Fic­tion

His wife was plan­ning cold-blooded mur­der – and Dar­ren knew they’d never get away with it

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY TONY HAYNES ILLUSTRATION: MINDI FLEMMING

DAR­REN en­tered the kitchen and sti­fled a gasp. The scene that greeted him was like some­thing out of one of his worst night­mares. His beloved wife, Kate, held a carv­ing knife in her right hand. She was stand­ing over her younger sis­ter, Ella, who was slumped over a kitchen chair.

Back in the liv­ing room Neil called out, “Can I help at all?”

A frac­tion too loudly, Dar­ren replied, “No, ev­ery­thing’s fine! We’ll join you in a minute.”

Dar­ren then con­fronted his wife. “What on Earth have you done?”

Calmly, Kate ex­plained. “Ex­actly what we’ve been dis­cussing for a long time.”

“But I was only jok­ing,” Dar­ren whis­pered, aghast. “It’s a lit­tle too late for that.” Dar­ren had never fully un­der­stood the pol­i­tics of Kate’s fam­ily, but he guessed there must’ve been a se­ri­ous rift at some point. He’d al­ways as­sumed it would be re­paired one day, but when Kate’s wealthy aunt died Ella was the sole ben­e­fi­ciary of the will. Kate didn’t seem to mind but as the months wore on she grew re­sent­ful of her lit­tle sis­ter. Of­ten she’d jest, “If only Ella had an ac­ci­dent then we’d in­herit ev­ery­thing.”

To his shame, some evenings Dar­ren had joined in and af­ter a few glasses of wine they’d plan the mur­der to­gether. Deep down Dar­ren had never been se­ri­ous. As he stood star­ing at the body of his sis­ter-in-law he re­alised the time for jok­ing was over. “We’ll never get away with it,” he whined. Kate grabbed his right arm and gripped it tightly. “Yes, we will. As long as you keep calm.”

“Are you crazy? We’ve got a wit­ness sit­ting out there.” “You mean an­other a vic­tim,” Kate said. “You’re not go­ing to kill Neil as well,” Dar­ren hissed.

“Don’t be stupid. I’m go­ing to pin this on him.” “It’ll never stick. What’s his mo­tive?” Kate grinned ma­li­ciously as she spun the tale she’d con­cocted. “Neil has had the hots for my sis­ter for some time now. Alas, it was an un­re­quited love. On ar­riv­ing here tonight the pair quar­relled, we did our best to calm them down, but you know what a tem­per Neil has. He con­fronted Ella in the kitchen, his emo­tions got the bet­ter of him, he reached for a knife and . . . the rest writes it­self.”

Dar­ren was wring­ing his hands. “What about Neil’s new girl­friend?” Kate shrugged. “What about her?” “She’s due to ar­rive any minute!” “Ideal. If we play it right we’ll sow the seeds of doubt be­tween her and Neil and then, when we dis­cover the body, she’ll sus­pect him.”

Kate wiped the knife, clean­ing off all ev­i­dence of the crime, then bal­anced it pre­car­i­ously on the side of a plate, on which she also placed a sweet melon. “Have a lit­tle faith. Now watch and learn.”

With that, Kate re-en­tered the main room of their apart­ment.

“Neil, would you be a dar­ling and do the hon­ours,” she said, hand­ing Neil the plate. As his fin­gers closed around the han­dle of the knife, the door­bell rang. Dar­ren flinched, star­tled.

Neil laughed. “Bit jumpy tonight. Any­thing wrong?”

“Of course not. I’m fine,” Dar­ren replied, be­fore go­ing to an­swer the door.

“Sorry, mem­ory like a sieve. What does your new girl­friend do for a liv­ing?” Kate asked Neil. “She’s a po­lice­woman,” Neil replied. Dar­ren’s hand froze as it reached for the catch on the front door. He wasn’t sure he’d have man­aged to open it had Kate not shot him a look of en­cour­age­ment.

Dar­ren opend the door to find a tall bright-eyed, blonde young woman, smil­ing and wait­ing to be in­vited in. He stared at her blankly, rooted to the spot. Bri­ony, Neil’s girl­friend, coughed po­litely.

“My apolo­gies,” Dar­ren said. “Where are my man­ners? Please, come in.” “Thanks.” “You must be Bri­ony.” Dar­ren of­fered her his hand. Bri­ony took it. “And you’re – sweat­ing?” “Sorry, slav­ing over a hot oven. You know how it is.” “Your wife’s a hard task master then?” Kate de­cided it was time to in­ter­vene. She got up from the ta­ble and ap­proached her new guest. “I wouldn’t say that.”

“It looks as if your hus­band dis­agrees,” Bri­ony ob­served, be­fore ad­ding, “Thanks for invit­ing me.”

“You’re wel­come,” Kate replied, ig­nor­ing the barbed re­mark. “Please, come and sit down.”

