Death of Some Salesmen
No shit, Sherlock…
Chester’s house sits like a dull orange jewel, absorbing the last rays of the sun before the giant orb sets over the city. A sparrow hops aimlessly on the ledge outside one of the upstairs windows. The curtains are drawn. On the other side of the window, Chester is sitting on the edge of his bed. A shotgun rests on his lap, its metal sheen made matt in the diffuse light of sunset that seeps in through the gauzy material of the bedroom curtains. The shotgun belongs to Chester’s father, or rather it did, before Chester appropriated it prior to his parents’ migration to Marbella. Buckingham had bought the weapon to facilitate his entry into the pretentious hunting-and-fishing circle of local, wealthy businessmen who made up his peers, executives who, if not stinking rich, were at least fairly rank in terms of their personal fortunes, rich enough certainly for such a move to feed their delusions of grandeur.
Chester is naked. The sleek, cool metal of the gun slides against the shaft of his penis, which twitches and stiffens lightly at the touch. He runs his fingers up and down the barrel and feels that both he and the gun are one, primed, cocked and ready to kill; the comparison momentarily raises a cold smirk on his otherwise expressionless face. It has been almost two full days since Chester’s savage descent into shame. That shame had quickly turned to anger, then to fury and then to a static, dead calm, but by the time Chester had finally reached the safe haven of his home and lurched into the shower, his Fudge-fuelled resolve for vengeance had drained instantly away with the soapy, rinsed-off shit that had streamed and run down his legs as he manically scrubbed and scraped away at the proof of his fallibility, his terrifying vulnerability. Soon afterwards, Chester had plunged headlong into a gaping black chasm of long-repressed despair, taking refuge in a dark, near-catatonic state of self-pity and self-loathing, forged from a lifetime of mutely acknowledged belittlement. Some thirty-five hours later, he had emerged, cleansed and purged, the way ahead suddenly clear and bright, a laser-beam cutting through the cruel, pitch jungle that Chester had come to view as life.
For Chester, there are no longer any concealed secrets, no painting over the truth of his character; now he knows, and admits, how much they all laugh at him, what a joke they take him for. Such knowledge might have been enough to impel Chester to place the end of the shotgun against the underside of his chin and blast his brains out over the ceiling. Instead, harsh clarity has brought with it a peculiar freedom; Chester believes he has reached a higher level of existence, a plane of ethics above and beyond the tawdry, flawed values that the rest of society exults in. What does it matter what his father thinks? Chester will not hide from the old patriarch’s disappointment anymore; he will embrace it… and crush it.
The memory of the shotgun had dropped smoothly to the forefront of Chester’s mind within seconds of his private moral revelation, slotting so cleanly into place that Chester had come to the conclusion that the thought was always meant to be there. Since then, he has cleaned and re-cleaned the weapon, remembering the step-by-step process his father periodically undertook to care for the powerful status-symbol. At the same time, Chester cleaned and re-cleaned his own body. He did not dry himself after these intermittent showers and as a result the house is dotted with wet patches and damp puddles. None of this matters to Chester; such trivialities are no longer of consequence.
He lifts the shotgun once more, weighing it in his hands appreciatively, transferring it from the left to the right, from right to left, getting a feel for the weapon’s solid, savage honesty. A handful of cartridges clack together on the bed beside Chester’s buttocks, rolling around in a small, wet indent. He carefully places the shotgun down and stands up, moving towards the wardrobe. He removes a black shirt, some black trousers, black boxers, black socks and black shoes, which he methodically lays out on the bed, next to the gun. When everything is prepared, Chester goes to the bathroom for one more shower.
There is no Madonna this time as Chester drives through the darkening city streets. The sky above is clear, the few stars that manage to fight through the light pollution of human achievement glint weakly in their solitary, diminished glory. Just like me, Chester thinks. The shield of self-preserving vanity that had kept him going before Friday evening has now given way to an increasingly messianic psychosis; a distant star, he thinks, only superficially dulled by the arrogance and invention of humanity, both dead and alive at the same time. From a distance, a star is no more than the stuff of nursery rhymes, a pretty twinkling in the heavens. Get too close, however, and its dangerous power will reduce a man to super-heated atoms in an instant.
The shotgun is on the backseat, resting soberly alongside a bag of cartridges. The smooth vibration of the car relaxes Chester and he lets himself merge with the soft thrum of the engine as he scans the streets, unsure of what he is looking for but knowing that he will recognise it when he sees it. The pavements are ice blue in the chilly dimness of night.
He stops the car at a red light and watches a young couple, teenagers, cross the road. They appear completely wrapped up in each other. Chester suddenly finds himself smiling, swayed by the beauty of the scene and the strength of budding, immature desires. He thinks they are innocent in their sweet, unfettered love. Chester cannot know that these young lovers already have partners, that they are cheating on those partners at this minute, that their desires had budded and matured a long time ago on park benches and in sheltered bus-stops, and that all they really wanted to do was fuck – not love, not beauty, not innocence or sweetness, at least not in the way Chester is thinking, but the simple, primal motion towards coupling, the biological imperative that has continually wrought the progression of all animal species.
