He could picture the scene and ran it through his mind once again while he sat there in the busy lounge bar, nursing a pint, pretending to read a newspaper. Tania would return home from the Blacksmith Arms after a few drinks with the local gentry. He listened to their loud voices, especially hers with an affected accent and false charm. But it wouldn’t be false for him; he would make sure she meant every word.
She would mean it, no question.
The routine was pretty much established, although her working hours were flexible. Sometimes she would rush home and change, other times she’d come straight here. She would arrive between seven and eight at night, launch into a large gin and tonic and catch up on the day’s gossip.
He was all set for this Sunday, he overheard her promise to be here, Tim’s birthday – not that he was a threat – one of the older farmers with two chocolate Labradors in tow. The threat was Jimmy; he’d recognised the man who groped her the previous weekend and who now seemed to be a regular companion. He was a self-assured sales type wearing a sharp suit, a fashionable hair style that curled around his ears, gleaming white teeth, and a permanent sun-tan. He flashed the cash as though it was confetti.
Tania was all his – not this flash fucker. Whichever way he looked at it, Jimmy had to be eliminated.
Friday night: that night.
Conditions were in his favour; a cold grey mist, almost foggy in places with isolated swathes of snow that lingered on. More snow was forecast, odds-on for a white Christmas.
And his present would be Tania unwrapped.
It was nine o’clock when Tania downed her drink, tugged at Jimmy’s sleeve and pointed at her watch. He nodded, turned to the others, and made a remark that drew guffaws of laughter and a bout of back-slapping.
Not that Tania seemed to mind; her brazen smile indicated she enjoyed being the centre of attraction, the focus of male fantasies. Daniel folded up his newspaper and followed them out into the cold mist. His Cortina was parked near the entrance and he moved up to it, opened the driver’s door, got in, and waited.
This time it was Jimmy’s BMW, but her house. He could tell by the route they chose; through Easington and along the road to Stonehouse Court. By the time he had parked and walked to where he could see her house, the lights were on inside. Her Range Rover was outside, so was another car parked outside a neighbouring cottage.
They had arrived at the pub together, and by the way she had acted in the pub; it seemed as if she needed an early start the following morning. It wasn’t going to be an all-nighter.
The neighbours - it was a risk he had to take. No noise, no interruptions. His plan for Jimmy had to be perfect. And it all depended on when she would take Caesar for his walk, and when Jimmy left. Would she stand at the door and wave goodbye...?
He needn’t have worried. The lights went on, and Caesar was dumped out of the front door. He did his business and whined to be let back in. She appeared at the door in a slinky-satin housecoat, and Caesar shot back inside.
The bedroom light came on briefly, then off. He waited. A few flakes of snow began to fall; if it continued it would be enough to deaden his footsteps. The cold seeped into his bones, but he ignored it and focused his energies on Jimmy.
On his BMW.
But the timing had to be perfect. Surprise and speed – and no witnesses.
He fingered the cosh in the folds of his coat. He had practised the move time and again in his garage. He went through it once more in his mind.
Jimmy would exit the house in the early hours. He would walk across the light coating of snow towards his car, unlock the driver’s door, and pull it open. He would bend slightly to slide in. His head would be vulnerable. A black shape would materialise behind him.
Then it would go black...