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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Horror Stories / Scary Stories
- Subject: Horror / Scary Stories
- Published: 02/11/2020
Clean (The Story of a Perfect Murder)Born 1948, M, from Eastbourne, United Kingdom
The Story of a Perfect Murder
Stanley Riley woke up slowly, his head pounding, as was usually the case after a night at the Red Lion with his friend Frank Jameson. He was alone in the bed; Jane had probably risen over an hour before and was busying herself downstairs, the unmistakable clatter of saucepans and heavy pots being shovelled into the kitchen cupboards ringing deafeningly in his ears.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes, trying to focus on the alarm clock on the bedside table. Eight-fifteen. It was hardly the crack of dawn but it was a Sunday after all! There were a few welcome moments of silence from downstairs then more rattling, this time from the noise of cutlery seemingly being dropped from a great height into a drawer. He felt certain that always she did this on purpose, as if to punish him for having a nice evening with a good friend.
He lay back and pulled the duvet over his head in a vain attempt to block out the various irritating sounds that his dear wife insisted on creating at this ridiculously early time on the so-called day of rest. It went quiet. He knew that the silence wouldn’t last, however. Sure enough, after less than two minutes he heard the washing machine begin its clumsy labours. It sounded to him, in his somewhat delicate state, that Jane had filled the machine with a dozen pairs of heavy shoes. He pushed his face into the pillow. This action muffled the sound but also meant that he had difficulty breathing and so it only gave him a few second’s respite.
Then there came the final straw. The vacuum cleaner roared into life. Riley realised now that any further attempts at having a nice Sunday morning lie-in were doomed. Wearily he sat up and then eased his legs over the side of the bed, his feet automatically finding his slippers. Using the bedside table as a support he raised himself to a standing position. His head ached and his vision remained somewhat blurred. He sat, or rather fell back down on the bed and put his hands over his face. The noise of the carpet-cleaner was getting louder, approaching his sanctuary like some raging monster. He staggered to his feet again and wrenched the bedroom door open to be met by the sight of Jane clutching the metal tube and seemingly hacking at the carpet with the nozzle of the thing.
‘Do you have to do that now, dear?’ he called out in an attempt to make himself heard. She ignored him, of course. He caught hold of her arm. ‘Jane! Must you do that now? It’s Sunday morning for Christ’s sake!’
Jane slammed the nozzle down angrily and turned off the machine. ‘If I don’t do it then it will never get done! I haven’t got time! I’ve got so much to do! I don’t know what you expect of me; you come in drunk and stagger off to bed without even showering and you still expect me to keep the house clean and do all the cooking! I can’t do EVERYTHING!’
It was a speech that Riley was well used to. He heard it every day, often more than once. He looked blankly at her, unable to think of a response. She turned her back on him and switched on the damn machine again, muttering something under her breath. He shrugged and returned to the bedroom, closing the door behind him, only to have it thrust open again as the evil electrical dragon was pushed into the room. ‘Just go and get a shower,’ his loving wife hissed through gritted teeth, ‘you stink!’
It had to be said that the shower made Riley feel a little more at ease with the world. He even considered singing whilst he bathed but then changed his mind, thinking that it wouldn’t do for Jane to think that he was in any way happy. He dressed himself in a baggy old tracksuit, one that he had been wearing for three or four days now and walked down the stairs, intent on making himself a coffee. Jane stopped him at the door to the kitchen. ‘Don’t go in there! I’ve just washed the floor!’
‘For f**k’s sake, woman, I need a coffee!’ He regretted using the oath the second that it spewed from his lips.
‘Don’t you dare swear at me in my own house!’ She always used that phrase, “in my own house”. It didn’t seem to matter that it was he and he alone that paid for the damned place, struggling with a mortgage that would scare a banker. He sighed resignedly and moved to enter the lounge. ‘Not in there, either! I want to Hoover the carpet.’
He stood and glared at her. ‘Then where, dear heart, may I go?’ he asked sarcastically.
‘Anywhere you like,’ Jane replied as she straightened the curtaining by the front door, ‘I don’t care. I’ve got too much to do.’
