by Lindsay Bamfield
a shot of vodka
‘That woman’s got claws into him.’ Malika handed me a cup of coffee and proffered biscuits. I didn’t need to ask who she meant. ‘Volunteer!’ she added with a snort. ‘She’s nothing but a gold miner.’
‘Digger,’ I corrected but Malika was off again.
‘Four times she’s take him out this week. Four. And he’s secret.’ I didn’t say anything about Arti being entitled to privacy but there was no doubt he was becoming less forthcoming about his new acquaintance.
We’d both been surprised when Arti told us he had a girlfriend. He was 76 and, as Malika put it, ‘wasn’t a lot to Skype home about.’ She’d been his housekeeper since he had a stroke four years ago and I’m his physiotherapist since a second stroke, two months ago, affected his walking making him, in Malika’s words, ‘unsteady on his needles.’ He’d met the woman at the day centre where he attended sit-down-yoga and art classes.
‘I mean to say,’ went on Malika, ‘he’s a lovely man but I think not in the jiggle jiggly department.’
But Arti was delighted with his girlfriend and invited her to tea to meet us both. Malika answered the door. The woman came tottering in on ridiculous shoes, and carrying a huge designer handbag. We both took an instant dislike to her. I couldn’t decide whether she really was only in her forties or had had a very good surgeon although her lips looked curious. What really upset us was how she asked for a guided tour of Arti’s beautiful north London house and spent more time than necessary looking at his collection of antiques and paintings. I caught her taking a surreptitious photo of some on her phone.
Arti’s friend and financial advisor, called me a few days later in some distress. He asked me if, in my professional opinion, Arti was of sound mind. I assured him I was sure he was.
‘I was afraid you’d say that. He’s been spending loads of money and he’s changed his will in that woman’s favour. The lot,’ the friend confided. ‘He has no family, so Arti was leaving it to various charities apart from one or two small bequests. He’s a wealthy man. I think she’s coerced him.’
Legally there was nothing anyone could do. Arti may have been love struck but apart from that he was compos mentis.
Soon after the change of his will the woman’s visits, let alone outings, began to decline. She would promise to visit and let him down. Arti became distraught and soon shared the opinion of his best friend, Malika and me. ‘I am a foolish old man and I made a dreadful mistake,’ he said one Friday afternoon. ‘On Monday I will see my solicitor.’ He phoned and made the appointment.
On Saturday Arti suffered another serious stroke. I went to see him in hospital. Malika was already there. His speech was badly impaired and he was very agitated. It wasn’t a good sign. Arti was a very sick man.
‘Can we call lawyer to come here?’ whispered Malika to me. But I doubted Arti would be in any fit state to make his intentions known.
He died that night.
‘That wicked witch bitch,’ said Malika bursting into tears when I next saw her. ‘He was a good man.’
There were only three of us at Arti’s cremation. The will was read and I was pleased that Malika had been left some of the antiques. His friend inherited the paintings but the wicked witch bitch got his house and his considerable bank balance and portfolio.
On the last day Malika gave the house a final clean and, as arranged, I gave her a lift to the solicitor to hand over the keys and then took her to the station. No longer employed, she’d decided to go back home to Poland. All her belongings had been couriered on ahead.
‘Can I ask you a favourite?’ said Malika. ‘Can you drive past house on your way home and see if there is a flooding. I have arranged it to flood so evil Witch Bitch get a very nasty surprise when she come to the house. I think the bath will fall down to the ground. I block up the pipes where the water goes out with cement and I leave all the taps splashing away.’
I almost ran a red light.
‘Maybe Witch Bitch will look at big hole in ceiling and bath falls down and squash her dead. Oh dear, I am very bad woman.’
We drew into the station car park. ‘No, Malika, you are a wonderful woman,’ I said. I kissed her goodbye.
When I drove past the house for the final time, water was cascading through the front door. I drove home. I texted Malika. ‘Plan working beautifully.’
About the author
Lindsay Bamfield has had a number of short stories and flash fiction published in online journals, magazines and anthologies including Mslexia, Stories for Homes 2, Dress You Up, Yours and Flash Flood Journal. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayBamfield.