He was woken up by the sound of the alarm clock. He squinted at it, and turned on his side, trying to shut out its shrill tones. His wife stirred beside him, and he sensed her sit up. She reached out to turn the alarm off, and he braced for the tongue-lashing he would get.
“Good-for-nothing fellow!” she shrieked. “You heard the alarm and went back to sleep! Get up!” she said, and prodded him hard in the back. He pretended not to notice. She didn’t give up.
“You’re not fooling me!” she said and shook him hard. He stopped pretending, and sat up slowly, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He glanced at his wife, taking in her sharp nose and small, beady eyes, which were staring accusingly at him. Her chest was heaving up and down, and she was pointing a finger at him.
“How useless can you get? Don’t you know you can’t be late for work? Else you will not get your bonus for this month, and you won’t buy me those earrings I pointed out to you. Or is that what you’re planning?”
“Oh god, why have I ended up with such a useless husband?” She said. She didn’t mention the fact that he had just spent a sizeable amount of money buying her a new washing machine. Or the sofa set he had bought last month.
He bowed his head, and got out of the bed, walking towards the bathroom. He glanced at the photograph which adorned the mantelpiece at the far side of the room. It was taken on their wedding day, the last day he remembered being totally happy. Until he met her, that is. A smile played on his lips as he thought about his mistress, who was probably waiting for him right now.
“Where do you think you’re going?” screamed his wife from behind. He grimaced and turned around, and saw that she was now standing by the bed, her face a mask of fury.
“Just...bathroom.” he muttered.
“And is the coffee going to make itself? You know I need coffee as early as possible! God knows I have enough things to do over here. Go, make the coffee!”
His shoulders dropped as he dragged himself to the kitchen. He risked a glance back at his wife, who was smiling superiorly at him. He felt the sudden urge to strangle her, but he contained himself. I’m going to kill her in a few hours anyway – he thought. He looked at his wife again and imagined her dead. He smiled.
A couple of hours later, he told his wife the same lie he had been telling her for six months, that he was going to work. The truth was that he only had to get in by noon, so that meant he had four hours to kill. He rode his scooter up the lane he was familiar with and stopped in front of a small house. He parked near the gate and walked up to the door. He checked left and right, and after making sure he wasn’t spotted, he pressed the calling bell. It made a soft, melodious noise. There was a pitter-patter of feet on the other side, and the door flew open.
The most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life stood on the other side of the door. She smiled up at him, her soft, brown eyes shining, and beckoned him inside. He grinned back and hurried in. She closed the door quickly and hugged him fiercely.
“I’m so glad you came,” She whispered.
“Did you think I wouldn’t?” he asked, running his hands through her hair.
She kissed his cheek. “Of course not,” she smiled. “Come, I made you breakfast.”
He had met his mistress on a rainy night, six months ago. He had seen her trying to walk the traffic filled roads without an umbrella, and he had offered her his. He had walked her to her house and had struck up a conversation. To his delight, he had found that they shared identical tastes in just about everything.
He had felt something stirring inside him that very night. She had asked if they could meet again. He confessed to her that he was married. She told him that they could be friends. But he knew they both wanted more. Within a week, they were together in every possible way. The heart wants what the heart wants. He didn’t regret it one bit.
After he had finished eating, they sat together on the sofa in each other’s arms. He looked at her beautiful face and knew happiness. He knew his wife could never give him that.
“I hope that woman isn’t giving you a hard time,” She said, stroking his hair.
“It’s the same,” He muttered.
“Then why don’t you end it?” she asked, her face filled with concern. His brow furrowed. It was something he had certainly thought about in the last couple of months.
“I can’t. It would be a messy divorce. I may end up paying a huge alimony.” He said. It was true. She could twist and turn anything to her favour, and if it ever went to court, he’d be probably branded as abusive and dominating. She was like a giant spider, slowly dragging himself to her, and he was already too far in the web to hope to escape.
She rested her head on his shoulder and slowly squeezed his fingers. “It’s fine. You still have me.”
He smiled and threw an arm around her. “I’m thankful,” He said. He meant it. A happy and content life was all he wanted. For that, he needed his wife out of the way.