It is fortunate for them, then, that Chester cannot read minds and that his developing complex is threaded with an anachronistically romantic notion of purity. If Chester did suspect, given his blossoming moral zeal, he might well run them down right there. So much for his clarity of vision. In reality, it is the myopic clarity of an unhinged personality. The young couple are true to themselves, to their age and the age in which they live; truer to themselves than Chester has ever been and therefore undeserving of the newly-minted autocratic brand of retribution that his mind is beginning to formulate. Chester needs a division, a way of separating good from evil, fair from unfair, just from unjust, to exact his righteous wrath upon an imperfect Earth that from the beginning seemed only to want to smother his spirit. Despite Chester’s delusions, despite the fact that his perceptions are clearly touched by madness, he is still only human, with just five weak senses and fuzzy intuition to help him find meaning in the world. The lights turn green once more and Chester steps on the gas, leaving the teenagers behind necking furiously beneath a streetlamp, blissfully unaware that their lives have been spared thanks only to the fuddled direction of a lunatic’s muddled, embryonic beliefs.
As he continues his trawl through the city, Chester’s body, ignored for the past two days, begins to demand attention, obeying its own biological imperatives. He needs food, energy. In the rear-view mirror, two sunken eyes stare back from grey, gaunt skin, drained of its final vestiges of colour by the physical shock of his mortality. He does not care. After all, he reminds himself, white is the colour of angels and virtue. Chester’s mission, though its statement has not yet been fully sketched out (all he knows for certain at the moment is that the shotgun will be integral), requires strength; it will do no good to starve to death before he has even had a chance to start setting the world to rights. Chester turns off the road he is currently on and heads for a small, out-of-the-way pub he knows to be somewhere nearby. Five minutes later, the car crunches to a stop over the gravel of the Wheatsheaf Inn car-park.
As Chester enters the warmth of the pub, he feels a fleeting jolt of weakness; the uniform design of fake wood and royal blue upholstery send him hurtling briefly back to the scene of his debasement. The queasy sensation quickly passes as the memory of his rebirth swiftly overwhelms the painful contractions of the past. Chester’s rebirth… it would be a stretch to compare it to a phoenix rising from the ashes. However, Chester feels that his descent into the void, into nothing, has brought about an ascent over everything. He approaches the bar and gestures to the thick-set, middle-aged man serving behind the bar. The man has an enormous moustache sprouting from above his top lip. It curls up into two smooth points at either end, kept in place by the application of wax. ‘What’s the special, tonight?’ Chester asks. The barman points to a chalkboard hanging off a beam above the bar. ‘Pie and chips,’ Chester reads aloud. ‘What else would it be?’ He shrugs. ‘Fine. Give me a pint of stout, too. I’ll be over there.’ He waves towards an empty table across the room and moves off. Behind him, he can hear Whiskers saying ‘Right you are, sir,’ obviously nettled by Chester’s curt orders and behaviour. There was a time when this might have bothered Chester, but not now. With profound satisfaction, Chester sees that what others think of him really is of no concern to him anymore.
A pretty waitress in her early twenties, slightly chubby about the middle and with a heavy chest squeezed into a t-shirt at least one size too small, arrives at his table and places a pint carefully down onto a beer mat. ‘The pie and chips’ll be about ten minutes, alright?’ The girl seems to pout uncertainly, nervously winding a strand of naturally blonde hair around her finger. Chester looks up at her, regarding the girl with a cold frown. ‘Fine,’ he tells her, his voice a low neutral. She hesitates for a second, unsure whether or not to smile, feeling unaccountably yet instinctively uneasy. Eventually she nods and scurries off back to the bar, where she exchanges a few words with Whiskers. Both of them glance back at him.
Chester tries to imagine how he must look to them – not because he is worried but because he has always been fascinated by the nature of lesser creatures, a classification he now applies to other human beings. His expensive dark clothes and his hard, skeletally pale face must give him the appearance of a vampire on the prowl. Chester takes another look around the interior of the pub. Now that he thinks about it, the scene is very reminiscent of one of those old Hammer bloodsucker movies; the dark inn, the busty wench, the fuzz-faced landlord, the furtive looks and whispered conversations. The only player missing is a fat Burgher Meister. Chester, he realises, has been cast as the bloodsucker. Ironic, he thinks; vampires are evil, morally unscrupulous, monsters who feed on the innocent. But I am not evil, he thinks, I will fight evil. Although he has not done any actual fighting yet, Chester has no problem believing this. As far as he is concerned, he is on the brink of becoming a power for good, of readdressing the balance in favour of the oppressed and preyed upon. Perhaps it is fitting, he muses, that to defeat the dark, you must take on the mantle of the dark. The idea pleases Chester, if anything more than universally settling the score can be said to please him at all anymore.