Riley sighed in total exasperation, grabbed his car keys from the hook and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him. Jane opened it again and shouted after him as he walked down the path, ‘slamming the door like that will break the lock!’ She then closed the door with exaggerated gentleness as if to make a point. The lock failed to engage and he couldn’t resist smiling to himself until she re-opened the door and called out angrily after him. ‘See what I mean? It won’t close now!’ He turned to go back and help but she pushed it a little harder and it clicked shut.
Riley climbed into his car and sat for a few minutes, the radio playing softly in the background. He felt his heart thumping in his chest. Even the delicate sounds of Mozart couldn’t calm him down this time. He started the engine and drove slowly off, heading for a local café that he knew would be open. It wasn’t the first time that he had had his Sunday morning breakfast in this establishment.
Saturday evening came around again, following on from five grim days of endless and pointless efforts in trying to justify Stanley Riley’s existence to the taxpayer as he worked in the head office of the Department of Works and Pensions. That week, the railway company had done its level best to exceed all previous accomplishments and had managed to be late on every occasion, both on the journeys to London and on the trips back home.
The lounge bar of the Red Lion was unusually quiet for a Saturday night. A football match was being shown on television in the saloon bar so most of the regulars had congregated in its somewhat grim confines, the occasional roars or groans emanating from within giving an indication as to how the local team was performing. Neither Riley nor his friend Frank had any interest in sport of any kind, preferring quiet conversation to joining in with ribald chants of “Come on you Reds” and the like.
Riley stared into his pint, watching the froth slowly disappearing as the beer settled in the glass. ‘Are you ok, mate?’ asked Frank before he took a sip of his own drink. Riley looked up unenthusiastically.
‘Yeh, I’m fine. It’s just been one of those weeks.’
‘Tough time at work?’
‘Nope; the usual shit there. It’s Jane. She’s really doing my head in.’
Frank smiled. ‘That’s what wives is for, mate. That’s why men get married, to guarantee a life of sheer misery and despair until, at last we die. Why else would we do it?’ Riley managed a wry smile and raised his glass to his lips. ‘There is always the sex, of course,’ continued his friend.
Riley snorted into his glass and a trickle of beer splashed onto his nose. ‘Sex?’ he said angrily, ‘I haven’t had sex with Jane for over four years!’
‘You’re kidding me?’ responded Frank, clearly delighted to be the recipient of this new information.
‘Nope. Not even a kiss or a cuddle. It’s like living with a block of ice.’
Frank glanced around the room and then leaned forwards. ‘Are you, like, getting it somewhere else then?’
Riley smirked. ‘Now you’re doing the kidding! I’m fifty-five years of age with a gut that makes me look ten months pregnant. Any girl that would be interested in me would have to have her guide dog with her.’
‘Oh, you’re not that bad looking, mate,’ replied Frank, unconvincingly. Riley just grunted disapprovingly.
There was a long silence as the two men took long drafts of their beers.
‘She never stops f**king cleaning!’ Riley spoke suddenly, eager to steer the conversation away from the somewhat touchy subject of his lack of sexual endeavours.
‘So? What’s the problem with that? I wish Sue would take more interest in how the house looks. She just sits around all day staring at her phone, texting people that she has never met and will probably never meet in real life! I mean, last week I came home from work and she was still in bed, texting on the f**king phone! She’d been lying there all day, like a beached whale.’
‘I would prefer Jane to be more like that, to be honest Frank. She’s up at the crack of dawn; the Hoover is going as well as the washing machine and everything. There’s only the two of us; where does she get all the washing from? I’m telling you, there is something not quite right with her. It’s like an obsession.’
‘Maybe it’s because she is not getting any sex, like you said?’ ventured Frank. Riley snorted.
‘Oh, I am pretty sure that she is getting plenty. She is down the gym at least four times a week, or at least she says she is! She doesn’t look any different to me.’
Frank rested his hand on his friend’s arm. ‘No, come on, Stan, I can’t believe that. Jane’s a good-looking woman but…well…I…’ He sounded less and less convincing as his sentence drifted into an uncomfortable silence.
