It was at that very second, after nearly fourty years of marriage, two grown up boys and years of put downs and insults, the decision was made. There, in her kitchen. She was going to murder him. Not in the fit of rage that already started to build up in her, but a cold, calculated manner. Vannesa had seen enough TV detective shows to know you can soon get caught these days. DNA, fingerprints, CCTV, that kind of thing. It wouldn’t be easy, but the man in front of her chuckling at his own joke, thin face creased up yet again at her expense, was going to die.
Richard laughed again, sarcastically “Loch Nessy Monster! Oh dear….” he drank the remains of his water, no alcohol for him these days. The meals out, the takeaway’s and drinking a bottle of wine a night had become a very distant memory, for him anyway. She finished the last mouthful of lasagne, a mad urge to stick the fork into one laughing eye and twirl it round as he screamed.
“Ah sorry Nessa,” he said, not sounding it, seeing she was upset. He could see the whites of her knuckles, squeezing the cutlery. Richard had decided to join her to eat, something he never normally did. He’d sat opposite her earlier and talked casually about a divorce, selling up and moving on. As if he was chatting about buying a new car. She’d said nothing, molten fury burning up. Selling up? Her home? Where the boys had played and ran in the garden? No. That wouldn’t be right, and it is not going to happen.
“For your information, I’ve taken a leaf from your book, and started walking in a morning.” This was true, nearly anyway. She was thinking about it. He’d taken the motivation for both of them about four years previously. He talked about divorce then, the last real conversation they had. She said to try and work things out, both of them to give it one last shot. And he actually changed, the selfish, egotistical, arrogant person disappeared for awhile. Replaced by a more kinder, thoughtful version. Obviously it didn’t last. This leopard didn’t change his spots, then it was back to square one. Him working all hours and rarely home, her volunteering with the Women’s Institute and the food bank. Separate lives, separate bedrooms. She was glad of that to be honest, she hated his closed off kisses and useless fumblings. The biggest change was his transformation from a nineteen stone walking heart attack to a twelve and a half stone fitness freak. The exercise started first, gentle walks turned into running and going to the gym, then the bike, his sweat filling her home, then the diet, he started to cook his meals himself, when he was home, which were less and less. Gone were the fatty foods, replaced by a weight watchers diet plan that worked brilliantly for him, no so great for her. The hate piling up inside Nessa like rotting waste. When he put his mind to things he usually got what he wanted. For the last eight months the veganism has kicked in. Avocado and quinoa ruled the fridge, her ready meals packed to one side. She detested having to turf half of the fridge out to find the one she fancied. In fact, she hated him. The holier than thou, smug, thinner person he’d become.
” Good for you!” he replied, a smile still lingering, the smile said it all. She knew what he was thinking. Not a cat in hell’s chance. “Listen, don’t forget I’m going to Scotland this weekend”
Ah a subject chance, just another of his annoying qualities. Golf or another affair? Probably the latter. “Yeah I remembered.” Nessa needed to write a list. Fast. Write it all down, planning was the key.
“And the week after I’m doing the half marathon in Manchester.” He picked up his plate, the edamame and basil pasta gone, walked over to the sink and washed his plate and glass. “You never know,” he began, “One day you could be running with me.”
She watched him. His back to her, gazing at the neatly trimmed lawn. The knife rack was there, just to his left. She could see herself standing behind him, plunging the butcher’s knife into his back, right to the hilt with a clean, wet crunch. Instead she said, “You never know….small steps.” finishing off her wine with a satisfactory gulp.
He left for Scotland a few days later. “Think about the divorce.” he said, monotone, the front door quietly clicking behind him. She sat in the living room, home of many Christmas mornings with the twins. By the time the boys were four the marriage was a car crash. A very expensive car that she didn’t want to write off. Her mother always said don’t marry for money. Back then she was voluptuous, curvatious even. Her long dark hair without a speck of gray. A prize catch for a slightly overweight high flyer, a soon to be head of finance at a huge firm in The City. The curvy turned to plump as the years rolled by and when the boys left for separate universities she and Richard were overweight, him more so. She grew to detest his every sound, his breathing, the way his bed made a noise every time he turned over, the morning farts, his teeth brushing…. everything.