What is the basic principle of Chester’s new mission? What has become his reason for being? Is it just revenge? There is that, but there is a lot more to it, too. As Chester had lain on his bed, staring at a ceiling that changed from dark to black, black to dark, his mind, under the control of emotions that had been held back for too many years, had begun to search for answers. Life was a lie, he’d heard himself say. His life was a lie. The universe had recognised that Chester was full of shit and had taken the necessary steps for Chester to see that as well. The truth will set you free. It had easily set Chester’s bowels free. So, his bruised mind had told him, the shit has gone and the body is purified. He had been offered a vision; the shit had to be cleaned away, forced from the world as it had been from him, a job for the pure, to be sure. And Chester had been made pure. He had seen it all, in the darkness of his demise; life was unfair and it was the bastards who always made it to the top, the lowlifes who succeeded by making everybody else’s lives a misery. They were the shit staining this world and Chester was going to scrub them clean away.
Chester is distracted from his memories by the arrival of the pie and chips, which he wolfs down in a matter of minutes. Still hungry, he orders another plate and finishes that off just as quickly. When Chester had left the house that evening, he had had no clear idea of what he was going to do but now that he is out and about in the world again, now that his body is fed and infused with energy, he remembers Fudge. A humourless smile plays across his lips. Of course, he thinks, what better place to start? And there is the added bonus that Fudge will be removed before he has a chance to blabber Chester’s humiliation all around the town. In which case, Chester will be able to return to work, but this time, he calculates, as a changed man. While he pays up, Chester downs another half pint of stout at the bar and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. ‘Keep the change,’ he tells Whiskers, before walking, his strength renewed, back into the welcome night air.
In the car, he lifts the shotgun from underneath the driver’s seat, where he had placed it before entering the pub, and places it gently down next to him. ‘Time to begin,’ he whispers.
Fudge farted, lifting his wide arse a couple of inches above the lumpy cushion of a well worn sofa, his face creasing with the effort. He farted again and waved his hand so as to waft the smell towards his nose. He sniffed at it with the air of a connoisseur. Fudge liked to smell his own gas; he liked other people to smell it, too, but if there was no-one else around then he was loath to let a good guff go to waste. ‘Toucha ring-sting there, Fudge,’ he muttered with a wince, feeling a faint burning sensation prickle at his anus. He shifted his position to separate his bum cheeks. The aftermath of a takeaway curry, silver trays and greasy cardboard lids, sprawled across his coffee table, like a cheap B-movie alien metropolis. He pushed it all to one side with his foot and put his legs up. An empty beer can fell to the floor. Fudge watched the can roll to a stop with mild interest but made no move to retrieve it. He reached for the remote control, which had fallen between the two seat cushions, and flicked the TV on.
Fudge’s living room was a mess, a testament to environmental ambivalence verging on a work of art, with walls that were stained a deep yellow by years of tobacco smoke. Fudge claimed that smoking was his hobby. He certainly put a lot of time into it; four un-emptied ashtrays, two on the table, another two on the floor, each containing an impressive pile of butts, bore witness to that. They would be gone in a couple of weeks, when Fudge did his monthly, cursory clean-up; until then, the ashtrays did their part in adding a few expert strokes to this portrait of life’s grime. Several socks and a pair of wrinkly y-fronts hung wetly over the back of a blue armchair, blue except for the arms, which were black with use. An old banana skin dangled from a bookshelf, itself a monument to dirt, and only a madman would even consider putting his hand down the back of the sofa. There were bits of old food down there that had wallowed below so long they had probably developed a rudimentary intelligence by now. They definitely added their own special essence to the air Fudge drew into his tar-soaked lungs day after day. He might have done something about the disorder and filth if he thought anyone would ever pay him a visit, but no-one ever did. Fudge tended to inspire revulsion. So he was more than surprised when he heard a buzz from the intercom.
‘Fudge?’ said a crackly voice when he finally got up to answer.
‘Yeah. Who’s that?’
‘Fuck me. Chester?’ Fudge turned his head away from the intercom and pulled a face at the floor. What the hell would Chester be doing here? ‘I didn’t expect to hear anything from yow,’ he said.
‘Come down, Fudge.’
Fudge wasn’t entirely stupid, and he was inherently suspicious; he knew Chester did not make social calls. Mind you, he thought, Chester had never been humiliated in public before, either. It was just possible the arrogant twat needed a friend right now. Could be, he thought, could be. Then again, maybe he just wanted to bribe him to keep his mouth shut. Both options held a morbid appeal. ‘What for?’ he asked.
