This morning browsing my reader, I came across a writing prompt over at the Mad Chronicler. I’m such a sucker for prompts, so I spent some time this morning working on a piece of short fiction. I would love to see what else comes from this prompt, so if you take up the challenge, please do leave me a link!
Peace guys. ❤
It had begun to snow. Even in the night sky the rolling grey clouds that brought the heavy flakes were clearly visible. In less than an hour, there would be a fine layer of muting white across the town, and if he was quick there would be no disturbing that quiet perfection till morning, long past the Dark Hour.
Leaning slightly out of the alleyway, Clement looked across the street and up, to the third floor window he’d been watching since shortly after dusk. Almost every window in the house had been lit when the sun had gone down, and he’d kept sentry, watching as each one dimmed the later the hour became, until only the one was left. The soft candlelight glow had been steady for the past two hours, and through the light curtains he had seen glimpses of the inside: a man standing at the window and tucking his shirt back into his pants, leaning down and staying there for several minutes, as if studying something on a desk.
Clem looked at the street clock across the way, and then tucked himself back against the old brick wall, pulling his wide brim hat further down. Three minutes. He waited with cruelly taught patience as his black overcoat caught a patchy white layer.
Silently, the clock struck midnight, and its second hand froze. Clem stepped into the street lamps’ light. If the Dark Hour were to happen in the middle of the day, with people going about their normal business, it would have been as though someone had stopped one of those motion pictures in the middle – all manner of individuals suspended unnaturally in their walk, their speech. But instead it happened at midnight, though not every midnight, and it was simply as though a vast majority of people did not exist. To say they gained an extra hour of sleep was untrue, for he had determined quickly that during this hour, others did not breath.
He picked the lock on the front door in less than a moment, stepping gently into the house. He was always utterly alone during this time and he could in fact be as loud and clumsy as he wanted, but that was sloppy, and Clem didn’t do sloppy.
Moving through the foyer and the adjacent sitting room, he glanced around the kitchen, all neat and tidy in preparation for cooking the morning meal. Several doors down the hall, he found the master of the house’s study. Inside the study, he easily located the false panel on the northern wall and, behind that, the safe. He couldn’t suppress the grin of satisfaction; the combination of skill and planning that came together in a quick and seamless snatch and grab made for an intoxicating rush.
The lock on the safe took some time to finesse open, however and more than once he had to start over when he clicked past the slot where the tumbler should have fallen. But he pushed down any frustration he might have felt – he had nothing but time, and while going about his business during the Dark Hour when there was never anyone to challenge him might not be sporting, this was too important to risk bungling.
The safe clicked open some moments later, and he grabbed out all five of the thick folders inside, as well as the seven wads of cash, stuffing everything into the various pockets of his duster. He had only come for the one file, the one that dealt with his grandfather’s inherited land and farm, but given what a right prick of a businessman he was, and seeing as how he would soon be dead, Clem saw no reason not to give as many families as possible some immediate relief. He closed the safe back and spun the dial, the tumblers clicking back into place.
And now for the second part of his crime. He pulled the long barreled pistol from its holster at his hip, and made his way the rest of the way down the hall and up the stairs. Bypassing the second floor, he came to the third. It was not a very tall space, being so close to the roof, and had the cramped feel of where live in servants would be consigned to, with only a single door on either side of the stairs. The street side door was locked, but picked with less effort than the front door had been. And inside was his target.
Only, the man wasn’t alone. He was sprawled on his back, naked, his pot belly disproportionately hanging over the rest of his anatomy, and next to him, curled on her side but not touching him, was a woman. Her hair was unkempt and her lip had been freshly split, and she was tucked tightly into what must have been the man’s shirt, trying futilely to guard against the cold. Clem knew one thing just from a quick glance at her face: she wasn’t the missus.
Damned though if she didn’t complicate things. He had set out tonight to rob this man of his business papers and his life, both of which he could still do. But he knew the trauma the woman would experience waking up next to a dead man, likely laying in his blood, and he had no doubt that her life would be short lived thereafter. No one would give a second thought to the woman, and actually the blame being on her would save Clem a world of trouble while the police conducted their investigation. But it didn’t sit right with him, letting another hang for his crimes.
Sternly he pointed the gun at the man’s head, then hesitated. He gritted his teeth, his heart racing, unable to slow his thoughts down enough to be rational. He had to do this, to complete the deed. Could he live with himself if he did though? Maybe the better question was, could he live with himself if he didn’t?
That was when she opened her eyes.