This story is the latest in this series………………
It’s been 105 days since I dispatched the odious individual.
I don’t like to use his name because that tends to make him seem real, almost human; and he wasn’t. Okay, he was real, but he had a long way to go before he qualified as human.
You probably think that this low-life has been on my mind a lot over the past 105 days; well you’d be wrong.
I thought about him when I attended my friend’s memorial service, and I think about him whenever I wash this dress, but that’s it.
It’s funny the things you think about when you are planning something major in your life.
For example; do I carry the gun in my coat pocket or my handbag?
For a while, I was leaning towards the coat pocket.
I was thinking of Bette Davis pulling the gun out of her dressing gown and walking down the steps while pumping that bloke full of bullets. She kept pulling the trigger even after the revolver stopped firing. I liked the visual and I considered it, but my little automatic wouldn’t do that so I abandoned the idea. And besides, Bette Davis was not worried about being caught; I was.
Naturally, I thought a lot about my wardrobe.
You probably think that I just picked up the green coat, black gloves and the red handbag. Not at all; I gave it lots of thought. The most important consideration was what would I look like in the papers if I got caught? My mother, yours too probably, always said I should wear clean underwear when I went out in case I was in an accident, that way I would not embarrass her; people would not think that she was a bad mother.
Quite apart from appearances, I needed to feel confident, and nothing makes you confident like a good, well-matched outfit.
The red dress was the final piece of the puzzle. I kept my coat done up, so no one knew I was wearing it, but I knew.
The shooting made headlines for a couple of weeks.
The police were baffled.
Then there was talk of blackmail, but the odious individual’s family threatened to sue so the word ‘blackmail’ stopped appearing in the papers.
The homeless guy was under suspicion for a while, especially when he was found pulling a wad of notes out of the hollow of a tree. He explained that he had won it on the horses. No one believed him, but he was quickly cleared as a suspect, largely because he only had minute specks of gunpowder reside on him, and this was consistent with having been close to the shooting.
When they searched him, he didn’t have a gun, but he did have an extensive collection of French postcards from around the time of the Great War.
They belonged to his great-uncle who went missing in action. The postcards stayed in the family and were practically the only thing he had left that linked him to his family; at least that’s what it said in the feature article in the Weekend Age.
He was a celebrity for the required fifteen minutes.
He made a little money — then he was quietly put aside as his place was taken in the public’s imagination by a drunk, violent football player, then a racist pop star, then a politician who told the truth about having lied.
The blackmailer didn’t leave a list — either that or the police couldn’t crack the encryption on his laptop.
I know that you think this is unlikely.
The police have lots of resources for such things, but there are such things as unbreakable codes.
Apparently, Russian spies were particularly good at this during the cold war.
In typical Russian fashion, they took a simple approach.
They saw that the German and Japanese codes had been broken during the war despite extremely sophisticated mathematics and mechanical devices.
The Russians opted for the ‘pencil and paper’ approach.
They simply used a book code.
If you didn’t know what book they were using, it was virtually impossible to break the code.
The Americans were so worried about this simple technology that they embarked on a program whereby they digitised every book ever printed so that their computers could run any code that they came across.
Knowing this, I smiled when the news broke that they were recording every phone call.
The Yanks don’t muck around, and they have very deep pockets. Imagine how much it cost to put every book ever printed onto computer. Imagine the meeting where some junior clerk first suggested the idea. Imagine how powerfully simple a book code is if they went to all that trouble.
Somewhere, in a warehouse, there is a laptop in a box just waiting for some computer person to have one more go at cracking the code.
I wonder which book he chose? I wonder if the police have thought of a book code? Maybe they just ran out of recourses.
However it happened, they didn’t come knocking on my door.
I’d been practising in front of a mirror.
I needed to be sure that my expression was just right.
I did not want to give myself away.
In case you were wondering, I carried the gun in my bag because, when I practised drawing it smoothly and dramatically from my pocket, it kept getting caught on the lining. I looked like an amateur tugging away at the pocket, trying to get the gun loose.
The handbag worked out to be a better choice.
The homeless guy was true to his word and didn’t give me away.
Many people might have shot him as well.
I understand that it is dangerous to leave loose ends lying around, and nothing is more loose or ‘endy’ than an eye-witness.
But I looked at it this way, he wasn’t the person I was after and somewhere, sometimes you have to trust someone.
