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Crime

Rob was well in to his sixth pint of Stella by the time the usual evening crowd arrived. Not that there was much of a crowd in Jordan’s, it was the kind of place where you had to know it was there to find it, and you had to know someone there to get served. Everyone had a dodgy past, dodgy present or would soon have a dodgy future.

No one ever knew who ‘Jordan’ was, the bar was owned by Terry; an overweight, acne scarred, balding Geordie. Terry was the end of a long line of owners who all thought they could ‘turn the place around’ and soon found out that they couldn’t. Terry, somehow, seemed to make a profit, or at least be able to stand losing money, so had stuck around for longer than anyone else Rob could remember. That was why Rob considered Terry the closest thing he had to a friend, and why he was confiding in him.

‘It’s like this you see. I have…special needs in the bedroom. I need someone I can trust, and who will…provide them.’

‘Don’t we all,’ Terry answered. Rob wondered for a second whether Terry ever got his needs met, and if so who would be desperate enough to be the other person in the room. The image was not a good one.

‘Yeah, don’t we all,’ he answered, drowning the vision in one large gulp of warm Stella. ‘Get me another one would you Terry?’ And when Terry made no sign of movement, ‘And one for yourself of course.’ That got the desired effect, Terry shouted across to Diane, regular drinker and occasional barmaid, who brought across short measures which she still managed to spill onto the already sticky table. Both men watched in silence as she walked back to the bar.

‘What about her?’ Terry asked.

Rob pondered for a moment, sucked on his e-cig and blew out a cloud of scented steam. ‘Nah, not quite right. Close, but something off.’

The door opened and three regular couples came in. Terry, who despite his looks was astute enough when it came to an opportunity to make a pound, was behind the bar like a shot so that he could provide short measures and short change personally.

Diane took his seat. ‘You look down tonight, Rob, Problems?’

Rob paused, took a long sip and let lose another cloud of vape steam. ‘No, just need…err…something.’

‘You’re a good looking bloke. You have money. You have time on your hands. You could get “err…something” anytime. You wouldn’t need to look far.’

Rob took the hint, let her down with a handy cliché. ‘If you’re suggesting what I think you may be suggesting, you’re too good a mate for that. I’d hate to spoil our friendship.’

‘I still might be able to help you out. I have friends. Friends with special skills, if you know what I mean? Tell me what you need, I’ll find someone?’

‘Let me think about it? I’ll pay off my tab, you got the card machine?’

Diane waited while he slowly tapped in the four numbers of his pin, tore up the receipt, onto which she’d added enough drinks to keep her going all night, and set off for home alone.

Everyone knew that Rob had money. No one knew where from, and he was never particularly keen to tell. But he didn’t work, he didn’t appear to be a businessman and no one had ever seen him selling drugs or tax free fags, so they all assumed (Jordan’s being that sort of place) that he was living off the proceeds of some historic crime. Rumours ranged from a bank job right through to Brinks Matt. In truth he was widowed at 24, inherited some property at 26, and made some very astute investments. Coupled with a relatively frugal lifestyle (he lived, anonymously, in a bed sit in one of the houses he owned) he had no need to work and, compared to the manual, shop and office workers he mixed with, appeared well off. He either never noticed, or never complained about his inflated bar tabs.

 

Two days later Rob was at his usual table, usual pint. Terry was having a rare day off, so Diane was behind the bar, filing her nails. Otherwise the place was empty. Until a stunning red head walked in, ordered a bottle of champagne and told Diane that Rob was paying. Diane looked at Rob, who looked at the red head, made a decision, and nodded yes.

‘Jacqui, and you’re Rob.’ She held out a gloved hand for him to kiss. Rob felt something stir. ‘I’m Diane’s friend.’

‘You want that champagne to go?’ He asked.

‘No, you have to earn me.’ She replied.

In those six words she told Rob all he needed to know. He set about earning his reward.

