THE DAY BEFORE
The blue flashing lights illuminated the lavish lounge. Terry sat beneath the window, his back against the wall. He felt the cold steel of the revolver against his teeth when he placed the weapon in his mouth. The sirens grew louder, and he closed his tear stained eyes.
Terry Mcluskey was not an evil man. Circumstances had ordained his destiny. He applied the pressure on the trigger and his life passed before his eyes; his insignificant, pathetic life. All he ever wanted was recognition, nothing more. He looked over at his computer; his latest novel adorning the screen. His latest, worthless novel. All those hours of toil. All that stress and anger, for what?
Terry had written twelve novels. Each one he completed, he convinced himself that he had written a bestseller. Rejection after rejection followed. What the fuck did the agents know? Probably didn’t even read them. Subjected to the slush pile, just as Terry was. Rejected and forgotten.
Christine had left him over his obsession. “You think more about your bloody writing than you do of your family,” she had nagged. Perhaps she was right.
Terry switched himself off over the years. His wife was there for his endless cups of coffee and his occasional snack. As for his children, Sarah and Paul, he regularly dismissed them with money, as not to intrude in his fantasy world. Now, he was all alone.
He looked over at the letter on the doormat. Probably another rejection. The breaking of glass disturbed his daydreaming. They were coming for him. One thing in his miserable life he feared, was being locked away. Funny, all these years sitting isolated in his bedroom writing, and he was claustrophobic.
He heard the ticking of the clock; each tick bringing him closer to his destiny, his introduction to death. The front door was kicked in and he watched the armed policemen enter his domain. He pulled the trigger, and then, darkness.
The day before.
Terry lurked in the shadows of The Plaza, his lank, brown hair flattened against his scalp by the drizzle. He was unperturbed by such distractions. Meeting James Nolan was the only thing on his disturbed mind. He watched Nolan and another man enter the restaurant. His hands shook as he dried his face with his handkerchief.
His progress into the restaurant went unheeded, and he approached the table. The literary agent and his guest browsed through the menu. The flickering of the candlelight cast a shadow over the features of Nolan, as he watched Terry advance towards him. The literary agent’s neatly trimmed silver hair and tanned features, along with his gold rings, gave him the appearance of opulence, probably earned from authors.
“Mr Nolan, you don’t know me, but you’ve read some of my work. In fact, you’ve read everything I’ve ever written.”
Nolan frowned. “Excuse me. If you wish to see me, make an appointment like everyone else.”
Terry raised his voice a few decibels. “Mr Nolan, with all due respect, I’ve not once, but several times tried to make an appointment with you, only to be fobbed off by your arsehole of a secretary.”
Other diners now had turned their attention to the table. Nolan flashed them a smile, as if to apologise.
“What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t, but it’s Terence Mcluskey.”
Nolan smiled, and exhibited his perfect white teeth: “Ah yes, Mcluskey, the ever-persistent Mcluskey.”
“All I ask, Mr Nolan is for a little courtesy. Just tell me what’s wrong with my writing…that’s all I ask.”
Nolan looked over to his middle-aged client and smiled, before he turned his attention to Terry. “Mr Mcluskey, I take on only two or three authors a year, such as Mr Lee here. As you must realise, I receive hundreds of manuscripts a week, most of it rubbish. I simply don’t have the time to point out your errors and to comment on your work.”
“Rubbish! You arrogant bastard. Most of these so-called rubbish authors write constantly, twelve hours a day, seven days a week. You make me sick.”
“If you’re finished, Mr Mcluskey, I’m rather hungry.”
“No, I’m not finished, you shit. You wouldn’t know a bestseller if it hit you in your smug face.”
“George, would you kindly remove this person from the restaurant please?”
Terry picked up the glass of red wine and threw it into the agent’s face, before he was ousted from the restaurant.
Terry sat waiting in his car, and his glazed eyes followed the windscreen wipers as they danced in rhythm, eliminating the raindrops before they could settle. Terry held his head in his hands. The migraines were becoming worse day by day.
