This is my attempt at a thriller, written in less than 2500 words, for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2016. I’m not sure it really makes it as a thriller, but it has some suspense, some action and some surprises, so hopefully it will pull me through round one of the competition!
She stood before me, beautiful and dangerous. Melinda. My wife. The one I prayed I would never have to see again.
I was horrified. My plan had been foolproof. I had thought through every possible scenario. There was no way she could have found me.
Yet, there she was.
“Well, aren’t you going to let me in?”
She pushed past me and scanned the interior of my villa. “Oh no, this will never do. I’m going to have to redecorate immediately.” She turned back to me and embraced me, her cloying perfume a second, unwelcome embrace. “I’ve missed you, Brian. So much.”
I held back a shudder, wriggled out of her hug. “How did you find me?”
“Why, you left me clues, darling.”
“Yes. Don’t you remember? You took the photo of us when we were camping at Margaret River?” Melinda looked around, then pointed. “That one. When I discovered it missing, I immediately knew you were still alive.”
My heart sank. So much for the foolproof plan. One scrap of sentimentality was all it had taken to send it all to hell.
And hell was exactly where I was. Melinda was a psychopath. A murdering, mutilating psychopath. And I was her unwilling accomplice. At least, I had been up until six months ago. I had disappeared from our waterfront home, ostensibly lost at sea. My death had been mourned satisfactorily. I was a pillar of the community. A hard-working doctor. A model husband.
At the same time, an affluent Aussie called Jerry had been born, making Bali his home, painting and writing the days away in indulgent luxury. An Australian could live like a king in Bali. Servants, food, booze, sex, it was all cheap and available.
But now, it was all crashing down.
“You should have told me you weren’t happy in Perth, darling. I hated it too. Our lifestyle, our pretentious friends. But it’s alright now. Now that we’ve found each other again, we can get rid of them.”
Her choice of words sent a chill down my spine. “Get rid of them? You mean, find new friends?”
“Well, yes, that too. But what I really meant was to wipe the slate clean.” She made a slashing motion with her hand, and a childlike smile crossed her features. I shivered, knowing that look.
“You mean to kill them?”
She laughed. “Of course, silly. What else would I mean?”
“How?” I blurted out. It was obviously not going to be her usual.
“They’re all having a barbeque at Anita’s tomorrow. So, I’ve planted a bomb there – big enough to take care of them all.” She smiled at me, eyes shining with pleasure.
I felt sick. She was going to kill my friends. People I’d known since I was a teenager.
“Melinda,” I said sternly. “You can’t just go around killing people.” I had managed to keep her from hurting her patients by issuing direct orders like this. Perhaps it would work this time as well.
“I’m doing it for us, Brian.” She was pouting now. “I’m doing it to save our love. You do love me, don’t you? If you don’t, I’d slit my throat, and yours too.”
I had no doubt that she would, so I said what I had to. “Of course, I love you. But you can’t go around killing people.”
“You’re no fun,” Melinda said, striding out of the room in a huff.
I immediately set to work. I couldn’t let my friends die. I picked up the phone to dial the local police. There was no dial tone. I looked for my mobile phone, picking up various cushions and magazines, but it was nowhere to be found.
I heard a cheerful whistle from outside and stuck my head out of a window. My neighbour, Kadek was there, weeding his vegetable patch.
“Ho, Kadek!” I shouted.
Kadek looked up. With a big, Balinese smile, he waved. “Hello, neighbour.”
“Can I trouble you for a moment?”
Kadek shrugged and lay down his hoe. He walked over to my window.
“Are you alright, Jerry? You look pale.”
“I just need to get a message to the police, but my telephone line is down.”
“Yes. Kadek, I know it’s a huge favour, but would you be able to call them and ask them to come to my villa?”
“Certainly my friend. There is nothing I can do? Are you in trouble?”
“No, it’s nothing I’ve done, it’s something someone else is planning. Will you help me?”
“Certainly. I’ll go and make the call immediately.”