‘The stuff that she wears in her f**king gym; leotards and that. They leave nothing to the imagination. Those meatheads that seem to live in the place would be all over her like flies on a turd!’
‘What you need is to be more masterful, more of a man!’ said Frank suddenly.
‘Oh, don’t think that I haven’t tried, mate. She doesn’t listen to a word I say. There’s no respect there. She treats me like I’m her naughty son. After I’ve used the bathroom she goes and examines the shower and tells me off if she finds a single hair on the tiles. If I make a cup of tea she moans that I’ve messed up her damn kitchen work-surface. I’m not kidding you, mate; if I thought I could get away with it I would kill the f**king bitch!’
Frank sat back, looking rather shocked. ‘I’m beginning to wish I’d gone in to watch the football,’ he said after a moment or two. Riley grinned.
‘I’m sorry, mate. I didn’t mean to go on so. It’s just got to me lately.’
There was another long pause and then Frank spoke again. ‘Have you thought about divorce?’
Riley laughed out loud; as if that was the funniest joke he had heard in a long time.
‘You know what would happen if I did? I would have to sell the house and give her half of the meagre profits I made on it or leave her there and pay for everything whilst one of her gym studs moved in to service her requirements! No, my friend. That is not an option. What I need to do is to commit the perfect murder!’
‘Can you really see everything when Jane wears her leotard?’ asked Frank after a few moments. Riley snorted and downed his beer, glaring at his friend in disgust.
Another Sunday morning dawned, and with it came the usual sounds of the washing machine reverberating and the vacuum cleaner screaming outside the bedroom door. Riley attempted, as usual, to block the sounds out by covering his head with the duvet but, after a short while he resignedly forced himself from the warmth of the bed and dressed himself in another scruffy tracksuit.
He opened the bedroom door. Jane was again using the vacuum cleaner’s nozzle to hack away at the carpet as though she was determined to remove whatever remnants of pile remained. ‘Morning dear!’ he said, as cheerfully as his mood would allow but with more than a trace of sarcasm in his tone. Jane just glared at him. “Situation normal,” he thought to himself and he trudged down the stairs and headed for the kitchen.
He reached into one of the cupboards and took out one of the steel frying pans. Jane had bought this set of heavy-duty pans recently, declaring triumphantly that they would last forever. Riley had soon discovered that, when full of potatoes the largest of the saucepans in the set was almost impossible to lift. The omelette pan was fine, however, even though it weighed rather more than seemed reasonable. He put the pan on the stove and added some olive oil, then cracked a couple of eggs into it. If there was one thing that he enjoyed it was a fried egg sandwich, and that was what he was determined to have on that cold Sunday morning. He heard Jane’s footsteps on the stairs and knew immediately that he was in trouble.
‘I suppose you’re going to stink the house out with your eggs again?’ she said as she entered the kitchen.
‘Don’t worry, dear; I will spray air freshener all over the whole place when I’ve eaten.’ He lazily spread butter thickly over two slices of white bread whilst watching his eggs cooking gently in the pan.
‘You do realise that white bread is bad for you, don’t you?’ Jane was standing with her hands on her hips, looking for all the world like his mother.
‘Yes dear,’ he said, spreading on even more butter.
‘And that is way too much butter! No wonder you are getting fatter by the day!’
‘Maybe I should join your gym?’ he said, not meaning a word of it. Jane snorted contemptuously.
‘You tried that once before and all you did was sit in the Jacuzzi. Just being a member of a gym doesn’t automatically make the pounds drop off!’ Riley was tempted to say that it certainly hadn’t worked for her but thought better of it. She was standing too close to the knife rack.
The eggs cooked, he scooped them out and landed them on the bread, completing his task of making his beloved fried egg sandwich. He took hold of the steel pan. His wife was now standing with her back to him as she looked out of the window which was over the sink. The metal handle was burning his hand. ‘Excuse me, dear,’ he said. Jane didn’t move. Rather she pretended to wipe some non-existent mark from one of the taps. Riley raised the pan, thinking murderous thoughts. All he had to do was whack the thing down on her head. It would be so easy! Then he thought, no, there would be blood everywhere and she would make him clean it all up.