‘I need a drink…’ There was a pause. Fudge heard what sounded like a tired sigh. ‘I need… I need some company.’
‘Yow boying the drinks?’
Fudge’s compassion was purchased. ‘Roit. Oil be down inna mow.’
When he got downstairs, Chester was already waiting in his car with the engine running. He gave Fudge a weak smile and gestured for him to get in. Fudge walked over. ‘Wow,’ he said, fastening the seatbelt, ‘a noit on the town in the Chester Mowbile. Glad to see yem ent lost yow sense of stoil, eh, Chester.’ Chester said nothing. ‘Yow alroit, mate?’ Chester gave Fudge a look that sent chills down his spine. ‘Um… Chester?’ Chester put his foot on the gas and moved the car off. Fudge turned to watch his flat shrink in the distance.
Chester keeps an eye on his passenger as he pulls up in the middle of nowhere, a dark, unlit lane in a part of the local surrounding countryside. ‘What we doin’ here, Chester? Is there a pub nearby?’ Chester sees that his overweight companion is starting to sweat.
‘Get out of the car, Fudge,’ he tells him.
‘What? Here? I…’
Chester is not in the mood for discussions, so he pulls the shotgun from the side of the car seat and points it at Fudge. ‘Get out of the car,’ he repeats deliberately.
Fudge’s eyes widen with shock. The passenger fumbles with the seatbelt as, with trembling hands, he tries to get himself out of the seat. ‘Come on, Chester,’ he is saying, as if trying to make a joke of what is happening to him. Chester says nothing. He understands the importance of denial. ‘Yow got me going, oi admit it,’ he says now. ‘Good one, mate. Ha, ha,’ he adds, unconvincingly.
‘Get on with it,’ Chester tells him.
Chester watches Fudge stumble out of the car, matching his fat colleague’s movements with the shotgun, keeping it firmly fixed on Fudge. ‘Head for the woods,’ Chester says, pointing the gun at a cluster of shadowy, gnarly trees. ‘We’re going to have a talk about right and wrong.’
‘Look mate,’ says Fudge, holding out his hands, palms facing outwards, ‘I don’t understand.’
‘You don’t have to understand, yet,’ Chester tells him. ‘You just have to do as you’re told.’
Fudge nods his head at the shotgun. ‘Whatcha gonna do with that?’ he asks. Chester is amused by the wobble in his target’s throat. Fudge removes a stray cigarette from his pocket and lights it with shaking hands.
‘I’ll let you know once we’re safely in the trees.’ Chester’s own voice is calm and strong. ‘Move,’ he orders, ‘before I have to help you.’
Fudge turns uncertainly, his head occasionally glancing back at Chester, probably to make sure he isn’t going to shoot him in the back. No doubt how you would do it, Chester thinks. Chester waves him on and Fudge begins to cry. ‘Stop that,’ he says.
The two of them move deeper into the cover of the trees, Fudge snivelling and tripping as he goes, until they arrive at a small clearing. ‘Sit down, Fudge.’ Fudge does as he is told, looking up to see if he can catch his captor’s expression. The thickness of the surrounding wood and the dark sky above make it impossible for him to see more than two tiny dots of light, reflections from the tip of his cigarette, staring down at him. There is an audible click. ‘That was the safety catch,’ explains Chester. ‘It’s off now.’ He makes sure Fudge can hear him sniff at the air. ‘Have you pissed yourself, Fudge? How almost appropriate.’
‘What the fuck’s the matter with you?’
It gratifies Chester to hear that Fudge sounds on the edge of hysteria and he ignores the question. ‘How does it feel? Are you ashamed? Of course, if there was any justice, you’d have shit yourself by now. Just like me, eh? Only, you have reason to.’ Chester begins to circle his quarry. ‘You must have thought it was hilarious, eh, Fudge, getting one over old Chester like that?’
‘Please,’ Fudge is sobbing. ‘Tell me what I’m supposed to have done. Please!’
‘Don’t insult my intelligence. Not twice. I know it was you. Who else could it have been? It’s just your kind of sick humour.’ Chester takes a few steps back. ‘I suppose it really made your day. It must have made your whole miserable life… humiliating me like that. When did you do it? While I was ordering drinks? At the table, under my nose?’
‘For God’s sake, Chester, I dunno what you’re talking about.’
‘The laxatives, Fudge. Nobody empties themselves like that without some kind of help. You put laxatives in my food, didn’t you? You wanted to make me look a fool in front of everybody, to bring me down to your pitiful level of existence. You wanted… to destroy me.’
