YOUR LAST BREATH – Blackmail excerpt.
Rushing from the second bedroom, where the computer is set up, back to Amy’s room, Robbie shakes his head in frustration. “Damn! The most important one doesn’t seem to be working again.”
He moves to the head of the bed and quickly re-examines the faulty camera. It’s hidden behind the dark, heavily patterned drapes covering the wall at the back of her bed. The tiny camera lens is strategically positioned in the centre of a flower, invisible even when you know it’s there.
Amy’s cornflower-blue eyes do a frustrated roll and, with a shrug of her shoulder, her demeanour changes. She’s more aggressive now. “Hurry up!”
Unperturbed by her anger, Robbie remains outwardly calm. “It’s no good, I’ll have to go back home for another camera.” His handsome, dark-skinned face creases with worry as he heads towards the bedroom door again.
“Oh Shit!” Amy’s noisy expletive matches her reddening face as her temper increases. Turning on him she unleashes her frustration, “Christ Robbie! What the hell are you playing at? You know you’re cutting it fine, don’t you? Bloody Hell! That politician bloke will be here in half an hour. He might come early and catch us. Then we’ll never get him to pay up.”
“Quit moaning! It’ll be alright. I’ll only be gone a few minutes, ten at the most. The others are working perfectly it’s just that one. Once I’ve fetched another camera, it’ll only take me a few seconds to set it up.” He strides out of the bedroom into the central hallway. “We have enough time. He’s not due until seven, and he said he might be a bit late.”
She follows him out of the bedroom. “Stop moaning? You said this would be so easy. I‘m a stupid fool for listening to you,” she retorts, her voice continuing to rise.
Pausing for a moment in the inner hallway, Robbie tries to calm her. Turning to face her, he puts his hand on her bare shoulder and tries to coax her into a better mood. “Come on, relax, I’ll be quick. We have to have that third camera working. You know what happened last time. I don’t know what went wrong, why we never got a clear view of his face, but those images showing his side profile and a few minutes of his back are useless. Unless we capture a good image of the home secretary’s face we can’t demand the price we want. Make sure you try different positions this time.”
Still irritated, Amy pushes past him into the living room. Her arms cross over her midriff emphasising her deep cleavage as she turns to watch him follow her. “Well, you’re to blame for the crap filming; it’s your job to set the cameras.” Her expression changes to one of cynicism as she continues, “I thought you knew what you were doing. Now, I have to sleep with the creep again and you… you want different positions. He’s way older than my dad and has those horrible, open ulcers on his legs. How the bloody hell do you think that makes me feel?”
Her tirade ends with her shouting over the lump quickly forming in her throat. They’re now standing in the open-plan living space and suddenly, Amy catches sight of the wall clock in the kitchen area. “Shit! Look at the time!” The lump recedes as she gives Robbie a shove, further displaying her anger, and virtually pushes him out the front door. “You’d better be quick, and you’d better get your damn equipment working. Do you hear me Robbie?” she shouts to his retreating back.
“Yelling at me isn’t going to help matters; you know I don’t handle stress well. I can’t perform when you’re screaming at me like a crazy bitch.” He climbs in his car, shuts his door, and revs the engine which almost, but not quite, drowns out Amy’s next put-down remark.
“Trust me; I know that all too well.”
Winding his window down, he lowers his voice and tries to make her see sense. “If you want this to work out, you’d better calm down.”
When Robbie drives off, Amy storms inside, obviously still mad. She’s about to leave the front door ajar to speed Robbie’s return. Robbie always manages to get his key stuck in the lock somehow, and she needs him to hurry when he comes back. The front door opens straight into the living room and if the light is on, anyone watching in the dark street can easily see the door is open, so she turns off the light. She’s noticed someone skulking about in a nearby empty house over the past couple of weeks and doesn’t want to take any chances.
