A Pillar Of The Community: Part Two

This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 1104 words.
Please read Part One first.

With just six weeks to go until his fiftieth birthday, Alex had no time to waste. Lucy was preparing a celebration of some kind, and couldn’t resist hinting about how exciting her surprise would be. But he had no thoughts about that either way, as he was lost in the preparations for the murder he would finally commit.

Much thought had gone into the victim. He didn’t want it to be someone too frail or vulnerable. And definitely not a small child. Child murders always attracted far too much attention, and rampant speculation. Once the media became too heavily involved, the Police had no alternative but to work harder to find the killer. He had considered someone random, perhaps one of the few vagrants in the town, or someone just visiting on business. But it was important not to commit the crime in public. This country had more CCTV than anywhere else in the world. Even some local houses had security cameras, and all the road systems locally, as well as any public transport, were comprehensively monitored.

Alex could not use his car, that was for sure. It was bound to be picked up by a camera somewhere. Even walking to the deed was out of the question, as he would sure to be spotted, disguised or not. Life in the twenty-first century made things increasingly difficult for murderers, he concluded. And there was the justification. He would like it to be someone who deserved to be killed, at least in his opinion. So, it must be close by, not covered by cameras, and the victim must be deserving of the crime. It came to him easily, after considering those options. Someone that would be relatively easy to kill, and who would not leave a useful life behind.

His next door neighbours were a nice enough couple. Don and Jean Sinclair were originally from Scotland, but had moved there nineteen years ago, when Don travelled south for work. Alex and Lucy welcomed them when they moved in, they exchanged cards at Christmas, and chatted occasionally over the garden fence. But the Sinclairs were a fair bit younger, so the two couples had little in common. And Jean had been pregnant at the time, leaving Lucy little to discuss with her, other than to reveal she was unable to have any children. The baby was born, and it was a boy. They called him Allan, with two Ls. The following year, Don bought a motor-home, and parked the huge monstrosity outside the house. Alex thought it was an eyesore, and lowered the tone of the area. But he was pleasant when Don proudly showed it to him, and wished him happy holidays in his new vehicle.

Allan gave little trouble at first. The occasional football found on the lawn, thrown back over the fence, or some noisy excited squealing during hot days when the paddling pool came out. But there was something unpleasant about the boy as he grew older. Sly, with his mouth smiling, but his eyes not. His hair was too long, and he mumbled instead of speaking clearly. Don and Jean didn’t see that of course. They doted on the boy, and gave him everything. Including a very loud music system for his fifteenth birthday that he played until late at night, his parents seemingly oblivious to the thumping bass that travelled across into Alex’s peaceful home. But he didn’t complain, and made no mention of it when he saw them on the driveway. That wasn’t the sort of thing he did.

Last year, Allan had left school. He was supposed to be going to college, but never attended the first week. Lucy saw Jean at the supermarket, and she said that Allan was undecided about what he wanted to do, and his final exam results had not been as good as they had hoped. So the boy did nothing. He just lazed around the house all day, supported by his stupid parents, playing loud music, and hardly ever going outside. He had a meaningless and totally pointless existence, as far as Alex was concerned. And that made him the perfect choice as the victim. He would remove this leech from society, and do his parents a favour in the process.

Alex knew enough about Police procedure to know how investigations worked. Their mantra was always the same. Method, Motive, and Opportunity. Those three things trapped so many killers, it was small wonder that detectives relied on them so heavily. He tried to see it from their point of view. Method could be sorted out. It would not be distinctive or unusual, oh no. Run-of-the mill would suit him fine. Motive was the best of the three, as he would have none. There could be no motive for a distinguished local man in his late forties wanting to kill the teenage son of a friendly neighbour. He had never complained about the boy, or the noise. In fact, the opposite was true. Alex and Lucy had always been polite and friendly; they were ideal neighbours, Jean had said so more than once. Opportunity was a stumbling block though. Living next door, he would of course have the ideal opportunity. No travel to the scene of crime, and a quick escape possible too. But without motive, why would he ever be a suspect?

