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by Drama Queen 

Posted: 06 April 2008
Word Count: 1933
Summary: A crime story...

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Michael casually sipped iced tea and pretended to read a newspaper at a table in the window of Shirley’s Coffee Shop. Across the road, the Edwardian building that was Season’s Hotel, oozed style, money and class. He watched people enter and leave the elegant foyer, and a wry smile touched his lips. It all looked so normal. For now.
He went to the Gents to check his appearance in the mirror. His blond hair, dyed black and grown longer, hid a shrapnel wound on his neck. His bright blue eyes were concealed by brown contact lenses and a pair of dark glasses, and several sessions at a tanning salon had darkened his skin. Some theatrical false teeth slipped over his own perfect smile, completed the transformation. His appearance was Asian rather than European and it amused him. All he needed now was the courage to do what must be done.
He returned to his table in time to see his twin Andrew, with Caroline, emerge from the hotel and climb into a waiting Jaguar.
Michael waited until the car drew away before paying for his drink, straightening his tie, and flicking a speck of dust off his immaculate suit. Satisfied, he took a deep breath, picked up his brief case and weekend bag, and crossed the road. Seconds later he walked into the Hotel, which his brother had stolen from him, together with Caroline, the only woman he’d ever loved.
‘I’d like a room, please,’ he told the receptionist. She glanced at him and he wondered for a moment whether she might spot the likeness to Andrew; but she merely smiled, asked for his credit card and swiped it, before requesting he fill out a check in form.
A few moments later he was shown into a room on the third floor, overlooking the garden and newly-built spa beyond. Andrew had always been the one with the business acumen; the drive to make everything he touched into a success. He was a single-minded, ruthless, soulless man with a Midas touch, whom Michael had in turn hated, envied and admired all his life. Certainly Andrew’s management of their father’s hotel had turned Season’s into a goldmine, but Michael had always assumed that when their parents died, he and Andrew would be left equal shares. It had been a monumental shock when his father, who had finally passed away in an alcoholic haze, left Seasons to Andrew.
Michael poured a small scotch and bitterly raised the glass to his father. ‘Thanks for the small house in Hampshire and fifty thousand pounds, Pa,’ he growled contemplating that Seasons, this watering hole for the rich and famous, was worth millions. The injustice ate away at him like a cancer.
He knew he had never been suited to business; he hated the routine, the tedium of being nice to the right people. He craved adventure and excitement and the army had provided that. He had toured in Afghanistan and Iraq, been honoured for bravery and made the rank of Colonel. But a year ago disaster had struck, when a road-side bomb blew up the tank in front of him.
He rubbed his neck where the scar still hurt. Two months in hospital and an honourable discharge were the reward for ten years in the service of his country. He was catapulted back into civilian society with barely a thank you.
Andrew had visited him in hospital, and offered him a job in the hotel…A job.
‘What sort of a job,’ he had demanded. ‘Bell boy? Yes sir, no sir, thanks for the tip sir…up yours sir!’ he had stormed.
‘Michael, I’m sorry. You know nothing about running a hotel – it’s a valuable business now and I have to keep the reins.
‘I don’t want crumbs from your table,’ Michael spat at his brother. ‘Get out – I can look after myself.’
And so Michael became a hit man. Army life had left him a lot of contacts, some of whom, like himself, had fallen on hard times after leaving the service. One or two boasted even more dubious friends, and since Michael had learned to kill so efficiently, so quietly and with some enthusiasm, he soon found a new use for his skills
A rapist had been his first victim. He’d been given a derisory sentence for attacking a ten-year old girl and the child’s father wanted vengeance. The man had ended up in the Thames, his throat sliced from ear to ear. The second was a drug dealer who had been responsible for the death of three teenagers from the same family after selling some bad dope at their party. Michael was never sure who had commissioned that hit, but it paid well and it gave him a great deal of satisfaction to throw the man from the top of a multi-storey car park.
And now he was about to kill his own brother. The self-satisfied jerk was going to get what was coming to him. Cain and Abel, he grinned to himself. But this time Cain also gets the girl…one way or another.
Caroline had lived next door to Michael and Andrew all their lives. They had been playmates, their parents were great friends, and as the children grew into their teens Michael and Caroline began to look at each other in a different way. He had lusted after her from the age of twelve, and by the time he was sixteen, while Andrew slogged away at his school work, the more adventurous, less academic Michael developed a powerful sexuality which needed to be satisfied. And Caroline had been willing. They often escaped into the woodlands where youthful experimentation soon led to a passionate and careless affair, enthralling them both. Even as Michael, sitting morosely in the hotel room remembered, his body quickened at the thought of her, slim, sweet and yielding in his arms; her delighted cries, pleading for more. She had been as insatiable as he.