How to do it? She wrote, looking at the blank page. Push him down the stairs? Say he slipped? It could work but not really guaranteed to kill him. Knowing Richard he’d land on his feet, but right now that one was out of the question. Poison? It has possibilities. Stab him? Say it was self defense? Nessa had seen too many crime programmes to know that wouldn’t work. A hitman? No, too dangerous. Fake suicide? Maybe. She realised how difficult it is to murder him and get away with it, but far from impossible. Mind you a dead body tells forensics so much, blood splatter and such. She burnt the note, you don’t want to leave anything for the police to pick up. Still, more than one way to skin a cat. She got in the car and headed for her Friday guilty pleasure, fish and chips.
A thirty minute drive to the nearest town, she picked up her takeaway, the smell of the fish filling the toyota, her stomach rumbling. It was wrapped tightly to keep warm plus a couple of bottles of wine from the shop opposite, she started to head back. Her mind working out the best way to kill Richard. A silver hearse slowly pulled out in front of her followed by a large silver car. She waited till the procession ended, then slowly followed. They had a funeral to go to in a a couple of days. Richard’s close friend James. The poor man was found dead in his hallway. It turned out he was intoxicated. James had lived in the next village from them, Cottingley, a very pretty place with a beautiful Norman church and small graveyard tucked away. She would have to pretend to be sad, James was a prick who liked to laugh along with Richard about her. She was actually glad he was dead, and if she could dance on his grave she would. Richard had taken the news like Richard does. Without a hint of emotion, even though his friend had died. The hearse turned left into the large cemetery and Nessa noticed a small digger opening up a grave, the earth being placed carefully next to it. She sat there, her mind drifting. The toot from the car behind gave her a burst of annoyance. Nessa sat there, gripping the wheel, a mad urge to get out and smash the windscreen of the blue Mercedes. Instead she took a deep breath, and headed home.
As she lay there, lights off, drifting into a drunken sleep it hit her. How, where and when. Nessa sat up and threw the duvet back, the baggy nightie riding up her ample thighs. “Yes!” she said out loud. Downstairs, kitchen light on, cup of tea in hand she wrote her idea long into the night, enjoying the feeling of her heart giving her butterflies. A list of things she needed. A timeline. Is it really doable? Stifling a yawn she re-read the notes with a feeling of satisfaction. Happy with the plan she then shredded the paper then put it in a bag to be burnt the next day. Vanessa stretched, feeling tired. Ten minutes later she fell into a blissful sleep.
The next two days were busy. Driving over a hundred miles to pick up the large black plastic sheets and boot covers for the car, then a further fourty to pick up the rat poison, all paid in cash of course, no trails. Nessa had turned her phone off. She’d seen Line of Duty. It’s so easy for the police to track a phone. Back home though, she turned it on and called Richard. Letting the phone ring once before cutting it off. Feeling tired, she had to force herself to go in the garden. Late summer was having a last fling as she pottered, dead heading the flowers. She could hear the neighbours, Bill and Audrey laughing gently, sat outside enjoying the setting sun. Nessa picked her phone out of her pocket and pressed the sound button on full, and waited. No wine for her. Not until all this was over, then play the distraught grieving widow. Half an hour later her the phone rang and she answered quickly, moving indoors and saying “Hello?” Richard’s tinny voice said,” You rang…” Nessa waited a couple of seconds. “Pocket call. Sorry.” She responded. “Ok.” he replied and cut the conversation, as she knew he would. She turned and went back outside, a few fast turning moths appearing as the light faded. “No it’s fine,” she carried on, as if listening. “Well you have been under a lot of strain haven’t you….” The one way conversation flowing easily. “Yes, you said things have been difficult at work……” Nessa turned so she could be heard more clearly. “You need to step back Richard,” she told the quiet phone. Next door, Audrey listened, taking in everything. “I have said in the past you need to slow down.” The kind words came out so genuinely she almost laughed. “Why don’t I ring the doctors and make an appointment for you?” Silence……then, “Yes….I’ll ring first thing Monday morning….” the dead phone in her hand. “Ok…. Tuesday….” She could almost feel the old lady next to the fence. “Yes….please don’t overdo it Richard…..yes…..ok…..bye.” Vannesa stepped inside and closed the patio door, feeling triumphant. Audrey would remember every syllable, if she was asked.
