Rafferty watched Kate on the edge of the platform and he inched nearer and nearer to her. One quick push and it would be done. Easy! Suicide of hard-working civil servant. Pressure of work, family problems, a hitherto unknown history of scarcely believable perversions. Rafferty would create a suitable background to make sure that nobody worried too much about Kate King. The stench of the background he created for her would expunge the truth.
Kate King looked ordinary, but she was employed by the department because she was extraordinary, her delicate demeanour concealing a resolute toughness and single-mindedness.
Rafferty was the department’s man who ‘dealt’ with problems. Usually, the problems were people. He enjoyed his work, and he planned meticulously. This was a rush job. He had tried to refuse, but Quartermain, the department head, said that Kate had been cooperating and assisting terrorists for years and had to go. Today.
Rafferty was astounded. He was the one in the dept. working against the system, and he had been nervous about outrunning his luck. This was a godsend, a perfect way out. He could cease his activities and take early retirement, go abroad, disappear.
For this reason he accepted a job he would normally have refused. Rush jobs were sloppy, unprofessional. Rafferty’s successfully completed tasks went unnoticed, as mysterious disappearances, unaccountable suicides, unfortunate DIY accidents, a grotesque disease. Sometimes, and this was his favourite, a politician or civil servant might be found dead as a result of some bizarre sexual practice that went wrong.
This job really needed planning, and time. He hated rush jobs. Kate would be Rafferty’s first female target but he had no compunction about executing a woman. If Kate was out of the picture, his crimes would go with her. Serves her right, he thought, this nasty business is no place for a bloody woman.
The subdued thunder and rattle of the approaching train made everyone move forward expectantly. A woman slid a huge suitcase in front of him. He missed the opportunity to give Kate that push that would solve his problem. He cursed. He would have to race ahead to Kate’s home and do the job there. It was already getting messy. He might have to use a weapon.
Kate would have to change trains at least twice. He would get there first. As he sped along the A40 he considered how he would kill her. He was ghoulishly clinical. What is needed, he thought, was a finely engineered amalgam of metal, a small lump of it, in the centre of her brain. He wanted to be sure first time; no messing about with knives, or struggling with cords. She wasn’t very big, but he knew from experience that the condemned struggle violently.
His rain-wet car steamed like a beast when he parked on Ealing Common, two streets away from Kate’s home. He knew the layout of the house. He had visited the house before. He had made it his business to familiarise himself with the houses and flats his colleagues lived in; he knew their habits, their hobbies, and their routines. He knew of all their private indulgences, those conscience piercing activities they would never do in the company of others.
She would go to her kitchen, make a cup of tea, take her tea to her study, sit in her high-backed chair, and study her chess problems, experimentally moving the pieces around for a while before micro-waving her evening meal.
There was an unused alcove covered by a curtain situated behind the high-backed chair. Rafferty waited. In addition to a variety of innocent everyday things he could use as a lethal weapon, he had brought with him two pistols, carefully chosen. One of them was a Rafferty designed special of limited power. He would shoot Kate through the back of the chair. The bullet would come to rest inside her skull. There would be no messy wallpaper.
While he waited he remembered his conversation with Quartermain. He was surprised that he had asked him to hurry a job like this. What was so urgent? Quartermain was the epitome of everything Rafferty hated; cynical, cultured, aloof. He didn’t understand the real world. He kept to his own coterie of like-minded friends, inhabited clubs and country houses. He kept the real world at arm’s length by vague euphemisms. To “deal” with problems often meant horrendous activities which undermined the economies of poor countries, or destroying families. “Make the usual call. You know, laundry to collect, or something. There’s a good chap.” Rafferty gritted his teeth just remembering it. He hated “There’s a good chap”. People like Quartermain just couldn’t help being patronising.
He heard Kate’s key in the door. He was normally sure-footed but there was a nagging uncomfortable-ness with the situation, unaccountably troubled with a feeling of worry. He felt something was going to go wrong. It was because of this rush-hurry job, he thought. It should have been planned and perfected.
He was reassured when Kate behaved as predicted. He listened as the kettle boiled, heard the fleeting kiss of cup and spoon as Kate swirled the sugar in the cup.
She entered her study and settled in her chair. Like a beast of prey at the moment of a kill, he could smell her now; her living warmth and the feminine odour tinged with perfume.
He levelled his weapon at the calculated point on the back of the chair. The chair swiveled round. Rafferty dropped to the floor. There was a small, neat hole in his forehead.
Kate picked up the telephone, dialled, waited, then said, “I have some laundry for collection. There’s a good chap.” She put the telephone down absent-mindedly, concentrating on the chess problem, moving a piece before the telephone was returned to the cradle.
Bill Haddow-Allen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org