Reclining in the bath, I let the water lap against my neck, my shoulder muscles gradually relaxing with the scent filled heat. With my eyes closed, I couldn’t keep the smile from creeping across my face as I relived my afternoon’s adventures. I finally knew that my plan would work, that I was capable of getting the hit. My grandfather would be proud. Despite the glinting collection of medals and trophies in my display cabinet in pride of place in the living room, for the first time in my life I had succumbed the a crisis of self confidence. Nothing I had worked for had thrown so many challenges of ability and conscience, but I had tackled them head on as I had with all the others, and I had emerged victorious!
Hearing footsteps hesitate outside the bathroom door, my smile is wiped away by the frown, and I find my eyes opening to glare angrily through the steam to the wooden door, waiting for the inevitable tapping.
“I thought I told you not to disturb me?”
“You did Mike, but I think this might be important.” The wavering voice of my wife re-instated the tension into my shoulders.
“There has been a murder, in Nottingham. At the castle.”
“Yeah?” I already know this, and can’t help the smirk creeping across my face.
“Yeah, a tourist, shot. The police want anyone with information to go to Central Police station.”
“Weren’t you in Nottingham today?”
“What are you suggesting Ann?” Snarling, I sit up, hoping that my shock at her early inference was hidden by my anger.
“N…no..nothing Mike.” The quaver in her voice eased my racing heart. “Just…its just that you know so much about shooting…that I thought…”
“There will be other people in Nottingham who can do that.” I slide back down into the hot water, my shoulders needing a fresh bout of relaxation.
“Was there anything else?”
“No Mike, unless you want to see the news…”
“It can wait, I’m sure…”
Listening to the sound of her footsteps fade as she retreated down the corridor, I release a breath I didn’t realise I had been holding. As though she would be smart enough to work it out. I shall need to keep an eye on her though, just in case.
As the water cooled, I pulled myself from the water, and rubbed myself down before wrapping the thick towel round my waist. Slipping my powerful arms into my dressing gown, I eased into the corridor, and padded into the bedroom, where I quickly pulled on a fresh set of jeans and shirt. Leaving my hair ruffled, I made my way through the house to my studio, ignoring Ann’s passing comments. Pausing momentarily in the doorway, I examine the studio as a new visitor would.
The walls were filled with detailed, exploratory prints of several sites around Nottingham, the Council House, the station tram stop, the main station building, the castle. All taken from different angles and perspectives, the collection provided a clear picture of the workings and details of those sites; the people passing through, pausing at the statue or the coffee shop, the surrounding buildings. Images taken from distant buildings provided a point of view that few people appreciated or understood. Some of these images I had passed on to the magazines who I worked freelance for, while others I had already allocated for display in galleries, but all taken with the same aim; all surveillance.
A number of computers with large screens filled the table at the far end of the office, each one I knew to run a different programme for manipulating and storing the images. Several fire proof filing cabinets and locked, cupboards lined the adjoining wall, storing copies of each print, and recording their use and distribution. The centre of the room was filled with three large sized printers, each connected to their own computer. From here I would print my own gallery exhibition pieces, and my limited edition prints, other special items and large number printing I sent off site. The whole office looked tidy and organised.
Deciding that the number of photographs detailing the castle area and the other sites would look suspicious, I started to remove them from the wall, un-pinning some of the more unusual angles, arranging them neatly into suitable piles for their own special filing system. No-one must find these images. When they were stored away safely, I replaced them with a range of my favourite images; wildlife, urban life and architectural details that had made my name in photography.
“Do you want some dinner?” Ann asked suddenly from the doorway, and I turned to glare at her. The number of times I had complained about her soft shoes on the grass between the house and the studio.
“No thanks. I’m going to sort out this afternoon’s images, then I’m off to practice. I’ll grab a bite out with Joel.”
“Alright.” I ignored the disappointment in Ann’s sigh, turning back to the computers in front of me as I reached for my camera.
