The bottle of red wine was just sitting on the doorstop when Anna got home from her job in the City as a financial advisor, a dark green bottle with a pale grey label positioned directly in front of the front door. She looked at it longingly, imagining the flavours of the wine sliding over her tongue, its aroma titillating her nostrils, for she knew she must not drink it. She stooped to pick it up, expecting to find a note or some other indication as to its provenance, but after turning the bottle over in her hand she found no clue as to who had placed it there.
Bemused, she tucked the wine under her arm and rummaged about in her handbag for the front-door key. Finding it, she unlocked the door and pushed it open with her shoulder. Her husband, Aaron, wasn’t home yet, which wasn’t surprising as she usually got home before him. Once inside, Anna kicked off her high-heeled shoes, the hem of her suit trousers now grazing the carpet, and dropped her keys into the bowl they kept on a table next to the door for this purpose. She dropped her handbag on the floor and wound her long blonde hair into a tight bun on top of her head, then padded into the kitchen to begin making dinner. She wondered what to do with the wine.
Aaron had banned alcohol from the house saying she didn’t need the temptation – her sponsor agreed, saying that it was essential if Anna was to overcome her addiction. Anna had now been dry for three weeks but she was finding it very hard. Thoughts of alcohol were always in the back of her mind; walking past a bar was a battle, the urge to stop in just ‘for one’ almost impossible to resist. But resist she did for the sake of her marriage.
Aaron had endured so much, stuck with her through the ‘troubles’, which had nearly seen her lose her career and do jail time, and had been a supportive companion and friend. But even Aaron had his limits. He had been ready to walk out, exasperated by her erratic behaviour, appalled by her drunken nastiness, he’d finally given her an ultimatum; him or the booze.
She looked at the wine on the kitchen work counter, thinking she should have left it outside. She desperately wanted to open the bottle and just have a small glass. Instead, she dropped the bottle into the bin, unopened. Anna flited around the kitchen, grabbing ingredients from the fridge, the chopping board stowed behind the microwave, a knife from the block. Then she stopped and glanced at the bin, biting her lip as indecision gripped her. She should probably pour the wine down the sink, that way she would not be able to drink it if her resolve weakened. Anna withdrew the bottle from the bin and opened it in one swift movement. The instant she smelt the fruity scent of the wine she knew she had made a mistake; she wasn’t going to pour it down the sink.
She held the bottle beneath her nose, and breathed in deeply, the scent filling her with need, then placed it to her lips, ready to sip. Just at that moment she heard Aaron coming through the front door. Quickly, she slammed the bottle down onto the counter and threw a tea towel over it in her panic, guilt burning at her insides almost as much as her desperate need for the alcohol.
Aaron came into the kitchen and smiled at her, his deep brown eyes twinkling with affection. “Hey gorgeous. How are you? How was your day?” He moved over to her and they embraced.
“Erm, yeah, good,” she said. “The usual, you know? Advice given, more finances made,” she forced a laugh. Aaron smiled again, then he noticed the bottle. Anna watched his eyes shift from her to the bottle under the cloth, then back to her.
“Anna, what is that?” He pointed at the work counter, his voice low and gruff.
“It’s… it’s wine, Aaron. But before you get angry, please let me explain.”
Aaron swiped the cloth off the bottle. “It’s open Anna! It’s fucking open!”
“It is, yes, but I swear I have not had a drink. I was tempted yes, but I have not drunk a drop. I found the wine on the doorstep.”
“On the doorstop? Don’t bullshit me Anna!” Aaron shouted.
“I swear Aaron, I just found it there.”
Aaron was furious and Anna could tell from his face that he did not believe her.
“I thought you were getting somewhere, that we were getting somewhere but you’ll never change, will you? You’re still drinking and lying to me.”
“Aaron, I have not drunk any of that wine! Look at it!”
Ignoring her, Aaron stormed across the kitchen and retrieved two glasses from a wall cabinet. He poured wine into both of them and held one out to his wife.