If Chester had any real ability to empathise, he would see animal instinct is warning Fudge he is face to face with insanity. Then again, even if he did have that power, he wouldn’t waste it empathising with Fudge. ‘No,’ says the quivering heap. ‘I…’
Chester hits Fudge against the side of his head with the butt of the shotgun. ‘Shut up, Fudge. I’m not interested in your denials. I just wanted to congratulate you on a job well done.’ He listens to Fudge cry again but lets him get on with it this time. ‘Go ahead,’ he sneers. ‘Weep. Weep with joy, Fudge, because, yes, well done… you did destroy me. You got your wish and that Chester, the old Chester, is dead and gone, his soul torn out through his arse, making way for me. And I, Fudge, do not let matters slide. I do not shrug and smile at life’s cruelty. I do not allow people to cross the line, and you, Fudge, you crossed the line in a very, very big way. In a strange way,’ he says, as if engaged in friendly conversation, ‘I have you to thank for my new found vision; you’ve helped me to see the world more clearly, Fudge; you’ve opened my eyes to the terrible truth, and I am stronger for it. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to let you get away with it. From now on, no-one gets away with anything.’ Chester cracks the muscles in his neck and loosens up his shoulders. ‘It’s right that you are the first to pay, the first to understand who I am, what I represent now. I’m the end, Fudge. I am the end of you and everyone like you.’
‘Chester, please, listen to me.’ Chester feels disgust at the pleading tone but says nothing. ‘I don’t know what makes you think it was me but… I swear to God, Chester, it wasn’t me. Please believe me. I swear…’
‘If only I didn’t know what a dishonest, deceitful excuse for a human being you are, Fudge. Who knows, maybe I would have been prepared to listen to you claim your innocence. But you and I both know that you are not to be trusted.’
‘Chester! You crazy fucking wanker, I DIDN’T DO IT! Listen to me…’
‘Goodbye Fudge… and thank you.’
‘No,’ he hears Fudge whisper, just before Chester blows a big, bloody hole in the middle of his enemy’s face.
Chester strips off his clothes and goes into the bathroom. He looks at himself in the mirror. Fudge’s blood has dried across his face in reddish brown streaks and spots. No doubt his clothes are in the same state. He is going to have to wash them… after he has taken care of himself. It was important to be clean. Yes, he can revel in the blood of his foes but, he must always remember, cleanliness is purity… purer even than vengeance.
The following morning, Chester wakes to an old Carly Simon ballad as his radio alarm switches itself on. It is seven a.m. Chester swings out of bed and almost skips downstairs to the kitchen to make his morning coffee and take his clothes from the washer. Communicom won’t be opening until nine o’clock, although he knows Yvonne will be there by quarter to. Chester will call her then, to let her know that he won’t be coming in for a while, maybe a week or two, and to ask her to tell everyone how much he would appreciate it if what had happened the previous Friday evening was not mentioned outside of the office. In the meantime, he hangs his clothes out to dry and goes back into the kitchen to cook up some sausages and eggs, his appetite having returned with full force, strengthened by the success of last night’s retribution.
Chester remembers once more the look on Fudge’s face, and how it had been replaced by the goriest expression of surprise imaginable. It had been as though Fudge’s entire head had opened up in shock, as if the man’s mouth had simply not been big enough for the scream that needed to escape his lungs. Fudge had actually remained kneeling for a good couple of seconds, swaying gently from side to side like an aesthetic lost in a ritual trance, before dropping face down – what was left of it – onto a carpet of fallen twigs and dead leaves with a sound like milk on Rice Crispies. Chester had then dragged the heavy carcass further into the woods, to better conceal the body, before heading home.
Chester looks at the clock on the kitchen wall and sees that time has been passing. He picks up the phone and calls the office. Just as he has been expecting, it is Yvonne who answers. ‘Yeah?’ she says, sounding irritated.
‘Yvonne,’ says Chester, making himself sound weak and a little forlorn. ‘It’s Chester.’
There is an intake of breath. ‘Chester. Fuck. How… how are you?’ For once, thinks Chester, she sounds as though she doesn’t know what to say.
‘I’ve been better,’ he answers her. ‘Trying to put a brave face on.’
‘Of course.’ There is silence for a minute.
‘Look,’ says Chester, ‘obviously I don’t think I’ll be coming in this week. I’m not feeling all that strong at the moment, to be honest.’
‘No, I don’t suppose you would be.’
‘Listen, Yvonne, I need to ask a favour.’
‘Well, if I can do anything…’
‘Okay, I need you and the others to keep all this quiet, you know, not to let on to anyone else in the other Communicom branches. Well, anyone at all, really. Make them promise. Especially Fudge.’
‘Hmm,’ murmurs Yvonne. ‘You know Fudge… but I’ll do the best I can with him. For my own part, you have my word. I mean, what happened… it was… you know… it was…’
‘I know exactly, Yvonne, but what’s done is done now. I just need a bit of time to get over it.’
‘I have to say,’ Yvonne tells him, ‘you’re taking this much better than I thought you would.’ She means it, too, Chester realises.
‘I’ll take it even better if I know it doesn’t go any further.’
