This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 798 words.
The day before Toni flew out to Ireland, I gave Uncle Brian some money and asked him to buy me a bottle of Bushmills when he went shopping. I told him the truth, that it was a Christmas gift for Maria, to keep her sweet.
It was never going to be wrapped and go under a tree though.
My uncle was taking Vallium now, after telling his doctor that he was very stressed at work. I had already stolen a few of his tablets from the bottle in the bathroom cabinet, and when he gave me the whisky, I crushed three of them into a fine powder, before adding it to the Bushmills and giving it a good shake.
Since the visit of the kinky lawyer, and before Toni flew out of the country, Maria had sent two more women to my house in the late afternoon. One of them had cried after, and said she felt ashamed. The other one wanted me to tie her hands to the headboard with some cord she had brought along, then swear at her while we did it.
I guessed that most were wives of prisoners doing time, or contacts like the lawyer, and I was beginning to wonder just how many women Maria knew who were willing to pay for sex so their husbands never found out they were being unfathful.
As well as the money, their meetings with me gave Maria a huge hold over all of them. One anonymous word from her to the police, and they would be arrested.
The arrangement to see Maria was on the first Monday of the school holidays. It was cold and bright, and she told me to come to her house just after three. To hide the fact that the Bushmills had already been opened, I kept my hand around the top as I showed it to her, then pretended to crack the cap as she went to get her tumbler. I knew it was her favourite tipple, and she needed no second bidding to pour a large slug.
Once that had been gulped down, she smiled at me as she refilled her glass. “We’ll have to do it down here, so we will. My Liam’s in bed upstairs with the flu. He’s taken some medicine, and he’s fast asleep. So keep the noise down”. I wondered why she said that, as I never made any noise.
When the second drink was almost gone, she struggled out of her skinny-fit jeans and panties then sprawled out on the sofa in her version of a seductive pose. I did some of my best acting, pretending to be excited by her, and saying lots of things that she loved hearing. When it was over she was beginning to look very tired, and filled her glass again after lighting a cigarette. “Did you bring the money from the last one? Did she ask you to tie her up? She said she might”.
I handed over the sixty pounds, and she gave me back thirty. “You’re a good boy. Here, take half”.
Lying back on the sofa with her jeans still crumpled on the floor in front of her, she took another big swallow of the whisky, then yawned noisily. “Jeezus, Mary, and Joseph, I feel bloody tired. Must have had too much of the old Black Bush without eating”. Her eyelids were flapping, and I could see her screwing up her eyes, trying to focus on me from across the room.
Moments later, the tumbler fell out of her hand, and her head tipped back onto the cushion. She was out cold.
In her kitchen, I carefully tipped the vintage gas cooker forward until the safety chain stopped it falling. The racks inside made a scraping sound, but it wasn’t too loud. I could see the rubber gas pipe connecting from the wall into the cooker, and I used a tea towel wrapped around the connection to loosen it. It was harder than I expected, but the rubber was old and greasy, and eventually shifted.
The tiny hiss I could hear as the gas began to escape was all I would need. As it was so cold, every window in the house was closed, and with the living room next door, the gas would soon find a level. Easing the cooker back into place, I left the house quietly, hearing Maria snoring as I closed the door with an almost inaudible click.
Lying on my bed writing an essay for homework, I checked the time on my digital alarm clock. It was just after seven, and I was starting to feel hungry.
As I got up to go downstairs and make something for dinner, the explosion from three streets away rattled our windows, and made my ears pop.