This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 1700 words.
Walking around the perimeter, it was easy to see where the man’s property ended. The overgrown hedgerows and fields looked unsightly, next to the neat rows of crops bordering them. It was the only building to be seen though. The closest structure visible through Jack’s binoculars was the church spire, in the village to the south. Easily a mile away, if not more, according to the map. He carried on walking some four hundred yards from the house, knowing he would be out of sight as long as he kept tight against the tall hedges. It still seemed to him to be the ideal location, even though it meant waiting many hours until nightfall, when the area would be in complete darkness.
Once he had done what he came for, he would start off at first light, walking back the ten miles to the closest railway station. All being well, he would be able to get the eight-seventeen train, then the connection in the city thirty miles away. Marking a good spot in his mind, he set off back to the small tarmac lane he had arrived on. He would wander around for a while yet, and might actually do some real bird-watching to while away the time.
Richard Willoughby made it upstairs to the bed, before collapsing fully dressed onto the covers. He was still wearing the scuffed and dusty shoes, not bothering to even try to kick them off. All those large whiskies on an empty stomach soon guaranteed that he was sound asleep. Luckily, there was nobody else around to be disturbed by the rattling snores that echoed around the huge bedroom.
It made Jack smile, that he actually saw some of the birds listed in the book, and recognised them. He was even tempted to tick them off the checklist at the back. He liked lists of course, but preferred his own. Very few people had passed him on his travels, and he had pretended to be engrossed in his bird-watching, so not to have to engage them in conversation. Traffic around that area was light too, reflecting the small population of that eastern county. It was almost seven when he got back to the chosen spot. A small gap in the hedge just big enough to get through, and enough overgrown foliage beyond to easily conceal him from sight of anyone in the house. He ate three cereal bars, and drank some more of the water he had brought along. Then he opened the flap of the new larger rucksack, and began to lay out some items on the grass.
Careful observation through the binoculars had shown nobody else coming or going that evening. If there was a wife or girlfriend inside already, then bad luck for her. Jack arranged the torch, hunting knife, glass cutter, and small crowbar, setting them out on the thin nylon over-suit which was still in its wrapper. Sold for decorating in the home, it not only covered the shoes, but also had a hood. The last items retrieved were two pairs of latex gloves. He would wear them both, one over the other, in case of nicks or tears in the dark. He wouldn’t need to carry everything at once of course, and would rearrange them inside the rucksack later, when it was time to make his move. Burglaries were not unknown in rural districts. And if it ended up with a struggle followed by a murder, nobody would be unduly surprised.
In The Horseshoe, Jerry checked his watch. No sign of Rich, which was most unusual. He had been open for over two hours, and that man was usually waiting to hear the bolt slide. Forgetting his troublesome but big-spending regular, he served a very buxom blonde girl with the two bottles of lager she had ordered. He knew full well that she wasn’t yet eighteen, but what the hell. It was business.
By the time his bladder woke him up, Richard had been sleeping far longer than he had intended to. He cursed himself for not rousing sooner, as he staggered into the dark hallway to get to the bathroom. Flicking on the light, he checked his ridiculously expensive watch. Almost eight. Hardly worth the effort to walk back to the pub now, as it closed at eleven anyway, and that Jerry never let him stay for late drinks with the other regulars. Not since he had clumped Old George last year, anyway. He decided to open a bottle from the kitchen cupboard instead. It wasn’t the same, drinking at home. He liked the atmosphere of the pub, and got a buzz from the tension created by his appearance, smirking at the locals whispering to each other as they glanced in his direction.
After the first glass, he thought he might be more comfortable stretched out on the bed, and he could watch the TV there too, as he had the satellite box set up in his bedroom. The living room was depressing, and he hardly spent any time downstairs these days. Switching off the light, he headed back upstairs. Despite the rumbling in his belly, he couldn’t be bothered to make anything to eat.
From his vantage point, Jack believed the house to be in darkness. Although his legs were stiff, and he was getting quite bored, it was still too early. Given what he had seen around, it was obvious even to a city person like him that the man he had encountered wasn’t much of a farmer. There was no activity to be seen anywhere, and certainly no farm staff working around the place. Perhaps he was just a bad farmer, and still went to bed early so he could be up to do whatever farmers did just before daylight. Another hour passed, and Jack switched on the army surplus torch with its hooded beam, then started to make his way across the overgrown space between him and the house. From his position at the back, he couldn’t see the light on in the large front bedroom.
The new glass cutter made short work of the window in the kitchen door, and Jack was able to reach in and unlock it, as the key had conveniently not been removed. He had guessed that a very drunk man might not go around removing keys. And he had guessed right. Once inside, he removed the hunting knife from the rucksack, before placing it back on his shoulders. The nylon suit was rustling, and annoyingly noisy, but it was a necessity. He walked through into the drab living room, shining the beam of the torch around until he found the bottom of the staircase to his left. A glance over his shoulder showed him a large side lamp, placed on a worn-out old dresser. It was one of those made to look like a Victorian oil lamp, with a heavy glass top.
That would be perfect to announce his presence. Once the resident was alerted, he would wait for him at the bottom of the stairs, torch off, knife ready. When the job was done, he would carefully stage the apparent burglary, then wait in the house until it started to get light, before leaving for the walk to the railway station.
Richard was flicking through some channels when he heard the sound of the glass breaking. He had just been wondering why he paid all that money every month for almost two hundred channels, when there was never anything worth watching. Whatever had smashed was something big, and it sounded like it was inside, not a window. He got off the bed, turning off the television using the remote, and walked over to the wardrobe. Reaching inside, he felt for the expensive double-barrelled shotgun his uncle had left in there. One of the few things Richard had never bothered to sell. He knew it was loaded, as he had used it a few times to blast away at pigeons and crows, before becoming bored with that. Opening the door quietly, he walked out onto the landing, some old boards creaking under his weight.
At the foot of the stairs, Jack heard the creaking, and he waited for the sound of the footsteps on the uncarpeted stairs. On the dark staircase, with no lights in the living room beyond, Richard could see nothing below him. He held the shotgun to his side, a finger on one half of the double trigger, barrels pointing straight down. With only two stairs left to the bottom, Jack walked into view, knife at the ready, torch turned off. It seemed that the man, close as he was, hadn’t seen or heard him. That made him smile.
In front of him, Richard suddenly saw a flash of something white. Brilliant white, dazzling in the gloom. He fired the barrel, and the noise was deafening, breaking the peace of the night outside. Jack was on his back, unable to conceal a look of great surprise on his face. The shot had hit him low down, around his pelvis, and he couldn’t move his legs. The farmer walked around him, and went over to the door, switching on the main light. Jack was still hanging on to the knife gripped in his palm, the other hand clutching the huge wound lower down on his body. He raised the hand holding the knife, and pointed it, making the man laugh out loud. Richard walked back to the prone intruder, and shook his head.
“Shouldn’t have spent so much money at the dentist, my friend. I might never have seen you”. He lowered the shotgun at an angle, until the barrels were level with Jack’s open mouth. With a slurred voice and a drunken grin, Richard fired the second barrel, blowing away the side of the man’s head, and most of his teeth. “Try getting the dentist to fix that, you bastard”.
Richard put down the shotgun, and walked over to the ancient dial-phone on a table by the sofa. He rang the emergency number, and waited until the police operator came on the line.
“I think you better send someone to Willoughby Farm. I just killed a burglar”.