He seemed like a good bloke, and he didn’t let me down.
My washing is probably dry, so I had better bring it inside, I don’t want to leave it out overnight, but first I should see who that is at the door.
Painting by Kenton Nelson.
I could really go a coffee about now?
I bought this clock with the fifty dollar note I found wedged in an old pair of jeans.
We have a new Charity Shop in our area, but I prefer the old one because they don’t always go through the pockets.
Fifty bucks — well washed.
Fortunately, we have polymer bank notes, and they go through a heavy wash cycle and come out the other end looking like a bank-note.
Which is handy.
Finding the fifty was like receiving a particularly generous Christmas present.
The eleven dollars I paid for the jeans was my last eleven dollars.
I won’t have folding money again until the middle of next week. I do have a few coins, but I need them for emergency coffee on my way to work.
Which brings me back to the clock —
No one could accuse me of being a morning person, and like everyone else, I have an alarm on my phone, but my brain is wise enough to ignore it. My brain knows that I need sleep, and it assumes that the sound of my alarm is some kind of terrible mistake, so it ignores it; with the obvious consequence of me running around like a mad person, trying not to be late for my new job.
I’ve been out of work for a long time, and people can smell your desperation when you apply for work; so much so that when they offered me this job, I thought they were kidding.
I was so fed up with being treated like something that had adhered to the bottom of a shoe I said yes to the offer without asking how much they paid.
I’ve since found out, they are not going to pay me until I have worked for them for a few weeks and by the time all the ‘start up‘ costs are removed, there won’t be a lot left over.
Which brings me back to the clock again —
My mum liked to tell me stories about moving to Melbourne with her sister in the 1930s. They had an apartment on the park and worked at a city cafe.
For a long time, they couldn’t afford much of anything except the essentials associated with work.
For a while, they had one fork and a can opener, and they would take it in turns to eat with the can opener.
The cafe opened at 6 am, and they dared not be late.
Jobs were very hard to come by, and due to the lack of labour laws in those days, an employer could dismiss you on any pretext.
The sisters spent their first week’s wages on a massive alarm clock; the type with large bells on the top. They put the clock into a biggish saucepan to amplify the sound of the alarm.
They were never late for work.
Frankly, I don’t know how they slept with the magnified sound of a ticking clock in the same room, but I forgot to ask, and both of the sisters are dead now, so I guess I’ll never know.
So, now you know why I need this clock.
In the end, it did not cost me very much. Things that used to be expensive are now inexpensively made in other countries.
I haven’t spent the rest of the fifty.
You never know what might crop up.
I have to stop now because it is getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow. Clean my teeth, wind the clock and off to sleep.
In case you were wondering, my weekend plans include a visit to that Charity Shop — you never know.
I sure could use another fifty.
Painting by Kenton Nelson
Terry needs coffee!!!!!
There is an excellent chance that this story follows on from GREEN COAT, BLACK GLOVES, RED HANDBAG.
I shot him.
It seemed like the right thing to do.
It rained; and I’d let the universe decide.
If it had stayed fine I would have given him the money; just to shut him up.
But it didn’t.
It was a close run thing.
But in the end he got what he deserved.
He killed my gentle friend, as surely as if he had forced the pills down her throat. She never hurt anyone. Life frightened her but she did her best to live it until she met him.
His mission in life was to discover your weakness [we all have them] and then to exploit that weakness for money.
My gentle friend made a tragic mistake when she was very young. He found out [although, I have no idea how] and it was more than life was worth to have it known.
So, my gentle friend decided to leave us.
I’m impressed that she made it this far. The world works best for those who can roll with the punches. That was not her. She cared too much. Not about what people thought of her, she could endure that, but about the suffering of others.
I’m not similarly afflicted.
If I try really hard I can care, just a little bit, but generally speaking, I don’t take garbage from anyone.
I hide it well.
If you saw me you would think that I’m a little shy, gentle and feminine; and I am, but I’m also determined and at times, ruthless.
As I mentioned, it rained.
It sealed his fate and cleared the park, except for the old homeless guy sitting under that huge oak tree.
He saw the whole thing and for a minute I think he thought he was next. His eyes told me that he didn’t care much either way; he’d had enough too.
