Read Design for Murder Online

Authors: Roy Lewis

Design for Murder

Design for
Murder

Roy Lewis

The woman had stopped screaming.

It was too soon. He straightened, stared at her. His long, loose, smock-like shirt was soaked with excited sweat, stained with blood, his eyes were stinging, and his whole body was trembling, tingling angrily with anticipation.

For she had fainted. The frustration began to boil in him. He laid aside the scalpel after wiping it on the towel and sat back in the chair he had drawn up in front of his victim. He stared at her naked body. Her head had slumped forward, tangled blonde hair hanging down, obscuring her face, but with her hands bound behind the chair back her body remained upright. He watched the slow rivulet of blood coursing down from her breasts, marking a dark, slippery trail towards her navel, congealing, encrusting at its edges, pooling between her thighs.

He shuddered. It was far too soon. He was not ready. He had not yet finished the design, the completion of which would allow him release, satisfaction, and a final sexual explosion. He glared around the dim cellar: his workplace. The subject slumped before him was brightly lit by the arc lamp that he had installed to one side, but the rest of the cellar was shadowed, dark-cornered, a reflection, he thought
grimly to himself, of the corners of his mind. Because he held few illusions about himself: then compulsion was all.

He sighed, shook himself like an animal throwing off water from its coat. It was no good if she was not awake, responsive, talking, begging, screaming. But this was the third time she had lost consciousness and the bottle of smelling salts was empty. Moreover, he became aware of the slow gnawing in his stomach, the hunger for alcohol that sometimes came to him in the middle of his work. It was not welcome, and it damaged his concentration, but it happened. He would have to stop his task for a while, leave the woman alone in the dark, damp cellar.

He rose, made a careful inspection of his handiwork, the neat cutting of Libra, the Scales, clucking his tongue with disappointment at being unable to continue the careful slicing of the flesh. He moved away, stripping off the stained shirt, washed his chest, hands and upper arms in the stone sink that was located in the corner of the room, shuddering at the coldness of the water. He moved across to the glowing electric heater, stood in front of it as he dried himself, wiped the sweat from his forehead. He slipped on a roll-neck sweater, shrugged into the heavy jacket hanging on the wall. He buttoned it up to his throat. He took considerable care locking the cellar door with the heavy new padlock he had bought in the supermarket, climbed the rickety stairs and shivered as he crossed the long concrete floor of the dark, empty, echoing warehouse.

In the street outside the wind was cold, cutting across the empty road, causing the street lamps to flicker, and whirling, discarded newspapers whipped and danced against his legs. To his left the dilapidated quayside, soon destined to be redeveloped into a luxury housing project if the journals were to be believed, lay deserted, with black, debris-littered
water lapping against decayed timbers and rusting iron.

It was half a mile to the nearest pub.

The interior of the Coach and Horses sent a gust of stale, warm odorous air into his face as he thrust his way into the bar. He unbuttoned the top of his jacket, leaned on the counter, and ordered a whisky and a ham sandwich from the barman, who nodded to him in vague recognition. They never spoke beyond the brief ordering. When the sandwich was placed in front of him, with the whisky, he checked his watch. It would be an hour or so before the chemist shop in the shopping centre would be closing: he had time to relax for a while before making the necessary purchase and returning to his task.

He glanced around the bar. Among the various people present there were a few faces he recognized as regulars – a group of grubby-jeaned workers from the local building site celebrating the end of their shift, and a couple of businessmen taking refreshment before going home to their boring wives. He never engaged in conversation with them: they had their lives and he had his. He smiled slightly as he imagined what they might think of his cellar activities.

He would have liked to take off his jacket because the room was warm but he was reluctant to do so. He could not be certain he had washed away all the bloodstains. He glanced at his hands, but they were clean except for some dark encrustations under his nails. He munched on his sandwich, sipped the whisky, picked casually at his nails, cleaning them.

There were two young women seated in the far corner of the bar. One of them looked familiar. He thought he might have seen her in the Coach and Horses on other occasions. As he stared at them the woman’s companion rose, kissed her lightly on the cheek, and slipped into her coat before
making her way from the bar into the cold street outside. He watched her go, then as the door swung behind her his glance switched back to the girl who stayed.

Her eyes met his briefly; he thought he detected a slight smile on her lips. Her face was a pale oval and her dark hair was cut short. There was the promise of a full body, swelling breasts under the dark business jacket she wore, and her legs were long, he guessed. He began to create fantasies about that body, guessing at its contours, the hollows and the swellings, the softness and the possibilities it could offer for his skills.

His mind snapped back to reality. He already had a work in hand. This was no time to be planning for a new project. The time was not right, the month was not right; he had more than enough to do already. He finished his sandwich, sipped the whisky, let his mind drift pleasurably in contemplation of the work yet to be done on his living canvas.

When he glanced in the girl’s direction her eyes slipped over him again and he took a deep breath. He was certain he detected a gleam of interest in her glance, a possible invitation. There would be no harm in sounding out the possibilities. The woman presently in the cellar, he had grabbed her off the street, unlike the first two, and there was something unsatisfying about that. It was better to get to know the woman who would become his project, even if only superficially; his art should reflect the reality of the subject’s personality even if the design was already predetermined. And this woman, here in the bar … there could be no harm in finding out about her, weighing up the possibilities, contemplating in advance the excitement and the opportunity that her flesh could provide him. If the opportunity arose.

