By Phil Hurst
There’s a rope around my neck, but it’s not killed me.
I’m going to die hanging off the side of a small caravan on the shores of Lake Ontario. I was tazered, dragged to the roof, fitted to a noose and pushed off the side.
Wayne didn’t bother to check if I was dead or not. That’s typical of him. Maybe the loud crack convinced him.
The crack was my neck. I think. I can’t feel any part of my body. The only thing I’m aware of is a shallow heartbeat in my ears and air moving in and out of my nostrils.
I can see through a small window. Which means I’m going to die staring at the same computer and forgery equipment I looked at every damn day of my life since I moved out here.
If I’d twisted the other way when falling I’d be able to see the blue water of the lake now. It would be the perfect vista for my final hours.
Wayne gets close to the other side of the window and studies my face. I wonder what I look like. Is my skin discoloured? Are my eyes bulging? Wayne holds his hand to his mouth. But it’s only to stop him laughing.
“Not a good look, old friend,” he says. He sweeps my tools off the desk (knives, glues and paints all clatter to the floor) and boots up my computer.
He taps away at the keyboard.
“Where is it then?” he says. His hand moves the mouse around aimlessly. “Passwords, keycodes. Where do you store them?”
He leans back and taps the safe behind him. It’s the size of a football, but it has my most prized (and expensive) forgery in it.
Oh, and there is also a small explosive charge as a failsafe. If he doesn’t open the safe in exactly the right way, it’ll destroy the contents.
“It is locked, isn’t it?” He tests the handle. It is locked. I wouldn’t forget something like that. “Now, if I was a forger…”
He looks around, then settles on a small, framed image of the Mona Lisa I created when I was sixteen. It was my first perfect forgery, only distinguishable from the real one by its size. I’m incredibly proud of it.
“You wouldn’t be so sentimental, would you?” he says. He tears the back off frame and sees the code to the safe printed on the back of the picture. He smiles.
My neck twinges and my breathing gets shallower. I am still dying.
Wayne taps the numbers into the safe, but if he was paying attention, he might have noticed that at the bottom of the Mona Lisa image was a mark reading 1/2. He’d know there was a second code hidden somewhere.
But he doesn’t. He pulls the handle down and cheers as the lock disengages.
“This time,” he says, “I get to keep it.”
The explosion takes off his head.
His body stands upright for a second, blood spraying all over my once-clean caravan. Then it crumples, falling into a heap just out of my sight.
The wall I’m leaning against wobbles with the force of the blast. I’m surprised by the ferocity of it. The woman who installed it only described it as asset protection. Not thief destruction. It’s a detail I would have been grateful to know.
If I could laugh at his misfortune I would.
But all I can do is wait to die.
I am a graduate of the Queen’s University Belfast Creative Writing MA. My main outlet at the moment is my personal website, www.writewithphil.com. I live in Colchester, England with my wife and little girl.