Scott Huntington loved his wife. Well, sort of. It didn’t matter because either way, he was going to have to kill her.
On an ordinary day, Scott would have wolfed down the perfectly prepared, succulent and tender slab of sirloin. But this was neither an ordinary day nor an ordinary dinner date. He chewed on each bite with great difficulty and the damned blobs of meat doused in rich creamy béarnaise sauce just wouldn’t slide down his parched throat. All he could think about was what he was planning to do.
It was his first and he hoped, last murder. He was quite flustered although he did a fine job of concealing it. The only giveaway would have been his difficulty in maintaining conversation, which wasn’t reason enough for Laura to become suspicious because these days they hardly spoke any more. He had planned it all out well and gone over every step in his head a million times. He hadn’t left any tracks. He was sure of that.
Their waiter appeared, a stocky and polite Argentinian man no older than the soon-to-be murderer.
“Is everything okay? Can I get you some peppercorn sauce for that?”
“No, thank you.”
“And Madam, how is the lamb?”
“Oh it is lovely, compliments to the chef.”
“Thank you Madam. Let me know if you need anything else.”
Then silence returned, heightened by the peculiar quietude of the always-overbooked restaurant. Hardly any tables were occupied. Scott was relieved though, and welcomed it as a sign that the forces above were in favor of his decision. Lord knew he didn’t want to do it, he really didn’t, but he was compelled to and therefore there would be no sin.
On the contrary, he had been kind enough to suggest Laura’s favourite restaurant for her final meal. It was a bad choice of day though, their anniversary, he didn’t feel nice about that but what could he do, time was of the essence. Coldplay alternated with Sade in the background. The aroma of freshly seared beef, burnt garlic and rich intense sauces filled the upmarket steakhouse.
He sliced a sliver of baked and buttered potato. She still hadn’t brought up the divorce. He’d been waiting all evening, expecting her to tell him that she was planning to call it quits. But it hadn’t happened yet. Surely she hadn’t changed her mind. He flinched slightly at the possibility. Maybe he shouldn’t kill her after all. But it was too late for that. He had already seen her in the eye of his mind a thousand times; lying rigid and motionless, void of breath and colour. He couldn’t imagine it ending any other way and could not afford to take the risk of leaving her alive. It was all completely her fault that she would die young, he thought. Because now that he knew that she was planning to leave him, he was compelled to act. Pity. Thirty-two was no age to go.
Her phone vibrated. Laura paused from eating and glanced at the screen. She picked it up, read her message and replaced it on the table face down. His blood boiled. Could it be the lawyer? No, he was being paranoid, not at this hour surely.
She arranged the silver cutlery on her plate indicating the end of her meal. Anytime now she would stand up, he thought. She always went to the ladies after she ate, to freshen her lipstick and powder her nose. Her vanity would be the end of her. He placed his hand over his thigh, feeling through the fabric of his trousers for the little bottle. It was right there, just like the ten other times he’d checked.
She stood up, pulled her fitted dress down at the thighs to adjust it, “I’ll be right back.”
She turned and strode toward the back of the dining hall. He couldn’t help but admire her flawless figure, slender at the waist, rounded at the hips and that perfect posture that twice a week of yoga had given her. She was no doubt a beautiful woman. In that fitted red dress she looked good enough to eat. When they’d first started dating he couldn’t keep his hands off her. They had sex morning, noon and night. After they married four years ago, things started to go downhill.
Now there was only one way for this sordid marriage to end; on his terms. He would beat her to it; he’d be the one walking away victorious. Although watching her disappear into the corridor, he felt a familiar ache between his legs. One more session of sensational sex, one last goodbye would have been satisfying.
He surveyed his surroundings. She’d be gone for no more than a few minutes and that is all the time he had. The scattered diners seemed sufficiently engrossed in their own company and the only waiter in sight had his back turned and was attending a table far enough away.
Hands shaking, Scott pulled out the bottle from his pocket, uncapped it and poured a generous stream of clear liquid into Laura’s glass of Aniello Malbec. The solution became one with the wine, not in the least affecting its deep shade of ruby. Satisfied, he returned the bottle and lid, not bothering to cap it back on, into his trousers and let out the breath he had been unconsciously holding.
His palms turned damp and his heart began to race. Now he would have to execute the rest of his plan quickly and steer the rest of the evening with immaculate precision.
When Laura returned to the table, just as he’d expected, she looked refreshed. He had already had the plates cleared.
She looked at him with surprise, “You’ve finished?”
“I couldn’t get through it all. I’m stuffed. Dessert?”
