I killed my neighbour, an orthodontist named Dan, by getting him drunk one night in my basement, slitting his jugular with a Stanley knife and then dumping him in the river, because I wanted to tell my wife I loved her. The thrill of seeing the life drain from his eyes helped me to formulate exactly what I wanted to say. His fading Dan-ness suited the mood perfectly. My wife was delighted by the spontaneity of my affection, but the truth is I’d known our marriage had been in trouble for years. It only occurred to me recently that the urge to kill, which I’d suppressed for so long, could be channelled into saving my relationship.
Another time, when I wanted to express empathy for my wife after she’d failed her MA in linguistics, I decided snatching Mrs Watkins (the recently widowed septuagenarian who worked as a tea lady in the local plastics factory) and suffocating her with an Aldi Bag for Life, would give me the edge I needed. After this death my wife, although impressed, questioned my new behaviour. I was as honest as a murderer could be.
“Honey,” I said, placing a friendly arm on her shoulder, “I feel more like myself these days. I draw inspiration from others in a way I never thought possible. The man – the husband – you deserve is now present after all these years.”
Next, I killed Joe, my accountant, by cracking him over the head with a bottle of whiskey and finishing him off with a rope. After disposing of his body in the marshes outside town, I took a scenic bus ride with my wife to the park and we made love on a blanket as velvety clouds glided by overhead. The Battersea power station hummed from across the railway tracks like a giant fridge.
Seasons changed, my wife’s moods ebbed and flowed and I just had to kill and kill in order to keep expressing my feelings for her. It was a struggle to keep our relationship on a high. By then my Volvo was saturated with blood and the mixture of incense and weed killer barely masked the rotten stench from my basement.
Spring came and I bludgeoned my cleaning lady with a block of firewood and then I played a relaxing game of chess for two hours with my wife in the conservatory. But there was no eye contact and I didn’t even feel like kissing her. It seemed the rewards of my thirst for blood had become less and less. Although I did have a pleasant dream that night where my image was projected onto the Houses of Parliament. I was performing soliloquies from Hamlet and all the people I’d killed stood together in a vast crowd, applauding my every word. It was then my wife woke me and asked if I was having an affair. She wondered why I kept going out at odd hours and why had I banned her from the basement. I laughed it off and reassured her.
She told me she was pregnant. A son.
I realised I’d have to stop killing. Obviously.
But I was no longer an ordinary citizen, I was a fully-fledged killer and murder had rewarded me with so much; rage, reflection, sadness, ecstasy.
I gazed into my wife’s eyes (she looked so sombre) and then I reached for the alarm clock and held it aloft, ready to bring it down upon her head. I had no choice; I didn’t have the range for my most testing role – to be a family man.
Tim Frank’s short stories have been published over eighty times in journals including Able Muse, Bourbon Penn, Intrinsick, Menacing Hedge, Literally Stories, Eunoia Review, Maudlin House and The Fiction Pool. He has been nominated for The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2020. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal.