Suicide, Accident or Murder? - A short Story
Two friends barrel along a quite country road in rural France. The mid-summer sun casts deep shadows as they roll through forests of Oak and Chestnut. The pace is high but only the leader is doing the real work, smoothly powering the big gears, keeping the pace high. The second, weaker rider spins a lower gear and struggles desperately to keep his front wheel close to the rear wheel of the leader. It’s called ‘drafting’ in the sport and he knows that if he loses the wheel he'll be dropped and he’ll be finished.
He digs deep. He won’t last long now, but he struggles gamely on until the next big hill begins to stretch the distance between them. Metre by metre the gap grows until the tow is lost.
He drops to an even lower gear. He legs are burning now, his quads are on fire. He stands up out of the saddle to get more purchase on the pedals and digs in hard again. But it’s only a token gesture; a last gasp. The gap closes fractionally for a second until the gradient steepens once more. Whooping in the air in desperate gasps he finally gives up the chase and drops back into the saddle, a spent force. He watches as his friend pulls further away, crests the hill and disappears out of sight around a bend. He knows he’ll see him again soon; Andy wouldn’t leave him on his own this far from home.
The hill is finally behind him now and the road has levelled off to the slightest uphill gradient. The forest has opened up into rolling fields and the hedges are protecting him from the stiff headwind. The going has become a little easier.
Sure enough there’s Andy up ahead in the middle distance, easing off on the pedals; allowing him to catch up. He’s slowly recovering his breathing rate and the pain in his legs eases with every turn of the pedals.
“So, what are you going to do about Jan?” asked Andy as the slower man finally closed and pulled alongside him.
“She’s got to go.... I’ve got to .... get rid of her,” his breathing was still laboured and he answered in short bursts, taking deep breaths between the words. “She’s become such a pain in the bum.... She’s everywhere, taking over everything. I have to be shot of her.”
Their pace has eased a little more. The main work of the ride was over; it was just a case of getting home now. Thirty kilometres to go, but the worst was behind them. This was the extended warm-down he, but not Andy, needed. They could take their time so long as they beat the sunset.
“Really? I thought you were getting on really well with her. Everybody loves Jan, she’s wonderful, a real character.” Andy still looked as fresh as he had when they met up four hours earlier. He never seemed to tire, never struggled for breath, even on the sharpest of climbs and the hardest of rides. He could be really infuriating to lesser riders.
They rolled smoothly along, the tyres making barely a noise on the well-maintained roads.
“Nah, I’m bored with her, she’s definitely got to go,” he replied breathing more easily now as the pace continued to drop and the road curved gently downwards into the valley below.
“Sounds a bit callous,” Andy was almost shocked, “Are you sending her away?”
“Nah, she’s got to die.” Very matter-of-fact.
“What?" Andy was dumbstruck, he couldn't believe what he was hearing. They’d been friends for years and Andy had never thought his mate could be so damned ruthless. He spent the next couple of miles trying to talk him out of it. He finished by saying, "Surely there’s got to be another way?”
“No, her friends would forever want her back, wouldn’t they? Considering she’s so bloody popular.”
There was another short pause before the man continued, “I’ve thought about suicide but the insurance company wouldn’t pay out,” he paused. They were passed by a fast moving truck and he had to drop in behind Andy on the narrow road to avoid being hit. They raised their fists and shouted expletives, in French, at the disappearing driver.
“Yeah, I understand,I suppose,” a reluctant Andy said when his mate pulled alongside him once more.
“So it has to look like an accident. Can’t be foul play. I don’t want the police involved again, not after the last time.” Andy cast him a quizzical glance at this, but let it pass and they rode on in silence for a while until they’d cleared a small village.
On the open road again he continued, “Because she’s so, well .....nice, I don’t want her to suffer. So it has to be as quick and painless as possible.”
“That’s generous of you,” said Andy with barely a trace of sarcasm.
“I thought of throwing her off the roof of a tall building, but there aren’t any around here tall enough to guarantee she’d die. I’d hate for her to end up in a wheelchair. I'd never get rid of her then. And anyway, how would I get her up onto the roof?”
“True enough,” Andy nodded his agreement.
"I can't use poison as it would leave a trace."
They both clicked to a lower gear as the road levelled off and stretched into the distance. Andy took a drink from his water bottle and replaced it in its cage. The sun passed behind a bank of high cloud and the temperature dropped to what the weathermen would call ‘pleasantly balmy’.
“A car accident might do it, but it would also cause problems. No guarantee of a quick death, bloody messy, and there's the other driver to consider. I wouldn't want to bring in any innocent bystanders, things are complicated enough. No,it has be an accident at home. I can control more of the variables there.”
“I did some research a little while ago. Apparently, the vast majority of fatal accidents at home take place in either the kitchen or the bathroom.”
“Yeah?” asked Andy again.
“Makes sense if you think about it.” He raised his left hand from the handlebars and ticked off the list with his fingers, “There’s water and slippery surfaces in the bathroom, and then there’s sharp objects, hot surfaces, and electrical appliances in the kitchen.”
“What have you decided then?”
They slowed down to negotiate a junction before pulling away once more. They were on more familiar roads now, close to home. A little burst of speed from Andy had the would-be murderer struggling again.
“It’s got to be the bathroom," he resumed after regaining his breath. "She’s going to slip on some soap, hit her head on the side of the bath and drown.”
He ticked off the selling points on his fingers again, “One, its clean, if you pardon the pun.” He smiled sheepishly and then continued, “Two, it’s certain. There's less chance of her surviving, especially if I hold her head under water for a few minutes. And three, it’s relatively painless, .... or so I’ve read.” There was a short pause before he asked, “What do you think?”
Andy looked across at his old friend, "You might get away with it. If you're absolutely sure this is the way you want to play it?”
“Definitely, she has to die and this is the best way I can think of to get it done.”
“I suppose, if you really think it’s for the best then go ahead. Just keep me well out of it, OK?”
He had finally made up his mind. Talking it over with his best mate had firmed up his decision; he would kill her off that very night. Writing was tough, but he always found discussing his upcoming storylines with Andy very helpful.
They rode towards the setting sun.