“I’m confident,” He said quietly. His voice had slipped into a whisper, and he traced a finger across her palm. His heart started to beat just a little quicker.
She looked up at him and smiled. “Of what, darling?” she asked.
“Of getting away with murdering her,” He said, a sense of purpose in his eyes.
Her grip on his hand loosened, and her face drained of colour.
“You...you...you were serious when you spoke about it that day? I thought you were only joking!” she cried. Her hands began to shake under his. “Please...you mustn’t.”
He was grateful that she was scared. In truth, he was terrified. He was never very courageous to begin with, and the prospect of killing another person shook him to the core. But he had to pretend to be brave about it because she was clearly more afraid than he was. He had to remain strong, no matter what.
“I must. For us.” She bowed her head, and a single tear fell onto his lap.
He sat up and took her face in his hands. Her eyes were full of tears. “You shouldn’t... What if someone finds out? What if the police....take you away? I won’t be able to live with myself!” she cried, her eyes wide, pleading him. He let out a sigh. He hated to make her miserable. He hated that he was such a coward, afraid of standing up to his own wife.
“I have to. I won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t give you the respect that you deserve. I wish to marry you. And I can’t do it if she’s alive.” He said, trying to put some conviction into his voice.
Her eyes were still glistening, but he thought he saw a glimmer of hope in them.
“You will... marry me?” she said, her voice thick with tears. She was gripping his arm with both hands, looking into his eyes.
“I will,” He said, and smiled softly. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight, silently crying into his back.
“I’ve given it a great deal of thought. I’m going to do it tonight.” He said, hoping he sounded braver than he felt. He felt her shiver against him.
“Tonight?” she said, her voice a hoarse whisper.
“Yes,” he said softly. “I’ve waited long enough. Besides, it’s foolproof.” He declared.
She sat up, not entirely convinced. “But how?” she asked. “What if someone sees? What if you’re caught? Oh my, what will you do with the body?” she cried.
He turned around on the sofa and faced her. “I’ve got it all planned out. The neighbours will be out tonight; I overheard them talking yesterday. As for the body,” he paused, grimacing a little. “I know of a little plot of land about 10 miles from my house. It’s completely deserted; nobody goes there anymore. I’m going to take the body up there in a rented car and bury it.”
She paled a little, but she kept her eyes on him. “It sounds so risky!” She hugged herself tightly, trying not to tremble. “Please, be careful. I would die if anything happened to you.” She said.
He moved forward and enveloped her in a fierce hug. His eyes were moist as well, but he was happy. He now had a sense of purpose. He knew she loved him, and he was ready to do anything for her.
“It’ll be all over in a matter of hours,” he said. “Once she’s gone, we’ll live in our house. Your house.” He added, a twinkle in his eye. She looked up at him, a little startled.
“My...house?” she said. He smiled down at her.
“I contacted my lawyer last week. The house is now legally in your name.” He said joyfully. She gasped, her eyes wide with shock. She opened and closed her mouth soundlessly. He enjoyed the effect it had on her.
“But...but...why? Oh, why? It’s your house! I don’t want it! ” she cried.
“Hush,” he said, slowly patting her back. “You deserve this and much more. This is just temporary. Once the whole furore of my wife’s murder has settled down, we’ll move to some other place. Consider the house an advanced wedding present.” He said, grinning.
She smiled at him, her cheeks tear stained. He wiped them off with a finger. “Thank you,” She whispered. He held her close as he looked at the clock. It was nearly noon. He was going to be late for work. He got up and hugged her again.
“Only a few more hours. And then we’ll be free.” He told her. She smiled at him happily.
“Please be careful. When...when are you going to do it?” she asked.
“9 pm would be perfect. The maid will have left by then. She’ll be all alone. She won’t be expecting anybody.” He held her for a few moments, feeling a rush of terror coursing through his body as he imagined killing his wife. He kissed her softly and stepped out of the house.
All day long, his mind whizzed through the exact details of his plan. He hardly paid attention to what he was doing. He kept thinking for various loopholes where he could be caught. He had a ticket for a movie, which would serve as his alibi. It wasn’t very convincing, but it would have to be enough. He exited his office at 8.30 pm exactly. He pulled his collar up to cover his face and rounded up front to where his scooter was parked. He got on and sped off in the direction of his house.