“Come on Anna! Drink! Let’s drink to the end of our marriage!” he sneered.
Anna began to cry. “Aaron, no, I don’t want it. Please! I swear I am not lying.”
Aaron shook his head disbelievingly, the disappointment in his eyes breaking Anna’s heart. “Here’s to you.” He raised his glass and drank the entire contents in one go. As he took the glass away from his lips, he looked at it, confusedly. “I don’t feel…” he started before his legs gave way beneath him and he collapsed to the floor, the wine glass shattering into little pieces as it hit the tiles.
“Aaron!” screamed Anna, her eyes wide with shock. She dropped to her knees beside him and shook him. “Aaron! Aaron! Wake up!” After a few moments Anna realised that trying to rouse Aaron was futile. She needed to call an ambulance. Her phone was in her handbag in the hallway.
As she stood she noticed a dark shadow move within her peripheral vision; she turned her head quickly and gasped in shock as she saw a man standing on the threshold of the kitchen. He was holding a handgun and it was pointed directly at her. The man was tall and well built, and he was dressed all in black. At first Anna didn’t think he had any hair but then she realised he was wearing a black swimming cap which covered all his hair save for tiny brown tufts that protruded out near his ears. She also noted that he had black bags wrapped over his shoes. His attire scared her for it suggested malicious intent.
“Don’t move and don’t you dare scream,” he said, his voice low and deep.
Anna froze, her eyes wide. Fear gripped at her insides, her limbs began to tremble. “My husband needs an ambulance. He just collapsed,” she said, her voice shaky.
“I know, I saw.”
“Please let me help him,” she stammered, half stooping, trying to touch Aaron’s shoulder, wondering how long the man had been in their home watching them.
“Don’t touch him. He’ll be fine,” the man said.
Anna looked at him, perplexed, unsure what to say or do, unable to fathom what was going on. She glanced down at Aaron and was relieved to see his chest gently rising and falling as he breathed. “How do you know he’ll be fine?” she asked, nervously.
The man took two steps towards Anna, causing her to involuntarily recoil. He ignored her question.
“Don’t you recognise me?” he asked, still aiming the weapon at Anna’s torso. She studied his face. There was something vaguely familiar about him, but she couldn’t pinpoint where she might know him from.
“What if I say to you: Mathew Ellis? That ring any bells in that drink-addled brain of yours?” the man questioned. Anna’s face drained of colour.
“I knew him, yes,” she said flatly.
“Oh, I know you knew him! I know all about you – Anna.”
Anna was startled by the man’s use of her name. Then she remembered. “You’re his son, Daniel”
Daniel smiled mirthlessly. “You do remember. I spent four weeks sitting in the public gallery watching you in the dock, listening to the lies your lawyers spouted, looking at you sob and weep, and act the poor, broken woman. You must have been convincing seeing as you were acquitted.”
“I was acquitted because I was innocent, Daniel,” Anna said, softly.
“That is NOT true!” he yelled. “You lie! You’re a liar and a cheat! You hid behind the booze, blamed it for everything you did, but you cannot plan and scheme and defraud the way you did by accident! You knew exactly what you were doing even though you are a drunk!”
Startled by his raised voice Anna shuddered and stepped back further, her lower spine now pressing against the kitchen worktop. “Please,” she raised her hands in an attempt to placate him, “I don’t know what you want, but I need to tend to my husband. Please,” she implored.
“I already told you he will be fine! He’s just unconscious.”
“The wine, it was from you?” she said, as it dawned on her. “You poisoned it.”
“I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist it,” Daniel grinned, no warmth in his smile.
“But it was unopened? How is it even possible?”
“A syringe through the top Anna. It’s not hard to do anything when you really want to. You should know, you’re a master manipulator, you did what you needed to do to con my father out of his money.”
