A short story in two parts. The interviewer’s dialogue is in italics.
The room was cold and smelt of damp. The walls were a strange shade of beige. Perhaps originally white but now deeply nicotine stained. Empty, apart from an old table and two wooden chairs.
Two men entered. Each took a chair and sat down. The bigger of the two men was holding a pad and paper. He looked across the desk and spoke.
“So Jim, tell me the whole story. From the beginning.”
Jim was relaxed. He sat back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. He looked up at the grey ceiling and began.
“I’m not quite sure when it all started. Sometime in the summer of 2008 I suppose. Wow, five years ago now. Where did all that time go?
I was early for an appointment with a prospective client, so decided to have a coffee in a nearby café. The appointment was at 12.30 and I had half an hour to waste. It was an up market café, one of those places where you can’t just say you want a coffee. It has to be an Americano or latte or cappuccino or whatever bollocks they’re talking. Anyway, I was sitting down at a table nursing my three pound cup of java, when I heard a voice behind me.”
“Excuse me sir, do you mind if I join you?”
I turned round expecting the voice to be aimed at someone else. But a young blonde haired girl was looking straight at me. She smiled.
“Err no, of course not.”
I stood up and moved the chair opposite out from under the table. She sat down.
“Thank you very much. I hate drinking coffee on my own. Do you work around here?”
She had sparkling blue eyes that were as big as her smile. Her complexion was pale, quite white in fact, which made a change from seeing all the London girls with their fake tans.
I suppose I should have said more but I was still shocked at someone in central London wanting to talk to a complete stranger. It’s just not something that we do.
“No not me. Not yet anyway. But I’m hoping to. I’m going for a job interview in an hour not far from here. Do you think I’m suitably dressed for an interview?”
She stood up. She was wearing a white blouse with a short beige jacket over the top. Her skirt was mid length, just below the knee and she was wearing red flat shoes which matched her shade of lipstick. She looked gorgeous. In fact, stunning.
I sat back in my chair while she did a twirl in front of me. Here was a girl in her mid- twenties who I had known for just a few seconds doing a fashion show for me in the middle of an empty London café. Bizarre!
“You’ll knock them dead in that outfit. You look every bit the sophisticated London lady.”
She giggled and sat back down.
“So, enough about me. What do you do?”
I took a sip of my coffee and shrugged my shoulders.
“Not much. It’s really not that exciting. I’m a sales consultant for a stationery company. Well that’s my official title. The truth is I try to sell stationary items to people.”
Again she giggled.
“You weren’t joking were you? Sounds really boring.”
We both laughed. We’d known each other for just a few minutes but here we were laughing together as though we’d known each other for years.
“Can I get you another coffee?”
She shook her head.
“No thanks. Not unless they can put a brandy in it. I’m a bit nervous about the interview. “
I looked at my watch. It was 12.10.
“Look, there’s a pub next door. How about I buy you something to calm those nerves of yours?”
Her face lit up like a firework.
“Come on then. What we waiting for?”
She stood up, giggled and made her way to the door of the café. I followed, both of us giggling like a couple of kids.
The pub next door was called the Rose and Crown. I remember it because I thought that it was appropriate. She looked like a typical English rose.
There was a silence. Jim was staring at the ceiling, images of twirling girls and roses filling his thoughts. The bigger man stopped writing on his pad and shouted.
“Jim, Jim, what happened in the pub?”
Jim snapped out of his thoughts and continued.
I asked her what she wanted to drink.
“Do you really want a brandy, or something else?”
“I’ve never even tasted brandy. It was just something I saw in a movie once. A woman ordered a Brandy and coffee. It seemed to go together so well. No, I’ll have a white wine please.”
I ordered a bottle of Sancerre and two glasses. We took a table in the corner.
I poured out the wine. We chinked glasses. She drank down the glass in one go.
“Bloody hell. Thirsty?”
She threw her head back and roared with laughter.
“I needed that. So mister stationary man, what’s your name?”
“Jim. Jim Rogers. And you, miss interview lady, what’s yours?”
“Katherine. Katherine Weller. My friends call me Kathy. So you can call me Kathy as well.”
I poured out more wine.
“Cheers Kathy. Here’s to a successful interview.”
We stayed in the pub till three o’clock. I missed my appointment and she missed her interview. I called my boss and said I was sick and was going home. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the streets of London. We had dinner in an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden. I’d never been so happy. She made me feel alive. I can’t describe it. Up until that day I thought I had it all. Beautiful wife, two lovely kids, job, car, everything. But all that changed the day I met Kathy.
“So how did the day end?”
It was getting late. I suppose it was about ten o’clock. I had twenty missed calls on my phone. All from the wife. We were near Holborn Station. Kathy stopped walking and just stood there.
“Kathy, you okay?”
She looked at me. No, she stared at me. Then put her hands either side of my face and kissed me.
“Will you spend the night with me Jim? Please?”
The giggle had gone. Now there was a vulnerability about her that I’d not seen before. How could I resist her?