He had a thin wire coiled inside the pocket of his jacket. He had decided that strangulation was the best way to go. Using a gun was out of the question, and knives would leave too much of a mess to clean up. He had thick, black gloves in the other pocket as well. He didn’t take the usual route home, instead going through small by lanes and shortcuts, taking the time to go through the plan one final time.
He killed the lights of his scooter and parked it a couple of houses away. He knew the inhabitants had gone on vacation. There wasn’t anyone in any of the five surrounding houses who could be in a position to spot him that night. He slipped on the gloves and walked slowly towards the house. His heart started to do an irregular beat in his chest, and his breath was ragged.
He walked straight up to the side of the house, and searched for his bedroom window, which he had left open that morning. He was fairly certain his wife hadn’t noticed. He found the window, and after a bit of fiddling around, he got it open. He hoisted himself through it carefully, and he made sure he hadn’t left anything behind. His mind was filled with a cruel sense of purpose as he strode towards the bedroom door and slowly opened it.
The lights in the hall were on, and the TV was running at full pelt. She was sitting on the couch, with her back to him. He recognised her elegantly done hair, coiffed at the top of her head, and he felt a sudden surge of fury. He wanted to hurt her. Physically... at a primal level.
She had asserted her dominance over him, and he had subjected meekly. All the humiliating moments came back to him in a violent wave, and every last fibre of him wanted her dead as he strode forward and slipped the wire under her neck. She stiffened as the wire made contact with her neck, and he started to pull.
As he pulled the ends of the wire harder across her neck, he felt nothing but fury. As her legs thrashed beneath her, and her arms flailed about, he felt rage pouring out of him, and into the thin rope that was slowly taking his wife’s life.
He bent down to her ear, as her limbs slowly started to slacken. “It’s nothing personal,” He whispered softly. He stretched the wire as far as it would go and pulled her back, just in time to see a solitary tear slide down her cheek and onto the floor. She moved no more.
His hands had started to tremble again. He slipped the wire off her neck and stuffed it quickly into his pocket. The wire wasn’t too thin, so it hadn’t drawn blood. Her neck was a hideous pattern of strangulation marks, etched deep purple by the dim light of the TV. He wiped the sweat from his brow and gathered himself.
Time to get her into the car, he thought.
He rounded the sofa and bent down to pick her body up. He tried to look into her eyes but found that he couldn’t. He wasn’t angry anymore. He felt as though his heart would explode in his chest. Surely, it would give him away.
He lifted her up and over his shoulder, and crept up to the door. He opened it slowly, again making sure he was leaving no evidence behind. He peeked outside. The world was silent as the grave. He made his way to the back of his house, giving out anxious glances with every step he made, trying to make sure nobody was about.
He stepped out through the back gate and walked to the rented car he had parked. Panting now, he fumbled with the keys in his pocket and opened the trunk. He heaved a huge sigh of relief and prepared to lower the body into it.
Then, the world came crumbling down around him.
There was a sudden explosion of sound as police sirens filled the air. He whipped his head from side to side, searching for the source. The piercing tones of the sirens cut the air like a bullet, shattering the peace that had just prevailed moments ago. Fear clutched his heart. He turned and tried to run, but his legs wouldn’t move.
A police car skidded across his front yard and came to a stop, mere metres in front of him. He looked at it in horror, as another one joined it. His shoulders sagged, as the body slipped from his grasp and thudded onto the rocky ground. Officers emerged out of each car, their guns drawn.
“Down on the ground, now!” one screamed.
“Down, down, I say! Put your hands where I can see them.” Said another.
He made no move at all. He looked down at his wife; her body had shifted when she had fallen, so her face was staring up at him, bathed in the moonlight. The shadows on her face almost made it look like she was smiling. Suddenly, he heard footsteps from behind. Before he could look up, something heavy hit him on the back of the head, and mercifully, everything went dark.
He’d been in jail for two days now. The talk with his lawyer had been quick. The police, he said, had received an anonymous call that had tipped them off about the murder. He had been caught red-handed. There was really nothing to be done. His lawyer said he would try to secure a life sentence without parole. He didn’t seem confident about it. The man had simply nodded. He now lay alone and cold in his cell, looking at the prison bars in a kind of hypnotic stare.
