Another quirky tale from guest storytellist, Zelda McLeich this week …
I’ll never forget the day my husband came home and told me he’d just killed a man.
What a state he was in, the poor dear, standing on the doorstep, visibly shaking.
“Calm down, Tom,” I’d said, “What on earth are you talking about?”
“Alan Curbishley — I’ve murdered him! For pity’s sake, let me get inside!”
“OK, OK. Why didn’t you let yourself in? Why all the banging and shouting?”
He couldn’t find his keys, he said, and couldn’t we discuss this in the flat? He pushed me roughly aside and I closed the door and followed him into the bedroom. He collapsed onto the edge of the bed and sat with his head in his hands, his shoulders heaving.
“I’d gone round to Alan’s place,” he said, after I handed him a drink, “to discuss some paperwork that needed to be ready for Monday. We had a drink or two and it all seemed fine, except he kept getting this … this weird look in his eyes, and started saying more and more personal and pointed things about me and you and his wife.”
“Yeah, er, Helen, that’s her name. Helen. And then all of a sudden, he accused me of having an affair with her.”
“Brilliant!” I exclaimed, then checked myself. “You’re not, are you?”
“No, of course not, I hardly know the woman!”
“Oh, so you might have an affair with a woman you knew, then?”
“Oh, you know what I mean. Cut me some slack; I’m a bit stressed out, to say the bloody least. I’ve just beaten a man to death with a hammer! Oh, heaven help me!”
I sat down and put my arm round him, stroking his hair to calm him down. It seemed my role to be the practical one.
“Look, darling, we might be able get out of this, you know. Yes, ‘we’, you don’t think I wouldn’t stand by my man, do you? I can supply an alibi. When exactly did this happen? Did anybody see you coming or going?”
“About one in the morning, and no, I don’t think anyone saw me arrive, and it was all dark and quiet when I left — and I was on foot — but look, my prints and dna will be everywhere!”
“That’s not a problem unless the knife … sorry, the hammer’s still lying around. After all, you work together, you visit often, maybe you even have an excuse for holding the hammer earlier that day. All I have to do is insist you were here with me, make up a few corroborative things, rehearse what we watched on telly — I was using your account on the computer earlier, that’ll have registered on social media and stuff, as coming from our router …”
“Oh, you are amazing,” he gasped, flinging his arms around me and squeezing the air out of my lungs. “You’re right. And anyway, the bastard was asking for it, suggesting I’d want to sleep with his manky wife, when I’ve someone like you at home.”
No need to lay it on quite so thick, I thought, but there was something quite appealing in the mixture of protective assertion added to his earlier pathetic neediness.
“Hey”, I assured him, “the body won’t be discovered till tomorrow morning at the earliest — his wife’s away, isn’t she? Thought so. So we’ve loads of time to get our stories straight. Right now, though, I think I know just what you need to calm you down, my big, bad murderer.”
And I reached down and started to unzip his fly.
It was indeed the best sex we’d had in a long time. Me in the role of situation-saving protector, sorting everything out, but also the grateful, almost admiring partner of the impulsive, incisive … caveman, almost. Something primitive was awoken in each of us. We fell asleep — eventually — in each others’ arms, not remotely like two people who might have an ordeal ahead of them.
And so the look on his face when the police arrived the next morning, shortly after breakfast, was the icing on the cake for me.
“What?! How can he be dead?”
“Stabbed through the heart, sir, late last night, we believe. Kitchen knife, probably; there’s a space in a knife block in the kitchen. We wondered if you might be able to shed any light on this?”
“Well, I saw him at work yesterday, like most of the office. But I think I went home well before him; he’s a single man, he lives alone … often used to work quite late. Am I a suspect or something.”
“Don’t be silly, darling; you were home with me all night,” I said, all wide-eyed and innocent.
“No need for that dear, I’m sure this is just routine. They have to ask everyone, don’t you, officer? After all it’s most likely a stranger — an intruder he surprised or something. But you might be better off asking some of the other single guys; I could give you the names of the ones he went drinking with.”
