IMPASSE - SUE HARDING
Kramer climbed the stairs. The treads were old but the plush carpeting muffled any creaking. He leaned back against the wall and craned his head upwards, staring into the gloom. A thin shaft of light cut across the ceiling on the landing, tracing a line diagonally from the closed door. From behind that same door came a noise that Kramer recognised. Indeed, it was a noise he had come to loathe; it echoed around him, invading his dreams and his waking thoughts alike.
“Now I’ll have you,” he thought, a smile puckering deep inside his cheek, his jaw clenched tight in determination. “It ends tonight.”
He stepped higher, his head adjusting to the new angle as he kept his eyes on the line of light that pointed towards his target. Progressing up the stairs, he reached the open landing and inched his way along the wall. He knew the layout well; the floor plan was ingrained in his memory. Three paces brought him level with a bathroom. The door was slightly ajar, but the dimness assured him it was unoccupied. Kramer knew that. The woman was away, and Medway was the sole occupant of the house.
He passed the bathroom and moved on, silent footsteps giving no hint of his presence. Now he stood at the doorway, a thin strip of light that escaped along its opened edge giving a brief description of the shapes and colours that lay beyond. Again, that staccato noise interrupted the silence.
He laid his hand gently on the door, counting the beats of his heart, waiting until he sensed the moment was right, and closed his other hand firmly around the gun. On the third beat he pushed the door smartly open, raising the gun swiftly, locating the back of the man’s head.
Inside, the bright light made his eyes smart slightly, but he quickly adjusted his vision to compensate. He focused on Medway’s collar, his gun tracing a bead two or three inches higher, his hand tightening its grip, caressing the trigger.
“You’d better come in, Kramer.” Medway’s voice was clear and concise, but his head remained turned away from the doorway, as if he was preoccupied with matters more pressing than the gun that was aimed at his own head.
Kramer was slightly bemused, but his experience had taught him that giving over too much brainpower to deal with the unexpected often resulted in making unwise decisions. Snap judgements and gut feelings moved the action along – hesitance inevitably brought too many variables to consider and with them, too many chances for failure. He stepped into the room, continuing to train his gun on the back of Medway’s scalp.
“I’ve been expecting you,” said Medway, the staccato tapping from his fingers pausing slightly in hesitation before briefly continuing. The last sharp rap on the keys hinted at the finality of a sentence or a paragraph and he turned his leather desk chair round to give his attention to the intruder.
Kramer squinted. He’d been planning this for a while and shared the details with no one. Just how Medway could have had an inkling about this latest development was anyone’s guess, but now he thought about it Kramer realised it wasn’t the first time Medway had surprised him.
“Put the gun down, there’s a good chap.” Medway relaxed back into his chair, idly twisting a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles between his fingers as he concentrated on the would-be assassin. He noticed the drab grey raincoat the man wore, the soft brown leather gloves encasing powerful hands. He knew exactly what those hands had been required to do over the last few years. Even the hat sat at its usual rakish and slightly off-centre style.
Kramer focussed on Medway’s portly figure slumped in the chair, noting the yellow stained hands that bore witness to the many years of devotion to nicotine. Even now, a tall column of grey-blue smoke drifted upwards from the cigarette wedged between his chubby, sausage-like fingers. Kramer wondered, again, how such stubby digits could have the dexterity to pound out chapter after chapter at such speed. Yet now, there was an uncomfortable silence.
“I know you won’t be able to fire, so you might as well put the gun away,” said Medway matter-of-factly. “I’ve known since the minute you decided to call here tonight. Like I’ve known all along that this time would come.”
Kramer lifted the gun slightly and tried to squeeze the trigger. To his surprise, nothing happened.
Medway gave the smallest of chuckles. “We’ve had a grand old time, haven’t we? But now we’ve reached the end, you and I,” he said, lifting the bottle of Bushmills and pouring himself a congratulatory drink. “I’d offer you one, but...”
“Oh, yes,” replied Kramer. A self-satisfied smile replaced the unforeseen inability to just pull the trigger and have Medway’s brains spattered across the keys of his beloved antique Remington Deluxe. “We’ve reached the end alright; I’m not going to carry on doing as you want, acting the way you dictate. I’ve been taking this crap for the last thirty years but it ends tonight; a parting of the ways, you might say. It’s the final chapter for you.”
Medway lifted his glass in salute. “Well said – mind if I use that?” he smiled, turning in his chair. “I was just looking for the right words to round things off.” Truth be told, Kramer had hung around far too long. There were new ideas Medway wanted to explore but he’d reached an impasse with Kramer; the guy bored him rigid.
With that thought, Kramer found himself rooted to the spot as Medway resumed his position over the keyboard and the final clacking of the keys sealed his fate.
But Kramer had learned well. Just when the reader thought they’d got to the end of the story, there was always that last, subtle, unexpected twist from Kelvin Medway - the master of suspense.
As Medway typed the closing sentence, the final full stop resonated in echo with the discharge from the gun. For a second he slumped slightly forward, his face slowly turning towards the smoking barrel. He watched in slow-motion surprise as Kramer’s face changed, taking on an elated look as, for once, he experienced independent thought. His finger released its pressure on the trigger and Medway saw his form slowly diffuse into thin air, exiting with an ethereal echoing laugh.
In the final seconds before his heart gave up trying to cope with the loss of blood from the wound inflicted by his own his creation, Medway realised neither of them could have survived. His eyes tracked sideward to the note he’d scribbled down earlier and he smiled.
It was the title for the final book in his ‘Kramer: PI’ series.
BIO: Sue Harding has been scribbling stories all her life. Recently 'retired' from working in a library, she now has more time to concoct her own little mysteries and maybe one day her former colleagues will be putting her books on the shelf! She blogs at http://www.irefusetogoquietly.blogspot.com/, including a weekly 300-word challenge 'Thursday @ 3'. Aside from writing crime/thriller/mystery fiction, her other passions include red wine, Real Ale and knitting - the alcohol fuels the imagination whilst the knitting concentrates the mind for weaving intrigue and suspense!
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