Entertainment, Music, Literature, & Culture
3 A.M. Magazine




Copyright © 1999
All Rights Reserved


He felt ridiculous, he felt a prize twat if the truth be known, an office worker in his late thirties affecting a lowlife hooded swagger dressed in a crummy Adidas shell suit and tattered Nikes. It was the best disguise though, or so he'd thought, that, and the four day stubble, yes, he had to look the part, there could be no mistakes. He swaggered up to the busstop and stood with his back to the wall, his sweatshirt hood shielding his bloodshot eyes from the few scuttling, paranoid pensioners who were passing; he seemed to be intimidating, at least; that was good. The estate was rather select, trimmed hedgerows and tended rose beds: no pitbulls grappling with shaven headed yobs or gaggles of chainsmoking young mums with their brats. It was the domain of respectable, working class tory, Express and Mail reading British Legion types. He felt rather conspicuous and felt maybe he'd gone too far with the disguise, ah, too late for second thoughts.

Keith glanced at his watch; twenty minutes to kill before she came back with her pension, he couldn't just walk round looking dodgy.

He crossed the road and went into a newsagents. The proprietor was jabbering in Punjabi with his wife and an agitated daughter was fretfully watching a group of school kids expertly pilfering chocolate bars and bottles of Lukozade. He made for the magazine rack, reached up and pulled down a magazine. He flicked unconsciously through the motley selection of middle aged females trying to look as relaxed as possible. Ten or fifteen minutes passed before he slipped out, hoping he hadn't been noticed as anything other than a run-of-the-mill, cheapskate pervert.

He slunk into the estate once more, noticed only by a pensioner trimming his hedge. The old man peered at him with a mixture of disgust and fear.

Keith went into a daze as he approached the block where she lived and began to wonder how the hell he'd got himself into it all; he was about to commit bloody murder, for christ's sake; and all through a chance meeting in the pub two months before. Keith slipped into the building unnoticed. Standing pensive in the lobby, the absurdity of the whole thing forced a grunt of nervous laughter from his chapped, chewed, near bleeding lips.

The lobby was cool and silent, the doormats matched the individually letterboxed, brass numbered doors while pot plants adorned the landings. He began to climb the stairs, and by the fourth landing he had to pause for breath. A lot of water had passed under the bridge since his Sunday league days with Willingdon Wanderers, that was sure. He got to the storerooms on the final floor unobserved. He wondered how Fingal was doing on his mission, Fingal the cause of it all; Fingal, the silver-tongued persuader; Fingal, the instigator of the whole insane enterprise. It was too late for regret though, there was no going back.

Just then he heard the faint refrain of gossip from one of the landings below him. He hurriedly began to unfold the ladder.

He clambered through the opening and onto the roof; the air was fresh up on the top of the ten story block, the wind pushing the dirty grey rain clouds away to reveal a rinsed-blue sky. According to Fingal, she would be up soon. The Pigeons were beginning to coo audibly; it was near feeding time.

Keith huddled down in a concrete alcove between the central heating vents. He was surprised at how calm he felt, for days beforehand he had envisioned a clammy trembling terror as the time neared, but no, he felt no nerves only very real regrets at having made a pact with that fucker Fingal; but here he was, on the verge and no going back. Fingal would have done the deed by now though, fulfilled his part of the bargain, the devious, little Irish bastard. God! how that made him feel better, yes, no more mother-in-law, no more huddled, whispering, conflabs with Helen in their kitchen, an end to her limpet-like presence in their home, her grating, suburban snobbery.

His teeth ground with hatred at the mere thought of her and his hands flexed involuntarily as they sought the old crow's, horrid, fleshy neck.

A scraping of metal on concrete below disturbed his reverie of hate - his victim was on her her way up; the time was nigh. He watched as the headscarved form of an elderly woman in a cardigan and fur-lined, slipper boots pulled herself onto the roof and began to shuffle over to the pigeon loft. Keith rose to his feet, he had to do it; he'd made a pact; Fingal would be a bad enemy to have if he bottled out now; it had to be done.

The old woman was unhooking the latches on the loft door abutting the low roof wall - Keith broke into a stalking jog and loomed up on his victim; she must have heard his footsteps for just before he reached her, her head turned to face him and her terror struck eyes met his. He knew what to do, he'd rehearsed it a hundred times - he squatted down, grabbed each of her ankles firmly and with a forceful movement, pitched her over the side.

