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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Mystery stories
- Subject: Crime story
- Published: 04/18/2011
A Pleasurable AssignmentBorn 1976, M, from Bath, United Kingdom
The man paused at the door for a moment, eyes sweeping the room with a critical glance. But apart from Jasper sprawled peacefully in his armchair, eyes closed and seemingly asleep, everything looked undisturbed and in place. The man permitted himself a small smile of satisfaction, from the moment he had gained entry to the flat, the entire business had been concluded without fuss in under twenty minutes, definitely one of his more pleasurable assignments.
A short half-hour earlier Jasper had struggled with the shopping, balancing the bags on a raised knee propped against the door as he fumbled for his key. God, he muttered, how he detested shopping. Trolleys ramming around aisles like bumper cars, canned announcements extolling everything from aerosols to pork chops to the endless shuffling queues at checkout, the whole business was a total anathema to him. Then without warning the door opened and he nearly dropped the wine on the hall floor. Clutching the slipping carrier bags between his knees he sidled crabwise to the kitchen and dumped the lot on the dresser. Twin necks of Cote de Nuits Village 99 poked seductively from the plastic. Removing them to a side table he paused for a moment to caress the dark green bottles, his mind already focusing on the carnal pleasures to come.
Jasper Porrit was a highly successful young advertising executive. Self centred, good looking, highly sexed with a leaning to the sadistic, his tastes inclined toward the more easily won gratitude and subsequent subjugation of older women. Rich married women preferably, with incomes dependent on their husbands. Great lays, good for expensive presents but unable to cause a fuss when discarded. Silvia was the current potboiler, and he had promised to cook dinner for her in the discreet little love nest she had rented in a large impersonal apartment block. A confirmed gourmet Jasper had deciding on Caneton aux Olives for the evening’s main course. He enjoyed creating good food, but only one dish at a time, so he had asked Silvia to bring a dozen oysters and a bottle of Bollinger for starters. He had dismissed dessert; they were usually hard at it half way through the third bottle, seldom even making it to the bed, and his mean streak deplored waste. With mouth suddenly dry at the prospect of pleasures to come, he picked up an upended tumbler from the draining board, absent-mindedly pouring cold Frascatti from a ready opened bottle in the fridge. Then, fastidious nature rebelling as he realised his mistake, emptied the offending tumbler in the sink and reached for a wine glass from the cupboard.
Silvia held the present pride of place in his mental trophy room. Not only proving herself gratifyingly adaptable in bed but generous to a fault in dispensing her husband’s money when out of it. The perfect combination made even more stimulating by her position as wife of his boss, Cyril Saxby. Cyril Saxby ran his company with a rod of iron disguised beneath a winning smile and jovial laugh. He was a man who revelled in hogging the limelight and though prepared to admit a small measure of his subordinate’s achievement in private, insisted on receiving all the credit and consequent plaudits in public. Woe betide the employee who stepped forward to take even the slightest share in the general acclaim, however justified. After a generous handshake and disingenuous smile for the cameras, the offender was subsequently quietly fired for an offence never clearly defined, but always accompanied by sufficient unsavoury rumours to guarantee their removal from the advertising world for good.
Jasper was frequently summoned to the presence, to be left standing and ignored before the great man’s desk and when finally acknowledged told that his suit at a previous meeting had been poorly pressed or some other equally trivial complaint. But along with his colleagues he accepted the humiliation without protest, as Cyril knew they would. For Cyril paid nearly forty percent higher than other agencies. There had been moments when he had nearly snapped, told the old frog faced bastard what he could do with his f--ing job, but he never had. Because that was precisely what Cyril wanted to hear. Behind that expressionless bug eyed face the man was willing him to break, longing for an opportunity to display his powerful superiority, followed by lofty dismissal. Cyril Saxby enjoyed his games, which was why he paid his players so well.
But now everything was different. He was still summoned before the desk, a penitent waiting to be told of his latest crime, but now when the fat old man finally deigned to acknowledge his presence he could look him straight back in the eye. ‘Hey frog face,’ he would mentally jeer, ‘I’m balling your wife, and when we’re not balling we’re out spending your money like it’s going out of fashion. So go ahead, keep me standing here as long as you bloody like if it makes you feel big. But know this, you pathetic rat arsed mottled old toad, come six O’clock I’m out of here, and the rest of my evening will be spent either on her or on you!’ It not only made him feel better, it made him feel superior. But although Jasper was careful never to let a hint of his triumph translate into facial expression, sometimes he had a strange foreboding that somehow Cyril had got the message and knew. Perhaps the old coot was telepathic, he thought idly, and for a moment went cold all over before dismissing the idea.