Vannesa walked slowly between the old gravestones. A gray, dank sky made the day gloomy, rain was threatening. A few crows called each other as she stood next to the open grave. The smell of the earth was rich, piled into a uneven hump next to it. She gazed down. Not six foot, more four and a half. Satisfied, she counted her steps to the small stone wall. Twenty three. On the other side a small road, more dirt track if anything, winded past in a gentle curve to an small, open field with another, more tree filled road next to it.Nessa slowly glanced about, all clear. She slipped a blue latex glove on and reached in her pocket. Taking out a a clear plastic bag with the bicycle reflector, she stretched over the wall as best she could, then dropped it onto the gravel, facing outwards. She was back in the car as the rain started, happy that the plan was well underway. If everything went as it should, Richard would be laying below his laughing partner James, for all eternity.
Nessa rang her friend Jean and arranged to meet tomorrow night for a coffee and a catch up. That sorted, she carefully took the rat poison out and placed the small balls in the pessel, grinding it into a thin powder. She added sugar and a few glugs of milk. Mixing slowly, she wrapped it with great care and placed it in the fridge. Humming to herself, happy with life. D.day was near and she wanted to be ready.
She was nervous, skittish, from the moment the alarm beeped. The day seemed endlessly long, the housework took her mind off the murder. It’s important to keep your home as clean as possible. She took the poison out then hid it behind her chicken tikka ready meal. The car was in the spacious garage, overhead lights glaring. She put three things in the boot, a spade, a large roll of binliners and a very old small cart, it’s rubber wheels solid and black. That done she rechecked the overalls she’d purchased. Satisfied, she played the waiting game. It reminded her of James. She had bided her time that night, and planned it maticulessly, having to write list after list to get it right. Getting into his house was easy, she had a spare key cut weeks previously and knew the alarm code as Richard kept an eye on the house when James was away. She waited upstairs, sat on an old spindly chair next to the long staircase, the white overall tight as it was the only size that would fit. The taxi lights lit up the drive and she stood up, knees popping. James came in and drank for awhile. Nessa could hear the clink of a glass every few minutes. Her heart seemed very loud in the silence. She heard him yawn as he came through the hallway, the lights clicking as he turned them off. A heavy tread started up the stairs. She quietly stood to one side and braced her body. As he reached the top she pounced. Nessa remembered two things. The satisfying thud as she hit him, both hands pushing firmly, and the look of sheer horror as he fell back, his arms flaying out. The crunching sound he made as he tumbled filled her with euphoric joy. He hit the hallway with a heavy thump. She watched, the pool of blood spreading from his head. “Who’s laughing now you fat pig…” she said with a satisfactory smirk and saw him take his last few breaths. It had to be done, he’d been asking for it for years. That memory ended abruptly when she heard her front door open, bringing her back to now, a rush of adrenaline bursting inward. She heard Richard walk into the kitchen and do what he did every single day when he was home. The chopping began, tap tap on the wooden block, then the nutribullit started, a high pitched screech filled the house. The finished concoction always looked revolting to her. The pale green smoothie poured into a glass then placed in the fridge. She listened, his feet going up the stairs. Nessa had about a minute. She walked into the kitchen and took the poison and his horrific drink. Quickly, she emptied some of the smoothie down the sink. Then, with great care, she filled the glass up with the rat poison, giving it a stare for good measure. A black plastic bag was open and ready. She placed the pestle and spoon in the bag then put it in the corner. Drink replaced, she breathed in slowly and sat down, a glass of water on her side of the table. Vannesa was ready.