There was a short rap-rap sound. He looked up. One of the constables had hit the bars with his stick. “You’ve got a visitor,” He grunted. He looked up, expecting to see his lawyer with some good news. Instead, he saw that it was his mistress. He leapt to his feet and ran to the bars. She slid her slender hand through the gap between two bars, and he clutched it. His hands were shaking badly, but he found that hers was steady. Her eyes were clear, and she looked straight at him.
“How are you?” he asked. She simply stared at him, her face giving nothing away. He sighed softly and let go of her hand. “I’m sorry,” He whispered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to do.” He said quietly, so only she could hear.
“I...didnot expect them to arrive. I...I did everything by the plan. I made sure they had no clue. But how did they get there?” he asked, looking at her face.
She still looked impassive; head cocked slightly to one side. He felt a slight stirring of irritation, and a something pulled at his guilt felt as though his insides were boiling, and he couldn’t understand why.
“The police say they received an anonymous call telling them when and where the murder would happen. They say the caller described right down to the murder weapon that would be used.” He said, his voice starting to shake, for he saw with horror, that the ends of her mouth were slowly curving upwards, forming a derisive sneer.
She was smiling at him, her face had possessed a haughty look, and it was nothing he had seen in all the months he had known her.
“You...” he whispered, hardly daring to believe it.
“Yes, me,” She said. She was positively grinning now; her face had morphed into something beautiful and terrible at the same time.
“Thought you could get away with murder, could you, darling?” she said softly, her fingers sliding across the prison bars. He felt as though someone was squeezing his insides, rendering him unable to breathe. His legs felt as though they would give away underneath him, and he gripped the bars to steady himself.
“But...” he started.
“But why?” she asked, and her gaze steeled. “Why, for the house, of course. Pretty houses like those don’t come easy, you know.” She said and smiled again. She sounded different. Not meek and scared, but confident, more self-assured. “You really shouldn’t commit murder for the sake of someone you hardly know,” She said and winked.
He was still gaping at her, rooted to the spot, unable to believe the transformation of the woman in front of him. He tried to speak, but no words came out. “I loved you,” He said, and he thought he saw, just for a second, those black eyes soften. But once again, they had changed back into cold orbs that radiated nothing but indifference.
“Oh, I believe you, my sweet,” She said.
“All those little gifts you showered me with, the sweet pillow talk, the idea that you were somehow responsible for me - I believed it all. But you see, I know not to trust men. Oh, you are all the same.” She said, wagging a finger.
“Running behind every woman you see. Imagining yourselves to be the knight in shining armour of every girl with a sob story. Predictable - That’s the word that describes you perfectly. Once you decided to kill your wife, I knew you were dangerous. All you ever wanted was to get rid of her, and put up a picture of her on your wall,” She said, her voice shaking with anger. “A picture in her memory,” She scoffed.
She drew back from the bars, looking into his face, which was a mask of anger and humiliation. “So I did it. I waited till it was almost 9 pm, and I called the police from a phone booth a couple of miles from my home. You had already given me the house, and I had no further need for you.” She moved closer, and he could hardly recognise the woman he had loved.
“How can you expect me to trust you when you would turn your back on me if you see some other damsel in distress, hm? How do you expect me to sleep at night, with the knowledge that I might end up with my throat cut open, just because you grew tired of me?” She asked, her voice lowering to a dangerous whisper.
“I don’t want to be just another picture on the wall, you see.” She said and drew herself to her full height. She looked down at him with utter disdain, her gaze fierce. He just looked at her, his jaw set, unable to say a single word.
“Thank you for the house,” She said, smiling. “It proves to be a good distraction from the boring countryside.” He drew deep breaths, forcing himself to become angry. He willed himself to jump at her, to scream and make a scene, shout that she was the anonymous caller. But he couldn’t, even when he saw her smirk at him and turn away, walking towards the door.
She stopped and half-turned, looking at him from the corner of her eye.
“Besides,” she said, and her voice was as cold as ice. “It was nothing personal.”