Murder in Middle England

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Stephen Baker sipped his freshly poured pint of real ale, having just murdered his wife.

Submitted: January 08, 2012

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Submitted: January 08, 2012

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Stephen Baker sipped his freshly poured pint of real ale, having just murdered his wife.

The Saturday hubbub of the local pub washed over him. Uncontrolled and noisy children screamed and ran around tables as if they were navigating a garden maze, local men sat at the bar talking to one another, occasionally roaring with laughter and a few couples sat forlornly on large leather sofas reading newspapers.

Outside, the frost on car windows glistened, stubbornly refused to melt. The trees were spindly shadows of their green and lush selves and the winter wind pierced the air aggressively, sending a painful shiver down the spines of any intrepid country ramblers. It was November and the village was deserted, no one would be outside in weather like this.

Cars moved slowly through the one road that cut through the village, occasionally an overly ambitious driver would skid and brake suddenly. It hadn't snowed for over a week but the cotton like remains of the blizzard clung to every surface.

The village was small, no more than thirty or so homes stood next to the main road with the pub somewhere in the middle. There was no longer a village shop to speak of, the residents no longer needed one with a supermarket only a short drive away and the village hall had been converted into stylish homes a long time ago.

Gone were the days of a village where everyone knew each others names, this was twenty first century Britain; people were too self conscious and uneasy to actually speak to one another.

Instead, the village was populated exclusively with commuters, couples and families who relied on the nearby station to take them into central London first thing in the morning, and bring them back again in the early evening.

A few of the residents had struck up conversations with each other over fences and car roofs to discuss good weather, bad weather, wet weather and odd weather, but there were few real friendships.

The pub had a crackling fire which sent smoke billowing up through the chimney, acting as a beacon for anyone foolish enough to be outside. Stephen sat alone on a small table set up for two, he stared into his pint, enjoying the oaky finish that comes from a locally brewed ale.

The recollection of what he'd just done was running through his mind, ploughing through his senses like a steam train. He recalled what had just occurred from start to finish.

He and his wife had been married for 23 years, he was 50 and his wife, Clare, was 49.

Excluding the last year, they had been quite happy together. They had silently and quite contently reached that point life where marriage was not so much a loving union of a couple passionately enamoured with each other, but a convenience. A shirt ironing, supper cooking, shelf repairing, bill paying, dinner party attending, convenience.

However, the last twelve months had become a definite inconvenience.

It had been this way ever since Stephen had kissed a women half his age at party at the rugby club, when Clare had been on a weekend with her 'girls'. He had been drinking with his friends, all a similar age, and was spurred on when a young blonde girl came over to him and dragged him to the dance floor.

She was a very attractive young thing, looking like the sort of girl who would win one of those ghastly reality talent shows that he disliked so much. He must have had at least five pints of lager and half a bottle of wine to himself and his mood was one of childish recklessness.

As the girl pull on his arm and led him to he dance floor, he felt like he was back at university, enjoying night after night of unbridled freedom. As the girl grabbed both of his arms and put them on her waist, his senses sharpened slightly and he felt her small, slender waist.

She leaned in to shout something into his ear over the booming music, misreading this, Stephen had kissed the girl on the lips. She didn't resist at first, but as he went for another go he felt her arms stiffen and push him back.

You're old enough to be my dad mate, I was only going to dance with you for a laugh” she said, with a smile full of pity.

Right, no of course, sorry, I don't know what came over me” Stephen said, the childish recklessness having completely left him now. The girl walked away, back to her group of friends who all erupted with giggling laughter as she returned.

He felt his face get hot and became acutely aware that there was no one else on the dance floor. He looked over and saw his friends watching him, all of them with a look of both shock and glee on their faces. What an idiot, they thought, and he silently agreed.

For a reason he can no longer fathom, told his wife about as soon as she returned. The result was four nights of sleeping on the sofa and many pointed silences, icy glares and furious arguments.

Even when Stephen was permitted to return to the marital bed, the atmosphere in the house was still poisonous. The last twelve months had been littered with slamming doors, one word responses and snipping remarks at local gatherings and parties.

Clare had, perhaps understandably thought Stephen, been mortified by the whole incident. Many of her friends had husbands at the rugby club that night, many of them were part of Stephen's group and had seen the whole thing at close range. They had, of course, told their own wives as soon as they next saw them, spreading the story faster than any 24 hour news channel.

As he took another sip from the pint and savoured it's reassuring warmth, his mind wandered onto one of the worst of the moments in the past twelve months. Two weeks after the 'indiscretion' (the word that Clare used), he had bought a new suit from Savile Row.

It was a beautiful suit, like no other suit he had ever owned. He wasn't a man of ostentatious taste or one who often cared about sartorial standards, but he knew this was a good suit. Dark blue, with an ivory lining and a cut that made him look well built and important.

He'd bought the suit as a gift to himself, a 'well done' to the fact his boss had given him a remarkably complimentary appraisal and said he was the run away favourite for the promotion he had wanted for almost a year. He deserved this suit, he had earned this suit and he would buy this suit.

He had bought the suit home and hanged it on the door of the wardrobe, allowing it to 'settle', as the well spoken man in the shop had suggested. He then went to the pub to have a pint with Roger, a friend he commuted with who lived three doors down. Theirs was perhaps the only friendship in the entire village, forged through the daily commute.

Upon returning home he went upstairs to admire his new purchase once again. As he opened the bedroom door his eyes moved from the door handle to the wardrobe, in doing so he saw strips of blue fabric lying on the floor.

Only the shoulders of the suit remained on the hanger, the rest lied in shreds across the floor and bed. He knew exactly what had happened, and could take a good guess at why.

He stormed down the stairs as if he'd been thrown feet first down them, bolting into the kitchen.

"What the hell have you done?!" he screamed, as Clare stirred soup in a pan on the AGA.

"I beg your pardon?" replied Clare, keeping her eyes on the pale red liquid that swirled calmly.

"Do you have any idea how much that fucking suit cost? Do you?!" shouted Stephen, finding himself trembling a little.

"I imagine you paid an arm and a leg" replied Clare, without looking up.

"A thousand pounds, a grand, you mad bitch. Why the hell did you cut it up?!!" he bellowed with a face now as red as the soup bubbling on the stove.

"Because, dearest” she said, slowly “that suit resembled something, it symbolised something." She was still stirring.

"What in God's name are you talking about?" he said, the volume in his voice lowering down to one of sheer confusion.

"It symbolised a mating call, you bought it to make yourself look younger, fitter, more attractive to the next slut who decides to pity you." she replied, this time glancing at him momentarily before focusing her attention back on the soup.

Stephen sputtered with indignation, grabbing his hair with both hands and shaking his head. "You're insane Clare, insane. I hope you realise you're paying for that suit, every last penny. A grand Clare, a fucking grand."

He muttered something under his breath before leaving the kitchen, slamming the door behind him.

Weeks of almost uninterrupted icy silence then passed, the only times they actually spoke to one another was to in order to accomplish some trivial task, "Pass the remote, please", "May I have the pepper?", "I will drive tonight", that sort of thing.

They didn't have a large house; it was a three bedroom cottage, the sort of house that attractive young couples dream of moving into, and post-middle age couples slowly begin to resent. Their two children, Jonathan and Ellie were both at university, something for which their parents were now very grateful - they didn't have to endure this.

Despite the modest size of their home, the absence of children and the passive aggressive state of their marriage made it feel huge. Clare and Stephen had quickly adopted a 'one in, one out' rule when it came to rooms in the house. When Stephen entered the lounge, Clare would make an excuse to leave. When she decided to go to the kitchen, he'd soon vacate it.

Stephen had reasoned that perhaps this is what happened to all marriages, at some point, perhaps they were like any other couple their age. He started to look at every other couple of similar years when he was out and about, wondering to himself whether they had stopped talking to one another too, whether they also couldn't bare to be in the same room as each other. Then, inevitably, whichever couple he was staring at would then kiss each other, laugh heartily or hold hands, shattering any illusion that they were enduring marital strife.

He had considered talking to Roger about everything; they were the same age, both married with children who had since fled the family home and the pair of them got on well. Roger was better looking than Stephen; he looked after himself, went to the gym, ate healthily and had a tan that said he was serious about his holidays.

Originally this had quietly annoyed Stephen, but he had soon stopped bothering to care about it, he was a nice enough guy who made the hour or so to London much more bareable. The pair of them took the same early morning train into central London everyday and had quickly bonded over the shared hell that is modern day commuting.

After a few weeks of awkward and polite conversation they soon struck up a routine, even forgoing the train waiting at the platform if the other was was running late. Stephen wasn't sure what exactly it was that Roger did, commuting wasn't a time for talking about work, all he knew is that Roger undoubtedly earned more.

It was Roger who suggested the tailor on Savile Row, from where he bought all his suits and proclaimed he "wouldn't dream of going anywhere else". In recent weeks Stephen had occasionally had to travel alone, as Roger had opted to 'work from home'. Stephen was always rather jealous of the idea of 'working from home'; how much work did anyone actually do when they were on their own sofa?

Roger's wife, Beverley, travelled for her job and she was only home at weekends. Stephen had met her a few times, when the two men had gone to the pub on a Friday evening and Beverley had decided to join. She was nice enough, Stephen had thought; blonde, tall and clearly 'enhanced' to make her look younger that she was. Stephen didn't know what it was she did for a living, Roger rarely talked about her, but she intimidated Stephen whenever they met, like she could wrestle him right away and win easily.

Clare had occasionally joined the three of the them in the pub, she got on well with both Roger and Beverley, but the conversation never set the world alight; it was always more comfortable when it was just the two men, Stephen thought. The two men had soon developed a habit whereby, after alighting from the train home, one would turn to the other and ask “Pub?”, the other would almost always reply with a simple “Pub”.

Despite their decent friendship, Stephen had never told Roger about the issues with Clare. He had agonised over whether to confide in his traveling companion and tell him all about the fact that he was now married to a woman he never spoke to.

However, Stephen mused, this could well put a dampener on the morning commute and he didn't want to admit that as well as being less chiseled, tanned and wealthy as Roger, his marriage had broken down as well.

As he took another sip of the locally brewed ale, his thoughts shifted from past to present. It must have taken a year, he thought to himself, for the marriage to completely break down, and today's events where the dramatic conclusion.

He looked around the pub which had got busier since he first sat down. His eyes fell upon the table that he had sat at with Roger, Beverley and Clare before all of this had begun, when times were happier. He sighed slightly as he envied how happy he must have been then. He didn't remember feeling happy, content, yes, but not happy. But he must have been though, he thought, he had a wife that spoke to him, enjoyed his company and showed at least a degree of affection.

Behind him a barmaid dropped a glass and the sound jolted him out of his nostalgia. He looked down at the half empty drink in front of him and reflected on the last hour. An hour that had changed his life forever.

The day had begun like any other, which is surely how the most disastrous days begin.

It was a Friday and Stephen had allowed himself an extra twenty minutes in bed before getting up. He showered quickly, threw a suit on, combed his hair lazily and adjusted his tie in the bathroom mirror.

As he moved to leave the bedroom, he glanced back over at Clare's motionless body, still curled up under the covers. He had no idea what time she had gone to bed last night, he'd gone up first whilst she was watching some terrible reality television programme and she must have joined at some point after.

They tended not to go to bed at the same time anymore as the process of getting undressed and brushing hair and teeth invited conversation, small talk at the least. They didn't do small talk anymore.

Stephen left the bedroom, walked downstairs, through the house and outside to his car, still thinking about Clare and the constant silence. On auto-pilot, he got into the car, a Volvo, and short distance to the station.

He parked in the same spot he'd used for years and got out of the car and walked towards the platform for trains bound for the capital. As he stood on the icy tarmac, the freezing wind billowed towards him, ripping at his face and chest.

He looked around, there were the traditional faces, people he must have seen thousands of times. They all looked miserable, as if mirroring the greyness of the cloudy sky above.

Stephen felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, he reached for it and, turning his back towards the cold wind he glanced down at the glowing screen, it was a text message from Roger.

'Sorry old chap, working from home today, not going to Ldn in this weather!'.

Lucky bastard”, Stephen muttered, knowing that Roger was probably still under a duvet with a laptop in front of him and a cup of tea in hand, apparantly 'working from home'.

Stephen sighed, his breath swirling out in front of him, hanging in the cold air. He glanced up at the noticeboard, the train wasn't due for another five minutes. He looked around towards the small station kiosk, he needed something hot.

He walked towards the kiosk and smiled at the woman who had served him countless times, he didn't know her name and in this weather, didn't really care. Seeing him walk towards her, the woman instinctively moved towards the coffee machine and started on his cappuccino. With one had she blasted a jug of milk with hot air until it frothed playfully, with the other she grabbed a copy of the Daily Telegraph and placed it on the small counter.

Stephen nodded gratefully and reached inside his coat for his wallet. He felt his heart perform a somersault, the pocket was empty. He patted the other pockets and reached inside every one, it wasn't there. He felt his trouser pockets, feeling his phone in the right and nothing in the left. “Bollocks” he said loudly, causing a couple of the frozen commuters to turn around.

Sorry, I must have left my wallet in the car, I'll be two minutes” he said, the woman nodded kindly.

He walked quickly down the platform stairs, through the underpass and back up the other side, towards the car park, all the while searching pockets that he knew were empty. He left the station with his eyes set on his car, still walking briskly he almost slipped on the icy ground a couple of times, cursing loudly.

Once he reached the car he unlocked the driver door and pushed himself inside. He scrabbled about desperately, the train was only minutes away and his coffee was getting colder by the second. He pushed aside empty bottles of various soft drinks, foil wrappers and old newspapers. He couldn't find the wallet on the seat or the floor and after spending at least five minutes searching parts of the car he secretly knew would never be hiding his wallet, he sat on the seat and sighed, defeated. He then swore again loudly, knowing that he must of left the wallet at tome. He angrily hit the steering wheel.

Stephen sighed and put the keys in the ignition, closed the car door angrily and reversed out of the parking space. He drove quickly back towards the house, occasionally skidding on the frozen road and attracting glares from pedestrians as cold as the weather outside.

As he approached the house, still fuming, he saw a car parked outside that he didn't immediately recognise, and that certainly wasn't there when he left. His anger soon turned to intrigue as he slowly parkedthe car on the road.

He got out of the car and walked up the drive, as he past the car he realised who owned it. He had seen the grey Audi outside Roger's house before and has always admired the red leather interior.

Stephen didn't understand why Roger had parked his car in his drive. He walked towards the front door and let himself in. As he closed the oak door behind him he heard noises coming from upstairs, the kind of noises that told him immediately what was going on.

As he walked upstairs the groaning got louder, occasionally a scream of ecstasy would pepper the sound of heavy breathing.

The bedroom door was ajar, he looked at it intently, knowing that when he entered this room, his life would change forever. He touched the handle and slowly pushed the door open.

What he saw was a knotted mess of limbs, hands and feet sprawled out with the duvet thrown onto the floor. It took a few seconds for Clare to look over at Stephen and when she did she screamed loudly, grabbing a pillow to cover her naked chest.

The sudden movement caused Roger to move back quickly, following Clare's gaze he shouted “Jesus Christ!” and reached for the duvet, covering himself.

Jesus, Stephen, how long have you been standing there?!” Clare shouted, breathless.

That's what you're worried about?” He replied, cooly, “how long have I been watching?”

Oh don't act like this isn't a surprise, for God's sake” Clare spluttered, indignantly, “You played around first, this was just inevitable”.

She moved a hand towards her hair, trying to regain some composure. Roger was still kneeling on the bed, covered in the duvet and staring in shock at Stephen.

Stephen didn't take his eyes of Clare, he stood, breathing slowly, calmly.

Well?!” said Clare, after a few seconds of silence, interrupted only by Roger's heavy breathing. “Aren't you going to say something?!”

Stephen took a deep, slow breath. “No darling” he replied.

Clare stared at him confused, darting a look at Roger and then back at Stephen.


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