‘Don’t worry, Chester. I’ll try and sort it out.’
‘Thank you, Yvonne… you’re an angel,’ he whispers with a feigned, sad croak.
Yvonne pauses on the other end of the line, probably trying to work out if he is being typically smarmy now. And who can blame her, he thinks. She must have decided he is being sincere because, after a moment, he hears her sigh and say, ‘No problem.’
‘I’ll see you all soon,’ he tells her quietly.
‘Okay, Chester. Take it easy, okay?’
‘Bye now, take care.’
‘Goodbye, Yvonne.’ Chester puts the phone down and claps his hands together. Right, he decides, there are preparations to be made.
Chester drives the Audi into the garage and waits for the door to close behind him. Holding a carrier bag containing the spray cans he has just bought, he gets out of the car and turns the light on, putting the bag down against the garage wall. He then enters his house to fetch a roll of masking tape and some old newspapers, which he proceeds to use to cover the windows, lights and tyres of the car. The trouble with silver cars, muses Chester, is that they aren’t exactly inconspicuous at night. Black, on the other hand, will be perfect. Chester spends the rest of the day re-spraying the Audi, an old t-shirt wrapped around his face to block out the paint’s toxic fumes, dreaming of the righteous battles that await him. Tonight he will rest, to make sure the car’s new coat has dried properly, and tomorrow his quest to make the world a fairer, cleaner place will commence.
The following night finds Chester sitting in his altered car, daydreaming. It is dark and Chester, his face a barely illuminated corpse grey, has parked beneath a broken street light. In his hands he holds the shotgun, which, in his delusion, he has now christened ‘the SEE’, his ‘Scum and Evil Exterminator’. He has also come up with a small rite to go along with it, further proof – if any is needed – that Chester has leant so far over the edge it will be impossible for him ever to regain footing on solid ground. His victims can now look forward to hearing Chester tell them, in all solemnity, holding his weapon aloft like an ancient priest of sacrifice, “This is the SEE, my Scum and Evil Exterminator, a truly holy SEE.” Just like Clint Eastwood, he thinks. “SEE,” he will continue, pausing for dramatic effect, “the truth.” And then he will pull the trigger. Chester is really looking forward to this and thus enthused he starts up the engine and pulls out, keeping his eye on the streets, searching out trouble, searching for shit to flush away.
He drives some more.
After three hours or so of driving through the city, having found nothing and disappointed that as yet nobody has SEEN (Chester actually thinks this in upper case) his truth, Chester gives up and heads for home, glumly realising that trouble is going to be harder to find than he has accounted for. After a shower, he lies on his bed and tries to find inspiration in the ceiling, reviewing the evening’s inactivity. Yes, there had been a few rowdy types walking the late night streets, but Chester hadn’t had enough information to warrant their execution. So, some people might have been drunk, he ponders, but he hadn’t had any context to their stories, no reason to inflict retribution. He hates to admit it, but he needs more to go on. He has no idea if the people he had seen before were habitual drinkers on their way home to beat their wives and children or just good friends out on the town after one drink too many. Chester wants to know; he needs to be sure that those he chooses are the ones that deserve death by his hand, otherwise his mission becomes meaningless. But how is he supposed to know? How can he tell who needs to SEE the truth and who doesn’t?
Chester suddenly sits up, smiling. Of course, he tells himself, the answer is obvious. He jumps from the bed and runs downstairs to the living room, clicking on the small lamp beside his laptop. He picks up the newspaper he had thrown onto the coffee-table earlier and opens it up. After a quick scan, his smile becomes triumphant as his eyes finally rest on the local politics section.
Farrel Thorpe, city councillor, owner and chairman of Thorpe Lighting Group, manufacturers of lighting products and electronic components (and, unknown to Chester, a former associate of his father), is bending his wife’s sister, Gillian, over the mahogany desk in the study of his out-of-town country cottage and pushes himself as deep as he can inside her. Gillian’s nails scrape against the varnished grain of the desktop. ‘Don’t. Scratch. The. Wood. Work,’ Thorpe tells her between thrusts, his rhythm unbroken. ‘Don’t. Want. To. Leave. Any. Tell. Tale. Marks. Now. Do. We?’
Gillian, in turn, groans and flattens her palms against the wood, stretching and splaying her fingers. ‘God. Farrel. You’re. Such. A. Fuck. Ing. Wan. Ker,’ she tells him.
‘Yeahhh,’ says Thorpe. ‘This. Is. Better. Than. A wank.’
‘Bastard,’ says Gillian.
‘Betrayer. Of. Sisters.’
‘Oh yes, Farrel.’
‘Christ, Gillian. You. Dirty. Cow.’
Chester decides it is time to emerge. ‘Enjoying yourself, you piece of vermin?’ he asks, stepping from the cupboard where he has hidden himself to watch his target’s adultery.