Kadek walked away toward his home, but I didn’t watch him go. I pulled my head back in and recommenced searching for my phone. It had to be somewhere.
While searching, I listened for Melinda, but it seemed she had gone out, or to sleep, or something. The villa was blessedly quiet.
Not for long though. After about half an hour, there came a knock on the door. I swung it open, expecting to see the local police. Instead, I saw Melinda. There was a look of wicked excitement in her eyes, and her mouth twitched into a smile. Then, she said the words I wished I never had to hear again.
“Darling, I need you to take care of something for me.”
She had killed someone. It was obvious. She revelled in the act. And I was the accomplice. The one who she wanted to celebrate with, once I’d taken care of the body, of course.
“What have you done?”
She indicated to the right of my villa with her head, and I walked in that direction, my stomach churning, wondering what horrors she had inflicted on the poor innocent she had killed.
But when I arrived where the body was, it was so much worse.
She had killed Kadek. One swipe across his windpipe, and he would have fallen, choking on his own blood. But then, for fun, she had stabbed him in the chest and in the groin. His face was crisscrossed with bloody lines, and I hoped for his sake that he had been dead before she did that to him.
Why did she choose Kadek? Had she heard our conversation? Was she even now plotting my demise, for betraying her?
My mind was in a whirl. I had to stop her. I had to stop her, and I had to save my friends. She was obviously not going to leave me alone, and she was obviously not going to stop killing. There was nothing I could do for Kadek. I dragged him to his vegetable patch, and buried him beneath the carrots and beans. I was sure he would be happiest there. I scrabbled the blood stains into the earth and smoothed over the drag marks. And I said a prayer for him, knowing that Kadek had been a good man.
Finishing the gruesome job, I returned to the villa. Warily, I entered, every nerve stretched taut. Melinda watched me from the other side of the room. I sat heavily on the settee, and Melinda came and sat beside me. It took all my strength not to scoot away from her.
“I’m getting the feeling that you don’t love me anymore, Brian,” Melinda said, sliding a hand through my hair. “All this effort I made, just for you, and I haven’t had a single word of thanks.” Her fingers grew tighter, pulling my hair, and forcing my head back. “You know I can’t live without you, Brian. I don’t know what I would be capable of. It was very easy to kill your neighbour. Just a little cut here,” she kissed my throat, and I nearly screamed, “and it was all over.”
“But why Kadek? What did he do?”
“Did you think I didn’t hear you asking him to call the police? What were you thinking? They would have broken us up again, and I couldn’t have that.”
There was one more gambit for me to play. Very nonchalantly, I asked “Have you seen my phone? I seem to have lost it.”
“This one?” Melinda pulled the mangled remains of my phone from her pocket. “I’m sorry, darling. It got caught under my heel earlier. I’ll buy you a new one.”
I was totally stumped. Seated there with a madwoman stroking my arm, I was all out of ideas. What could I do for my friends here in Bali? Nothing, that’s what. They would die, and it was all my fault for taking a stupid photo when I fled.
With grim reluctance, I realised I had to return to Australia. A plan started to form in my head. I turned to face Melinda. I needed to make love to her, put her into an unintelligible, satiated doze, so that I could steal out of the villa and catch the next flight to Perth.
Every touch, every caress, every whispered sentimentality and every screamed release was torture. There was nothing about this woman that didn’t repulse me, from her scent, to the feel of her body, even the soft breasts that once I would have suckled at for hours were repugnant. And when she came, and I came with her, I had to hold back sobs of disgust and hate.
I lay her down on the bed, gently kissed her forehead, and left her to sleep.
Then, I quickly dressed, dug my MasterCard out from its hiding place, and caught a taxi to the airport.
“When is the next flight to Perth?” I asked the ticketing agent.
“We have one leaving in two hours, sir.”
“One way for one, please.”
After securing my ticket, the two-hour wait began. It was torture. Every minute ticked by so slowly, I felt like I was going crazy.
