Wisp Of Smoke

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A wisp of smoke emanated from the barrel of the gun as I placed it gently on the desk. There had been enough violence in the last few moments, so laying it softly down seemed like a dampening gesture.

I’m not a lover of guns, but like all things made by man, they have their uses.

He stood staring at me for as long as it would take to light a cigarette, then he crumpled into a man-shaped heap.

I’m sure he wasn’t expecting to be shot. Most gunshot victims are surprised. The way he lived his life, he shouldn’t have been surprised. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone tired of his lies and deceit.

That’s what I am, tired.

Not tired in the traditional sense, more fed up than anything.

People disappoint me — continually.

From the young man behind the counter in the only coffee shop on my block (yes, I could walk a little further and get better service, but what’s the point of that?) to the half-wit who got promoted over me just because he’s a man (no that’s not fair, it had more to do with who was sleeping with whom and who owed who because of large scale indiscretions — see what I mean, tiresome?)

I’m guessing you are wondering why I shot him? Well, you can wait a little longer, it’s my story after all.

I wasn’t the only person in the room, and I got there in a roundabout way.

It was a pleasant enough party. Well dressed women and tidy men ignoring their wives.

This was my first visit to this mansion. A man who sold used cars built it many years ago, and when he died, it went through a few hands (all owners trying vainly to impress) until it landed in Michael’s grubby hands. Michael’s wife’s hands were pristine and well-manicured — she’d stabbed a few people in the back, but her hands were unbloodied. Her crimes were metaphorical.

There was nothing metaphorical about Michael.

We, my husband and I, had been summoned to hear Michael’s terms. He believed that he owned us. My husband was close to the end of his wits, but I don’t buckle so easily.

I only know the part that concerned my husband and me — our disgrace, our downfall. Never let the devil know your secrets for he will drag you down to Hell.

I heard the shouting, and when I opened the sturdy oak door to Michael’s study, I saw that two men I vaguely recognised, were arguing with Michael as my husband stood meekly by.

Michael stepped behind his dark-stained desk and drew an automatic pistol from the top drawer. The man in the blue suit reached inside his jacket and pulled a huge pistol. The man in the brown suit reached behind him and drew a revolver.

My husband was unarmed.

I held my breath as the shouting died down. Michael realised he was outgunned and attempted to defuse the situation.

“Okay fellas. Let’s all of us calm the fuck down. I’m putting my gun down, and we can talk,” said Michael. He put his gun on the edge of the desk and put his hands out in a mock gesture of surrender. He took a few steps away from the desk as the two men lowered their weapons.

I didn’t plan what happened next, but I have to say that it could not have worked out better.

I’m a smart girl, and I can recognise an opportunity when I see one.

Michael saw me enter the room, but he held his ground. The other two men momentarily raised their guns again, probably thinking that I was Michael’s secret weapon.

My dress was red and was not concealing anything. The two men realised I did not have a weapon and lowered their guns once more.

Michael went back to placating his adversaries who were none too pleased about being summoned and threatened.

My head was spinning with possibilities.

I took three quick sets across the room and picked up Michael’s gun. The safety was off. Without hesitation, I shot the man in the blue suit. He fell to the floor, and everyone in the room looked at him as though he might get up and laugh that it had all been a game.

My ears were ringing from the blast, and my wrist hurt.

My husband looked at me with confused eyes.

The brown suit came out of his stupor and looked at me just as I shot him in the chest. Now my wrist was beginning to ache.

“Julia. What have you done?” said, my horrified husband.

“Haven’t finished yet darling,” I said as I waited for Michael to turn and face me. No good shooting him in the back — too much to explain.

Michael started to say something, but he didn’t get to finish.

The blue suit’s gun had fallen at my feet. I picked it up and shot Michael who looked very surprised.

“Everybody shot everybody else John, and our problems are over. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” I said, and John nodded. I guess words were too much effort at that point.