Alex would only need one thing. He didn’t need a weapon, as a house would provide no end of what the Police called Adapted Weapons. No need to take anything from his own house that might incriminate him, or buy in something that could be traced. But he would need something to cover him completely. A protective over-garment that went over his head and covered his feet, something like those scenes of crime specialists wear when investigating murders just like the one he would carry out. They sold them in hardware shops, used by people when painting, or working in dusty conditions. But he couldn’t just walk in and buy one, as that would leave him vulnerable to being caught on CCTV. And there was no chance of buying one online either, as the transaction could be traced. He gave it some thought, and decided that he would have to steal one, preferably somewhere he wouldn’t be recognised. So he set about researching that, not easy when he couldn’t use his computer. He had to sit and think hard instead.

Of course. The Town Hall. They had stocks of such things, for their various cleaning operatives.

And he had complete access to the whole building.

To be continued…

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A Pillar Of The Community: Part One

This is part one of a fictional serial, in 1010 words.

Alexander Conroy was a pillar of the community. Chief Executive at the Town Hall, he had worked there all his life, starting straight from college in a junior role, and always impressing. Nothing was too much trouble. He could be relied upon to work late, chair meetings, sit on interview panels, and to be completely conscientious. Nobody had a bad word to say about him, except perhaps that he sometimes seemed a little distant, and had few friends. Not many people got to live in a small town until they were almost fifty years old without making some enemies, or being a cause for resentment, but he had achieved that.

Underneath that veneer of respectability, hidden by the immaculate suit, and polished shoes, Alex had a dark secret burning inside him. As long as he could remember, he had always wanted to kill someone. Not some thing, like a small animal, or bird. A person, a living, breathing individual whose life he would take, and watch as it left their body.

But he knew better than to act on impulse, and would bide his time, until that time was right.

Research was the key, he realised that. Most killers get caught because they make silly mistakes. Many get caught because they want to be found out, adoring what they perceive to be the fame of their crime. Some cannot stop once they have started, caught up in the lust for more killing. Famous killers often engage the authorities, with silly notes and taunts, or by taking trophies and leaving symbols. Alex had read about them all. For more than thirty-five years he had read every book, seen every film, watched every documentary. If he chose to, he could have been an academic on the subject of murder; an expert called upon to comment, or even a famous author. But that was never going to happen.

Every book he had ever read on the subject had been dropped off at a charity shop, or burned with the leaves in Autumn. The same with every VHS tape or DVD film he had ever bought. None of them had been purchased in a mainstream shop, instead they were picked up in jumble sales, charity shops, or boot sales. Once he owned a computer, he had never ordered a book or film online, and had been careful to avoid any website or article that dealt with murder, or crime in any form. It took patience, care, and planning, but Alex was a man with more than his fair share of all of those. The years didn’t matter to him, as preparation was all, in his world.

That had even extended to his choice of wife. The tall good-looking man had been considered to be something of a catch in his youth. Good job, respectable family, a non-smoker, and moderate drinker. Girls came easily to Alex, and soon saw their future with him. But he waited for the right one. The one who wouldn’t want to get to involved in his life, the one who didn’t think too much about what went on in the world. And one who could never have children. Lucy was ideal. Some medical problem that he didn’t delve into meant that she could never conceive. She was settled on that, and didn’t mention adoption, or any other avenue to motherhood. She was also considered to be unattractive by others, a dumpy girl who struggled with a weight problem, and wore glasses with thick lenses. Just right.

People were surprised when he asked her out. She had only been working at the Town Hall as a temporary clerk for a few weeks, and she was overwhelmingly flattered when the handsome departmental manager asked her out to dinner. What many people called a whirlwind romance led to an engagement after just two months followed by a quiet wedding before the year was out. Alex was very pleased, and Lucy was deliriously happy. He had sold his bachelor flat, and they moved into a modest house in a good part of town. Nothing flashy, but comfortable, and most suitable. Lucy got a job as the receptionist for a local Vet. Alex had said no pets, so she sought work close to other people’s animals instead. He was kind and affectionate, and she adored him. The perfect marriage.