Richard came in the kitchen, ready to go jogging in red shorts and blue running vest. Nessa looking at his new trainers, a kind of silver colour that reflected the light. My God they probably cost a fortune. He was surprised to see her there, a startled look crossing his craggy face. “I wasn’t expecting you here…” he said, moving to get his drink. Her heart was thumping wildly as she tried to remain calm. “Yes.” she began. “I wanted to talk to you.” Richard looked uneasy. Opening the fridge, drink in hand, making her excited. “Can you sit down?” she asked softly. “Please….” For a second she thought he’d turn away but instead he did as he was asked, the poisonous drink lifted to his lips. “I haven’t got long,” he told her and she inwardly agreed. Hopefully just a few minutes. Richard gulped his smoothie, adams apple jumping. He frowned as he sat, then grimaced, half his drink gone. Nessa drank her water, then said, “I think you’re right, it’s time we parted….” He looked very surprised, both gazing at each other. “Well,” he managed. “I wasn’t expecting that.” Incredibly to Nessa, he took another long drink, finishing the deadly green juice. “We both have lived a lie haven’t we…” she said, a joyous feeling filling her. He nodded and burped, “I suppose we have.” She was about to respond when he started to rub his lips with a slightly shaky hand, enough rat poison in him to kill an elephant, maybe two. “So how do we do go about it Richard?” His face had a sweaty, clammy look to it, his eyes watery. The glass placed on the table with a thump. “I……I…we sell the house….” he stuttered, looking very ill and pale already. House? Just a house to him. No it was her home, she had dedicated years to this place, by rights it was all hers. She shook her head. “No. That isn’t what I want.” Vanessa stood up, she could hear his breathing starting to rattle. “Feel …” he started to say as he slumped to the left. He opened his mouth wide to inhale more oxygen, a small trickle of blood coming out of his nostril. Nessa took out the large plastic sheet and placed it behind him, tucking the edges into the chair legs. He moaned loudly as she tilted the chair back and tried carefully to place him on the floor. That done she stepped back and sat on his chair, gazing down at the now dying man. Richard was trying to claw at his throat, unable to breathe, his eyes terrified. “Do you really think, after all the work I put into MY home, the things I’ve had to do? The sacrifices I’ve had to make?” He began to shake a little, saliva seeping from his lips. “I cleared the path for you,” she told him, anger filling her. “Collins….Winstanley…. they both had to go…” Richard’s eyes were wild, sweat pouring off him. She stood over him now, looking down with a sense of righteousness. Collins had been Richard’s boss in the early days, brash, and a loud mouth. The house fire saw him off. Winstanley was highly motivated and in her opinion, a rather gorgeous looking man. More importantly, he was going to take Richard’s job. The only way to get close to him was the affair which she instigated of course. He committed suicide when the boys were ten, overdosing on sleeping tablets. She’d doped his drink in his apartment. He didn’t feel a thing, even when she pushed tablet after tablet into a slack, open mouth. Vanessa took one side of the plastic sheet and placed it over her soon to be departed husband. He tried to move, to make a sound but only a thin, whispery moan came out, his body spasming. “This is for the best my love,” she said easily and covered him with the other half of the sheet. Richard’s feet jumped slightly, those expensive Nike’s were never going to pound the street. Nessa stood in a corner and stripped down to her briefs, then quickly put on the large overall, her feet covered in bin liners and a scarf on her hair. She resisted the urge to look at him again. Instead, taking out a big roll of gaffa tape, Nessa wrapped the prone body like a spider attacks a fly, cocooning Richard tightly over and over. He made muffled moans, now unable to breathe. “Sssshhhhh darling,” she said gently. “Soon be over.” After a minute all movement ceased. Satisfied, she picked up his legs and dragged the body to the car. With a grunt of effort she lifted him up and put him unceremoniously in the boot. Nessa felt triumphant, happy for the first time in years. Now though, was not the time to celebrate. She had to get to Jean’s, then more importantly, dispose of the body.
Vanessa reversed the car back into her garage. The clock on the dashboard said 10.44. four bin liners filled the boot, full of overalls, muddy bags and a broken spade, minus a dead husband. They would all stay there till after the funeral, hidden away. She got out and changed yet again, there in the garage, into new pajamas. Richard now rested in peace under a pile of earth which soon would be covered by a coffin then filled in. She went and took a long shower, enjoying the hot water spraying over tired muscles. It all had gone smoothly. She parked the car close to the back of the dark church. The small torch flicked on in her hand. The reflector flashed back so she could see the way. The body came out easily, and placed roughly onto the cart. The spade in one hand and started to pull Richard toward the wall. An hour later, happy with her work, the body completely concealed. The spade had snapped at the end so she threw it out of the grave and put the cart up against the wet mud, the handle pointing up to a sky that threatened rain. She planted one foot on and heaved upward. Nessa was covered in mud by the time it was all done. She retraced her steps to the car, threw everything into the plastic lined boot and stripped naked. The damp air refreshing her. Clothes on, yet again then driving quietly away from the graveyard. She dumped the cart along a silent, dark road, heaving it over a bush into the blackness. A real sense of achievement came over her. Even though the real work would start when the police got involved, but that would be tomorrow night, by then, Richard will be buried forever.