He pushed aside the empty sandwich plate, picked up his whisky and strolled across the bar to stand in front of the woman in the corner. He smiled. ‘Hi. I think I’ve seen you here before.’

She returned his smile and shrugged. ‘It’s likely. I’m becoming a regular. I work close by and it’s a suitable watering hole to relax in at the end of a tiring day.’

He stood in front of her, rocking slightly on his heels, holding her glance. ‘The lady who left … she work with you?’

The woman nodded, finished her drink. ‘Yeah, that’s right. We slave for an accounting firm. But she’s got a heavy date this evening.’

‘Leaving you high and dry.’ He widened his smile and gestured towards the bar. ‘Can I get you a drink?’

She hesitated, stared at him, chewed her lip thoughtfully, then glanced at her empty glass and shrugged, making up a mind that he guessed was already leaning that way. ‘Why not? I’ll have a Campari, if that’s OK.’

He nodded, turned, went back to the bar and ordered himself another whisky, draining the remains of the one in his hand while the barman fulfilled the order. When he returned to the woman’s table he placed the Campari in front of her and extended his hand, introducing himself. The usual pseudonym: Peter.

‘Paula,’ she replied, taking his hand. ‘Peter and Paula!’ Her grip was surprisingly firm. He slid into the seat beside her. She moved away slightly to give him more room and looked at him appraisingly. ‘And I guess this must be one of your regular haunts.’

He grimaced, and looked about him. ‘More or less. But I don’t live around here. I’m an artist, so I tend to move around a fair bit, looking for locations, seeking inspiration,
that sort of thing.’

There was a gleam of playful provocation in her eyes as she grinned at him. ‘So does picking up girls in a bar count as inspiration?’

‘I don’t make a practice of it, but who knows?’ he laughed.

‘Who knows indeed,’ she replied, and there was a hint of suggestiveness in her tone.

She was easy to talk to. She was reluctant to discuss her job on the ground that it was boring and since she was at it all day she wanted to leave it behind her. They talked about music, though her range was somewhat limited, he felt; she declared she was a fan of the Terminator movies, which rather surprised him; she did not impress him with her depth of reading. But she was easy company and for a while the tensions that had been in his body were relieved, and he relaxed, had another drink or two.

Then, quite suddenly, he remembered the pharmacy. He glanced at his watch. ‘Damn!’

‘You in a hurry?’ she asked teasingly.

‘Huh … there’s something I’ve got to do. I’m sorry, I have to leave, Paula.’ Awkwardly, cursing inwardly, he got to his feet, finishing his drink in a quick swallow. He was cutting things fine. He blinked, enjoying the inadvertent pun. He hesitated, standing there, looking down at her. ‘But if you work close by, I guess you might use this pub again.’

She shrugged indifferently. She seemed a little piqued at his sudden decision to leave. ‘Wednesdays and Fridays, usually.’

‘Maybe we’ll meet up here again.’

She was slow to respond, as though she were a little annoyed, but finally she nodded. ‘Yeah. OK. That would be nice. I’ve enjoyed meeting you.’

‘And I you. See you then. Next Wednesday?’

She shrugged. ‘I’ll be here.’

He would probably return also. If he felt it was right. But no decisions yet. No commitments. No plans except those he would work out in his head. Later. He smiled at her, turned, left the bar and closed the door behind him. He glanced at his watch again. He hurried around to the pharmacy. It would be closing in ten minutes.

The purchase was quickly made, the shop assistant glancing at her watch, urging on the end of her day. The streets were quiet as he made his way back to the cellar. He began to tremble with anticipation as soon as he was back in the echoing warehouse. He worked his way carefully among the jumble of old boxes, scattered ironwork and discarded litter; he was aware of the scuttling of rats as he reached the stairs. They would have been attracted by the smell of blood, as usual, but the cellar was reasonably secure, and he doubted the animals would approach a living person. With one hand extended in front of him he descended the worn stairs, fumbled for the padlock and inserted the key. It moved easily, well oiled.

When he opened the door he heard the woman sobbing.

That was good. She had recovered consciousness. The smelling salts would not be necessary, though the contents of the bottle could come in useful later. It was necessary that the subject was aware as he worked, so she could feel the pain, react as he slid the scalpel into the warm flesh. He felt his way along the dark wall to the light switch. The light glared brightly in his eyes and he heard the woman cry out in panic and pain. He ignored her for the moment, crossed the room, took off his jacket and sweater, slipped on the stained shirt and returned to the seat facing her, checking the table for the scalpels and the inks.

Then he looked at her.

Her eyes were wide, dark brown with fear and terror, her mouth open with spittle draining from her lips. Her throat pulsed, sobs gurgling from her chest. He smiled, picked up the scalpel and leaned forward, staring at her breasts, swabbing away the drying blood with the damp cloth in his left hand, feeling the excitement rising in his chest, the warmth stealing through his body, as he inspected what he had already achieved. The delicacy, the evenness, the
artistry
of his carving.

‘Please,’ the woman begged through her strangling sobs. ‘Please stop. Don’t kill me … don’t hurt me …’

He was hardly aware of her words. His concentration was total. The design was so clear in his mind as he leaned forward and began to add to the project, cutting deeper, tracing outlines he had already made with inks, deeper and deeper, and when she began to scream again he felt the power within him expand, frenzy gripping his lower stomach as his eyes widened. The sweat poured from him and his horizons expanded, far beyond this dark cellar, to the blue sky and hay fields and colour….

And death.

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