A Study In Revenge

By John Minx

Crime & mystery, Thriller

Paperback, eBook

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3 mins


Dawn in Piedmont. The sky a washed-out rose colour. Mist hanging low over the Langhe Valley in ragged wisps like something that had caught on the estate’s tall cedar trees. Standing at the full-length bay windows with a cup of strong, black coffee to hand, Sally Clarke took in the autumn landscape and admired the enormous quiet. It had crossed her mind to make an offer on the villa—one that would prove difficult to turn down—although that felt like a premature reward, far in advance of the work that needed to be done.

Having rented Casa Vitelli for the last six weeks, she’d mostly kept to one wing of the property, and except for a weekly shopping trip in the rental car, she’d been content to venture no farther than its twenty-acre grounds. It was, Sally realised, an almost ghostly existence. And as with a ghost, she'd found herself wandering the centuries-old hallways at strange times of the night, tangled up in the past, unable to shake off the curse of it. But there was to be no wailing, moaning, or dragging of chains from her. What she had in mind was a surgical haunting. A calm, collected revenge.

Turning away from the windows, Sally approached a low table and set her cup down. Then she lifted the lid on her laptop and brought up iPlayer to continue streaming yesterday’s lunchtime concert from Wigmore Hall: Biber’s Mystery Sonatas, now culminating in the last of the series. As with the earlier pieces, this one expressed a strangely meticulous passion. The tone of the violin capturing an emotion that was both feverish and yet somehow exact. The music also recalled Sally’s regular attendance at this venue during her happiest days in London, when the city had shown every sign of repaying her love for it with the life of which she'd long dreamed.

Next to the laptop stood a tarnished candlestick and a box of matches. After lighting three white candles from a single flame, Sally picked the ornament up by its base and carried it across the floor, scattering the gloom ahead of her. She held it before that large, ominous installation of documents tacked to the far wall: names, faces, data points, body scans, bank accounts. Aspects of finance, health, career, social existence. Taken together, it represented the dark cloud hanging over one man’s life without his knowledge. A devastating paper trail that she had built from scratch, intent on ensuring his fall from grace.

Sally took another step closer to stand inches from the wall’s surface with the air of an expert studying brushstrokes, but artistry was not the issue, only whether or not the design was fit for use. All these burning hoops she would have him jump through.

At the moment the man’s good fortune was intact, but that would change soon enough. She was in a position to make it so. It was time for him to learn what doom meant and struggle with the burden as she had once done. Sally did not know if her act of vengeance amounted to a moral good, but it was not a question that concerned her any longer. She’d stopped caring about such distinctions. What it came down to was the debt that he owed.

It was a last chance to consider the plan’s outward appearance before packing up and leaving later in the day. They would all need to come down, these telling documents, and become fuel for the great stone fireplace in the neighbouring room. Not that they represented a memory aid. Having sunk thousands of hours into the plan’s creation, Sally had already committed its entire structure to mind, to the point where she could summon any part of it at will. Now it was time to put the whole into effect. Today, finally, it moved out of the speculative realm and began reaching for its target.

After examining the wall, she put the candlestick on the floor, returned to the large bay windows, and opened them as wide as they would go, letting the morning air in. And with it, a severe chill. Then, stripping bare, she stepped outside onto the damp morning grass, advancing into the cold almost as if to challenge it. The balls of her feet soaked in an instant. Her ears registering the half-hearted bark of a neighbour’s wolfhound, somewhere out of view. Sally’s eyes trained on the swimming pool a short way down and to her right―its placid, unbroken surface.

As her wet feet struck the stone flagging, she broke into a run, geared up for the dive, and gave herself over to it. Making a blade of her body. Narrowing its point of entry, the better to slip clean below. Then, as always, the abrupt shock to the system, her vital signs alarmed by the plunge. The splash sounding in her ears, somewhere above, like a delayed explosion. In answer, she kicked out at these same icy sensations, her body fighting clear of them with deft, practised movements, propelling Sally forward, methodical as a wave. The whole act symbolic; a way of testifying. A far cry from that moment when she’d surrendered to another body of water, asking that it swallow her up once and for all.



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