I wrote Dark Heart for a competition run by thriller writer Matt Hilton. It was a fun exercise to write something with a hint of noir, and it concerns my favourite subject - revenge...
Blackened blood and roseate tears were on my mind as I sat down at the table.
I’d followed him to the restaurant, found a table nearby and watched him dine with his friends for almost an hour. The spaghetti on my plate was dry and I picked at it with my fork, but my thoughts slopped around my mind like a thick soup, and wouldn’t settle. I wasn’t interested in his friends, or the food. I was only interested in him.
I moved in my seat for a better view. The blade tucked into my jeans kissed my thigh with a coolness that unnerved me for a moment. Perhaps it was trepidation that fizzed in the pit of my stomach, rather than an acidic, bilious lake that I figured was making me feel nauseous.
I looked up. A momentary flick of his gaze sliced through my concentration. I made sure I kept his attention, smiling over the candescence of the candle on my table, hooking his curiosity with a subtle lick of my lips. I could see my contorted reflection in my spoon, the ruddy hue of my skin. I must have looked like some desperate, lonely woman trying to garner his attention.
But I’m neither desperate nor lonely. I have a heart that turns with effortless spite, one that was catapulted into a stifling, terror-gouged darkness by a man whose face I will never forget.
I pushed my plate aside and stood, lingering long enough for him to notice. When I headed towards the bathroom, he followed me.
I took up position at the end of the corridor, waited for him. The light overhead flickered, gave the hallway a muted glow as it pressed against the silence.
Jimmy’s bulky shadow appeared through the glass panel. He opened the door and stepped into the tiny hallway, scattering shadows. He shuffled forward, the sound of his shoes like sandpaper across the cold floor.
He looked at my tussled brown hair, grazed the outline of my body, thinking that maybe I couldn’t read his expression. But I could.
I saw through the yellow tinted sclera that glazed his eyes - cast from the ochre light above - caught the tiny beads of sweat emerging from his skin.
‘You don’t look like a whore.’ He leaned in. ‘Not that it matters. I saw the way you was looking at me in there. You want some action?’
My face remained expressionless; there was no reaction to his enquiry, not a flicker from my eyes. Because that would give me away. ‘Why don’t we step out into the alley?’
He snorted. ‘It’s pissing it down.’ He pointed to the toilets. ‘We can do it in there.’
‘Not enough room for what I want,’ I whispered, insistent. I stepped back, opened the back door to the soft rattle of rain against the ground. ‘Besides, people are coming and going all the time. Let’s have a little privacy.’
He glanced at his watch, knew a quick fuck wouldn’t take long. ‘No strings, right?’
‘No strings.’ I stepped out.
He followed me into the alley, closed the door and turned to face me.
I stood beneath the awning to shelter from the downpour, leaned against the side of the building. My shirt was slightly open.
He wandered over, unzipped his fly. ‘How about you suck me first.’
My eyes didn’t deviate from his face, despite it being so close to mine. His eyes looked like ball bearings, the way they glinted in the dim light, and they were just as solid. I saw my reflection; my shadow sheathed with a metallic sheen, but the reflection seemed like an apparition of a girl from my past, and I shuddered, thinking it must have been the cool air clinging to the alleyway that chilled me.
‘I’ve spent a long time looking for you,’ I said, my voice barely audible above the rain song. I had followed Jimmy Burroughs for weeks. But in truth, I’d been looking for him for 15 years. Now he was exactly where I wanted him. ‘I’ve spent so much time and effort tracking you down.’
The furrows in his forehead pitched. ‘What the hell are you talking about?’
I straightened. ‘I know about your brothers.’
His eyes shuttered. ‘What about ‘em?’
‘Poor Billy. Shame what happened.’
He grabbed my jacket. ‘What the hell do you want, bitch?’
I remained cold, somewhat detached from his swelling anger. ‘And Charlie, too. Downed in a pool of his own blood.’
Billy, eldest of the three brothers, had been found with multiple stab wounds two weeks ago. Charlie, the youngest, had suffered series of deep lacerations down his back whilst lying in bed. The fatal cut had sliced him open from neck to waist, exposing his spine, like a gutted fish, and he had drowned, face down, in his blood. That was three days ago.
His lips drew back into a dog like snarl. ‘I don’t know what your game is, but I didn’t come out here for this crap. Who the fuck are you? How do you know about Charlie and Billy?’
I allowed a smile then, a thin malevolent turn of the lips. ‘I’m a ghost from your past, Jimmy. I’m the shadow over your shoulder. I know what you did fifteen years ago. What you and your brothers did at the Allen farmhouse on August 12th, 1995.’
His grip loosened. He remembered that night clearly. He and his brothers were never short on the uptake if money was involved, and they had forged a lucrative career from robbery and violence. That night promised more money and jewellery than they’d ever dreamed about. The renovated farmhouse, owned by investment banker Benedict Allen and his wife, simply oozed money.
