Masterchef for several years but have found myself absorbed by it this year. I got caught up with the early rounds when there are many contestants and couldn’t help but play that game of trying to spot the winner from just the first round. I think also the fact that I have adopted a healthier diet over the last three months has heightened my interest in food – even if I can’t eat most of the dishes they concoct on the show! I’ve also taken more strenuous exercise and have lost half a stone even though I didn’t need to, consequently I find myself feeling quite hungry at times and really looking forward to my next meal. I probably need to have more healthy snacks around the place so I don’t get these hunger pangs, I’ve probably overdone the diet and exercise.

Another distraction has been a proposed house move. We started over a year ago, have ‘sold’ the house three times and still not moved. Long story. Right now we are sold, have a place to buy and are waiting for our solicitor to get answers to her ‘further enquiries’. We will probably still be here at Xmas. I’ll vote for any party which promises to hang, draw and quarter solicitors…

Ahhh, only forty minutes until food preparation time, my stomach is rumbling at the prospect.

Book Review – The Double Game by Dan Fesperman

The Double GameThe Double Game by Dan Fesperman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall I found this to be an engrossing book. It took a while to really grab me but the plot moved along well and the references to other spy thrillers made for a fun idea. Having the main character as a 50-something man made a nice change from the usual younger men who are able to muscle their way out of incidents or are experts with an array of weaponry. On the odd occasion, and I can only think of one right now, that he has to take direct action he is genuinely surprised he managed it. The character’s relationship with an old flame is well handled and is left nicely open at the end. There’s a good ‘subplot’ of the relationships between the main character and his father and his own son.

One criticism might be that the book moves at a relatively slow pace and there are few dramatic moments. The tension comes through the main character’s perception of being followed or watched rather than being physically threatened. I’ve not read a Dan Fesperman novel before so it might be that this is his trademark style. In some ways it is a refreshingly old-fashioned type of thriller. Give it a try and stick with it if your attention falters.

View all my reviews

Girl on a bridge

(written a little while ago with a female narrator, something I try occasionally)

Summer time beats up lives, and consequences spread far beyond autumnal fall. The heat, the laziness, the empty time, all too tempting, days galloping into others, no boundaries of occupation or study, no barriers to emotions, no decorum. But maybe just dulce et decorum est mori.

He found me whiling away life in a coffee shop of no repute, serving capricious cappuccinos and  lecherous lattes to smooth-leering son-of-bitches, lazing louchely in chairs, cigarettes suggestive, gold chains goading, eyes tracing legs and rears like hunters at a waterhole.  Tapping tabletop with platinum card he beckoned, no words, a glance at cold gritted remains deep engrained in a cup. I smiled, wondering what dust he inhaled at night on that card.

His eyes crawled after me, felt their way up stockinged legs, across bloused top and I shudder where else. The tip beneath the saucer suggested caffeine was not the only stimulant he sought. Tucking it discreetly, knowing he watched afar, grin growing at the little girl gratified, I ran a hand through locks of auburn light and walked unturning.

Expresso became lunch, light and oiled, refusing service unless me. Dodging withering words mouthed by fly-by-night waitresses, I attended attentively, drawn by eyes and attitude, and money and freedom. A wrist caught signified stakes updated, long fingers encircling skin and bone, a clasp of ownership.

Eyes met; mine questioned, his laughed.

A finger unwound, grazed hairs, electrifying erotica. Eyes remained; mine unsure, his demanding. Hand slid up, curling under elbow, drawing down, no resistance encountered.

Eyes burned; mine curious, his victorious.

Words whispered, swarming inside my ear, twisting and seducing, curling up at home. Releasing, he knew the answer, before me, as I moved violated yet beguiled.

Returning relentlessly, his table my world, each visit vicarious, each order a slice off my life. Hands clasped, fingers resting on hips, arms encasing shoulders, my personal space became his, my time bought, my freedom confined.

An evening stroll, warm breeze humming with hubris, he promised his world; travel tantalising on heated horizons, clothes wardrobed along streets of couturiers, villas visualised reflected in Mediterranean blue. I fought sense and sensibility; and lost, lost in a world unknown, a world portrayed in magazine gloss, a heart smothering worries, a summer long odyssey of love’s many ports beckoning.

Crossing the bridge, from my world to his, my Rubicon step one late simmering evening, I met his stare, breathed in the embrace, intoxicated with worship. The path walked on, deeper to his sphere, no villa unveiled, no yacht’s yawl bobbing, no jewels jousting in fingers. Darker the wood, my heart shrank back, lifting the layered rose-tint. I felt his hands true at last, the touch severe, the skin coarse, the rapid throb of veins beneath.

