Here is a rather chilling story by John Griffiths.
It was late, on a cold, bleak, winter afternoon when Bill heard the chime of the front door bell. He wasn’t expecting anyone; since Edna had died he didn’t get many visitors at all, let alone at this time of day.
Slowly making his way along the corridor to the front door, he was aware of two blurred figures through the distortions of the patterned glass door panels. Now that it was becoming dusk the images were even more indistinct and Bill couldn’t help feeling a little uneasy as he approached the door. Through force of habit he checked that the door-chain was in place; all those years of reminding Edna about security ensured this was automatic, now that he was on his own.
Bill and Edna had lived in this bungalow since they were married, their children had grown up here and it, and they, had grown old gracefully together. The bungalow was full of memories and reminders of their long, happy life together and he had never felt the need to move to a more manageable property. Rather secluded, set back from the road and screened from neighbours by shrubs and trees grown large with the years, nonetheless they had never felt any sense of isolation while they had been together.
‘Never, ever, open the door without putting on the chain.’ How many times had he reminded Edna, over the years? And now it was second nature. The chain was in place.
Fumbling with the lock with fingers now a little stiff and painful, he finally opened the door to the limit of the chain. Peering through the gap, he was aware of two men in white overall coats; large, bulky men with woollen, ski-type hats pulled low over their ears. They were unshaven and looked, to Bill’s anxious eyes, a little sinister. The man nearest the door carried a large can of paint in each hand.
‘Afternoon, sir,’ the first man said, quite politely. ‘Just delivering the paint.’
Puzzled, Bill frowned slightly, trying to collect his thoughts. ‘No…you’ve made a mistake…I’ve not ordered anything.’
‘That’s odd….this is the address we’ve been given,’ glancing up at the number over the door. ‘Number 12.’
The second man had, what looked like, a flimsy delivery note. He held this up in the direction of the door, but too far away for Bill to be able to read anything. ‘See…Number 12,’ he said.
Then, despite all his warnings to Edna, Bill dropped his guard. Believing he might be able to help them find the right address by looking at the note, he removed the chain and opened the door a little wider.
Instantly it was shouldered open by the man holding the cans, sending Bill staggering across the hallway, where he slumped in a bewildered, breathless heap against the opposite wall. The door slammed shut. Totally alarmed and gasping for air, Bill tried to get to his feet.
‘Keep your mouth shut… don’t make a sound,’ snarled the man with the cans, who appeared to be the leader of the two. Roughly, the second man hauled Bill to his feet and dragged him along the corridor to the back of the bungalow, where he pushed him into the kitchen.
‘Okay. I’m going to have a look around while you make up your mind to tell us what you’ve got stashed away.’ The leader left the kitchen and Bill could hear him going from room to room. The noise of the opening and closing of drawers and cupboards filtered through to the kitchen, and Bill became increasingly agitated, while the second man watched him closely, in silence.
All the years he and Edna had lived here in peace and tranquillity; all the love and devotion they had poured into their life together, and their precious home. Now a vicious stranger was desecrating Edna’s memory. It was just too much for Bill to bear.
Suddenly the leader reappeared in the doorway of the kitchen carrying a table-cloth bulging with spoils from around the property. Dumping it on the floor, he demanded to know what other cash and valuables were hidden away. He waited for Bill’s answer with a look of utter vindictiveness.
By now, Bill was so upset by what was happening to the home on which Edna had lavished so much of her considerable energy and love, that he was unable to speak.
‘Right…we’ll see what we can do to jog your memory,’ with which the leader scrabbled around in a drawer before producing a heavy kitchen knife. Fearing the worst, Bill gave a gasp and clutched his chest, which now felt it was slowly being crushed by an iron band. However, it seemed he was not to be the intended victim..yet. The man bent and swiftly levered the lid from one of the cans, revealing an undisturbed, smooth surface of bright, blood-red paint.
‘Nice colour, eh?’ with a sneer. ‘We’ll see what it looks like around the walls.’ With that, he swung the can sending an arc of paint cascading over the wall, producing a wide, crimson gash. ‘Looks better already. Now let’s have a go at the rest.’ And he could be heard, slowly hurling the paint over the walls as he proceeded down the corridor.
Something dreadful happened then as Bill watched this awful vandalism to all he and Edna had held dear. As he slowly, unbelievingly took in the scene around him, the once pristine walls now more resembling the inside of an abattoir, his mind, tortured beyond endurance, snapped and demanded vengeance, and an end to it all.
For years, his family had gently chided him about his insistence on keeping some sort of weapon handy, ‘just in case’, though he had never thought he would, one day, have to use it. The weapon he kept in the kitchen was an old cricket bat that had always remained propped up in the corner, behind the kitchen door. There was another under their bed.
Slowly, very slowly, Bill edged backwards, unnoticed by the second man who was more concerned with the cupboards and drawers he was rifling through. Bill’s stiff fingers closed slowly around the handle of the bat. He gripped it as tightly as he could and waited for his opportunity. He could still hear the leader at the far end of the bungalow and, when he saw the second man crouching and engrossed in searching a cupboard, he swung the bat with all the force he could muster, catching him at the base of his skull. The man collapsed without a sound.
Dragging him out of sight behind the kitchen door, Bill waited; but not for long because, still carrying the now empty paint can, the leader entered the kitchen where he was immediately felled by another stroke from the heavy cricket bat.
When the two thugs recovered consciousness, they were alarmed to find that not only did they each have the mother of all headaches, but they were also gagged and bound, back-to-back, in two kitchen chairs, their forearms rigidly taped to the arms of each chair. Their initial panic was somewhat heightened when they saw their intended victim carefully laying plastic sheets onto the floor around them, humming gently to himself as he did so.
Completing his task, Bill noticed that they had regained their senses and, to their intense alarm, he favoured them with the kind of smile generally reserved for a favourite grandson. To add to their fears, he now addressed them in a most pleasant, one could almost say, kindly, manner.
‘You must be really hungry after all your efforts, today,’ he said. ‘I’ll get you something to eat.’ He turned towards the kitchen worktops and, with a gentle smile, selected a large, very sharp, kitchen knife.
‘I don’t suppose you knew I was a butcher for many years,’ he said, conversationally. ‘I had a very good reputation for jointing. Very quick, very skilled.’ And he chuckled.
With no more delay, he proceeded to remove each of their hands at the wrist, making a very neat job of it, even though he said it himself.
‘Right lads, how about a fry-up?’ Tossing the hands into a large frying pan, Bill hummed quietly to himself as he added some cooking oil and plenty of seasoning, giving them a stir. Browning them nicely on all sides, he placed them onto two plates he had been warming for them, but, turning to the bound figures, he was disappointed to see that they appeared to have lost their appetites.
© John Griffiths 2017