Word had it that Douglas Whiting wanted to kill someone. Someone, anyone, just to see what it was like. And it got back to him that, yes, a man named Norman Oliver was happy to be the victim. Well, perhaps not happy exactly, more resigned, his cancer untreatable.
So, early one evening, Whiting knocked on Oliver’s door. A shabby door in a shabby house in a shabby street in a shabby town. Oliver answered the door and Whiting saw the man matched his surroundings, unshaven, a green cardigan with holes in it, old chequered trousers and worn-out slippers.
“Hello, you must be the man who’s come to kill me,” Oliver said.
Whiting looked Oliver in the eyes. “That’s right. You haven’t changed your mind?”
“Oh no, no, not at all. Come in, please come in.”
Whiting had never been popular. At school, he hadn’t shone at anything except for a slight aptitude for rugby, mainly because of his hefty physique and aggression more than any skill with the ball. He wasn’t good-looking. None of the girls ever looked at him twice. All except one, Daisy Harrington, a skinny girl who smelt of vinegar, and who he always tried to avoid.
The other kids called him ‘Thicko’ but then he’d discovered the power in his arms and fists, and after breaking a couple of noses and a jaw, they hadn’t called him that anymore.
He’d flunked his exams, then followed a succession of dead-end jobs: used-car salesman, dustman, nightclub bouncer. But at the nightclub, he’d started to gain some respect after punching a couple of drunken, trouble-making idiots into oblivion. Soon, word reached him that the O’Reilly brothers were interested. So, he’d worked in pubs and clubs for them, collecting protection money and beating severely anyone who transgressed against their unwritten rules. But he always felt they held back on giving him the real ‘hard man’ jobs. Maybe if they knew he’d killed someone? And maybe if they knew he’d killed someone there’d be more important jobs and more money? And maybe if he was richer he could, after all, take a bride’s hands and recite his vows at the altar?
‘Would you like tea or coffee?’ asked Oliver.
“Neither, let’s just get on with it,” Whiting replied.
Oliver smiled. “Well, at least let’s have a toast, I’ve got some nice scotch – Buchanan’s Seven Nations. I’d like a little snifter before I … well, before I go.”
Whiting thought about it. He’d never actually killed anyone before. He admitted to himself that he felt a little nervous. Maybe some scotch would help?
“Have you killed many others?” Oliver asked, handing him a glass.
Whiting took a sip. The whisky tasted smooth and spicy, a nice blend. “What’s it to you?” He took another sip and started to feel more confident.
“Oh, nothing, I just wondered. How will you do it? Murder me I mean. Smother me with a cushion? Bludgeon me with a cosh?”
Whiting reached into a jacket pocket and pulled out a flick knife. He pushed a button and a long sharp blade jumped out. He made a lunging motion and laughed. “Like that. Straight into the gut. You afraid?”
Oliver sipped his whisky. “Afraid of dying? I’m dying anyway. The cancer’s all over. And the drugs I have to take to fight the pain, well, I’ll tell you, they make me feel iller than the bloody cancer.” He stood and held his glass up. “Cheers!”
Whiting got up and stabbed Oliver in the chest, just above the stomach. “Cheers, you fucking wanker!” Oliver fell to his knees, then forward, cracking his head against a low table. Then onto his side where blood seeped through his old cardigan and into the carpet.
Whiting went to a sideboard where there was a pink flamingo ornament and a box of tissues. He took a wad and wiped the blade before popping it back into the handle. He looked at himself in a mirror above the sideboard. Whiting smiled. He felt good, even proud of what he’d done. He winked at his reflection. The O’Reilly’s would get to hear about this. Perhaps give him more of the same?
Whiting made a boxing feint in the mirror and noticed blood on his hand. He went up the worn, faded staircase and found a bathroom. He rinsed his hands till the crimson water ran clear then relieved himself in a green-tinged toilet bowl. As he zipped his fly up, he felt the room spin and clutched a towel rail to steady himself. His heart was pounding like he couldn’t remember, he could scarcely breathe. ‘Fucking hell, that old bastard must have poisoned me!’ He felt he was going to be sick and leant over the toilet bowl. But the blackness of death got him first.
Featured in the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories
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