“Of course I will.”
We walked to a nearby hotel and I booked us in under the name of Mister and Mrs E.Rose.
Again Jim stopped talking and stared blankly at the wall.
Once again the bigger man had to shout to get Jim’s attention.
“So Jim. The big question is. Why did you kill her?”
“Because she asked me to.”
“Sorry Jim. I’m not sure I follow. She asked you to kill her?”
“Why Jim, why would she want you to do that?”
Jim took a deep breath and began to look around the room. It was as though he was preparing to tell some great secret. He continued.
As I said we booked into the hotel under the names of Mr and Mrs E.Rose. She never did ask me why I used that name. We took the lift up to the third floor. The room was perfect. She kissed me as soon as the door was closed. Then we sat on the bed and talked.
“What about Jim. What did you talk about?”
“Everything. We played a game where we both had to ask each other ten questions. They had to be the same ten questions for both of us. And, we had to be totally honest. Kathy started.”
“Are you married?”
“Yes, two. Boy aged four and a girl who’s eighteen months.”
“Are you happy?”
“Where do you live?”
“House or flat?”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“A brother. Older. He lives in Canada.”
“How old are you?”
“Are your parents alive?”
“Yes. Mum is fifty eight and dad is fifty nine.”
“Do you love me?”
“Will you help me with something?”
That was my ten questions done. Now it was Kathy’s turn. We sat on the bed holding hands. I asked her the same ten questions. She wasn’t married, she had no children, she wasn’t happy but said she pretended to be. She lived in a bedsit in Islington. She had no brothers or sisters and her parents were alive but living in Lincolnshire. She was twenty seven. She said she loved me and would help me.
We almost drank the mini bar dry. We fell asleep fully clothed on the bed. We never had sex on that first night. Just held each other close. The next morning I walked her to the station and we swapped numbers. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see her again. I got the train home knowing that I was in serious trouble. I’d been out all night, I hadn’t called my wife. She would be angry but she would also be worried. I came up with a story. I’d met up with an old mate from school purely by chance when I was between appointments. He’d convinced me to take the afternoon off and go on a bender. I ended up sleeping on his couch absolutely legless. Bless her, she believed every word. She was just so relieved to see me. I took the rest of the day off, called in sick again.
“So when did you see her again?”
“Come on Jim, we need to get through this. When did you see Kathy again?”
Jim closed his eyes as though he was picturing the scene.
“It was three days later. A Friday, I think. She rang me. I was back in London.
I was so relieved to hear her voice again. I thought she would never call.
“Yes. Hello Kathy.”
“Can I see you?”
“My last appointment is near Liverpool Street at three. Should be finished by four. Any good?”
“Opposite the main entrance is an old pub called Dirty Dicks. Meet you in there at four.”
“Thanks Jim. Love you.”
I couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the day. My heart was pounding like a bass drum. I finished my last meeting early. I could see it was going nowhere so just stood up and said that I didn’t think our products were right for his company and walked out. I was at the pub by twenty past three. I walked in. She was already there. God she looked beautiful. Her blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail; she was wearing a tee shirt and jeans. Once again her pale skin looked luminous in the half light of the pub. I wanted her.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t little Miss interview from Islington.”
Her giggle was back. She hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. She whispered in my ear.
“I’ve missed you Mr stationary man.”
I got us a bottle of wine and we went to a quiet corner of the pub. I remember the sun was shining that day. It was quite hot so everyone was standing outside. The inside of the pub was practically empty.
“How have you been? Did you get into big trouble for staying out all night? I’m sorry if I got you in trouble.”
She held my hand as she spoke. Her big blue eyes looked so apologetic.
“It’s okay. I came up with one hell of a story and it’s all fine now. It was just as much my fault as yours anyway.”
She giggled again.
“It was fun though wasn’t it?”
“Yes it was.”
She squeezed my hand tightly, then leaned across the table and kissed me softly on the lips. She tasted wonderful.
We finished our wine and I made the mistake of looking at my watch. She noticed.
“Do you have to leave?”
“Not yet. More wine?”
“No. I need to ask you something first.”
“You know in the hotel when I asked you if you’d do something for me and you said yes. Did you mean it?”
“Of course I did.”
“But you don’t know what it is yet.”
I smiled at her. At that moment in time I would have walked to the end of the earth for her.
“Good. I’ll have that glass of wine now.”
She giggled, like it was some sort of game and she’d just won. I went to the bar and got us two large glasses of wine. When I returned to the table, she’d gone. She’d written something on a napkin.
I’ll call you in a few days to explain. Love you, mister paperclip.
The larger man put down his pen and paper and looked across at Jim. He’d stopped talking and there was an intense silence. His eyes were still closed.
“Jim, come on, let’s carry on.”
His eyes opened. The larger man noticed tears were rolling down his cheeks.
Jim stood up and shouted.
“I did what you wanted Kathy. I kept my promise!”