 

The next morning he woke in his own bed, thinking that the night before must have been a bad dream because he never brought his special ladies home. He walked into the shower room and dry swallowed some paracetamol, showered, and winced in pain when the hot water hit the raw welts on his back. So she had been here. It was only when he walked back in to the bed-sitting room that Rob’s heart stopped. His cash box was open on the floor, and empty. His wallet alongside it, empty. Even his cards had gone. Fortunately whoever had done him over, and he was pretty sure he knew who that was, had not found his savings account book taped under a draw.

He phoned the bank, to find that his accounts had been cleared out and his credit cards all maxed out. He thumped the wall, which earned him a warning shout from the room next door to ‘keep it down, asshole, we heard enough from you last night.’ He dressed and headed for Jordan’s. Terry was behind the bar.

‘Where’s Diane?’

‘Dunno, she hasn’t been in today.’

‘You expecting her?’

‘She usually pops in, but I haven’t asked her to work or anything. Here, call her if you want her.’ He gave Rob a mobile number. It rang out without going to voicemail.

‘You know where that sister of hers hangs out?’ Rob asked.

‘Sister? She hasn’t got a sister.’

‘Tall? Redhead? Called Jacqui?’

‘Mate, that ain’t her sister, that’s her girlfriend. You knew she’s gay, right? I thought that was what you meant when you said you wanted something special and said she was nearly right? That’s why I put them on to you.’

Rob didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He settled for demanding a few pints on the house.

Neither of them saw Jacqui or Diane for quite some time…

(c) Carter Lacey 2017

Rodney Franklin was a happy man. Thirty years out of the Marine Corps, he kept to himself except for a Friday night beer in the nearest bar, ran his farm single handed when he could and hired in some help for the jobs he couldn’t manage. When he first bough the farm in ’72 some of the locals laughed that he always hired in help to slaughter his livestock rather than doing it himself, but once he told a few people he’d seen enough death in Vietnam and would see no more, the story got round and people stopped laughing.

He was checking the foundations for a new hog pen when he was disturbed from his work by a voice from the past.

‘Well hello Mr Franklin. How are you today?’

Rodney turned slowly, knowing yet still dreading who he was going to see.

‘Lenny Bertrand. Back again?’

‘Why yes Mr Franklin. I think it’s about time you made me a small gift, don’t you?’

‘I paid you, Lenny. I paid you ten years ago and almost every year since. Why am I still paying you?’

‘Because you really don’t want Sherriff Hunter to know what you did with Mrs Hunter at the barn dance all those years ago, now do you? I’ve kept my end of the bargain. I left town with the money you gave me then, I only come back when I need a top up and no one ever knows I’ve been. Unless you tell them?’

‘I don’t tell nobody nothin’ Lenny. But I don’t see why I should keep paying you year after year for one fumble in my truck. Anyhow, Elaine Hunter’s been dead these last five years.

‘You think the Sherriff cares about that? You think he wants her memory spoiled? I don’t want much Mr Franklin, just enough to see me south and set up for the winter.’

‘Now that’s all you want. But you’ll be back. Again and again. You’re going to keep coming until I die aren’t you?’

‘Or until the Sherriff dies I guess, yes.’

Or until you die The thought popped into Rodney’s head.

‘Wait there. I’ll get your money, you bloodsucker.’ He said, and made to walk towards the farm house. Lenny turned, even he had the decency to give the man he was blackmailing some privacy. That’s why he didn’t see Rodney sneak up behind him and hit him over the back of the head with a shovel. He fell in to the open trench. Rodney looked over, saw the unmoving body and, realising what he’d done, retched up his lunch.

He ran to the house, thinking of different excuses he could give to the Sherriff for finding the dead tramp. He considered throwing the body to the hogs, he knew they would eat almost anything. In the end he decided to simply cover up the body. He couldn’t bring himself to look at it again, so he started up his digger and half filled the trench with hard core to form the foundation of his new hog pen.

 *

Rodney’s success continued. For five more years he lived on his farm. His hogs thrived, he made enough money and carried on living his simple life. He drove his truck to the nearest bar one night a week as he had always done, drank a couple of beers and drove home again. If anyone had known him well enough they may have noticed that he had something on his mind most of the time, but everyone had their own worries and anyway no one was that close to him, so no one noticed.