“Yes, sir, we would appreciate that, normally. Only there’s the small matter that you were heard banging on your door late last night, and telling your wife here that you’d just killed a man.”
“Oh! Oh my God, I see, now.”
“Really, Sir? I don’t see how this is suddenly a laughing matter.”
“God, no, not at all. It’s just relief, officer. This is going to be embarrassing, but I’m sure you’ll apply discretion.”
“We’ll see, Sir. Go on.”
“My wife and I … well, we role play. To spice things up in the bedroom department. You know the sort of thing. Nothing too kinky, but uniforms, plumbers … we’ve both had turns at being you lot, arresting each other. And she … well, we thought it’d be fun for me to be an impulsive murderer, killing a guy after some sort of row. I said he’d accused me of having an affair with his wife, ‘cos I forgot he doesn’t — didn’t — have one. So I was to rush in and confess and she was to — well, she did console me and promise to fake an alibi and … well, you know. So I went out for a drive while she got ready, and came to the door all worked up. Only I couldn’t find my door keys. So I started playing the part in the hallway, I suppose. I should’ve known old radar-ears across the hall would be listening!
“But Sheryl can back me up on all that, can’t you darling.”
“Well … yes. I mean, yes; absolutely. He was out for a very short while, not long enough to get to Alan’s place and back — it’s the other side of town, isn’t it?”
“Really, Madam?” The policeman looked far from convinced.
“Yes; I’ve been there myself, a long time ago, but …”
“We know where Mr Curbishley lived, Madam. I’m just asking if the alibi isn’t just part of what you promised during what your husband now wishes us to believe was a ‘game’.”
“Of course it isn’t! What makes you think we’d be continuing with a game or a false alibi, when we don’t even need to?”
“Among other things, Madam, Sir — these.” And he held out his hand to reveal Tom’s key ring in a clear plastic evidence bag. “Found them just inside the door of the deceased’s flat. How does this fit into your little ‘game’?”
Both of us looked astounded, each of us staggered to the dining table and sat down, ashen-faced. I was the first to speak.
“Tom! You fool!”
“Fool …? What do you mean? I haven’t done anything. Like you said I never had time …”
“No darling, I can’t do that now.” My gasping for breath and composure made for a dramatic pause. “There was no game, officer. I was going to cover for him … he is my husband. He was out all evening, I was doing some stuff on his computer, wondering where he’d got to; he came home — you know what time — in a terrible state.
“The game story was quick thinking, dear, after Mrs McLean had heard, but now … the keys … I can’t … You knew about Alan and me, didn’t you?”
Aren’t nosey neighbours wonderful? I know a lot of people, my Tom included, moan about the curtain-twitchers and ‘radar-ears’ in their street or block, but I say if you know how to use them, how to plant ideas that you might actually want repeating …
And unobservant husbands. I suppose it was such a rare thing for him to wash any dishes, that the knife didn’t seem unfamiliar to him, while he washed any last visible traces of blood off the blade, and ensured his were the only prints on the handle.
He hadn’t known anything about Alan and me, the poor, deluded fool; he didn’t know much about anything. But it was hard for him to maintain that, when the police found the photos of us together, the ones tucked in the back of his wallet. Least of all did he ever really understand just what a pain Alan had become, threatening to tell Tom everything if I didn’t promise to run off with him, insisting I was his one true love and he couldn’t live without me. I like to think he’d be grateful that I made sure he didn’t have to.
I went to visit Tom a few times after he was sentenced, but I got as bored doing that as I had being his wife. Half the times he refused to see me, the rest he just shouted abuse and accused me of setting him up. Even gloating at him got tiresome after a while. And I had to start making plans to get the flat sold and siphon off as much money as possible, in time to start a new life. After all, he may not be banged up for ever. The authorities are being very helpful. A new identity will come in very handy in so many ways. And a new home, of course. Somewhere warmer, I think.