He had met Silvia at a party to open the Company’s new office block. Cyril had connived the opening to coincide with a launch of a charity for underprivileged children and was able to bask in the reflected glory of an attending junior Minister as a result. During the evening Jasper had been introduced to his wife. The moment they shook hands a blast of sexual arousal passed between them as potent as a lethal charge of electricity. After a few minutes idle conversation Silvia had excused herself and with a meaningful look left the room. Jasper gave her three minutes before following in a state of wild excitement to take her standing in a broom closet, with her legs locked round the back of his neck like a feeding python. How they got away with it was a miracle, for it was a busy corridor, there was no lock on the closet door and the noise they made must have rivalled Noah’s Ark in spring. Later, as they caught their breath, Silvia had scribbled her telephone number on a scrap of paper before hurrying back to the party. There was a footnote that read, not before 10, but you had better make sure it’s tomorrow. ‘Gotcha!’ He had crowed out loud, and wondered if she had a sexy voice. He liked sexy voices, they turned him on, but not a word had passed between them in the entire fifteen minutes.
Jasper checked his watch, he was running late, not that he was bothered. He liked to keep them waiting, gave him an edge, but tonight he was hungry and knew food was never uppermost in Silvia’s mind. If he was ever going to eat the bloody duck he had better get a move on. Humming tunelessly he refilled his glass then headed for the bedroom to change into more comfortable clothes. But as he passed the open door to the sitting room he noticed a man sitting in the armchair by the window.
Jasper marched into the room. ‘Who the hell are you? And what do you think you’re doing loafing around my apartment as though you owned the place?’ He stormed angrily.
The man smiled politely, he had one of those nondescript everywhere type faces, with thinning ginger hair and colourless eyes. There was an open copy of the Daily Telegraph spread over his lap, suggesting he had been reading the paper before being disturbed, which enraged Jasper even further.
‘Listen to me, you shitty excuse for a burglar. I’ll give you one minute to clear out, then I’m calling the police.’ Jasper glared in genuine fury.
The man seemed unmoved. ‘Mr Jasper Grange?’ The enquiry was polite, almost apologetic.
‘Yes, I’m Jasper Grange, you bloody little crook, and this is my apartment. Now get the hell out of here!’
The man gave a small sigh, though whether of pleasure or regret it was hard to tell. Sit down in that chair across from me, if you would be so kind, Mr Grange.’ The voice was flat and devoid of emotion, but the newspaper had been removed revealing an automatic pistol complete with bulbous silencer pointed unwaveringly at Jasper’s stomach.
‘I don’t understand,’ voice suddenly high pitched bordering on hysteria; Jasper viewed the weapon with terror and for the first time noticed the man was wearing gloves. The silencer reminded him of the one’s used in spy movies, and the uncanny stillness of the man convinced Jasper that he meant what he said and would have no hesitation in using it if necessary.
‘Yes, I’m afraid so,’ The man read the fear in his eyes, ‘but only if you force the issue.’ The barrel twitched, indicating the chair and Jasper followed obediently and sat down. The man shot a swift glance at the mantelpiece clock while maintaining a watchful eye on Jasper. ‘Well, we have about ten minutes to pass together, so please relax, make yourself comfortable. Do you have any particular interest or hobby you would care to discuss?’
‘Just tell me what’s going on, what's this is all about?’ Jasper implored, role of indignant householder forgotten. ‘If it’s money I don’t keep much in the flat but there’s a couple of thousand in my account. You’re welcome to that, though we would have to go to the bank of course.’
‘Relax, Mr. Grange, I have no interest in your money.’
‘Then what the hell do you want? Jasper sobbed. ‘Just tell me, I’m not proud, I’ll do anything you say.’ He gesticulated wildly, spilling wine from his glass before draining the rest.
‘Calm yourself, Mr. Grange, providing you make no rash or ill advised moves, I shall do you no harm. You have nothing to fear from me, and I promise your curiosity will be satisfied within minutes.’
‘I know, I’ve got it. It’s some kind of office joke. Some of the girls put you up to it, didn’t they? Getting their revenge for the mike I stashed in the ladies.’ Jasper gave a shaky laugh, ‘is that what’s behind all this?'
‘Not exactly, though you are heading on the right track. But I can say that though I play a leading role in the proceedings, the star part remains yours alone, Mr Grange.’ The man permitted himself the ghost of a smile and shot another look at the clock.
‘The girls have stashed a video camera somewhere have they? Going to bust in on us are they with some sort of you’ve been had banner? Is that what we’re waiting for?’ Jasper’s voice sounded shrill as he shot desperate looks at the door. ‘Do you mind if I get another glass of wine to pass the time? Perhaps you could do with one too?'
‘No thanks, not for me. But by all means get one for yourself.’ The man unscrewed the silencer, putting it and the snub nosed automatic in a black case at his feet.
‘Christ! I’m glad the James Bond bit’s over,’ Jasper smiled with relief, ‘don’t mind admitting that silencer of yours really gave me the creeps!’ As he started to get up a puzzled look came over his face. ‘Funny, my legs seem to have gone to sleep, all that drama I suppose, must have been tensing my muscles or something.’ He tried again, puzzlement giving way to anxiety tinged with fear.
‘It’s no good I’m afraid,’ the man interrupted, ‘they’re paralysed; the paralysis will spread to the rest of you in a few moments. It always begins in the legs, something to do with the blood supply I’m told. Apparently the stuff collects there, in the legs I mean, particularly when sitting down.’
‘Wha the helth’s goin on,’ Jasper mumbled, finding it difficult to move his tongue.
