He felt ridiculous, he felt a prize twat if the truth be known, an office worker in his late thirties affecting a lowlife hooded swagger dressed in a crummy Adidas shell suit and tattered Nikes. It was the best disguise though, or so he'd thought, that, and the four day stubble, yes, he had to look the part, there could be no mistakes. He swaggered up to the busstop and stood with his back to the wall, his sweatshirt hood shielding his bloodshot
eyes from the few scuttling, paranoid pensioners who
were passing; he seemed to be
intimidating, at least; that was good.
The estate was rather select, trimmed hedgerows and
tended rose beds: no pitbulls
grappling with shaven headed yobs or gaggles of
chainsmoking young mums with their
brats. It was the domain of respectable, working class
tory, Express and Mail reading
British Legion types. He felt rather conspicuous and
felt maybe he'd gone too far with the
disguise, ah, too late for second thoughts.
Keith glanced at his watch; twenty minutes to
kill before she came back with her pension, he
couldn't just walk round looking dodgy.
He crossed the road and went into a newsagents. The
proprietor was jabbering in Punjabi
with his wife and an agitated daughter was fretfully
watching a group of school kids
expertly pilfering chocolate bars and bottles of
Lukozade. He made for the magazine
rack, reached up and pulled down a magazine. He
flicked unconsciously through the
motley selection of middle aged females trying to look
as relaxed as possible. Ten or
fifteen minutes passed before he slipped out, hoping
he hadn't been noticed as anything
other than a run-of-the-mill, cheapskate pervert.
He slunk into the estate once more, noticed only by a
pensioner trimming his hedge. The
old man peered at him with a mixture of disgust and
Keith went into a daze as he approached the block
where she lived and began to
wonder how the hell he'd got himself into it all; he
was about to commit bloody murder,
for christ's sake; and all through a chance meeting in
the pub two months before. Keith
slipped into the building unnoticed. Standing pensive in the lobby, the absurdity of
the whole thing forced a grunt of nervous laughter
from his chapped, chewed, near
The lobby was cool and silent, the doormats matched
the individually letterboxed, brass
numbered doors while pot plants adorned the landings. He
began to climb the stairs, and by the
fourth landing he had to pause for breath. A lot of
water had passed under the bridge
since his Sunday league days with Willingdon
Wanderers, that was sure. He got to the
storerooms on the final floor unobserved. He wondered
how Fingal was doing on his
mission, Fingal the cause of it all; Fingal, the
silver-tongued persuader; Fingal, the
instigator of the whole insane enterprise. It was too
late for regret though, there was
no going back.
Just then he heard the faint refrain of
gossip from one of the landings
below him. He hurriedly began to unfold the ladder.
He clambered through the opening and onto the roof; the air
was fresh up on the top of the ten
story block, the wind pushing the dirty grey
rain clouds away to reveal a rinsed-blue sky. According to Fingal, she would be up soon.
The Pigeons were beginning to coo
audibly; it was near feeding time.
Keith huddled down in a concrete alcove between the
central heating vents. He was
surprised at how calm he felt, for days beforehand he
had envisioned a clammy trembling
terror as the time neared, but no, he felt no nerves
only very real regrets at having made a
pact with that fucker Fingal; but here he was, on the verge
and no going back. Fingal would
have done the deed by now though, fulfilled his part
of the bargain, the devious, little
Irish bastard. God! how that made him feel better, yes, no more mother-in-law, no more
huddled, whispering, conflabs with Helen in their
kitchen, an end to her limpet-like
presence in their home, her grating, suburban
His teeth ground with hatred at
the mere thought of her and his hands flexed
involuntarily as they sought the old crow's,
horrid, fleshy neck.
A scraping of metal on concrete below disturbed his
reverie of hate - his victim was on her
her way up; the time was nigh. He watched as the
headscarved form of an elderly woman
in a cardigan and fur-lined, slipper boots pulled
herself onto the roof and began to shuffle
over to the pigeon loft. Keith rose to his feet, he
had to do it; he'd made a pact; Fingal
would be a bad enemy to have if he bottled out now; it
had to be done.
The old woman was unhooking the latches on the loft
door abutting the low roof wall -
Keith broke into a stalking jog and loomed up on his
victim; she must have heard his
footsteps for just before he reached her, her head
turned to face him and her terror struck
eyes met his. He knew what to do, he'd rehearsed it a
hundred times - he squatted down,
grabbed each of her ankles firmly and with a forceful
movement, pitched her over the
He stood affixed for a moment or two, aghast at what
he'd just done. Children's shrieks
from down below shook him from his frozen stance.