Eighteen months later Michael had joined the army and she had gone to university. And three years after that, she married Andrew. Sensible, boring, ambitious Andrew.
..Sorry Michael, but I can’t see myself living on army pay. You hate him and I understand that, but he suits me. And don’t think of saying anything to anyone about our youthful fling. Remember, I know it was you who stole five thousand pounds from the hotel and let the poor accounts clerk take the blame.
Even if it had been possible to get leave from Afghanistan, he could not have faced going to the wedding.
But now it was payback time. Once Andrew was dead, he knew he’d never need to do it again. And Caroline would at last be his.
His plan was simple. That evening there was to be an important civic event at the hotel, to be hosted by Andrew and Caroline. The hotel always employed agency staff as waiters for such large events and in his weekend case, pressed and immaculate, lay his waiter’s costume.
As the time drew near, he carefully glued on a discreet moustache, donned a pair of heavy glasses and pushed a cushion pad into the front of his trousers. He hardly recognised himself; a fat, short-sighted, moustachioed waiter. Carefully he left his room and swiftly made his way down the back stairs, joining the rest of the staff milling around with trays as the guests began to arrive.
‘You’re wearing white gloves – is that necessary?’ asked the Events Manager.
‘Psoriasis, sir. Eet do not look so good for the guests you understand,’ he murmured in a thick, Spanish accent.
‘Very well.’ The already harassed man thought no more about it and rushed away.
Andrew and Caroline had returned in their evening wear, and his heart lurched as he approached them, offering champagne. His brother accepted, and passed a glass to Caroline; neither gave him a second glance. So far, so good.
Soon a hundred people gathered in the large function room, chatting and drinking before dinner. Andrew expertly worked the room, introducing the Mayor to his business cronies no doubt, thought Michael. Brown-nosed bastard. He followed discreetly, waiting his moment, and finally, just before dinner was announced, he noticed Andrew’s glass was almost empty.
‘More champagne, sir,’ he asked, affecting his Spanish accent.
‘Thank you,’ said Andrew, turning to speak to another guest. Michael, removed his empty glass, and passed him a fresh one, into which he had dropped a cyanide pill. He then moved swiftly away, dumped his tray on a table and slipped back upstairs to his suite. By the time Andrew had taken his last drink, the fat Spanish waiter had vanished and become the svelte Asian guest, Mr Vee-jay Shiraz, as named on his credit card. He picked up the phone and ordered room service.
He grinned with satisfaction on hearing the approaching nee naw of an ambulance. Clearly the hotel staff had not summoned the police, assuming poor Mr Carson must have suffered a heart attack. With luck they wouldn’t realise he’d been murdered until the post mortem.
Michael could have left the hotel then, but it amused him to stay. He ate his own meal before drifting back downstairs to enjoy the shocked disbelief of the remaining guests.
Just after midnight, Caroline was brought back to the hotel. He watched as she walked through the foyer, looking calm and composed, if a little pale. He was surprised when she didn’t go directly to her room, but asked the girl on Reception to check something and then dialled a number on the house phone. To his horror, his mobile phone began to ring, and Caroline turned immediately and stared at him.
For a moment she looked confused, but then she nodded at him and with a slight turn of her head indicated he should follow her into the lift. As the doors closed, she looked at him and laughed.
‘It had to be you, Michael, so bloody disorganised you forgot to turn your mobile off.’ Stunned he followed her to the bedroom she and Andrew kept for their own use. ‘You murdered Andrew. Cyanide I presume, judging by the blue lips and smell of bitter almonds.’
‘What are you planning to do about it?’ he asked running sensuous fingers up her back.
‘Well, I inherit the hotel now, and I am rid of a boring, cold-hearted and under-sexed husband, a little sooner than I had expected. Drink?’ She went into the kitchenette returning a moment later with a bottle of red wine and two glasses.
‘A little sooner?’ he asked, accepting a much-needed glass of wine and taking a large gulp.
‘Yes. You see Andrew had an inoperable brain tumour and only a few months to live. I had hoped they might be suitably agonising, but you spared him that. He was on incredibly strong drugs to combat the pain, which are fatal in overdose. You have just drunk a massive overdose. When you become unconscious, my lover, who is the manager of the hotel, will help me to remove you to your room, where you will be found with a bottle of wine and the empty pill bottle. In time it will be discovered that you were Andrew’s brother in disguise, who murdered his twin, and then committed suicide in remorse. Very neat.
Already the room was beginning to spin and Michael, clutched at a chair before falling to the floor.
‘You evil bitch,’ he gasped. ‘I thought you loved me once.’
‘To everything, my dear, there is a season,’ she replied.

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 19:35 on 06 April 2008  Report this post
Hi Suzanne,
Although this is a pure crime genre story, I still did wonder about the cliches. I'm not up on this genre at all and the conventions within it, but my instinct about cliches is always to remove them. From my reading, they are 'a wry smile touched his lips'- I think he smiled does the trick because directly after that 'It all looked so normal. For now.' comes in and suggests something sinister.
'like a cancer' and the 'Midas touch' were two more of them. .. Trouble is I'm not sure if the story is meant to be spoofy or funny, in which case you could argue the other way about the cliches - even put more in.
I thought the backstory about Michael built up the sense of how dangerous and skilled he was, but just stopped short of taking my attention away from the main story.
I did like how directly and matter-of-factly you provide the motivation early on.
When he's in the hotel, though, I thought you could remove '...contemplating Seasons' etc, because the hotel being sucessful and worth a lot of money is implied before.
Even though Caroline turns out to be as bad as Michael, I still wondered how she'd know the symtoms of cyanide poisoning - but maybe that's just a nitpick.

Drama Queen at 22:24 on 06 April 2008  Report this post
Thanks Becca. Lots of good points there and you're right about the cliches. A rewrite obviously required!

darrenm at 12:34 on 07 April 2008  Report this post
Hi Suzanne,

I enjoyed your story, liked the bitterness of the main character which came across very well. It was a quick easy read with lots of tension to keep the reader interested, we kind of know that Michael will get his come-uppance but want to know how.

I did wonder about credibility a couple of times, firstly it seemed a bit too goody-goody that a hit-man would only take jobs that involved 'rubbing out' despicable characters, I know it makes him sympathetic to the reader but I felt it an unlikely scenario. And it seemed naiive of Michael to assume that Caroline would simply rush back into his arms after Andrew's death, but you may have intended this.

I liked the mobile going off at the end, like an alarm bell to Michael that things aren't so sweet as he thinks. And a woman is his ultimate downfall, very true to the genre.


P.J. at 21:41 on 07 April 2008  Report this post
A good punchy story. Is there a word limit? I think a few words about his disposing of undesirables leading naturally onto getting rid of those who simply proved a nuisance to others, for a good payoff, would make his murderous plans for his brother more believable?
What made her ring his mobile so soon after the event, was it just to let him know what had happened? His disguise was so good she couldn't have known he was right there.
It was a surprise that, as a well trained army killer, he resorted to poison. I was expecting something gory.

Buzzard at 21:55 on 07 April 2008  Report this post
Hi, Suzanne
Reading this this morning made me late for work, so that's got to be a point in its favour!

I'm not familiar with the crime genre, so perhaps not the best judge. But I did like the camp, or cliched, element. Entirely unbelievable in regard of the plot, but it just didn't matter. I was happy to groan at how increasingly contrived it became. With the disguises and twist, it was almost like a comedy sketch. No jokes as such, but the characters taking themselves absurdly seriously. I like it.

Just a couple of things grated or made it difficult for me to suspend disbelief. I know nothing about the army, but isn't Colonel an extremely high rank? Perhaps impossibly so for someone who joins straight from school and taken only ten years to get there? And then get hurt in action and dumped back on Civvy Street without so much as a thank you. Like I said, I really don't know, but I queried that strand where as the final denouement I didn't.

And I wasn't sure about Caroline's remembered lines ' . . .our youthful fling. And remember I know it was you . . .' That did feel just a bit too stagy for my liking, I'm afraid. I thought teh story could probably stand up just as well without it.

Also, 'Caroline would at last be his.' I couldn't quite fathom how he made that presumption.

Otherwise, I thought it a really good silly read.

Cheers for now.

tusker at 17:18 on 08 April 2008  Report this post
Hi Suzanne, I enjoyed your story. It reminded me of a modern day Agatha Christie. Maybe I'm wrong but this could make a much longer story. Book or novella even? Perhaps having at least one nice character. Twisting the characters around. Andrew, nasty, deserving to die. And Michael, not just out to kill through jealousy and greed but some other reason that would make him sort of heroic?


Drama Queen at 17:31 on 08 April 2008  Report this post
Thanks everybody,
Lots of useful thoughts there, and I had actually thought of turning it into a script of some sort. It is melodramatic because I think it's quite hard to pack a plot for a crime story into relatively few words, so lots happens in a few paras. But I had fun writing it, so mission accomplished.

Nella at 17:35 on 08 April 2008  Report this post
Hi Suzanne,
I want to let you know that I did read it, too. I'm another one of those who doesn't have much experience with the genre, so I don't know how it compares. But it was a fun read, and I can imagine you did have fun writing it.

bjlangley at 10:23 on 18 April 2008  Report this post
Hi Suzanne, it's obvious you had fun writing this, it comes across in the story. The disguises are great, could picture them vividly in my head.

I found it a little hard to feel any sympathy for Michael after ‘Thanks for the small house in Hampshire and fifty thousand pounds, Pa,’ I think it would be better if it could have been contrived by Andrew that he got nothing.

"And so Michael became a hit man" seemed a little matter-of-fact, like it was a decision that came easy to him, rather than something he got dragged into due to lack of other options.

As for the ending, I like the twist with Caroline, but in this state, it felt a little unnecessary - she could have called the police, advised them she'd caught Michael, and have the same result. I think you could add another clause in there somewhere which makes Michael's death necessary.

All the best,


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