Saturday, 27 June 2009

A GOOD MAN by Lee Hughes

Here's another chiller from the productive pen of Lee...
A Good Man

Tess smiled as Gavin pulled out her chair. She'd never done anything spontaneous like this before. She wondered if it was a sign that she was getting desperate. Bumping into this man in the supermarket that afternoon and then accepting his offer of drinks. It had begun with an offer of meal. But drinks sounded safer.

"So, what will you have?" asked Gavin as he took off his jacket.

Tess looked past him to the bar. She didn't want anything that would get her pissed, "I'll have half a lager please."

"On its way," said Gavin.

He walked to the bar. She watched him move. He was trim. He gained points there. His face was tanned, naturally, not through cosmetics or tanning booths. Most of all he had just shown some class in her books by not asking her if she wanted a bag of crisps. That sort of thing stank like a night at the Dog & Duck. The usual crowd drinking their livers away. The women with pints, the men with rolled cigarettes and a bag of Big Eat on the table, torn down the side so that everyone could help themselves. She'd managed to separate herself from it over the last year. If ever she needed reminding as to why she had escaped from that life she pictured one of the sad, leathered old bints, complete with moustache and yellowed fingers. The only life they had was another gin and tonic and maybe a 'dare-shag' when a bunch of lads were on a pub crawl.

No, this was nice. She watched him stand politely at the bar. Not barging his way to the front. He even let a woman be served before him. This one had manners. She still had to find out what he did for a living. He'd been wearing a suit at the supermarket when they'd bumped trolleys in the produce aisle. Perhaps a manager, in a bank? Tess watched him return to the table. He walked with confidence, yet it was nowhere near being a strut. And instead of a pint, Gavin had opted for a more civilized bottle of beer.

"Thanks," said Tess.

Gavin sat and raised his drink and said, "Here's to taking the odd chance, now and again."

"I'll drink to that." Tess lifted her own glass.

They soon found themselves at the 'Why I'm single' topic of conversation. Gavin had worn a wry smile. Tess was glad that he had been honest with her. She put a lot of stock in honesty.

"My wife, she left me for another man. Things hadn't been great for a while. I was probably just as much to blame for it all falling apart the way that it did," Gavin finished it with another wry smile, "Your turn."

Tess liked the honesty in Gavin and wished that she could be brave enough to be as honest as he had. But, she was too frightened of blurting it all out and then having to bear witness to Gavin finishing his drink, making his excuses and leaving, never to be seen again.

"I think I'm just too picky," said Tess.

Gavin nodded. "Libra?" he asked.

"Yes! How did you guess that?" Tess was stunned, in a good way. She always read her horoscope.

"My sister is picky too. And, she's a Libra," he took another drink from his bottle.

Tess changed the subject, wanting to keep it upbeat, like it was now. She was just worried that if they lingered on the subject some of her personal problems might bubble to the surface and then the night would crash. "Are you planning on going on holiday this year?" she asked.

"I was thinking about Crete. A bit of time to sit back, relax, catch some rays," he put the bottle to his lips but stopped before actually taking a sip. He had noticed her eyes wide open, "What?" he asked.

"Oh, my God. I've been thinking about going there!" Tess couldn't believe it. She had brochures and everything. She tried to become casual. Just in case Gavin didn't believe it wasn't all coincidence and that she was just agreeing with him on everything. That would appear needy, and she was no longer that woman. She was glad that he wasn't looking at her like some sort of freak. He smiled and it relaxed her somewhat.

Gavin said, "Well, you never know. I might get the chance to buy you a cocktail on the beach. But for now it'll have to be from this bar. Same again?"

"That would be great thanks." She watched his every move as he went back to the bar. She even took a sneaky photograph of him with her phone. It was only a side view. But it would be enough to show Carol at the office in the morning.

He stood at the bar patiently. Reaching for his wallet. Pulling out a twenty. She could see other notes in there. Was this the one? Were the deadbeats and low-life's all in her past. Tess was sure of one thing. She was going to be who she wanted to be, her old persona was behind her. The new Tess was worthy of being with Gavin. She chastised herself. She'd only been in his company for half an hour and she was already getting notions.

They had another couple of drinks. Gavin had gone onto Coke as he was driving. Tess lost complete track of the time. They'd been chatting non-stop. And they'd found out that they both had a lot in common. Then, alas, Gavin had looked at his watch. "Best get you home."

"Kinda don't want the evening to end," sighed Tess as she drained her glass.

Gavin stood up. "Well, accept my offer of taking you out to dinner on Friday and then there'll only be two nights until I get to bore you again."

"That's a date," she blushed and said fast, "and you don't bore me."

"Then that's all sorted. Let's get you home."

Tess half expected a kiss as they stood outside her home. Gavin didn't let her down. Although he was most gentlemanly about it and leaned in for a short but nice kiss on the cheek. Tess wanted to invite him in badly. It took all her strength not to. She wasn't that woman any more. She wanted to play this right, there was a chance of happiness with Gavin. She could feel it. She waved as he drove away.

