Annie at Write Anything put up this challenge for Fiction Friday #171. Given her first draft piece from a previous week, featuring an exceptionally loathsome character, kill him off in a sequel story. Here's my effort."You know?" Marco coughed. "It would probably count as a mercy killing. Or that he just needed killing. A bit like in Murder On The Orient Express. I figure you could get enough people to volunteer for it." Linda craned across the bar table, trying as hard as she could to glean as many as Marco's words over the noise of some large blonde girl in the middle of the room doing her best to yell out I Will Always Love You. "I thought they'd outlawed wailing," she quipped, and laughed for the first time in a week, the first time since she was here last Friday night with Marco. They couldn't hear a single word each other was saying while the music played, and that suited her just fine. She was just glad to be out of the house. Albert wouldn't have noticed.
"Or it could be like Strangers on a Train," Marco carried on. "You know, perfect murders. You and I swap; you get rid of Ang, and I'll off your Albert. Perfect." He took a good slug on his beer and began to giggle uncontrollably as the sympathy applause for the Whitney Houston wannabe died down. That last line had rang out across the table, clear as a bell. Angela Torrisi leaned over the table and told her husband to quit being such an ass, laughed, kissed him tenderly on the forehead like he was a guilty little boy, and reached out for Linda's hand. "Seriously, love, we need to do something. Come with me in the morning, OK? We'll get your hair done, you'll feel like a new woman,"
"I know that feeling, doll," Marco interrupted. "I feel like a new woman too. A nice big round one. With a bottom. You're too skinny, Ang. You look like Joan Rivers." Angela gave him the middle finger as a middle-aged couple with a Kenny Rogers beard and a Dolly Parton wig started murdering Islands In the Stream. Apparently, the resemblance stopped at the beard and the wig. Linda suddenly felt self-conscious of her own hair; she realized she hadn't even run a brush through it all day, let alone washed it. She'd ran across to Marco's while she was out running errands earlier, decided on the spur of the moment that yes, she'd come out to the club again with the young couple, and she'd barely had a chance to stop to put a change of clothes on before sneaking out the back door. Of course, "sneaking" was pretty much figurative. The surveillance cameras had seen her every move, seen her leave the house. Once, Albert would have checked the home surveillance tapes when she didn't respond to his request for another beer, but somehow she had a feeling he was past caring any more. Something else would catch the equipment's unwavering attention, like the dog barking at number five, or possibly half of some toy boy's backside bobbing up and down through the blinds across Mrs Forster's window. Linda leaving by the back door was just another transient image that would be backed up for posterity.
"Here's what we do," Marco continued, oblivious to the fact that some of his words might be overheard in the quieter passages in the song. "You go down the garden center, OK? Get yourself some bug killer, I honestly don't know how toxic it is, so you might have to take a while, slip a bit of it every day in his dinner, just a little bit. It'll get him eventually. And, I know what you're saying, that'll show up in a post-mortem." Marco belched. "That's why you have to burn his ass. That's OK, easy enough, you just turn the gas on and leave it running for a while. It'll blow up eventually. Usually when there's an electric spark when the thermostat kicks over. They do that a lot in the detective shows on TV, you know. Pilot lights, they're good too. But here's the trick, before you do that, get yourself a dead dog. Some roadkill, OK? Put it in the house before you torch the place, otherwise they'll know it's arson. They find a burnt dead dog, they'll assume it's your pet, and so must be an accident." The country couple finished up. "Nobody burns their own pet dog. I'd kill him for you, given half the chance." Once again, those last words floated across the crowded bar. "Marco, you pissed bastard," Angela scolded. "You've had enough, it's bad enough I have to prop you up and walk you home, but if I've got to clean your sick up and put you in your pyjamas again…" The next singer was getting ready to belt out Material Girl, and the opening bars were deafening. Angela shrugged once more, extended the middle finger towards Marco for the second time in five minutes, grabbed Linda by the hand, and pulled her out of the chair. "Come with me, love. I need a smoke," as they stepped out of the bar's back door onto the patio.
"Ignore Marco, he can be such an idiot," Angela started, as she took a cigarette and lit it, extending the packet towards Linda who absent-mindedly took one, although she hadn't smoked in the thirty-odd years she'd been married to Albert. He wouldn't have tolerated it. Linda took a deep draw as Angela continued. "Seriously, Lin, you've got to do something. Look at you. No offense, babe, but you look like shit. It's one thing that he doesn't care for you, you've known that for years, but you've given up caring about yourself. Marco's uncomfortable; that's why he cracks those lousy jokes about putting Albert out of everybody's misery. One of these days someone is going to overhear what he says, and fortunately, everybody thinks he's just yet another drunk prick. Linda, look at me. What are you going to do about him?". Another non-committal shrug of the shoulders. "You've got to do something."
"I already have," Linda murmured. "Albert is dead. Since last week, actually." Angela coughed and retched as she inhaled far too much cigarette smoke. "What the hell are you talking about? He gave my old man some aggro this morning when he tried to dump some trash in his bin. Ours was too full. Marco came in mad as you-know-what."
"No, Angela," Linda slowly and deliberately shaped each of the words. "He just thinks he saw Albert today. Just like the police think they got a complaint about that effing dog from him today, or a bunch of schoolkids think they got yelled at by him for throwing stuff in the yard this afternoon, or any one of the several hundred exceptionally predictable and well-documented pieces of Albert behavior that everyone sees, day in, day out, that's been repeated day in, day out, for the past week, even though he's been stiff as a board the whole time. It was an accident, if you must know. I'd had a few too many last week down here, and he started his bullshit no sooner did I get in the house. He swung at me, the uncoordinated fat bastard missed by a mile. I reached out and grabbed the first thing I could lay my hands on and brought it down on his head. It was that anniversary clock we'd got for twenty-five. Twenty-five, Ang. I'd have got out in half that if I'd killed the bastard in the first place."
"You're joking, You're friggin' joking, Lin. You need help."
"No joke, no joke. It's relatively easy to make it look and sound like someone's still alive when they record absolutely everything, you know. It's all there, every belch and fart, every flush of the pot. Every one of the neighbors on the street thinks Albert's still in the house, still alive. Even your old man, sadly, yes, even your old man, who I'm pretty sure has got quite some Dutch Courage queued up this evening. He might go ahead and do something about it. I hope he does. Because that's the bit I was trying to figure out; how do I dispose of someone whose meds I've been poisoning for the past several months? Leaving the gas on was the easy part. The finishing touch though was the dead dog; Marco had that bit right. They'll never believe I set fire to my own house with the dog in it. Even the folks at number five will assume that's Albert calling the pound again. All I need is your old man to take a dive for me. And he will. Nobody would ever dream it was me, because, after all, I love Albert so much."
Angela Torrisi pulled away from Linda in absolute shock, aghast. She looked at the shell of a woman in front of her, her eye sockets black and lifeless, her face gaunt, her hair straggly. The woman had already died inside, a long time ago. Suddenly, it didn't seem so unreasonable that she might have killed the abominable man she was married to. The noise abated from inside the bar, and people began to come out of the door, squeezing between Linda and Angela as they made their way out. In Angela's purse, her 'phone rang. She shuffled through her possessions to get it, placed it next to her ear, and looked up. Linda seemed to have evaporated into the crowd. "Doll?" Marco's voice sounded on the other end of the 'phone. "You'll never believe where I am. Gawd, it smells in here."
Angela sighed. "I believe I would, Marco. I believe I would. Get the hell out of there, before…"
The line went dead.