This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 1425 words.
Tabitha Khan and Mrs Wilkinson
Jenny slept late the next morning, leaving only twenty minutes to get packed and out before checkout time. No matter, as the long drive to where Tabitha lived would allow time for breakfast at the motorway service station. As she ate the all-day breakfast, surprised at her hunger, Jenny thought about her destination. A plush commuter suburb, known for its expensive property, and exclusive districts. It wasn’t going to be so easy this time. Tabitha had two kids, both at expensive schools nearby. She didn’t work, but had many interests. It was going to be hard to work out where it was best to do the deed.
As the prettiest girl on the netball team, Tabs exuded the confidence of someone who was always being told she was beautiful. The perfect combination of a handsome and rich Pakistani father, and a former glamour model English mother, she could easily have become a film star. But her temperament let her down. Bitchy, catty, and downright nasty, the only reason she was allowed into the top group was because her beauty attracted every hot boy in the town.
She despised anyone she thought was ugly, and barely tolerated any of the other girls in her set, including the late Phillipa.
Jenny had been a natural target for her spite. Frizzy hair, and a snub nose, that was all that was needed for Tabs to let herself give full rein. She called Jenny ‘The Pug’, ‘The Toy Dog’, and ‘The Hairy Bitch-Dog’. It seemed like every Monday, there was a new hateful name. The others always roared with laughter, terrified that Tabs would desert them, and start up her own set with the pretty girls. Jenny knew better. Tabs was a big fish in a small pond. If she started trying to hang around with the beauty queens, she would be average at best. With the netball gang, her foreign heritage was never mentioned, and nobody ever talked about her race or religion being different.
She was now called Tabitha Holloway, married to the leading estate agent in the region, a man who owned five successful branches around the area. Older than her, but not too old. And she had the kids quite late, apparently. At least going by their ages of six and eight, she hadn’t had the first one until she was thirty-five. An older mum, they called them. Career and marriage before children. Get the big house and money first, then have the sprogs.
The nearby accommodation was a run-down guest house that had seen better days. Days before the motorway had by-passed the sleepy town and adjacent villages, giving few people any reason to want to stay over. It seemed that she was the only guest, which was good. But the owner, Mrs Wilkinson, was a rather nosy woman who asked lots of questions, which was a shame. There was every chance that she would remember her, and even her nondescript car. She was that sort of woman. Jenny had to think seriously about the possibility of adding her to the list. A random kill wouldn’t hurt. Might throw them off the scent. The idea grew in her mind, and she smiled as she thought of what to do.
The afternoon was spent planning how to get to Tabs, without her noticing. She didn’t bother to go out to eat, settling for two sandwiches and a soft drink, bought at the motorway service station after breakfast. Deciding on her Plan A, she had a bath, and got an early night.
The next morning, after eating an average breakfast served by the snooty owner, Jenny drove a few miles to an industrial estate on the outskirts of the nearest town. In a large warehouse selling anything to do with home improvements, she bought two one-litre bottles of a well-known drain cleaner. Research had told her that it contained sulphuric acid, potentially lethal if ingested, and liable to cause terrible burns and scarring if applied to the skin. Adding some industrial safety gloves, two rolls of strong duct tape, some large scissors, and a small hammer, she took her basket to the checkout. The operator hardly looked at her as she bagged the goods, and took the cash payment without a word. There was CCTV in the shop of course, and in the car park. But she had parked out on the street, and was wearing cheap reading glasses over her contact lenses and a long blonde wig, bought well in advance.
It wouldn’t be a great idea to park so close to Tabitha’s house, but she had little choice. This was an area where any unusual activity in the village was likely to be noticed by everyone, so the privacy of the house was the only option. Jenny knew she drove a red Range Rover, so she would have to stay somewhere she could see it when Tabs returned home. With all her purchases stored in a small sports bag, she secreted her car in the lane next to the small mansion, where she could easily watch the entrance. Hopefully, she would not have either of the children with her, or Plan B would have to be used instead.
Just after two, the big red car arrived. It was too early for the school run, and Jenny was glad to see that the kids were not in the car. She got out quickly, grabbing the sports bag and unzipping it as she walked around the corner onto the gravel driveway. Tabs was standing behind the car, leaning into the back to get something from inside. Elegantly dressed in a designer raincoat, tightly belted around her slim frame. The noise of Jenny’s shoes crunching on the gravel made her turn to see who was coming. But she turned a fraction too late to make any difference. There wasn’t the slightest hint of recognition on her face as she spotted Jenny, just the start of a bemused smile at the sight of someone wearing enormous industrial gloves in that situation.
It was the last time the corners of her mouth would ever turn up in the formation of a sneer.
Squeezing the bottle as hard as she could with her small hands, Jenny drenched Tabitha’s head and face with sprays of the corrosive fluid. Tabs screamed at first, then made bubbling sounds. Smoke of some kind seemed to be coming off her skin, and there was a fizzing sound, like you hear when you drop some Alka-Seltzer into a glass of water. She fell onto her back, and Jenny stood over her, emptying the contents of the container over Tabitha’s rapidly disappearing face.
So much for beauty.
Taking the second litre out of the bag, Jenny forced the spout through what was left of Tabitha’s lips, and squeezed hard. Squirming on the ground, the now unrecognisable woman could only stare through bulging eyes as the fluid destroyed her airways, and entered her stomach too. Before it was too late, Jenny leaned forward, meeting the terrified gaze. She wanted her to know, before she died. “Call me a pug now. Go on, try”. Tabs didn’t seem to register the twenty-five year old insult, which was disappointing.
She waited until Tabs was no longer moving before putting the empty containers back into the bag. With no intention of trying to disguise this as anything but a vicious attack, she turned around and walked back to the car. As she started the drive back to the guest house, she started to feel a little queasy. Not taking the medication was already beginning to show.
When she walked through the door of the guest house, Mrs Wilkinson looked up, surprised. “Oh, did you want another night?” She opened a leather bound journal on the small counter, pretending to check if she had a room available.
Jenny hit her once with the hammer, and her face rebounded off the woodwork as she slipped under the counter with a low groan.
Working fast, it was easy to secure the stout woman with the heavy duty tape. She made sure to wrap it around her mouth and nose in a haphazard fashion, which would leave her unable to breathe. Then she took the old-fashioned cash box from under the counter, and the journal with all the bookings written in it, including hers.
Placing them both in the sports bag with the hammer and tape, Jenny sat on the stairs for a while. Besides waiting for Mrs Wilkinson to stop breathing, she needed a rest.
Murder could actually be quite tiring.