 *

But something was playing on Rodney’s mind. He’d read Poe. He could hear Lenny’s heart beat every time he went to the hog pen. He knew that one day he would have to move the body or go mad. Finally the day came. He could stand it no longer. Rodney let loose the hogs and drove his digger through the pen walls. Then he dug. He dug down to where the body should have been and saw nothing. He dug further, and still no body. He got out of the digger and dug with a shovel. Still nothing. Finally he started scraping at the ground with his bare hands. He was on his hands and knees when the trench collapsed in on him. If anyone had been there they would have seen a filthy, crying man shouting over and over again ‘She wasn’t worth this! She wasn’t worth this!’

 *

The Sherriff arrived a couple of hours later. Someone had called him after seeing hogs loose on the highway. Sherriff Hunter recognised that they were Rodney’s. He saw the damaged pens and re-opened foundations but could not work out why Rodney would have done that much damage. He assumed some sort of accident or vandalism. Worried, he went looking for Rodney. When he couldn’t find him around the farm he eventually called for some help and dug down in to the reopened trench. That’s where they found his body.

No one in town ever worked out what happened or why. The only man who might have known saw a news report of the mysterious death while nursing a sandwich and coffee in a Salvation Army hostel two towns away. Lenny Bertrand rubbed the scar on the back of his head, hidden by his long greasy hair. Yet again he thanked his lucky stars that the one farmer who tried to kill him was probably the only one on the country too squeamish to check he was dead before leaving him alone in the trench with enough time to climb out and slip away.

(c) Carter Lacey 2016

 

“I swear to you he’s trying to kill you.”

“No, not going to happen George.” DS George Wilkins winced at her using his first name, then sighed, he’d joined the police after a diet of The Sweeney. He’d never expected to spend hours trying to talk abused women into not going back to their bullying husbands. Making sure they fell down a few flights of stairs maybe, but not listening to their scared wives telling him it was ‘their fault’, that ‘he is a good man really’ and they ‘wanted to give him another chance’. He looked her straight in the eye then tried again, more for the sake of form and the benefit of the young DC who was observing the interview rather than with any real expectation of success. “Laura, he actually offered to pay one of my colleagues to kill you. This is way beyond a black eye or a cracked rib, this is a man who is looking to commission murder and may yet decide to commit it. It might not be your choice this time, I should really report this to the DPP anyway.”

She shrugged “I love him George, and he loves me. If he said that it was the beer talking. I want to take him home.”

“If you change your mind, you know my number.” He said.

“Yeah, 999.” Laura tried to smile, but he could see that it didn’t reach her eyes.

He gave her ten minutes to get out of the building then walked down to the custody suite to arrange to have Laura’s abusive husband, Jim Thicket, processed, cautioned and released without charge. Again.

#

In his cell two floors below Jim Thicket had been fuming for most of the night. They’d never kept him in before, Laura had usually talked them out of any charges. This time he hadn’t even touched her. Well, just a friendly slap before he’d shagged her that afternoon before he went out to the pub but that was just rough sex. She’d never complained about that before. Conspiracy to murder? Where the hell had they worked that one up from? He couldn’t remember saying that he wanted Laura killed, let alone conspiring with some stranger to do it, but then he rarely remembered anything he’d said when he was drunk, so he might have done. But by the time he was sober enough to think straight he had decided that he could talk his way out of it though, make out he just said he wished she was dead or something, exaggeration. As long as the copper who interviewed him was a bloke he’d be fine. ‘After all,’ he thought, practising his lines in his head ‘it had really come to something if a husband couldn’t slag off his missus without it leading to him being arrested’.

He’d wanted to call a lawyer when he finally grasped he’s been picked up for something more than drunk and disorderly, he knew a couple from the pub who would probably turn out for him, but they’d taken his mobile and not allowed him to make any calls. They’d told him that they couldn’t question him until the police doctor said he was sober enough, and she wasn’t even on duty until nine in the morning. He’d been arrested at closing time. They told him he’d be best off just sleeping it off. But how could he sleep? His mind was racing, and on top of everything else they were sending a woman doctor, ‘another woman. All part of the conspiracy against men’ he thought.

