TROPHY WIFE - MARK ROBINSON
The homeowner stood in the doorway blocking the handyman’s only escape from the trophy room. “Are you lost, mate?” The bulk in the doorway, huge arms folded, made the normal-sized entrance seem suddenly so miniscule.
The handyman had no reply; any words bubbling toward the surface were now winded by fear. Even before the interruption, when he was alone in the room, no words in his usual vocabulary fit the scene he saw.
“Let me guess: you’re looking for the bathroom, right?” Taking a step inside, he slammed the door on them with a flick of his wrist. The sudden contact jolted the handyman back toward the arrangement of glass cabinets that lined the walls, housing an array of glittering gold-plated trophies, awards, medals, plaques, plates and statuettes.
Finding his voice, temporarily lost beneath the ringing-echo of over-achievement, the handyman mumbled and nodded; blood welting beneath his face. Two steps and a firm hand across his shoulder, a vast weight buoying him to the spot.
The big man shushed him, patting his back. “Relax, mistakes happen. It’s my fault; I suppose I should’ve locked the door, right?” Both heads instinctively turning to see that the door handle had been tampered with to allow entry. A pat that became a slap; face so close to the handyman's ear that he could feel the prickle of stubble as he whispered, “My bad.”
Leaving the frigid intruder his host surveyed the interior, arms aloft. “So what do you think?”
He was a dead man, that’s what he thought; what kind of psycho kept a woman locked inside a box-room full of awards and called it his trophy room?
“You know who she is, right?” Taking his place alongside the pedestal and picking a piece of lint from her cleavage. “Course you do.” Nodding along with his guest; the missing model was a commodity, a mainstay of tabloid newspapers and glossy magazines across the globe. Her smoky eyes and assured pout made men forget their spouse even had a name.
“Is she dead?” A blurt that came out of his mouth sudden as a sneeze.
Instead of an angry face, the homeowner shot back a huge grin. “Is she dead?” A bubbling belly laugh. “I’m not a murderer.” Beckoning the handyman over with his banana-shaped index finger.
Who, against his better judgement, found his legs obliging; just like they had a week ago when he had cold-called the homeowner on behalf of his double-glazing and door company. Then, again, a few minutes ago when he noticed that this small terrace house had a security door upstairs.
“You see these tubes, here?” Big meaty paws pointing out the transparent coils filled with viscous fluids. “Those are plumbed into her stomach.” Side-stepping another branch of cabling. “And, these here; they’re wired in, keeping her heart going and lungs from collapsing.”
The intruder felt sick, reaching out a hand to steady himself against the catatonic centrefold. Her cool, slick skin immediately shocked his hand back; a slight tremor as she wobbled, fixed to the spot.
Big hands steadied the man, one grasping each shoulder tight until the bones rumbled against one another. “You married?” Bored by his trophy wife, instead, peering inside the nearest glass case.
A little breathless, a little nauseous, “Yeah.”
A huge beaming smile of mutual understanding. “Then you can relate? You get home from work after a long day...” Rolling around his wrist, “fixing doors; what if you got home and your wife wasn’t there? That ever happen to you?”
Of course it did, she wasn’t a prisoner in her own home; he thought about screaming it aloud but couldn’t find the traction in his tongue so, instead, just nodded.
“Wife’s not home, food’s not waiting for you on the table; the first couple of times, it’s excusable, you know? The relationship’s finding its footing, everything’s new; personalities clash in the early days until you find a routine, I could accept that to an extent. But, when I find out she’s been at some photo shoot in the buff - you tell me - what would you have done, eh?”
Drug her and keep her prisoner in a display room of insanity, obviously; the handyman kept quiet. All he could do was offer up an empathetic shrug.
The homeowner smiled. “See, I knew it wasn’t just me; you know, you’re all right, mate - I had my doubts at first, but...” A sincere nod of his melon-head. “How’s the door coming along downstairs?”
“Almost done.” Finding his voice and, maybe if he was lucky, a swift exit.
“Fantastic!” Closing in; one arm out toward the door and the other to lead the handyman back out. “You know; you’re one of a kind yourself, mate, seriously. I was beginning to wonder whether you lot were a dying breed.” Door finally open out onto the hallway, light visible from the picture window overhanging the staircase. “You get an unfair rep, you contractors - you and mechanics; they say, once you find one you can trust, you should never let them go.”
Stopping outside another heavily secured door he hadn’t noticed earlier, headed ‘Tradesmans Entrance.’
BIO: Mark Robinson has been published previously in Powder Burn Flash; Unlikely Stories; Static Movement; Blink-ink.com; Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers; SunkIsland Review; Microhorror; Hackwriters; Transmission; Raw Edge; ShortStory Library; Txt Lit; Post Card Shorts; Enigma and the Lulu Anthology Never Hit by Lightning (Edited by Tucker Lieberman & Andrew Tivey).
Forthcoming publications in 2010 include Beat to a Pulp, New Flesh magazine, Everyday Fiction, A Thousand Faces, Delivered, and the LameGoat Press Anthology The Next Time.
Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
13 hours ago