Dead Good Christmas: A short story by Niall Leonard
On the fourth day of Christmas….
Here’s the fourth of our Dead Good Christmas shorts – exclusive free short stories, lovingly crafted by some of our best selling crime and thriller authors – and our December gift exclusively for Dead Good fans.
This offering is from author of ‘Crusher’ and screenwriter (Wire in the Blood, Hornblower), Niall Leonard, and is called ‘Kebabbed’.
‘Kebabbed’ ©Niall Leonard
‘But it’s Monday.’
‘I thought I’d try something different.’ She swallowed, wondering if I was going to go off on one. To be honest I was thinking about it. She knew my routine, I hated it being mucked about with.
‘You like a kebab, you said.’ Yeah, I thought, when I’m driving home from the pub, and need something to soak up the drink. But these smelt okay. I took a bite. They were nicely charred on the outside, just how I like. Funny skewers though. She saw me peering at them. ‘Turned out we didn’t have any skewers, so I made some, with twigs from the garden.’ Her voice was trembling a bit, but she always was the nervous type. Hysterical, you know, looking for attention all the time and complaining when she got it. I pulled the meat off the skewer with my fork, took a mouthful, shoved the salad to one side. She grew it herself. That’s why I hated it. I preferred proper salad in a bag from the shop, not that slug-ridden muck all the local cats had pissed on.
‘What you been doing today, then?’ I sucked at the skewer to get the juices out.
‘Oh, you know, the garden, mostly,’ she said. Always the same bloody answer. Of course she didn’t see her friends any more – I’d explained to her I didn’t like her talking behind my back – but now she never had anything to say unless it was about gardening. I mean, before it was all stupid girly gossip, but her rabbiting on about her compost heap was even worse.
‘And a bit of shopping.’
I stopped chewing. ‘Shopping?’ I said. She tensed. ‘Just some bin liners, to get rid of garden rubbish, you know.’ I started chewing again. ‘Long as it’s not shoes,’ I said. When I married her she was always buying shoes. ‘How many bloody pairs of feet do you have?’ I’d said. ‘It’s my money,’ she’d said. ‘Not any more, love,’ I’d said.
‘You in tonight?’
I shook my head. Bloody stupid question. I’d have a bath, like I always did, then head out to see what Georgio had on the menu. There were new girls every few weeks, and last time he brought in this gorgeous piece, couldn’t have been more than fifteen. Bloody terrified the whole time. Just how I like ’em.
The wife brushed her mousy hair out of her eyes. When we first met she was blonde. I hate women who dye their hair, they’re all cheap slappers, and I soon persuaded her not to bother. But these days she didn’t even make an effort. I shoved my plate away and belched in appreciation. She winced, the ungrateful cow, but I didn’t have time to teach her manners tonight. I pushed my chair back and headed up to the bedroom, pulling off my tie. She hurried upstairs to run my bath.
I felt the first twinge as I pulled on my towelling robe. Just a bit of wind, I thought, her and her bloody awful cooking. Another twinge as I headed for the bathroom. She saw my expression.
‘Just a bit of indigestion, is all.’
‘Want me to get you some Rennies?’
‘Yeah, go on.’ I dropped my robe on the floor and climbed into the bath. Scalding hot, just right, took her long enough to learn. As I sat back I noticed the heavy-duty bin liners on the windowsill. What the..? Bloody woman was so scatty and disorganised, making my house look like a tip when her only job was to keep it tidy. I felt the anger bubbling up – why the hell was she always doing this, deliberately winding me up? – and I was about to climb out of the bath again when the pain in my guts came back, really bad, and I wanted to double up in agony, except I was too weak.
She was back, wearing this long heavy duty plastic apron I hadn’t seen before.
‘Where’s the bloody Rennies?’ I said.
‘It’s not indigestion,’ she said.
‘All these years the answer was right in front of me. It was here when we moved in. Amazing it’s still growing, they prefer hot climates and sandy soil usually.’
Was she talking about bloody gardening again, when my guts were on fire? And why was she holding an electric extension flex? In the bathroom? Didn’t she know how dangerous that was? But when I opened my mouth to tell her, no sound came out. ‘That shrub in the south-west corner,’ she was saying, ‘It’s called oleander. I looked it up. Apparently some of Napoleon’s soldiers cooked a rabbit over a campfire, only they skewered it on a branch of oleander. And in the morning they were all dead. That’s what gave me the idea.’
‘Kebabs…’ I could barely move my lips but she knew what I was saying. She tugged on the bathplug chain and the water began to sink.
‘I’ll just tell everyone you went out and never came back. You never tell me where you go in the evenings anyway. I’ll drive your car round to the Partridge estate, leave the keys in it and walk home. The twoccers will torch it, or export it. Either way it’ll never be seen again. And neither will you.’
Not my beemer! Those alloys cost me an arm and a leg.
She plugged something in. An electric carving knife.
‘You got me this for Christmas, remember? You said I still couldn’t carve shit. I told you, it’s those cheap joints you make me buy, they fall to bits, but you didn’t listen. You never listen.’ She pressed the button and the blades whirred into a blur. ‘I need practice, that’s all. I was going to wait till you were dead, but…’
She lowered the knife to my knee.
‘From now on,’ she said, ‘you’ll be spending all your time in the garden, not me.’
Well, we hope that you enjoyed our fourth short. All of the other published short stories can be found in our Short Stories section. We’ll be revealing more right up to Christmas Eve.
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