Scantily dressed in her basque and tiny briefs, she feels the wintry cold from outside striking her skin and also has second thoughts about the open door. She closes it as far as she can without locking it. Then shivering, she goes back into the draught-free bedroom and settles on the bed to await Robbie’s return.
I watch as the argument carries from the bedroom, then out of my sight through the house to the front door and then on into the yard. I make it to the corner of the house in time to hear the man say, “If you want this to work, you’d better calm yourself down.” Then, he backs onto the street and drives off in the direction he came from earlier while Amy disappears back into the house. I return to the bedroom window just in time to see her throw herself onto the bed. Seizing my opportunity, I make my way to her front door. Looks like a lover’s quarrel. Maybe you should have taken me up on my offer earlier.
In the temporary solitude of her bedroom, Amy thinks about her impending dalliance. The person they are preparing to blackmail is the Home Secretary, Cecil Abernathy, no less. He’s part of an elite circle, only one step below the prime minister, so he’s quite a prize.
This will be the third time she’ll be having sex with him. As soon as she told Robbie about him coming on to her in Mario’s patisserie, where she works, he’s encouraged her to play along with it. At Robbie’s request, she flirts with him a little bit more every time he comes in for his morning coffee. Abernathy eventually succumbed to her charms, arranging for them to go to a hotel the first time they had sex. Robbie was over the moon about it which is unusual for him. He’s normally jealous if he finds her flirting with the customers.
The first time he came in, she’d recognized him straight away by his thinning white hair, unmistakable goatee beard, and his large hooked nose. She likes to know who comes into the patisserie, so she keeps up with who’s who on the political scene. She has no idea how old he is but he’s obviously much too old for her. Amy thinks he only goes out for his coffee because he’s trying to avoid a particular person in the House of Commons. He did tell her that once although he didn’t say who the person was. Abernathy seems to like his own company best, apart from the ladies of course. Robbie said she just needs to encourage him more and he’ll make a fool of himself with her. Well, he’s taken the bait. Now, they need just one more time and then they can put the squeeze on him.
Robbie has more to gain from this little escapade than she has. Even though they’ll equally share the blackmail profit, what Robbie wants most is a legal right to stay in this country. He’s North African, a student who came to Britain to attend university. When he collected his degree he simply decided not to go back. Now he lives here in this country as an illegal immigrant. He aims to make the politician do something about his residency status, and with Amy’s help he knows how he can do it.
Staring blankly at the bedroom ceiling, Amy recalls how a couple of years ago, the papers carried a story about Cecil Abernathy. They were hinting at his probable affairs. It wasn’t open slander, just a subtle suggestion that he may have had an affair with a certain lady. Now, they’re about to trap him enjoying illicit sex, and he’ll have to pay dearly to wriggle out of this mess. Before they can do anything though, it’s imperative they get the cameras right so they capture full frontal face shots. With success in reach, she fervently hopes Abernathy won’t be early tonight.
I reach the front door and it’s not locked. It squeaks softly as I gently push it open and try to survey the interior. It’s dark and quiet so I step inside knife at the ready. I carefully close and lock the door behind me, so Amy and I won’t be disturbed. A light can be seen coming from a room ahead of me on the left, beyond the living room I’m standing in. I make my way towards it quietly. I’m almost to her room when the sound of a car slowing down startles me. I turn to look towards the front window and knock an empty glass off a low table beside me. I freeze, listening intently until I hear the car stop at another house.
Amy can’t wait to get her hands on the blackmail money and get out of this rented old hovel. She’s done her best to make it more liveable, like those drapes covering the cracks in the wall above her bed, but nothing she does ever really looks right. Deep in these thoughts she hears someone enter the front door.
That’s funny; it’s only a couple of minutes since Robbie left…. Surely he’s not back already.
Next she hears the squeak of the loose floorboard in her dark living room and the sound of something hitting the floor. Taken aback, she jumps off the bed quickly causing the springs to protest with a give-away boing. Who’s there? Oh God! Please don’t let it be the politician; we’re not ready for him yet.
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