Friday, 27 July 2007

Oh the shark, babe, has such teeth, babe. And he shows them pearly white.

Bobby Darin, that was. Mack the Knife. Every time I hear that song it sends a shiver right through me and it sets my pulse racing. I keep it on a tape in the car and when things get too much I go and sit in the car and listen to it. Over and over again .

Me, I haven’t so much as a jack-knife. Not one that could be pinned on me easily anyhow. A jack-knife pinned on me – that’s good, that is! Did you know that Sherlock Holmes used to keep his letters pinned to Mrs Hudson’s wooden mantelpiece with a jack-knife? There’s not much I don’t know about Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been reading about him since I was eight. Over and over again. I read Agatha Christie too, and books about famous murderers like Doctor Crippen, and books about chemistry and books about forensic science.

For now, though, I don’t have a jack-knife of my own but there are all sorts of things I can easily get hold of if I want to. Every day I go to work at the college science labs.

There’s knives so sharp they’d take your thumb off without you even noticing. There’s wires, thin but strong, to strangle with, and acid to dissolve the body in afterwards so the police would never find it.

There’s even a little metal cupboard full of nasties. I have to be extra careful to keep that locked. You probably know about potassium cyanide. There’s lots of others you might not have heard of though. Thallium sulphate, that makes your hair fall out while it’s killing you. And phosphorus, that sticks to your skin and makes a fire that won’t go out even if you jump into water.

And the really great thing is, nobody thinks twice about me.

You know how nobody ever notices the postman? It’s in lots of detective stories. The detective asks who called at the house on the day of the murder, and nobody ever mentions the postman because the postman calls at the house every day and nobody notices. That’s the way it is with me. When they had a break-in at the college, they took everybody’s fingerprints, and I mean everybody’s, from the students to the principal. And they took mine too, because my prints were all over everything because it’s my job, and they wanted to eliminate me.

Eliminate. That’s a funny word to use, isn’t it? What they meant was, when they knew which were my prints they could forget them and look for someone else’s. But ‘eliminate’ is what they say in some of the detective stories, isn’t it? Not the Sherlock Holmes ones, nor the Agatha Christie ones where the murder is in a country house and the suspects are all nobs. No, I mean the American ones with gangsters in them. They say ‘eliminate’ because it sounds much nicer than ‘kill’ or ‘murder’. More scientific. More efficient.

There are a few people I’d like to eliminate, if you want to know the truth.

But mostly I’d just like to know what it feels like, to kill somebody.

All I’d have to do is take one of the sharp knives from the cabinet, or a coil of wire from the drawer, or a bottle of potassium cyanide from the poison cupboard, and slip it into my coat pocket. Nobody would think to check what I was carrying when I went home. By the time I go home there’s nobody else left anyway, as a rule. I lock up. I go home. Nobody takes any notice.

It would be so simple.

And so foolish.

Once something happens they are bound to check. They’d do a stock take and it’s just then that the detective draws everybody’s attention to the dog that didn’t bark in the night. And because I’m supposed to sign everything in and everything out and there’s no sign of forced entry then if the stock doesn’t tally with the records then they’d notice me at last and that would be bad news.

Oh no. That’s not the way it’s going to be.

I got the idea first at my Mam’s. Mam likes to do the full Sunday roast like we did when I was a bairn, and since Dad passed on she likes me to do the carving at the table. The swish of the knife on the steel turned in my mind into the whoosh of an executioner’s sword. I could feel my heart battering against my ribs and the rush of blood in my ears. And under Mam’s best tablecloth I could feel something stirring between my legs. Right there in front of my family.

I must have let my guard down because the next thing I knew about was Mam, shrieking like she’d seen something nasty. I looked down to see a red stain spreading over that white tablecloth, and an ooze of glistening cherry-red seeping from the base of my left thumb. There was no pain. I just looked from the wound to the edge of the carving knife winking with the reflected sun, and back to the wound again.

I had an answer.

Every respectable kitchen is full of death. Nobody thinks twice about it. And so easy to get hold of, too.

That’s why, when I’d set off good and early for the Summer School, I turned off the motorway into one of those mill towns, I can’t remember which one, little towns of gritty black stone that all look exactly like all the other little towns of gritty black stone. I bought a pork pie, a bottle of vodka and an eight-inch cook’s knife from Asda. Then I found a lonely spot in the moors to park.

I put Bobby Darin in the tape player and turned the volume up as far as it would go, and then I drew the knife from its plastic sheath, and I stroked its blade slowly from root to tip; up and down, back and forth. I pressed the point into my palm until a tiny scarlet bead burst from my flesh. I drew the blade, oh, so carefully, across the back of my hand.

I unwrapped the pie, and I cut it with the knife into two neat pieces.

Everything was ready.


One Response to “Shark”

  1. moondreamer Says:

    Hi Rosalind,

    I really enjoyed this, and would definitely buy the book!

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