Malcolm Stevenson's Surprise

Malcolm Stevenson's Surprise

A Story by A R Lowe
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Malcolm had left his first murder until rather late in life... and his unexpressed loathing for his wife, had caused him to effectuate a plan of action that he had spent the last year preparing.

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Malcolm Stevenson's Surprise

 

   While his wife carefully placed a boiled egg in his egg cup Malcolm Stevenson poured himself a cup of tea. The previous evening he had murdered a man and stolen a large amount of valuables and money from his house and this occurrence inevitably filled his thoughts on this fine spring morning.

  “Your egg is getting cold, Malcolm.”

  “Yes, dear.” He sliced the top off the egg. “I was just thinking about today's meeting.”

  “Do you fear the worst?”

  “I'm afraid I do. I shall have to be looking for another job and at my age it won't be easy.”

  “We'd get by.”

  “Yes, I suppose we would.”

   Malcolm had left his first murder until rather late in life. The strong likelihood of his losing his job at the accountancy firm where he had worked for the last thirty years, and his unexpressed loathing for his wife, had caused him to effectuate a plan of action that he had spent the last year preparing.

   It had gone off extremely well and he had acquired rather more money, gold and jewellery than he had expected to find. The 'haul' was now in a sports bag in the boot of his car and this morning's priority would be to remove it to a more suitable place of storage.

   “Goodbye, dear.” He kissed his wife on the forehead. “I expect I'll be home at the usual time.”

   Malcolm drove his saloon car off the driveway of the nondescript semi-detached house and within ten minutes he was on the motorway heading towards the city.

   He assessed his feelings as he drove along. He was a cold man, as his wife often told him, but he was nonetheless surprised at his lack of emotion regarding recent events. He had throttled the man; a wealthy, reclusive old bachelor, with as little feeling as he had secretly strangled a puppy when he was twelve years old. The fact that the intervening fifty years had seen no further transgressions of any kind was, he thought, a strong point in his favour. His motive was now about to disappear for a year - he preferred the individual year as an expedient unit of time - and his unblemished character and lack of association with the victim made him an unlikely suspect.

   He was almost sure that no-one had seen him approach or leave the big old house on the edge of town. The two hundred yard walk back to the car with the sports bag had been the time of greatest risk, and he had only left the office and arrived home slightly earlier and later than usual. Daylight, Malcolm felt, was much underrated as a cover for crimes of this nature and he had checked beforehand that there were no CCTV cameras in the vicinity of the house.

   He left the motorway by the usual slip-road and headed towards his ageing mother's flat to pay his weekly visit. How happy he now was that longevity was such a strong family trait! A year ago, when his mother had turned ninety-three, he had decided that he really ought to visit her more regularly and check that the home-help was looking after her properly. He was her only child, after all.  

   Malcolm's wife had been looking forward to her death and the subsequent inheritance for some time, but Malcolm was confident that the old lady would hold out for at least another year. Ideally she would die in three or four years' time; after he was safely divorced, but before his newly acquired money ran out. If she lived beyond a hundred the matter would then need to be addressed.

   He let himself into the third storey Victorian apartment and left the sports bag in the hall before entering his mother's sitting room.

  “Hello, mother. How are you today?”

  “Middling, Malcolm. I'll have to get a new girl, you know. The one the agency's been sending is a useless lump.”

  “Yes, I know.” He had chosen her himself two months earlier. “I will tell them to send somebody else from Monday.”

“Yes, do that for me please, Malcolm.”

“I'll ring them from the office.” They exchanged sundry pleasantries before Malcolm rose to leave. “I'll just nip to the bathroom before I go, mother. I couldn't go this morning.”

“Oh, you've inherited the Stevenson bowels all right.”

“Yes, patience is required.”

   Malcolm closed the sitting room door behind him and took the sports bag to the spare bedroom. He sat on the bed and opened the bag at his feet. Five minutes were sufficient for his accountant's brain to calculate the approximate black market value of the gold and jewellery which, added to the thirty-odd thousand pounds in cash, would enable him to await his mother's passing in peaceful comfort, or 'splendid isolation' as he preferred to think of it.