He stood affixed for a moment or two, aghast at what he'd just done. Children's shrieks from down below shook him from his frozen stance. He ran over to the hatch and dropped down onto the landing. Pulling the tracksuit hood over his forehead, he raced down the stairs.

Jesus Christ! He'd killed her! He'd done cold blooded fucking murder.

He paused in the ground floor lobby, sweat rolling and heart pounding. There was already a gaggle of pensioners and young mothers around the old woman. He caught a glimpse of her boots, the kind advertised for 7.99£ in Sunday supplement magazines. As he slunk off, the few dawdlers he passed were too focussed on the commotion to pay him much heed.

Keith put good distance between himself and the scene. After ten minutes of brisk striding he turned into a small park, well shielded from the street by trees and scabby bushes. The park was empty save two battered Scots winos who were too engrossed in diluting their methys to notice him. Keith disappeared behind the concrete public lavatory and emerged a few minutes later with a sports bag and rid of his tatty garb. He left the park looking his normal self, a brow beaten office worker with a greasy collar and crumpled trousers, heading home after a grotty day. He tried to walk with as much composure as he could. Rush hour was just beginning and the pavements weren't too crowded; he felt weak and trembly but managed to keep going until the bus stop came into site; his bus was making its way up the hill bang on time; everything was going to plan. When the bus pulled in he climbed to the top deck and slumped himself down, the deed had been done, he was safe.

The bus took about an hour to shunt its way through the rapidly clogging streets, across the river and towards his suburb, the further he got from the scene the safer he felt, the city's throng and bustle obliterating the killer's trail.

As he made his way down his street, Keith prepared for what would certainly greet him at home. Sure enough, Helen didn't open the door as usual; instead, his glum-faced, tearful daughter greeted him and sobbed that granny was dead, that she'd fallen in the canal trying to rescue, Willy, her aged Yorkshire terrier. Keith weakly feigned disbelief for the child and made his way into the living room with a half vacant, half-pained expression and proceeded to shoulder his distraught wife's grief.

The next day, the family home was besieged by family members flocking from far afield for the funeral which was scheduled for Sunday. He wasn't missed as he slipped out into the drizzly Saturday afternoon street. As he neared the pub his curiosity, his perverse hunger to hear Fingals's account of the slaying became ever stronger.

The Lounge bar of the Boar and Spear was full of bantering football fans tanking up before Athletic's third division relegation scrap. Through the smoky hue, he made out the solitary Fingal stooped over his stout, rolling a cigarette. Keith bought a pint and made his way over.

Something wasn't quite right; Keith sensed it straight away; the bony little Irishman fixed him with a contemptuous, malignant glare.

"Nice fucking work Keith," he hissed.

"What's the matter?" stammered Keith. "Everything went all right didn't it?"

"No they fuckin didn't! She was laid up with flu that day, of all the fuckin luck, and anyway, what did I tell you about the wellington boots? She only ever wears fuckin wellington boots to feed the fucking pigeons."

The color drained out of Keith's face and he clunked his pint down limply as he recalled the gray, Sunday magazine slipper boots his victim had been wearing.

"Yeah, you did her neighbour in, you pratt!"

"Jesus Christ," mumbled Keith, half in fear of Fingal and half through mortification at having killed an innocent old woman. When He looked up again, the Irishman was grinning his horrible grin from ear to ear

"It's O.K though, Keithy boy," he wheezed. "I'm rid of mine nonetheless. . .the old bitch keeled over with a heart attack yesterday in Tescos, you're in the clear. I wouldn't have liked to make a double killer of you, ha,ha,ha,ha. . . You're a lucky man so you are! haw haw haw."

Bruce Downie is thirty years old and had recently returned to the U.K at the time we received his story. This, after a four year stint teaching English as a foreign language in the frozen wastes of eastern Poland. He tells us he's semi-employed in a menial capacity at the moment and has been catching up with his writing, typing and editing old drafts, knocking ideas into shape etc. When asked about his writing, he said, "I only started writing short stories and verse when I went out to Poland in 95. I`ve written around 18 stories of about 2000-2500 words and one of 6000 words. I had a story up on Little Read Riding Hood, another U.S site, as well as a few others."
Coming soon to 3 A.M. Publishing. . .
Bruce Downie's The Sniper

Send correspondence to bfdownie@yahoo.com


Page: 1