The next morning a bright, blue sky woke her. She went downstairs, humming and admiring the theme of her home. Nessa had to give herself a pat on the back, she did have a good eye for interiors. After a coffee and toast she walked outside into the large patio. “Richard?” She knew Audrey would be out, all ready to listen. “Richard?” she asked a bit louder this time. Nessa turned back inside and took a long bath, enjoying the bubbles. She lay back, gray hair on white porcelain, breathing deeply. After a few moments tears started to form. She let them flow down her cheeks. Then she said quietly, “I’m really worried ….it’s not like him at all…..” More tears streamed down. She sniffed, closed her eyes and smiled, a radiant happy smile. Satisfied, Nessa put her head under the water, it was time to get moving.
The funeral went like a dream. She told most of the congregation with a touch of worry that she hadn’t seen Richard. A few people raised eyebrows which she wanted. As the pallbearers lowered the coffin she had to pretend to cough, stifling a laugh that rose up unexpectedly. ‘Two for the price of one’ came to mind, those two old buzzards will never laugh at her again.
The tall man nodded in agreement, stroking him double chin. He was the fourth person she’d confided in, all of them showing concern. “I’ve rang his phone but it goes onto voicemail…” Paul sipped his whiskey, his face ruddy. He was an ex police Sargent, thirty years on the beat. “And you saw him last night?” he asked. She nodded, taking a hankie out as a tear bloomed. “I’m really worried….it’s not like him at all..” He gave her a friendly shake of the shoulder, telling her as softly as he could that she needs to talk to the police, just in case something happened to him when he was jogging. She nodded again, shaking slightly. “Can you come with me please?”
The first three weeks were the worse for Vanessa. The police were everywhere, searching the house, the surrounding area. Thank God the boys had come home. She busied around them nervously, how could she ever tell them she’d murdered their father? She had expected the forensics to turn up at any time. Even though she was so maticuless her stomach kept doing a nervous flip. Nessa was questioned of course. Her and Richard’s split life laid bare. She was actually beginning to feel as if they were on to her when the police found his secret offshore bank accounts. Nessa didn’t have to act then, she was clueless. One of the accounts had nearly one and a half million resting there. Where was the money from? Was he laundering? Is that why he disappeared? Running off into the sunset? Or had persons unknown picked him up as he ran down those quiet, country lanes? Either way it let her off the hook. The police line of enquiry turned to Richard’s business dealings, which led the detective’s away from a sixty three year old grieving wife to a money trail that would become a mystery.
The knock was unmistakable, bony knuckles rapping on the front door. She sat perched on her bed, waiting and wishing the old bitch would just leave her alone. The letter box snapped open then closed. Nessa waited, sat quietly. In the last seven months Audrey had been around every day since the disappearance. Well meaning of course, bringing her home cooked meals most days, but still…. annoying, like a slightly bad tooth, the pain always throbbing. The constant phonecalls, twice a day at least with countless messages. The garden was practically a no go zone. Nessa was apprehensive every time she opened the patio, knowing Audrey would be there asking how she was. In fact thinking about it her home was becoming uncomfortable due to that old crow. “Ah….God,” she muttered and walked down the stairs, the new carpet very pleasing on her feet. Nessa picked the note up and read it quickly.
Nes, are you ok? Just popped to see you but will call later for a cuppa. A. x
She shook her head and screwed up the paper. “I’ll be out…” This really needed to be sorted, it could go on for years. Audrey was eighty but very sprightly and busy. “Busy body!” Nessa corrected herself. She sat at the kitchen table and took a sheet of blank paper and a pen from the draw. Maybe it was time to write a list, provisional of course. The old bugger might be fit as a fiddle but she’s still eighty. It’s easy for the elderly to fall or have an accident. So easy. Nessa instantly began to feel better, a little nervous perhaps. What to do with Audrey? Summer was round the corner and she intended to enjoy her garden, her home without some nosy old cow who wanted to know her every move and thought. She tapped the table lightly with her manicured nails, the sun streaming in through the window onto spotless surfaces. Nessa started to feel more like her own self, for the first time since Richard’s disappearance. Her heart starting to bounce loudly in her ears. With a half smile on her face, pen in hand, she began to write.