   He pressed the bag into the space that he had prepared for it in the bottom of a wardrobe bulging with obsolete bedding, old tennis racquets and assorted shoes. After rendering the bag invisible he locked the door, pocketed the key, and went to the bathroom to flush the toilet and open the window. He returned to the sitting room and sat down on a dining room chair opposite his mother.

  “Is anything settled at work yet, Malcolm?”

  “Nothing just yet, but it looks grim. I shall have to write a CV, after all these years!”

  “When I'm gone, you and Marjorie will be all right, you'll see.”

  “Oh, mother, don't say that. You're the very picture of health!”

   He had briefly considered the possibility of murdering his mother, but he preferred to first free himself of his tiresome, hygiene-obsessed wife. He had thought of doing away with her too, but in both cases the motive would be far too manifest; and his mother was family, after all. He soon turned his thoughts to Mr Muir, much discussed in the local pub, and his interest in him soon grew strong enough to make him refrain from showing any interest whatsoever in the speculations about his wealth.   

   The contents of the sports bag were, he knew, just the tip of the iceberg, but for all his faults, Malcolm wasn't a greedy man. He had determined to spend no more than half an hour in the house and strangling Mr Muir took longer than he expected. Having chosen to approach him from behind and lock his right arm around his neck, he found that no matter how hard one pressed, using the left hand to exert extra leverage, a little air still got through to the lungs. The puppy had been much easier to strangle, but then it hadn't had any money.

   Malcolm arrived at the office shortly after nine, where he did indeed have to attend a meeting regarding possible redundancies. He hated telling lies and, as far as he knew, he hadn't told any recently. Omission was safer than lying, he knew. He would have liked to change his stance regarding his willingness to accept redundancy, but knew he should cling to his post with the same tenacity displayed by his frightened colleagues. Only his body language betrayed a slight   enfeeblement of purpose, which the director was quick to pick up on.

  “What about it, Malcolm? It's a good package and I might not be able to offer it next year. You'd be able to take it easy; spend more time with Marjorie.”

  “I love it here Bob. One of the younger men could take the pay-out and easily find a new post.”

   The younger men didn't seem to agree with this hypothesis and the meeting broke up inconclusively. Perhaps next time Malcolm would dither a little more and find it hard to concentrate on proceedings. Time and events would decide.

   Malcolm arrived home to find his wife dusting the spotless porcelain monstrosities on the sparkling glass shelves.

  “How did it go, darling?” she said, still dusting.

  “I'll be all right for a few months, I should think, but I think I'll start looking around for something else.”

  “Would we not manage until your retirement?”

  “I dare say we would, but I'm not quite ready to retire yet, you know.” The thought of spending all and every day in her company nauseated him. “And I'd like us to be in a good position when I do. We could take a cruise to celebrate.”

   His wife did not know about the generous redundancy offer and he would make sure she didn't find out. His boss Bob's occasional dinner invitations would have to be diplomatically declined.

   Malcolm read the local newspaper while eating his dinner, as was his habit. He had tuned in to the local radio station on the drive home and there was as yet no news of the murder. How long would it be before the body was discovered, he asked himself, as he cut his steak into small pieces.

   He remembered how promptly Mr Muir had opened the door when he had rung the bell. Perhaps he was an unwilling recluse, too shy to socialise. It didn't matter now. Malcolm recalled the conversation after Mr Muir's first inquiring glance.

  “Hello, Mr Muir. I'm Malcolm Stevenson. I live just down the road there. I heard at the Red Lion that you collected books. I've brought a few of my first editions that I thought you might find interesting.” He held up the bag, which did indeed contain three old books, in case he required a doorstep viewing, which Malcolm trusted he would not.

  “Ah, do come in. I rarely get visitors these days.”

   Malcolm had decided to act swiftly, as he had no business making friends with this amiable old man. He followed him into the book-lined rear sitting room and before the man turned round he seized him. It took longer than he had expected to squeeze the life out of him as he struggled like the devil, trying to claw Malcolm with his hands but being unable to reach back to his face. Malcolm was a big man and, although quite sedentary, still had his innate strength.