It certainly was for Alex. Lucy went to Weight-Watchers, Zumba class, even Yoga and Pilates. She never won that battle against her increasing obesity, but it got her out of the house a lot. Alex had the best of both worlds, a compliant wife who was out most evenings, and the cloak of a respectable happy marriage viewed by all as enviable. He even managed to earn more respect, when he was seen to be ‘taking on’ the unfortunate Lucy; marrying her for the best reasons, not just for her looks. She accompanied him to functions, and nobody stared, or mentioned how she was squeezed into dresses that were far too tight. Mrs Conroy loved her new role, on the arm of one of the most desirable men in town.

So she never bothered Alex. Never asked him what he was reading, or watching on TV in the room she called his ‘den’. They went on holiday for two weeks every year, and were financially secure. She wanted no more from life.

The years passed peacefully. Their twenty year anniversary came and went, celebrated by a trip to Disneyland in America. Lucy had always wanted to go, and Alex pretended to enjoy it, for her sake. Though he did enjoy being in America at last. This was the holy grail for those interested in murder. More serial killers than anywhere else, and a history of violent crime that fascinated him. Even though he couldn’t make anything of that on the two-week holiday, just being there made him excited. Once they got home, he started to plan his crime in earnest. He had promised himself it would happen before he turned fifty, and he didn’t have long to go.

To be continued…

Lyrically Evocative (11)

In 1982, I heard a song on the radio. It was sung by Robert Wyatt, and the tone was plaintive, with a haunting lyric. During the Falklands War, shipbuilding returned to the industrially-depressed areas of Britain, fuelled by the need to replace ships lost or damaged as a result of that pointless war. At the same time, many of the young men from those same areas were serving in the armed forces, and being killed or wounded in the same war that was providing employment for their communities.

With music from Clive Langer, Elvis Costello wrote some poignant and meaningful lyrics, and called the song ‘Shipbuilding’. It got into my heart and soul at the time, and still sounds as powerful today.

Here are the lyrics.

Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding
Well, I ask you
The boy said “dad, they’re going to take me to task
But I’ll be back by Christmas”
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture postcard
Within weeks they’ll be re-opening the shipyards
And notifying the next of kin
Once again
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding
With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls
When we could be diving for pearls
When we could be diving for pearls
Songwriters: Elvis Costello / Clive William Langer

And here is the song sung by Elvis Costello, rather than the Robert Wyatt version.

Air bnb: A seasonal warning

My wife Julie and a group of seven of her friends recently planned a trip to London, to meet up. They were coming from all over the UK, so a central location was preferred for easier travel. One of the group found an ideal apartment, a short walk from Hyde Park Corner. She booked the place for the desired night, and sent a link around, so everyone could see the ‘luxury’ flat they would be staying in.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be a scam. The online photos were ‘stolen’ from a flat that was for sale, and the advertiser had no access to the premises, and certainly did not own the flat. Fortunately, this was discovered in time, and the lady received most of her money back. So she tried again, using a website called ‘booking.com’ to source an alternative flat. They found one in Covent Garden; very central, handy for transport, tourist sites, and restaurants. From the photos, it seemed to be basic but comfortable, and suitable for the group to stay in for one night.

However, when they arrived and were let in, they discovered that the flat they were expected to stay in was not the nice one advertised. It was dirty, with condom wrappers and drug paraphernalia evident, as well as blood spatters on a wall, and unsuitable, dirty pillows and bedding. They complained, and went out for lunch while the place was ‘cleaned’. That cleaning consisted of a quick tidy up, and the replacement of two sheets, as well as the removal of pillowcases with no clean ones provided. The seating accommodation provided for eight people was just two small plastic chairs, and two bar stools. Others had to sit on beds that would be slept on later, or on the floor.

Of course, they could have just left, and tried to get the money back. But after travelling for many hours to spend one night together, they were unlikely to find, or be able to afford, alternative accommodation in the heart of London during the busiest tourist season. So they did what British people tend to do, and they made the best of it. Julie has formally complained online today, through booking.com. However, I think this story warrants more coverage, and suitable outrage.

