As he sat on the train for his daily commute to the city Norman Bradshaw thought about how much he hated his wife. 23 years they had been married and he had detested every moment. He hadn’t wanted to get married in the first place but when she announced that she was pregnant it seemed to him the most honourable thing to do. It wasn’t until the second day of the honeymoon that his new wife had told him it had all been a big mistake and she wasn’t pregnant after all, but of course by then it was too late to turn back.
Since then every day had been a nightmare. Doreen, his wife, was a bully, always looking for opportunities to ridicule and humiliate him, and the more people who there were around to witness this humiliation the better she felt. There were no children, it appeared that Doreen couldn’t have children. Norman suspected that she knew this well before she trapped him into marrying him. He knew that he should have left her years ago but he never had the courage to actually do it. Doreen often told him that he could leave whenever he wanted but as she controlled the purse strings he knew that if he left he would be penniless. So he put up with all that life had to throw at him, in other words he put up with Doreen.
His one haven of peace was his work. His job wasn’t very spectacular, in fact far from it, he worked as a low-grade civil servant in the city. It meant that Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm he was safe. He took as few holidays as he could get away with and had developed ways of coping with the weekends at home. All that was about to change. He had been made redundant. He first found out over 6 months ago but hadn’t had the courage to tell Doreen, it would have just given her more ammunition to ridicule him. In fact as he boarded the train to work that Monday morning he knew that this was his last week at work. What on earth was he going to do with himself this time next week?
He sat in his usual place surrounded by his usual commuter companions. They never spoke to one another but spent the entire journey hidden behind their preferred newspaper. Norman had tried the crossword but this morning his heart just wasn’t in it. He flicked aimlessly through the pages not really reading anything until suddenly his eyes were drawn to a small ad
‘Wife Disposal Unit – Do you need to get rid of your wife? If so call the experts on 01643 252095.’
He assumed that it was a joke. Someone had put it in the small ads section as a dare. Despite that he kept going back to it and by the time he left the train, for some reason he didn’t quite understand, he had memorized the telephone number.
At lunchtime instead of following his normal routine, a sandwich in the canteen, Norman found himself walking around the nearby park. Anybody watching would have seen this middle-aged man, obviously deeply in thought, pacing up and down and seemingly talking to himself. Suddenly Norman stopped his pacing, took out his mobile phone and slowly dialed the memorized telephone number. After just a few rings the call was answered by a man with a very quiet and calm voice,
“Good afternoon Mr. Bradshaw,” said the man with the quiet voice, “I have been expecting your phone call.
“But, how….,” muttered an alarmed Norman, “How do you know my name, how did you know I was going to phone you.”
“Don’t be alarmed Mr. Bradshaw,” replied the calm voice, “All will become clear once we have met, which I think we should do as soon as possible, don’t you?”
Before Norman had time to reply or even think, the mysterious man had given him an address and said that he would be free to see him in 15 minutes. With that the telephone line had gone dead. Norman sat on a nearby bench and tried to make some sense of what had just happened. His first thought was to forget about the whole, crazy event, walk back to the office and just get on with his life. At the same time he thought that it might not do any harm to just see if this address actually existed, if it didn’t then the whole thing would have just been someone’s idea of a silly joke and he could forget all about it.
Ten minutes later he found himself outside the address he had been given. It was an office block and his appointment was now just five minutes away in an office on the fifth floor. Norman cautiously got out of the lift and was just about to turn round and go back down again when one of the office doors opened,
“Ah, Mr. Bradshaw, I’m so glad you could make it. And so punctual as well. Please come in.”
It was the man with the quiet, calm voice. He was a small man, dressed all in black, in fact he reminded Norman of the undertaker who had arranged his mother’s funeral. Before he knew what was happening Norman found himself in a small office sat on a chair facing a large desk. The man who had welcomed him in sat on the other side of the desk.
“Let me introduce myself,” said the man, “I am Mr. Devilin and you are here because you want me to arrange to have your wife disposed of. Is that correct?”