Nolan shook his client’s hand and bid him farewell, before climbing into his BMW. Terry followed the brand new car, the rage inside him building up like a volcano waiting to erupt. Ten minutes later, Nolan pulled up outside his exquisite home in Belgravia. Terry eyed the building up and wondered how many hours of writing produced such magnificence. He watched when Nolan entered his home and turned the lights on, which told Terry that Nolan was on his own.
He reached into the glove compartment for his revolver and felt the cold steel of the gunmetal. He placed a large folder under his coat to protect it from the rain. Terry walked out into the downpour and waited outside Nolan’s front door. His heart pounded double quick time when he rang the doorbell. He waited until the door was opened, and pushed aggressively, knocking the agent to the floor.
Terry crouched down, looked into the startled man’s eyes, and brought the revolver to his head.
“No, don’t do it, please!”
“Please, Mr Mcluskey,” mouthed Terry.
“Please, Mr Mcluskey.”
“Now, arsehole, let us make ourselves more comfortable while you await your death.”
They entered the deluxe lounge and Terry ordered Nolan to sit in one of the red leather armchairs. Terry ambled leisurely around the lounge, taking in the splendour of it all. Magnificent paintings adorned the expensive panelled walls, along with many certificates. A large grand piano stood at the end of the lounge.
“Tell me, Nolan, are you married?”
“N-n-no,” he stuttered.
“Good, then nobody will miss you, will they?”
“Please, if it’s money you want I have...”
“Shut up! You arrogant scum of the earth. Do you think I came here to rob you? I want you to read this.”
Terry passed over the manuscript, his eyes glaring wildly at the frightened agent.
“Yes, I’ll gladly read this. If you’ll just leave your address…”
Terry brought the revolver up below Nolan’s chin. “I don’t think you understand me. I want you to read it now.”
Nolan removed the novel from the folder, his hands trembling uncontrollably.
“Tell me, Nolan, did you ever read any of my manuscripts? I want the truth.”
“I have people to do that for me. If the novel shows promise, then they pass it on to me.”
“And did any of my novels ever get passed onto you? The truth. I’ll know if you’re lying.”
“N-n-no, I’m sorry. I never read any of them.”
“Well, you’re going to read this one… Read!”
The frightened agent picked up the novel and began to read.
“Aloud! I want you to read it aloud.”
“Unforeseen Circumstances, by Terence Mcluskey.”
Nolan read constantly into the early hours of the morning. Terry sat opposite, listened, and savoured every sentence, every word. Nolan moved onto the last chapter, and it was seven-fifteen in the morning.
The literary agent read out the final line of the novel. “Pardew would always regret, the day he met Lydia.”
The agent looked up and a tear formed in his eye; “Mr Mcluskey, that was absolutely outstanding. I’ve never in my life read a more intriguing and touching novel.”
“Too late, Nolan, you’ve had your chance.”
“No, wait! I’m serious; your novel was brilliant. Let’s just forget this episode ever happened and I’ll guarantee your book will be published. We have a bestseller on our hands, Mr Mcluskey.”
“We? Sorry, Nolan, wrong response.”
Terry watched the bullet enter Nolan’s forehead. He sat motionless in the leather chair, the blood seeping down his forehead, the smoke curling from the hole.
Terry smiled. He threw the numerous sheets of his novel in the air. A huge surge of energy flowed through his body. He had released a lifelong ambition. A literary agent had read his work, even though he knew Nolan was lying about it being brilliant.
The detective crouched down and examined the corpse of Terry. “Who was he, Joe?”
“Some two-bit author, divorced with two kids.”
The detective eyed the unopened letter on the doormat. He picked it up and read the contents. “Not so two-bit, Joe. He was about to have his latest book published.”
Unforeseen circumstances topped the best-seller list for two years. If only the letter had arrived the day before!