Simon sat at his desk, and gazed out the window. From the eighteenth floor, he could make out the nearby tower of Big Ben, as well as the dome of St. Paul’s farther in the distance. The November afternoon looked miserable and cold. Glum grey rainclouds hung over the sky and steadily drizzled slick, oily rain. Simon watched as the rain drops raced one another down the pane, and as the shrill wind battered and lashed the trees in a nearby park. Simon returned his attention to the confines of the office. Two desks away, his colleague, David, checked his phone.
‘You know, checking your phone every five minutes isn’t going to make the baby come any quicker,’ Simon remarked, as he stared at the spreadsheet on the screen in front of him. The chart documented the projected square metres of land required against litres of fertiliser needed to yield a specific amount of barley.
‘You’re right,’ David said ‘Sorry. It’s just, she had twinges this morning and is already three days late.’ David returned his phone to his pocket and continued poring over a similar spreadsheet on his computer.
‘I’ll tell you what - it’s almost half past five, why don’t you go?’ Simon said. ‘We’re nearly finished here anyway.’
‘Really? You don’t mind?’ David asked.
‘No, you’ve been agitated all day, and it’s beginning to annoy me,’ said Simon. ‘I’ve been trying to get you to concentrate, but I can’t be bothered anymore. I give up. Go home and fawn over Lilly.’
‘Thanks Simon, you’re a mate.’ David grabbed his coat and rushed out the door without shutting down his computer.
‘Call me as soon as there’s news, okay?’ Simon shouted after him.
Once David left, Simon sat back and smiled to himself. He remembered how he had been when his wife, Helen, awaited their first baby.
Simon finished calculating the final column on the spread sheet he was working on, shut down his computer and walked over to David’s desk to shut down his computer as well.
‘David isn’t the only one that wants to go home early tonight.’ Simon whispered to the now empty office as he took out his phone, sliding his finger across the screen and tapping in the code. He had one new text message.
Hi honey, what time are you getting home? I’ve put William to bed and am preparing special dinner for this evening. Your favourite. So, I need to know when it should be ready for. Love you xxx
Simon left the office. He took his phone from his pocket and read the message again, slipping it back into his pocket as he entered the station. The train journey home seemed to take forever, even though it was the same thirty minutes as always. As he sat squashed shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers, he composed his reply:
Hey baby, I’m on the train now. Probably another thirty minutes. I’ll read William his bedtime story. Then we’ll have the evening all to ourselves. ;-) Xxx
He put the phone back in his pocket and spent the rest of the train journey daydreaming about Helen. Simon managed to jostle through the crowded tube station and escape onto the street, walking as fast as he could without running.
Helen peeled the carrots while sitting at the kitchen table. Her phone lay on the side, where she had left it after reading Simon’s text. Once she had finished she stood up, took a knife from the knife rack, and diced the carrots into slices.
‘Twenty past five, good, it should be ready about the same time as the chicken is.’ Helen smiled to herself.
With the vegetables steaming and the potatoes and chicken already in the oven, Helen made a cup of tea. She picked up the kettle and wandered to the sink.
Ding-Dong! The doorbell chimed as Helen filled the kettle. A man’s silhouette loomed against the frosted glass. Helen turned the lock and parted a small crack in the door. The stranger towered over her at the doorstep. He wore a grey cap and matching overalls.
Wham! He slammed his shoulder against the door, forcing it open. Helen flew backwards across the hall.
‘What the…?’ Helen spluttered as she attempted to pick herself up—but the stranger in grey had already crossed the threshold. He pressed a knife against Helen’s throat and grabbed her by her hair.
‘Stop!—’ Helen cried as he dragged her towards the kitchen. Helen struggled and kicked. Four other men followed the stranger into the house. The last one closed the door behind him. From outside the house, nothing would seem amiss.
In the kitchen, the assailant hurled Helen towards the table. She stumbled against it, panting, putting her hands out to steady herself. Helen spotted the half blunt vegetable knife she had used to peel the carrots. She reached to pick it up but was stopped sharp as a cold sensation brushed the base of her skull.
‘I wouldn’t, if I were you. Mine’s quite a bit bigger and sharper than yours,’ threatened the stranger. Helen winced and released the knife, turning to face her captors; two were in the kitchen with her. The floorboards creaked overhead as the other three moved about elsewhere in the house.
The stranger held the blade to Helen’s throat before sliding it back into the sheath hanging at his side. Helen watched him carefully. The stranger was only slightly taller than her and had a ragged scar under his left eye. His nose was crooked; Helen suspected someone had had the pleasure of breaking it. His hair was shaven close to his scalp, and he wore a smirk that exuded contempt. The other intruder stood in the corner of the kitchen, leaning against the sideboard. He was much taller than the other man, and his thick muscular arms were crossed over his broad chest. He wore grey overalls and his smile was as arrogant as his partner’s. Both men had dark blue skin and deep crimson eyes.
‘There’s no sign of him, Lord Malcor.’ Another accomplice had entered the kitchen and reported to the man with the scar. This third intruder also possessed dark blue skin and crimson red eyes, although his physique looked stockier and shorter than Lord Malcor’s. The third intruder wore a set of dark brown combat armour on top of his overalls: heavy pads guarded his chest, upper arms and thighs while a pistol remained holstered at his waist.
So his name’s Lord Malcor, Helen registered as she glared at the scar-faced man. And for some reason he’s looking for my husband. Helen’s hand brushed against her pocket where her phone was.
Lord Malcor rounded on Helen when he saw her hand reaching into her pocket.
‘Where is your husband?’ Malcor demanded.
‘Why the hell would I tell you?’ Helen scowled. ‘Who are you people? And what do you want with him?’ she snarled.
‘Answer my question, woman!’ Malcor pushed Helen, sending her staggering backwards. The men sniggered as another brute entered the kitchen, whose disproportionately long arms and legs matched his long, pointed nose. The lanky intruder also wore body armour, but carried no firearms. Instead, his armour was adorned with five assorted knives.
‘There is no sign of him in the house, my Lord. But we did find a child sleeping in one of the rooms,’ He informed Lord Malcor. ‘What should we do with it?’ The creature leered at Helen.
‘Shall we kill it, my Lord?’ One of the others asked from where he was perched by the sink.
‘No!’ Helen grabbed the vegetable knife and lunged at Malcor, who stepped easily aside. Years of combat experience laced his movement with confidence and grace. Malcor pinned down Helen’s wrist and punched her on her forearm just above the elbow. Her arm popped out of its socket.
Helen cried out as pain lanced up her arm. She dropped the vegetable knife when Lord Malcor delivered a second blow to her stomach. Air wheezed from her lungs. The other men cackled with pleasure at watching her discomfort.
‘Sit,’ Malcor demanded as he pushed Helen into one of the kitchen chairs. Wounded and clutching her arm, Helen obliged.
‘Our orders were only to kill them, we leave the child.’
Malcor turned back to Helen. ‘Now you’re going to sit in that chair quietly and wait for your husband to get home… and if you struggle, or try anything foolish, I’ll send one of my men here to kill the child. Do you understand?’ Helen nodded. Tears streaked her face as she sat at the kitchen table, still clutching her bruised and deformed arm. Her dislocated bone sent sharp, throbbing jolts of pain through her body, while fear surged greater torment through her mind.