SECURITY BUSINESS - RICHARD GODWIN
When he came in from work, she was standing by the cooker, the flame was high and its blue light mesmerised him momentarily. He watched her stir the sauce, back to him, the gentle curves inviting him to say hello.
He reached into his pocket and brought out the box.
She didn’t hear him until the shower started.
Upstairs, he dried himself and got changed and came down and greeted her with his usual warm hug.
‘How’s your day been?’ he said.
‘Oh, Tanya’s been on the phone.’
Tina sat down.
She smoothed her apron over her thigh.
‘She’s been crying all day.’
‘Has he been playing around again?’
‘She came in to find him in bed with her friend. He says he’s leaving her.’
‘I’m a little behind with supper because I couldn’t get her off the phone.’
‘When I hear about other peoples’ marriages, I’m just so glad I married you, Keith.’
‘As I am you.’
‘And the police have been round.’
He fixed himself a drink.
‘Yes, something about a local prowler.’
‘Round here?’ he said, taking a swig.
‘Yes, a woman was tied up and raped, and another one found a guy watching her as she took a shower. She screamed and he ran out of there. It makes you feel insecure.’
‘Security’s my business. Do they have a description?’
‘No. He wears a balaclava. Creep. Guys like that should have their pricks cut off.’
‘Do you think I should tighten up security?’
‘No. I’ve got you,’ she said, coming over and wrapping her arms around his shoulders and drooling a kiss all over him. ‘I mean it, I’m a lucky woman.’
‘You sure are,’ he said, administering a slap to her retreating backside.
On the hob, a saucepan bubbled, spilling water onto the flame that hissed and sputtered.
She began to lay the table.
‘What is it?’
‘Your favourite dish.’
‘That’s not possible.’
‘I’ve been cooking it all day on and off, between calls from Tanya.’
‘My favourite dish is right here’, he said, squeezing her from behind.
He went upstairs and when he came down she was unzipping his gym bag.
‘Don’t worry about that,’ he said, grabbing it from her.
She looked at him with a curiosity that might have tipped into suspicion had she never mistrusted him. Keith had never given her reason to.
‘It’s a surprise,’ he said.
‘It better be good.’
‘It always is. After supper.’
‘Now I’ll hold you to that.’
She served the food and he poured her another drink.
‘This is really good, Tina, soft and juicy,’ he said, digging his knife into the meat.
‘I mean, what is this guy’s problem? The police said he picks women who are alone or vulnerable.’
‘How does he know?’
‘They didn’t say, but they’re either just out of a relationship or living on their own. Looking at a woman having a shower is so sad, he probably stands there beating himself off. If I saw him doing that I know what I’d do.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Some women are worth looking at in the shower.’
She was getting drunk and he poured her another.
After supper, he sat down and gave her the box. She held the shiny object in her hand with childish enthusiasm.
‘This is the surprise?’
‘Go on, open it.’
Inside lay two airline tickets.
‘Two weeks in the sun is just what I need. Thank you.’ She reached across and kissed him, placing her tongue in his mouth.
Before long, she was fumbling with his trousers and they were upstairs in the bedroom.
Afterwards, he lay there staring at the light of the moon on the wall. She slept beside him and he got up. The sound of the shower running woke her and she went downstairs to put his gym kit in the wash but couldn’t find it.
‘Where did you put it?’
‘I need it for tomorrow, do it then, Tina.’
Once she was asleep, he got it from the cupboard. He put the hood up and went out.
Walking up the back passage of the woman’s house, he put on his balaclava, forced the window and went in. He disabled the alarm.
She was not showering.
She was just a shape spread across the bed in the dimly lit bedroom and before she could raise a scream, he placed his hand over her mouth and tied her up with electrician’s cable.
He looked at her there, now an object, her helplessness releasing him from his endless vertigo as a man.
Then he went over to Tanya’s.
She was sleeping and he thought how sleep robbed its passengers of the alertness needed to maintain invulnerability.
He held her down in her own bedroom, tasting this invasion of her space as a luxury on his burning tongue and took his time with her.
He wanted to deprive her of sanctuary.
He tied her up and left her with the lights on, lost, stripped, falling and skinless.
The next morning, he heard Tina on the phone telling one of her friends about the holiday.
‘I know, I’m a lucky woman. He fits alarms, yes, he probably would. I’ll tell him. He’s good at that, too. Did I tell you we’ve got a prowler?’
He closed the door on the conversation and went to work, neatly donning his uniform and smoothing all the creases there as if they held clues.
When he got back Tina told him the police had been round.
‘The woman he’d watched in the shower’s been raped and so’s Tanya. The police don’t know what he looks like. I don’t think they know where to start looking for this guy, who’s obviously clever and picks his victims so that he gets away with it. Bloody creep. I’m not going to let someone like that make me insecure. If he broke in here he’d get a surprise. The police say they’re going to arrest some local guys who might be responsible, but that usually means the wrong people.’
‘I’m glad we’re going away,’ he said.
‘So am I.’
‘It might have stopped by the time we get back.’
‘Two weeks,’ she said with a sense of relief.
‘Could be longer,’ Keith said with a smile that looked more like a snarl.
He watched as she unpacked his gym bag.
‘That it?’ she said.
‘It’s not too bad, I told a friend of mine you’d put in an alarm for her.’
‘I’d be happy to,’ he said with a wink.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone. He is in the process of setting up a blog. For right now, you can check out his portfolio here. His first crime novel will be published later this year.