My audition piece for darkliquid's collaborative Ten.
Basics: A British police officer who lost his wife during a terrorist attack in London.
Motivation: They can give him his wife back.
It had been a normal day, the day his wife had been taken from him.
And that was possibly the thing that got to him the most. He hadn't been given a chance to tell her just how much he loved her. He had hardly talked to her that morning as they got ready for work, going their own ways. A quick peck on the cheek and a grunted "good morning" had been the only thing he'd had to offer her that day.
And then the London bombs went off.
Every day since, he cursed himself for not telling her how much she meant to him every day they spent together.
Occasionally he found himself wondering if she had run away from him - there had been no body to bury. There was no reason he could think of for her to have wanted to run away, unless she had been silently miserable in their marriage. But every memory of her that he had, she was smiling, endlessly smiling.
"Karen," he whispered, staring at her picture on his desk. There was a piece of paper slipped inside the frame, sitting at the bottom of the picture just to the right of her neck. It was just a shopping list. The one she had been planning to pick up when she got home that day and go to the supermarket with.
But it had been the last thing she had ever written.
He stared at her handwriting for a moment, the round, bubbly letters blurring for a second from keeping his eyes open, fixed on one thing for too long.
"Tony, the Sarge wants that report on the drug dealer on his desk by the end of the day," a woman's voice snapped somewhere above him. He blinked and looked up at the police officer.
"I know, I know," he muttered, leaning back in his chair. Brushing a hand back through his short, dark hair with a sigh, he looked from the woman whose name he could barely remember to the computer screen in front of him.
"Then get on with it. Staring at her picture isn't gonna bring her back," her tone softened a little. Nodding, Tony waved her away, not looking at her as he opened the file on the drug dealer they'd been chasing for months.
But something else distracted him. There hadn't been anything in his ‘in' tray a moment ago. Yet now, there was a plain brown envelope sitting in the black plastic tray, his name scrawled on the front in black biro.
With a frown, he reached over and picked it up, glancing around to see who might have put it there. Aside from two junior officers standing by the water cooler discussing something, there wasn't anyone else standing up. He looked back at the envelope in his hands, turning it over to open it.
The single sheet of paper inside bore words that he could never have prepared himself for.
Would you like to play a game?
- Michelle Sanchez
- Godfrey De Vries
- Elias Heikkinen
- Kamali Ncube
- Ebisawa Hitomi
- Alexi Bogdanov
- Mei Yu
- Thiago Torres
- Vahide Younan
Kill these people, and we can return your wife to you. The proof will be with you soon.
He knew he should hand the letter over to someone who could tell him if this was real, or dismiss the whole idea as a sick joke being played on him by someone he might have irritated - though who he could have annoyed enough to provoke this kind of reaction was beyond him.
But he didn't do either. Instead, he re-read the letter, feeling his frown deepen and finally slid it into his pocket, doing his best to ignore it. The thought of what this "game" entailed made him feel sick. He briefly considered pretending he had a migraine and clocking off early, but decided it would be better to get on with his paper work and attempt to keep his mind off the letter til he got home.
It was a futile effort, however. He had been distracted before he had read the letter. Now he was even more sidetracked, his mind spinning. His wife's wide smile caught his eye again and he gazed at her face, considering the letter once more.
His silent contemplation was shattered as the phone beside him rang shrilly, screaming at him to pick up. The sudden noise made Tony jump. Taking a calming breath, he picked up the phone.
"Hello?" he managed to make his voice even as he spoke.
"Tony!" a woman's voice cried on the other end of the phone. At first, he didn't recognise the person crying his name. "Tony!" And then...
"Karen?" he asked incredulously, his eyes widening.
"Yeah, it's me, Tony, it's Karen," she whimpered, "listen to me, I don't have much time, okay?" she was trying to sound composed, but he could hear her straining against the urge to cry, "You got your letter, right? The one with a list of names on?"
"Yeah. It says I have to-" Karen cut him off.
"Kill them, I know. It's true. If you win the game, they'll let me go," there was a pause and a muffled silence, "I have to go, I'm on a pay phone and they won't give me any more money. I love you, Tony, I love you," she told him, her tone taking on a desperate edge.
"I love you too, baby, I really-" but he was cut off again as the line went dead. After a stunned second, he pulled the receiver away from his ear and stared at it in shock.
For so long, for such a painfully long time, he had believed Karen had been killed on the underground with the rest of the bomb victims.
He didn't know what to do, or say, or think. If that had really been her on the phone...
This... "game". He pulled the letter out again and read the list of names. Nine people. Nine lives. Kill these people, and we can return your wife to you. Nine lives in return for one.
Swallowing hard, Tony folded the letter back up and returned it to his pocket.
Noticing his hand was shaking slightly, he curled his fingers into a fist, closing his eyes for a long moment. He didn't even know if this was real - it could have been a talented voice actor on the phone. He wasn't even sure if he wanted it to be real; he was no killer. Karen's smile lingered in his mind, the image stronger than usual, the need to hold her once again so enticing - enticing enough to force him to consider the letter seriously.