He knew she never ate dessert at night and that she would want to leave as soon as the meal was over because she had yoga the following morning.
“Not after that rich meal. We can go. I have an early start tomorrow. Call for the bill.”
“Already paid. Finish your wine.”
Her brows furrowed, “Why did you offer dessert if you’ve already paid?”
“I was being polite. It is after all, our anniversary.” He raised his glass, an offering of peace.
She hesitated, her face a mask of light confusion, then picked up her glass.
“To better times ahead,” he said.
They clinked glasses and downed their wine. The countdown had begun.
The sky was dark as slate and icy November winds stung his face. Bundled in their thick jackets, mist leaving their breath, they walked the few steps to where his BMW was parked. He beeped the key to unlock the car and moved toward the driver’s side. Laura followed him and held out her palm.
“I feel like driving,” she stated.
The fluttering in his stomach accelerated into a storm. He had to think fast and couldn’t afford to stand there and argue. The meds would start kicking in any time now and if he didn’t come up with something good he would be riding shotgun alongside her to both their deaths.
“We can’t go around Piccadilly, horrendous traffic. We will have to go through Sackville. I drove through there yesterday, road works. Cars were moving at snail’s pace. Either way it is going to be a drawn out ride. You rest or answer your emails. I’ll get us home.”
She stood there, contemplating, a look of uncertainty in her eyes. Finally she turned and walked around to the passenger’s side of the car. Scott wasted no time. He jumped into the driver’s seat and brought the engine to life. He took a wrong turn on purpose avoiding Sackville. It was smooth earlier this morning and she’d become suspicious. She didn’t notice, she was busy with her phone. Less than a minute later, the phone fell out of her hands and she slumped back, head dangling like a rag doll.
Scott stepped on the gas. He knew the efficacy of the dose he had administered would last at least six hours but he could take no chances. If he did everything right, tomorrow he would be a rich man.
When they arrived at their three-storey house in the upper class residential area of Central London, Laura was still unconscious. Scott parked in their basement garage, almost knocking into her Mercedes. He turned off the engine and hurried around the vehicle to carry her out. Laura had had the underground basement built and the elevator installed when she bought the property.
He lifted her up without much effort; one arm under her well defined shoulders and the other beneath the back of her knees. She was of petite build and he a strong, muscled man who ran five kilometers every weekday and trained with weights regularly. The only time Scott skipped exercise was when he had a fever. And that didn’t happen often. He silently congratulated himself on the fruits of his discipline.
The doors of the elevator opened at the second floor leading straight into the master bedroom. Scott placed Laura down on the carpeted foot of their four poster bed. He went into to the closet, grabbed the Egyptian cotton white bath towels Laura had recently purchased from Selfridges and wished she’d chosen a darker color.
He spread them out, double layer, lengthwise on the parquet flooring of the closet. He then carried her and placed her body on top of them. She was alive and blissfully asleep.
They were both still in their winter coats and beads of sweat rolled down the sides of his face. He considered getting Laura out of her coat but dispelled the thought quickly. Of course the bullet would penetrate the coat, wouldn’t it?
The closet was twelve feet by eight. On one side hung Laura’s dresses, her coats and trousers, her exquisite evening gowns sought out from the most popular designers in Europe. On the left, parallel to her clothes was Scott’s section; his suits, shirts, jeans, shoes, ties and belts. Built in was also a chest of drawers where he kept his chargers, socks, scarves and other knick-knacks. The bottom drawer was where he kept his revolver, one he had bought from the black market after the attempted robbery at their home two years earlier.
He opened the drawer which he kept unlocked for ease of reach should there ever be an urgent threat on their lives.
It was empty.
“Looking for something Scottie?”
He turned, pulse slamming in his ears. She was sitting upright, a defiant and victorious smile plastered across her red lips. The barrel of the gun pointed squarely between his eyes.
The shots had torn through the quiet of the elite neighborhood, woken up the neighbors and pretty soon the police were banging down the doors of 25 Oakwood Street. Ambulance sirens blared through the streets not long after.
Laura’s head throbbed. The interrogation room was too brightly lit with more tube lights than necessary. The only furniture was a wooden desk and two metal chairs of the foldable variety. Laura sat on one and on the other, the detective sat across from her.
“Tell me what happened.”
“I shot him.” Laura said as though stating the plainest of facts.
Detective Jones drew a long breath in and then exhaled slowly. “We know that Mrs. Huntington. What we do not know is why.”
“I was protecting myself.” Laura said, barely above a whisper.