Jane moved at last and he dropped the pan into the sink. ‘You’ll damage the sink doing that!’ was her comment, which was not altogether unexpected as far as he was concerned.
‘The handle was burning my hand!’ he protested.
‘Sinks don’t come cheap, you know,’ was her far from sympathetic reply.
Sandwich eaten and air freshener sprayed, Riley watched as Jane packed her gym bag. He noticed that she was intending to flaunt herself in front of her musclemen in the pink leotard today, the one that in his eyes was the most explicit. ‘I won’t be back until one,’ she said, ‘so have dinner ready for half-past.’
Cooking the Sunday roast was the one pleasure that Riley got these days, at least at home. It meant that Jane left him to it for a couple of hours, time that he could enjoy in peace. ‘And don’t use the extra virgin oil on the potatoes. You know it makes them taste funny.’ His wife left the house, not seeing the obscene sign that he made with his fingers as the front door closed.
‘Do you think there could be such a thing as a perfect murder, Frank?’ It was clear immediately to his friend that Stanley Riley was speaking in earnest.
‘Well, there’s a question. Things still bad at home, mate?’ he replied.
‘It’s getting worse. She just will not stop cleaning! She never sits down, even for a minute, then she complains about all the work that she has to do, but what she does do is generally totally unnecessary. Like, for instance, I was watching the TV last night, a programme that she knew that I wanted to watch, and she suddenly starts to clean the TV screen; not just with a duster but by spraying stuff on it and taking ages to wipe it all off. Then out comes the f**king Hoover again!’
‘Sue burnt my boiled eggs yesterday,’ mumbled Frank, staring at the table between them.
‘How the f**k do you burn a boiled egg?’
‘Not just the eggs; the pan as well. She let it boil dry. I thought it was taking her a long time to get my breakfast.’
‘Why didn’t you check?’ Riley’s question seemed reasonable but Frank looked at him as though he had uttered some form of blasphemy.
‘Sue does the cooking. That’s about all that she does do. Admittedly it’s normally pizza or pasta but she does her best.’
‘Anyway, I was asking, do you think there is such a thing as a perfect murder?’ repeated Riley.
Frank considered the question for a moment. ‘I suppose that the perfect murder is when the killer doesn’t get caught, or even found out.’
‘What, like if she gets killed accidentally, but not really?’
‘Well, yeh, I guess so. Hey, you’re not really seriously thinking of bumping the old bat off, are you?’
‘I don’t know what else to do, Frank. There are times when I feel that my heart is going to explode in my chest. If something isn’t done it will be me that’s dead, not her!’
‘Can’t you get a private detective on her, Stan? Get him to find out if she is knocking off any of the guys at the gym. Then you could just kick her out.’
‘She’d still get half of everything. You remember what happened to Jim, from the club? He actually caught his old lady with a guy in his bed and she still got the house! It’s the way of things these days, mate. Fellas don’t have a chance.’
‘You really are serious, aren’t you, Stan? This is getting a bit nasty.’ Frank took hold of the two empty glasses on the table, took them over to the bar and ordered refills.
When he returned Riley looked at him squarely in the eye and said ‘Yes, Frank, I am deadly serious.’
Riley sat staring vacantly into space. Frank sipped his beer in silence. Despite it being a Saturday evening they were the only customers in the lounge bar of the Red Lion. ‘This place is dying on its feet’ Frank said quietly before downing the last dregs of his pint. Riley said nothing. The old clock on the wall ticked noisily. ‘You know, you are going to have to snap out of it,’ his friend said suddenly, ‘you’re getting to be quite a bore.’
Riley looked up glumly from his glass. ‘Oh mate, I’m sorry. It’s just it’s getting too much. I can’t stand anymore of it.’
‘I take it that Jane is bugging you again?’
