JIM REAPER STARTED TO PLAN MURDER as thousands began to die in a natural disaster that almost killed the world.
He had become a man of routine and habit. He still bought The Independent, as a sign of his social leanings and pretensions. He had bought the paper when Margaret was alive. The Independent for him, The Mirror for her. His and her papers, reflecting his and her intellects. Except that he had preferred to read The Mirror first, for the shorthand version of national and world events, and the sports pages.
On this day, he walked into the city, as he did every day, and bought the newspaper from the same shop in Reuben Street. He had a late breakfast at Wetherspoons. He always started with a couple of coffees and then, seeing as he was in a bar, it seemed only polite to have a couple of pints. Maybe three or four. No more. He wasn’t an alcoholic or dependent on the booze; he was dependent on the routine. On this grey day in the middle of February, he left to walk home, back through the city and into the suburbs. It was then he saw Frank Morris, large as life, coming out of a bar in New Street, a mobile phone to his ear, a girl on his arm, laughing and joking as if all was well with the world.
You only had to look at the morning headlines to see that all was not well with the world. The earthquake in China was proving more of a handful than expected. Thousands had been killed, infrastructure devastated and, on top of that, there had been an outbreak of a glori!ed “u virus. The world had started dying, although no one yet knew it, and all Reaper could think about was how to kill Frank Morris.
He followed him, almost without thinking, staying well back and hidden among the crowds. Morris and the girl went to the bus station and waited at the number 36 bay. Reaper kept his distance and watched from the anonymity of ever changing crowds. A green double-decker arrived and disgorged passengers. The driver left and the bus waited empty, doors closed, until a new driver climbed on board. Now the doors opened again and those waiting could board and pay their fares. Morris and the girl went upstairs. Reaper got on the bus and asked for a ticket to the terminus, took a seat on the lower deck, and waited.
The girl had been attractive in a common way. The boots she wore and the fake fur jacket were probably high street expensive. The skirt was short and her legs long; her make-up blatant and her hair bleached straw blonde. She laughed too loud. He could hear her now from downstairs; she was laughing as if to show off to the world that she was with a real catch. She couldn’t be more than 18. She didn’t know any better.
He held the newspaper at eye level in case Morris looked in his direction when they came downstairs to disembark but, when they did, in the middle of the undistingushed Butterly Estate, the man was too intent on saying something suggestive to the girl, who laughed obligingly and “ashed a challenging glance down the bus as if to relay the fact that they were now going off to do something scandalous and dirty that was far beyond the limits of her audience’s boring lives. They got off as it started to rain. Two other people were also waiting to climb down, one an elderly woman who was taking her time. Reaper left his seat, helped her and got off himself.
The couple were running down the wet pavement, eager to be out of the rain, eager for each other. Reaper followed at a distance. They turned left and he ran to keep them in sight. They walked up the path of a semidetached council house. He walked twenty paces down the street until he could confirm the number on the gate, turned away and began to walk back. The rain was getting heavier but he didn’t feel the elements; he felt only the anger, deep, patient and uncompromising.
It was two hours before he realised he was approaching his own house. Without realising, he had responded to a homing instinct like a pigeon. The day was already darkening and he was soaked and needed to pee. He let himself in, stripped naked, used the lavatory and took a hot shower. He lost track of time and became aware, some hours later, that he was laying on his bed in a bathrobe.
His mind had short-circuited with the knowledge that Frank Morris was out and he knew where he lived. A sudden thought muddled his half-formed intention. Did the girl live with him? Or was she only an afternoon’s diversion? He calmed himself. A lot of planning was needed. He would discover the necessary details, he would wait until the time was right, and then he would act. Justice would finally be done. So far, justice had been only noticeable by its absence. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. Reaper thought it was time the Lord had a little help.
© Jon Grahame 2014