By Robin Wrigley
scotch on the rocks
The flight to Cannes from London was thankfully short in comparison to the previous leg from Houston. Marvin leaned forward to catch sight of the land below past Dolores who had the advantage of the window seat. She had clutched his hand as she always did once landing was imminent. Landings and take-offs, the only times that his wife ever sought to hold his hand.
This was their first time back in Europe in over forty years, when Marvin was a fighter pilot based in England in the sixties. For him it was a time of fond memories, but not for Dolores. She had not enjoyed life in England. For her the only place she felt happy was in Brazos County, Texas. For this reason he never fully understood why his wife had suggested returning to Europe for their wedding anniversary.
Though it was many years since he sat in the cockpit of a fighter-jet the training for sensing potential danger was always there. Once you left the ground those deep ingrained routines return. The rigorous training in the art of escape and evasion exercises in combat leaves an indelible mark in aircrew personnel.
The following day they walked into a smart restaurant fifteen minutes from the hotel, around eight o’clock in the evening. June the 15th their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Once they were seated and their drinks had been ordered and served she turned to him and said, ‘I suppose you are wondering why the hell I chose England and France for our anniversary this year.’
Marvin took a sip from his martini, looked around the restaurant and then back at his wife, narrowing his eyes before saying, ‘ To be honest Dolores, it beat the shit out of me after all the moaning and groaning you did back when I was posted there. But as usual – whatever blows your dress up. As for Cannes, if I recall you didn’t want to come here when the other wives arranged that trip.’
‘And it never occurred to you why I didn’t , did it. But I knew why you wanted me to go; just so you could carry on with that gal in the God awful bar in Oxford! Didn’t think I knew that did you?’
‘So how come you didn’t you say anything?’ He felt a need to respond although he was past caring.
‘Because it would have caused a scandal, denials and worse; there was also a small matter of the kids and my wedding vows you asshole.’
Marvin signalled the waitress for another drink holding his glass up and tapping it with his forefinger. He turned back to Dolores. ‘Did you get me all this way to tell me this? You really are something else Dolores – you know that? But then I just knew you were planning something like this but I guess I miss-judged you. I never thought you had the guts. So where do we go from here?’
‘I know where I’m going. You have two weeks looking at the young gals in their bikinis wishing you were fifty years younger. Me? I’m off to start a new life with someone who cares for me and wants to spend time with me. Something you haven’t done in a God-knows how long.’ With that she got up, looked at him with naked loathing and left the restaurant. It was the last time he ever saw her.
He casually looked around the restaurant in order to see if anyone had noticed the scene. But nobody appeared to have done so and frankly, he didn’t damn well care if they did. He contemplated what to do next; another dirty martini would help him decide, so he signalled the waitress and gave his order, but not before speaking briefly into his mobile phone.
Two hours later, having finished his dinner, wine, coffee and two cognacs he paid his bill, left a generous tip along with a knowing smile for the waitress and left the restaurant and headed up the street without the vaguest notion of where he was going. Certainly not back to the hotel. The night was young and, God damn it – he was free to do whatever he chose. Dolores had made that crystal clear.
During the time since she had left Marvin at the restaurant Dolores had been busy. Back at their hotel she went straight to their room and packed her carry-on bag with her jewellery and overnight essentials; she planned to leave the majority of her clothes along with Marvin as part of her complete separation from the unhappiness of her past life. She took her passport from the room safe, changed the sim card on her cell phone and made a brief call.
‘It’s done; I’ll see you at the hotel in Paris as soon as you can get there. Have a safe flight.’ With that she closed her phone, gathered her belongings and headed for the lift.
In the foyer she explained to the somewhat surprised receptionist that she had received some bad news from home – a death in the family – but her husband would still honour their reservation and would be along later
‘Would you like me to order you a taxi?’
‘No thanks, I’ll be fine.’ And with that she made for the main door and down the steps into the street below. The hotel had been carefully selected to be within walking distance of the railroad station; she turned right and headed in the direction following the signs she had seen on arrival. She wanted to leave without a trace in case Marvin took it into his head to follow her in an attempt to change her mind. She was felt quite confident of completing her plan, and it was unlikely that he would but it was better to be sure as time was precious to make her booking. There was a bounce in her step; she was excited in her new found freedom and the thought of taking the sleeper to Paris. Marvin would never think of riding a train. Flying was all he ever cared for besides golf, martinis and Mexican sluts.
At the corner of the block she stood looking up at the various direction signs when a youth, dressed in a bright red sweatshirt and white jeans suddenly appeared and said in clear accented English, ‘Hi, can I help you? Are you looking for the station?’
His sudden appearance startled her initially as she hadn’t noticed him until he spoke and regaining her composure, she replied, ‘Yes, I am but it’s okay thanks. I can see I need to turn up here.’ She started to skirt around him.
‘I must help you. It is not safe for you to walk through this area alone at night.’ Before she could resist he had taken her trolley carry-on from her grasp and gestured graciously for her to walk alongside him away from the main street.
‘Don’t be afraid. It is not a problem to help you as the station is on my way home. I have just finished work and am on my way home to my mother.’
The mention of his mother had a calming effect and she fell into step along-side him.
‘It really is very kind of you,’ she turned and smiled at him. ‘What kind of work do you do?’ But she never heard the answer. A hand came from behind her and over her face and mouth jerking her head violently to one side as she was manhandled into a small yard at the rear of the business premises, empty except for three rubbish carts.
Her guide had been joined by another youth; quickly and efficiently they stripped off her jewellery and stuffed it inside her handbag. At the same moment a battered white Peugeot pick-up pulled up and they threw her carry-on into the back. The newcomer lifted the lid of one of the industrial rubbish carts and the pair of them hoisted Dolores’s unconscious body inside and slammed the lid shut. They scanned up and down the street to be sure they had not been seen; one of them snatched up her handbag and the pair jumped inside the pick-up and the vehicle took off at speed. The driver drove carefully checking for any sign of any potential hazard or the police. The whole episode had taken less than three minutes, not a word was spoken; it was executed in deadly cold, rehearsed routine.
Back in the rubbish cart Dolores’s inert body lay at an awkward angle. She appeared to be craning her neck over her right shoulder. The reason was her neck had been broken by the force her assailant had used when he snapped her head to one side. Her body had started to cool down, as a dark stain started to grow on the leg of her khaki cotton trousers; her right knee was pressed into a tray of used olive oil. A large rat crawled out from underneath her shoulder and started sniffing round her face, a face locked in a permanent look of sheer terror, eyes wide open, searching for the person she would never see.
Once in their apartment the leader of group opened his phone and said in halting English, ‘It’s done. Leave the rest of the money as agreed.’