Eyes swollen and encrusted with dried blood slowly flicker open; blurred images eventually coming into focus as the sticky clotted eyelashes blink into life.
‘Good, you’re awake again,’ Henry Bletchley-Ward said as he placed the Olympus digital voice recorder on the table and slid the long kitchen knife out of the wooden block. It hardly made a sound and his saggy jowls flapped as he shook his head and sighed. No sword-like metal sound as it was in the films. He yanked his notebook and pen from his back pocket and scribbled down some notes.
Henry crossed the room and waved the knife in the salesman’s face like a child swinging a foil sword and scrutinised every reaction before scribbling away once more. The blood-splattered laminate pinned to his chest read, ‘Clive Hedges. EDF Energy’ yet gagged and taped to Henry’s kitchen chair, face swollen, bruised and bloodied, he didn’t look like a Clive. Henry liked that, it made his character more believable. He adjusted the video camera’s tripod and zoomed in on Clive’s face. ‘01/12/1999 00:00’ flashed repeatedly across the screen and Henry cursed. He set the time and date and pressed record.
Clive watched nervously as Henry crept forward. He certainly didn’t look like a psycho, he reminded him of his old Head Master with his paisley shirt and University tie, Christmas jumper, trousers and bright white plimsolls. He was about the same age too, Clive thought, judging by his silver-grey Friar Tuck haircut and comb-over like a Weber barbeque grill across his shiny head. Henry brandished the knife, trying different attack methods: a slashing motion, a blade upwards forward thrust and a simple blade down stab, before clumsily dropping the knife. Clive’s muffled laughter didn’t amuse Henry one iota.
After a few minutes, as Clive’s stifled screams became faint sobs and whimpers, Henry peeled the tape away from his mouth.
‘P-P-Pleeeease, please let me go, I’m sorry,’ Clive spluttered. Stringy lines of bloodied mucus stretched across his gaping mouth. ‘Please! I won’t tell anyone I promise.’
Henry held up his hand, ‘Ssssh…how did it feel?’ he asked.
‘The knife. How did it feel when the blade went in? Describe it to me,’ Henry replied, his pen poised. Veins like a fisherman’s bait box burst into view across Clive’s temples as his nostrils flared.
‘It bloody hurt obviously, how’d you think it felt?’
‘No, no, NO! That’s not good enough; I need details, dear boy, details. In your best prose, if you’d be so kind’ Henry said, tapping his pen on his pad. ‘Now, lets try again, shall we?’
‘OK, then… it really, reeeeally, bloody hurt.’
‘ARGH! Noooo! I need an accurate portrayal. Describe it…’ Henry grabbed the handle protruding from Clive’s right leg and twisted it, ‘…properly!’ Clive’s scream startled Henry and he fell backwards on to the oak floor before scrambling to his feet and fumbling with Clive’s face, desperate to get the tape back on. Henry slapped himself repeatedly over the head disturbing the neat lines of his Weber grill and for a few moments he stood staring at Clive slumped in the chair before shrugging his shoulders and sighing. ‘Oh well, that’s enough research for today anyway, I need to get this typed up. HarperCollins are going to love it this time for sure.’
Clive watched through blurred eyes as his Head Master’s doppelgänger switched off the camera, grabbed his voice recorder and headed upstairs. The house fell silent apart from Clive’s laboured breathing through clotted nostrils and the faint distant tippy tapping of a keyboard.
Twenty-eight hours later, after many more research sessions, Henry had edited all but the final chapter of his novel.
‘Time for the final act,’ Henry said, before plunging the knife between Clive’s ribs. After waiting for his screams to fade Henry tore back the tape and thrust the recorder in his face once more. ‘How does it feel? Is your life flashing before your eyes? Can you see any lights? Do tell, old boy.’
Clive’s head jerked backwards. Gurgles and coughs emanated from deep within his throat and oxygenated blood spluttered out across Henry’s face as Clive’s lungs collapsed.
Henry jumped as the doorbell rang. He quickly wiped his face, smoothed his hand across his Weber grill, straightened his tie and opened the door to a young woman holding a clipboard.
‘Hi, I’m sorry to disturb you, my name’s Rachel, I’m just carrying out some research…’
‘Oh, marvellous, me too. Do come in.’