Slowly the objects in her field of vision were coming back into focus – she recognised the hulking desk as her own; the mounds of untouched post and the layers of cigarette ash and dust that had become ingrained into the surface. An acrid taste still dogged her mouth, and as she came to, she realised also that she felt a searing pain in her forehead. Different from a hangover, it was too precise – too focussed. As she began to regain her bearings, she felt a stranger’s presence in her dining room – hands came forward, but they carefully placed her glasses on her face. She went to try and push her glasses up her nose, as habit dictated, but found that she couldn’t move her arms. She looked down to see that they had been bound with tie wraps to her chair.
Her heart started beating faster at the realisation of what had happened. Memories started colliding in her mind, and she could just about remember going to the bathroom before – that’s right, someone tried to grab her from behind; and not the easiest of tasks either - Mary Barton was built for neither speed or comfort. Dogged by a low self-esteem all her life, she sought refuge in food and had written off exercise as a pursuit practised by others.
She strained to look up, but could feel her head restricted also – as if it were bound to something. “Try not to struggle Mary – do you remember what your doctor said about your blood pressure?” The voice was deliberate and patient. Mary’s senses went into overtime – she could smell rubber. Her eyes started to work properly, and she could see that the owner of the voice was wearing surgical gloves. He might well have been afraid of catching some house-bound disease, Mary’s idea of cleaning was akin to exercise, but she realised all too quickly that he didn’t want to leave any fingerprints – her pulse started to quicken more.
Pig-eyes stared out from beyond her glasses, and murmurings of fear escaped her mouth – but nothing coherent. “Now-now Mary – try not to panic. Consider this a game. We’ve danced the hard-tango on the internet for the longest time. You’ve been a gracious and challenging opponent whilst we have played scrabble. But it was the deception I couldn’t handle”.
Her captor cleared his throat, and whilst doing so took out a pistol from his jacket and a silencer from his cargo pants. “I want you to know that I have been impressed by your deception, and it was only my own personal circumstances that prevented me from finding out your true identity sooner. But you have something of mine that I can’t let you keep, and were I to simply ask for it… well I just couldn’t trust you not to make a copy.”
Mary started to shake, tears were streaming down her face – she was struggling to try and get out of her chair, but all she succeeded in doing was driving it against the wall. “Please, take it – take whatever you need, I won’t tell anyone – I promise.”
He grinned “Oh, I know you won’t Mary. That pain you can feel across your face?? That’s two long tie-wraps that are strapped to a piece of wood. When the bullet goes through your head, I don’t want to have the local sheriff digging it out of your furniture.”
Mary’s eyes widened, she could feel sweat running into her eyes – fear took over her body, and quickly enough she was sitting in her own urine. Screams started to come from her mouth, rampant bestial cries – desperate to fall on a friendly pair of ears, but he just grinned.
“The neighbours are at work Mary, and your mother won’t be bothering you now”. The pleas for help, gave way to heart wrenching sobbing. Mary’s mother was the closest thing to a dead woman walking, but this was no way for her life to end.
“It interests me Mary – you know your fate, you know why I am here, but you haven’t tried to say sorry. I’m intrigued to know what makes your mind tick.” He screwed the silencer tight into the pistol.
A glimmer of hope appeared to Mary. “You can’t analyse a corpse.” She stammered, knowing that the logic was overwhelming to his point of view. “That’s true” he replied “but I can’t complete my mission with you alive.” Her eyes widened just long enough to see the end of the silencer blur out of focus as it came to within an inch of her glasses. “You did well to hide your face from me Mary – had I lived locally, I would have cut it off”. The gun coughed, sending Mary back into her chair harder than her large body would ever have pummelled it before. Blood splattered her as-yet untouched copy of a Tale of Two Cities.
He set about her laptop quickly – a jewellers screwdriver danced about the screws to provide access to the hard drive. Once that was in his hands, he could relax – time was of the essence though, Craig would be back from school soon and he didn’t want to be here to reminisce. The shock of seeing his mother in such a state would be traumatic enough, but then being brought up by relatives or the state was probably preferable to what this woman had to offer. The lesser of two evils, he surmised.