‘Who the fuck sa…’ Thorpe begins, whirling rapidly about in time to see a shotgun come crunching into the bridge of his nose. The man of means goes down, trousers around his ankles, and rolls about on the floor, moaning pathetically. Chester quickly takes the opportunity to keep Gillian face down against the desk, gripping her neck hard and pushing the shotgun against her nose to make sure she doesn’t look up or do anything stupid. ‘Just keep still,’ he hisses in her ear. ‘It’s not you I want, it’s that useless fucker with the broken nose lying on the floor. Now, do as I say and you will not be hurt in any way. Do you understand?’
The woman manages to say ‘Yes’ through pained, frustrated tears.
‘Good.’ Keeping the gun pressed to Gillian, Chester relaxes his grip on her neck and removes a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. The handcuffs are from Chester’s collection of bondage items. Most of it he has thrown out, since it no longer seems appropriate for a man of his new, noble standing, but the cuffs he has kept for moments such as this. He slaps the metal bracelets around her wrists, securing her hands behind her back. ‘Don’t look at me,’ he warns her, ‘or it will be the worse for you.’ He pushes Gillian towards a chair, manoeuvring her from behind so that he stays out of vision. Using her tights, which he’d picked up from the floor, he reties her hands, attaching them to the chair, and takes off the cuffs. He turns the chair so if faces the wall and then returns to the prone Farrel, hitting him again. ‘Patience,’ he whispers to the groaning man, clipping the handcuffs around the councillor’s wrists and binding his feet with a length of telephone cable. He slips Thorpe’s tie from around his neck and walks back to the bound woman, picking up her discarded knickers on the way. He rolls the underwear into a small ball and stuffs them in Gillian’s mouth, completing the gag with Thorpe’s tie. For good measure, he empties the woman’s handbag and rams it down over her head. ‘Just in case,’ he tells her.
Chester ambles over to a drinks cabinet and fishes out a soda siphon and then, as if he owns the place, he hops onto the edge of the desk and lets his legs swing nonchalantly. He points both the shotgun and the siphon at the man on the floor, weighing the two objects in his hands, as though trying to decide which to use first. He plumps for anticipation and fires the siphon at the exposed area of Thorpe’s face. The councillor moans as the water soaks him back into consciousness. ‘Hello, Mr. Thorpe,’ says Chester pleasantly.
Thorpe struggles weakly for a moment, his position and cuffed hands making him look like a fish. It makes Chester laugh. Thorpe stops moving and finds enough energy to jerk his head upwards and glare furiously at his assailant. ‘What do you want?’ he spits through gritted teeth. ‘Money?’ Chester is impressed by the man’s ability to regain his composure in the circumstances. He puts it down to a politician’s skill at masking the truth. ‘I suppose you saw my name in the paper and thought you’d make an easy killing, eh?’
‘Well,’ says Chester approvingly, ‘I’d say you hit the nail right on the head.’
‘Thought so,’ the councillor mumbles, sounding oddly relieved. Obviously, Chester thinks, he believes he’s in familiar territory now. ‘Look,’ Thorpe is saying, ‘why don’t you at least lift me up into a chair or something, so we can discuss matters in a more civilised way, hm? This is very uncomfortable.’ He waggles his cuffs hands as if to make the point.
‘I don’t think so,’ Chester tells him. ‘I like you down there. It’s easier to see you as the worm you really are.’
‘You smart-arsed fuck,’ Thorpe spits. ‘I’ll…’
‘You’ll do nothing,’ Chester shouts, booting Thorpe in the shoulder. ‘There is nothing to discuss; I already know all I need to know about you. Your fate is already sealed.’
‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Chester is pleased to hear some fear creep back into Thorpe’s voice. He must have noticed it himself because now he tries to modulate his tone again as he addresses his captor. ‘Come now,’ he is saying, ‘nothing’s written in stone. I’m a rich man; I can make you a very generous offer and I promise you I will say nothing to the police. I give you my word. Trust me.’
Chester bends his head down. ‘Trust a man who not five minutes ago was screwing his wife’s sister over a desk and telling her not to damage the woodwork? I don’t think so, Mr. Thorpe.’ Chester straightens up, stretching his spine and cracking the bones in his neck. ‘Frankly,’ he continues, ‘I’m amazed you even considered that as an option. Trust you.’ Chester shakes his head at the absurdity of such a notion. ‘Your untrustworthiness is a matter of public record, Mr. Thorpe. While it might endear you to your greedy colleagues, it does nothing for me. You’re the classic example of a selfish little shit, Mr. Thorpe.’
‘Now wait a minute!’
