Short Fiction from CWA Conference Delegates
At the annual CWA conference, held in Edinburgh in April, we asked CWA delegates for a short story of under 500 words with the following titles:
‘Inevitable Crimes of Passion’ and ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.’
Both are the names of perfumes by one of our conference sponsors, Sarah McCartney, who provided the perfume samples for the goody bags.
We hope you find these entries as entertaining as we did, and a big thank you to the authors.
Inevitable Crimes of Passion
‘So that’s your husband?’
‘Yes, the beast.’ She did not turn in her seat, not risking the man at the hotel check-in seeing her face. To anyone else, he could be just an anonymous businessman, and they could be just a married couple enjoying a Friday night escape from the kids.
‘Ask that girl for his room number,’ she whispered.
‘Too risky – she’s sure to remember me.’
‘Follow him in the lift…’
‘No, there’s CCTV covering the desk. Anyway he came up from the car park. You’d recognise his car?’
Underground, under-lit and too small to be in constant use, the car park was ideal. She stopped behind an Audi in the shade of midnight. ‘This is his.’
‘No CCTV,’ his check confirmed.
Up in Room 317 he lay on the bed, she propped on the pillows beside him, still debating if discovering the room of their target was an option. Voices and scraping furniture from above showed how the sound of a murder would carry. The cry of surprise, the blows, the defence, falling furniture and the final solid thud of the corpse would reverberate from room to room. No, it had to be the carpark.
‘Disposing of the body is always the problem,’ he said.
More false starts led to more quashed ideas, and time was running out. ‘We put him in his boot,’ she said. ‘We wait by his car― ’
‘No, you wait. He’ll be surprised to see you; you’ll distract him.’
‘Then you come up behind him with…?’
‘A crowbar. A couple of blows to the back of the head will do it.’ He edged close beside her, miming the blow.
‘Yes, yes!’ Then we take his keys and bundle him into the boot.’ She undid one button of her blouse.
‘That’s good! And it keeps the forensics neat, because you’ve driven that car. There will be nothing for the police to find. And we’ll wipe the wheel so it looks like the killers were trying to hide their prints, even though there’s nothing wrong with your prints being there.’
She gave a little squeal, ‘I drive to a lake, or a landfill. We dump him in a sack.’
A quick iPad search confirmed some likely locations.
‘The trick is not to be seen dumping the body,’ he said, squeezing her hand. ‘And we mustn’t turn on our mobiles today.’
‘Will there be a lot of blood?’ She licked her top lip.
‘Yes,’ he whispered into her ear.
The passion was inevitable, but not the crime. At breakfast, the anonymous businessman served himself from the buffet. The couple noticed him, shared a smile and touched hands. Suddenly the woman tensed and nodded towards a pair of young Asian men, bearded and silent at a corner table.
‘Jihadis?’ he questioned.
‘Just back from Syria. We should follow them, see what they’re planning.’
He agreed, but then checked his watch with a groan. ‘What time did we say we were picking up the kids?
Be Careful What You Wish For
by Jean Briggs
‘I wish.’ Mike screws up the newspaper. Your chance to win a dream holiday in the Caribbean sails off towards the waste paper basket. Starline Cruises.
‘Why not give it a go? I’d love a Caribbean holiday – any holiday, for that matter.’
‘Nah, waste of time.’
But he did send it off with a clever one-liner: A wish is as good as a promise when it’s a Starline Cruise.
And, here I am flying back to Manchester. I like flying. Three weeks of sun, sea, and yes, if you must know, sex. Will he guess? Not likely. He trusts me, see, and the glow? My new sun tan – not had one for years.
Mike broke his leg. On thin ice. I was away – no, my mother’s. I came back to find him, leg in plaster and a pair of crutches leaning against his chair. Of course, he couldn’t travel. ‘You go, love, do you good. I’ll be fine. Caroline’ll come round.’
Caroline? Our neighbour. Nice woman. Widow. Dull, but reliable. She’ll look after him – tea and sympathy. I’ve got her a present – perfume. Mystery, she likes.
‘I wish,’ he said as I was leaving, ‘I wish I was coming, but, hey, enjoy – no need to worry about me.’
‘That damn leg. I wish it hadn’t happened.’
Liar. Guilty, I admit it. In the taxi, I felt a bubble of laughter rise up in my chest. On my own. On my own. Sometimes you can’t help wishing that you could just go away, alone, do something exciting, spontaneous. Be free. Not have to consult, negotiate, be fair.
Not that Mike isn’t good-natured, easy-going, but you feel trapped sometimes, don’t you? A husband is for life – well, in my case. We married at Christmas. That was the joke. The best man, my father, Mike’s brother – hilarious, they thought. I laughed at the time.
Life – life sentence. That’s what I feel sometimes. Fifteen years. Mike, always there. I’m the one who goes away – for work, to see my mother. Boring stuff. Mike never seems to mind. Easy-going, reliable … Dull? I didn’t say that. No, just predictable.
‘Mike! Mike? I’m back.’
There’s champagne on the table. Scent in the air. Mystery?
The cellar door is open. The crutches are splayed on the floor. Oh, God, Mike!
Sally Jones looks at the champagne bottle. Oh, Mike! Love! She looks into the black hole of the cellar. Listens. Not a breath. Flicks the switch. Closes her eyes. Doesn’t dare look. Knows what she’ll see. Mike crumpled at the bottom of the stairs. Blood.
Breath on her neck. She only opens her eyes as the staircase rushes up at her. Just for seconds. She’s flying.
Mike picks up the crutches. Into the canal – along with the plaster leg mould and the empty champagne bottle. He takes Sally’s mobile from her handbag, deletes the message telling him that she’ll be back about two o’clock.
He uses his own phone. ‘Caroline?’