At one stage I nodded off, then woke up in a frenzy. I sprung up out of my seat, scanning the entire area for Melinda, my heart in my mouth. But of course, she wasn’t there.
Finally, the boarding call came, and I made my way to the gate. I handed my pass to the smiling attendant, and walked through the doors out to the plane.
A slow peace descended on me, and I thought for the first time that I might have a chance at saving my friends after all.
The following afternoon, when the bomb was set to detonate, I knocked on the door at Anita’s house. Her husband, Geoff, opened the door, and he stood, open-mouthed, at his unexpected guest.
“Surprise,” I said.
Regaining his wits, Geoff said “Brian? Is it really you?”
He hustled me inside, where all of my friends were gobsmacked to see me. They accepted my tale of being washed up on an island and slowly making my way back to civilisation for the past six months as gospel, even though it sounded lame to me.
Realising that each second passing was closer to the time the bomb would go off, I suggested that we abandon the barbeque and head to the local country club for a more upmarket celebration. They quickly agreed and, one by one, they returned to their own homes to change. Anita and Geoff took me in their car. The sweat was pouring off me. Anita took ages to get ready, but we had moved off, and the house still hadn’t blown.
Anita squirmed in her sear, then turns to me. “Have you seen Melinda?” she asked. “We haven’t seen her for a few days. We expected her this afternoon.”
“No, I haven’t seen her either,” I lied. “I’m hoping she’ll be back soon.”
Anita smiled at me, and I visualised the homecoming she was imagining. So much different to reality.
When we got settled at the country club, the lads were only too happy to drink on my tab, so fairly shortly, they were more than tipsy. I didn’t drink. I needed to try to work out Melinda’s next move. I should have known she would be far behind me.
A phone rang, and Geoff answered it. To my surprise me handed it to me. “It’s Melinda,” he said, winking. Starting on his sixth scotch, I was glad Geoff couldn’t see my hand shaking as I took the phone.
“Hello, darling. Meet me at Anita’s house.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at the airport. I’m disappointed in you Brian. We have things to discuss.”
When I said I needed to go meet my wife, the others were only too happy to send me on my way with wolf whistles and suggestive comments. Geoff offered me the use of his car, and I accepted immediately.
Reaching the house, I realised I was the first one there. I had the upper hand for once. When Melinda arrived in a taxi, I was waiting nonchalantly on the front steps.
She walked up to me slowly then, standing directly in front of me, she pulled her hand back and delivered a stinging slap across my face.
She seemed to realise there were no party noises coming from the house. “Well,” she said, cocking one eyebrow. “I guess it will only be you and me then. Go into the house.” Her voice turned cold, and to my dismay I noticed she carried a small firearm aimed at me. I retrieved Geoff’s spare key and opened the door.
“To the kitchen.” We walked in silence through the roomy house into the kitchen.
“Is the bomb here?” I asked.
“Under the bottom cupboard,” she said. My eyes flicked there. I couldn’t retrieve it. Not with her gun trained on me.
She produced a mobile phone which displayed a countdown. It was way too close to the zero. I had to act immediately.
Diving for the sliding door leading on to the balcony, I felt a bullet whistle past my ear. I wrenched open the door I had unlocked earlier and exited, running for my life.
Suddenly, there was a boom and I hit the dirt. A rain of timber shards, glass slivers and cloying dust filled the air. I felt a large splinter in my leg, but I didn’t stop to look at it. I got to my feet, and I ran.
* * *
Back in Bali, I recuperated from the wound in my leg. My nurse was beautiful, and I wondered if she would extend her nursely duties, if I asked her.
I turned on the television to discover that both Melinda and I had been reported dead. There was no way to identify whose parts belonged to whom when the dust settled, and my DNA was everywhere.
It was the best outcome imaginable. Not only had I rid myself of Melinda, I managed to kill myself off again as well. Now, I could return to my leisurely, indulgent lifestyle.
Through my haze of pleasant thoughts, I heard the phone ring. My new mobile phone. I picked it up and said in a merry voice “Hello, Jerry here.”