Querying the quest, his eyes turned, honed for violence, pretence pretentious, grip swung sharp. I fell, as deception fell away too, a victim awaiting.

Now I sit upon the bridge, the prodigal returned, unsure if innocence can be re-won, bloodied stone resting in deep depths beneath, cast off like my foolishness, resting wet and cold, as he does, under a tree, life-blood feeding the earth.

 

 

Music to write by – 4

 

Listening to the beautiful voice of the beautiful Amy Lee is the perfect way to find inspiration for writing. Especially if you writing is on the dark or melancholy side. I rediscovered Evanescence while working on my novella set in 1950s America and their music fitted perfectly with the main character’s worldly mood. Check them out, and in particular watch videos of their live performances – even better than their recorded music!

Dark cradle

(a poem I wrote a few years ago)

Dark cradle

Sombre lullabies enwrap the latticed air,
Long laced fingers rock and hold,
Purple painted lips like ice kiss and recite,
Pleading cries matriarchally soothed by hushing cold breath;
Mascara dripping eyes bleed love,
Tears drip,
drip,
drip,
Time’s unending pendulum;
Dust grimed drapes float ruffled,
Mobiles of ne’er seen imps twirl and dance,
Shadowed room creaks with history unwritten.

The black frocked baby gurgles,
And candlelight flickers with fear.

“Come now, little one, fear not the light.”

 

Hung words

 

My sword thrusted, point piercing mid-way the word ‘TRUST’ which hung taunting across the path. The ‘u’ mewed, tears seeping onto dry ground parched by years of the antonym. Each drop reformed, reared and roared a date, a time, a lover. Sounds pierced the outer coating of my shield, stuck darted on layered wood and leather, each forcing a back step in the slow stride of my denial.

Slashed right and left, letters tumbled without meaning across the musty air, voices escaping from nicked sides and surfaces, each whispering accusations and Siren symphonies of desire and deceit. Names cascaded across years, places, times, excuses, all timetabled in linear formation, each stabbing through armour to draw my guilt in coughed confessions.

The path steepened, with fogbanked slopes treacherously entreating mis-steps. Five letters swung back and forth, hide and seeking through the gloom, ‘BLAME’ pendulumed with teasing tautness, red flames of embarrassment letter licking. Shield raised to block the blaze of an accusing sun I pressed on, a single manned phalanx. Heat seared through, burning black my faults. But remember, she did not talk, she did not give time, she did not make the efforts demanded of a shared life. I pierced the ‘B’, shredding the double curves, leaving ‘lame’ a mocking commentary on my own excuses.

A soft glancing blow, a caressing killer rested on my shoulders heavyweighted with weary worries self-inflicted, ‘TOUCH’ featherlight alighted, wrapped around a body shivering to loosen itself from feared intimacy after the bed-bounced closeness of another forbidden love. I parried open-bladed, countered these tease touching accusations: for she had stepped back too, withdrew skin from contact, lips miss-kissing half hearted offered cheeks, back turned on a bed once consummated with the passion of the innocent. Who stands now in the glasshouse with stone in hand? My stab caused ‘TOUCH’ to convulse. No one-sided defeat here.

Forward stepped I deflected and bounced harsh truths into the gutters of regret, found my way blocked by ‘SELFISHNESS’, long strewn as a Cheshire cat with grinning teeth foul fetid dripping tales of familial dates ignored, commitments uncommitted to, evenings long consumed in matey orgies of alcohol and unbrave bravado. Late long working hours stretched to incredulity as slipping masks for backslapping heartiness and raucous chauvinism, chasing skirt-clad victims across glass-lined tables.

Hacked letters fell, ‘fish’ causing a rueful smile under cheekguards which chaffed with swivelled wariness. ‘S’s snaked my legs, hot forked tongues nipping infected bites into veins long since dead to empathy and sympathy. I stamped, hobnailing the vicious barbs into powdered pleas.

And lastly LOVE dangled gloss shred and abused. It flickered images thought lost in memories stored behind cold-hearted locks. The true love of first meeting, recognition of soulmated possibilities, tingles of eternity surfacing when touch touched more than skin, eye contact finding depths impossible to measure. LOVE hung, shaming my defence, drinking dry a moat of liquid lies, crumbling paper-thin walls of self deception, undermining a castellated keep of rusted excuses.

And I fell, in a final act of reconciliation and recognition, upon my upturned sword.