I sat on the bench next to him, still holding the smoking gun, and explained why I was there at that particular time. He listened intently [no one listens intently anymore, but I guess a recently fired .32 automatic does tend to focus the mind] and when I had finished he took a few moments and said, “Good for you lady. You can kick him in the balls if you feel like it.”
“That would probably be pointless, and I might get some of him on my shoe, but thank you for the suggestion.”
“My pleasure lady. Now you had better be gone.”
He was right, but before I went I gave him half the money. He gave me the biggest smile. I smiled right back. It had been a good day for both of us.
“You won’t give me away will you?”
He shook his head and I believed him.
Before I left, I checked to make sure the blackmailer was definitely dead.
He was, and he still had that silly look of surprise on his face.
Didn’t he know it would end this way one day?
Apparently not, or maybe he had underestimated the determination of a woman to protect her family and her home.
Rather foolishly, he had the letters on him.
For the life of me I cannot understand why he bought them with him. Maybe he had them in case I didn’t believe that he had them.
What did he have to lose?
I would not be strong enough to rest them away from him.
I put the letters in my bag, smiled at my new friend, and walked quietly out of the park. I considered leaving the gun at the scene, but what if some children got hold of it before the police arrived? And besides, I rather like this gun; it might come in handy.
When I arrived home I took my shopping and put it away. I placed the receipts in the glass bowl on the sideboard where I could find them. When the police finally get around to me those receipts will help muddy the waters somewhat. They would not prove that I was not at the park but they would maintain the impression that I was out on a shopping expedition.
Simple suburban housewives don’t go around shooting people.
Why would I need to?
“What was my motive officer?”
I can be quite convincing.
If he did not keep a written list of his victims I may not have to play my part at all, but preparation is never wasted. Keep it simple and smile the smile that has been getting me out of trouble since I was thirteen.
The sun has come out and it is a beautiful afternoon.
I look around at my comfortable house and think of all the things I have to be grateful for.
My friend can rest in peace; her ordeal is over, but my life goes on.
I’d better get a wriggle on, as my mum used to say, because my husband will be home soon and I need to prepare dinner for us both.
After all, I am a quiet suburban housewife.
The kind of woman who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Painting by Kenton Nelson.
I can definitely hear something.
You probably think I’m crazy, but I can hear something.
We don’t have a basement, so there is no ‘downstairs’; so where is the sound coming from?
I know I don’t look very dignified, but I dropped my pencil, and it rolled away. Probably went under the sofa.
That’s the problem with polished floors, stuff rolls away.
Now, if John had bought me the carpet, he promised the pencil would have hit the ground and stayed there. But no; it hits the polished boards, and away it goes. I knelt down to see if I could see it and the closer I got to the floor the louder it got.
Sometimes it sounds like a conversation, and other times it sounds like singing.
I can’t stay down here all afternoon, but I don’t want to get up either.
My knees hurt and if John walks in the door and sees me in this position he is likely to take advantage, and that will mean that supper will be late.
John likes to be thoughtful and tender; he takes his time. Which is okay with me most of the time, but when food is cooking, I wish he would be more like other men and get on with it.
Obviously, my views on the subject are purely hypothetical.
John is the only man I have made love to, but my female friends do tell me stories. I almost wish they wouldn’t; almost.
Females can be amazingly indiscreet.
I never discuss the specifics of our love life. I talk in generalities, but if I don’t add something to the conversation, the other women change the subject or leave me out of the juicy bits.
I must say that it makes it very hard when we entertain or are invited out to dinner. I keep looking at the husbands and remembering what their wives said about them.
He’s in too much of a hurry; he is too shy; he likes to have the light on, he likes the light off.
He likes ‘threesomes’.
Boy, was that an interesting conversation.
“How do the boys divide you up?” was the most interesting question.
Who works on which bits?
We were all thinking it, but Betty said it.
We all acted shocked, but we also hung on the answer.
“Mostly, the men are not as brave as they thought they would be and the whole thing fizzles out.” Martha sounded very disappointed.
I’ve thought about it, who hasn’t, but it’s a big jump from thinking about it to actually doing it. I don’t tell the girls, but I’d have a go, as long as I could pick the third person.
Sexual fantasies are all very well, but they are not going to help me work out where that noise is coming from, or where the hell my pencil went.
John just came through the front door.
What the heck; dinner can wait.
Painting by Kenton Nelson.