“You murder a young man – a talented young man, at that – so heartlessly; you try, twice, to kill his girlfriend – my son’s babysitter – Alice; you drug Alice’s current boyfriend, Kevin, with God knows what intention, though I think we can all guess,” Richard paused, gulped down a mouthful of champagne then continued, “you leave a very nice little note with a car park attendant suggesting I’m implicated in the whole affair, then, to cap it all, you visit my home and try to inject my wife with your venomous lies! What do you expect me to do? Wait until you’ve taken out everyone connected with this insanity and pinned it all on me?” He drained his glass and replaced it on the table with a sharp clink.
“Cooperman, has anyone told you that you talk way too much,” Pestis glanced slightly anxiously at the door, “and way too loudly when you’ve had a drink?”
“I’ve had less than two glasses of that cheap crap Ben calls champagne. I‘m fine! Now, if you‘ll excuse me, I’m going to find my wife and leave. I‘ve a murder and one or two other serious crimes to report.” Richard pushed himself up, straightened, swayed, attempted to grab the mantelpiece, failed, then slumped back into his chair, a look of incomprehension on his face. He looked up at Pestis, who was now rising from her chair opposite, but his head slumped back against the warm leather as if attached by strong elastic. An unsettling tingle was icing its way around his head and down his neck. He was unable to focus clearly, but could just make out, through dimming eyes, Pestis leaning over him and starting to speak, before he felt himself falling backwards into a curious, wonderfully calm blackness.
“Ah, Richard. So full of bravado, yet seemingly so naïve. You shout to anyone who’ll listen that Ben and I are murderers; that we concocted, then executed, a plot to steal a young nobody’s work – how ironic that his name was Victor; and that I then tried to kill two others after first drugging them. You argue all of this then threaten us to our faces that you’re going to bring our houses tumbling down around our ears!
You asked, “What did I expect you to do?” Well, I ask you the same question…and I’ll answer it for you. I’M GOING TO DO THE SAME TO YOU THAT I DID TO THE OTHERS, YOU FUCKING IDIOT!”
“I don’t think he can hear you, my dear…though shout a little louder and the rest of the estate might.”
“Oh, Ben! I didn’t hear you come in. Lock that door and give me a hand.”
“It’s already done. Here, you take his feet and I’ll get his shoulders. Damn! Why did he have to go to such lengths for authenticity? The cape is one thing, but what’s with all this padding? He weighs a ton! Steady Yvette, watch that table! Shit! There goes another one! When this is all over, you owe me a set of fluted glasses. Get him over there by the window near the far wall. If we can get him through that, the basement steps are just to the left of it. That’s it. I’ve got him, you open the window. Right, stick his legs through then give me a hand at this end. Okay, push! No, wait! His tights are snagged on the latch. Would you do the honours, Yvette, sweetie? That’s fine. Right, heave!”
Richard’s body crunched onto the gravel beneath the window with a sound not unlike someone shaking a box of Honey Nut Clusters. He let out a brief, low moan. Within seconds, Fedora was through the window and helping Pestis who was struggling to follow due to her long, black, Morticia Addams’ gown.
Presently, and with a little judicious ripping, the pair were able to resume their stations at either end of Richard and transport him down the basement steps.
“Shh! What was that?” whispered Pestis, her breath smoking in the frostbitten night air.
“What was what? I didn’t hear anything.”
“Over there, on the pathway behind the trees.”
“Guests are coming and going all the time. It was probably them. Here, take this,” Fedora handed over a key. “Unlock the door…and get a bloody move on! Superman here is not getting any lighter!”
Pestis unlocked the basement door and gave it a push. It opened easily enough, but with a loud creak followed by several rapid cracks, similar to a magpie’s call. A miserable, urine-coloured light was already burning inside and it seeped out now washing over the faces of Fedora and Pestis as they carried their burden through the doorway and dumped it unceremoniously onto an old mattress by the damp-stained right-hand wall.