This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
Lesley had told Jimmy about Simon. How he had tried to control her, had taken money from her, and been violent to her sexually. She was ashamed that she had tolerated it for so long, but the thought of becoming his wife had filled her with dread, giving her the strength to move out of her parents’ house, split with her family, and rent her own small flat.
Jimmy watched as the man left the pub just after eleven. He was unaccompanied, and stopped to light a cigarette before walking off into the darkness. Jimmy already knew which way he would go. Lesley had mentioned where he worked, and Jimmy had followed him one Saturday afternoon when they closed. He had seen him go home, then watched as he came out again to head for the pub. He knew the route Simon would take, and he was prepared. There was no need to follow him, just be in the right place when he got there.
Earlier, Jimmy had concealed a large piece of wood under the approach to the bridge over the canal. It was part of a tree branch, probably left by a dog. It was heavy, and over four feet long. Wearing gloves, he had walked back to the pub and sat alone in the small bar after ordering a shandy. The main bar was very busy with people watching the football match on a TV fixed to the wall, and the man who served him the drink hardly paid him any attention at all.
The fresh air had hit Simon by the time he got to the bridge, and he stopped for a moment, holding onto the handrail. Jimmy stepped out from his hiding place under the approach, and struck Simon’s head with the branch, using all his strength. The bigger man let out a groan, and rolled down the side of the bridge and over the paved edge of the towpath. He slipped into the deep water feet first, and disappeared under with a gurgling sound.
Looking around to make sure nobody else was nearby, Jimmy crouched down to watch in case Simon surfaced. When he was sure he had been in the water long enough to drown, he stood up and walked back along the towpath to the main road, discarding the branch into the water a long way from where Simon had gone in.
It was a long walk home, and well after midnight when he got in. Lesley knew better than to ask where he had been, and offered to make him a sandwich and a cup of tea. When she came back into the room with them, Jimmy told her that if anyone asked, he had been at home with her all evening.
On Saturday, he took a bus to the other side of the town, and walked around to the back of a small block of flats that had a communal waste bin. In the carrier bag that he dropped into it were the gloves, and the old shoes he had been wearing. He had chosen a pair with a distinctive rip on the side of one sole, so that the footprints he had left by the canal bridge would be obvious. When he got home, he suggested to Lesley that they go to the cinema that evening, and she was delighted.
People like Simon don’t get missed. But he hadn’t shown up for work for almost a week, so his boss went to the flat. Getting no reply, he rang the police to tell them of his concern. The young woman at the end of the phone took some details, and asked him to go into a police station and file a missing persons report. But he wasn’t too bothered. The man was a pain anyway, a loudmouth. So instead of going to make an official report he phoned head office to ask them to place an advertisement for a job vacancy, saying that Simon had not turned up for work, so could consider himself sacked.
Declan Leach was once a hippy, and might later be described as alternative. He lived on a canal boat, and moved it up and down the country between jobs. He looked for cash work. Fruit-picking, window-cleaning, day labouring, anything that didn’t involve tax and insurance. After escaping almost being caught for not paying mooring fees the day before, he had headed north along the canal, stopping at an unfamiliar town when he ran out of tobacco and milk. After finding a shop up on the road, he walked back to his narrow-boat and noticed something caught up at the back of it.
The briefest look told him it was the body of man.