NOT FOR UNDER 18s TO READ AS MAY UPSET:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER
Paul Barstow was beginning to whistle, secure in the knowledge that all was well with the world. He had dropped off Mark, his nephew, and for once the parents of the bewildered little boy had not been arguing. He fervently hoped that his idea of taking the boy out for little treats, whilst they tried to work on their failing marriage, was working. He knew all too well how hard it was to fix a marriage when the truth of an affair has surfaced like an enemy submarine intent on destroying all in its path. He had not been able to save his own marriage, but maybe he could lay that ghost to rest by being instrumental in saving his brothers’. While he made his slow progress to the supermarket, he tried to file away his own painful thoughts. He was hoping that because it was the wife who had strayed, instead of the husband, it might just be possible for them to move on, because after all, it wasn’t just the two of them. He smiled; little Mark might just be the glue that could hold them together. It might have been very different if he and Andrea had kids of their own. He still wasn’t altogether convinced that it wasn’t why he hadn’t succumbed to Faye’s advances in the first place.
As he negotiated the tight parking space, he did not see the man two rows back, watching him from behind dark sunglasses and Alex was happy. He could not afford to be seen.
Paul lit a cigarette, knowing it was always the perfect way to forget things he didn’t want to think about. As the nicotine began to flow through his veins, he began to relax once more - the Oldroyd's would be wondering where he had got to. They were like a neighbourhood watch all by themselves and he hoped the nosey old crones had already left for their ritual early evening walk. They were prone to peering into his apartment on their way out and if he wasn’t in, he wouldn’t have to pass pleasantries as usual.
He was not in luck. As he pulled up, he saw them locking their door and he knew that as he was the only tenant around at this time, they were sure to waylay him. Inspiration struck. He exited the car and grabbed all his shopping bags out of the boot. It was a struggle to shut it after, but at least this way he had the excuse he needed to make a quick getaway. He nodded his hello to them as he made his way to the steps and they paused to watch him labour under the weight of the heavy bags. He spat out his cigarette in order to mumble,
“Can’t stop, sorry, these are kind of heavy,” as he watched them warily.
The old couple stepped over his still-lighted cigarette and tut-tutted in disapproval, but thankfully, went on their way.
He watched his cigarette as the dark embers slowly began to extinguish in the cold night air and as the light faded from it he congratulated himself on his lucky escape.
Making his way up the front steps, he put one set of bags down upon the top step to fish his car keys from his pocket, pressing the car alarm without turning around, satisfied at its reassuring electronic signal and unlocked the door. He retrieved the bags from the step and pushed open the door with his foot. Off balance and caught totally unawares, the strong push sent him careering to the floor immediately. Prone and helpless he was an easy target. His assailant moved to kneel on his back, kicked the door with his foot and he heard it click reassuringly closed.
Paul struggled to retrieve his arms from the weight of the bags and Alex knew he had to act quickly. He leaned forward to force the man’s prone torso more into the floor and held his head at both sides, pressing it relentlessly into the carpet. As he began to struggle less and less, Alex carefully moved his hands to around his neck, gradually cutting off his circulation. Paul never even saw the face of his killer.
Once safely back at the house, Alex retrieved his toolbox and shut the adjoining door to the garage. He looked down into the face of his despised victim and stared at the wedding band around his finger. The hands, he considered their long length and the damage he knew that they had done; he would need the saw.
He placed the saw next to the toolbox and retrieved his most treasured possession; the battered tin his Mother had given him to keep his toy soldiers in. He removed the lid and placed the hand across the open tin. He held the hand fast whilst he began to saw and with the first rent of flesh, the tainted blood collected in the tin like a sacred fluid flowing to cleanse him of his sins. The saw snagged a little when he got down to the bone, but his determination saw him through.
A pile of boxes were stacked in one corner and Alex selected a small one and then opened up the bottom drawer of the battered filing cabinet. The drawer was stuffed full of brightly-coloured children’s birthday wrapping paper. He thought for a moment as he surveyed them and then selected the blue one with the penguin motif, somehow it seemed appropriate for the man with the cold blue fingers. From within the toolbox, he withdrew a pen and a small blue label and as he turned it over in his hand, he thought carefully about what he was going to write on it. He didn’t want it to be too easy, yet it could not be too hard.
‘Happy birthday Mother,’ he began, ‘I think this is just what you’ve always wanted.’