‘Bugging me? Christ, you don’t know the half of it! D’you know what she did last Tuesday? She only wrote her initials on the laundry tags in her pillow case, so that she won’t have to share any one of them with me! Can you believe it? She’s my wife, for heaven’s sake!’
‘That does seem a bit extreme.’
Riley was becoming more and more animated now. ‘I tell you, Frank, if I thought that I could get away with it I would definitely kill the bitch!’
‘You could make it look like suicide, or maybe an accident?’ suggested Frank, not really meaning it.
‘Yeh, you said that before, but how would I do that? You’ve seen enough of those programmes on TV, how they catch people with the faintest piece of evidence. It’s all DNA and all that shit.’
‘That bloke in Tiverton would have got away with it, if he hadn’t felt so guilty that he confessed.’
‘What bloke in Tiverton? What did he do?’ Riley was clearly very interested.
‘He ate her,’ came the stark reply.
‘Ate her? Ate his wife?’
‘Every bit. He even ground the bones into dust and put them on his garden. His vegetables came up a treat.’
‘How the hell did he do that? He must have had some specialist tools or something.’
‘He was a stone mason,’ replied Frank. He stood up and picked up both empty glasses. ‘Another?’ Riley nodded and watched Frank as he ambled over to the bar. He pondered over the idea of consuming his wife’s body for a brief moment then dismissed the thought from his mind, considering that she would probably give him severe indigestion as a last laugh.
Frank returned, carrying two freshly filled pint glasses, which he set down on the greasy table.
‘Maybe I could get someone to do the job for me,’ said Riley after a few sips of the alcohol, ‘you hear of such things going on.’ Frank looked at him strongly.
‘You’re really serious, aren’t you, old friend?’ he said, resting his hand on Riley’s forearm.
‘Oh, come on, Frank, see it from my point of view. The alternative is that I spend the rest of my life in total misery, living with someone who clearly detests me and who I can’t stand the sight of!’
‘I think you’ll find that most marriages end up like that.’
‘You and Sue?’ challenged Riley.
Frank took another sip of beer. ‘She’s a lazy cow but she has her good points,’ he said with a leering grin.
‘Yeh, I’ve seen her good points,’ replied Riley with a smile. The two friends laughed and carried on drinking, the thought of murder and cannibalism dismissed from their thoughts.
Riley struggled with his front door key, trying to fit it into the lock, his brain addled by the over indulgence of booze during that evening. Jane hadn’t bothered to turn on the porch light, which made his job all the more difficult. Eventually he managed to complete the task and the heavy door swung open, crashing against the shoe cupboard that his wife had insisted be placed in such a position that contact with it was inevitable, especially after ten pints of beer.
‘Pissed again I see,’ Jane’s dulcet tone came from the floor above.
Riley just grunted and struggled to remove his shoes, falling against the wall three times before he completely managed it. Jane came down the stairs, her expression one of total disgust. ‘I should have double-locked the front door and made you sleep in the damn garden!’ she exclaimed, pushing past him so that he fell against the wall again. He turned to watch her as she filled her glass with water from the tap. He glanced past her. The heavy frying pan sat on the work surface, inches from him. He reached out slowly to grasp the handle. Jane swung around.
‘What are you doing, you stupid old fool?’ she goaded.
‘I thought that I’d fry an egg,’ he replied weakly.
’Don’t be so bloody ridiculous,’ she snapped back, you’ll set the house on fire! Go to bed!’ He turned his back on his wife, shaking with anger.
Now, it’s been said that a surfeit of alcohol can turn the most mild mannered of men into a raving, murderous beast, given the right circumstances. A loud scream echoed around the kitchen as the pan struck the skull, shattering the bone, the force so severe that both eyes became dislodged from their sockets and blood poured onto the floor. The body crumpled to the ground, the pan making contact with the gory mess that was once a head another five times before it was dropped noisily onto the tiles.
Jane looked down at the lifeless form that was once her husband. She grinned, her expression a mixture of triumph and relief. She glanced around at the flooring. This would take a lot of cleaning, she thought ruefully.
No, it wasn’t the perfect murder.