“I didn’t con him,” she countered, “He gave me his money willingly. It was supposed to be an investment.”
“An investment? He lost everything because of you. He even lost the fucking court case! And do you know what else? He took his own life because of you!” he shouted.
“I didn’t know that,” Anna said, discomposed. It was true that she had lied about the potential returns of the financial product she was peddling and she had known that Mathew wouldn’t get his money back, but she had desperately needed his money to keep her business afloat and fund her lavish lifestyle after a series of poor decisions, brought about by her lack of clarity, had seen her lose hundreds of thousands of pounds. Mathew had been so trusting and easy to persuade that it had been easy extracting the cash she needed from him. She hadn’t minded taking his money, but she had not intended for him to take his life.
“Yes, I found him. Swinging from the bannisters of his soon-to-be-repossessed home – another thing I must thank you for - three days after your acquittal, his neck stretched, his body rigid, his face grey and distorted. Do you have any idea what it is like to find your father like that?”
“No, Daniel, I don’t, but you can’t blame me. It’s not my fault.”
“Of course it’s your fault! You swindled him out of all his money, money he worked so hard to obtain! He was self- made, nothing was given to him. You took all that away from him, you are the reason he killed himself!”
“The courts found me innocent of any wrong doing, so stop blaming me.”
“The only reason you got away with it is because they couldn’t prove your intent ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.” Daniel quoted the standard legal term used by the courts to determine whether or not a jury should find someone guilty. “That does NOT mean you are innocent! Just that those idiots believed your lies.”
Daniel was becoming more and more agitated, his gloved hands beginning to shake. The situation was escalating and Anna was afraid Daniel might actually shoot her by accident in his angered state. Regaining some of her composure, she decided to try and steer the conversation away from Mathew Ellis.
“What did you put in the wine, Daniel?” she asked. Again, he ignored her question.
“A great actress, you played your part so well. You’re far from innocent.” He shook his head.
“Daniel, please tell me what’s in the wine,” she beseeched.
“Ketamine, it’s only ket, ok? It won’t kill him. Or you.”
Anna looked at him, questioningly. “But I haven’t drunk any of it?”
“Not yet, but you will.”
“I’m not drinking it now I know you’ve tainted it with tranquiliser!” Anna said, incredulously.
“Yes you will.” Daniel’s body stiffened as he renewed his focus. He steadied his hand and pointed the gun at her face. “You will drink it, or I will shoot you through your cheeks. People won’t trust you without your good looks.”
Anna stared at him, her eyes round with fear. She could see from his expression that he meant it, but she wasn’t prepared to give in that esily.
“I won’t drink it Daniel. What are you going to do when I am unconscious? You could do anything!”
“That doesn’t concern you, and what do you care anyway? You’ll be asleep.”
Anna shook her head in bewilderment. “I don’t know how you expect to get away with this. You think no one will find out what you’ve done?”
“How are they going to even know I was here?”
“I’ll tell them of course!”
“And who is going to believe you? What evidence will you have? I have my alibi all sorted; I’m currently at the movies, two movies back to back to give me plenty of time. I’ve got the tickets in my pocket. And why d’you think I’m wearing this stupid swimming hat and bags on my shoes. I won’t be leaving any hairs or shoe marks here, Anna.”
“What about the drug? They’ll find it in my blood.”
“It’ll be out of your system in a few hours.”
“Daniel, please. Just leave now, I won’t call the police I promise. This doesn’t have to go any further.”
“You’ll forgive me for not trusting the word of a liar such as you. Drink the wine.”
Anna looked at the glass Aaron had poured earlier, the prospect of alcohol making her mouth fill with saliva, she wanted it so badly.
“No,” she said, her voice more confident than she felt.
Daniel scowled at her and cocked the gun, the metallic click of its mechanisms engaging causing Anna to stiffen.
“Drink the fucking wine.” Daniel said slowly, his voice taking on a menacing edge.
