This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 1528 words.
Lucy kissed Alex goodbye, and left the house early for work. She had booked a half day holiday, and Eduardo would phone in sick. That way, they would have plenty of time to drive to the hotel, and arrive early enough to make something of the evening. She would pick him up from the railway station fifteen miles from town, where they were unlikely to be seen by anyone she knew.
Alex was very calm. He had managed to suppress the excitement he had been feeling the day before, knowing he would have to be cool and collected for what he was going to do later. He didn’t rush into work that morning, taking his time over some toast topped with a delicious cherry jam. Most of the staff liked to get things done early on Fridays, working hard to make sure they could get away a little early, or at least dead on time. They even had a name for it, ‘Poets Day’. That stood for ‘Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday’. It was his habit to enjoy throwing a spanner in the works on Fridays, deciding on a late meeting, or an unscheduled departmental inspection. But not today. He had something to do himself for once.
The house was tidy, Lucy had seen to that. And Alex was quite capable of making himself a meal. When he got home just before six that evening, the music from next door was thumping away as usual. Not so loud today, but the regular beat was as intrusive as ever. Sipping a small glass of wine, he prepared a nice dinner of chicken breasts with asparagus, which he would combine with a few new potatoes later. The cooking time of forty minutes would be all he would need, and more. More than enough time to see to Allan, and return to lightly boil the potatoes. He didn’t like them to be too soft.
He went out to the shed, and collected three items. The old gardening gloves, hardly used since he had received new ones as a gift from Lucy. The plastic face mask that he had used when he had sprayed the fence with weatherseal, and the protective goggles that were necessary if he used the small chainsaw to trim one of the apple trees. Alex smiled as he looked up to the dull but cloudless sky. No rain had been predicted, and the forecasters had got that right for once. Back inside, he retrieved the protective suit from under the files in his office, and walked slowly upstairs.
In the bedroom, he stripped naked, then slipped on the elastic-sided trainers that he had bought more than two years ago, and had never worn. They had a smooth sole, with no design, no ridges, nothing to leave any distinctive tracks or marks, even through the nylon suit. He stepped into the one-piece garment, and zipped it up to his neck. Then he attached the mask around his ears, put on the goggles, and drew the elasticated hood up over his head. Walking back quickly downstairs, he could feel a definite increase in his heartbeat, a slight pounding in the temples at the side of his head. He went back into the garden using the single door off the kitchen, as it was closest to the fence, putting on the gloves as he walked.
Halfway along that fence was the reinforced plastic storage unit that he had bought more than five years earlier. They used it to store the cushions that went onto the garden chairs, the parasol that shaded the table in the summer, and some small garden tools that were used regularly. The top was halfway up the fence, and Alex stepped onto it, knowing it would stand his weight as he stood up. Without a pause, he carefully rolled over the fence into his neighbour’s garden, taking the strain on the thick gloves, so as to avoid the possibility of snagging the orange suit on the wood at the top.
With his back to the Sinclair’s side of the fence, he walked quickly to their old patio doors. They were the sliding type, well-worn, and badly maintained. Alex suspected that it was unlikely Allan would think to lock them, but if he had, they would be easily forced using nothing but some strength and determination. But he had been right in his assumption, and the unlocked door slid open with a slight judder. He was in.
The house was smaller than his, but the layout was similar. He left the patio door open, and made his way into the hallway, and the stairs leading up to the bedrooms and bathroom. The music was much louder inside the house, and he did his best to keep his senses as the repetitive beat started to get inside his head. Next to a coat-stand in the hallway was an old dining chair. Alex wondered why they would have that there, but he didn’t know that they always sat on it to remove their shoes when they came in.
He turned the chair on its side, and pushed his foot against it util one of the legs cracked. Wiggling it with a gloved hand, it came free, and he hefted it against his palm. It would do. He knew that the boy’s room was the one at the back, facing the garden, and he walked upstairs onto the landing, opening the door quietly, but without hesitation.
Allan was asleep on his bed. The music never stopped him dropping off, and it had felt like a long day since his parents had left after breakfast. He had decided that he would have a nap, and microwave the spaghetti bolognese later, once he woke up.
Alex brought the chair leg down hard on the back of Allan’s head, close to the base of his skull. He had reasoned the blow wouldn’t kill the boy, but should sufficiently incapacitate him. He pulled up the neck of the youngster’s T-shirt, in case the injury bled too much, before dragging him off the bed, and out onto the landing. The wound had started to bleed somewhat, but most seemed to be dripping onto the protective suit, so that was fine. Taking a grip under the arms, he rested the chair leg on Allan’s chest, as he dragged him backwards down the stairs. The boy was lighter than he had anticipated, and it was remarkably easy. Next to the broken chair in the hallway, he crouched behind the boy, supporting his back against his own knees. Picking up the chair leg again, he pressed it hard against Allan’s neck, using both hands to apply pressure. That roused the boy in a panic, but too late to do anything about it. Alex watched as the life drained from him, his breathing stopped by the pressure of the wood across his throat. A gargling sound came from Allan’s mouth, the last sound he would ever make.
Then his body slumped lifeless, against his killer’s knees.
With a slight sense of anti-climax, Alex rolled the boy onto his face, and used the back of his T-shirt to mop up any dripping blood from the front of the protective suit. Then he went back upstairs to turn off the music playing in the bedroom. Back in the living room, he opened all the drawers and cupboards of the various units and the large dresser, strewing the papers inside all over the place, tipping over ornaments and small containers holding pens and knick-knacks. Then he carefully lowered one large multi-drawer metal cupboard onto the floor. If that had been knocked over accidentally, it would have made a noise loud enough to be heard upstairs; certainly in the room above, where young Allan presumably wasn’t listening to his music at the time. One last walk upstairs, then carefully retracing every step he had made in the short time since he had entered the house. Satisfied, Alex left by the open patio door.
Along the fence on that side was a row of heavy plant containers, each containing a different shrub. He stepped carefully onto the back edge of one of them, and hauled himself back over the fence onto his plastic storage box. He rolled over backwards as he did so, so that no blood from the suit would transfer onto the top edge of the fence. But he would check that later. In his shed, he stood in the doorway, and stripped off the suit onto a plastic sheet placed on the floor. He added the face mask, goggles, and gloves, before carefully wrapping it all into a rudimentary parcel.
Back in the house, he turned the heat on under the pan containing the potatoes, then walked still naked up to his bedroom. He placed the trainers back in their box, had a long shower, and went back down in his dressing gown. The pounding in his temples had gone, and his pulse felt completely normal.
As he ate, Alex thought food had rarely tasted that good. He smiled, and spoke aloud, into the empty room.
To be continued…