“There are no signs of a struggle and you bear no wounds from self defense. Can you please tell me exactly what occurred earlier this evening? Take me through it in as much detail as you can.”
Laura spent the next few minutes in silence, three consecutive gunshots still ringing in her ears.
Detective Jones leaned closer, checking her face for signs of presence. “Mrs. Huntington?”
“I was going to present him with divorce papers, I hadn’t told him yet. I wanted to keep my intentions from him till I gathered more proof. But he knew.” Here Laura paused and corrected herself. “He found out.”
“He was cheating on me. I have known for a time but I never confronted him because I had no evidence. It was just a hunch. So I hired a private investigator to follow him around. The PI came back with photographs of them in bars, in restaurants, in clubs, in the park. There were room reservations in his name at the hotel right below my office.” Tears streamed like rain over her cheeks. Her voice rose. “He was a nobody, a nothing when I found him. I gave him money, a home, a car, a life he never imagined possible. And betrayal is what he gave me in return. The bastard was fucking a whore right under my nose.”
“That is no reason to kill, Mrs. Huntington. It is not self defense.”
“He tried to poison me and then shoot me!” Hurt laced her voice. Saying the words out loud felt like a million daggers piercing through her heart. Laura still couldn’t believe Scott was capable of murder. But she had to believe it because the intended victim was none other than her.
“Do you have any proof? How do you know that was what he was planning?”
“He knew that I wanted out. He knew what was coming. He saw the email from my lawyer. He knew I wouldn’t give him a penny, I would fight him till the end. He also knew that aside from my company, house and cars, I was going to be worth a lot more. And he wanted it. I started to see a different side to him a year into our marriage. He married me only to secure his own future, to live the good life.”
“Tell me about this email.”
“Three weeks ago I lost my uncle to cancer. We went to the funeral, Scott and I. He was a very rich man, he made his fortune from trading steel. He was also an art enthusiast. I shared that passion with him. Rather, he inculcated in me an appreciation for fine art. He was a widower and childless and used to treat me as his daughter. His collection is worth well over ten million pounds. My lawyer emailed me the week after we returned from the funeral to inform me that he’d left me the collection in his will. In the same email my lawyer asked me if I was sure I wanted to proceed with preparing the papers for the divorce.”
Laura gazed listlessly at the blank wall.
“And?” Detective Jones repeated.
“And he saw the email. He knew. I know he knew because I had my laptop open, I was replying to the lawyer when my phone rang. It was my friend Maryanne. I hadn’t spoken to her in weeks. She is going through a rough time, her mother is very ill. I stepped outside into the terrace while speaking to her. Scott was working out in the gym in the basement. When I came back inside I could hear the shower. He was back. I rushed to shut my laptop and hoped he hadn’t seen any of it. That was when I saw a ring of water beside my computer. He always makes himself a cup of coffee after his workouts, the caffeine helps with the metabolism he says. He’d been there, he’d read everything, and he’d placed his cup of coffee there, scrolled my screen and read it all.”
“Mrs. Huntington, I sympathize with you. I can imagine how difficult all of this must have been for you. But none of this adds up to attempted murder.”
“I received a call from the PI the next morning. Scott had been to see a doctor but the address wasn’t that of our regular GP. He’d been to see someone I had never heard of. Scott never gets sick and he seemed perfectly healthy to me. So I snooped around the house to find any receipts or medicines. What I found instead was a small bottle of liquid Rohypnol. That’s a date-rape drug, ten times stronger than Valium.”
The detective shifted in his chair. “I know what it is Mrs. Huntington. We come across it with a lot of scumbags who have tried or succeeded to use it on unsuspecting women.”
“I couldn’t fathom why a drug like that would be in his drawer, right beside his revolver. But slowly, it came together in my head. He was planning to do away with me altogether. That way I would be dead but we would still be married and as my husband he would inherit everything. I emptied the bottle of its contents, washed it and replaced it with water. I returned it where I found it and checked the drawer several times a day, everyday. I knew if it went missing, my time was near. This morning it was gone but the gun was still there. I understood then that he planned to drug me at dinner and bring me home to finish me off.”
Detective Jones looked pensive, digesting all of this information.
“He thought he would kill me and take away everything I have worked so hard for. But now that he’s dead, I never have to worry about him again.”
Just then, there was a knock at the door. A uniformed officer entered and approached Detective Jones. He bent and whispered something in Detective Jones’ ear.
After he’d left, Detective Jones stood up and addressed Laura. “There was a weak pulse, he was almost dead from the loss of blood but they managed to save him. Mr. Huntington is somewhat conscious now. He is asking to speak with you.”