Anna reached out and took the glass in her hand. She held it briefly, considering her options. If she didn’t drink the wine Daniel would shoot her and, if he didn’t then go on to actually kill her, she would be scarred for life, her beautiful face turned into a tapestry of scars. Anna’s looks were very important to her, she liked to look beautiful and took considerable pride in her appearance. If she did drink it, at least she would be unconscious and oblivious to what was going on; if he chose to end her life, it would be painless.
She glanced at Aaron on the floor and then, decided, guzzled the wine as if it was her first taste of water after a day in the desert. She closed her eyes in bliss, the wine tasted so good. Within moments, she collapsed to the floor, like a puppet whose strings had been cut. She landed on the soft, warm body of her husband, the wine glass still in her hand.
Daniel let out a deep sigh of relief, lowered the gun and leaned against the kitchen wall, shaking. He hadn’t carefully considered what he would do if Anna didn’t drink the wine. He certainly couldn’t have shot her in the face as the gun was merely an unloaded air gun, designed to look like a real pistol. It just looked deadly. Anyone in Anna’s position, Daniel included, would have assumed it was capable of firing bullets. After a few moments, Daniel felt ready to execute the next stage of his plan; he was going to need all his strength and courage for this.
Quickly, he moved across the kitchen to where the couple lay in their unusual embrace, and gently rolled Anna off her husband. He didn’t want to leave any bruises on her, he needed her to be mark free for his plan to work correctly. Then, he lifted Aaron under the arms and carefully dragged him across the kitchen floor and into the lounge, Aaron’s socked feet sliding easily along the linoleum. Once in the lounge, he flopped Aaron’s upper body onto the sofa and then swung his legs up onto the seat. He propped his head up on some cushions, positioning him it so that it looked like he was watching the TV on the other side of the room. Once this was done and Daniel was happy with the way Aaron looked, he stepped back and took a moment to regain his breath. It was hard work manoeuvring unconscious bodies.
Then, he turned his attention to Anna, lifting her in the same manner he had lifted Aaron, her petite frame much lighter than that of her husband. He placed her on the floor next to the sofa then made his way back into the kitchen to choose a knife.
He glanced around the room, scanning for a suitable candidate, his eyes alighting upon the knife block. Daniel quickly extracted the largest knife and assessed the blade, turning it on its side, evening sunlight glinting off the sharp metal, determining if it would be adequate for his purposes. He decided it would do the job perfectly.
He walked back into the living room, the knife in hand, and stood over Anna’s prostrate form. He breathed deeply to calm himself, recognising that he was becoming apprehensive about the task ahead.
Daniel, placed the knife on Aaron’s thigh, then stooped down to pick Anna up, shuffling her into a rough standing position; it wasn’t an easy manoeuvre because her body was so floppy, but Daniel was a big, strong man and after a few tugs, pulls and hoists he managed to position her so that her bare feet were standing on his covered shoes, and her back was pressed up against his body. With one arm around Anna’s waist, he bent forward taking her with him, her torso folding forward, arms dangling uselessly, head lolling from side to side. Then, not without some difficulty, Daniel opened Anna’s right hand and placed it on top of the knife on Aaron’s thigh. He closed her hand around the handle, making a fist, his own large hand clasped around her smaller one, ensuring the knife was held tightly in her grip.
He pulled her upright again, and messily untucked her blouse so that he could place his left arm around her waist, under the garment, touching her skin.
He hesitated. This was the hard part.
After a pause, using Anna’s hand as if it was his own, he tentatively stabbed Aaron in the chest, just piercing the skin.
“Come on Daniel, you can do this!” he murmured, psyching himself up.
He tried again, this time harder and after a few seconds saw blood beginning to gently seep through Aaron’s shirt. Emboldened, he used Anna’s hand to stab Aaron’s body again and again, harder and harder, releasing all his pent up rage and fury over what she had done to his father onto her husband’s defenceless body. He continued until he was confident that Aaron was dead.