Just before the guests burst through the study door with looks of horror on their well-dressed faces, a wisp of smoke emanated from the barrel of the gun as I placed it gently on the desk. There had been enough violence in the last few moments, so laying it down softly seemed like a dampening gesture.

I’m not a lover of guns, but like all things made by man, they have their uses.

I Shot Him.

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There is an excellent chance that this story follows on from GREEN COAT, BLACK GLOVES, RED HANDBAG.

 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

PASSERBY cover png

I shot him.

It seemed like the right thing to do.

It rained; and I’d let the universe decide. 

If it had stayed fine I would have given him the money; just to shut him up. 

But it didn’t. 

It rained.

It was a close run thing. 

But in the end he got what he deserved. 

He killed my gentle friend, as surely as if he had forced the pills down her throat. She never hurt anyone. Life frightened her but she did her best to live it until she met him.

His mission in life was to discover your weakness [we all have them] and then to exploit that weakness for money. 

My gentle friend made a tragic mistake when she was very young. He found out [although, I have no idea how] and it was more than life was worth to have it known. 

So, my gentle friend decided to leave us. 

I’m impressed that she made it this far. The world works best for those who can roll with the punches. That was not her. She cared too much. Not about what people thought of her, she could endure that, but about the suffering of others.

 

I’m not similarly afflicted. 

If I try really hard I can care, just a little bit, but generally speaking, I don’t take garbage from anyone. 

I hide it well. 

If you saw me you would think that I’m a little shy, gentle and feminine; and I am, but I’m also determined and at times, ruthless.

 

As I mentioned, it rained. 

It sealed his fate and cleared the park, except for the old homeless guy sitting under that huge oak tree. 

He saw the whole thing and for a minute I think he thought he was next. His eyes told me that he didn’t care much either way; he’d had enough too. 

I sat on the bench next to him, still holding the smoking gun, and explained why I was there at that particular time. He listened intently [no one listens intently anymore, but I guess a recently fired .32 automatic does tend to focus the mind] and when I had finished he took a few moments and said, “Good for you lady. You can kick him in the balls if you feel like it.”

 

“That would probably be pointless, and I might get some of him on my shoe, but thank you for the suggestion.”

 

“My pleasure lady. Now you had better be gone.”

 

He was right, but before I went I gave him half the money. He gave me the biggest smile. I smiled right back. It had been a good day for both of us.

 

“You won’t give me away will you?”

 

He shook his head and I believed him.

 

Before I left, I checked to make sure the blackmailer was definitely dead. 

He was, and he still had that silly look of surprise on his face. 

Didn’t he know it would end this way one day? 

Apparently not, or maybe he had underestimated the determination of a woman to protect her family and her home.

Rather foolishly, he had the letters on him. 

For the life of me I cannot understand why he bought them with him. Maybe he had them in case I didn’t believe that he had them. 

What did he have to lose? 

I would not be strong enough to rest them away from him.

 

I put the letters in my bag, smiled at my new friend, and walked quietly out of the park. I considered leaving the gun at the scene, but what if some children got hold of it before the police arrived? And besides, I rather like this gun; it might come in handy.

 

When I arrived home I took my shopping and put it away. I placed the receipts in the glass bowl on the sideboard where I could find them. When the police finally get around to me those receipts will help muddy the waters somewhat. They would not prove that I was not at the park but they would maintain the impression that I was out on a shopping expedition. 

Simple suburban housewives don’t go around shooting people. 

Why would I need to? 

“What was my motive officer?”

I can be quite convincing.

 

If he did not keep a written list of his victims I may not have to play my part at all, but preparation is never wasted. Keep it simple and smile the smile that has been getting me out of trouble since I was thirteen.

 

The sun has come out and it is a beautiful afternoon. 

I look around at my comfortable house and think of all the things I have to be grateful for. 

My friend can rest in peace; her ordeal is over, but my life goes on.

I’d better get a wriggle on, as my mum used to say, because my husband will be home soon and I need to prepare dinner for us both. 

