Scarlet Murder Prologue

Here’s a taster of a crime thriller I’ve been playing around with. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Javier took a slow sip from the lemonade bottle as he leaned against the back of his convertible. His wife wanted him to stop having fizzy drinks but she did not push the matter too forcefully. Like he told her, lemonade was better for him than beer. He was honest enough that he could admit to being a mean drunk.

Something in his trousers pinged insistently. Javier pulled the mobile out of his jeans pocket and looked at the screen. The number was unknown. He slipped inside the car and turned up the volume on the radio.

“What are you looking for?” He asked.

“One piece, it doesn’t need to be clean.”

“You can pay?”

“I’ll bring cash.”

“Do you know where?”

“It’s a hotel.”

“Adios.”

Javier slammed the driver’s side door closed and tossed the empty bottle into the street. His littering did not worsen the appearance of the street in any noticeable way.

Two large rubbish bins were parked against the side of a decaying block of flats but the bin men always seemed to pass his neighbourhood by. The bagged rubbish left over from a time when people still bothered to make an effort was buried beneath a growing mound of cartons, cans and rotten food.

Buying a convertible in a neighbourhood with no rubbish collection had been a very expensive mistake. The seats were beginning to smell like the inside of a skip.

Javier put his foot down and the car shot out onto the hot tarmac. He was heading towards the seafront. If he had been going at that speed in summer there would have been a whole pile of pale, fat English and German corpses piled up on his bonnet.

But that part of the coast stayed pretty quiet in the winter. He did not mind the quiet; it helped his business run more smoothly.

The mobile was ringing again. He took his hands away from the wheel and tried to ease it out of his pocket. It was harder sitting down. Maria was right, he had put on weight.

He finally wrestled the phone free from his jeans and saw his wife’s name lighting up the screen. Javier swore and put one hand back on the wheel.

“Why didn’t you pick up?” She asked.

“I just did. We’re talking right now.”

“Are you drinking?”

“No, I’m driving.”

“Are you drinking and driving?”

“No, I’m just driving. Why are you calling me?”

“A client called.”

“I know. I spoke to him.”

“Don’t be late and don’t get ripped off again.”

Javier hit the end call button with his thumb and threw the phone into the passenger seat. The money was easy but sometimes he missed construction work. He hated economic recessions.

He had not even heard of a recession until he was in one. Empty apartment blocks loomed up on either side of the street. He would have been tempted to break into one if he did not know from past experience that there was nothing worth stealing inside.

His car rolled up to the front of the hotel and he climbed out onto the pavement. The waterfront was even emptier than usual. He took his sports bag out of the boot and strolled into the reception.

A weary old man in glasses peered at him as he approached. Javier tapped his hand on the desk and the man slid a room key across it. He passed him a five euro note and walked towards the lift.

“It’s not working.” The old man called after him.

Of course it was out of service. That was typical of a rundown hotel like this. Javier wondered if he was the only guest who visited the place. Perhaps there was an even older man in a suit sitting in an office behind reception counting his five euro notes and lining them up in neat stacks.

There were brown stains on the white painted walls of the staircase. Javier wondered if it was dirt or mould. It did not matter much to him but he was curious.

His room key said one hundred and three. He knew there were less than a hundred rooms in the hotel, he had been in nearly all of them, so the one meant first floor.

It was odd that the receptionist always gave him a different key, not in a worrying way, just something strange to think about.

He stepped into room one hundred and three. It looked identical to every other dingy room in the building. The paint was flaking off the walls, the mattress was stained and the television was a relic from when he was a toddler.

Someone knocked on the door a few minutes after he arrived.

“Wait a second.” He called.

There was nothing familiar about the man in the doorway. He hid his eyes underneath a low baseball cap and moved inside as soon as the door was open.

Javier knew better than to look too hard at his guest, people did not like feeling as though someone would remember their face.

“Do you have it?” He asked.

“It’s in the bathroom.”

The man dropped a plastic shopping bag and stepped into the next room. Javier heard the toilet flush as he was counting the money. They always had full bladders, something to do with nerves. That was what gave him the idea of leaving the merchandise in the bathroom. That way he could deny knowing it was there if the police caught him.

He furrowed his eyebrows and started counting the small wad of notes again. Unless he had counted wrong the first time, there were a few missing.

Walking towards the open bathroom door, he heard the sound of a running tap. The second count had given the same result. Javier hoped the buyer had not climbed out of a window. Maria would scream herself hoarse if he was ripped off again.

His worst fears were realised when he got to the bathroom door. The toilet seat was up and the tap was running in the sink. His sports bag lay open on the counter, emptied of one small calibre pistol, silencer and a magazine of seven rounds. Javier swore.

Something moved in the mirror. He looked across the room and saw the man standing in the bathtub below the shower.

“Hey, there isn’t enough here.”

Something flashed and spat in the man’s hand. Javier felt his head hit the hard tiles. The man stepped carefully over him and he heard the door bang shut just as a black void closed in around him.

You can find:

  • a crime short story here
  • a historical-crime short here;
  • or a fantasy short here.

You can also find a novel I wrote on Kindle here.

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