A glass of ice-cold water
I cannot say how or why I formed such an intense dislike for a man with whom I was not acquainted and indeed had never seen before three weeks ago. Nevertheless, whenever I saw him, which had been every day, I was hard pushed not to strike the fellow, so repulsed was I by his very presence.
Equally, I cannot identify the exact moment that I resolved to kill him.
For me however, while the act of killing was simple enough – any street ruffian could do as much - it would have to be a murder of refinement, with an elegance that would raise it above mere killing. It would need to be a perfect murder; the perfect murder in fact. Not only one where I would not in the least be suspected but one where murder would not be suspected at all.
I began to plan.
I had for some time been enjoying the novelty of travelling on the newly opened railway. A regular journey of some 40 minutes. My quarry, as I will now refer to him, making the same journey and often sitting opposite me. Within, I observed, arm’s reach. It was during one such journey that it came, fully formed, into my mind. I would kill my quarry on the train and in such a way that it would pass unnoticed and be unremarked.
With that objective I embarked upon a period of research and practical application.
Back in my rooms I read widely, purchasing books from numerous bookshops in order to disguise my particular interest. I also read rapidly, for I had a mounting dread that my quarry would suddenly lose his taste for railway travel and I my opportunity. After a week of study I had my method.
I then moved to its practical application. Arranging sofas, chairs and screens I created the closest facsimile of the railway train carriage as I could manage. With pillows, cushions, towels and clothed in old garments I created a life sized simulacrum of my quarry. A mannequin would have been better but I did not wish to prompt questions with such an unusual purchase. A further three nights and I had perfected the sequence of moves. I could perform the act with my eyes shut, which in essence I would have to do.
The railway ran, for the most part, through open country but there was a single stretch where it left woods and fields and entered into a tunnel. There was gas lighting of course, this being a modern railway, but this was not lit for daylight journeys with only such a brief period of darkness. I had timed it during the course of a week. We were in complete darkness for an average of 43 seconds and for never less than 38 seconds. I needed thirty.
I did not so much choose a day for the murder as simply wait for an appropriate disposition of the dramatis personae. I did not have long to wait.
I must confess to a slight quickening of heart and a shortness of breath as we neared the tunnel but I fancied that my fellow passengers were unaware of any change in my demeanour.
At the first marker, a peculiarly-shaped tree, I leant forward slightly as though easing a stiff back so that subsequent movements would not be noticed by the passengers on either side of me.
At the second marker, a whitewashed barn, I fixed my gaze upon the spot I would need to reach. The train entered the tunnel and I began counting. At 3 seconds I leaned further forward, arm extended, hand open. The train rocked side to side as it always did at that point shunting the passengers left and right. A piece of uneven track I thought. The movements were more violent than I remembered, perhaps we were travelling faster than usual, but I had continued the movement of my arm and hand and found my mark. At 33 seconds I eased myself back, placing my hand on my thigh. Six seconds later bright sunlight burst into the carriage and I quietly settled back into my seat.
I calmly studied the victim. He sat quietly, his head resting against the carriage wall, as if merely asleep. It would take, I felt, a close and sustained scrutiny to realise that there was an unnatural stillness about him and no perceptible breathing. I was confident that his death would not be discovered until the end of the journey when the passengers disembarked. There would be no marks suggestive of foul play and his death would be attributed to unknown but wholly natural causes. The perfect murder!
But I felt no triumph, no satisfaction of a job exceedingly well done. I brooded on a simple fact, that the absolute raison d’être of a murder is that the intended victim dies. My quarry sat unscathed and oblivious to the victim sitting next to him. The murder was perfection in all respects save one, and in that it had been a perfect failure.
About the author
Paul was born and brought up in Essex and spent his working life in London. He is married and continues to live in Essex. He began fiction writing after attending a writing course in 2011 and regularly contributes to cafelit.co.uk and other on-line magazines. He was delighted to have a short story published in The Best of CafeLit 5 in 2016. As well as writing, Paul pursues an eclectic mix of activities and is cultivating a 1920’s gentleman’s lifestyle.