He ran over to the hatch and
dropped down onto the landing. Pulling the tracksuit
hood over his forehead, he raced
down the stairs.
Jesus Christ! He'd killed her! He'd
done cold blooded fucking murder.
He paused in the ground floor lobby, sweat rolling and
heart pounding. There was already
a gaggle of pensioners and young mothers around the
old woman. He caught a glimpse of
her boots, the kind advertised for 7.99£ in Sunday
supplement magazines. As he slunk off,
the few dawdlers he passed were too focussed on the
commotion to pay him much heed.
Keith put good distance between himself and the scene.
After ten minutes of brisk striding
he turned into a small park, well shielded from the
street by trees and scabby bushes. The
park was empty save two battered Scots winos who were
too engrossed in diluting their
methys to notice him. Keith disappeared behind the
concrete public lavatory and
emerged a few minutes later with a sports bag and rid
of his tatty garb. He left the park
looking his normal self, a brow beaten office worker
with a greasy collar and crumpled
trousers, heading home after a grotty day.
He tried to walk with as much composure as he could.
Rush hour was just beginning and
the pavements weren't too crowded; he felt weak and
trembly but managed to keep going
until the bus stop came into site; his bus was making
its way up the hill bang on time;
everything was going to plan. When the bus pulled in
he climbed to the top deck and
slumped himself down, the deed had been done, he was
The bus took about an hour to shunt its way through
the rapidly clogging streets, across
the river and towards his suburb, the further he got
from the scene the safer he felt, the
city's throng and bustle obliterating the killer's
As he made his way down his street, Keith prepared for
what would certainly greet him at
home. Sure enough, Helen didn't open the door as
usual; instead, his glum-faced, tearful
daughter greeted him and sobbed that granny was dead,
that she'd fallen in the canal
trying to rescue, Willy, her aged Yorkshire terrier.
Keith weakly feigned disbelief for the
child and made his way into the living room with a
half vacant, half-pained expression
and proceeded to shoulder his distraught wife's grief.
The next day, the family home was besieged by family
members flocking from far afield
for the funeral which was scheduled for Sunday. He
wasn't missed as he slipped out into
the drizzly Saturday afternoon street. As he neared
the pub his curiosity, his perverse
hunger to hear Fingals's account of the slaying
became ever stronger.
The Lounge bar of the Boar and Spear was full of
bantering football fans tanking up
before Athletic's third division relegation scrap.
Through the smoky hue, he made out the
solitary Fingal stooped over his stout, rolling a
cigarette. Keith bought a pint and made
his way over.
Something wasn't quite right; Keith sensed it straight
away; the bony little Irishman fixed
him with a contemptuous, malignant glare.
"Nice fucking work Keith," he hissed.
"What's the matter?" stammered Keith. "Everything
went all right didn't it?"
fuckin didn't! She was laid up with flu that day, of
all the fuckin luck, and anyway, what
did I tell you about the wellington boots? She only
ever wears fuckin wellington boots to
feed the fucking pigeons."
The color drained out of
Keith's face and he clunked his
pint down limply as he recalled the gray, Sunday
magazine slipper boots his victim had
"Yeah, you did her neighbour in, you
"Jesus Christ," mumbled
Keith, half in fear of Fingal and half through
mortification at having killed an
innocent old woman. When He looked up again, the Irishman was grinning his
horrible grin from ear to ear
"It's O.K though, Keithy boy," he wheezed. "I'm rid of
mine nonetheless. . .the old bitch
keeled over with a heart attack yesterday in Tescos,
you're in the clear. I wouldn't have
liked to make a double killer of you, ha,ha,ha,ha. . .
You're a lucky man so you are! haw
Bruce Downie is thirty years
old and had recently returned to the U.K at the time we received his story. This, after a four
year stint teaching English as a foreign language in
the frozen wastes of eastern Poland. He tells us he's semi-employed
in a menial capacity at the moment and has been
catching up with his writing, typing and editing old
drafts, knocking ideas into shape etc. When asked about his writing, he said, "I only started
writing short stories and verse when I went out to
Poland in 95. I`ve written around 18 stories of about
2000-2500 words and one of 6000 words. I had a story
up on Little Read Riding Hood, another U.S site, as well as a few others."
Coming soon to 3 A.M. Publishing. . .
Bruce Downie's The Sniper
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