Be­fore join­ing her boyfriend at the ta­ble Bri­ony shrugged off her jacket. “Shall I put this in the kitchen?” she asked, hold­ing out a bot­tle of red wine.

Dar­ren prac­ti­cally snatched the bot­tle out of her hands. “Here, I’ll take care of that.” Bri­ony laughed. “Easy, tiger.” Once again Kate in­ter­jected. “Please sit down and help your­self to a glass of wine. If you’ll ex­cuse us, we’ll just go and check on how the main course is com­ing along.”

As Bri­ony joined Neil at the ta­ble, Kate grabbed Dar­ren’s arm and steered him into the kitchen. Kate shut the door be­hind them, then rounded on her hus­band. “What’s wrong with you?”

“You heard him. She’s a po­lice of­fi­cer,” Dar­ren bleated.

“All the bet­ter, so long as you wipe that stupid guilty look off your face.”

Try­ing his best, Dar­ren gave his wife a weak smile.

“That’s the spirit,” Kate as­sured him. “Now, let’s get back out there.”

Dar­ren took a deep breath, steeled him­self and marched back into the liv­ing room, Kate fol­low­ing hard on his heels. T HE sight that greeted Dar­ren turned his legs to jelly. Bri­ony was hold­ing the carv­ing knife aloft, ex­am­in­ing the blade care­fully. Neil smiled as he of­fered an ex­pla­na­tion for Bri­ony’s cu­rios­ity. “She has this thing about knives. I blame her po­lice back­ground my­self.”

Ig­nor­ing the com­ment, Bri­ony ad­dressed Kate. “It’s a Sa­batier, isn’t it?”

“Naturally,” Kate replied. “I con­sider them to be the best.”

Plac­ing the knife back down on the ta­ble Bri­ony said, “It de­pends on what you’re us­ing them for.” Her man­ner changed com­pletely as she sud­denly rounded on Dar­ren, “Doesn’t it, Mr Fletcher?”

Dar­ren gulped. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Bri­ony took a sip of wine be­fore re­ply­ing, “I think you know ex­actly what I mean.”

Dar­ren reached across the ta­ble, took hold of the wine bot­tle and went to re­fill Bri­ony’s glass but his hands were shak­ing so badly he knocked the bot­tle over. Crim­son wine cas­caded across the white table­cloth, stain­ing it a deep guilty red.

“Clumsy,” Kate snapped.

Bri­ony shot up from the ta­ble. “Here, let me get a cloth.”

She hadn’t taken more than a cou­ple of steps to­wards the kitchen be­fore Kate blocked her path. “I’ll see to it.”

Bri­ony glow­ered. “Why don’t you want me to go into the kitchen, Kate?” “Bri­ony,” Neil said. “It’s their house.” “I know that, but aren’t you in­trigued by what they’re try­ing to hide? “We’re not hid­ing any­thing,” Dar­ren said. An un­com­fort­able si­lence set in. Bri­ony even­tu­ally broke it. “I’m sorry. What must you think of me? It’s my job, I’m afraid. You start see­ing things that aren’t there. I do apol­o­gise.”

Kate tried her best to smile. It didn’t quite work. “No apol­ogy nec­es­sary.”

“C’mon, let me at least give you a hand get­ting that table­cloth off,” Bri­ony said, edg­ing back to­wards the ta­ble.

Kate fol­lowed but Bri­ony neatly sidestepped her host and pushed the kitchen door open. Neil gasped in hor­ror at the scene that pre­sented it­self. Bri­ony turned back to Kate, a tri­umphant look in her eye. “Dar­ren might be the one with all the ner­vous twitches and tics, but you’re far too cool for my lik­ing. It was you, wasn’t it?”

Kate picked up the carv­ing knife and con­fronted Bri­ony with it. “Okay, I ad­mit it. So, what are you go­ing to do about it?”

Be­fore Bri­ony had the chance to re­ply Ella, who’d been flick­ing through the rule book of the mur­der mys­tery game, grinned and de­clared Bri­ony the win­ner. “You took your time,” Ella said to Bri­ony. “Sorry,” Bri­ony apol­o­gised, “I wanted to be sure.”

Kate put down the knife in a re­signed man­ner. “What gave it away?”

“Dar­ren’s over­act­ing, for a start,” Bri­ony said.

Dar­ren looked hurt. “What a cheek! I thought I played the role of the down­trod­den hus­band rather well.”

“How about a glass of wine to cel­e­brate?” Neil sug­gested.

Kate heartily agreed. “As long as we don’t let but­terfin­gers pour. That was the worst crime of the night.”

“I didn’t mean to knock it over,” Dar­ren said.

“For that,” Kate told him, “You can play the vic­tim next time. Per­haps you’ll make a more con­vinc­ing corpse.”

As Dar­ren em­braced his wife he asked, “So, how will you go about killing me?”

With a twin­kle in her eye, Kate replied, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

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