In my creative writing life, I'm currently working on a whodunnit, which starts more like a 'who got done'. Read chapter 1 below.
The incident, part 1
It’s in the pool. Bobbing gently. Up and down. Up and down. The back of its puffer coat, inflated like a balloon, presses above the water’s surface. Bodies typically sink within seven seconds, depending on variants such as mass and lung capacity. It’s been in the pool for at least ten. I step forward, lifting my boot above it, but I stop myself. I mustn’t touch it. I mustn’t leave even the most microscopic part of myself behind. I step back.
The wind picks up, whipping stands of damp hair around my face. As I rub my forehead, the chirp of a cheeky robin pulls my attention upwards. I’m surrounded by ancient trees swaying gently, their leaves ablaze against the dull sky. A frosty gust moves through me, swirling with oranges and yellows so bright I can almost taste them.
I bend down and pick up my coffee mug. As I empty the last sips of sticky liquid, a tiny trail of steam rises from the mulch beneath me. I make out some of the foliage – most are common to the area – Beech, Horse Chestnuts and double-sided-undulating Oak that mirror the shape of the surrounding hills. A lone Japanese Maple leaf catches my eye, it resembles a chicken’s foot cut at the metatarsus. I scan the horizon. The wispy leaf must have travelled from the nearby woods – a fair distance – to its current position.
Finally, the coat gives way and large bubbles break the surface with slow plops. The body drops slightly. Smaller bubbles escape from its head. Then it drifts down further, slowly. Very. Slowly.
Somewhere far away, an engine hums. It grows louder. I hold my breath. As the hum disappears into the pitter-patter of droplets, I exhale. It’s probably headed to The White Hart, the only public establishment for miles. A pub frequented by fox hunters who’ve found tenuous loopholes around hunting laws. They’ll be out in full force today – a pack of heavy-consonanted, bloodthirsty brutes.
The rain gathers momentum, bashing the trees, adding a fresh layer of citrus colours to the ground. Ground that’s ripe for capturing footprints and other things best not left behind.
The body is almost at the bottom. It releases fresh bursts of bubbles as it falls. Millimetre by millimetre. I sniff hard and rub my nose with the back of my gloved wrist. I push my hair away from my eyes. Everything looks different. The house is further away than I remember. And the garden seems far bigger. Its climbing frame, once red, is now matted pink, standing barren.
“Why are you calling me now?” I hiss.
“You need to get out of there. She’s on the way.”
“Shit! How long?”
“A couple of minutes at the most. I’m so sorry. Get out!”
As I flick the silent button and press red, I hear the soft hum immediately. I take two quick steps away from the pool and glance back. The earth has swallowed my footprints. A stroke of luck. I move, as light footed as possible, towards the house. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Nine tiny puddles behind me.
The hum slows. My heart speeds up.
Clunk. Screech. I’d thought about disconnecting the electric gate’s motor earlier, but the evidence trail hadn’t seemed worth the risk.
The humming grows louder, then cuts. I tuck myself into the shadow along the side of the house. I can’t see her or the Land Rover, so I’m certain I cannot be seen either. I wait. Nothing happens. Several minutes pass. We’re in the middle of a standoff and she doesn’t even know it. Soon she’ll know everything. Soon she will feel shattered. Irreparably pulled into tiny pieces. None of this is of her making. She deserved more. We all did.
The wind and rain start to soften. A swirl of dry, brown leaves rustle around my ankles as if to coax me out of their hiding place. My skull reverberates with the symphony of my aliveness. Do-doof. Do-doof. Shoof-shoof-shoof-shoof. Haah. Haah. Yet the body has no heartbeat anymore. No breath. No blood rushing through its veins. Very soon it’ll settle at the bottom of the pool – until methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and other gasses force it back to the surface. Or until someone pulls it out. The latter being far more probable.
The Land Rover door creaks open then snaps closed again. I press my back into the cold of the wall. I take a gulp of air and hold it in, in an attempt to manage my short, noisy breaths. I plant my feet into the ground and focus.
Her heels scrape against the drive briefly, before she heads towards the front door. Click, click, click, scrape, click, click, scrape, scrape, click. There are approximately 15 steps from her car to the front door. I’m still holding my breath as I count her tenth. I release my shoulders and rub them gently. I drop my arms to my sides and shake them out, quietly. The coffee mug in my left pocket bounces against my thigh.
BUZZ-BUZZ. BUZZ-BUZZ. BUZZ-BUZZ.
I shove my hands into my side pockets. It’s not there. I tap my body. The hard rectangle presses against my heart. I push my fingers into the concealed pocket within my coat and grab it. As I desperately press at the buttons it slides from my left hand. I grab at it with my right. It falls from my grip.
The buzzing stops.
The clicking stops too.