Chester chooses to dissuade his prisoner from any more outbursts by placing the end of the shotgun against the man’s right eye. ‘Shut up,’ he warns. Satisfied that Thorpe has got the message, he leans back once more and resumes his monologue. ‘A man of power and position, that’s how you like to think of yourself, isn’t it? A politician and a businessman, not that there’s much difference. Come to think of it, I wonder why I never ran for political office. I wonder, how do you justify that big fat bonus you rewarded yourself last year, sacking two hundred men to help pay for the losses that resulted from your own ineptitude? You have more than two homes yet you propose jail sentences for those forced to beg on the streets. Such a lack of compassion surely deserves only the same in return.
‘I’ve been following you for a couple of days now,’ Chester says, injecting his words with what he hopes to be a degree of sinister bonhomie. ‘You’ve cheated on your wife, and you’ve cheated on her over there…’ Thorpe tries to twist his neck around to get a look at Gillian but his physical predicament does not allow it. ‘You do that every day, don’t you? There was your secretary, some woman you met in a bar and, Christ, your own sister.’ Chester snorts, as if hardly believing what it is he is saying. ‘That alone, should it be made public, is enough to destroy your career forever.’
‘Come on, you bastard, how much do you want to keep quiet?’
‘You really are quite stupid. How many times do I have to tell you I’m not interested in money? Of course, it must be difficult for someone like you to assume motives that didn’t involve some economic factor. You said so yourself, Thorpe: I’m here to make a killing. I’m here to kill you.’
Chester watches Thorpe wriggle frantically in his bonds and yell out for help. ‘Ah-ah,’ says Chester, as if mildly admonishing a child. He brings the shotgun down hard on the councillor’s mouth. Thorpe’s head drops to the floor with a sick thud, a soup of blood and tooth-shards oozing from crimson stained lips. ‘Don’t fight it,’ Chester advises gently. ‘There’s no appeal, no way out. You deserve to die. While you exist, the world remains that fraction more unfair. Unfairness is a terrible thing, Mr. Thorpe, something I can no longer countenance. I am an instrument of balance. And so is this.’ He kneels down and holds the shotgun in front of Thorpe’s eyes. ‘My fiery sword,’ he breathes. ‘The SEE.’ He says it with all the portentousness he believes befitting to a weapon of such divine significance. ‘The Scum and Evil Exterminator… S, E, E. You are scum, you are evil and I am here to exterminate you, to exorcise you from the soul of this planet. Do you see it? Do you “SEE” it?’
It cannot be doubted that Chester’s confidence is now soaring but he is still, as yet, also very much the Chester of old. Indeed, he is changing, his mind giving room to passionate dreams of glorious Knights with impeachable morals, and these changes will be irreversible after tonight, his first true slaying; Fudge had been mostly revenge, an act the old Chester had always been capable of. Thorpe, however, was special because he was truly chosen. But for some time to come, even if he cannot see it himself, large fragments of the old Chester will cling like barnacles to the hull of his identity, including his fear of being ridiculed or thought stupid, his fear that his wit be misunderstood or that others, like his father, look down on his intellect as insufficient, which goes some way to explaining why he is labouring so much on the whole “SEE” business. His desire for approval has not yet been fully swept away. Call it killer’s stage-fright.
‘You’re fucking insane,’ Thorpe drools. ‘Scum and evil? Fuck off, you moron.’ The words sound more like boiling oil popping in a hot vat than natural human speech, his mouth is so full of gore.
Clearly, this is not the response Chester was hoping for, but he is not to be put off. ‘SEE,’ he perseveres firmly, pausing to aim the gun at the centre of Thorpe’s forehead, ‘the truth.’ Chester pulls the trigger and Thorpe’s head explodes over the plush, pastel blue carpet. By the wall, the woman is screaming, the cry muffled behind her gag, and rocking violently from side to side as she struggles to free herself. Chester approaches the panicking woman and puts his hand on her shoulder. She freezes rigid instantly at his touch. ‘I told you,’ he says. ‘I’m not going to hurt you. Just try and relax. The police will be here soon to let you out.’ He listens to the woman sob and hears the snot bubble in her nose. ‘You’re better off without him, anyway.’ Taking one last look at Thorpe’s head as it lies there marinating in its own juice, Chester whirls on his heel and departs, leaving a gibbering, tear-wracked Gillian behind him.
Chester is feeling very pleased with himself by the time he gets home. Okay, he tells himself, so the SEE routine didn’t go down that well – he’ll have to do away with it, he realises, but concludes that is the way life goes from time to time – it is the end result that counts, the success of a mission completed. It has been a good few days, finding Thorpe’s name, researching his career, riffling through his garbage, following him around the city from one tryst to the next; Chester had really felt at one with the world, for the first time in his life. This oneness had infused him with a peculiar sense of the divine. I truly am an angel of justice, he tells himself. There is one less bastard on the Earth. Chester brims with moral strength, he buzzes with adrenalin and purpose, eager to seek out his next target. Chester picks up the paper for that day.