Audrey gets into the front passenger seat and that's unusual in itself. She's dressed differently too, all in black, but not her usual business black. This is going-to-wreck-some-fucker black. It suits her. She looks hardcore and maybe I'm seeing something people don't usually get to see.
She doesn't address the fact that she isn't in the back seat. "Are you ready?"
"And you know where we're going?"
"How would I know?"
"It's in the file."
"I didn't look in the file."
"Yeah. I picked it up and I held onto it. You didn't tell me to look in it." I take it out of the glove compartment and hand it to her. "So where are we going?"
She tells me the address and I know the place, or at least the general area, way out on the coast. She flicks through the papers, frowning. "We're not leaving this one alive."
"Don't you want to know why?"
"If you want to tell me. Doesn't matter though. I mean, it's not going to make a difference."
"I want to tell you. I want to tell someone." She takes a deep breath. A big, serious, bad-memories deep breath. "His name is William. His wife, Elaine, was a close friend of mine a long time ago. We never really stopped being friends, but we stopped seeing as much of each other. She didn't see much of anyone, because of him."
"Because of him?"
"He was very controlling. Emotionally and physically. He hurt her."
"Quite. He was in the army when they met and things were alright at first. Or at least, as far as I know, they were. He wasn't around much then because of work, so perhaps his absence gave a false impression of him."
"Yeah, people not being around always makes them seem like better people."
"It got worse when she was pregnant. He was jealous of any time she spent with other people. She saw it as protectiveness and played down his behaviour until one night they had an argument and he beat her until she miscarried."
"Did she leave him?"
"No. God knows I begged her to, but she wouldn't. And she wouldn't tell anyone else what had happened. They moved and she lost touch with most people she knew, but she and I wrote to each other often. She kept telling me things were fine, he was a different man now, everything was going to be alright, but of course it wasn't. Then she became pregnant again. Her son would be in his thirties now, assuming he's still alive. I visited shortly after he was born and she was a mess. She kept saying it was just the pregnancy, just the birth, just being the mother of a new baby, but it was more than that. I came up with ways to get her out, her and the baby, but she refused. She said William would find her, no matter where she went, and maybe she was right. I don't know. I just know she wouldn't leave."
"I couldn't stay forever and for obvious reasons he didn't want me there. I asked him to drive me to the station, said goodbye to Elaine and the baby, and as soon as the car was out of sight of the house I put a knife to his throat and told him if he ever hurt her again, I would kill him myself."
"And he hurt her again?"
"Over and over, for years. The whole situation was heartbreaking. Their son joined the army because that's what men in his family did. I tried to talk Elaine into leaving then, but she wouldn't, or she couldn't. People always say of women in those situations, 'Why didn't she just leave?' but it's rarely that simple."
"When her son left the army and came home, William sent him away. He disowned him. Elaine was already sick by then. The last time we spoke, she told me her greatest shame was allowing her own flesh and blood to walk away that day. She said she couldn't have stood up to William or changed his mind, but she could have gone after her child, been there for him when he needed her, and she didn't. Honestly, I don't believe she was capable of it at that stage of her illness, but she died carrying shame that should never have been hers in the first place. I did what I could to find her son, but the trail went cold after a couple of those hideous hostels for people who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances."
"When did Elaine die?"
"About a year ago. They had two houses then, the one they lived in most of the year and their summer home, which is where we're going now. William's been living there alone since he sold the other house." It feels like maybe this is the first time she's said any of this out loud.
I give her a moment, then, "OK, so how are we doing this?"
"He'll open the door because he won't be able to resist looking me in the eye when he tells me to leave. Then he'll follow me outside because he won't be able to stop himself insulting me as I walk away. And then this." She takes a neat little stun gun out of her coat, the kind that shoots probes that stick under the skin, and I swear to god that woman has a world of pain in her pocket at any given time.
"And after that?"
"Whatever your heart desires. Mine desires some broken bones, for obvious reasons. I brought those nice gloves you like, and a hammer. It's all in my bag there, along with a tarp, because we're going to need that."
"What about disposal? And cleaning?"
"He'll be on the tarp before we do anything messy and I have a friend coming to handle disposal. I just need to call him when we're ready."
Silence feels like the only right thing, so we let it happen. After a while, she speaks. "Alright, turn in to the next driveway. If you could park round the side and wait until I'm ready for you, that would be perfect."
So I park and she gets out and I wait. I don't hear or see anything until a man falls round the corner of the house, thin wires attached to his neck, and Audrey follows. He falls and she stamps on his head a few times and waves at me, so I get out and bring her bag.
We roll him onto the tarp and he's not completely unconscious, but he's not going anywhere either. Audrey hands me the gloves and lays into his legs with the hammer. That wakes him up fast and he starts yelling. She kicks him in the head to shut him up and it's kind of her show. I could probably do nothing and she'd be fine with it. Still, I said I'd help, so I kneel down, set my stick next to me so it doesn't get blood on it, and break his face.
She's smashed his arms and legs to bits and I figure he's pretty much dead, but I guess she wants to make sure because she stands over him and looks like she's getting ready for the finale. "This is for Elaine and Francis." Then she brings the hammer down hard on his throat and he's definitely done.
We catch our breath for a bit and there's a sense of completion about it. I don't know the guy's son, but I hope he's OK wherever he is. Sounds like he's had a lot of shit to carry around and he deserves to get free of it.
Audrey makes the call. "Now please, Pierre."
"How's he getting here?"
"Boat. He's on a larger vessel moored around the bay and he'll be here in something smaller and less conspicuous in just a moment. What's left of William Francis Wolf will be on its way to god knows where in the middle of the ocean by tonight."
YOU ARE READING
Winter FollowsGeneral Fiction
One month, one city, five lives colliding with the forces of fate. A thrill-seeking tech genius with an appetite for dangerous extremes. A retired contract killer fighting to escape his past and himself. An underworld driver tempted deeper into a li...