After all, I am a quiet suburban housewife. 

The kind of woman who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

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Painting by Kenton Nelson.

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Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?

Enjoy my work?? Then buy me a coffee?

Green Coat, Black Gloves, Red Handbag.

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 This story is now part of my new short story anthology, PASSERBY.

You can purchase a copy HERE

If you like what I do, you can help me to keep on doing it by buying one of my books.

PASSERBY cover png

It’s the middle of Winter and there’s a gun in my handbag. 

Actually there is a lot of stuff in there, but mostly it’s the usual things that a woman carries, until you get to the envelope stuffed with money and the small calibre hand gun. 

The envelope is a pretty shade of light blue and it came from a stationary set that I bought in a little shop in an arcade in Toorak. 

I’d been visiting a friend who had made herself invisible in the previous few months. 

It wasn’t a big deal, I was just trying to do better in the ‘friends’ department. 

I’m a bit slack when it comes to friends so I was trying to make an effort. 

After several tries she eventually decided to meet me for lunch. 

She was very bad company; obviously depressed and just barely able to put on a glad-face. It was painful, but we got through it and we bought each other a writing set. I knew she liked to write letters so I thought it would be a fun way for us to keep in touch. 

I never received a letter from her and a few weeks after our lunch she arranged for her son to come to her apartment. When he arrived he found a note, written on the writing paper I had bought for her, a copy of her life insurance policy and her body, all neatly laid out. 

She’d had enough. 

Her affairs were in order and she simply, left us; almost as quietly as she had lived. 

Her son was evasive about the contents of the note. “Just a goodbye note. Saying how much she loved us, that sort of thing.” 

But, there was more to it than that, and while I was still grieving the loss of my friend I received a visit from a certain acquaintance who had come into possession of some information and if i wanted to make sure that the information remained a secret I was to bring along a certain sum of money to a certain park at a certain time on a certain afternoon.

I’m on my way now. 

It’s cold, but I have my gloves to keep my hands warm with the added benefit of not leaving fingerprints and protecting my hands from gunshot residue. 

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t actually decided to kill the blackmailing bastard. I may give him the money instead. 

I haven’t decided. 

I may flip a coin. 

I may kill him if it rains, spare him if it’s fine. 

I wonder if he knows that his life hangs on the outcome of a weather report?

He deserves to die for what he did to my friend but that’s not how the world works; people rarely get what they deserve. 

My friend made her choice and she cannot be hurt anymore. 

I have to look out for me.

Putting it simply, I’ll kill him if I think I can get away with it. If the circumstances are such that I can walk away undetected, then I shoot him and I won’t lose any sleep. 

With a bit of luck the park will be emptied by the inclement weather and no one will take much notice of a single gunshot. “I heard it but I thought it was a car backfiring, so I did think much about it, officer”.

The police will go through his papers and see that he was blackmailing a whole host of people, and not just women. They’ll spend months checking all the names and checking to see where everyone was on the day. 

“If I had known I needed an alibi officer I would have made sure I had one, but I was just out shopping and I doubt that anyone would remember me. No I don’t own a gun. No I’ve never fired a gun in my life.” 

The first bit is true and I’ll look very convincing when I say it. 

The gun belonged to a lover from many years ago. He gave it to me ‘for protection’. 

It was mostly him I needed protection from, and some of his hoodlum friends, but once he was gone the threat went away and it cured me of ‘bad boys’ for life. 

A fully loaded .32 automatic seemed like something that might come in handy one day. I kept it cleaned and well oiled. No use having a gun if you don’t look after it.

There is always a chance the gun will misfire, the ammunition is old, but it will give him the fright of his life even if it does. 

I hope I don’t have to burn this coat. 

I really like this coat.

Only one more stop and this tram will be outside the park.

The money or the gun?

As I step off the tram it starts to rain.

 Painting by Kenton Nelson

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Enjoy my work. Then buy me a coffee?

Enjoy my work? Then buy me a coffee?