She felt as though there was electricity running through her veins as she plopped herself down on the couch with half-a-glass of wine. She didn't want much more. She had work in the morning. A year ago, she wouldn't have bothered but she had fought long and hard to get her current job and there was no way she'd risk losing it. The lounge door opened. She nearly dropped her wine.

Her mouth though, that did drop. It was Gavin standing in the doorway. No longer in his suit. He was stood wearing a boiler-suit. He smiled, "I decided I didn't want tonight to end either."

"How did you get in here?" She didn't know how to react to this invasion.

Gavin shrugged. "The spare key in the little hidey-gnome in the garden."

Tess got up and backed towards the wall. "How?"

"How what? How did I know about that little secret? Nobody pays any attention to a postman walking around the back of people's houses, so long as they have a parcel."

Gavin came deeper into the room. Tess couldn't say anything. It was as though her head was filled with cotton wool and all her thoughts were being absorbed and hidden. Gavin pulled out a chisel and set it on the table by the phone. He yanked the wire from the wall-socket. From his pocket he pulled a length of twine, "You seem stuck for words Tess. Do you not want to be friends any more?"

"But!" The words were tumbling from her brain into her mouth in a jumbled, incoherent manner.

Gavin took a step closer. "But we got on so well? You being a Libra? It was your birthday three months ago. Six cards delivered. Not very popular are you? Crete, four different brochures delivered two weeks ago. I even know that the cheap blouse you're wearing came from the pages Moffit's catalogue. Are you paying it off at fifty-six pence a week? And what's with all that perfume and talc, eh? Got hooked on that now have you?" he took another step closer.

There was no more space for her to retreat. Practically no air between the wallpaper and the cold sweat on her back.

"Get out!" She started dragging in breath as if readying herself to scream.

Gavin growled, "How's the smack habit? Keeping on top of it? I opened the letters from the hospital because I wanted to make sure that you weren't ill. Found out instead that you are weak and diseased. I detest weakness. It's a disgusting trait. My wife had a weakness. It was for other men. She didn't leave me, I left her, where? I'm not telling. I've been watching you. I even fell in love with you. Until I found out that you're a crack-whore. All those months wasted. Silently courting you, getting to know you so that I could make you happy. You stole from me," he stopped to pull the twine tight in his hands so that it made a snapping sound, "now you're gonna give me back what you owe. You ever fuck for money? bet you did, a lot. I don't know yet what I'm going to do with you. Do I chop you into little pieces and post you off to a hundred different made up addresses so you just bounce about, forever. Or maybe, this caring postman, me. He comes by tomorrow with your letters and sees you all sprawled out on the floor through the window. He breaks in. Touches you as he tries to revive you. Where's the D.N.A gone then? All mixed up, Huh? They wouldn't suspect little old me. Never have before. And besides, who'd care about a dead crack-whore?" He snarled and moved closer.

That was it. The breaking point for Tess. There was only so much she could take. She had made a promise to herself never again to go down that dark and damp road that led to oblivion. It had been the same when Jack had turned up, wanting to get her hooked again. Had wanted to dump her back into that grim life once more. To work the streets, to be foul. She'd fixed him. Just like she would have to fix this, this Gavin. If that was even his real name. She kept a knife down the back of the couch, just in case someone else turned up from her past like Jack had. Someone wanting to drag her back down to the gutter.

Tess dove for the couch. Gavin thought she was making a break for it. He hooted in glee and dove after her. Landing atop of her. He struggled to roll her over. He got her onto her back and pulled funny faces at her. He could feel it, cold and sharp inside his ribs, moving back and forth inside him like a nodding dog. He gasped, opened his mouth and dribbled crimson all over her stern face. Tess kept hold of the handle. The blade was in right to the hilt. She gave it another wiggle just to be sure. More blood spilled from his mouth. She didn't push him away, she'd rather get the blood on her face rather than on the carpet. Besides, you can't catch Aids twice.

It was hard work dragging him up the stairs. She was sweating as she opened up the walk-in wardrobe in the spare room. The sweat softened the dried blood on her face and carried some of it away to leave pink streaks. Tess pushed Gavin into the wardrobe. At least Jack would have some company. Jack was blanketed in perfumed talc. She doused them both with some more and closed the door so they could be alone with their bastard selves.


Lee Hughes' short fiction has appeared, or is due to appear on Thriller's, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, MicroHorror.Com and in the anthology Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Find out more at www.LeeHughesWrites.Blogspot.Com.


  1. Really enjoyed that, Lee.
    The sudden twist mid-story certainly worked, even though it was all too good to be true for Tess at the start.
    Good ending, too.
    Excellent work, bud.

  2. Cheers Col, first idea for it had him pitching up the next morning as a postie to 'find' her then changed my mind, such is life lol

  3. just simply super. great twist and twist again. neat details and fab plot all told with an economy of words that lets your craftsmanship shine. bravo.