Blood spattered Anna’s face, right hand, arm and torso, but Daniel, shielded by Anna’s body, remained relatively clean, only a few droplets of the scarlet liquid making their way onto his right sleeve and gloves. The arm that held Anna upright was protected by her blouse. Tired now, Daniel dropped Anna back down onto the carpet and released his grip on her hand. The knife bounced on the carpet, shaking blood from its blade. Blood drenched the sofa, large black stains oozing into the fabric and dripping onto the floor. Daniel stood back and looked at what he had done. Did it look convincing?
Daniel had seen enough shows and read enough books about forensic recovery to know that the way blood fell and pooled would be documented by the attending crime scene examiners and from this they would surmise what had happened. Because of the position he had held Anna in when stabbing Aaron, he was confident that the blood spatter would only point at one scenario: angry wife stabs husband whilst he was recumbent on the sofa minding his own business.
They would have no reason to suspect that a third party had been involved, even if Anna did tell them that he had been in the house, assuming of course that she could still remember that when she woke up - he had put a very large dose of ketamine in the wine. He was confident he had left little, if any evidence of his presence. He just needed to do a little cleaning up to be sure.
Ensuring he didn’t step in any of the blood on the carpet, Daniel made his way into the kitchen and retrieved the wine bottle from the counter. He poured what was left down the sink because he wasn’t sure how long traces of ketamine would remain in the liquid. He then placed it back on the work surface. He wasn’t bothered about the smashed glass. Assuming Anna didn’t attempt any form of clean up when she came round, the police would likely surmise that they had argued in the kitchen, which was in fact true, and that it had then escalated into the macabre tableau in the other room.
Dusk had descended and Daniel was getting ready to depart when he realised there was a flaw in the scene he was leaving behind – he needed to turn on the TV. He found three remote controls on a small table at the end of the sofa and it took Daniel a moment to work out how to operate the device. Eventually it burst into life, a news channel beaming into the room, illuminating the scene of his wrath. Finally, with one last glance around him, he walked carefully through the house and exited the premises through the patio doors at the back. He quickly jumped over the fence at the rear of the property and pulled off the swimming hat from his head and the bags from his shoes. He would burn them later, along with the clothes he was wearing.
He jogged a few streets to his car and then got in, hurriedly. He sat motionless in the driver’s seat, pondering what he had just done. He felt elated, disgusted, thrilled and saddened, a whole gamut of emotions assailing him. But mostly he felt… satisfied. Justice had been done. He had taken a life, staged a crime and he was going to get away with it. Of that, he was certain.
Daniel wasn’t certain, however, of the part Aaron had played in the scam, how much he had known. Ultimately, after carefully considering the question for some time and from what he had learnt during the court proceedings, he had concluded that Aaron must have had an inkling that not all the money his conniving wife was bringing in was legitimate. Where did he really think all that money had come from?
His decision to kill Aaron in such an elaborate manner had been borne from months of stewing and hating and anger. Death was too good for Anna; he wanted her to know what it felt like to lose everything, just as his father had.
Eventually, Anna would wake up with no idea what had happened to Aaron, how he had ended up in that state. The police would be alerted and then she would be arrested, charged and sent to prison. It wouldn’t matter if she told them abut Daniel’s visit as it would sound like a fantastical story created by an alcoholic trying to dig her way out of trouble, especially as all the forensics were linked to her.
From the evidence, Anna would end up concluding that she had stabbed her husband – even if she suspected Daniel had been involved in some way. She would then spend the rest of her life believing that she had murdered the one person who loved her and had tried to help her. She would be riddled with guilt, pain and anguish. Her days would be filled with nightmares and her nights plagued by terror. She would be consumed with pain and heart-ache, just as Daniel had been after the demise of his father. This is what he wished for her.
“May she rot in Hell,” Daniel said quietly to himself. He started his car, put it into gear and drove away.