  When he ceased to struggle, Malcolm lowered his body to the floor and checked that he was no longer breathing. He then sought his bedroom, deducing that a rich man would wish to sleep with some vestige of his wealth nearby, and found banknotes in suit pockets and shoes, gold sovereigns and small ingots in a leather bag at the back of an underwear drawer, and assorted trinkets in a jewellery box on top of the wardrobe. You will assume, quite correctly, that Malcolm was wearing gloves. He filled the sports bag and checked the body before leaving the house and dropping the latch on the door. He walked slowly back to his car, feeling his pulse rate descend to an acceptable level, and drove home to dinner.

   “I shall go for a stroll now, dear,” he said as he finished his coffee, “before it goes dark.”

  “The hedge needs trimming, Malcolm. It has grown quite unsightly.” His wife's obsession with cleanliness and symmetry extended to the very borders of the property.

  “I shall trim it at the weekend.”

   Yes, he thought, as he left the estate and climbed over a stile to follow the footpath across the field,  he would trim the hedge and weed the borders and wash the car this weekend. He intended, in fact, for all his spring and summer weekends to be exemplary and for their fortnight in Italy to be delightful.

   In the autumn he would be called to a job interview, fictitious or otherwise, in another city; a city far enough away to require him taking lodgings. He would regretfully accept the job offer and then would commence the 'growing apart' from Marjorie that he was so looking forward to. He wouldn't meet another woman, even if he actually did, and their estrangement would develop along the usual lines. Separation, settlement, divorce and freedom were the four remaining points on his five point agenda. The lambs frolicked in the field and Malcolm's mind danced with them. Everything was easy if you stuck to a plan.

   Malcolm was taking his walking shoes off in the hallway when he heard voices within.

   “You have a visitor, dear,” called his wife from the living room.

   He entered the room to find Mr Muir seated in an easy chair. His eyes went first to the old man's wrinkled neck, no more mottled than the rest of his visible skin, before meeting his watery gaze.

   “Hello Mr Stevenson. I took the liberty of calling round to show you a rather interesting book that I wrote many years ago. It is long out of print; in fact it sold very poorly, but I thought it might interest you.”

   He handed Malcolm an old hardback book in a very new brown paper cover. Malcolm took the book and looked at the title page, exhaling very slowly and silently.

   “That's very kind of you, Mr Muir. Would you like a drink?”

  “A small whisky would be nice, if it's not too early. Terrible sore throat I've picked up recently.”

  “No ice then, Mr Muir?” said Marjorie.

  “No, thank you. It's purely medicinal,” he said, and laughed hoarsely.

  “Could I have a coffee please, darling?” asked Malcolm.

  “Of course, dear.” She went into the kitchen without closing the door.

  “Do you like the book, Mr Stevenson?”

  The Perfect Murder”, he said quietly. “An interesting title.”

  “A whimsical idea really, mostly based on my own reading at the time; mainly crime fiction. I dare say a book like that would be more popular these days.”

  “Yes, I imagine so.”

  “Taking into account all the modern forensic techniques, of course. Some of the golden rules haven't changed, though.”

  “No?”

  “No. Golden rule number one is to always make sure that the victim is dead. Playing dead is one of our basic instincts, you see, once fight and flight are rendered unviable. When I was writing the book I was fascinated by the practical aspects of the subject, but murder is such a difficult field in which to get hands-on experience!”

   Malcolm had nothing to say. His wife returned with the drinks and handed Mr Muir his whisky.

  “Thank you kindly.” He drained the glass slowly and placed it on the coffee table. “Just what the doctor ordered. So, Mr Stevenson, I hope you enjoy the book. If you would be kind enough to return it to me, when you've finished.” He smiled at Marjorie and then fixed his eyes on Malcolm again. “I am something of a hoarder, you see, and I do like to have all my possessions around me.”

  “I understand,” said Malcolm.

   When Mr Muir had left, Malcolm showed his wife the book and dismissed him as a potty old man. A month later he accepted the redundancy payment, much to his wife's surprise and delight, and settled into what promised to be a highly uneventful retirement.

 

 

 

 

© 2013 A R Lowe


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Great Story A.r, well written and constructed.
Will

Posted 10 Years Ago


Excellent. There may be such a thing as a perfect murder, but murderers rarely discover it.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on August 17, 2013
Last Updated on August 17, 2013
Tags: crime, humour, intrigue, comedy, humor, humorous, short story, English, murder, mystery

Author

A R Lowe
A R Lowe

Lancashire, United Kingdom



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