#

The cell door opened just as Jim was finally dropping off to sleep. ‘Another trick’ he thought, ‘interview me while I’m half asleep.’ Instead of the uniform Jim expected to see the copper who came in was in a suit that looked like he’d slept in it for the last week.

“James Thickett, I am DS George Wilkins. I have to give you a formal caution and slap your wrists for offering to pay my mate to kill your wife. Then I’ll de-arrest you and you’re free to go. I will pass your file to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but I don’t think they’ll want to take it any further with the limited evidence we have.”

Jim heard ‘free to go’ and ignored the rest. Within ten minutes he was in an interview room and they’d given him two paracetamol and some insipid machine tea. He asked for a bacon sandwich, but the copper just laughed at him and told him to get one on the way home. Jim ignored the usual drivel about how lucky he was to not be in front of the beak this morning and how he needed to keep his nose clean. Within the hour he was back on the street.

He was about to call Laura and get her to pick him up when she drove round the corner. He thought about getting her to let him drive, but decided he didn’t want to be spotted driving while banned right outside the cop shop so he got in the passenger side.

“They tell you what happened?” He asked.

“No, just called me to say you’d been in overnight and they were just about to release you.”

“Drop me at the pub.”

“You need a shower and a change of clothes first; anyway they’re not open yet. Let me make you a fry up and you can clean you up, then you can get out for a couple of hours this afternoon?”

“Ok.”

#

Jim slumped into his armchair and flicked through Sky Sports looking for something to watch. He could hear Laura in the kitchen rattling pans and making him the fry up she’d promised. She bought him a mug of tea. He leered down the front of her top as she leant down to put it on the side table next to his chair.

“Whip your top off, there’s a good girl.” He said, making a grab for her.

She laughed, batting his hand away. “After you’ve eaten, you don’t want your food burnt.”

He grunted, and turned back to the TV. “Well make it quick then!”

#

Laura sighed as she heard Jim switch off the shower. She knew it wouldn’t be much longer.

“Get up here then, woman!” He shouted.

Head hanging, feet dragging, she followed him into their bedroom. He was standing, naked, with a sneer on his face.

“Do I have to rip your clothes off you?” He asked.

“It might be fun.” She replied, and winked.

He got as far as ripping open her top when he started to struggle getting his breath.

“What’s up, stud, losing interest?” She asked. He didn’t have the strength to answer.

“Something wrong?” she asked.

His face turned first red, then purple as he struggled to breathe. Finally he expelled one rattled breath, then stopped making any noise. Laura pulled her mobile from her jeans pocked, dialled 999.

“Police! She whispered, with some urgency, “ It’s Laura Thickett, Tell George Wilkins that Jim’s trying to kill me!” She threw the phone across the room, tore her clothes some more, then she allowed herself to fall backwards on to the bed making sure that she hit the bed post hard enough to leave a bump on the side of her head.

#

The police surgeon was comforting Laura, who was wrapped in an ambulance blanket. She caught the coroner as he wheeled Jim’s body out of the house.

“What do you think? It looks open and shut to me. He tried to beat and rape his wife, had a heart attack. Serves the bastard right.”

The coroner nodded. She knew not to commit herself before conducting an autopsy, but it didn’t take too long to draft her report which said exactly the same thing, minus the expletive in the version she actually filed. The police report to the CPP said the same.

Five weeks later DS George Wilkins sighed as he closed the cell door on another wife beater. He did the paperwork then went to the pub. He and the police doctor had arranged an unofficial meeting with Laura and the wife of the man he’d just locked up for the night. The doctor spoke first, to the cowed and bruised woman sipping lemonade through a straw to avoid irritating her split lips.

“Listen, we’ve got a fool proof plan…You do cook his meals don’t you?”

Laura smiled and nodded to the woman. “Trust him, it’s ok.”