29 February 2008

a new life - part 11

Francis' transition to a new life was tantalizingly close. The days of a hollow career, a sad marriage and crippling debts were sliding behind him but a few sticking points remained. Francis was number one suspect in a murder and in the frame for bank robbery. His amnesia had been real enough, though his ability to maintain it for three months should earn him an Oscar. There was no incriminating money in his possession and the gun was safely stowed at Waterloo. He reckoned things were buried deeply enough not to betray him.

But the voice in his head whined on: you walked out of a banking career then the bank was robbed. You know which way suspicion will fall... and you know the cops always hunt for a murderer close to home, don't you... they aren't looking beyond you. Soon the doctors will say you're fit for serious questioning. You'd better get ready to run.


Black and his surveillance footage had linked Francis to the key theft. He kept coming back to that. How could he have been so stupid? At least now he had no wife to identify him. When dividing the cash with her he had wondered if she would ever get to spend any. No way. Letting her think she was in on it had been a temporary move to buy him thinking time. But what he did to the back of her head... that hadn't been in his original plan.

One lunchtime back in the summer Francis had made a discreet enquiry in a pub, that same evening he was the owner of a gun. It had been amazingly simple. After the shooting he had hauled Jane’s body down to the car under cover of darkness and driven through the night. Before dawn he had reopened the earth in that remote corner of his father’s Hampshire farm and buried Jane along with her suitcase of cash right beside his own two parcels.

Now get back to London, lay low and let the dust settle, he advised himself. Yet the other nagging, harping voice filled his head, they''ll be coming for you. Would the voices ever stop haunting him? When the dust had settled and he ran would he ever stop running?


Francis flopped onto the spare bed just before the first glimmer of dawn. He lay thinking about the night’s ghastly events. His frown turned to a grin when he thought about how he had called the cows over to tread the ground. That was smart.

Suddenly he sprang from the bed in alarm. The gun, the bloody gun, he thought. Lunging under the bed he grabbed the cold lump of steel and thudded back downstairs two at a time. He grabbed a small backpack from the coat rack and slammed the front door behind him.

25 February 2008

a new life - part 10

She had encouraged him one hundred per cent all along and hadn’t it even been her idea in the first place? Her change of heart hadn’t truly surprised him. He knew she could never follow through with anything. Yet this was such a cheating, stealing, life-changing thing he had hoped it might for once be different.

In the end her old selfishness surfaced and she had told him to leave and “take his half of the filthy money with him.” He couldn’t trust her to keep quiet, her urge to boast and gossip would be too strong. She was unreliable so silencing her for good had become inevitable.

Her half of the money was still in the suitcase on top of her wardrobe where she had slung it, 18 brick-sized wads of twenties – enough to buy a whole new life. Francis had been less casual. The day after the robbery he had driven to his father's isolated farm and buried his new life in an isolated corner of a remote field in two black watertight parcels. X marked the spot in his mind.


Now in the quiet house he climbed the familiar stairs in darkness, keeping to the edges to avoid creaks. The gun dug into his belly.

He hit her with the butt hard enough to knock her senseless but she was still conscious, just. He pressed her head face down into the pillow while his right hand held the gun barrel to the base of her skull. She was no longer struggling just whimpering, “Please Frank, don’t, plea…” His point-blank shot to the back of her head blew her into the pillow, cutting her off mid sentence. At least he hadn’t had to look at her face.

19 February 2008

a new life - part 9

Francis dreamed vivdly every night, long and hard and fast.

Together they had carried the haul up to their spare bedroom on that wet summer night, puffing and panting with the effort. Then Jane had ruined everything. He was an angry man now. One minute she was all for disappearing with him. The next she wanted half the money to stop her talking. She had turned on him in an instant and he had been so deep in organizing that he hadn’t seen it coming. They had been “passport-ready.”

The house was almost cleared of furniture. On the floor by their bed was a steep pile of legal letters demanding repayment of their sky-high credit cards. There too was a repossession order for the house. Time had run out and flight was now the only escape.

Beneath their lids, Francis' eyes flicked rapidly left and right. He twitched as scenes rolled on his mind’s silver screen.

Crouched on the carpet they were counting, one for you, one for me.

Jane stowed her share back into one of the canvas bags. There was already a suitcase lying on the bed.
“Leaving tonight are you?” Francis asked dryly.
Jane smirked without answering and flicked the locks on the empty case. She put the whole canvas bag inside and pressed the locks shut. Then she swung the case on top of her wardrobe and lay back on the bed.

“What you doing with yours?” she asked. “... well?”