“No of course I don’t,” stammered Norman, “Well I do, but I mean, this has got to be some kind of joke hasn’t it. I bet your from one of those TV shows with hidden cameras and any moment someone is going to come bursting through the door to tell me I’ve been tricked.”
But as Norman listened to Mr. Devilin he soon became very clear that this was not a joke, there were no hidden cameras, the ‘Wife Disposal Unit’ was real. Mr. Devilin could make all his dreams come true, he could get rid of Doreen! Norman would have nothing to worry about. The whole matter would be dealt with very discreetly. Success was 100% guaranteed and there would be no come back from the authorities. To all intents and purposes it would look as if Doreen had been the victim of an unfortunate accident.
“So if you are in agreement Mr. Bradshaw I just need a couple of details from you and we can get the process started. Now when would be a good time for this ‘incident’ to take place. We are quite busy for the rest of this week, but I notice from the diary that this afternoon is relatively free. How about 3.00pm?”
Norman found himself nodding in agreement.
“Fine,” said Mr. Devilin, “Three o’clock it is then. Now how do you want it to happen. We can make it as painful or as painless as you wish?”
While Norman was sorely tempted to get his full revenge and ask for it to be as painful as possible he didn’t have the courage.
“Painless will be fine,” he said.
“Well that seems to be everything,” said Mr. Devilin, “Just the matter of the fee to agree and our business will be complete. We charge a fee of £10,000, payable 12 months after the incident has been completed. Let me see today’s date is 25th June 2009 so we will expect payment at 3.00pm on 25th June 2010. Is that OK with you Mr. Bradshaw?”
“Well it has been a pleasure doing business with you Mr. Bradshaw. I look forward to us meeting again in 12 months time.”
With that Mr. Devilin shook Norman’s hand and five minutes later Norman found himself outside the building slowly waking back to his office. The rest of the afternoon passed very slowly. At 3.00pm Norman became quite agitated and one of his colleagues asked him if he was OK because he looked very pale. That evening, instead of his normal slow walk to the station Norman rushed to catch an earlier train. At 5.30pm he rounded the corner into Euclid Avenue not quite sure what he was going to see. He half expected police cars and ambulances outside his house, but there was nothing. It was as quiet as usual. As he opened the front door he shouted out,
“Doreen dear, it’s me, I’m home.”
There was no reply. He slowly walked around the house from room to room half expecting any moment to fall over her blood splattered body. But there was nothing. Doreen was not here. She wasn’t dead. It had all been one big joke. He felt a mixture of emotions, part of him was glad that his wife hadn’t been murdered, but a bigger part of him was disappointed.
He was about to go and make himself a cup of tea when the doorbell rang. When he opened it he found Jean Spencer, a neighbour and one of Doreen’s hateful friends standing there.
“Oh Norman,” she cried, “Oh Norman I don’t know where to begin. There has been a terrible accident. Doreen is dead!”
Norman almost fell over. He had to grab hold of the front door to steady himself.
“You poor thing,” wept Jean, “This must be such a shock to you.”
Five minutes later Jean was bringing Norman a cup of tea. She had made him sit down while she had gone off to make the tea and was now telling him what had happened. Apparently Doreen and Jean always met up for a chat on a Monday afternoon. Norman had a vision of the two of them gossiping about all the neighbours but most of all Doreen telling Jean yet more stories about that useless husband of hers.
“Anyway,” said Jean, “One moment Doreen was sipping her cup of tea and the next moment she had collapsed o the floor. I called an ambulance straight away but they could do nothing for her. They said it must have been a heart attack and she was dead before she hit the floor. They said it would have been very painless.”
“What time did this happen?” whispered Norman.
“Time dear,” said Jean, “Let me think. Oh yes of course, it was exactly three o’clock. I know because that clock of ours in the hall, you know the one my Uncle Charlie left me, such a good timekeeper … well it had just finished chiming three when poor Doreen collapsed. Yes she died at three o’clock.”
Norman just smiled.
Mike Jackson © 2010