‘I’m glad you asked the question, I would have told you in any event of course, but it’s always nice to be asked. The answer, as you will probably have realised by now, Mr. Grange, is you’ve been poisoned.’ He raised a hand to silence the hideous grunting sounds emanating from Jasper.
‘Please, Mr Grange, we have little time.’ He shook his head impatiently then continued, ‘if you want an explanation you really must try to calm yourself and listen. The poison is a sophisticated derivative of curare, a paralysing drug used for centuries by South American Indians when hunting game. When taken orally it is quite tasteless, and once in the bloodstream proves lethal within ten minutes or so, depending on the subject’s height and weight. There is no antidote; so all handling has to be conducted with extreme caution, as even the smallest amount either swallowed or dropped on broken skin will prove fatal within hours. The victim looses control of his limbs, lungs, and finally heart in that order, but is usually rendered unconscious before the closing stages as I’m sure you will be comforted to hear.’
He leaned forward to check Jasper’s pulse to ensure he still had his full attention. ‘Please believe me when I say I have no personal feelings of animosity towards you, Mr. Grange. I am merely a tool in these matters. Carrying out an assignment as quickly and efficiently as possible, like any other technician. In normal circumstances professional courtesy would preclude my divulging the name of my principal. But on this occasion, with the coup de grace already delivered, I think we can dispense with such proprieties.’ He smiled, pleased to be able to break his code of confidentiality and share the finer points of the plan. ‘ As you may have surmised by now the man responsible for ordering your death is your boss Cyril Saxby. I won’t waste your time with details, suffice to say Mr. Saxby is a jealous and vengeful man, which is why I also called on Mrs. Saxby a little earlier this evening and accepted a gracious offer to join her in a gin and tonic at that private little hideaway you share.’
Once again he checked the flickering pulse, face momentarily creasing with anxiety. ‘Hang in there, Mr Grange, don’t leave, at least not yet. Not until I have explained the final dénouement, the ultimate betrayal. It really is the very best part.’ Squatting in front of Jasper’s slumped form he began to speak slowly, forming each word graphically with his mouth in hopes that even if his hearing was gone, Jasper might still retain sufficient sight to lip read and understand the gist of what he was saying.
‘My usual charge for these matters is £30,000 per disposal. However, Mr Saxby, who by the way struck me as a particularly vain and egotistical man, insisted I report to him in person with a detailed account of your individual passings before paying the final part of the fees due. Needless to say in my business one can never permit such a meeting. I might as well give the man a signed photograph of myself at work along with a detailed confession. So I doubled the usual price, telling him the charge for both assignments would be £90,000. He made no objection to the figure, but then once decided on this course of action clients seldom do. He was of course unaware that the additional £30,000 represented my fee for his own disposal.
Mr. Saxby is a drinking man, a discerning drinking man I grant you, but a drinking man none the less, with a particular weakness for Tres Vieux 1er Cru Grande Champagne cognac. Not a tipple most can afford, but then taking my fees into account I thought I could splash out just the once and purchase a bottle.’ He reached into the case and waved the ancient brandy before Jasper’s face. ‘Now, Mr. Saxby always keeps a bottle close at hand on his desk, a fact I ascertained when I made my customary private visit earlier this morning. And when I call him as per his instructions to report our business concluded, I have little doubt that his first reaction will be to reach for a celebration snifter.’
For the first time what might have passed for a smile flitted briefly across the man’s face, as with Jasper forgotten he pulled a mobile out of his pocket and punched a number. Almost at once the receiver was picked up at the other end and a voice barked ‘Yes?’
‘Contract honoured, business completed,’ the man replied tonelessly.
‘In one hour then.’ The connection was broken abruptly.
‘Hopefully, he will be dead by the time I get there,’ the man continued to describe his plan to a point somewhere above Jasper’s head. ‘Failing which I shall have to persuade him to take a drink one way or another. Either way, once his value to the assignment is at an end, I shall switch bottles, ensuring the only trace of poison found will be in his glass, while at the same time leaving the half used phial of curare in the top drawer of his desk. It won’t take long for the police to discover your affair with Sylvia Saxby, and without any forensic evidence to the contrary they will naturally conclude Cyril Saxby murdered the pair of you in an act of premeditated revenge before taking poison himself.’
He nodded to himself with satisfaction, then sweeping the room with an expert eye began removing all trace of his presence, plumping up the cushions and using a small brush over the area of carpet between the two chairs. Moving to the kitchen he took out the brandy bottle, broke the seal, and regretfully poured half the contents down the sink before returning it to the case. Then placing the mobile phone in a plastic bag put it on the tiled floor and ground it to pieces under foot for later disposal. He picked up Jasper’s discarded tumbler from the sink and after a moments hesitation filled it with water from the tap, downing the lethal draught with a sigh of satisfaction before drying and carefully returning the wiped glass to the cupboard.
Force of habit made the man check the locks on his case to ensure they were secure, then favouring the still figure in the armchair he put the empty wine glass in his case and with a final nod of salutation murmured. ‘My apologies for disturbing you, Mr. Grange, and my thanks for making the assignment a most pleasurable one.’ The front door closed silently behind him.