***Update*** As of this evening, and following complaints from Julie’s group today, booking.com has removed that particular rental from its website. So, it pays to complain, if only for the benefit of others.

So, be warned. Be very careful with any choices from both Air bnb, and booking.com. You might end up travelling a long way to stay in somewhere different to the place you booked, and find it filthy on arrival. Even worse, you might find it doesn’t exist. If you know anyone who is considering doing this, then please make them aware of this post.

***I can only talk about our own experience. I am sure that most Air bnb owners are genuine, and many dealings with booking.com are trouble free.***

Just been watching…(71)

Jane Got A Gun (2015)

***No real spoilers***

Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, and Joel Egerton, all in a western film that I had never even heard of. When that popped up on a TV film channel, I thought it was worth a look.

The film gets right into the action, then slows down to tell the story in flashbacks. New Mexico, 1871, and Jane (Portman) is living with her husband and child on a remote farmstead. He returns home, and has been shot by the Bishop Gang. He brings the news that they are coming to finish off the family. Jane gets straight into gear. Dropping off her child with a neighbour, she heads out to seek help from her one-time fiance, Dan, (Egerton) but he initially refuses. So she goes into the nearby town to stock up on ammunition and weapons, where she is captured by a gang member, and saved at the last moment by Dan, who has changed his mind.

When they return to the farm to fortify it against the expected attack, flashbacks tell us the story of Jane and Dan during the Civil War, and how she first met Bishop, (McGregor) and Hammond, her husband. This works in informing the viewer, but I would have preferred a more linear construction, with the story told in two distinct halves. After Jane and Dan have made their preparations, the film turns into a predictable shoot-out, once the Bishop Gang arrives. After a tense fire-fight, another plot reveal leads Jane and Dan onto the final quest, ending the film is a satisfying-enough fashion.

Sadly, this film is forgettable. I only watched it last night, and the details are already sketchy in my mind. Portman does her best as the feisty Jane, but McGregor settles for being a ‘black-hat’ villain of no substance, and Egerton’s reliable Dan is a ‘seen it before’ character. There is little or no point to the tale; no message, real twist, or interesting conclusion. Just an excuse for a conventional western gunfight, with a woman in the lead role for a change.

I watched this so you don’t have to. Watch something else instead.

Lyrically Evocative (10)

Another from the pen of Ian Dury. This 1981 song was banned by the BBC as ‘offensive’. They obviously missed the point entirely. Here is an explanation, from another blogger.

“Ian Dury’s audaciously offensive take on disability, inspired by his own experience with childhood polio that left him crippled for life.
The song was written as a protest towards the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, which Dury saw as patronising. The BBC didn’t see the joke and banned the song”.

Here are the lyrics.

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

I wibble when I piddle
‘Cause my middle is a riddle

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

I dribble when I nibble
And I quibble when I scribble

Hello to you out there in Normal Land
You may not comprehend my tale or understand
As I crawl past your window give me lucky looks
You can be my body but you’ll never read my books

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

I’m knobbled on the cobbles
‘Cause I hobble when I wobble, swim

So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin
And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in
So long have I been languished on the shelf
I must give all proceedings to myself

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

54 appliances in leather and elastic
100 000 thank yous from 27 spastics

Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

Widdling, griddling, skittling, diddling
Fiddling, diddling, widdling, diddling spasticus

I’m spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus

And here he is, singing them.

My comments in Spam

As I started to comment on posts today, I noticed many of my comments are not appearing, so I can only presume they are being spammed again by WordPress. Some got through, but not all. ***OK, it’s getting worse. They are all vanishing now. Grrr***

Films Cine, John Charet, Torritto, Sarah, Theo, Kim, Jennie Fitzkee, and others. My comments didn’t show up.

I seem to be ‘allowed’ on the .com sites, but not any free WP  ones. I have contacted the ‘Happiness Engineers’ and asked them to un-spam me, but it will help if you all do it too.

If you are in my group of followers, or are one of those bloggers I follow, please check your Spam folders for my comments, and free me from the dreaded ‘Spam Jail’!

Thanks in advance, Pete.