Jimmy’s voice fell to a whisper, and yet the clarity of each word easily found its way through the pelting rain. ‘How do you know about that?’
I felt my face instantly darken. ‘You shot and killed Benedict Allen because he wouldn’t give you what you wanted, he wouldn’t tell you where the safe was, the money, the jewellery. Then you got his wife to talk. You and Billy and Charlie. All three of you raped her, and that soon got her spilling her guts, didn’t it? But you weren’t happy with just taking her; you had to rape the kid too.’
Jimmy pushed me hard, jolting me back. ‘So fuckin’ what?’
‘The kid you raped was just fourteen years old. But she never forgot your face. Never forgot Charlie or Billy’s faces.’
Jimmy stared back; eyes black beneath the murk clinging to the alley, and his brow sagged momentarily. He clearly remembered the moment he and his brothers burst into the farmhouse, smashing their way into the property, the sound of shattering glass startling the tranquillity into the far corners.
The woman and her daughter were sitting on the sofa, watching TV. Benedict Allen was working in his study, and came running to see what the commotion was, but Jimmy reacted as though he’d been jolted by a bolt of electricity and his finger pulled back instinctively on the trigger, pumping three bullets into Allen’s head.
Benedict Allen would have drowned in his own blood, too, had it not been for the instantaneous spattering of brains across the polished wooden floor.
Jimmy remembered the shrill sounds of the mother screaming as she looked up at him through a bloody veil. But the young girl – the daughter - fascinated him. Despite the horror, she never made a sound. She just stared at them, memorising their faces as though wresting the image from a well-worn photograph.
He remembered looking up at the clock on the wall. 9.47pm.
‘Cathy Allen died four days after the incident,’ I said, seizing his waning attention. ‘The injuries were just too much for her.’
‘That’s too bad,’ he sniffed.
I could feel something trickling into my stomach. ‘Yes it was. You know the old saying, Jimmy. What goes around comes around, and I’ve waited a long time for it to come around. To come for all three of you.’
He swallowed. ‘You...you killed Charlie?’
‘He bleated like a little girl. And Billy pissed his pants, he was so scared.’
His voice hardened. ‘You killed Charlie and Billy, you bitch.’
The emotion behind his voice quickly turned sour, and I knew it was hard to fight against rage. Without hesitation, I pulled the blade from my belt and quickly sliced it across his throat, pushing hard into the muscle and leaving a beautifully clean, vermillion gash.
It was over in a few seconds.
He gurgled as blood rushed out and spilled down his beige suit.
I pulled him away from the wall, swung him around and pushed him out into the alleyway.
He stumbled, clutched the innards of his throat.
I watched with cold satisfaction, stepped out beneath the rain. I looked up at the silvery downpour, felt its coolness on my tongue. The rain felt good. Cold streams of delight raced down my face and neck. The downpour sounded so soothing. I was soaked, but not just through to my clothes. My core was drowning beneath a flood, too.
Jimmy fell to his knees, slumped, then rolled onto his back.
I stood over him, watched as his blood mingled with the rainwater. He could see me. ‘I sliced up Billy, just like he did to Cathy Allen. Then I did the same to Charlie, made sure he felt the pain of each cut down his back.’
Jimmy gurgled, hands twitching with the shock. But his eyes shifted. He knew. He realised who I was.
A flash of light brightened the scene momentarily. I looked up; saw blackened clouds billowing forward, underbelly glowing from the city lights. Rain sheeted down and hit the floor so hard that the spray started to fog up the alleyway. Reflective neon pools from the store across the street shimmered against the night. It was late summer, yet the rain and the approaching storm brought the cold with it. I turned and surveyed the alley, made sure there were no shadows lurking nearby. Rain cascaded down the side of the restaurant. At the far end of the passage, a chain link fence rattled in the wind.
I crouched down. An inch thick gash right across the width of Jimmy’s throat smiled back at me; cartilage and bone glistened in the rain, while blood from his severed jugular rushed from the wound in quick, dark rivers.
‘I never forget a face, Jimmy. And I never forgot yours. I made sure I memorised every line and blemish. Because I knew one day I would find you. And I would finish you, for what you did to my parents. What you did to me.’
He eventually stopped gurgling and fell silent.
I lifted a handkerchief from my coat, wiped the knife clean. Another flash brightened the scene, and then the alley returned to a mawkish darkness as thunder rumbled overhead.
I looked to my left. The restaurant was quiet. One of its patrons had left through the back door ten minutes earlier with a belly full of linguine and wine, and now he was lying dead in the alley with his throat filling with water and his expensive suit soiled with blood.
I looked down at his wrist. It was 9.47pm according to his Rolex, and that made me smile.