Slipping the memory card from the camera into the computer, I was taken back to the miserable afternoon I had spent crawling round the castle grounds, trying to catch the best images of the worst autumnal weather on the coloured leaves of the trees and shrubs in the gardens. The morning had been fairly successful, the bright clear sky and warm sunlight giving me glorious shadows and highlights on the eaves and window details of the Nottingham architecture that were my speciality. Nottingham’s range of architecture, from Victorian extravagance, Georgian grandeur and medieval simplicity fascinated me with the range of materials used, and each time I chose a subject I always learnt something more, and spotted something I had never noticed before.
The afternoon’s thick rain clouds had crept in suddenly sweeping the crowds from the market place as they opened their contents on anyone foolish enough to remain in the open. Retreating into the flying horse walk, I packed away my delicate camera and considered my options. Today had to be the day I took the practice shot, my brother was returning from holiday tomorrow, and would notice if his cross bow was missing. Shooting in the rain was not something I was used to, nor considered to be of any great benefit. If it didn’t put the target off, then it would certainly make me more conspicuous. It was the greater risk element of exposing myself and the challenge of shooting through the miserable downpour that ultimately confirmed my decision, and pulling the hood of my rain mac into position, I had set off without hesitation to the castle, my kit bag heavy on my back.
I could still recall the heavy racing of my heart as I passed the Robin Hood statue on my way to the castle gatehouse. There seemed to be a small gathering of steadfast tourists wandering the streets, lingering to peer through medieval windows, and stare up at the height of the castle walls. Reading their obvious intent to linger by the bronze figure, I hurried on my way. Although I had often visited the spot so the people on the ticket booth would think nothing of my positioning, I thrilled at the rush of anticipation and adrenaline. Crawling into place, I automatically drew my camera, protected carefully under a poncho, and snapped a few natural shots of the tourists gathering by the moat bridge. They started to wander towards the statue, so I quickly eased the cross bow from my bag, careful not to damage my camera’s in process. I checked the special bullet had remained in place in its pouch, before settling the end against my chest, resting the head on the wall as I adjusted the lever to draw the bowstrings taut.
Waiting for them to reach range, I paid no attention to the rain pattering against my plastic protective cover. My competition training slipped into place, calming my breathing and steadying my racing heart to keep an even grip and guide in my hands. Eventually after what seemed an eternity, but I knew to be only a few short minutes, the group paused by the foot of the statue, murmuring to each other in a strange language that meant nothing to me as I steadied my gaze along the shaft, aligning the sight to my chosen target. Urging my concentration down the shaft, squeezing my figure on the trigger, holding my breath as the small ball of metal sailed invisibly through the air.
The target had shuddered dropping to the ground with a thud and a strange twitch, and with exhilaration pulsing through my system, I hurriedly packed the crossbow back into the bag, scrambled to the floor, and hurried round the grounds even as I heard muffled screams drifting through the wet air.
I spent the rest of the afternoon crawling through the fallen leaves, searching for the best shots. The rain leaching through my trousers and trickling down the back of my neck as my pulse raced, waiting to be identified and picked up for my audacity. But I wasn’t, and the surge of satisfaction that pulsed round my system as I had passed the police lines and huddled groups of observers and police constables brought a smile to my face once more.
Getting to my feet, I closed the computer down and swung the bag back into position, feeling the heavy thud as the cross bow settled against my spine, and I fought a sudden urge to take another shot. I couldn’t rush my plan, or expose myself with ill conceived actions. Already the mass rabbit grave in the garden was bursting, and I hoped that come winter it would be buried under snow to reduce Ann’s continued interest.
Bursting with satisfaction, I strode from the studio, whistling as I locked the door. I passed the house and made my way to the car, where my own carbon fibre long bow waited for its daily release.
More development for a short story I am considering entering in a crime competition…here I have learned the character and nature of the murderer… a few minor alterations have evolved with writing the text for the main piece, which will be applied here with final editing…
Linked to Research
Uploaded following some very positive feedback…not quite what I think is expected thought :-)