Genre: Dark comedy thriller

Chapter One Andres

It was an unfortunate coincidence that Andres Delaney had discovered a body next to the wheelie bin outside his house, twenty years after killing his wife. 

She had charged at him with a marble chopping board. He had torn it out of her hands and smashed it over her head. Better to smash it over hers than have it smashed over his. He didn’t put a lot of thought into the smash. One second, wasn’t it? And then shock. No panic. It was over. 

His wife wasn’t built like him. She didn’t have a belly that looked as if she were three months past her due date. His beer gut could have acted as a buffer when she came at him. She could have bounced right off it. 

And it wouldn’t have been the first time she had ‘lost it’. If panic and rage hadn’t consumed him, he would have been smart and taken the chopping board from her, set it down on the table and tried to reason with her. He hadn’t been smart that day, but he had vowed to be smart every day since. 

His honesty had secured him an unlawful manslaughter charge. He had done his prison time: eleven years. He didn’t want to do it again. But if he wasn’t careful that damn body was going to put him right back where he started − in hell. He had no intention of calling the police, not with his record. He didn’t want to be number one on their list of suspects. No way, hosay. 

He sat outside his local library on a circular metal bench, flicking through the pages of a book called, ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’. From what he could surmise, it was about a beautiful man who had sold his soul to the devil. Every now and again, a honking horn or the blaring music from the steady flow of traffic, freed him from his grim predicament and he glanced at the road watching the lines of traffic and the occasional passer-by.

Well, he was no Dorian Grey. 

He had been thirty-seven-years old on the eve he had murdered his wife, now he was a flabby fifty-seven-year-old with a balding crown. 

His thoughts were consumed with how the body found its way to the front door of his house and how he was going to get rid of it. For a crazy moment, he thought it was his former wife’s corpse. 

He thought someone was trying to set him up. Someone who had known him when he was on the inside –  not that he had gone out of his way to make friends with the other inmates, or to keep in touch with them upon his release. He had grown close to one inmate, a man by the name of Bruce Mills. He had been released a month before him. Bruce said he was going to Manchester, far away enough from London for Andres not to worry about. 

You befriended inmates on the inside because you didn’t have much choice. You’d go mad if you talked to the walls. Bruce had been in and out of prison his whole life. What if he thought Andres owed him a favour? He hadn’t changed his name. Any one of his former inmates could have got his address off the blasted internet. 

‘Are you coming in, Andres?’

He glanced up to see Pam standing over him. She was one of five ardent book club members who rarely missed the Monday evening meet-up. 

‘Not today,’ he said. The body meddled with his routine that was the problem. He had only missed one book club meeting since joining four years ago. He had watched other would-be- members come and go because they couldn’t commit to the monthly reads like the rest of them. 

Pam smoothed down the back of her skirt and sat down. She rested her hand on his arm. ‘Is everything, okay?’ 

Andres stared at her hand: the polished pink nails, the age spots, and the raised blue veins, like contours on a map. It was always the left hand. Never the right. He didn’t look at her when he spoke. The smell of her perfume: roses dipped in vodka and chocolate seemed to stick in his throat. His eyes wandered to her large blotchy breasts. She wore clothes that showed off her cleavage. He didn’t find her or her breasts sexy, but it didn’t stop the Breast Alarm going off in his head. 

He wedged his thumb between pages in the book. He had read it so many times, he had stretched the book’s spine. ‘I got a call from my manager. I have to do an extra shift at work.’ It didn’t explain why he had spent the last two hours sitting on the bench when he had been the first to arrive. 

‘We could cancel. Arrange for another time.’ She nudged a strand of brittle hair away from her shoulder. 

He felt oddly touched that the book club members were willing to change the meeting to accommodate him.  

‘No,’ he said to her breasts. ‘You go ahead.’ He patted the book’s cover. ‘I’ve still got a bit of a way to go with this one.’ He rose, tucking the book under his arm. ‘I’ll see you next week.’

‘Would you like to come to dinner one evening?’ 

She gazed at him under half-closed lids, weighed down with layers of mascara.  

‘Who else is going?’ He had his favourites at the book club: Yvette and Harinder. He would go if they were.   

She smiled. ‘It’ll be just the two of us.’  

It would be a little bleak with just the two of them: a chronic drunk and an ex-con with a corpse on his mind. The only person he had spent any time with outside the book club was Harinder. ‘Thanks for the offer, but I’m tied up at work. Some other time. Bye.’ 

He turned his back on her and hurried towards the subway.