A – Z Challenge Day 5

Day 5 is here! With it comes my next prompt from Kate, and once again it is a brilliant one. Today’s word is “EFFERVESCENT”. You probably reacted the same way I did: a raised eyebrow accompanied by an appreciative nod. An excellent suggestion which stumped me for a little while. An idea formed once I decided to think slightly outside the proverbial box, and a sinister little narrative formed in my head.

So, consider that a brief disclaimer. THIS ONE IS DARK! Based on true events, too.

Here’s what I came up with.

EFFERVESCENT

By Adam Dixon

It’s just like the fizz from a glass of champagne, that’s all. John tried to fix that thought into his head as he continued pouring and the hissing filled his ears. Yes, just like champagne. The lovely, crisp bubbles that make it such a wonderful drink. What’s that word that fellow from the golf club used to describe it? That’s right, ‘effervescent’. Capital word, that one. I must use it more often! Beastly chap, though. Must avoid him in the future…

John continued holding the image in his mind as the noise from the within the oil drum intensified. It served the dual purpose of distracting him from what he was doing as well as motivating him to keep going. Think of the bubbly, John old boy, that’s the ticket! He also daydreamed of the next few meetings at Cheltenham and Ascot, and he noted that it wouldn’t be long until the Derby came around again, either. He could almost smell the cigarette smoke in the stalls, almost hear the excited babbling of the commentator and the thundering of hooves…

Eventually, the smell became unbearable and John was forced to vacate his workshop. The putrid odour of burning flesh had crept past the barrier of his gas mask, stinging his nostrils and making him heave. At least he’d finished pouring the acid this time; he was certainly becoming very efficient with his tasks. This time it had all been so easy! Well, practice makes perfect, Haigh old boy! John smirked behind the mask and moved away from the drum, scooping up the valuables he had liberated from the corpse. Mrs Durand-Deacon had certainly been a decadent old crone; he held in his hands three jewel-encrusted gold rings, a beautiful pearl necklace and a Persian lamb fur coat. He had, of course, relieved her purse of its contents as well and to the merry tune of several pound notes and a handful of shillings. A fine haul, indeed!

John placed his hoard into his attaché case before straightening up and steeling himself for his final task. He marched back to the drum and picked up its heavy lid. He paused for a moment, taking a final look upon the old widow. With her ludicrous hair style and claw-like false nails, Olive Durand-Deacon looked as ridiculous in death as she had done in life as far as John was concerned. He was aware of the strange new fashion trends which had sprung up once the war was over, but he couldn’t see that particular one catching on. People had better things to spend their money on, what with rationing still in place! Better things, like champagne…

John curled his lip contemptuously before slamming the lid down. He dusted his hands off, enjoying the squeak his rubber gloves made as he did so. He’d return in two days and poor, dotty Olive would be just a drum of sludge, waiting to be poured onto the adjoining patch of ground outside his workshop. The rains would then come and wash away every last trace of her. He’d try to make the money last a bit longer this time; he had gotten rather reckless with the capital he’d gained from the deaths of the Hendersons…

John unlocked the doors to his workshop and strode out into the street, pulling his mask off and breathing in deep lung-fulls of the chilly February air. The air cooled the sweat on his brow and the damp patches under his arms; moving the old crone had been hard work despite her short stature. Moving the dead weights was always the most strenuous part. He stood for a moment, ridding the smell of the burning woman from his nostrils and methodically removing his gloves and apron. As he did this he thought about all the places he would be visiting shortly with Durand-Deacon’s money in his pocket. First and foremost, he would be paying his pawnbroker a call. The rings alone ought to fetch a fine price! John thought gleefully. He’d checked them once he was out in the light to make sure that he hadn’t damaged them; he had been forced to pry them from the dead woman’s swollen fingers with his teeth. They were perfectly alright, sparkling gaily in the meagre winter sun. John smiled and walked to his car, whistling a merry tune as he did so. My thanks to you, dear departed Olive! John thought as he started the engine. I’ll raise a toast to your memory very soon! With that, John stepped on the accelerator and drove back in the direction of London, feeling very pleased with his afternoon’s work.

 

A Selfish Thing to Do

A Selfish Thing to Do

By Adam Dixon

 

  I peered through my binoculars at the house on the hill. It was a simple detached house with large front windows through which I could see the old woman. She was as I remembered her from the previous week: white haired, bespectacled and bent almost double from arthritis. She was wearing a similar dated floral dress with a grey cardigan over it. I watched her impassively for a few minutes, observing her movements around the house. She got out of her straight-backed leather chair and tottered off into the kitchen to make a cup of tea; I could almost hear the creaking of her joints as she did so. She then resumed her place on her chair, and once I was satisfied that she would remain there I put my binoculars down and picked up my rifle.

I marked the old woman through the telescopic sight and adjusted the elevation knobs accordingly. She was just over two hundred yards away, and there was only a slight breeze ruffling my hair as I lay there and took aim. Conditions were almost perfect. I waited whilst the woman drank her tea; there was no reason to rush. Once she had placed her cup on her table I squeezed the trigger. The muffled rifle coughed and the bullet punched through the glazed windows effortlessly. The old woman jerked back in her chair, green upholstery turning crimson in an instant. Her head fell forwards onto her chest, almost as if she had fallen asleep. Satisfied, I stood up and began disassembling my rifle. My final target was dead.

I returned to the Institution later that afternoon. I relinquished my equipment to the reception staff and strode calmly through the corridors. After a few minutes walking I reached the door to the holding cell. It was reinforced and painted an emotionless white, just like the walls surrounding me. After punching in the security code I let myself in. The original target was slumped over at a table, flanked by two guards dressed in black suits. I nodded to them briefly, and without a word they exited the room. After a few moments of complete silence, the man raised his head to look at me. He was a short man in his forties, with a bulbous nose and a receding hairline. His face was haggard and there was torment in his eyes. That was good.

“They’re all dead.” I said, answering his unvoiced question. The man whimpered and squeezed his eyes shut, covering his face with his hands. Wretched sobs began to wrack his body as he sat there, and I simply watched him with disinterest.

“Why?” He managed to croak, his hands still shielding his eyes.

“You know very well why,” I said, slightly irritated by the question. “They had to die because you made a scene in that café last week and drew attention to yourself and me. If you had simply stood up and co-operated, this business could have been handled with the desired tact and discretion. You know how the Institution operates; we couldn’t risk any of those civilians recognising us at a later date.” I paused for a moment, letting my words sink in.

“I’m sure you will agree,” I continued. “That it was a selfish thing to do on your part. Their blood is on your hands.”

“Fuck you!” The man slammed his fists onto the table, glaring at me through tear-filled eyes. “I didn’t kill them! That was you, you cold-hearted murderer! There were children in that cafe!”

“Yes, four of them,” I replied matter-of-factly. “There were also three pensioners present, as well as the families of said children. A total of eleven civilians as collateral damage due to your outburst.”

“What was I supposed to do, just leave with you and let you kill me?!” The man spluttered, waving his arms about. I sighed at the moronic question.

“Yes, Mr. Clarke, that is precisely what you were supposed to do. However, because you decided to create a spectacle out of it, those unfortunate witnesses had to be silenced, and at great inconvenience to myself, I might add.” I allowed myself a token smile. “However, eleven targets within a week is something of a record in the Institution, I believe. Perhaps I should be grateful for the challenge.”

The man stared at me, incomprehension slapped across his red, snot-covered face.

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