Francis slid two bundles of banknotes into an inside jacket pocket then slowly and methodically wrapped his pile in strong sheets of black plastic, making two large parcels. He bound them with tape, took them to the spare bedroom, knelt and slid them under the bed. Aware Jane had followed him and was watching he snapped, without getting up, “that’s what I’m doing with mine Jane, OK!"

He heard her grunt and then her footsteps receded in the hall. Reaching back under the bed he withdrew a .44 Magnum then slowly and carefully slid it under his pillow.


Francis rolled over in his sleep and groaned.

12 February 2008

a new life - part 8

Francis hurried the two blocks to where his car was parked. The bags pulled on his shoulders and he felt the true weight of his deeds. His muscles burned and the rain slanted into his eyes making them sting. The air was warm and heavy with the rich earthy smell of summer drizzle. He slung the bags on the back seat then bobbed into the front and slumped behind the wheel panting hard.

He stole into the house and found Jane waiting in the kitchen. She was drinking. Her cheeks were flushed.
“Let’s do it then,” she snapped. She picked up a pencil and started tapping a sheet of paper in front of her.
“Not so fast, I need a drink too.” Francis lifted the bottle of Jack Daniels almost to his lips. Then he slowly lowered it back onto the table and whispered, “Get me a drink of water.”

Fifteen minutes later the table was stacked with a large neat cube of cash. Francis sipped his water like Jack Daniels while his wife gulped her spirits like water.
“Right, let’s deal with this stuff,” Francis said in a low voice.

06 February 2008

a new life - part 7

Day after day he returned to the gardens on Victoria Embankment. He knew if he left before midday there was little danger of an accidental encounter with his former work colleagues piling across to escape the office for an hour. He stared at today's early scattering of people on the benches. He shook his head in exasperation at the sheer lack of normal human responsibilities. Sweet wrappers blew across the grass, cigarette ends were flicked onto the flowerbeds. He closed his eyes and squeezed them tightly shut.

Within seconds he was sleeping fitfully… jerking and grunting as he dreamed. He was back in mid-summer waiting for dark to fall…
“You can do this Frank,” his wife’s voice insisted. “Come on, we’ve been over it again and again.” Jane had always been an insistent woman.

And it had been impossibly easy. He had worked in the damned bank for years and he knew the layout blindfold. For one heart-stopping second the newly ground door key stuck a little but the front door gave softly and he was in. He padded to the alarm console and tapped the code. The code was changed once a month. The red light turned green and began blinking. Within ten seconds he had trotted nimbly downstairs in the blanket of darkness and was standing by the cash safe.

He thrust his two keys into their slots on the safe door and heard the reassuring clunk, clunk as he turned them.

Now he span the wheel, listening to the huge bolts withdraw then pulled on the door’s massive weight. It swung slowly but easily and admitted him into the soft warm darkness within. Once inside Francis pulled a torch from his pocket and snapped on the yellow beam.

“Jackpot,” he breathed almost inaudibly. The shelves were stacked with neat blocks of notes ready, he knew, for collection tomorrow. He pulled a canvas bag from inside his jacket and shook it out. From inside that he pulled another and began filling them both carefully and systematically. In under three minutes he had cleared £240,000 from the shelves in twenties and fifties. It took up much less room than even his experience had estimated. His packing was neat and faultless.

Francis closed the safe door, locked it and hauled the two bags upstairs to the front door. They were heavy but not excessively so. Standing unceremoniously on a table in the banking hall he could see over the frosted glass and onto a rain-swept street beyond. Rain, thank heaven for sweet summer rain…

... now in the park, a late autumn drizzle fell soft and cold. It had already soaked through his shirt. He awoke as it began to rain harder. It was early afternoon and the office workers had come and gone. Had they seen him? Francis found himself not really caring.

“I think I might be rich!” He said aloud to the empty benches. He rubbed his new goatee and walked through the park to take shelter under mighty beech trees. Below the vivid red and brown canopy he pondered his recurring dreams of the three keys, the stack of money and the gunshot. He couldn’t deny they were genuine memories. The snooping detective smelled a rat and St Agnes’ Home wasn’t a safe haven any more.

05 February 2008

Tagged by MD

  • Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages
  • Open the book to page 123
  • Find the 5th sentence
  • Post the next 3 sentences
  • (Tag 5 more people)

Thanks for the tag, I'm surprised you missed this one on the bookshelves!

The Complete History of Jack the Ripper
by Philip Sugden

The practice of offering government rewards, it ran, had been discontinued some years ago because they had been found to produce more harm than good and, in the case of the Whitechapel Murders, there was a special risk that a reward, "might hinder rather than promote the ends of justice." Montague was less than impressed. As he explained in a letter to Warren, the Home Secretary's view of rewards was "not in accord with the general feeling on the subject."

PV: to readers of my story, this interlude is though unrelated, decidedly appropriate!