It is just after nine o’clock in the evening. A woman stands on a pavement in Hampstead outside the Magdala pub, where Easter revellers who raise their glasses are oblivious to what is taking place just a few yards away. Between the pub and a parked motor-car, face down on the footway, lies a man – David is his name. Darkness has fallen, but the combination of street lighting and the yellow glow from the Magdala’s windows allow the woman to see the grey worsted wool of his suit, on which bloody circles are expanding. She trains the gun in her trembling hand on his back. The man makes an attempt to prop himself up on one elbow, but any prospect of escape is ebbing away.
The parked motor-car is a grey-green Standard Vanguard. His – although, as the woman told the policemen who attended a disturbance in the early hours of Easter Sunday, it’s as good as hers. After all, hasn’t she lived with David these past two years? And it can’t be vandalism if it’s your own property. Why did she push in the windows? Because he didn’t pick her up as he’d promised, that’s why (one more broken promise in a trail of broken promises). She remembers the waiting. How at first she worried – he’d been drinking before he drove off, and this is a man who thinks nothing of speed. Speed is his business. It’s in his blood. But worry turned to anger, and anger to hatred. What she doesn’t remember – not quite – is what brought them both to this place. Today. Everything has happened in a cold cold frenzy.
They are not alone, she sees. Here is David’s friend Clive. She always rather liked Clive. Sensed he liked her too. And here, standing beside Hanshaw’s news-stand, are two boys. Men, she supposes. Fighting age, but no more than eighteen. They look down at David, sprawled at their feet, one arm outstretched towards them, beseeching. Then, slack-jawed, they turn their faces towards her, as if she’s a mirage: blonde, petite, horn-rimmed spectacles, a grey two-piece, stilettos. The last person they’d expect to be brandishing a firearm.
Clive doesn’t know where to put himself. “Look what you’ve done, Ruth.”
How can she reply when there is so much blood? She had no idea there would be so much; that it would seep between the slabs of the pavement and drip from the kerb into the gutter, and David is gasping for air that will not come.
And then, no more gasping. It’s over. They are looking at her, the boys and Clive. Waiting to see what she will do. Ruth raises her arm, presses the barrel of the gun to her temple. This, she realises, was always her intention. She feels ready to die. Wants an end to it. Her finger squeezes the trigger, but some internal force pulls her hand away and the shot ricochets off the pub wall. Now there is no escape. Even if there were somewhere to run to, it wouldn’t be an option she’d take. Ruth has never run away from problems. No, she always ran straight towards them. “Go and call the police,” she says quietly.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish